Roman-Persian Wars

Roman-Persian Wars

Overview
The Roman–Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between states of the Greco-Roman world
Greco-Roman world
The Greco-Roman world, Greco-Roman culture, or the term Greco-Roman , when used as an adjective, as understood by modern scholars and writers, refers to those geographical regions and countries that culturally were directly, protractedly and intimately influenced by the language, culture,...

 and two successive Iranic empires: the Parthian and the Sassanid. Contact between the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 and the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 began in 92 BC; wars began under the late Republic, and continued through the Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and Sassanid empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

s. They were brought to an end by the Arab Muslim invasions
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

, which struck the Sassanid and Byzantine East Roman
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 empires with shattering effect shortly after the end of the last war between them.

Although warfare between the Romans and the Parthians/Sassanids lasted for seven centuries, the frontier remained largely stable.
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Encyclopedia
The Roman–Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between states of the Greco-Roman world
Greco-Roman world
The Greco-Roman world, Greco-Roman culture, or the term Greco-Roman , when used as an adjective, as understood by modern scholars and writers, refers to those geographical regions and countries that culturally were directly, protractedly and intimately influenced by the language, culture,...

 and two successive Iranic empires: the Parthian and the Sassanid. Contact between the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

 and the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 began in 92 BC; wars began under the late Republic, and continued through the Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and Sassanid empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

s. They were brought to an end by the Arab Muslim invasions
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

, which struck the Sassanid and Byzantine East Roman
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 empires with shattering effect shortly after the end of the last war between them.

Although warfare between the Romans and the Parthians/Sassanids lasted for seven centuries, the frontier remained largely stable. A game of tug of war
Tug of war
Tug of war, also known as tug o' war, tug war, rope war or rope pulling, is a sport that directly pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. The term may also be used as a metaphor to describe a demonstration of brute strength by two opposing groups, such as a rivalry between two...

 ensued: towns, fortifications, and provinces were continuously sacked, captured, destroyed, and traded. Neither side had the logistical strength or manpower to maintain such lengthy campaigns far from their borders, and thus neither could advance too far without risking stretching their frontiers too thin. Both sides did make conquests beyond the border, but the balance was almost always restored in time. The line of stalemate shifted in the 2nd century AD: it had run along the northern Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

; the new line ran east, or later northeast, across Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 to the northern Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

. There were also several substantial shifts further north, in Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 and the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

.

The expense of resources during the Roman–Persian Wars ultimately proved catastrophic for both empires. The prolonged and escalating warfare of the 6th and 7th centuries left them exhausted and vulnerable in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the Caliphate
Rashidun Caliphate
The Rashidun Caliphate , comprising the first four caliphs in Islam's history, was founded after Muhammad's death in 632, Year 10 A.H.. At its height, the Caliphate extended from the Arabian Peninsula, to the Levant, Caucasus and North Africa in the west, to the Iranian highlands and Central Asia...

, whose forces invaded both empires only a few years after the end of the last Roman–Persian war. Benefiting from their weakened condition, the Arab Muslim armies
Rashidun army
The Rashidun Caliphate Army or Rashidun army was the primary military body of the Rashidun Caliphate's armed forces during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, serving alongside the Rashidun Navy...

 swiftly conquered
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

 the entire Sassanid Empire, and deprived the Eastern Roman Empire of its territories in the Levant
Muslim conquest of Syria
The Muslim conquest of Syria occurred in the first half of the 7th century, and refers to the region known as the Bilad al-Sham, the Levant, or Greater Syria...

, the Caucasus
Arab conquest of Armenia
The Arab conquest of Armenia was a part of the Muslim conquests after the death of Muhammad in AD 632.Persian Armenia had fallen to the Byzantine Empire shortly before, in AD 629, and was conquered in the Rashidun Caliphate by AD 645.-Islamic expansion:...

, Egypt
Muslim conquest of Egypt
At the commencement of the Muslims conquest of Egypt, Egypt was part of the Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople. However, it had been occupied just a decade before by the Persian Empire under Khosrau II...

