The Odd Rise And Brief Reign Of Queen Borane Of Persia

Borane (also known as Buran and Boran) was one of several children of the Persian ruler, Khosrow II (r. 591-628). She, along with other daughters and sons of Khosrow, found herself thrust into a chaotic succession crisis after her father’s wild reign, which was dominated by a long and costly war with the emperors of Constantinople (a conflict lasting from 602 to 628). Khosrow II and the military of the Sāsānian Persian Empire had fought well against Emperor Phokas of Constantinople (r. 602-610) and also maintained momentum during the first decade of rule from Emperor Heraclius (r. 610-641). Yet, Emperor Heraclius of Constantinople decisively shifted to an offensive stance in his war against Persia around 622, and in the following years he brought the Persian court to its knees. As Heraclius defeated opposing armies in battle, the Persians lost valuable officers, and the defeated generals that survived, even if they were decent tacticians, often found themselves out of favor with Khosrow II, who expected better results from his armies. Anger and dissent began to grow among scorned Persian generals, such as Shahrbarāz (also known as Sarbarazas or Sarbaros), and Khosrow’s own family began to increase their posturing and intrigues amongst themselves as the Persian ruler’s situation became more dire. Finally, in 628, Khosrow’s eldest son—known variously as Shērōē (or Siroes), Qobad, or Kavadh II—launched a coup, arrested his father, and made peace with Emperor Heraclius of Constantinople. Bloodthirsty in his ascendance, Kavadh II quickly executed his father and massacred the other rival sons that Khosrow II had fathered. Borane and other women in the family were spared from the mass executions.

Timeframes and specifics for the reigns of Kavadh II and his successors unfortunately are vague and liable to margins of error. By all accounts, Kavadh II’s reign was short, but just how short it was has been debated. Some claim he died as quickly as before the end of 628, but others suggest his reign may have lasted until 630. As the length of Kavadh’s reign is contested, it creates a domino effect that brings into question the timeline of rule for later Persian rulers. Whatever the case, Kavadh II, after his sudden and unexpected death, was succeeded by his son, named Ardaser. This son, however, was quickly overthrown in a military rebellion around 630, which was reportedly led by the aforementioned disgruntled general Shahrbarāz (although his involvement in this has been contested). Nevertheless, Shahrbarāz (or whoever else may have dethroned Ardaser) was subsequently overthrown in a second wave of Persian intrigue that put Khosrow II’s descendants back on the Persian throne. Yet, as most of the sons of Khosrow had been massacred by Kavadh II, several of Khosrow’s surviving daughters became contenders for the throne.

First came Borane, who was put in power, but admittingly it is difficult to ascertain how much power she actually had. Curiously, Borane’s reign was briefly interrupted by the quick rise and fall of her sister, Azarmidokht, who reportedly displaced Borane as ruler of the Persians for a short time. Yet, Azarmidokht was said to have been assassinated almost immediately after reaching the throne—her period in power was so brief that it largely escaped the notice of Constantinople’s scholars—and Borane was brought back to resume her reign after her sister’s assassination. Yet, despite this second chance, her reign was brief. Borane, even when her two periods of rule are combined, was only estimated to have been in power anywhere from seven months to two years. This complicated chain of succession was mentioned by the chronicler, Theophanes (750s-818), who wrote, “[Emperor Heraclius] heard that the Persian king Siroes had died and his son Ardaser succeeded to rule over the Persians. After he had held power for seven months Sarbarazas rebelled against him, smote him down, and ruled the Persians for two months. The Persians killed him and set up Khosroes’ daughter Borane as ruler; she ruled the Persian Empire for seven months” (Theophanes, Chronographia, entry for Annus Mundi 6120). Theophanes did not record how Borane died, but it is suspected that she, like her sister, eventually was killed. After perhaps one more reign of a very brief and unsuccessful ruler, the Persian throne finally passed to the child-king, Yazdagird (also known as Yazdegerd or Yazdgard), by 632. At the head of a militarily weakened and politically disarrayed empire, Yazdagird III (632-651) was the last king of the Sāsānian Persian Empire before the realm was conquered by the expanding Arabs.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Medieval manuscript depicting Faridun and Jamshid’s Daughters Arnavaz and Shahrnavaz, [Public Domain[ via Creative Commons and the Walters Art Museum).

 

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