Shapur II Relief

King Shaµpuµr receives tribute from the Roman emperors Valerian (253–260), who bows before him, and Philip the Arab (244–249), who stands in the background, offering his arms to the mounted king. Shaµpuµr, who called himself “King of Kings of Iran and Non-Iran,” ruled over the Persian Sassanian empire from 241–272. The rapid spread of Manichaeism must be credited in part to this powerful king’s tolerance of the religion.

Shaµpuµr’s attempts to expand the Persian Sassanian empire to the northwest first attracted the attention of Philip, who invaded in 244. Philip was swiftly forced to withdraw; he ceded power over Armenia to Shaµpuµr and paid the king 500,000 gold dinars. When Shaµpuµr later attacked Syrian Antioch, Valerian was unable to stop him. In the inscription accompanying this relief, Shapur boasts of having plundered 36 Roman cities and capturing 70,000 Romans.

The Sassanian kings claimed descent from the powerful Achaemenid dynasty of the first millennium B.C.E. This 25-foot-tall stone relief is carved just below the tomb of the Achaemenid king Darius (522–486 B.C.E.) at Naksh-i-Rustam, Iran, just a few miles from the Achaemenid capital Persepolis.

Excerpted from “Adam Meets the Evil Archon: The Biblical Roots of a Persian Religion,” John C. Reeves, BR 17:04, Aug 2001.