First Iranian who established a State Religion in Iran


M. Saadat Noury
by M. Saadat Noury

Long before Ayatollah Khomeini introducing Islamic Republic in 1979 or Shah Ismail (ruled 1501-1524) founding the Shi’ite Safavid Dynasty in 1501, there was Ardeshir Babakan, the head of Sassanid Dynasty, who established Zoroastrianism as the state religion and gave much power to the religious caste in 224 in Iran. He is also called as Ardashir (another form of Artaxerxes), Ardeshir I or Ardeshir Papakan, for his father Papak. Papak or Babak was the son or descendant of Sassan and was a vassal or a subordinate of the chief petty king in Persis, the province of Fars in the southern Iran today. Among many cities, which were built in Iran in Sassanid era, the construction of Shahr-e-Babak of Kerman (a province in southeast of Iran) is attributed to Babak, and those of Zanjan (the center of Zanjan province in the northwest of Iran) and Firuz Abad of Fars are attributed to Ardeshir I. Ardeshir Babakan Palace or Sassanians Big Fire-temple is located in the north of Firuz Abad, and it is one of the magnificent monuments of Sassanid era. This monument is composed of several roofed platforms and a number of rooms and numerous halls.

The Sassanid era began in earnest in 228, when Ardashir I defeated the last Parthian king, Artabanus IV, and destroyed the Parthian Empire which had held sway over the region for centuries. He and his successors created a vast empire which included those lands of the old Achaemenid Empire east of the Euphrates River.

Crowned in 226 as the Iran's King of Kings (in Persian: Shahanshah-e Iran), Ardashir I brought the over 400 year-old Parthian Empire to an end and began four centuries of Sassanid rule. (His consort Adhur-Anahid also took the title of Queen of Queens). Years later, Ardashir I expanded his new empire to the east and northwest, conquering the provinces of Sistan, Gorgan, Khorasan, Margiana (in modern Turkmenistan), and Balkh. Bahrain and Mosul were also added to Sassanid possessions. Furthermore, the Kings of Kushan, Turan, and Mekran recognized Ardashir I as their overlord, a person in a position of power.

According to historian Arthur Christensen, the Sassanid state as established by Ardashir I was characterized by two general trends which differentiated it from its Parthian predecessor: a strong political centralization and organized state sponsorship of Zoroastrianism. Though Zoroastrianism was practicing during previous dynasties, Ardeshir I made it as an official religion, and all other faiths were persecuted. He also developed a temple or a place for worship for the first time in Iran.

Under Ardashir I, Zoroastrianism was promoted and regulated by the state, one based on the ideological principle of divinely granted and indisputable authority. Also under royal direction, an apparently "orthodox" version of the Avesta (the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language) was compiled by a clergy named Tansar. (Some documents also reveal that chief religious leader or Mobad-e-Mobadan of Ardashir was called as a Heerbad or Teaching Clergy). Tansar, however, must be the real founder of Zoroastrian orthodoxy under Ardeshir I (reigned from 224 to 241), and the early Sassanian kings. Tansar created a Zoroastrian orthodoxy which controlled the administration of religious properties independently of the central government. He also was the kings’ top advisor.

Fundamentalism and religious dogmatism together with the increasing role of Zoroastrian clergies during Ardeshir and other Sassanian kings restricted freedom of thought and expression and social views to a large extent. In addition to that the government's commitment to support the official religion intensified the said restrictions. This fact caused the government to adopt a harsh stand with respect to new religious movements such as the Manicheans (in Persian: Payrovaan-e Maani), Mazdakis (in Persian: Payrovaan-e Mazdak), etc. Above all, the uprising of Mazdak and his supporters following the shameful defeat and captivity o Sassanian king Peroz I (457-484) by the white Huns, and commitment of other Sassanian kings Balash (484-488) and Ghobad or Kavadh (488-531) to pay taxes to them, as well the continued draught and famine, not only induced the Sassanian Ghobad to accept the new religion, but the philosophy of Mazdakism and collective system shook the class frontiers, without, however putting a new order instead. As a result of social confusions and disorganization, Mazdak lost control of the situation as well. Sassanian king Anushiravan (531-579), through suppression of Mazdakis, apparently ended the confusions, and revived the power and consolidated the position of the Zoroastrian clergies