, and the rest of North Africa
Umayyad conquest of North Africa
The Umayyad conquest of North Africa continued the century of rapid Arab Muslim expansion following the death of Muhammad in 632 CE. By 640 the Arabs controlled Mesopotamia, had invaded Armenia, and were concluding their conquest of Byzantine Syria. Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad caliphate....

. Over the following centuries, most of the Eastern Roman Empire came under Muslim rule.

Historical background


According to James Howard-Johnston
James Howard-Johnston
James Douglas Howard-Johnston, b. 12 Mar. 1942, is an English historian of the Byzantine Empire. He was University Lecturer in Byzantine Studies at the University of Oxford. He is an emeritus fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. His approach on Byzantium follows that of Edward Gibbon and...

, "from the third century BC to the early seventh century AD, the rival players [in the East] were grand polities with imperial pretensions, which had been able to establish and secure stable territories transcending regional divides". The Romans and Parthians came into contact through their respective conquests of parts of the Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

. During the 3rd century BC, the Parthians migrated from the Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n steppe into northern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. Although subdued for a time by the Seleucids, in the 2nd century they broke away and established an independent state that steadily expanded at the expense of their former rulers, conquering Persia and Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. Ruled by the Arsacid dynasty
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

, the Parthians fended off several Seleucid attempts to regain their lost territories, and extended their rule deep into India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (see Indo-Parthian Kingdom
Indo-Parthian Kingdom
The Gondopharid dynasty, and other so-called Indo-Parthian rulers, were a group of ancient kings from present day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan who ruled India, during or slightly before the 1st century AD...

). Meanwhile the Romans expelled the Seleucids from their territories in Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 in the early 2nd century BC, after defeating Antiochus III the Great
Antiochus III the Great
Antiochus III the Great Seleucid Greek king who became the 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire as a youth of about eighteen in 223 BC. Antiochus was an ambitious ruler who ruled over Greater Syria and western Asia towards the end of the 3rd century BC...

 at Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae (191 BC)
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 191 BC between a Roman army led by consul Manius Acilius Glabrio and a Seleucid force led by King Antiochus III the Great. The Romans were victorious, and as a result, Antiochus was forced to flee Greece. It was described by Appian and by Livy at...

 and Magnesia
Battle of Magnesia
The Battle of Magnesia was fought in 190 BC near Magnesia ad Sipylum, on the plains of Lydia , between the Romans, led by the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio and his brother, the famed general Scipio Africanus, with their ally Eumenes II of Pergamum against the army of Antiochus III the Great of the...

. Finally, in 64 BC Pompey
Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

 conquered the remaining Seleucid territories in Syria, extinguishing their state and advancing the Roman eastern frontier to the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

, where it met the territory of the Parthians.

Roman Republic vs. Parthia


Parthian enterprise in the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 began in the time of Mithridates I
Mithridates I of Parthia
Mithridates or Mithradates I was the "Great King" of Parthia from ca. 171 BC - 138 BC, succeeding his brother Phraates I. His father was King Phriapatius of Parthia, who died ca. 176 BC). Mithridates I made Parthia into a major political power by expanding the empire to the east, south, and west...

 and was revived by Mithridates II
Mithridates II of Parthia
Mithridates II the Great was king of Parthian Empire from 123 to 88 BC. His name invokes the protection of Mithra. He adopted the title Epiphanes, "god manifest" and introduced new designs on his extensive coinage....

, who negotiated unsuccessfully with Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix , known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and statesman. He had the rare distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as that of dictator...

 for a Roman–Parthian alliance (c. 105 BC). When Lucullus
Lucullus
Lucius Licinius Lucullus , was an optimate politician of the late Roman Republic, closely connected with Sulla Felix...

 invaded Southern Armenia
Roman Armenia
From the end of the 1st century BC onwards, Armenia was, in part or whole, subject to the Roman Empire and its successor, the East Roman or Byzantine Empire...

 and led an attack against Tigranes
Tigranes the Great
Tigranes the Great was emperor of Armenia under whom the country became, for a short time, the strongest state east of the Roman Republic. He was a member of the Artaxiad Royal House...

