Shapur III

Shapur III was the eleventh Sassanid King of Persia from 383 to 388. Shapur III succeeded his brother Ardashir II in the year 383.

Treaty with Rome

Negotiations between the Romans and the Persians which had begun in the reign of Ardashir II culminated in a treaty of mutual friendship in the year 384.

According to this treaty, Armenia was partitioned between the Romans and the Persians. Therefore two kingdoms were formed, one a vassal of Rome and the other, of Persia. The smaller of these, which comprised the more western districts, which was assigned to Rome was committed to the charge of the Arshak III who had been made king by Manuel Mamikonian, the son of the unfortunate Pap of Armenia, and the grandson of the Arshak II contemporary with Julian. The larger portion, which consisted of the regions lying towards the east, passed under the suzerainty of Persia, and was handed over to an Arshakuni, named Khosrov III, a Christian. Thus friendly relations were established between Rome and Persia which survived for thirty-six years.

Memorials of Shapur's Reign

Shapur III left behind him a sculptured memorial, which is still to be seen in the vicinity of Kermanshah. It consists of two very similar figures, looking towards each other, and standing in an arched frame. On either side of the figures are inscriptions in the Old Pahlavi character, whereby we are enabled to identify the individuals represented with the second and the third Shapur. They are identical in form, with the exception that the names in the right-hand inscription are "Shapur, Hormizd, Narses," while those in the left-hand one are "Shapur, Shapur, Hormizd." It has been supposed that the right-hand figure was erected by Shapur II and the other afterwards added by Shapur III; but the unity of the whole sculpture, and its inclusion under a single arch, seem to indicate that it was set up by a single sovereign, and was the fruit of a single conception. If this be so, we must necessarily ascribe it to the later of the two monarchs commemorated, i.e. to Shapur III, who must be supposed to have possessed more than usual filial piety, since the commemoration of their predecessors upon the throne is very rare among the Sassanians.


Shapur III died in 388, after reigning a little more than five years. He was a man of simple tastes, and was fond of spending his time outdoors in his tent. One version says that, on one such occasion, when he was thus enjoying himself, there was a violent hurricane which blew the tent under which he was sitting. The falling tent-pole struck him fatally on his head resulting in his death a few days later. However, though most of his subjects believed in the authencity of this story there were whispers that he could have been the victim of a conspiracy hatched by his courtiers.


* [ 'The Civilizations of the Ancient Near East' by George Rawlinson, Project Gutenberg]

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