The Massacre of All Christians in Sassanid Empire of Persia under Shapur II - AD 341
The reputation of Women in pre-Islamic Persia has been noted to be one of the most dynamic and mobile in both ancient and post-classical history of the world. It was not unusual for Women, whether by right or by birth, could exercise immense authoritative power within the Persian Empire, provided that she was privileged enough in the strict social class employed by the Persian. One such case, was the story of Behnaz Vahiddokth, a Persian Noblewoman who used her enormous power to exercise her malevolence and abuse.
Behnaz was born in a strong traditional Zoroastrian Noble family who held close relationship with the ruling Sassanid Dynasty as well as the priestly class of the Sassanid Empire, whom by this time, were enjoying a great era of prosperity. She herself was "special" in a way that, despite her flawless physical beauty and intelligence, she was known for her sadistic tendencies and cruelty towards her servants and subordinates. The mental sickness might have been a result of her improper upbringing by her parents, or perhaps a product of Incest, since her parents were siblings. Incestuous marriage were permitted in the Zoroastrianism of the Sassanian society, though the practice itself was very rare.
She was later married to a the Governor of Assuristan, or the Sassanid province of Assyria and became his privileged first wive (patikshahi). Unfortunately, her husband died in just a few years time after she gave birth to their first son, resulting in her becoming the the son's guardian and acting regent for the governance of the province. She governed the province with an Iron fist and cruelty, especially towards the Christian populace whom she distrust, citing that they were the spies of Romans. This views of her was further solidified when the Roman Emperor Constantine I the great, converted into Christianity.
The Roman Empire and the Persian empire in the 4th century AD was technically at the state of war, where borders and frontiers were continuously fought and changing. The Persian was gaining ground and had defeated the Romans numerous times, thanks to the effort of emperor Shapur II. Fortunately for Behnaz, Shapur II shared her view on his christian subjects, albeit from a different perspective. Shapur II reacted strongly after the conversion of Constantine to Christianity; since Persia's greatest enemy the Roman Empire had embraced Christianity, Shapur's mistrust turned into open hostility. After the death of Constantine, Shapur imposed high tax to the Christians in order to aid his war effort. This was met with a strong reaction and the christian patriarch refused to comply with the emperor's request. Angered by their refusal, Shapur then threatened them to convert into Zoroastrianism or faced the consequences, to which the christians still stubbornly refused. The Christian stubbornness was met with hostility and in AD 341 Shapur II ordered the massacre of all the Christians living in the Persian Empire.
The new announcement gave Behnaz an inhuman ecstasy and from then on, she focused her effort and time in gathering all her christian subjects in Assuristan and proceeded in mercilessly killing them. But it was not the killing that disturbed her subjects, but rather, the amount of tortures and torments that she put to her Christian captives, that suggested she lacked the conscience. The most hideous of them all was the torture called "the boats", whereby the victims were fastened into the interior of one/two rowing boat or hollowed tree trunks, and were then forcefully fed with milk and honey until they developed severe diarrhea. The body of the victims were then covered with honey or a mixture of milk and honey, which would then left out under the exposure of the sun. The honey attracted bees and insects which would fed on the victim's flesh, while the Diarrhea would smear the victim with feces, further attracting insects, flies and maggots to the body. The insects would later burrow deep into the victim's body and caused increasingly severe gangrenous infection which would lead to a very painful and slow death. To Behnaz, this wasn't enough and she often fed and watered the victims to prolonged their life so as to extend the torture.
It was recorded that more than 1,100 Christians were killed in the Assuristan province alone, but as to how many the number of Christians Behnaz had personally killed, it remained unknown. The consequences of the Christian persecution under the Zoroastrians of Persian Empire led to their independence from all the other Christian church which was further made distinct by the growing Nestorian influence which was supported by the Zoroastrian ruling class, which then became the "Church of the East".
As for the story of Behnaz, her fate did not end well after the death of shapur II. Her infamy for mercilessly killing her Christian subjects reached the ear of the new emperor, Ardashir II, brother of his predecessor, who was known as a compassionate ruler. He took drastic action to ensure that Behnaz was removed from her privilege and position. The assassination of her son, rumored to be from poison, gave Behnaz severe mental break down and caused her to fall into madness. Her insanity led her to the killings of her household servants and it was because of this, she was put to death by the Emperor Ardashir II himself. The rule of Ardashir II was marked by tolerance and the people prospered under his rule. The prosecution came to a temporary halt, allowing the Christians of Persia to breath for sometime.
A part of Project Tartarus that aims to explore the darker side of "Heroines" through fictional figures portrayed with debauchery, cruelty and immorality; all within the context of our History
really interesting! I love how distinctive you made her facial features!
You've got the Persian look pretty well, good job!
Beautiful. And her stern/stubborn yet a bit sad gaze suits her perfectly well.
"What? What? Stop such a wondrous undertaking? Nay! Nay! A thousand times nay! We kill them all because the wicked will then be in hell and God will take the innocent, as martyrs, to heaven."