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Vramshapuh,[1] whose name is also spelt as Vramshapouh,[2] Vramšapuh,[3] Vrhamshapuh,[4] Vram-Shapouh,[5] Bahram Shapur[6] and Bahram-Shahpur[7] (Armenian: Վռամշապուհ, flourished second half of the 4th century & first half of the 5th century, died 417[8]) was a Prince who served as a Sassanid Client King of Arsacid Armenia from 389 until 417.[9]

Background of his Name

The name that Vramshapuh had prior to his kingship is unknown as he is only known by his ruling name. The name Vramshapuh is the Armenian translation of the Persian names Bahram and Shapur[10] put together. When Vramshapuh succeeded his brother Khosrov IV in 389[11] as Sassanid Client King of Arsacid Armenia, Vramshapuh assumed this name in compliment[12] to the Sassanid King Bahram IV. The names Bahram and Shapur were dynastic names of the ruling Sassanid dynasty and demonstrate the cultural influence that the Sassanids had on the remaining Arsacid Armenian monarchs living in Persia.

Family Background

The exact origins of Vramshapuh are unknown. The Armenian Historian Ghazar Parpetsi who lived between the 5th and 6th centuries, whose work was History of Armenia presents Vramshapuh as a prince[13] from the Arsacid dynasty, without mentioning his parentage. Ghazar Parpetsi also names him as the brother of Khosrov IV and the father of Artaxias IV (Artashir IV). According to modern genealogies, Vramshapuh is presented in being one of the sons of Varasdates (Varazdat).[14] Vramshapuh was born and raised in Armenia and little is known on his life, prior to his kingship.

Rise to the Throne

Sometime in 389 Bahram IV, dethroned Khosrov IV and placed him in confinement in Ctesiphon.[15] Bahram IV was unsatisfied with Khosrov IV. Bahram IV considered Khosrov IV, as being too assertive in his royal authority[16] as a governing Client Monarch and did various acts in his kingship without consultation from the Sassanid dynasty. The Armenians requested to the Sassanid King another King of Armenia from the Arsacid dynasty.[17] Bahram IV agreeing to their request, enthroned Vramshapuh[18] as the new Sassanid Client King of Arsacid Armenia.

After his brother, Vramshapuh served as the second Sassanid Client King of Arsacid Armenia. Not much is known on his relationship with Khosrov IV. As Vramshapuh ruled over Eastern Armenia,[19] he was a Christian Client Monarch governing under a pagan state whose official religion was Zoroastrianism.

Rule over Eastern Armenia

Vramshapuh managed through his rule to unite the two parts of Greater Armenia.[20] Saint Mesrop Mashtots continued his role as being the royal scribed and imperial secretary[21] from the reign of Khosrov IV to his brother Vramshapuh.

Sahak the son of Nerses who was the last Gregorian Patriarch[22] served as the Armenian Catholicos (Patriarch) during Vramshapuh’s reign. Sahak and Vramshapuh were distantly related as Sahak’s late paternal grandmother was the Arsacid Princess Bambish. Bambish was a sister to King Tigranes VII (Tiran)[23] and a daughter of King Khosrov III.

Vramshapuh maintained peaceful relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire.[24] He is also known for his successful peace mission to Mesopotamia to mediate between Persia and Byzantium.[25] Vramshapuh succeeded in winning the confidence of the Sassanid King as well as the Armenians who were pro-Roman.[26] Through maintaining good relations and restoring peace to both empires, Vramshapuh was able to establish a long peace which contributed to the internal improvement of the region which Christianity was able to penetrate, which kept spreading of paganism faiths to a minimal.[27]

The Sassanid King Yazdegerd I, ratified Sahak as the Armenian Catholicos[28] in which Vramshapuh promoted Sahak’s son-in-law to the high office of general. This title which was part of his heritage was for a long time withheld from him.[29] Vramshapuh appointed his prerogatives as were those of the Mardpet, the guardian of his harem (who was also the administrator of the Royal domain) and the Apset who placed the crown on Vramshapuh’s head at his coronation.[30] In his Kingship, Vramshapuh was wise, beneficent and his reign was illustrious.[31]