 in 69 BC, he corresponded with Phraates III
Phraates III of Parthia
King Phraates III of Parthia succeeded his father Sanatruces and ruled the Parthian Empire from 70 to 57 BC. He was called "the God" because of his coins, that were ideal for sailors because they were polished with gold dust, so that people from other countries considered their value higher than...

 to dissuade him from intervening. Although the Parthians remained neutral, Lucullus considered attacking them. In 66–65 BC, Pompey reached agreement with Phraates, and Roman–Parthian troops invaded Armenia, but a dispute soon arose over the Euphrates boundary. Finally, Phraates asserted his control over Mesopotamia, except for the western district of Osroene
Osroene
Osroene, also spelled Osrohene and Osrhoene and sometimes known by the name of its capital city, Edessa , was a historic Syriac kingdom located in Mesopotamia, which enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 244.It was a Syriac-speaking kingdom.Osroene, or...

, which became a Roman dependency.

The Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician who commanded the right wing of Sulla's army at the Battle of the Colline Gate, suppressed the slave revolt led by Spartacus, provided political and financial support to Julius Caesar and entered into the political alliance known as the...

 led an invasion of Mesopotamia in 53 BC with catastrophic results; he and his son Publius
Publius Licinius Crassus (son of triumvir)
Publius Licinius Crassus was one of two sons of the triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus and Tertulla. He belonged to the last generation of Roman nobiles who came of age and began a political career before the collapse of the Republic...

 were killed at the Battle of Carrhae
Battle of Carrhae
The Battle of Carrhae, fought in 53 BC near the town of Carrhae, was a major battle between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic. The Parthian Spahbod Surena decisively defeated a Roman invasion force led by Marcus Licinius Crassus...

 by the Parthians under General Surena; this was the worst Roman defeat since the Battle of Cannae
Battle of Cannae
The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War, which took place on August 2, 216 BC near the town of Cannae in Apulia in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage under Hannibal decisively defeated a numerically superior army of the Roman Republic under command of the consuls Lucius...

. The Parthians raided Syria the following year, and mounted a major invasion in 51 BC, but their army was caught in an ambush near Antigonea
Antigonia (Syria)
Antigonia also transliterated as Antigonea and Antigoneia was a Hellenistic city in Seleucis, Syria , on the Orontes, founded by Antigonus I in 307 BC, and intended to be the capital of his empire; the site is approximately 7 km northeast of Antakya, Hatay Province, Turkey...

 by the Romans, and they were driven back.
The Parthians largely remained neutral during Caesar's civil war
Caesar's civil war
The Great Roman Civil War , also known as Caesar's Civil War, was one of the last politico-military conflicts in the Roman Republic before the establishment of the Roman Empire...

, fought between forces supporting Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 and forces supporting Pompey
Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

 and the traditional faction of the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

. However, they maintained relations with Pompey, and after his defeat and death, a force under Pacorus I
Pacorus I of Parthia
Pacorus I of Parthia was the son of king Orodes II and queen Laodice of the Parthian Empire. It is possible that he was co-ruler with his father for at least part of his father's reign...

 assisted the Pompeian general Q. Caecilius Bassus, who was besieged at Apamea
Apamea (Syria)
Apamea was a treasure city and stud-depot of the Seleucid kings, was capital of Apamene, on the right bank of the Orontes River. . Its site is found about to the northwest of Hama, Syria, overlooking the Ghab valley...

