BĒṮ LAPAṬ, the Syriac name for Vēh Antiōk Šāpūr (Gondēšāpūr), founded in ca. 260 by Šāpūr I in Ḵūzestān with the Roman captives from Valerian’s army. The site has been identified with the ruins called Šāhābād, eight farsaḵs northwest of Tostar on the road to Dezfūl. Since there is no archeological evidence of pre-Sasanian occupation there, it is unlikely that it was a pre-Sasanian Christian diocese. The city was laid out eight streets square and was governed by a satrap under Šāpūr I. The form Bēlapat in Greek and Coptic reflects the local pronunciation and was corrupted into Bēl-Ābād, “establishment of Bēl,” through folk etymology. According to Dīnavarī its name was Nīlāṭ in the Ḵūzī language, while its inhabitants called it Nīlāb. It was the capital of Sasanian Ḵūzestān, and on at least two occasions was the location of the Sasanian royal court. Mani was imprisoned and killed there because Bahrām (Varahrān) I (r. 273-76) had his court there. Šāpūr II also had his court there sometime after 336, for the mōbad, Pērōz-Tahm-Šāpūr, was sent to him there. The Christian bishopric of Bēṯ Lapaṭ was the metropolitan­ate of Bēṯ Huzayē (Ḵūzestān) and is attested in 410, 420, 424, 486, 497, 544, and 644. The Synod of Bēṯ Lapaṭ convened by Bar Ṣawmā (Ḇarṣaumā) in 483 was an important step in the creation of a separate Nestorian church in the Sasanian state. By the sixth century there were a famous hospital and medical school there that lasted well into the Islamic period.

The city was taken by Muslim forces under Abū Sabra in 17/738 when Abū Mūsā was governor of Baṣra. It served as capital for Yaʿqūb b. Layṯ al-Ṣaffār (d. 265/878), whose tomb could be seen there in the fourth/tenth century. Although the city suffered from Kurdish attacks in the late fourth/tenth century, it was still a large town in the eighth/fourteenth century.



Balāḏorī, Fotūḥ, p. 328.

“Chro­nica Minora I,” in CSCO, Scriptores Syri I, p. 34; II, p. 28, Louvain, 1955.

Dīnavarī, ed. Guirgass, p. 49.

Ebn al-Atīr, VII, pp. 201, 213, 231.

Ḥamza, p. 45. Ṭabarī, I, pp. 2564-68.

R. Adams and D. Hansen, “Archaeological Reconnaissance and Soundings in Jundi-Shāhpūr,” Ars Orientalis 7, 1968, pp. 53-54.

P. Bedjan, Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, Leipzig and Paris, IV, p. 129.

Camb. Hist. Iran III, pp. 126, 131, 161, 174, 500, 570, 573, 725, 754, 944.

J.-B. Chabot, Synodicon Orientale, Paris, 1902, pp. 33, 42, 43, 53, 59, 62, 90, 272, 283-84, 285, 300, 306, 310, 345.

Ph. Gignoux, “Éléments de prosopographie de quelques mōbads sasanides,” JA 270, 1982, pp. 265-66.

G. Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate, Cambridge, 1930, pp. 233, 238.

A. Maricq, “Res Gestae Divi Saporis,” Syria 35, 1958, pp. 326-27.

Markwart, Provincial Capitals, p. 98.

W. Sundermann, “Studien zur kirchengeschichtlichen Literatur der iranischen Manichäer II,” Altorientalische Forschungen 13, 1986, pp. 254, 301, 303.

(Michael Morony)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 2, pp. 187-188