The reign of Vramshapuh is most noted under his patronage for Mesrop and Sahak for presiding over the creation of the Armenian alphabet[32] in 405 to 406. The creation of the Armenian alphabet had brought a last moment of glory to the Arsacids[33] and Vramshapuh has sent Sahak to the Sassanid court in Persia to conciliate over the creation of the alphabet.[34] Vramshapuh became interested in the project and he was materially and morally the literacy’s project great patron.[35]

The Armenian alphabet was a tool to greater unify Armenians living in the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire and give a Christian identity to the Armenian people.[36] The alphabet was the key to the survival of the Armenian culture and identity, providing the cohesive forces in society with a standard around which to rally.[37] In time the Armenian language would become the native language of the Armenians, used throughout the country and the language was invented from Greek, Syriac and Persian scripts.[38] The important role of the Armenian language at that time was to propagate the Christian religion.[39] At that time the church scriptures in Armenia were read in Greek and Syriac. The majority of the people couldn’t understand the scriptures[40] being read in these languages. During the creation of the Armenian alphabet the Armenian nation was born. The creation of the Armenian alphabet during Vramshapuh’s reign mark a symbolic time in the country’s history[41] which resulted in the flowering of Armenian literature which is called the Golden Age of Armenian Literature.[42]

After the creation of the Armenian alphabet, Vramshapuh providing counsel, funds and assistance to the project,[43] supported Mesrop and Sahak in carrying out educational missions[44] in teaching the Armenians the new language. This lead Armenians to better understand Christianity and the reading of the scriptures, in particular the preaching of Christianity in pagan sections of the country.[45]

After this moment, little is known on the remaining years of Vramshapuh’s reign. He died in 417 leaving his son, Artaxias IV who was too young to succeed his father[46] by an unnamed mother. After the death of Vramshapuh, Sahak visited the court of the Sassanid King Yazdegerd I in releasing Khosrov IV from political exile. Yazdegerd I consented with Sahak in releasing Khosrov IV from imprisonment.[47]

When Khosrov IV was released from political exile, there is a possibility he may had served again as King of Armenia from 417 til about 418.[48] The possible second reign of Khosrov IV, may have only lasted up to a year, as he died in 418.[49] From 417 til 422, Armenia was under direct rule of the Nakharars and the Sassanid dynasty. Artaxias IV in 422,[50] was appointed as King of Armenia by the Sassanid dynasty.

Commemorative Coinage

In 2005, was the 1600th anniversary of inventing the Armenian alphabet. To mark and celebrate the occasion the Central Bank of Armenia had issued silver commemorative coins with the nominal value of Dram 100, dedicated to Vramshapuh.[51]



  • Faustus of Byzantium, History of the Armenians, 5th century
  • Ghazar Parpetsi, History of Armenia, 5th to 6th century
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica (1890-1907)
  • C. Toumanoff, Manual genealogy and chronology for the Christian Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Albania), ED. Aquila, Rome, 1976
  • N. Ouzounian, The Heritage of Armenian Literature: From the Oral Tradition to the Golden Age, Wayne State University Press, 2000
  • M. Chahin, The Kingdom of Armenia A history, Routledge, 2001
  • R.G. Hovannisian, The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times, Volume I: The Dynastic Periods: From Antiquity to the Fourteenth Century, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004
  • V.M. Kurkjian, A History of Armenia, Indo-European Publishing, 2008
  • T. Daryaee, The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History, Oxford University Press, 2012
  • Commemorative Coinage of Vramshapuh
  • Western Diocese of the Armenian Church - The Faith of the Armenian Church - The Armenian Church: A Brief Introduction By Hratch Tchilingirian

External links

  • Illustration of Vramshapuh
  • Illustration of Vramshapuh from Russian World Heritage Encyclopedia
  • Commemorative Coinage of Vramshapuh

See also

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