The religious fanaticism not only caused downfall of Sassanids but also that of Safavids. Iran gradually weakened during both Zoroastrian Sassanid and Shi’ite Safavid dynasties and the conditions became favorable for foreign adversaries to overthrow the dynasties in power at the time. Arabs defeated the Yazdegerd III (632-651), last king of Sassanians, and an Afghan rebel army toppled Shah Sultan Hossein (1694-1722), the last effective ruler of Safavid dynasty.

Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD

Christensen, A. (1965): "Sassanid Persia"/The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XII: The Imperial Crisis and Recovery, ed., Cambridge University Press.
Persianempire Info Website (2005): Online Article on Sassanid Empire.
Rawlinson, G. (2005): The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World, ed., USA.
Saadat Nouri, H. (1933): The Short History of Iran (in Persian: Taarikh-e Mokhtasar-e Iran), A Translation of a Book authored by Sir Percy Sykes, Erfan Publications, Isfahan, Iran.
Saadat Noury, M. (2010): Various Articles on the History of Iran and First Iranians.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2010): Online Articles on Ardeshir I, Sassanids, and Safavids.
Zarinkoob, A. (1999): History of Iran (in Persian: Roozgaraan Tarikh-e Iran), ed., Sokhan Publications, Tehran, Iran.



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M. Saadat Noury


by M. Saadat Noury on

WHO visited this thread. My thanks also go to Shazde Asdole Mirza. Azadeh Azad, Nadeem Khan, All-Iranians, SamSamIIII, Baharan, Ari Siltez, Farah Rusta, Vildemose, Shutruk, Rad Lanjani, Hoshang Targol, Simorgh5555, Manoucher Avaznia, and Veiled Prophet of Khorasan for their nice words and very intersting comments.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

More responses

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on

Hoshang jan thank you for your kind words.

Social justice is the basis of a strong and stable society. In fact without it I would dare say a society is not worth having. I don't know if Mazdak was the cure for our ills. He sure tried. I know that repression of his creed was not the right answer.

Self examination is necessary for progress. We must analyse our past mistakes and learn from them. I like to do this with a sympathy in mind. Not to rub our nose in it but to have us learn. We have made a lot of mistakes. But we also got many things right.

The value of our old ways is shown by its results. So much of our achievements goes directly back to that system. We had a religion which stated " True happiness lies in making others truly happy" Gathas (// see Ushtavaiti Gatha Song #8)

Vildemose you asked: Did Iranian practice zoroastrianism longer than Islam (1000 years of sunni and 500 years of Shia)?

Yes. In fact until the Safavids there were still large number of Zoroastrians in Iran. It was only when that degenerate regime came that the practice was largely outlawed. By the force of sword combined with social pressure they robbed us of much of our soul. However there is still the spark in our hearts. We do not have to submit to the repression of Safavids.

Manoucher Avaznia


Manoucher Avaznia

سیمرغ گرامی؛


امپراتوری مقدس روم پدیده ایست که حتی سده ها پس از سقوط ساسانیان هم پدید نیامده بود.  درستش امپراتوری روم است که پس از تقسیم آن به دو بخش شرقی و غربی پیرامون سال 390 میلادی به مرکزیت رم و قسطنطنیه و سقوط نیمۀ باختری آن امپراتوری با یورش اقوام ژرمن از بین رفت ولی بخش خاوری آن بنام امپراتوری روم شرقی یا بیزانس تا سال  1492 به حیات خود ادامه داد. در آن سال بساط آن امپراتوری بوسیلۀ عثمانیها برچیده شد..


