Bust of a Sassanid king.
Bronze, 5th–7th century AD, found in Ladjvard,
- For the character in the 10th century Persian epic Shahnameh or Epic of Kings, see Rostam.
(رستم فرّخزاد in Persian
) (6?? - 636/7 CE
was the Ērān Spāhbod
, Commander of the Army of Iran
) of the Sāsānian Empire
under the reign of Yazdgird
. Rostam is remembered as an historical
figure, a character in the Persian epic poem Shāh-nāmeh
, and as a touchstone of most Iranian nationalists
Farrokhzād was a powerful Sāsānian general and aristocrat from
Azerbaijan, one of the provinces of the Persian empire, and was Persian by ethnicity.
, and his
brother served the Sāsānian rulers in high office. As his father
before him, Rostam was "ishkan" or "prince” of Azarbaijan
and governor of Khorassan
. By this
date Sāsānian governors (Spahbod
s) held their lands in a
type of hereditary fiefdom
. In a period of
Sāsānian decline, such aristocrats became increasingly powerful and
in many cases were the power behind a series of weak rulers.
During the regency of Ardashir III
Farrukh-Hormuzd attempted to seize power by a proposed marriage to
, but Rostom's father
was rebuffed and murdered. In revenge, Rostam led his army to the
Persian capital of Ctesiphon and had the queen blinded and deposed.
In 631 CE, Rostam conquered Armenia
from its Byzantine
governor Prince Varaz-Tirots Bagratuni
added it to his fief.
Rostam reappears in Persian sources as a supporter of another young
ruler Yazdegerd III who had just taken
Ctesiphon, perhaps with the aid of Rostam's faction.
Rostam's brother Khurrazad
'darik-pat' (or chamberlain). With another aristocrat named Zadhoe,
there appears to have been a triumvirate behind the new
Throughout this period the great expansion of Arab-Muslim
armies had slowly been penetrating the south-western
under Caliph Umar ibn
. 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
Sāsānian general Bahman, though, was
ordered back to Ctesiphon by Rostam (who seems to have led the Persian ruling
faction by this point) in order to put down a revolt in his own
Caliph `Umar's forces retreated, only to
launch a successful assault three years later.
Battle of al-Qadisiyyah
In 636 CE
Rostam set out from Ctesiphon in command of a large Persian force
to confront the Arab-Muslim army of
Caliph `Umar ibn al-Khattāb on
the western bank of the Euphrates
River at the plains of al-Qādisiyyah.
armies met in Al-Qādisiyyah, a now abandoned city in southern
Mesopotamia, southwest of al-Hillah and al-Kūfah in
According to Arab sources, negotiations were carried out between
the two sides with Arab delegations coming to the Persian camp and
demanding that the latter accept Islam
agree to pay the tribute (jizyah
having pessimistic premonitions, tried to delay the battle. When
neither side came to an agreement fighting broke out.
The Persians fielded a much larger force (sources disagree on the
exact size: 60,000 to 100,000 are cited below) and looked certain
of victory. Again according to Arab accounts, at dawn of the fourth
day a sandstorm broke out – blowing sand in the Persians' faces
turning the tide and forcing the Sassanid centre to give way,
particularly with the help of Arab archers. Rostam, who had been
commanding his force from that location, sought to flee by swimming
across the canal (al-`Atīq), but was caught by an Arab soldier and
beheaded. The latter (sometimes recorded as Hilāl ibn `Ullafah)
announced the deed, displaying Rostam's head before the soldiers,
exclaiming: By the Lord of the Ka`bah! I have slain
Rustam! I am Hilal ibn 'Ullafah!
respected leader's head dangling before them, the Persian soldiers
lost nerve and begin to flee, leading to a devastating rout. Most
of the Sassanid soldiers lost their lives in this melée, with a
sizable number announcing their conversion to Islam.
- See Sāsānian
Empire: Decline and fall
The defeat of Rostam's army marked the beginning of the end of the
and the conversion
of Persia (and soon all Central Asia