The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 15 (start)

Let’s do a little more of the Annals of Eutychius.  The author returns to his now-lost Sassanid chronicle, which clearly contained fanciful material as well as much history.  Here is the first two chapters.

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1. Let us return now to our purpose and to the place in history where we were.  As for Yazdagard, son of Bahram, called “the Sinner”, king of the Persians, he was a brutal man, rough and of perverse conduct. [The Persians] regretted making him their king, but nevertheless they were unhappy at the idea of killing him, because they did not want to accept that their kingship could degenerate so in their king.  It was therefore said that they saw a horse go forward and stop at the door [of the palace] of the king.  The people came around, admiring the beauty of its figure and the perfection of its features, and they informed the king. He came out, admired it and felt great joy.  He ordered them to saddle it, because he wanted to ride it, then he approached it, stroked its head and took it by the forelock and mane.  Then he tried to stroke its back, but when he was behind [the horse], it kicked him, striking him in the liver and killed him.  Then the horse, as if satisfied with what it had done, began to run and no one could catch it.  Then the people exclaimed: “God did this for us, moved with compassion toward us.”

2. The reign of Yazdagard “the Sinner” lasted twenty years, five months and eighteen days. When Yazdagard died, the leaders of Persia came together and said: “We do not intend to elect as our king any of his family that would treat us the same way.”  Yazdagard had a son named Bahram, whom they did not permit to attend at any of their actions.  He then said to some of them: “Do not elect anyone as your king unless he has these seven qualities: that he is better than all of you for: [his] skill in governing, in considering things, for the truth of what he says, for [his] strong courage, for [his] eloquence, for [his] clemency in ‘administration and for [his] knowledge of the treachery that an enemy may attempt”.  They answered: “And where would we ever find such a man?” He said to them: “Promise me, on your honour, that if I show you, you will make him your king.”  They promised him, and having full security in their sincerity he told them:  ”I am the man.” And so it was that they elected him their king.  Bahram, son of Yazdağard, called Bahram Gur (1), reigned over the Persians for eighteen years and eleven months (2).  This was in the twelfth year of the reign of Theodosius the Lesser, king of the Rum.

He reigned over the Persians, treating them well, and they loved him.  Later, however, he preferred to abandon himself with young and entertaining company, to the point that the people began to disapprove, and neighboring kings thought they might take possession of his territory.  In fact, he was attacked by Khagan the Great (3), king of the Turks, at the head of twenty-five myriads of soldiers.  Each king of the Turks was called Khagan.  He marched until he was encamped at as-Sa`id.  Then Bahram was told: “O king, we must tell you to put aside your pleasures.  Come, take care of yourself and the people, look after business, defend and throw off fear”.  Heedless of their words, Bahram left the country and went to the regions of Adharbayğān and Armenia, to live life as a hermit at the local fire temple.  But the people had no doubt that he had behaved in this way just to escape.  Then they met in council and said: “We can not do anything against Khagan.  Let us pay a personal tax as a ransom for our people and our land.”  But Marsi (4), brother of Bahram, and the judge Azadnār (5) said: “We are not willing to participate in this matter.”  At the news of the submission of the population of Persis, Khagan abandoned his military preparations and put down his arms.  Then there went to Bahram a man who told him the news, how the Khagan believed everything peaceful and that he was safe from any surprise.  Bahram then marched against him and surprised him in the night, killed Khagan with his own hands and then exterminated the men who had fled.  Bahram then returned safe and sound, and he took the family of Khagan, his soldiers and their wives, who had been taken prisoner, and put them at the disposal of the population.  When the news spread in the territory of the Turks of what had happened to Khagan, they fled to their more remote lands.  Bahram I commended the governor of Khurasan and his brother Marsi (6) and retired to Adharbaygān.  He stopped nowhere, nor did he enter into any dwelling except as a hermit and offered sacrifices of thanksgiving to God.  When he came to the fire temple of Adharbayğān, he dismounted and walked on foot, until he entered, thus showing the deep respect he had for that place and to thank God.  He then gave orders to hang on the door of the temple the pearls, rubies and precious stones from the sword of Khaqan, a set of pearls.  He then went into Iraq, where he remained for a few days.  Then he marched towards [the country] of Rum with the intention to invade.

When Theodosius, king of Rum, heard the news, he sent a man named Istrātiyūs to see in what state was the kingdom of Bahram.  He returned to the king, and he told him that it was poorly defended.  King Theodosius then thought to raise his hands against Bahram, and he made the necessary preparations and went out against him at the head of his soldiers.  The battle between the two was hard-fought, and many fell on both sides, and both fled.  King Theodosius returned to Constantinople, while Bahram, in disguise, walked and entered the territory of India.

He stayed there for some time without anyone knowing who he was, and they respected him for his strength, for his courage, for his skill in killing wild animals and for his boldness in dealing with them.  One day he learned that there was an elephant in their land that had attacked and killed many people.  He asked them to lead him to it, but they said to him; “You are a foreigner and it is not right to expose you to danger.”  Learning this from the king [of the Indians], he took with him a man to lead him to the neighborhood where was the elephant.  As soon as he saw it, Bahram threw a spear that lodged between the eyes of the elephant, then hit it with a dart and then another, until he killed it.  He cut off its head and brought it to the king.  The king felt great admiration and asked him who he was.  “I”, replied Bahram, “am a Persian nobleman.  But I fell from grace in the eyes of my king, and I have fled away from him, coming here to you, attracted by the fame of your power and your mercy.”  The king had an enemy who had previously spared his life  Then he threatened him and sent to him to demand tribute.  The king was deeply distressed.  But Bahram encouraged him and said: “Do not worry any more, because I will prevent him from hurting you.”  Bahram rode with the king and his army to fight against the enemy.  Then Bahram said to the generals of India: “Look at their backs, and do what I do.”  Bahram then attacked them, dispersed their troops, began to strike men from the shoulder to the back, splitting them in two with a single blow; cutting off the elephant’s trunk with one blow and bringing it down, he unseated the rider, knocking him to the ground and killing him, he took two men by the head, gripping one with his right hand and the other with the left and striking them against each other he bashed out their brains.  Bahram’s men gave themselves to attacking and killing and they carried off great booty.  Then the king and Bahram returned.  The king gave to Bahram his daughter and gave him a gift of Danil (7), Makran (8) and the surrounding areas of Sind.  Bahram asked him to put it in writing and seal it as a guarantee. The king did so.  Bahram then returned to his own kingdom and imposed tribute on those territories that had been given to him, causing their riches to flow into Persia.  Some Persian [authors] have passed down that Bahram Gur was under the tutelage of an-Nu’man b. al-Mundhir the Lakhmid (9), king of the Arabs of the desert, and when Bahram had news of the death of his father Yazdagard, he marched with the Arabs who had followed him up to camp in as-Sawad (10), where he remained to dispute the realm with the noble Persians until they recognized his right and elected him king.


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