Emperor Maurice and Khosrow II of Persia

Aug 2013
Emperor Maurice (ruled 582-602 B.C.) has been called the last of the Roman emperors and the first of the Byzantine. Indeed, his activities and efforts as sovereign were equally divided between what had been the western and the eastern halves of the Roman Empire. Maurice himself may have been of Greek or Armenian descent; he certainly felt more at ease in Constantinople than in the occident. Although early in his reign he warred against the Sassanian Persians, Maurice respected and admired certain individual Persians, especially the young King Khosrow II, who had been ousted by a usurper and had fled to the Byzantine court in order to seek military support from the Emperor. Maurice took an instant liking to Khosrow, and promised to help him in regaining his lost throne. True to his word, Maurice organized an army of 35,000 warriors in defense of Khosrow's legitimate claim. Thanks to this support, the young Persian monarch was able to return triumphantly to reign once more over his people.

So much is history. But there is another part of this story: a persistent legend which may contain truth.

According to this legend, which is prevalent in Oriental sources (Persian, Syriac, Armenian), during Khosrow's sojourn in Constantinople, Emperor Maurice was supposed to have offered him the hand in marriage of one of his daughters. Now, at that time, Maurice had several daughters by his wife Constantina; but they were still mere children. Yet the legend insists that Maurice gave Khosrow a daughter named Maria, who was of marriageable age. Khosrow honoured this woman by making her his first wife; Persian sources claim that he would later wed two other principal wives, the famous Christian beauty Shirin (who is beyond doubt a historical personage) and Gordiyeh, sister of that same usurper who had driven him into exile. These three women were reported to have been fiercely jealous one of the other, and to have given poor Khosrow no end of trouble. The medieval poet Firdausi's monumental epic Shahnameh ("The Book of Kings") describes Khosrow's love for these three women in colourful detail.

Strange, but Byzantine annals remain completely silent about this mysterious daughter of Maurice, Maria. Is this silence due to the fact that she never existed? Or is it indeed the result of official embarrassment over the fact that Maurice had given an imperial princess to a "barbarian", to a member of an enemy nation? If Maria really existed, why does she not enter in the official list of the children of Maurice and Constantina? Maurice had married Constantina late in life; perhaps Maria was the fruit of a previous marriage, an adopted daughter, or an illegitimate child.
Aug 2013
I've just thought of this: if the legend of Khosrow's first wife Maria is true, then his firstborn son by her would have been half Roman, the grandson of Emperor Maurice and a possible claimant to the Byzantine throne! Perhaps this is the reason why Byzantine chroniclers desired to hush up Khosrow's marriage to Maria and the subsequent birth of his son.

This son, crown prince Shiroe (Persian, Shiruye) was raised as a Sassanian but his mother is always described as being a Christian. Both he and Khosrow himself are suspected to have converted to Christianity.


Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Umayyid Caliph Yazid III (701-744) is reported to have written a rhyme on his exalted ancestry:

I am the son of Chosroes, my ancestor was Marwan,
Caesar was my grandsire and my grandsire was Khagan.[3]

transl. Sir John Glubb, The Empire of the Arabs, 200

"my ancestor was Marwan" is easy to explain. Yazid's father was Caliph Al-Walid I (668-715) son of Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (646-705) son of Caliph Marwan I (c. 623-26-985) son of Al-Hakam son of Abu al-'As son of Umayyah.

Yazid's mother was allegedly a Persian princess given as a concubine to Caliph Al-Walid I and a daughter or granddaughter of King of Kings Yazdegerd III (c. 611/616/620/624-651), son of Prince Shahriyar (killed 628), son of King of Kings Khosrow II or Chosroes II Parviz (c. 570-628), son of King of Kings Hormizd IV (c. 540-590), son of King of Kings Khosrow I or Chosroes I Anushiruwan (501-579), son of King of Kings Kavadh I (c. 473-531), son of King of Kings Peroz I (d. 484), etc., etc..

Hormizd IV, son of Khosrow I, was said to be the son of a Turkish princess, thus explaining the descent from the Khagan or Kakhan, the Khan of Khans.

