HORMOZD II, Sasanian great king (r. 303-09 C.E.). In his Middle Persian inscription at Ṭāq-e Bostān, Šāpur II (r. 309-79) calls himself “son of the Mazda-worshiping Majesty (bay), Oḥrmazd, king of kings of Ērān and Anē-rāŋ,” grandson of Narseh (Herzfeld, I, p. 123; Back, pp. 490-91). Agathias (4.25), Ṭabari (I, pp. 835-36), and others confirm this descent (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 50 and n. 4; see also Justi, Namenbuch, s.v. Ahura-Mazdāh, no. 7). In the “investiture” relief of Narseh at Naqš-e Rostam in Fārs (Herrmann, pp. 9-11, Pls. 8-13), the figure standing behind the king probably represents Hormozd as the crown prince, since his headgear is shaped as an animal protome (horse?), a type normally associated with Sasanian heirs (Shahbazi, p. 268; Wiesehöfer, p. 70). It is unlikely that he participated in his father’s war against Rome, which ended in Narseh’s crushing defeat, the capture of his wife and several children, and the ceding of several provinces in Armenia and Mesopotamia for their return (for Narseh’s war, see Ensslin, pp. 37 ff.; Winter, pp. 152-231; Felix, pp. 111-28).

Upon his accession, Hormozd assumed a crown very similar to that of Bahrām II (q.v.). It represented the varəγna, the royal falcon (the bird symbolizing the god Vərəθraγna-/Bahrām), supporting a pearl-studded globe (characteristic of Sasanian royal headgear) and holding a pearl by its beak (Erdmann, p. 99; Göbl, pp. 45-46, Pl. 5, nos. 80-87).

Very little is known of Hormozd’s reign, which allegedly started harshly before he turned mild, wise, and benevolent to the weak (Ṭabari, I, pp. 835-36). According to Abu Rayḥān Biruni (Āṯār, pp. 17 ff.), he resumed the persecution of the Manicheans. The establishment of a rural district (rostāq), called Kurang or Wahišt-Hormoz, near Iḏaj in the Rām-Hormozd district (kura) of Ḵuzestān is attributed to him (Ḥamza Eṣfahāni, p. 51). According to Balʿami (ed. Bahār, p. 904), he sent troops into Syria demanding tribute from the Ghassanids, who turned to Rome for support. The Ghassanid king was killed before Roman assistance could arrive; but then his men surprised Hormozd as he was hunting in the desert, fatally wounding him, and plundered the outskirts of Ctesiphon. More probably, the magnates found an opportunity and killed him in a remote area, because they wished to deprive his sons of the throne (see ARDAŠĪR ii.). The evidence for a civil war comes from a rock-relief left by Hormozd himself at Naqš-e Rostam in Fārs. It depicts him on horseback toppling with a long lance a mounted foe in full armor, whose helmet bears the family device of Pāpak, the viceroy (bitaxš) of Albania under Bahrām II and Narseh (for this monument see Herrmann, p. 9; von Gall, pp. 6 ff., Pls. 1-7; for identification see Hinz, pp. 135-36, pls. 133, 133a, 133b; for Pāpak the bitaxš of Albania, see Henning).

The 11th-century Chronicle of Se’ert (IV, p. 255) asserts that Hormozd II waged a war against the Romans to avenge his father’s defeat; and the Chronicle of Arbela (q.v.; tr., p. 200) says that when Hormozd observed the persecution of Christians by the Roman Caesar, he collected a large army, invaded Roman territory, and pillaged many cities. The authenticity of the latter work is questionable, and the report in the former is not corroborated elsewhere; one may only surmise that it is probably a reflection of Hormozd’s alleged raid into Syria.

Hormozd was survived by eight sons (see ARDAŠĪR ii. and ĀDURFRĀZGERD), of whom Šāpur II reigned from 309 to 379. One of his daughters, Hormozd-doḵt, is said to have married the Armenian prince Vahan Mamikonian (Faustus, 4.50, 59, tr. Garsoïan, pp. 168, 180).



Chronicle of Se’ert, in A. Scher, ed. and tr., Patrologia Orientalis IV, Leipzig, 1908.

Wilhelm Ensslin, Zur Ostpolitik der Kaisers Diokletian, Sb. der Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil-hist. Kl., Munich, 1942.

Kurt Erdmann, “Die Entwicklung der Sāsānidischen Kröne,” Ars Islamica 15/16, 1951, pp. 87-123.

Wolfgang Felix, Antike literarische Quellen zur Aussenpolitik des Sāsānidenstaates I, Vienna, 1985.

Hubertus von Gall, Das Reiterkampfbild in der iranischen und iranisch beeinflussten kunst parthischer und sasanidischer Zeit, Berlin, 1990.

Robert Göbl, Sasanian Numismatics, tr. Paul Severin, Braunschweig, 1971.

W. B. Henning, “A Sasanian Silver Bowl from Georgia,” BSO(A)S 24, 1961, pp. 353-56; repr. in idem, Selected Papers II, Acta Iranica 15, Tehran and Liège, 1977, pp. 555-58.

Georgina Herrmann, Naqsh-i Rustam 5 and 8: Sasanian Reliefs Attributed to Hormuzd II and Narseh (Iranische Denk-mäler, Lief. 8), Berlin, 1977.

Ernst Herzfeld, Paikuli: Monument and Inscription of the Early History of the Sasanian Empire, 2 vols., Berlin, 1924.

Walther Hinz, Altiranisches Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969.

Mešīhā-Zĕḵā, Kētaḇā ḏ-ĕqlisyastīqī ḏā-Mešīḥā-Zĕḵā, ed. and tr. Peter Kawerau as Die Chronik von Arbela, CSCO, Scriptores Syri, 2 vols., Louvain, 1985.

A. Sh. Shahbazi, “Studies in Sasanian Prosopography I: Narse’s Relief at Naqsh-i Rustam,” AMI 16, 1983, pp. 255-68.

Josef Wiesehöfer, “l-yṭlb ṯʾr ʾbyh: Hormezd II und Rom,” in Hans-Joachim Drexhage and Julia Sünkes, eds., Migratio et Commutatio, Studien zur alten Geschichte und deren Nachleben: Festschrift Thomas Pekáry, St. Katharinen, 1989, pp. 68-71.

Engelbert Winter, Die Sāsānidisch-römischen Friedensverträge des 3. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. ein Beitrag zum Ver-ständnis der aussen politischen Beziehungen zwischen den beiden Grossmächten, Frankfurt am Main and New York, 1988.

(A. Shapur Shahbazi)

Originally Published: December 15, 2004

Last Updated: March 23, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 5, pp. 464-465