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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Mirkhond translated by De Sacy


[Footnote 37: All the details of these Turkish and Roman embassies, so curious in the history of human manners, are drawn from the extracts of Menander, (p. 106--110, 151--154, 161-164,) in which we often regret the want of order and connection.]

Disputes have often arisen between the sovereigns of Asia for the title of king of the world; while the contest has proved that it could not belong to either of the competitors. The kingdom of the Turks was bounded by the Oxus or Gihon; and Touran was separated by that great river from the rival monarchy of Iran, or Persia, which in a smaller compass contained perhaps a larger measure of power and population. The Persians, who alternately invaded and repulsed the Turks and the Romans, were still ruled by the house of Sassan, which ascended the throne three hundred years before the accession of Justinian. His contemporary, Cabades, or Kobad, had been successful in war against the emperor Anastasius; but the reign of that prince was distracted by civil and religious troubles. A prisoner in the hands of his subjects, an exile among the enemies of Persia, he recovered his liberty by prostituting the honor of his wife, and regained his kingdom with the dangerous and mercenary aid of the Barbarians, who had slain his father. His nobles were suspicious that Kobad never forgave the authors of his expulsion, or even those of his restoration. The people was deluded and inflamed by the fanaticism of Mazdak, [38] who asserted the community of women, [39] and the equality of mankind, whilst he appropriated the richest lands and most beautiful females to the use of his sectaries. The view of these disorders, which had been fomented by his laws and example, [40] imbittered the declining age of the Persian monarch; and his fears were increased by the consciousness of his design to reverse the natural and customary order of succession, in favor of his third and most favored son, so famous under the names of Chosroes and Nushirvan. To render the youth more illustrious in the eyes of the nations, Kobad was desirous that he should be adopted by the emperor Justin: [4011] the hope of peace inclined the Byzantine court to accept this singular proposal; and Chosroes might have acquired a specious claim to the inheritance of his Roman parent. But the future mischief was diverted by the advice of the quaestor Proclus: a difficulty was started, whether the adoption should be performed as a civil or military rite; [41] the treaty was abruptly dissolved; and the sense of this indignity sunk deep into the mind of Chosroes, who had already advanced to the Tigris on his road to Constantinople. His father did not long survive the disappointment of his wishes: the testament of their deceased sovereign was read in the assembly of the nobles; and a powerful faction, prepared for the event, and regardless of the priority of age, exalted Chosroes to the throne of Persia. He filled that throne during a prosperous period of forty-eight years; [42] and the Justice of Nushirvan is celebrated as the theme of immortal praise by the nations of the East.

[Footnote 38: See D'Herbelot, (Bibliot. Orient. p. 568, 929;) Hyde, (de Religione Vet. Persarum, c. 21, p. 290, 291;) Pocock, (Specimen Hist. Arab. p. 70, 71;) Eutychius, (Annal. tom. ii. p. 176;) Texeira, (in Stevens, Hist. of Persia, l. i. c. 34.) * Note: Mazdak was an Archimagus, born, according to Mirkhond, (translated by De Sacy, p. 353, and Malcolm, vol. i. p. 104,) at Istakhar or Persepolis, according to an inedited and anonymous history, (the Modjmal-alte-warikh in the Royal Library at Paris, quoted by St. Martin, vol. vii. p. 322) at Wischapour in Chorasan: his father's name was Bamdadam. He announces himself as a reformer of Zoroastrianism, and carried the doctrine of the two principles to a much grater height. He preached the absolute indifference of human action, perfect equality of rank, community of property and of women, marriages between the nearest kindred; he interdicted the use of animal food, proscribed the killing of animals for food, enforced a vegetable diet. See St. Martin, vol. vii. p. 322. Malcolm, vol. i. p. 104. Mirkhond translated by De Sacy. It is remarkable that the doctrine of Mazdak spread into the West. Two inscriptions found in Cyrene, in 1823, and explained by M. Gesenius, and by M. Hamaker of Leyden, prove clearly that his doctrines had been eagerly embraced by the remains of the ancient Gnostics; and Mazdak was enrolled with Thoth, Saturn, Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Epicurus, John, and Christ, as the teachers of true Gnostic wisdom. See St. Martin, vol. vii. p. 338. Gesenius de Inscriptione Phoenicio-Graeca in Cyrenaica nuper reperta, Halle, 1825. Hamaker, Lettre a M. Raoul Rochette, Leyden, 1825.--M.]


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