On This Day – February 28th 628CE – Death of Khosro II

Who speaks for Khosro Parvez, Shahanshah, arguably the greatest of Sassanian (Persian) kings? Khosro, son of Kavadh, grandson of Khosro I, died this day, February 28 628CE.

Khosro II

Khosro was a fascinating, complex, and ultimate tragic character. Born into the purple, scorned by his father Kavadh (who he eventually killed, presaging his own fate at the hands of his son Kavadh), he lost his throne as a young king. He fled to Roman territory and with the help of the Roman emperor Mauricius, who Khosro would come to call ‘father’, he would regain his throne. Though he was grateful to Mauricius, he would always carry a chip on his shoulder knowing that many in Persia considered him to be a Roman pawn. So when Mauricius was murdered by the centurion Phocas, Khosro saw his opportunity for redemption. Marshaling the power of a Persian empire that was every bit Rome’s equal in 602CE – and in some ways was Rome’s superior because the Black Plague that had devastated the Romans in prior decades left Persia relatively unscathed because plague attacked city dwellers most of all and Persia was a largely rural empire – Khosro struck.

Rome and Persia had sparred for nearly a thousand years, but until Khosro launched his war on Rome, battles between Persia and Rome had always been about borders, never about each others right to survival. Khosro broke this well worn tradition. He sought to eliminate Rome, not to defeat Rome, and hewould have accomplished his objective, extinguishing Rome’s light once and for all, had he not chosen as his nemesis one of the most exceptional military commanders, and Roman emperors, in history: Heraclius.

Heraclius led the last Roman army – literally the last field army left in the entire Roman Empire – into battle against the might of Khosro’s Persia. And in one of the most improbably campaigns in history, Heraclius defeated each of Khosro’s generals in turn before marching into the Persian heartland and menacing the Persian capital at Ctesiphon. Khosro was ultimately overthrown by his own people who were exhausted by his endless war, and Persia made peace with Rome. But the cost of the long war against Rome was too great, and after her defeat Persia was left too weak. A contemporary of Heraclius and Persia – the Prophet Muhammad – sent his armies roaring out of the desert to attack enfeebled Persia, and within two decades of Khosro’s death, the Persian Empire was no more.

This was the life of Khosro Parvez, who died this day, the last great lion of the Sassanids.