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Rostam Farrokhzād


Rostam Farrokhzād

Rostam Farrokhzād
Spahbed of Atropatene and Khorasan
In office
Monarch Borandukht, Yazdegerd III
Preceded by Farrukh Hormizd
Succeeded by Farrukhzad
Personal details
Born Ērānshahr
Died 636
Al-Qadisiyyah, Iraq
Religion Zoroastrianism
For the character in the 10th century Persian epic Shahnameh or Epic of Kings, see Rostam.

Rostam Farrokhzād (Persian: رستم فرّخزاد) was a Sasanian nobleman from the Ispahbudhan family, who was the spahbed of Atropatene and Khorasan during the reign of Borandukht and Yazdegerd III. Rostam is remembered as an historical figure, a character in the Persian epic poem Shahnameh, and as a touchstone of most Iranian nationalists.


  • Origins 1
  • Biography 2
  • Arab conquest 3
  • Death 4
    • Consequences 4.1
  • Personality and skills 5
  • Family tree 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
    • Sources 8.1


Rostam Farrokhzād was a powerful Sasanian general and a member of the House of Ispahbudhan, one of the seven Parthian clans. His grandfather was Vinduyih, the uncle of Khosrau II, and brother of Vistahm, a Sasanian rival king. His father, Farrukh Hormizd, was the spahbed of Atropatene and Khorasan, while his brother Farrukhzad, served as minister of the empire.


During the late phase of the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, Rostam and his father Farrukh rebelled against Khosrau II in Azarbaijan, allowing the Byzantine emperor Heraclius to invade Atropatene, where he sacked several cities, including the Adur Gushnasp temple.[1]

In 628, the feudal families of Persia secretly mutinied against Khosrau and joined Shahrbaraz. Khosrau's son, Kavadh II was then released by the feudal families of the Sasanian Empire, which included: The House of Ispahbudhan represented by Farrukh Hormizd, and his two sons Rostam Farrokhzad, and Farrukhzad. Shahrbaraz, who represented the Mihran family. The Armenian faction represented by Varaztirots II Bagratuni and finally the Kanarang.[2] On February, Kavadh, along with Aspad Gushnasp, captured Ctesiphon and imprisoned Khosrau II. Kavadh II then proclaimed himself as king of the Sasanian Empire on 25 February, and with the aid of his minister Piruz Khosrow, executed of all his brother and half-brothers, which included Mardanshah, the favorite son of Khosrau II. Three days later, he ordered Mihr Hormozd to execute his father. With the agreement of the Persian nobles, Kavadh then made peace with the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, which made the Byzantines regain all their lost territories, their captured soldiers, a war indemnity, along with the True Cross and other relics that were lost in Jerusalem in 614.[3][4]

Following the loss of territory required for the peace treaty, Farrukh, along with Rostam and Farrukhzad, formed an independent state within the northern part of the Sasanian Empire, which was known as the Pahlav (Parthian) faction. Piruz Khosrow also formed an independent state in southern Persia, which was known as the Parsig (Persian) faction. This divided the resources of the country which resulted in a devastating plague in the western provinces of Persia, killing half of the population along with Kavadh II who was succeeded by Ardashir III.[5]

During the reign of Azarmidokht, Farrukh Hormizd, in order to make a union with the Parsig faction, and legitimize his power, asked Azarmidokht to marry him. Not daring to refuse, Azarmidokht had him killed with the aid of the Mihranid Siyavakhsh, who was grandson of Bahram Chobin, the famous spahbed and briefly shahanshah. After the death of Farrukh, Rostam became the new spahbed of Atropatene and Khorasan, he then avenged his father by occupying Ctesiphon and killing Azarmidokht. Rostam then restored Borandukht to the throne, who later made a meeting with the Pahlav and Parsig faction, where both factions agreed to work together. Piruz, however, later strangled Borandukht himself.[6] Which ended the Parsig-Pahlav collaboration and resumed their hostilities. Rostam and Piruz, were, however, threatened by their own men, and agreed to work together once again, and crowned Yazdegerd III, the grandson of Khosrau II, as the new king of the empire.

Arab conquest

Throughout this period the great expansion of Arab-Muslim armies had slowly been penetrating the south-western frontiers under Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattāb. The Persians had repeatedly blocked this advance and in 634 the Caliph's army suffered a seemingly decisive defeat at the Battle of the Bridge. The Sasanian general Bahman Jaduya, though, was ordered back to Ctesiphon by Rostam in order to put down a revolt in his own capital city. Caliph `Umar's forces retreated, only to launch a successful assault three years later.

In 636, Yazdegerd III ordered Rostam Farrokhzad to subdue the Muslim Arabs invading Iran and then told him: "Today you are the [most prominent] man among the Iranians. You see that the people of Iran have not faced a situation like this since the family of Ardashir I assumed power."

Yazdegerd III then said: "the Arabs and their exploits since they have camped at Qadisiyyah and ... what the Iranians have suffered at their hands."

Rostam then replied by saying that the Arabs were "a pack of wolves, falling upon unsuspecting shepherds and annihilating them."

