Börm, Henning. 2018. König und Gefolgschaft im Sasanidenreich. Zum Verhältnis zwischen Monarch und imperialer Elite im spätantiken Persien. In Wolfram Drews (ed.), Die Interaktion von Herrschern und Eliten in imperialen Ordnungen des Mittelalters (Das Mittelalter. Perspektiven mediävistischer Forschung. Beihefte 8), 23–42. Berlin: De Gruyter.
This article examines the relationships between rulers and imperial elites in late antique Sasanian Iran, focusing on the significance and implications of complex groups of followers. Not unlike their Parthian predecessors, the Sasanian kings of the pre-Islamic empire relied on a network of personal relationships with the imperial elite. The magnates (vuzurgān), in turn, had many followers (bandagān) of their own; they were, apparently, often rather independent when residing in their own lands. Still, this does not imply that the late antique Persian monarchy was weak, because the Sasanian kings managed to turn the court into a central location of aristocratic competition where the imperial elite struggled for offices, honors and influence. This allowed the monarch to play off rival individuals and groups against each other – one is tempted here to speak of a “Königsmechanismus” (Norbert Elias), even though the weaknesses of this model are certainly well known. In general, this strategy became problematic only if infighting escalated into civil war. However, the later Sasanians tried to curtail the influence of the vuzurgān by imposing a tax reform, establishing a standing royal army, and creating a new lower nobility (dehgānān) in order to strengthen the power of the central government. The paper demonstrates that, in spite of short-term success, these measures seem to have led to a long-term erosion of loyalty within the kingdom, thus contributing to the triumph of the Arab conquerors in the seventh century CE.