 Valley by Caesarian forces. With the civil war over, Julius Caesar prepared a campaign against Parthia, but his assassination averted the war. The Parthians supported Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

 and Cassius
Gaius Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus was a Roman senator, a leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus.-Early life:...

 during the ensuing Liberators' civil war
Liberators' civil war
The Liberators' civil war was started by the Second Triumvirate to avenge Julius Caesar's murder. The war was fought by the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian against the forces of Caesar's assassins Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus in 42 BC.-Prelude:After the murder of Caesar,...

 and sent a contingent to fight on their side at the Battle of Philippi
Battle of Philippi
The Battle of Philippi was the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian and the forces of Julius Caesar's assassins Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus in 42 BC, at Philippi in Macedonia...

 in 42 BC. After the Liberators' defeat, the Parthians invaded Roman territory in 40 BC in conjunction with the Roman Quintus Labienus
Quintus Labienus
Quintus Labienus , the son of Titus Labienus, was a Roman republican general, later in the service of Parthia.After Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC, Labienus took the side of Brutus and Cassius, the latter whom he served in the capacity of an ambassador to the Parthians...

, a former supporter of Brutus and Cassius. They swiftly overran the Roman province of Syria and advanced into Judaea
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

, overthrowing the Roman client Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II, a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, was the Jewish High Priest and King of Judea in the 1st century BC.-Accession:Hyrcanus was the eldest son of Alexander Jannaeus, King and High Priest, and Alexandra Salome...

 and installing his nephew Antigonus
Antigonus the Hasmonean
Antigonus II Mattathias was the last Hasmonean king of Judea. He was the son of King Aristobulus II of Judea...

. For a moment, the whole of the Roman East seemed lost to the Parthians or about to fall into their hands. However, the conclusion of the second Roman civil war
Roman civil wars
There were several Roman civil wars, especially during the late Republic. The most famous of these are the war in the 40s BC between Julius Caesar and the optimate faction of the senatorial elite initially led by Pompey and the subsequent war between Caesar's successors, Octavian and Mark Antony in...

 soon revived Roman strength in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 had sent Ventidius
Publius Ventidius Bassus
Publius Ventidius Bassus, or in full, Publius Ventidius Publii filius Bassus, "Publius Ventidius, Publius's son, Bassus" was a Roman general and one of Julius Caesar's protégés...

 to oppose Labienus, who had invaded Anatolia. Soon Labienus was driven back to Syria by Roman forces, and, although reinforced by the Parthians, was defeated, taken prisoner, and killed. After suffering a further defeat near the Syrian Gates
Syrian Gates
The Belen Pass , also known as the Syrian Gates, is a mountain pass located in the Belen District of Hatay Province in south-central Turkey...

, the Parthians withdrew from Syria. They returned in 38 BC but were decisively defeated by Ventidius, and Pacorus was killed. In Judaea, Antigonus was ousted with Roman help by Herod
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

 in 37 BC. With Roman control of Syria and Judaea restored, Mark Antony led a huge army into Atropatene
Atropatene
Atropatene was an ancient kingdom established and ruled under local ethnic Iranian dynasts first with "Darius" of Persia and later "Alexander" of Macedonia, starting in the 4th century BC and includes the territory of modern-day Iranian Azarbaijan and Iranian Kurdistan. Its capital was Gazaca...

 (present-day Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

), but his siege train and its escort were isolated and wiped out, while his Armenian allies
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 deserted. Failing to make progress against Parthian positions, the Romans withdrew with heavy casualties. Antony was again in Armenia in 33 BC to join with the Median
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

 king against Octavian
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 and the Parthians. Other preoccupations obliged him to withdraw, and the whole region came under Parthian control.

Roman Empire vs. Parthia



With tensions between the two powers threatening renewed war, Gaius Caesar
Gaius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar , most commonly known as Gaius Caesar or Caius Caesar, was the oldest son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder...

 and Phraataces
Phraates V of Parthia
Phraates V of Persia, known by the diminutive Phraataces , ruled the Iranian Parthian Empire from 2 BC to AD 4. He was the younger son of Phraates IV of Parthia and the Musa of Parthia", with whom he is associated on his coins. Under Phraates V a war threatened to break out with Rome about the...

 worked out a compromise in 1 AD. According to the agreement, Parthia undertook to withdraw its forces from Armenia and to recognize a de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

Roman protectorate there. Nonetheless, Roman–Persian rivalry over control and influence in Armenia continued unabated for the next several decades. The decision of the Parthian King Artabanus II
Artabanus II of Parthia
Artabanus II of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from about AD 10 to 38. He was the son of a princess of the Arsacid Dynasty, who lived in the East among the Dahan nomads...

