Shapur I was the second King of the Sassanid Empire 241-271. Son of Ardashir I he was a mighty warrior, famously defeating and capturing the Roman emperor Valerian in 260 A.D. at Edessa. Rumour has it that he kept Valerian alive, using him as a mounting block for his horse. When Valerian died he had him skinned and the skin stuffed with straw which was then flung into a corner of a temple and left to rot. Perhaps his previous defeat by the Roman emperor Gordian III in 242 left him with a bit of resentment he needed to work out of his system!

His military ability was truly astounding; amongst his conquests were :- In Northern India he took Peshawar, watered his horses in the Indus then went to conquer Bactria and then Samarakand. He then turned his attention west, taking Armenia, the important Roman city of Antioch and he invaded Syria. His victories (particulary his one over Valerian) are depicted in a series of rock carvings in the province of Fars and at Naqsh-i-Rustam.

Despite his abilities as a warrior, he also began a program of public works, and had many important Greek and Indian works of literature translated. His patronage protected Mani, (the founder of Manichaeism) from persecution.

There is a statue of him a cave on the Shapur river 6 miles from the city of Bishapur in the Zagros mountains in western Iran. First placed there 1800 years ago; when the Sassanid Empire fell to the Arab invasion in 642, the statue was toppled and part of the leg broken. When 70 years ago the arms were damaged, it seemed likely the gradual erosion of Shapur would continue until nothing was left. But 30 years ago, some small restoration work was done; the statue was raised, and one of the feet repaired with concrete; he stands proudly in his ancient homeland again.

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