SSS22. King Hormazd IV (579-591) (Part 1)

Hormazd IV on a coin

A ruthless king

One of the queens of King Nosherwan was the daughter of the Turkish king Khan Disabul. Hormazd IV was the son from that queen, and hence he was also known as Turk-zād “born of a Turk.” He resembled his mother in stature and features.

For a few years he ruled wisely and nobly, but after that he became arrogant and ruthless. He mindlessly started punishing the elders and seniors in the court, since he had a fear that they were more devoted to his late father than to him, and hence they may betray him some day.

He first imprisoned and then executed the two senior-most ministers Buzorg-meher and Yazad-goshasp and their younger protégé Māh-āzar, all of whom had faithfully served king Nosherwan. When a minister by the name Zardusht tried to help him, even he was killed by asking him to eat food laced with poison.

Hormazd openly asked his junior ministers to give wrong evidence against the senior ministers, so that in the eyes of his subject he could paint them as traitors. In this evil scheme, a timid minister Behram, son of Āzar-mehān was roped in. He was asked to give false evidence for senior minister Simāh-barzin. However, Behram’s conscience did not allow him to betray his colleague and he openly confessed that the king had asked him to give wrong evidence.

The king was first ashamed and then furious. He put both of them in prison and had them killed after a few days. However, before dying, Behram told the king about a secret letter written by his father Āzar-mehān and kept in the treasury of the late king Nosherwan, in which it was written that king Hormazd will rule for twelve years and then there will be a revolt after which a relative of his wife will blind and kill him. King Hormazd was terrified by this letter.

Change of heart

Soon, a time came when no wise and senior minister was left in the king’s court. The king spent his time in the capitals of Istakhra, Ctesiphon and Esfahan. The thought of the letter kept tormenting him. The king now stopped the killing spree of the senior ministers, partly because of the letter and partly because he had already killed most senior ministers. Gradually he became god fearing and just.

Hormazd had a son called Parviz who was very dear to him. He also called him Khushru, the fortunate. In his kingdom, the king had a rule that if a horse strays into a filed, the tail and the ears of the horse would be chopped off and the farmer be given ten times the compensation for the destruction. Once, Khushru’s favourite horse strayed into a field and inspite of his repeated pleas, the king had its tail and ears chopped off and gave the farmer a tenfold compensation.

In another incident, a local chieftain took a bunch of grapes from the vineyard without paying the price. When the vineyard owner came to know of this, he followed the chieftain and threatened to complain to the king. The chieftain was so scared that he removed his bejeweled waistband and gave it to him. The above incidents reveal that now the king had become very strict and just.

Attack from all fronts

Right since occupying the throne, king Hormazd had to face formidable military situations as four enemy kings attacked him on all fronts, and he was at wit’s end as to how to go about it.

The Roman emperor Tiberius’s general Maurice attacked and invaded Iran from the west upto Media and Ctesiphon. Hormazd was able to defeat them in Armenia. In 581, Maurice went back to Rome to occupy the throne, but the war continued inspite of Hormazd’s plea for peace.

In 589, the mighty king of China Khakan Saveh attacked the king from the east through Herat with huge Turkish and Turanian armies. The Turko-Hephthalites attacked North eastern Iran, and taking advantage of the situation, the Arabs attacked from the South.

At Ctesiphon, King Hormazd IV convened an urgent meeting and summoned all his ministers for guidance. The ministers first chastised the king for slaying all his senior ministers, and then drew up a plan of action, to contend with the four enemies. They told him to return the provinces of Rome so that the Roman king would stop his attack. Then they advised their king to attack the Hephthalite king, as his army was small. Seeing this, the Arabs would retreat, and then the king would just have to concentrate on the mighty Chinese army of Saveh. The king followed the plan, and it worked effectively.

Now, only king Saveh’s army had to be dealt with. King Hormazd was contemplating how to get about that, when Nastuh, a courtier, approached him and said, “O great king! My father Mehrān Setād who is a very old man wants to reveal a secret.” King Hormazd was very anxious to know the secret and so he sent a palanquin to get Mehrān to his palace.

(To be continued…..)