Prosopography of the Late Sasanian Empire: Sasanian Elite After the Reforms of Khosrow I

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Academic Bio: 
Khodadad Rezakhani (MSc. 2002, LSE; C.Phil. 2007, UCLA) is currently a PhD Candidate (June 2010) at the Department of History, UCLA, with a dissertation titled "Empires and Micro-Systems: Late Antique Regional Economy in Central and West Asia, 500-750 CE". His interest and research, apart from late antique history, is concerned with Global History, Trans-Eurasian networks, Indo-European and Iranian philology, and prosopography



A number of recent works about the late Sasanian society have presented new theories related to the social standing of the elite, both the land-holding and the warrior nobility. From the “classical” interpretation of the rise of Dihqân gentry at the expense of the “noble houses”,  to the new suggestion of the existence of a “Parthian” confederacy in the Late Sasanian Empire, scholars have advanced different views about the changing structure of  Sasanian society in the sixth and the seventh centuries. One new theory suggests, for example, that the social change within the noble classes was the primary cause for the decline and fall of the Sasanian Empire. This presumed social change is seen either as a reason, or as an outcome of the reforms attributed to Khosrow I Anushiruwân, which apparently included deep social and financial restructuring of the empire.  However, there is very little reliable information about the status of the personalities and the elite groups who presumably were affected by these changes. Scholars usually rely on  anecdotal evidence for the existence of these major political players and the changes that  affected them. In an attempt to  understand the status of the individuals who formed the late Sasanian nobility, the present paper promotes the method of prosopography, or “collective biography”, in order paint a picture of late Sasanian socio-economic elite. Using material evidence(coins and seals), as well as textual sources (both documentary sources and narrative histories), the paper will concentrate on outlining the means available to us for undertaking such research. Building on the already available research on Sasanian onomastics, the paper presents models for the  prosopographical study of late Sasanian society and offers some early results, while mainly serving as an invitation for future, ideally collective, work on this subject.

Academic Discipline : 
Pre-Islamic History
Time Period : 
Up to the 9th century

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