Sasanika Varia

A Brief Note on Ardashir II

This is a guest entry from Sajad Amiri-Bavandpoor

According to the primary sources, Ardashir II, the Sasanian king of kings, son of Hormizd II and brother of Šabuhr II, reigned for 4 years from 379 to 383 A.D.1 Our textual and material sources related to his reign have been slim enough to prompt Richard N. Frye to label him an “enigmatic” king.2 For this reason, most of the scholars who wrote about him and his reign have only focused on his kinship  with Šabuhr II and the problem of his age while ascending the throne.3  In this brief note, I will discuss the position of Ardashir during the lifetime of Šabuhr II.

In 1879, Theodor Nöldeke cleverly supposed Ardashir II was the former king of Adiabene (Ḥaḏyab) mentioned in two Syriac hagiographical texts,4 whereas in fact, except the name of “Ardašir,” there is no evidence for such a connection to be made. According to the:

  • Martyrs of KARKA D-BETH SLOK (BHO 806)

ܝܘܚܢܢ ܐܦܣܩܘܦܐ ܕܟܪܟܐ ܒܝܬ ܣܠܘܟ ܐܬܩܛܠ ܒܚܨܝܢ ܩܪܝܬܐ ܒܦܘܩܕܢܐ ܕܐܪܕܫܝܪ ܡܠܟܐ ܕܚܕܝܒ.5

Yoḥanan, Bishop of Karka d-Beth Slok was killed by order of Ardašīr, King of Adiabene, in a village named Ḥașin.6

  • Acts of Forty Martyrs (BHO 5)

 ܡܠܟܐ ܕܝܢ … ܦܩܕ ܗܘܐ ܠܐܪܬܫܝܪ ܡܠܟܐ ܕܚܕܝܒ ܕܒܥܓܠ ܢܝܬܐ ܐܢܘܢ. 7

Then the king…. ordered to Ardašīr, King of Adiabene, bring them quickly.8

 Although Nöldeke’s opinion about Ardašhir was based on these two pieces of evidence, most of the later scholars introduced Ardashir as the king of Adiabene with a reference to Nöldeke.9 Vladimir Lukonin in 1969 rejected Nöldeke’s opinion and suggested that Ardashir was a brother of Šabuhr, king of the land of the Sakas, mentioned in an inscription at Persepolis.10 According to Lukonin, during the reign of Šabuhr II, this Ardashir was the king of  the Kušan domains and not that of Adiabene.

In confirming Nöldeke and rejection Lukonin’s suggestion, I intend to present a neglected source on the possible connection between Ardashir II and the kingship of Adiabene. This source is an anonymous Christian Arabic text, the so called Chronicle of Seert. This text is an ecclesiastical history written by an anonymous Nestorian writer, at an unknown date between the ninth and the eleventh century. The Chronicle of Seert was edited by Addai Scher, Chaldean archbishop of Seert, and published as several fascicles (Arabic text with French translation) in the series Patrologia Orientalis between 1910 and 1919. This means that the text was published after Nöldeke’s Geschichte der Perser and so he was not able to refer to it.

In first step, our chronicle, in the section relating to Ardashir, tells us that he was settled in Nineveh (an old city in Adiabene) during the reign of Šabuhr II and is briefly mentioned in relation to his actions regarding the local Christians:

  • Chronicle of Seert (PO V)

لمّا مات سابور فی سنة ستمائة وستة وثمنین للاسکندر. وکانت مدّة ملکه سبعین سنة وأحدعشر شهرا وایّاما ملک اخوه اردشیر کما جعل له العهد بعده. وهو الذی کان مقیماً بنینوی. فکرهه المجوس وشتموه فی وجهه. وسلک مسلک اخیه فی اذیة للنصاری و قتلهم.11