پیروز باشی


A few observations

by Simorgh5555 on

I have finished reading Touraj Daryaee's book, 'Sassanian Persia' and I sumamrise his findings as follows:

  • The official Zoroastrian 'canon' under the Sassanian empire was createdby Ardeshir and his chief priest Tosar who 'sifted through the existing oral and written texts'. There is therefore no evidence that the Zoroastrian religion established by Ardeshir was widely accepted beliefs of all Zoroastrians. 
  • Alongside Ahura Mazda other dieties such as Mithra and Anahita were revered. Bass Reliefs in Naghse Rejab show Sassanian Kings alongside non-Zorastrian dieties which demonstrates that either the Sasanian Kings were not true adherents to the Zoroastrian religion or they created their own brand of the religion which incorporated other Iranian beliefs.
  • Even after 50 years after the establishment of the Sassanian rule the canonisation was stil not complete and Shapur II persecuted other Zoroastrian sects.
  • Treatment of non-Zoroastrians such as Christians depended on the state of hostilities between Iran and the Holy Roman Empire. When Yazdgard I made peace with the Romans the Christian population fared better.
  • Alongside the so-called Zoroastrian state religion the Chruch of Nestor was created by the Sassanians to counter the growth of Western Christianity. Therefore there was more than one state religion if you consider the situation properly. 
  • The Zorastrian priests ability to control the affairs of state varied  in degrees. The managed to exert a huge amount of power under Bahram whilst Nasreh fought back their influence. 
  • Christians were tolerated - they had to be. They were artisians and traders and their skills were useful to commerce and the arts.
  • Jews were largely treated better because they did not threaten the Iranian state and showed loyalty to the Iranian rulers for their own protection. The mother of Bahrame Gur and Narseh were known to have been Jewish. 

Hoshang Targol

Pay'ghambar jon, no need to get defensive about anything

by Hoshang Targol on


Iranian: Sassanian included.

Iran like any other country in the world, has been, is, and will be the land of THE BEST and the worst. As far as the acheivements of Sassanian goes, monuments to human civilization such as Gundi Shahpour and acheivements  of that type, in that era (and as everyone points out, they were more than a handfull) speak for themselves.


For the past 3 decades we've been witnessing the worst in Iranian culture  and politics. This doesn't mean we can't have an objective look at our history and culture, and be able to distinguish between what is good, utilitarian ( has some use-value) and worth keeping, and what's not so good and perhaps we should get rid of it, after a healthy national debate ( political Islam is #1 on this list).

You, VPK, for someone who seems to glorify pre-Islam Iran, actually show a very good objective picture ( how Mazdakians, and more importantliy issues of social justice, weren't treated properly...) of what went wrong, and that's great.

Your approach: the kind of sypmathetic, yet objective analysis and understanding of our past and present, might open up a bright door to our common ( free)  future, cheers

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


  • The topic is very interesting.
  • I find it disturbing that people keep beating up on Sassanids. We have a schism: Iranians who cherish pre-Islamic Iran; those who do not. One group wants to diminish it and that I find disturbing. BTW: I am not saying this is what Dr. Noury is doing
  • I agree that Sassanids fell because of corruption and division.
  • The destruction of Mazdakis a proto-Marxist ideology was very damaging. It proved to many that the Mobeds were too powerful and not reformable. Sound familiar? That led to a lack of confidence in the central government.

In my opinion if Sassanids have taken some of Mazdak's ideas things would be different. People would have felt they had more at stake. Morale would have been high and Arabs never won. I also think if the Arab invasion had not happened Iran may have well reformed. Unlike the IRI Sassanids were more enlightened even at their worst. Because Zoroastrian religion is basically good while Islam is basically barbaric.Now with the benefit of hindsight maybe we can build a better Iran once the Mollahs go.

