Coins of Shapur I

Second Sassanid King of the Second Persian Empire (AD 241-272)

Shapur I, born c. AD 215, was the son of the founder of the Sassanian Empire, Ardashir I. His father made Shapur co-regent before his death, and Shapur was thus well-prepared to handle the Empire alone in AD 241.

Shapur immediately conducted military campaigns west into the Roman Empire, capturing Syria and threatening the other Roman provinces in Mesopotamia. Shapur agreed to a peace treaty with the Roman emperor Philip I in AD 244, but by 251 he resumed his invasion. The Roman emperor Valerian attempted to halt his advance in the 250s, and Shapur suffered some serious defeats. By 260 the two emperors met, ostensibly to agree on another peace treaty, but Shapur had other plans. He captured the Roman emperor and imprisoned him for the rest of his life. Shapur is infamous for using Valerian as a footstool for mounting his horse; however, other less scurrilous sources indicate that Shapur actually treated his prisoner with the respect and dignity befitting his former station.

Shapur was not able to hold on to all the territory he had won. Yet he left a great legacy in other ways: he founded many cities, constructed public works such as dams and irrigation systems, and exercised religious tolerance, befriending both Jews and Manichaeans.

AR Drachm
AD 240-270

Bust of Shapur crowned r., encircled by Sassanian inscription.

Fire altar with priests standing on each side, Sassanian inscription on l. and r. of scene.