Oman and Bahrain in late antiquity: the Sasanians' Arabian periphery


  • Brian Ulrich


For at least forty years, the conventional wisdom on eastern Arabia during the Sasanian period has been that it was a time of prosperity due to settlement, investment by state authorities, and a commercial flowering in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. Recent reassessments of archaeological evidence, however, show significant signs of economic decline relative to the heights of the Parthian and early Islamic periods. In addition, new understandings of agrarian empires highlight their internal variability, understandings which seem readily applicable to the Sasanian case. Work on the Sasanian Empire specifically has also improved our knowledge of its social, economic, and political structure. This paper reconsiders the written sources for this period in the context of these developments, arguing that the evidence, while attesting to periodic involvement of the Sasanians in eastern Arabia, is unsuitable for making relative economic arguments. It also argues that, given the administrative diversity of large agrarian empires, scholars should be cautious about making generalizations about Sasanian developmental policies for all areas under their influence.





How to Cite

Ulrich, B. (2011). Oman and Bahrain in late antiquity: the Sasanians’ Arabian periphery. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 41, 377–387. Retrieved from