Hoshang Targol

A fascinating topic, great text by Dr. Noury, and a very good

by Hoshang Targol on

if somewhat uneven discussion.   It's very interesting to see how even a discussion of 2000 years ago
corresponds to our everyday politics of today, but such is our culture
and history ( we're still far away from settling even our ancient
history, let alone contemporary, and all of this is a very good healthy
start). First of all, the text by Dr, Noury is coherent and consistent.
The distinction between " religious state" or " state religion" reminds
me, above all of the difference in  pronunciation of " tomaato" or "
tomaeto"! More of a Po-Mo academic 'distinction' than anything else!

Perhaps the good Dr. didn't use the concept of caste, but the domination
of religious elements in affairs of the state and society should be
very obvious. And as much as we could point out to the tolerance of
Sassanids in dealings with Jews, Christians, Buddhists, creation of
Gundi Shahpour ( a monumental achievement of Iranian civilization), this
same dynasty ( due to its unjust social policies and greed) gave rise
to Mazadakian and even after it was able to "successfully" eradicate
Mazdakians' threat( at least according to one account by beheading ten
thousands of them in one session!), the corruption and decay had set in
so much, that it could hardly withstand the attacks of a bunch of desert
dwellers. Simply meaning it wasn't all rosy positive and good, but like
any other historical phenomenon had its dark and negative side, which
merits its own analysis.

Moslems always always point out to how they were able to defeat Persians
and think of that as a sign of superiority  of Islam, whereas in fact
they were able to defeat Persians because of great fragmentation and
corruption with that empire, not the other way around. In the end I
would like to make a request for some more info on Mazdakian, their
ideas, movement, eradication by Sassanids, and their post-Sassanids
presence in Iranian culture and politics. Have a good one, cheers

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I will try to explain. 

  • Regarding  Zoroastrianism. The number are dwindling among Parsis of India only. This is  because they do not accept converts and have low birth rate. Other Zoroastrians groups which do take converts are doing fine.
  • Regarding Islam. Much of the increase is due to birth rates and how they count. According to those counts I would be counted as a Muslim. Same with my family. They very loosely count anyone who ever had a nominally Muslim ancestor as one. In addition most of the increase is among "lat o loot" aka "riff raff". Great they get a lot of prisoners converting. Why: to a violent sick mind Islam is perfect. Islam is welcome to all the bottom scum of the world.
  • I am not opposed to religion. I am opposed to Islam only. Because Islam was  made by the Div in order to destroy first Iran; then the rest. Mohammad was an agent of the Div. He may have not even know it.
  • Not all higher power is good. Islam was not "elham" by the good powers. It is the antithesis of other religions. Just pretends to be the same to fool the unwary. Islam is finding victims among the poor and dispossessed. Because they are the easiest to catch. It then brainwashes then into Islamic nut jobs.

Give up Islam before it is too late. It rots your mind. If you have any free thought use it and break away. Do not let your soul be a victim of Mohammad.

Rad Lanjani

Dear Ari

by Rad Lanjani on

you are right.


"Veiled prophet" denounces Islam

by Shutruk on


If Zoroastrianism is so wonderful then why are the numbers of its adherents dwindling outside of Iran as well inside? Islam, on the other hand, is the world's fastest growing religion and receives new converts every day.

This argument from secular liberalism that religion has no place in the political life of a modern democratic society is just propaganda. 

Religion has been the mainstay of civilization everywhere in the world - there was no conflict between religion and politics in the past. The great Athenian democracy was a religious state. Western "democracies" are just a pathetic shadow of this society.

If you dispense with religion in public life, you are inviting anarchy. Even in "secular" America, the religious tradition of the pilgrim fathers and "One nation under God" define the country's political identity.

I would argue that there is no place for atheism and materialism in the 21st century: We badly need to restore the link to our religious heritage and spirtuality.


Azadeh: Couldn't agree more.

by vildemose on

Azadeh: Couldn't agree more. Thank you for your scathing rebuttles.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Religious ..

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I guess the Islam apologists are back to trashing the Sassanids. 