Hormizd IV is called a Torkzad in the Shahnameh, meaning son of Turk, according to some sources his mother was the daughter of the Turkish khagan, this, however, has been rejected by Encyclopædia Iranica, which states that the marriage with the daughter of the Turkish khagan is impossible, and says that Hormizd was born in 540, thirty years before Khosrow's marriage.[2]

Shushandukht, the daughter of a Jewish Exilarch claiming descent from King David, married King of Kings Yazdegerd I (died 420) and was the mother of King of Kings Bahram V (400-438) Gor.


Bahram V was the father of Yazdegerd II (died 457), the father of Peroz I (see above).

So if Yazid III had done more genealogical research he could have claimed to have Solomon and David among his ancestors.

If Yazid III was born in 701 and Yazdegerd III lived (c. 611/616/620/624-651) Yazid's mother would probably be a granddaughter of Yazdegerd III and thus there would be three generation gaps in 77 to 90 years for an average of 25.66 to 30 years. Or possibly she was a great granddaughter of Yazdegerd III making four generation gaps in 77 to 90 years and an average of 19.25 to 22.5 years per generation.

What about the descent from Caesar?

According to legend, a Christian named Shirin was the favorite and beloved wife of King of Kings Khosrow II. Her son Mardanshah was murdered in 628. And Mary/Maria/Mariam was another legendary or real Christian wife of Khosrow II, the daughter of Maurice, the Roman Emperor or, as it as said in the east, the Kaiser-i-Rum "Caesar of Rome".


Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus lived from 539 to 602, so was born 162 years before Yazid III. If Yazid was descended from Maurice in five generation gaps the average generation would be 32.4 years. If Yazid was descended from Maurice in six generation gaps the average generation would be 27 years. If Yazid was descended from Maurice in seven generation gaps the average generation would be 23.142 years.

Maurice's wife Empress Constantina lived c. 560 to c. 605. So if Yazid was descended from her in six generations the average generation would be about 23.5 years. if Yazid was descended from her in seven generations the average generation would be about 20.142 years. Maurice and Constantina married in Autumn 582.

So if Mary/Maria/Mariam was the daughter of both Maurice and Constantina she must have been born no earlier than summer 583. If Yazid was descended from Mary/Maria/Mariam in five generation gaps, and she was born in or after 583, the average generation would have to be less than 23.6 years; if Yazid was descended from Mary/Maria/Mariam in six generation gaps, and she was born in or after 583, the average generation would have to be less than 19.666 years.

Legend claims that Khosrow II imprisoned his son Sheroe or Shiruya to make way for his favorite son Mardanshah, son of Shirin, as his successor. But after the defeats in 627 Sheroe was released, Khosrow was imprisoned on 25 February 628, and Sheroe ascended the throne as Kavadh II. Kavadh II had his 19 bothers and half brothers, including Mardanshah and Shahriyar, and his father Khosrow, killed.

Some legends make Kavadh II the son of Mary/Maria/Mariam. With wife Anzoy the Roman, allegedly a Byzantine princess, possibly Kavadh's full or half aunt, Kavadh II had a son Ardashir III, who became king of kings when Kavadh died on 6 September 628. Ardashir was said to be seven on 6 September 928 and nine on 27 April 630 when he was killed, and thus born between 7 September 620 and 27 April 621.

If Ardashir was the great grandson of Emperor Maurice and an unnamed wife or mistress, there would be three generations in 81 or 82 years, with an average of about 27 years per generation. If Ardashir was the great grandson of Empress Constantina and an unnamed husband or lover, there would be three generations in about 60 years, with an average of about 20 years per generation. If Ardashir was the great grandson of both Emperor Maurice and Empress Constantina, his grandmother born after they were married in 582, there would be two generations in less than 38 years, with an average generation of less than about 19 years.

