Survival and continuity of dynasties

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Pablo Edronkin

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Survival is not just a concept applicable to maintaining life with the bare minimums; in some cases it can represent the bet on the continuation of political dynasties and leadership.

In our present-day culture we are accustomed to think in terms of our present, and barely consider the future or the past. Leadership, however, requires a totally different kind of perspective. If the survival of someone or something from one single soul to a whole nation is to make some sense as a bet against overwhelming odds, if an effort is to be made to survive no matter what, then things must be clear in the minds of those betting on survival.

In order to explain this we will use an example found in history. It is a real case of survival by a royal family.

Yazdegerd III became Shah of Persia in the year 632 CE after years of turmoil and political instability that followed the death of his grandfather Khosrau II. A carousel of several Shahs and pretenders had weakened the Persian Empire and left its economy in a rather bad shape, incapable of raising armies and negotiation with neighbouring powers. But Yazdegerd III, nevertheless, managed to control and improve the situation for a while.

The Sassanid imperial dynasty, from which Yazdegerd III was part, had been in power for centuries, and its weakened position became a temptation for many former enemies, plus some new ones, despite the fact that over time they also had managed to secure many significant alliances: Yazdegard's grandmother was a Roman woman named Maria, who married Khosrau II. Maria was one of the daughters of Maurice, Byzantine Emperor, and among his ancestors he could also count the Royal line of David, King of Israel and Judah.

Indeed, Yazdegerd I, one of his ancestors, had married Sashandukt bas Abba, who descended from Akkub ben Hizkiah Elioenai, born in 244 BCE, whom, in turn, descended from Hananiah ben Zurubbabel, son of the third Exilarch, Zurubbabel, in the direct line of the throne of the Davidian dynasty.

According to the Christian genealogies of Jesus, written by Luke and Matthew, another of Zurubabbel sons, Abihud, was a direct ancestor of Mary, wife of Joseph, who descended from Rhesa, another of Zurubabbel's children. So, Yazdegerd III, last Sassanid Shah, was a descendant of King David and Jesus, a fact that put him not only within a most interesting genealogy, but in a political situation that could be well exploited, given the fact that his grandmother had been Christina, he professed Zoroastrism and in his family he could count both the Roman and the Jewish royalty.

Despite these favourable political factors, the Persian Empire was in serious trouble at the time because of the sequels of the intestine fights of years before and the advent of Islam. This should remind us of the difference between the potential of someone or something, and the results of the application of those potential resources.

At times and form many reasons, even a millionaire could be living destitute. This happens essentially when the riches cannot be managed in a was such as to allow them to produce any positive result, and may or may not have anything to do with the characteristics and ability of the leader itself; history shows that sometimes a frame situation has evolved so badly that even great leaders find it impossible to revert fate.

In fact, the reign of Yazdegerd III was cut short and replaced by an Islamic Caliphate that in turn, was replaced by another. So he couldn't do much to keep the empire together before his death in 651 CE, but in the years of his rule he managed to ensure the survival and continuity of the Sassanid dynasty elsewhere.

In later years, those who took power of Persia understood well the need of dynastic continuity in a society accustomed to long-standing traditions, and completed the royal marriage arrangements in those cases in which Yazdegerd couldn't.

Peroz II, who was the Crown Prince, fled with most of the Sassanid family to China. There they married with the Imperial family and so, the Persian emperors managed to continue their line among the Chinese royalty and nobility. Narsieh, son of Peroz II became a General in the Chinese army.

Two daughters of Yazdegerd III were married into the new Islamic elite: one of them became the wife of Caliph Muhhamad ibn Abu Bakr, and another one named Shahrbanu was offered marriage with whomever she wanted, as long as the man was a Muslim. She the is reputed to have said "I want a head which is above all heads", and married Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

Dara Azdawar Izdundad was another of Yazdegerd's daughters. She was married to Bustanai ben Haninai, Jewish Exilarch and heir to the Davidian throne, a dynasty that even then spanned for sixteen centuries.

Still today among Muslims, Christians and Jews there are descendants of David, Shahrbanu, Hussein ibn Ali, Dara and Bustanai. Descendants of Prohet Muhhamad are know among Muslims as "Ahl al-Bayt" or "The People of the House." Among Jews, the descendants of King David are know as "The House of David."

It is odd that given these familiar and historical links, people of the three biggest monotheistic religions share a violent history of intolerance and ambition. But from the branches of the tree that still exist today, countless theologians, writers, artists, scientists, thinkers and political leaders emerged over the centuries. Quite a testament to the skill and perspective of the kings and emperors of ancient times, that gave them the ability to survive, think strategically and bet on the future despite all odds.

Demagogia; pencil, 2012, by Pablo Edronkin.
Demagogia; pencil, 2012, by Pablo Edronkin.

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