Image of King Narseh on a coin minted
during his reign.
(whose name is also sometimes written as
) was the
King of Persia
(293–302), and son of Shapur I
During the rule of his father Shapur I, Narseh had served as the
Viceroy of Sistan, Baluchistan and Sindh.
Narseh overthrew the increasingly unpopular Bahram III
in 293 with the support of most of the
Relations With Rome
During Narses' time, Rome was ruled by Diocletian
and it was with Diocletian and his
that Narseswas engaged
in eight years of constant warfare.
fed up with incursions made by the Armenian monarch Tiridates III,
Narses invaded Armenia.Surprised by
the sudden attack, Tiridates fled his kingdom.
The Roman Emperor Diocletian
dispatched his son-in-law Galerius
with a large army to Tiridates's
Galerius invaded Mesopotamia
Narses had occupied hoping to check his advance. Three battles were
fought subsequently, the first two of which were indecisive.
third fought at Callinicum, Galerius suffered a complete defeat and was forced
to retreat. Galerius crossed the Euphrates into Syria to join his
father-in-law Diocletian at Antioch.
his arrival at Antioch, Galerius was rebuked by Diocletian who
disgraced him for his shameful defeat at the hands of Narses.
Vowing to take revenge, Galerius made preparations throughout the
winter of 297 and invaded Armenia with 25,000 men.
Supported by the Armenians, Galerius surprised Narses in his camp
and inflicted a crushing defeat on the latter forcing him to flee
in haste. His wife, prisoners, his sisters and a number of his
children were captured apart from his prodigious military chest.
was recovered by the
Romans and Tiridates was reinstated as the monarch of
Anxious to make peace with the Romans, Narses dispatched his envoy
Aphraban to Galerius with the following message:
"The whole human race knows that the Roman and Persian
kingdoms resemble two great luminaries, and that, like a man's two
eyes, they ought mutually to adorn and illustrate each other, and
not in the extremity of their wrath to seek rather each other's
destruction. So to act is not to act manfully, but is indicative
rather of levity and weakness; for it is to suppose that our
inferiors can never be of any service to us, and that therefore we
had bettor get rid of them. Narses, moreover, ought not to be
accounted a weaker prince than other Persian kings; thou hast
indeed conquered him, but then thou surpassest all other monarchs;
and thus Narses has of course been worsted by thee, though he is no
whit inferior in merit to the best of his ancestors. The orders
which my master has given me are to entrust all the rights of
Persia to the clemency of Rome; and I therefore do not even bring
with me any conditions of peace, since it is for the emperor to
determine everything. I have only to pray, on my master's behalf,
for the restoration of his wives and male children; if he receives
them at your hands, he will be forever beholden to you, and will be
better pleased than if he recovered them by force of arms. Even now
my master cannot sufficiently thank you for the kind treatment
which he hears you have vouchsafed them, in that you have offered
them no insult, but have behaved towards them as though on the
point of giving them back to their kith and kin. He sees herein
that you bear in mind the changes of fortune and the instability of
all human affairs."
But Galerius dismissed Aphraban without giving any definite answer,
at the same time accusing the Persians of ill-treating Valerian
. In the meantime, he consulted Diocletian
at Nisibis who persuaded Galerius to offer terms of peace to the
Accordingly terms of peace were agreed upon, and were ratified by a
treaty concluded by Narses with the Romans.
According to this treaty,
- Five provinces beyond the Tigris were to be ceded to the
- One writer gives these provinces as Intilene,
- Sophene, Arzanene, Carduene, and
Zabdicene; by another as Arzanene, Moxoene, Zabdicene, Rehimene,
- The semi-independent kingdom of Armenia was to be extended up
to the fortress of Zintha, in Media
- Persia was expected to relinquish all her rights over Iberia.
- Formal dealings between Persia and Rome would henceforth be
conducted at Nisibis.
Narses did not survive for long after the conclusion of this
humiliating treaty. He abdicated
in favor ofhis son, Hormizd
ashamed at the humiliation he had suffered. He spent the last years
of his life in self-renunciation.
It is not known for how long Narses survived his abdication.
However, it is well-known that Narses was already dead by the time
of Hormizd's death in 309 for the throne passed onto Hormizd's
still-unborn son Shapur