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Relationship between Law and the Government

The most important question about the relationship between law and the government concerns the lawfulness of the acquisition of power and governance. As per available evidences, although the Sassanid rule had adopted the Zoroastrian religious law on personal and criminal issues, as regards public rights, it had neglected these religious laws. As a matter of fact, the only Sassanid royal command that had, to a very little extent, adhered to Zoroastrian laws was that of Ardeshir, which was respected by the subsequent Sassanid kings.

As mentioned above, the most important document on the relationship between law and the government was the one that belongs to the period of Ardeshir’s reign, which has become known through its Arabic translations. The decree consists of precise procedures for the selection of the crown-prince and his pre-requisites as well as the manner of the announcement of his appointment. Moreover, in this text Ardeshir has even suggested that if any of his successors proved to be incapable of catering to the affairs of their subjects, he should immediately step down from power and hand over the reins to a competent person. However, it appears that this statement of Ardeshir was more of an advice to the subsequent kings and no steps had ever been taken to institutionalize it as a law.

As regards the laws pertaining to the administrative and financial system of the country, Ardeshir took some important steps and laid down a strong legal foundation for the Sassanid Empire. The contents of a text that found its way into the Islamic sources through the “Khodāināmeh” and which is known as the “Resale-ye Ardeshir” (Ardeshir’s Treatise) points towards Ardeshir’s interest towards law and regulations in the administrative and financial affairs of the country. This text contains rules and regulations related to the appointment and supervision of judges, secretaries, financial personnel and other government officials; the manner of the presentation of the credentials of foreign ambassadors; the simplification of taxation laws; the application of laws related to civil works in order to ensure the rule of the law in other areas; and finally policies for safeguarding the status of the aristocratic families.

In a text popularly known as the “Ahd-e Shāpur be Hormoz”, the laws related to administrative and financial affairs have been refined further and besides emphasizing on the simplification of the taxation system the most important laws included in it are those related to royal grants and rewards, the appointment of the minister, the scope of his authority and the system of dealing with his errors, the functioning of inspectors and spies, the services of government officials as well as laws concerning the limiting of the influence of the courtiers and military commanders, and finally ensuring public security.

In a political letter ascribed to Ardeshir, popularly referred to as the “Nāmeh-ye Tansar” which includes important information on Ardeshir’s legislative reforms, mention has also been made of certain reforms in civil and criminal laws. However, some scholars have raised doubts over the ascribing of this letter to Ardeshir.


* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Iran Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 ,pp.622 - 623

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