Decline and fall of the Sasanian empire: the Sasanian-Parthian confederacy and the Arab conquest of Iran

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I.B. Tauris in association with the Iran Heritage Foundation, 2008 - History - 537 pages
3 Reviews

Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire has already been praised as one of the most intellectually exciting books about ancient Persia to have been published for years. It proposes a convincing contemporary answer answer to an ages-old mystery and conundrum: why, in the seventh century CE, did the seemingly powerful and secure Sasanian empire of Persia succumb so quickly and disastrously to the all-conquering Arab armies of Islam? Offering an impressive appraisal of the Sasanians' nemesis at the hands of the Arab forces which scythed all before them, the author suggests a bold solution to the enigma. On the face of it, the collapse of the Sasanians--given their strength and imperial power in the earlier part of the century--looks startling and inexplicable. But Professor Pourshariati explains their fall in terms of an earlier corrosion and decline, and as a result of their own internal weaknesses. The decentralized dynastic system of the Sasanian empire, whose backbone was a Sasanian-Parthian alliance, contained the seeds of its own destruction. This confederacy soon became unstable, and its degeneration sealed the fate of a doomed dynasty.

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Parvaneh Pourshariati's meticulously researched work, Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire, is impeccably reasoned and written. It adds to the growing body of historical research into the rise of Islam. In contrasting the traditional narrative that the Muslim conquest of mighty Persia was only possible through the intervention of a supernatural force, Parvaneh joins the ranks of emerging Muslim scholars in deconstructing the historical evidence that Persia was a loose confederacy of 7 warring feudal families who were ripe for the plucking by any outside force that was willing to work as a unit. Pourshariati lays out the Sasanian state's exhaustion and poverty at the end of the 27 year Byzantine War in exacting detail, all the while deconstructing the murderous power struggle that was going on within once great Persia. A must-read for anyone interested in understanding how Islam came to be something more than yet another desert cult of the Middle East. 

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What the author suggests to be the reason of Conquest of Iran by weak Muslims in 7th Century is not valid and logical. The reason is the simply the fact that the same Iranian (Sasanian) Empire, defeated by Muslim devastatingly, had already managed to defeat the Great Roman Empire in late second decade of 7th century [Howard-Johnston, James D.. - Aldershot [u.a.] (2006) ]. Though it was defeated by Romans in next 9 years, it should not have weakened so much by a new army of Arab Muslims to be defeated. In that Iranian-Muslim war, Iranian forces were many times greater and with much better war equipments than the combating Muslim forces (Kaveh Farrokh, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, Osprey Publishing, 2007). I don't know why western historian and westernized Muslim minds refuse or hesitate to accept divine help of that fragile Muslim army who fought with Iranian forces that time. 


the SasanianParthian confederacy
The Arab conquest of Iran

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About the author (2008)

Parvaneh Pourshariati is Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Ohio State University. She is the author of many scholarly articles on ancient Iran, and this is her first book.

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