Sasanian Iran (c. 220–651 CE) was the last great imperial polity of the Ancient Near East. After coming to power in a violent revolution, the Sasanian family firmly established its supremacy over a vast, multiethnic empire, Eranshahr. For four centuries, Sasanian monarchs transmitted their royal power to successors from the family, almost always sons. But, how did the Sasanians sustain the legitimacy of their dynasty in the face of an often fraught process of royal succession?
This presentation will briefly examine how kings, princes, and other stakeholders negotiated royal succession in the Sasanian empire, what theories evolved to explain the transfer of royal power, and how the theory and practice of succession changed over four centuries of Sasanian rule.
Scott McDonough is an Associate Professor of History at the William Paterson University of New Jersey. His research interests lie in the social, institutional and religious history of late ancient west Asia, especially pre-Islamic Iran and Caucasia. He is currently working on a monograph, Sasanian Iran: Power, Patronage and Piety, to be published in 2020.