But if Kavadh II was born in 590 and his mother Mary/Maria/Mariam was born in or after 583, that would make Mary/Maria/Mariam a mother age seven or less, which is highly unusual. If Kavadh iI was born in 590, his mother was probably not the legitimate daughter of Maurice and Constantina born in or after 583.


Yazdegerd III was the son of Shahriyar and an unnamed omen from Baduraya.


Sahriyar was the son of Khosrow II and Shirin.


So if Mary/Maria/Mariam and Shirin were two different Christian wives of Khosrow II that would mean that Yazdegerd III could not be the great grandson of Emperor Maurice.

However, I have seen sources that claim that Yazdegerd III married a granddaughter of Khosrow II and Mary/Maria/Mariam and thus allegedly his half first cousin. She would have been a daughter or niece of Kavadh II if Kavadh II was the son of Mary/Maria/Mariam.

Thus it is possible that Yazid III's mother was the granddaughter of Yazdegerd III and a granddaughter of Khosrow II and Mary/Maria/Mariam, thus making Maurice the great great great great grandfather of Yazid III, and not his "grandshire".

An alleged daughter of Yazdegerd III was also allegedly captured by the Muslims during the reign of Omar, (reigned 634-644), Uthman (r.644-656), or Ali (r. 656-661). The daughter, Shahrbanu, was given to Husayn ibn Ali (625-680), and allegedly became the mother of Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (c. 658/59-713), the fourth Iman of the Twelver Shites, and alleged ancestor of the Agha Khan.

Thus Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin was allegedly born about 34 to 48 years after his alleged grandfather Yazdegerd III making an average generation about 17 to 24 years. If the mother of Shahrbanu was a granddaughter of Khosrow II and Mary/Maria/Mariam, Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin would have been born about 119 years after his alleged great great great grandfather emperor Maurice, making an average generation about 23.8 years.

Here is an ancestry chart of Yazgirde III.


Note that it makes Kavad II born in 600, which certainly makes it more plausible for him to be the grandson of Maurice. But since it makes Yazdegerd III the son of Kavadh instead of his nephew I doubt the creator was an expert on Sassanian genealogy.

it also gives Yazdegerd's wives as:

(1) Mananyh, daughter of Constantine III, Emperor of Byzantium and
(2) Gregoria, a daughter of Niketas, patrician a son of Shahrbaraz, King of Persia and Purandokht, Queen of Persia a daughter of Chosroes II, Emperor of Persia by his second wife Maria a daughter of Maurice, Emperor of
Niketas (killed 636) actually was the son of the usurper Shabrbaraz (killed 630) and took the name Niketas when he converted to Christianity. Another Gregoria daughter of Niketas in the same period was Empress Gregoria (fl. 641), daughter of Niketas (fl. 608-618/19), son of Patrican Gregoras the brother of Heraclius the Elder. Gregoria married her second cousin Emperor Constantine III and was the mother of Emperor Constans II and allegedly of Manyanah wife of Yazdegerd III.

Is that confusing enough for you?

Or does some source say that Manyanah was the daughter of Emperor Constantine III and Gregoria daughter of Niketas son of Gregoras, not that Yazdegerd married both Manyanah and Gregoria daughter of Niketas son of Sharbaraz?

Was Queen Purandokht supposed to have married Shahrbaraz or his son Niketas? In any case Wikipedia doens't mention any marriage.


Here is a discussion of some of these problems.

Last edited:
Sep 2017
In the "Experiences of nations" by Ibn Miskawayh when he was describing the death of Yazdegerd III, he mentioned that the priests in Merv put the body in a sarcophagus because the head priest told them that this is the body of Yazdegerd III and he as you know the grandson of Shirine the faithful the daughter of Ceaser. Therefore; I think that Shirin (which means the beautiful) is a title Khsrow II gave to Mariam. I wrote a research in Arabic in 2012 that discussed partially this lineage as part of the lineage of "Imam" Ali ibn Alhussin (AKA Zainulabedin). Also, professor Parvaneh-Pourshariati which I emailed in 2012, believed at that time that the marriage happened and it was not fictional.
Parvaneh Pourshariati ? Institute for the Study of the Ancient World