 to place his son on the vacant Armenian throne triggered a war with Rome in 36 AD, which ended when Artabanus abandoned claims to a Parthian sphere of influence in Armenia. War erupted in 58 AD, after the Parthian King Vologases I forcibly installed his brother Tiridates
Tiridates I of Armenia
Tiridates I was King of Armenia beginning in AD 53 and the founder of the Arshakuni Dynasty, the Armenian line of the Arsacid Dynasty. The dates of his birth and death are unknown. His early reign was marked by a brief interruption towards the end of the year 54 and a much longer one from 58...

 on the Armenian throne. Roman forces overthrew Tiridates and replaced him with a Cappadocian prince, triggering an inconclusive war. This came to an end in 63 AD after the Romans agreed to allow Tiridates and his descendants to rule Armenia on condition that they receive the kingship from the Roman emperor.

A fresh series of conflicts began in the 2nd century AD, during which the Romans consistently held the upper hand over Parthia. The Emperor Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

 invaded Armenia and Mesopotamia during 114 and 115 and annexed them as Roman provinces. He captured the Parthian capital, Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

, before sailing downriver to the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

. However, uprisings erupted in 115 AD in the occupied Parthian territories, while a major Jewish revolt
Kitos War
The Kitos War , translation: Rebellion of the exile) is the name given to the second of the Jewish–Roman wars. Major revolts by diasporic Jews in Cyrene , Cyprus, Mesopotamia and Aegyptus spiraled out of control resulting in a widespread slaughter of Roman citizens and others by the Jewish rebels...

 broke out in Roman territory, severely stretching Roman military resources. Parthian forces attacked key Roman positions, and the Roman garrisons at Seleucia
Seleucia
Seleucia was the first capital of the Seleucid Empire, and one of the great cities of antiquity standing in Mesopotamia, on the Tigris River.Seleucia may refer to:...

, Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

 and Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 were expelled by the local inhabitants. Trajan subdued the rebels in Mesopotamia, but having installed the Parthian prince Parthamaspates
Parthamaspates of Parthia
Parthamaspates, Roman client king of Parthia and later of Osroene, was the son of the Parthian emperor Osroes I.After spending much of his life in Roman exile, he accompanied the Roman Emperor Trajan on the latter's campaign to conquer Parthia...

 on the throne as a client ruler, he withdrew his armies and returned to Syria. Trajan died in 117, before he was able to reorganize and consolidate Roman control over the Parthian provinces.* Sicker (2000), 167–168

Trajan's Parthian War initiated a "shift of emphasis in the 'grand strategy of the Roman empire' ", but his successor, Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

, decided that it was in Rome's interest to re-establish the Euphrates as the limit of its direct control. Hadrian returned to the status quo ante
Status quo ante bellum
The term status quo ante bellum is Latin, meaning literally "the state in which things were before the war".The term was originally used in treaties to refer to the withdrawal of enemy troops and the restoration of prewar leadership. When used as such, it means that no side gains or loses...

, and surrendered the territories of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Adiabene
Adiabene
Adiabene was an ancient Assyrian independent kingdom in Mesopotamia, with its capital at Arbela...

 to their previous rulers and client-kings.

War over Armenia
Roman–Parthian War of 161–66
The Roman–Parthian War of 161–166 was fought between the Roman and Parthian Empires over Armenia and upper Mesopotamia...

 broke out again in 161, when Vologases IV
Vologases IV of Parthia
Vologases IV of Parthia ruled the Parthian Empire from 147 to 191. The son of Mithridates IV of Parthia , he united the two halves of the empire which had been split between his father and Vologases III of Parthia...

 defeated the Romans there, captured Edessa and ravaged Syria. In 163 a Roman counter-attack under Statius Priscus defeated the Parthians in Armenia and installed a favored candidate on the Armenian throne. The following year Avidius Cassius
Avidius Cassius
Gaius Avidius Cassius was a Roman general and usurper who briefly ruled Egypt and Syria in 175.-Origins:He was the son of Gaius Avidius Heliodorus, a noted orator who was Prefect of Egypt from 137 to 142 under Hadrian, and wife Junia Cassia Alexandra...