  • First of all Sassanids were not a theocracy as many pointed out.
  • Second Zoroastrianism is a good enlightened religion while Islam is a backwards repressive; intolerant and negative force.
  • Third in the 21st century we should know better than going for a religious state,

Thank you.


Azadeh's point about theocracy and religious government

by Shutruk on


The Sassanids' poltiical system was that of a *monarchy*. However, the kings sponsored a state religion and the Zoroastrian priesthood had great influence over the domestic policies of the government . There was no "secular" aspect to Sassanid rule. In this respect, the Sassanid Persians were very much like the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians who also promoted an official religion and its sacred laws and rites.However, religion was stronger in Iran than elsewhere.

Khomeini, however, established the principle of velayat-e-faqih which states that the supreme religious leader of the Muslim country is also the supreme political leader -  in line with the fact that Imam Ali was just such a person serving as caliph of the Islamic empire. That is a *theocractic*political system because a religious figure (faqih-e-adel) is reserved the most important posiition.

Azadeh Azad

''State religion'' or ''religious State'' ?

by Azadeh Azad on

Thanks, Ari. You might want to write an article responding to my rebuttal :-). ...................................................................................................................  For ‘’All-Iranians’’ and other readers: .................................................................................................................                                                                                                                      The title of Saadat-Nouri’s article lead us to expect that we are going to read about the ‘’First Iranian who established a state Religion in Iran’ and how he did it. Instead, we discover that it is about the first theocracy in Iran, which is presented as having been established under the Sassanids.  Firstly, the author fails to define the central term of the article, ‘’State religion,’’ and its difference from ‘’religious State.’’ Secondly, the title speaks of one thing - a ‘’State religion’’-, while the content develops another thing - a ‘’religious State’’ i.e., a Zoroastrian State, a theocracy. Without mentioning the word ‘’theocracy,’’  without presenting a definition of  Religious State or Theocracy,  by conceptually interchanging ‘’State religion’’ and ‘’religious State,’’  and by combining information and ideas into a messy and disorganized argument, lacking clarity, logic and consistency,  the author tries to convince the uninformed reader that a religious State (with all its religious fanaticism and repressions of freedoms of thought and expressions) existed under the Sassanid dynasty, before the invasion of Iran by Muslims.  The historical facts, as described in all their nuances in the article’s references themselves, demonstrate something else.  


The Caste System and the King


There is no doubt that in Sassanid society, there was an emphasis on centralized government and the necessary instrument for maintaining stability was a strong monarch. Sassanid society was immensely complex, with separate systems of social organization governing numerous different groups within the empire.  Society was divided into four classes: Priests, Warriors, Secretaries, and Commoners. At the center of the Sassanid Caste System was the King, ruling over all the nobles.  The royal princes, petty rulers, great landlords, and priests together constituted a privileged stratum, and were identified as Nobles. This social system was quite rigid. Membership in a class was based on birth, and the function of the king was to ensure that each class remained within its proper boundaries, so that the strong did not oppress the weak, nor the weak the strong. To maintain this social equilibrium was the essence of ‘’royal justice’’, and its effective functioning depended on the glorification of the monarchy above all other classes.

On a lower level, Sassanid society was divided into freemen (Azadan), who closely guarded their status as descendants of ancient Aryan conquerors, and the mass of originally non-Aryan peasantry. The Azadan formed a large low-aristocracy of low-level administrators, mostly living on small estates. They provided the cavalry backbone of the army.Below the king, a powerful bureaucracy carried out most of the affairs of government; the head of the bureaucracy and Vice-Chancellor, was the Bozorg Farmadaar. Within this bureaucracy the Zoroastrian clergy was immensely powerful. The head of the Magi class, the Mobadan, along with the Commander in Chief, the Iran Sepahbod,, the Head of Traders and Merchants Syndicate,  and Minister of Agriculture who was also head of farmers, were below the emperor the most powerful men of the Sassanid state. It was this caste system that was oppressive for the majority of the population, not the ‘’State religion.’’

