To tell the story of Khosrau Anushirawan, ruler of a golden age,
we first have to understand his father, Kavadh.
Kavadh ruled the great empire of Iran. The West called it "Persia".
And he saw that empire brought to the brink of collapse.
And -- boy, oh boy -- did he not enjoy that experience...
Prince Kavadh spent his childhood like most young boys do...
... held hostage by his father's greatest enemy.
His captors were the Hephthalites, a Central Asian tribe that pushed their way up to the borders of Iran.
They were new, they were powerful, and they had made the Iranians very, very nervous.
Their relationship had started so well though!
They had held Kavadh's father win his throne, they had fought at his side in a couple of wars...
But then they got into an argument over who controlled the town on their shared border.
Naturally, Kavadh's father had gone to war over it.
And he had lost.
He had lost SO BADLY, that the Hephthalites actually took him captive,
and he had to pay his own ransom just so he could go back to ruling Iran again.
He was a little testy about that, and so of course he went to war with them a second time...
... and he lost again.
This time he was forced to give them Kavadh as a hostage.
Because SURELY he wouldn't attack them again if they held his son.
He did though. I mean, third time's the charm, right?
And he didn't get captured this time!
He got killed. Along with the rest of the Iranian army.
The Hephthalites pushed forward, and the Iranians were in a panic.
Kavadh's uncle had been put on the throne, but maaan, he did not know what to do.
Enter Sukhra. A minister to the former shah, and leader of a powerful noble family.
He took command of the army and managed to stop the Hephthalite advance.
Sukhra then negotiated the terms of a new truce.
Agreeing to pay a heavy tribute in exchange for peace and the return of all Iranian property,
including the dead shah's son Kavadh.
Sukhra returned home a hero. People celebrated him in the streets.
But Kavadh wasn't so lucky.
Though he was the previous shah's son, the noble families of Iran decided to elect Kavadh's uncle as the new shah.
After all, how could they trust this boy who had just spent years as a prisoner of the enemy.
One noble even wanted to see Kavadh executed.
But Sukhra, who had just gone through all this trouble rescuing the kid,
managed to convince the nobles to merely imprison Kavadh instead.
So the poor kid got sent away yet again.
This time to The Fortress of Oblivion.
I am not kidding, that was the prison's actual name. Don't say history never gave you anything.
Honestly, Kavadh had been better of with the Hephthalites.
Sure he had been their prisoner, but they always treated him like more of a guest.
And frankly, prisons don't earn names like
ＦＯＲＴＲＥＳＳ ＯＦ ＯＢＬＩＶＩＯＮ
for being comfortable.
Somehow though, Kavadh managed to escape, and when he did, he ran right back to the Hephthalites.
He promised them gold, and in return they promised to help him win back his rightful throne.
Thus, in 488 C.E., Kavadh marched to the capital at Ctesiphon with a sizeable foreign army at his heels.
This time the nobles sided with him. As did Sukhra.
They deposed his uncle without a fight, and Kavadh was confirmed as the new shah.
Sukhra became his advisor and tutor since the new shah was still pretty young and had definitely not spend much time in Iran recently.
At first, Kavadh welcomed Sukhra's advise,
but he eventually came to realize that his so-called "advisor", wanted him as a puppet, not a shah.
When people had problems in need of solving, they always brought those problems to Sukhra.
And when Kavadh tried to way in with his own suggestions, everybody ignored it.
He soon realized that the crown he wore, and the throne he sat on were mere decoration.
Sukhra truly ruled this empire.
Now, it is true that a handful of noble families had always been the real power behind the throne of Iran,
it had been that way for centuries;
but they were supposed to stay BEHIND the throne.
They each oversaw specific regions on the shah's behalf. Much like feudal lords.
And while the locals might serve their noble families, those families were supposed to serve the shah.
It had worked this way for so long,
that the biggest noble families like Sukhra's had been empowered even longer than the Sasanian dynasty Kavadh descended from.
And yeah, the nobles had always meddled in royal affairs...
Kavadh's uncle was not the first shah they had deposed, and he would not be the last,
but the way Sukhra now was holding court, and giving orders on the shah's behalf,
that was not done.
After five years of struggling to assert control over his own advisor,
Kavadh ordered Sukhra to leave the capital and go back to his home city.
