Spotlight: Queen Boran

While very few woman achieved high positions of power in Ancient Iran, there are examples of women who exercised both formal and informal authority. 

The Persepolis fortification tablets, a set of documents in Elamite that record the payment of workers who were building the city ca. 500 BC, show that some of the supervisors who managed the work crews were women (arraššara pašabena) and that women could be found among both skilled and unskilled workers. The tablets are remarkable in that they show women holding authority in lower class contexts as well as noble and royal families; the same tablets show women in charge of ordering supplies and managing their own property. 

But some of the most famous women in Iranian history appear towards the end of the pre-Islamic period. For instance, Queen Boran (d. 631/632 CE), daughter of Khusro II, accomplished much during her brief reign. The Muslim historian al-Tabari (d. 923 CE) records the following promises that she made to her subjects:

"Then there succeeded to the royal power Boran, daughter of Khusro (II) Abarwiz, son of Hormizd (IV), son of Khusro (I) of the Immortal Soul. It has been mentioned that she proclaimed on the day when she was hailed as queen, 'I will pursue righteousness and ordain justice,' and she entrusted Shahrbaraz's office to Fus Farrukh and invested him with the office of her chief minister.

"She behaved kindly toward her subjects and spread justice among them. She gave orders for silver coins to be minted, and she repaired masonry bridges and boat bridges. She remitted for the people the arrears of the land tax which was due, and she wrote open letters to them about the policies of benevolence toward them that she intended to follow. . . She further exhorted them to be obedient and urged them to be faithful. Her letters brought together everything that was necessary [i.e., for the subjects' guidance and welfare]. She restored the wood of the [True] Cross to the ruler of Byzantium through the intermediacy of the Catholicos called Isho'yahb [the patriarch of the East Syrian Christian church]. Her tenure of royal power lasted one year and four months."

- Ta'rikh al-rusul wa'l muluk, by Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Jarir al -Tabari

File:Coin of Boran, minted at Arrajan in 630.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Silver dirham depicting Queen Boran, ca. 631 CE

Spotlight: Queen Boran