SSS8. Yazdezerd I (Athil) and 3 kings before him

After Shahpur the Great, three kings ruled for brief periods. They were:

Ardeshir II (Nikukār, 379-383): He was the younger brother of Shahpur II, and was also referred to as Kushan-shah. As he was the king of the Kushans, before becoming the emperor. He had a very mild and compassionate temperament. On account of his goodness he was given the title Nikukār “doer of good deeds”. When Shahpur III, son of Shahpur II came of age, he handed over the throne, crown and treasury to him.

Shahpur III (383 – 388): He was the son of Shapur II.  He was killed in a freak accident, when he had gone hunting, killing him instantly.

Behram IV (Kermanshah, 388-399): He was the younger son of Shahpur II. He was also referred to as Kermanshah, as he had served as a Governor of Kerman before becoming the king.

Yazdezerd I (Athil, 399-419): He was the younger brother of Behram IV. When he started his reign, he was a kind ruler, considerate towards all, including the Christians and Jews. He punished Zoroastrian priests when they committed any atrocity on non-Zoroastrians. This attitude was opposed by the Zoroastrian clergy, so much so that they even called him a sinner. However, the Christians praised him.

Yazdezerd was also very well disposed towards the Romans. When the Roman emperor was on his death-bed, he entrusted his son under his care, because of the court intrigues in Rome. The Roman prince was kept at Ctesiphon and trained under the best Iranian teachers. However, the Iranian court was not in favour of his being well disposed to the Romans.

After some time, because of the pressure form the court and the clergy, Yazdezerd started becoming ruthless. His punishments to the guilty bordered towards cruelty. The court and the people greatly feared him, but they had to tolerate him. On account of his cruelty he earned the notorious title Athil “the cruel one”. Seven years into his reign, a son was born to him on the Zoroastrian New Year day, who was named Behram. The courtiers did not want the young prince to be cruel and hence they suggested that the young prince be sent to a capable teacher elsewhere. After talking with many kings, finally it was decided that Behram be entrusted to king Manzar from Yemen. Behram was taught all arts and skills by the best teachers, till he reached 18.

A painting of Behram’s hunting expedition with Azadeh.

One day Behram went for a hunt with his companion Āzādeh. His partner challenged him to make the male deer lose his antlers and put arrows on female deer to look like antlers. She also asked him to sew together a deer’s ear and hoof.” Behram very skilfully did as he was told, and everyone was highly impressed by his hunting skills, but Azadeh called him cruel and she was punished.

Behram visits Yazdezerd

After some time, Behram expressed his desire to see his father, which Munzar arranged. Yazdezerd was overjoyed to see his son after a long time. However, over a period of time Behram felt that his father’s behaviour towards him was cold. Behram sent a letter to Munzar telling him he was not happy with his father’s attitude.

Once when Behram was sitting in his father’s court, he dozed off as he was very tired. His father was very angry. He stripped off his royal privileges and sent him to prison, where he spent a year. As soon as Behram was freed at the behest of a Roman ambassador, he returned to Yemen.

Death of Yazdezerd

An ageing Yazdezerd was once told by an astrologer that his death was destined at a lake in Sav village, in the city of Toos. The king decided never to go to this lake, so that he can avoid death. Three months later, the king had an illness. The chief physician advised him to go to the lake in Sav village, and put its mud on himself. The king did accordingly and the bleeding immediately stopped.

Just then a majestic white horse emerged from the lake. The king had it captured and decided to ride it. As soon as he went near, the horse kicked him hard and the king immediately lost his life. The body of the king was taken to Pars and kept in a Dakhma.

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