 invaded Mesopotamia, winning battles at Dura-Europos
Dura-Europos
Dura-Europos , also spelled Dura-Europus, was a Hellenistic, Parthian and Roman border city built on an escarpment 90 m above the right bank of the Euphrates river. It is located near the village of Salhiyé, in today's Syria....

 and Seleucia and sacking Ctesiphon in 165. An epidemic which was sweeping Parthia at the time, possibly of smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

, spread to the Roman army and forced its withdrawal; this was the origin of the Antonine Plague
Antonine Plague
The Antonine Plague, AD 165–180, also known as the Plague of Galen, who described it, was an ancient pandemic, either of smallpox or measles, brought back to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East...

 that raged for a generation throughout the Roman Empire. In 195–197, a Roman offensive under the Emperor Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

 led to Rome's acquisition of northern Mesopotamia as far as the areas around Nisibis
Nisibis
Nusaybin Nisêbîn) is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey, populated mainly by Kurds. Earlier Arameans, Arabs, and Armenians lived in the city. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009.-Ancient Period:...

, Singara
Singara
Singara was a strongly fortified post at the northern extremity of Mesopotamia, which for a while, as appears from many coins still extant, was occupied by the Romans as an advanced colony against the Persians...

 and the 2nd sacking of Ctesiphon. A final war against the Parthians was launched by the Emperor Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

, who sacked Arbela
Arbil
Arbil / Hewlêr is the fourth largest city in Iraq after Baghdad, Basra and Mosul...

 in 216. After his assassination, his successor, Macrinus
Macrinus
Macrinus , was Roman Emperor from 217 to 218. Macrinus was of "Moorish" descent and the first emperor to become so without membership in the senatorial class.-Background and career:...

, was defeated by the Parthians near Nisibis
Battle of Nisibis (217)
The Battle of Nisibis was fought in the summer of 217 between the armies of the Roman Empire under the newly ascended emperor Macrinus and the Parthian army of King Artabanus IV. It lasted for three days, and resulted in a bloody draw, with both sides suffering large casualties...

. In exchange for peace, he was obliged to pay for the damage caused by Caracalla.

Early Roman–Sassanid conflicts


Conflict resumed shortly after the overthrow of Parthian rule and Ardashir I
Ardashir I
Ardashir I was the founder of the Sassanid Empire, was ruler of Istakhr , subsequently Fars Province , and finally "King of Kings of Sassanid Empire " with the overthrow of the Parthian Empire...

's foundation of the Sassanid Empire. Ardashir raided Mesopotamia and Syria in 230 and demanded the cession of all the former territories of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

. After fruitless negotiations, Alexander Severus
Alexander Severus
Severus Alexander was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235. Alexander was the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222, and was ultimately assassinated himself, marking the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century — nearly fifty...

 set out against Ardashir in 232 and finally repulsed him. In 238–240, towards the end of his reign, Ardashir attacked again, taking several cities in Syria and Mesopotamia, including Carrhae and Nisibis. The struggle resumed and intensified under Ardashir's successor Shapur I
Shapur I
Shapur I or also known as Shapur I the Great was the second Sassanid King of the Second Persian Empire. The dates of his reign are commonly given as 240/42 - 270/72, but it is likely that he also reigned as co-regent prior to his father's death in 242 .-Early years:Shapur was the son of Ardashir I...