Letters and Philosophy

The Sassanid kings were enlightened patrons of letters and philosophy. Khosrau I had the works of Plato and Aristotle translated into Pahlavi taught at Gundishapur, and even read them himself.  During his reign many historical records were compiled, of which the only survivor is the “Karnamak-e Ardeshir-e Papakan” (Deeds of Ardashir), a mixture of history and romance that served as the basis of the Iranian national epic, the Shahnameh. When Justinian I closed the schools of Athens, seven of their professors fled to Persia and found refuge at Khosrau's court. In time they grew homesick, and in his treaty of 533 with Justinian, the Sassanid king stipulated that the Greek sages should be allowed to return and be free from persecution.

Under Khosrau I the University of Gundishapur, which had been founded in the fourth century, became "the greatest intellectual center of the time," drawing students and teachers from every quarter of the world.  Nestorian Christians were received there, and brought Syriac translations of Greek works in medicine and philosophy. Neo-Platonists, too, came to Gundishapur, where they planted the seeds of Sufi mysticism; the medical lore of India, Persia, Syria, and Greece mingled there to produce a flourishing school of therapy. There was no ‘’Zoroastrianization’’ of this university.


This system of social stratification was supported by Zoroastrianism, which was established as the State religion. Other religions appear to have been largely tolerated (although this claim is the subject of heated discussion.) Sassanid emperors consciously sought to resuscitate Persian traditions and to eliminate Greek cultural influence.Sassanid Zoroastrian clergy modified the religion in a way to serve themselves, causing substantial religious uneasiness. Sassanid religious policies contributed to the flourishing of numerous religious reform movements, the most important of these being the Mani and Mazdak religions.

Alongside Zoroastrianism, other religions, primarily Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism existed in Sassanid society, and were largely free to practice and preach their beliefs. A very large Jewish community flourished under Sassanid rule, with thriving centers at Isfahan, Babylon and Khorasan, and with its own semi-autonomous Diaspora Leadership based in Mesopotamia. Jewish communities suffered only occasional persecution. They enjoyed a relative freedom of religion. Shapur was a particular friend to the Jews. Shapur II, whose mother was Jewish, had a similar friendship with a Babylonian rabbi named Raba. Raba's friendship with Shapur II enabled him to secure a relaxation of the oppressive laws enacted against the Jews in the Persian Empire.

In the eastern portion of the empire, various Buddhist places of worship, notably in Bamiyan were active as Buddhism gradually became more popular in that region.Christians in Iran at this time belonged mainly to the Nestorian and Jacobite branches of Christianity, also known as respectively the Assyrian Church of the East and the Syriac Orthodox Church. The churches within the Persian Empire did not maintain such close ties with their counterparts in the Roman Empire, because of the continuous rivalry between these two great empires. Christians in Persia were often falsely accused of sympathizing with the Romans, especially when the Roman emperor Theodosius I declared Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. After the Council of Ephesus in 431 that the vast majority of Christians in Persia broke their ties with the churches in the Roman Empire. At this council, Nestorius, a theologian of Cilician origin and the patriarch of Constantinople, taught a different view of the Christology that was rejected by the majority of Greek, Roman and Coptic Christians.  The Assyrian Church refused to condemn Nestorius' teachings. Nestorius fled into the Sassanid Empire, where he was allowed to settle.

Several Persian emperors used this opportunity to strengthen Nestorius' position within the Assyrian Church (which made up the vast majority of the Christians in the Persian Empire) by eliminating the most important pro-catholic clergymen in Persia and making sure that their places were taken by Nestorians. This was to assure that the only loyalty these Christians would have would be to the Persian Empire.

So, the occasional persecution of the religious minorities had to do with the politics of rivalry between Empires, as opposed to an imagined imposition of Zoroastrianism on numerous ethnic groups and nationalities living under the rule of the Sassanid kings and queens.


