From Rome to Iran: Identity and Xusro II
- Author(s): Baca-Winters, Keenan
- Advisor(s): Daryaee, Touraj
- et al.
The Roman-Sasanian War of the seventh century CE was the last conflict of late antiquity. Šahanšah Xusrō II nearly conquered the Roman Empire. James Howard-Johnston has studied the war extensively. Walter Kaegi has produced a biography of Xusrō II's opponent, Heraclius, while Geoffrey Greatrex and Touraj Daryaee have written articles focusing on Xusrō II. Scholars, however, have not attempted a major study of him. This dissertation seeks not only to understand how different authors depicted Xusrō II but to understand the man's personality.
Roman authors who witnessed the war sought to highlight only the negative aspects of Xusrō II. He was, according to the Romans, an enemy of God. Fear of Xusrō II was the basis for these depictions. Pseudo-Sebēos, an Armenian historian, depicted Xusrō II as an arrogant, blasphemous ruler. Pseudo-Sebēos, however, did not write anything positive about the Romans, either, because both the Romans and Sasanians wanted to control Armenia.
Christians living under Xusrō II's rulership also seemed to despise him. They portray Xusrō II as wicked because, in an attempt to punish them, he did not let allow them to elect a ruler. A careful reading of these sources, however, suggests these authors were aware of how Xusrō II took care of Christians in his realm. Finally, Arab and Persian sources differ in their portrayals of Xusrō II because both groups, although both Muslim, were competing for legitimacy in the post-Islamic conquest of Iran, due to ethnic tensions. Arab authors emphasized Xusrō II's faults. Persian authors, on the other hand, presented his good qualities.
Ultimately, all of these different depictions of Xusrō II demonstrate that he possessed a fierce will and embraced a vision of how to rule. Xusrō II wanted to conquer the Romans and extend his domain and be remembered forever. Xusrō II's drive might have made him seem arrogant to the authors studied in this dissertation, and they depicted him accordingly. We should not, however, lose sight of the man he truly was: a man who dared to dream.