The passage of power from one generation to the next is central to the story of Ardavan, the last Parthian king, and Ardashir, the founder of the Sasanian dynasty. When Ardavan hears of young Ardashir, “who was said to be a raging lion in battle” and gracious at banquets, the elderly king invites him to the royal court. One day Ardashir’s superior hunting skill so angers Ardavan that he banishes the handsome youth to work in the stables. Even in this lowly position, Ardashir attracts the love of the beautiful slave girl Golnar, who is trusted with the treasury of Ardavan. Golnar steals gold and jewels from the devoted king and flees with the charismatic Ardashir. Betrayed and humiliated, Ardavan challenges Ardashir to battle. After forty days of fighting, Ardavan is taken prisoner. The gray-haired king, wounded and exhausted, is brought before the ambitious Ardashir and executed.
The ancient heavens turn; kings disappear,
Now Ardavan is gone, now Ardashir,
And though their heads reach to the stars they must
At last be humbled in the lowly dust.