Elton L. Daniel. 2001. The History of Iran. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press)

Zarinkoob, Abdolhossein. (1999): History of Iran (Roozgaraan Tarikh-e Iran az Aghz ta Saqut Saltnat Pahlvi), Sokhan Publications, Tehran, Iran.

David Nicolle. 1996. Sassanian Armies: the Iranian Empire Early 3rd to Mid-7th Centuries AD. (Stockport, UK: Montvert. )

Farah Rusta

بگذار تا بگرییم چون ابر در بهاران

Farah Rusta

My dear Baharan

You are so gracious and kind. I only wished to add a light note to n otherwise  a very heavy debate. Thank you for your over-generous wishes and I wish to continue living a life under the warm light of such dear friends as you.

Best wishes, 



Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

Good to see you back in these pages.

As All-Iranians has already noted, this blog does not claim that the Sassanids were a theocracy.

To me your comment's clearest assertion is that the description given of the Sassanids by the author describes the M.R. Pahlavi period better than it describes the Islamic Regime. Ain't so to my reckoning and I would be happy to pick up your gauntlet. But the arena would be a blog that actually made such a shah-IRI-Sassanid comparison, not this blog which goes no further than point out the weakening influence of religious fanaticism.  


Banoo Farah Rusta

by Baharan on

That was a wonderful musical interlude; thank you indeed. Long live with Banoo Farah Rusta, Zendeh Baad  Banoo Farah Rusta! 


Ostad-e Arjmand

by Baharan on

This is one of the best aeticles I have ever read about the one who established a state religion in Iran; you are the best of the rest. Thnk you for this great artcle.

Farah Rusta

And now it is time for a musical interlude ...

by Farah Rusta on

I think this occasion calls for a fitting tribute to one of the most original pieces of English opera called Artaxerxes* by the great English composer, Thomas Arne. Artaxerxes is in fact the first Opera Seria (serious opera) composed by the father of English operatic music.

Here is the late Australian opera Diva (who passed away last month) Dame Joan Sutherland performing the most beautiful aria from Arne's Artaxerxes called: The Soldier's Tir'd of War Alarms 

 *Artaxerxes (Ardeshir Yekom) was one of the sons of Xerxes ! of Persia,




On the contrary the sassanid were the most enlightened

by SamSamIIII on


for their era of 1800 yrs ago. 

 In a rush and just dropping a line. All due respect to Dr Nouri.


Sassanid were the most enlightened  dynasty for that era if not the only one. On the contrary to he said she said Sassanid supported diversity in which even a heretic such as prophet Mani was assisted, funded & courted by no other than King shahpour I who built many temples for the sect and propogated their message(so much for oppression). There was no forced conversions as was the in the tradition of zorostrianism. Supporting or sponsering the major religion of the land does not constitute as theocracy such as king of england as head of the church or Russian tsar as head of the orthodoxy ; no correlation there. As in most Sassanid kings King Anushirvan I was  practicaly the  arch patron of all oppressed christians, jews, artists, free thinkers running away from persecution in their homelands such as eastern Roman empire and some as far as Libya & carthagian islands.

Merely reading Karnamak Arteshir Papkan will set light on a few misconceptions about Sassanid. Yes he was from the lineage of Zorostrian priests but his dynasty was anything but a nationalistic Neo-Iranic centred civic society so amazingly ahead of its time for an era that Bedoines would bury their infant daughters or Romans traded pagans & slavs as slaves.

Azadeh is right.

"the truth shall set you free"

Then practice what you preach :))

Cheers!!! & thanks again to dear Dr Nouri.



Path of Kiaan Resurrection of True Iran Hoisting Drafshe Kaviaan // //


Dear Ms Azadeh Azad

by All-Iranians on

With all due respect, please note and keep in mind that Dr Noury's article is about "First Iranian who established a State Religion in Iran"; it is not entitled as "First Iranian who established a Theocracy in Iran". In fact, even Khomeini did not establish a theocracy; he brought us a military dictatorship under the name of a religion called Islam as defined by his own! Remember sepah pasdaran controlled everything as new regime took over and has continued his activites since then. It seems that the main point of the article is that the history may repeat itself as indicated in the Epilogue.

nadeem khan

Very interesting artcle

by nadeem khan on

Thank you.

