Bahrām IV succeeded Šāpūr III and ruled 388-99. Ṭabarī (tr. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 71) calls him a son of Šāpūr II, but, according to Agathias (4.26), Ḥamza (p. 20), Šāh-nāma (Moscow, VII, p. 262) and others, he was a son of Šāpūr III, which is more likely (Nöldeke, op. cit., p. 71 n. 2). Prior to his accession, Bahrām was governor of Kermān and bore the title Kermān Šāh (a name which may linger in that of Kermānšāh(ān), a town in western Iran; Nöldeke, ibid., n. 3). An amethyst intaglio in the British Museum displays a masterly engraved bust of this prince as wearing a pearl-rimmed diademed cap and identified by a Pahlavi inscription: Wahrān Kermān Šāh, son of the Mazdā-worshipping Lord Šāpūr, king of kings of Iran and non-Iran, who is a scion of lords (see E. Herzfeld, Paikuli I, Berlin, 1924, p.78).
Bahrām negotiated with emperor Theodosius I over Armenia in 389, and they divided that land between their empires. But when Bahrām’s appointee over the larger Persian section (called Persarmenia) went over to his co-religionist Romans in 394, he was replaced by Bahrām’s brother Wahrānšāpūr (Bahrāmšāpūr, Arm. Vrāmšapuh). A year later a horde of Huns swept from North Caucasus into the south and were defeated and repulsed only on Mesopotamian soil (Nöldeke, op. cit., p. 72, with references). A weak ruler, Bahrām fell victim to a conspiracy by powerful nobles and lost his life. A magnificently cut chalcedony intaglio in the British Museum represents this king, recognizable from his falcon-shaped crown (on which see R. Göbl, Sasanian Numismatics, Brunswick, 1971, p. 48), javelin in hand and trampling the body of an unidentified fallen enemy (see A. D. H. Bivar, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum: Stamp Seals II: The Sassanian Dynasty, London, 1969, p. 56, pl. 4: BCl).
Sources are listed in Justi, Namenbuch, p. 362, no. 12.
See further K. E. Güterbock, Byzanz und Persien, Berlin, 1906, p. 128; J. H. Schmidt, Syria, 1934, p. 22; Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 253f.
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: July 26, 2016
This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 5, pp. 514-522
O. Klíma, “Bahrām IV,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, III/5, pp. 514-522, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/bahram-04 (accessed on 30 December 2012).