However, Yazdegerd III then argued with him and said: "It is not like that. I put the question to you in the expectation that you would describe them clearly and that then I would be able to reinforce you so that you might act according to the [real situation]. But you did not say the right thing." Yazdegerd III "then compared the Arabs to an eagle who looked upon a mountain where birds take shelter at night and stay in their nests at the foot of it. In the morning the birds recognized that the eagle is preying upon them. Whenever a bird became separated from the rest, the eagle snatched him. When the birds saw him [doing this], they did not take off out of fear ... If they had taken off all at once, they would have repelled him. The worst thing that could happen to them would be that all would escape save one. But if each group acted in turn and took off separately, they all perished. This was the similarity between them and the Iranians."[7]

Rostam, however, did not agree with Yazdegerd III and then told him: "O king, let me [act in my own way]. The Arabs still dread the Iranians as long as you do not arouse them against me. It is to be hoped that my good fortune will last and that God will save us the trouble." Rostam then said: "We should employ the right ruse," he insisted. "In war, patience is superior to haste, and the order of the day is now patience. To fight one army after another is better than a single [and total] defeat and is also harder on our enemy." Yazdegerd III, however, was too young and stubborn to listen to Rostam.[8]

Before the Muslim Arabs and the Sasanians engaged in battle, Rostam tried to negotiate with the Arabs. He therefor sent them a letter saying:

After having read the letter, the Arabs did as Rostam asked and sent a man named Zuhrah. However, the negotiations with him did not go well, which made Rostam ask for another messenger, and thus a man named Mughirah ibn Shubah was sent. Rostam then told Mughirah: "We are firmly established in the land, victorious over our enemies, and noble among nations. None of the kings has our power, honor, dominion." While Rostam was talking, Mughirah interrupted him and said: "If you need our protection, then be our slave, and pay the poll tax out of hand while being humiliated; otherwise it is the sword." Feeling greatly insulted and angered, Rostam threatened Mughirah and said: "Dawn will not break upon you tomorrow before I kill you all".[10]

Rostam, while preparing to face the Arab army, wrote a letter to his brother Farrukhzad, telling him to gather an army and then go to Azerbaijan where he should pray for him. Rostam also reminded Farrukhzad that Yazdegerd III was the only legacy left from the Sasanians.[11] Rostam then set out from Ctesiphon in command of a large Sasanian force to confront the Arab-Muslim army of Caliph `Umar ibn al-Khattāb which was led by Hazarat Saad Bin Abi Waqas who was not even able to ride on his horse because of severe illness, on the western bank of the Euphrates River at the plains of al-Qādisiyyah, a now abandoned city in southern Mesopotamia, southwest of al-Hillah and al-Kūfah in Iraq.


During the final day of the battle, there was a heavy sandstorm facing the Sasanian army. Rostam used a camel loaded with weapons as shelter to avoid the sandstorm. Not knowing that Rostam was behind, Hilāl ibn `Ullafah accidentally cut the girdle of the load on the camel. The weapons fell on Rostam and broke his back leaving him half dead and paralyzed. Hilal beheaded Rostam and shouted "I swear to the god of Kaaba that I have killed Rostam." Shocked by the head of their legendary leader dangling before their eyes, the Sassanid soldiers were demoralized, and the commanders lost control of the army. Many Sassanid soldiers were slain in the chaos, with some escaping through the river, and finally the rest of the army surrendered.


The defeat of Rostam's army heavily demoralized people of the Sasanian Empire. Soon, after Rostam's death, many more Sasanian veterans were killed, which included: Piruz Khosrow, Shahrvaraz Jadhuyih, Mardanshah in 642, and Siyavakhsh and Muta of Dailam in 643. In 651, Yazdegerd III was murdered by Mahuy Suri, and the Arabs shortly conquered Khorasan after.War ended with a great victory for Muslims.The death of Rostam was remembered by Muhammad Bin Qasim in the conquest of Debal,(now Sindh in Pakistan),saying "Remember donot depend upon your commanders in the battle.In the Persian-Arab war the Persians were depending too much on Rostam when he was killed they all lost their control and also lost the war.We Muslims fight battles for Allah Almighty not for commanders".

Personality and skills

The Shahnameh describes him as: "A sagacious, warlike and one who had been a conqueror. He was a calculator of the stars, of great perception; and he listened deeply to what his counsellors advised."[9]

Christensen describes him as: "A man endowed with extraordinary energy, a good administrator and a fine general."[12]

Family tree

Farrukh Hormizd
Rostam Farrokhzād
Surkhab I

See also


  1. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 152-153
  2. ^ Pourshariati (2008), p. 173
  3. ^ Oman (1893), p. 212
  4. ^ Kaegi (2003), pp. 178, 189–190
  5. ^ SASANIAN DYNASTY, A. Shapur Shahbazi, Encyclopædia Iranica, (20 July 2005).[1]
  6. ^ Pourshariati (2008), p. 218
  7. ^ Pourshariati (2008), pp. 225, 224
  8. ^ Pourshariati (2008), p. 225
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ Pourshariati (2008), p. 228, 227
  11. ^ Pourshariati (2008), p. 229
  12. ^ Pourshariati (2008), p. 496
  • Rustam Farrukh-Hormazd and The Faith Making Battle of Qadisyyeh by Sir Jehangir C Coyajee


Preceded by
Farrukh Hormizd
Spahbed of Atropatene and Khorasan
631 – 636
Succeeded by
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