Azadeh Azad


by Azadeh Azad on

It is obvious that you believe the  Sassanids were a theocratic dynasty and call it ''our factual history.'' As I, too, believe that  "The Truth shall set you free,'' would you please respond to my rebuttal? I am quite flexible and willing to be set free by your persuasive reasoning. Thanks.


Ari Siletz

Imporant history lesson

by Ari Siletz on

Thank you Dr. Saadat Noury for this informative article. The more we are aware of our factual history the better Iranians we become. To quote a religious text in a more inclusive context, "The Truth shall set you free."  

Azadeh Azad

The Sassanid State was NOT a Theocracy

by Azadeh Azad on


 Khomeini established a theocracy in Iran; and  theocracy is a form of government in which a religion and the government are intertwined.

You mention:

''According to historian Arthur Christensen, the Sassanid state as established by Ardashir I was characterized by ... a strong political centralization and organized state sponsorship of Zoroastrianism.''

 Sponsorship of a religion by a State, even an organized one, does not constitute a theocracy.

You write:

''Ardeshir I made it (Zoroastrianism) as an official religion, and all other faiths were persecuted. He also developed a temple or a place for worship for the first time in Iran.''

Under the late Shah of Iran too, Islam was an official religion. This fact did not make the Imperial State a theocracy. During the same period, Bahais were persecuted by some people in position of power, albeit not the high-ranking government officials. The Shah also allowed the building of numerous mosques across Iran and travelled to Mashad and Mecca as a pilgrim. None of these activities made the Iranian State a theocracy.

You write:

''Under Ardashir I, Zoroastrianism was promoted and regulated by the state, one based on the ideological principle of divinely granted and indisputable authority.''

This was very similar to the reign of the late Shah as well. He asserted that his reign was divinely granted. He also ''regulated'' Islam by sending the Ayatollahs into exile or befriending them.  However, similar to the time of Ardeshir I, Iran was not a theocracy.

You write:

''Also under royal direction, an apparently "orthodox" version of the Avesta ... was compiled by a clergy named Tansar (Teaching Clergy). Tansar, however, must be the real founder of Zoroastrian orthodoxy under Ardeshir I (reigned from 224 to 241), and the early Sassanian kings.''

 I don't see any  intertwinement of religion and State here.

 You write:

 Tansar (teaching clergy) created a Zoroastrian orthodoxy which controlled the administration of religious properties INDEPENDENTLY OF THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT. He also was the kings’ top advisor.

This is a very good example of the separation of religion and State, even when the king's top advisor is a religious man. Note that the central government had no power over the administration of religious properties.

 You write:

''Fundamentalism and religious dogmatism together with the increasing role of Zoroastrian clergies during Ardeshir and other Sassanian kings restricted freedom of thought and expression and social views to a large extent.''

This is probably true. However, restriction of the people's freedom of thought and expression does not amount to a theocracy.

We need to be very vigilant in our review and analysis of the history



Shazde Asdola Mirza

... and Zoroastrianism was not any better than Islam either!

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

Thanks dear Doctor Nouri, for this very informative article.

M. Saadat Noury

Dear HME

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for your nice words and your kind comment.

M. Saadat Noury

Dear Shutruk

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for your kind comment; please accept this in return:



Homan Mohabadi Ebrahimi

Dear Immortal Guard

by Homan Mohabadi Ebrahimi on

We should learn from many nations!

PS: Dear Ostaad Saadat Noury: Thank you for your very interesting and informative article and thank you for the post.

M. Saadat Noury

Dear Mahmoudg

by M. Saadat Noury on

This is a subject that may require more discussion, and supposedly on a separate thread