Sukhra obeyed, but only because it put him out of the shah's reach.
From such a safe distance, he could brag openly about how Kavadh wouldn't even have a throne if not for him.
And even living away from the capital, he held all the power.
The empire's taxes were still brought to him, he still commanded the army. Kavadh had nothing.
The stars had aligned for Sukhra. To all appearances, he stood on the brink of claiming the throne for himself.
This, is what Kavadh had counted on.
If he knew one thing about Iran's noble families, it was this:
Through all the centuries of intrigue, manipulation, and outright bloodshed,
the one thing that always serves to keep noble families in check, was their rivalry with other noble families.
Now, with Sukhra visibally rising to new heights of power, and openly bragging about it, no less,
his most bitter rivals took action.
Egged on by Kavadh, they gathered and raised their own army to march on Sukhra's home.
Soon, they deposed both Sukhra and his vast treasury at Kavadh's feet.
The young shah had eliminated the greatest threat to his reign, while barely lifting a finger.
Sukhra was executed and removed from the board, but Kavadh was just getting started.
Never again would he allow a noble family to rise against him the way Sukhra just had.
The nobles must be cut off at the knees.
See, a new movement had been brewingin Iran since the death of Kavadh's father.
The threat of a Hephthalite invasion had sent a ripple of fear through the empire.
And in that atmosphere, people had turned to new faiths with new answers.
One priest in particular named Mazdak had split from the official tenets of Iran's Zoroastrian religion,
and begun preaching a new doctrine.
Mazdak believed in peace, free love, and eating veggies.
He was basically a V Century hippie.
And he argued for the complete redistribution of wealth,
and the peaceful elimination of entrenched upper-class nobility like Sukhra.
Kavadh liked that last idea very much, so the shah gave up meat, embraced free love, and became a Mazdakite.
With Kavadh's blessing, Mazdak threw open the imperial granaries and began distributing food to the people.
They also divided up land that had been held by the noble families for centuries.
Weakening noble control of the realm.
For the first time in Kavadh's reign, the people LOVED him.
They sang his praises the way they used to sing Sukhra's for saving them from the Hephthalites.
But, both the nobility and the high ranking priesthood
-- those powers which had stood behind the throne for centuries --
Kavadh had made a mistake.
Maybe he thought he could restrain Mazdak's more ambitious ideas about equality,
or maybe he thought that this popularity with the people would keep him safe,
but he had reached too far, too fast...
The nobles rose up against him,
and once again threw him into ＴＨＥ ＦＯＲＴＲＥＳＳ ＯＦ ＯＢＬＩＶＩＯＮ
Boy, I love that name...
They then put his younger brother to the throne to undo Mazdak's reforms and be their new puppet shah.
Alas, though the Fortress of Oblivion continued to have a very, very cool name;
it also continued to be very, very bad at containing Kavadhs.
Kavadh escaped once again, and fled his old friends the Hephthalites
I think it may be time to face the hard truth that the Fortress of Oblivion was just not a very good prison.
Yes, I am disappointed too... :(
The Hephthalites were just as happy to accept Kavadh's money as last time, though.
So once again, he boldly marched up to Ctesiphon.
His poor brother, who had never been really been that into this whole shah idea anyway, quickly stepped aside,
and for the second time, Kavadh became the shah of Iran.
But it's fair to say at this point that Kavadh's reign had thus far been... hmm...
Once disaster after another, really...
And all of these upheavals had left the empire weak.
The army was still under the fractured control of the noble families,
and Iran's wealth was being sacked away, year after year, in costly tributes to appease the Hephthalites.
And, to top it off, Mazdak and his followers continued to push their aggressive social reforms forward,
Even after Kavadh had tried to tone down his subordinate ideals.
Things did not look good for the K-Man... but he was undeterred!
Kavadh believed he could bring his empire back from the brink of ruin...
... but it would take a lifetime.
Perhaps, even TWO lifetimes!
Luckily, he might just have two lifetimes to work with!
Just before he had been deposed, a new wife had given birth to his third son.
The boy was young, but Kavadh saw potential in him.
This child could be molded to carry the legacy Kavadh now hoped to build.
That boy's name, was Khosrau.