Silver plate showing Shapur II

Sasanian, 4th century AD

It is often possible to identify Sasanian rulers by their distinctive personal crowns, as the representations are accompanied by their names on certain sculptures and coins. This king wears the crown of Shapur II (AD 309-79).

In about AD 224 the Parthians were defeated by Ardashir, a descendant of Sasan who gave his name to the new Sasanian dynasty. They were to rule Iran for over 400 years and saw themselves as the successors to the Achaemenid Persians.

One of the most energetic and able Sasanian rulers was Shapur I (AD 240-72). In his reign the central government was strengthened, the coinage was reformed and Zoroastrianism was made the state religion.

The expansion of Sasanian power brought them into conflict with Rome in the west. In AD 260 the emperor Valerian was taken prisoner by Shapur I in a battle near Edessa. After this the defence of Rome's eastern frontier was left to the ruler of Palmyra, a caravan city in Syria that was allied with Rome, and his wife Zenobia.

By the end of the reign of Shapur I, the Sasanian empire stretched from the River Euphrates to the River Indus and included modern-day Armenia and Georgia.

After a short period during which much territory was lost. Sasanian fortunes were restored during the long reign of Shapur II.


Silver plate
showing Shapur II

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Object details

Height: 12.8 cm
Width: 11.5 cm
Depth: 2.6 cm


ME 124091

Room 52: Ancient Iran


    Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks


    J. Curtis, Ancient Persia (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

    D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    T.T. Allsen, The Royal Hunt in Eurasian History (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006)

    M. Boyce, ‘Some Reflections on Zurvanism’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 19 (1957), 304–316

    M. Boyce, ‘On the Orthodoxy of Sasanian Zoroastrianism’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 59 (1996), 11–28

    J. Curtis (ed.), Mesopotamia and Iran in the Parthian and Sasanian Periods: Rejection and Revival c. 238 BC – AD 642 (London, 2000)

    V.S. Curtis and S. Stewart, The Sasanian Era (London, 2008)

    T. Daryaee, Sasanian Persia: the Rise and Fall of an Empire (London, I.B.Tauris, 2009)

    P.O. Harper, The Royal Hunter: Art of the Sasanian Empire (New York, Asia Society, 1978)

    P.O. Harper, In search of a Cultural Identity: Monuments and Artefacts of the Sasanian Near East, 3rd to 7th century AD (New York, 2006)

    D.A. Scott, ‘Manichaean responses to Zoroastrianism’, Religious Studies, 25 (1989), 435–47