Chosroes, Or Khosru, the name of two kings of Persia, I. Surnamed by historians the Just, by those of his nation Nushirvan (noble spirit), one of the most remarkable monarchs of the East, reigned from A. D. 531 to 579. He was of the house of Sassan, and the son and successor of Cabades or Kobad. In his youth he exhibited those qualities which afterward gained for him the title of "generous," and this is said to have rendered him the object of his father's predilections to the succession in preference to his two elder brothers; he appointed him king over one of his provinces, by which according to Persian usage he was designated as successor, and, in order to strengthen his choice, called on the Greek emperor to adopt him. The proposal was accepted, and Chos-roes departed for Constantinople; but a puerile disagreement caused a rupture, the return of the prince, and perhaps his constant hatred to the Greeks. The last war of his father he terminated gloriously by a treaty of peace, in which Justinian promised to pay 10,000 lbs. of gold.
Chosroes now directed his attention to the regulation of the affairs of his kingdom, which during his father's reign had been distracted by a long war with the Byzantine empire, and by civil and religious commotion; suppressed the sect of the followers of Mazdak, whose communistic theories in regard to property and marriage had been a source of disturbance; and appointed four viziers to rule the four great divisions of the state, Assyria, Media, Persia, and Bactriana. He extended its limits to the Indus and Oxus, and compelled the nomadic tribes of the northern barbarians to repass the latter river. But his chief wars were those against the Greeks. Viewing with concern the victories of Belisarius, the great general of Justinian, over the Vandals in Africa and the Goths in Italy, he roused his vassal the Arab Almondar, prince of Hira, to make an inroad into the empire, and soon afterward hostilities broke out between Persia and the emperor. Chosroes invaded Syria (540), plundered its cities, and took Antioch after a brave resistance. Belisarius, sent to defend the eastern provinces of the empire, was successful, but soon fell a victim to the intrigues of the court and was recalled, and Chosroes was again victorious.
The war was continued for a series of years, chiefly in the districts east of the Black sea, and terminated by the peace of 562, by which the emperor bound himself to pay an annual tribute of 30,000 pieces of gold, and received the cession of the Persian claims upon Colchis and Lazica. This peace continued for ten years; but the conquest of Yemen in southern Arabia by the lieutenants of Chosroes, who wrested it from the Abyssinians, the allies of the Byzantine empire, incited Justin, the new emperor, to collect a great army and recommence hostilities. He was defeated, and the Persians plundered Syria again. Tiberius obtained a truce of three years; this he employed in preparing a great army, and in the bloody battle fought near Melitene, in Lesser Armenia, the old Persian monarch was completely defeated (578). He died soon after, and was succeeded by his son Hormisdas (or Hormuz) IV. - The 48 years of Nushirvan's reign formed the golden age of modern Persia, in the history and poetry of the East. Dreaded by his enemies, he was revered and beloved by his subjects, who enjoyed the fruits of his victories and admired his justice; easily forgiving those crimes which served to confirm his throne, such as the murder of his two elder brothers, and the extermination of their families and adherents.
His government was firm, vigorous, and impartial; the administration of justice was watched most scrupulously and severely; the poor were the particular objects of attention; orphans were educated at the public expense; the provinces were often visited by the monarch; the ancient religion of the Magi was respected; science and literature, trade and agriculture were zealously promoted; academies and libraries were founded, and enriched with the annals of the kingdom, as well as with translations from the Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, etc, among which the celebrated tables of Pilpay or Bidpay, expressly sent for to India, have become a literary monument even in the West. The wisdom of Nushirvan was admired by philosophers from Greece, and embassies were sent to him from Africa, India, China, and Thibet. II. Surnamed Parviz, grandson of the preceding, succeeded his father llormisdas, who was deposed in 590. Prevented from occupying the throne by the rebel Bahrain, he fled to the Greek emperor Mauritius, entreated his assistance, returned with an army, and defeated the usurper. Bahrain escaped to Turkistan, where he perished soon after.
In a treaty with Mauritius he rewarded his aid by a large sum of money, and the surrender of the most important cities of Mesopotamia. He continued in peace with Constantinople during that emperor's life, and kept a Greek body guard, so that Persia was in a considerable measure under Greek influences. His ally having been assassinated by Phocas (002), he took up arms against the empire with the ostensible purpose of avenging his death. A long war ensued, in which nearly all the Asiatic provinces of the Greeks were devastated and conquered, and which was not interrupted by the death of Phocas, or by the supplications for peace of Heraclius. Antioch, Crcsarea in Cappadocia, the whole of Palestine, Egypt with Alexandria, and Asia Minor, were wrested in successive campaigns from the new emperor; his capital, deprived of its supplies from Egypt, was a prey to famine, and threatened from the north by the Avars and other barbarians. Threatening to pass the Bosporus and besiege Constantinople, Chosroes proposed ignominious conditions of peace, which were rejected by Heraclius, and the war recommenced. The military glory, the pride and splendor of the Persian monarch had now attained their zenith.
Master of western Asia, he oppressed the Christian inhabitants of the Byzantine provinces, and adorned with the spoils of the conquered his favorite residence, Dastagerd, east of the Tigris, about 60 m. from Ctesiphon, the capital. Its marvellous beauty and pomp have been extolled by visitors and poets, and even grave historians speak minutely of its paradise, or park, containing pheasants, peacocks, ostriches, roebucks, and wild goats; of its lions and tigers, destined for the pleasures of the chase; of the 960 elephants, 20,000 camels, 6,000 mules and horses, kept for the service of the camp and to carry the royal tents; of the 0,000 guards that watched before the gates; of the 12,000 slaves and 3,000 women subjected to his caprices or passions; of the precious metals, gems, silks, aromatics, in a hundred subterranean vaults of the palace; of its 30,000 hangings, 40,000 columns, and its cupola with 1,000 globes of gold imitating the motions of the planets and the constellations of the zodiac.
But in the midst of all this greatness Chosroes was summoned in a letter from Mecca to acknowledge Mohammed the prophet of Allah. He tore the letter and rejected the proposal; upon which Mohammed is said to have exclaimed, "Thus will God tear his kingdom and reject his supplications." The first part of this prophecy was soon fulfilled by the victories of Heraclius, who in a series of brilliant campaigns (622-627) reconquered all the lost provinces of the empire, repeatedly defeated Chosroes, advanced to the Tigris, and finally won the great battle of Nineveh; after which the pusillanimous but proud and obstinate monarch fled with his favorite wife Sira, the Shirene of Persian poetry, and escaped the hands of his enemy only to be murdered at the command of his son Siroes, after having witnessed the massacre of his numerous sons, and suffered the horrors of a dungeon (028). Chosroes II. was the last mighty king of the house of Sassan; his son enjoyed the fruits of his unnatural deed only for eight months; and, after a few years of civil wars, Persia was conquered by the Arabs.