Then Šabuhr died in the year 686 of Alexandrian Era. He reigned seventy years and ten months and few days and his brother, Ardašīr, also made the covenant after him. He was settled in Nineveh. The Magians hated him and cursed him in the face. And he followed his brother’s way in persecution of Christians and killing them.12

But in an unexpected chapter and in Abraham of Nathpar’s acts in early 7th century, we find a more interesting statement about Ardashir II and Adiabene:

  • Chronicle of Seert (PO VII)

وهو من اهل حزة من قریة یقال بیت نتقرا من قرابات اللذین استشهدوا فی ایام سابور بارض حزة علی ید اردشیر اخیه …13

And he was from a village called Beth-Nathpar in Ḥaza and a relative of those martyrs who were killed in Ḥaza region during the time of Šabuhr by his brother, Ardašir.14

 this statement clearly shows the power of Ardashir in Adiabene and this is parallel to the two other evidence that tell us Ardashir was king of Adiabene during the reign of Šabuhr II.



AMS II                         Acta martyrum et sanctorum II, ed. Paul Bedjan, Paris: 1891.

Bosworth 1999              Bosworth, C. E. The History of al-abarī IV. The Sāsānids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids and Yemen, Albany, New York: 1999.

Brooks 1899                  Brooks, E. W. “The Chronological Canon of James of Edessa.” Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 53 (1899): 261-327.

Frye 1983                      Frye, R. N. “The Political History of Iran under the Sasanians,” Camb. Hist. Iran III (1983): 116-80.

Frye 1984                      Frye, R. N. The History of Ancient Iran, Munich: 1984.

Lukonin 1969                Lukonin, V. G. Kul’tura sasanidskogo Irana, Moscow: 1969.

Marciak 2017        Marciak, M. Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene Three Regna Minora of Northern Mesopotamia Between East and West, Leiden: 2017.

Morony 1997                 Morony, M. “Sasanids,” in EI2 IX (1997): 70-83.

Mosig-Walburg 2010     Mosig-Walburg, K. “Königtum und Adel in der Regierungs Zeit Ardashirs II., Shapurs III., und WahramsIV.,” in Commutatio et contentio: Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and Early Islamic Near East in Memory of Zeev Rubin, ed. Henning Börm and Josef Wiesehöfer, Düsseldorf (2010): 159–98.

Nöldeke 1879               Nöldeke, Th. Geschichte der Perser und Araber zur Zeit der Sasaniden,Leiden: 1879.

PO V                            Chronicle of Seert, ed. and trans. by Addaï Scher as Histoire nestorienne (Part I: 2), in Patrologia Orientalis V, Paris: 1910.

POV II                          Chronicle of Seert, ed. and trans. by Addaï Scher as Histoire nestorienne (Part II: 1), in Patrologia Orientalis VII, Paris: 1911.

Shahbazi 1987       Shahbazi, A. Sh. “ARDAŠĪR II” in Encyclopedia Iranica, Vol. II, Fasc. IV (1987): 380-381.

Shahbazi 2010               Shahbazi, A. Sh. Tārīkh-e Sāsānīān, Tehran: 2010.


1 The Syriac Chronicle of Jacob of Edessa is the most accurate among these sources. According to Jacob, Ardašhir reigned 3 years and 8 months (Brooks 1899: 325).

2 Frye 1984: 316.

3 e.g. Morony 1997: 74, Shahbazi 2010: 410-11, Frye 1983: 140. Also see Mosig-Walburg 2010: 135-138.

4 Nöldeke 1879: 69.

5 AMS II: 286.

6 Trans. Amiri-Bavandpoor.

7 AMS II: 333.

8 Trans. Amiri-Bavandpoor.

9 e.g. Shahbazi 1987: 380, Bosworth 1999: 68. For more discussion for this see Marciak 2017: 412.

10 Lukonin 1969: 147-48.

11 PO V: 260.

12 Trans. Amiri-Bavandpoor.

13 PO VII: 172.

14 Trans. Amiri-Bavandpoor.