Sasanid Empire: History, Society & Religion

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  • 0:01 Sasanid Empire
  • 0:50 Khosro I
  • 1:45 Religion and Society
  • 2:24 Decline of Empire
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explores the Sasanid Empire. In doing so, it highlights the reign of Khosro I, Zoroastrianism, and the social stratification within the empire.

Sasanid Empire

In our modern world, the Middle East is usually associated with the Islamic religion. However, this was not always the case. Today we'll discuss the time before Islam as we explore the Sasanid Empire. Being unfamiliar to most of us, the Sasanid Empire's main claim to fame is that it was the last empire of Iran before the Islamic religion came to power. It ruled ancient Iran, also known as Persia, from about 224 BCE to 651 CE. If we can keep these things in mind, we'll be in pretty good shape.

Learning a bit more about this ancient empire, historians tell us that the main goal of the Sasanid Empire was to rid ancient Iran of outside influences. Being once ruled by Greeks, they especially wanted to rid their lands of anything that even slightly hinted of Greece.

Khosro I

Sasanid rulers were known as shahanshah. Translated, this means 'king of kings'. Speaking of their rulers, history has given Khosro I, also spelled Khosrau, the title of the most famous Sasanid ruler. To remember him, we could think of him as Khosro the First, the King of Kings!

As ruler, Khosro centralized his power by controlling his army. He also reformed the tax system of the empire. Along with this, he launched an infrastructure system, which saw the rebuilding of canals, buildings, and roads devastated by war.

As a ruler, it's believed that he was very interested in maintaining peace. With this desire for peace, many sources assert that Khosro was accepting of all religions. In fact, some sources say he was actually sort-of accepting when one of his sons chose to become a Christian.

Religion & Society

Speaking of religion, the main religion of the Sasanid Empire was Zoroastrianism. Defining Zoroastrianism very simply, it is a religion that believes in a great cosmic struggle between good and evil.

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