, who invaded Mesopotamia. His forces were defeated at a battle
Battle of Resaena
The Battle of Resaena or Resaina, near Ceylanpinar, Turkey, was fought in 243 between the forces of the Roman Empire, led by Praetorian Prefect Timesitheus, and a Sassanid Empire army, led by King Shapur I. The Romans were victorious....

 near Resaena
Resaena
Resaena was the ancient name of the city of Ras al-Ayn, Syria.Resaena was close to the frontier between the Roman Empire and the Sassanid Empire, and saw the alternate domination of the two powers between the 2nd and 4th century....

 in 243 and the Romans regained Carrhae and Nisibis. Encouraged by this, the Roman Emperor Gordian III
Gordian III
Gordian III , was Roman Emperor from 238 to 244. Gordian was the son of Antonia Gordiana and an unnamed Roman Senator who died before 238. Antonia Gordiana was the daughter of Emperor Gordian I and younger sister of Emperor Gordian II. Very little is known on his early life before his acclamation...

 advanced down the Euphrates but was repelled near Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 at the Battle of Misiche
Battle of Misiche
The Battle of Misiche, Mesiche, or Massice was fought between the Sassanid Persians and the Romans somewhere in ancient Mesopotamia. The result was a Roman defeat.-Background and the Battle:...

 in 244.

In the early 250s, the emperor Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab
Philip the Arab , also known as Philip or Philippus Arabs, was Roman Emperor from 244 to 249. He came from Syria, and rose to become a major figure in the Roman Empire. He achieved power after the death of Gordian III, quickly negotiating peace with the Sassanid Empire...

 was involved in a struggle over the control of Armenia. Shapur had the Armenian king murdered and re-opened hostilities against the Romans, defeating them at the Battle of Barbalissos
Battle of Barbalissos
The Battle of Barbalissos was fought between the Sassanid Persians and Romans at Barbalissos. Shapur I used Roman incursions into Armenia as pretext and resumed hostilities with the Romans. The Romans and Sassanids clashed at Barbalissos...

, and then probably taking and plundering Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

. Between 258 and 260, Shapur captured the Emperor Valerian I after defeating his army at the Battle of Edessa
Battle of Edessa
The Battle of Edessa took place between the armies of the Roman Empire under the command of Emperor Valerian and Sassanid forces under Shahanshah Shapur I in 259...

, and advanced into Anatolia. However, defeats at the hands of Roman forces there and attacks from Odaenathus
Odaenathus
Lucius Septimius Odaenathus, Odenathus or Odenatus , the Latinized form of the Syriac Odainath, was a ruler of Palmyra, Syria and later of the short lived Palmyrene Empire, in the second half of the 3rd century, who succeeded in recovering the Roman East from the Persians and restoring it to the...

 of Palmyra
Palmyrene Empire
The Palmyrene Empire was a splinter empire, that broke off of the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century. It encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor....

 forced the Persians to withdraw from Roman territory.


The Emperor Carus
Carus
Carus , was Roman Emperor from 282 to 283. During his short reign, Carus fought the Germanic tribes and Sarmatians along the Danube frontier with success. During his campaign against the Sassanid Empire he sacked their capital Ctesiphon, but died shortly thereafter...

 launched a successful invasion of Persia in 283, sacking Ctesiphon, now the Sassanid capital, for the 3rd time. The Romans would probably have extended their conquests if Carus had not died in December of that year.
After a brief peace early in Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

's reign, the Persians renewed hostilities when they invaded Armenia and defeated the Romans outside Carrhae in either 296 or 297. However, Galerius
Galerius
Galerius , was Roman Emperor from 305 to 311. During his reign he campaigned, aided by Diocletian, against the Sassanid Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 299. He also campaigned across the Danube against the Carpi, defeating them in 297 and 300...

 crushed the Persians in the Battle of Satala
Battle of Satala (298)
The Battle of Satala was fought in 298 between the forces of the Roman Empire under the Tetrarch Galerius and the forces of the Sassanid Persian ruler Narseh. The battle was a decisive Roman victory. Galerius' forces caught the Persians by surprise and routed them, capturing the Persian camp,...

 in 298, capturing the treasury and the royal harem
Harem
Harem refers to the sphere of women in what is usually a polygynous household and their enclosed quarters which are forbidden to men...

, an utter disgrace for the Persian monarch. The resulting peace settlement gave the Romans control of the area between the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 and the Greater Zab
Great Zab
The Great Zab , , , ) is an approximately long river flowing through Turkey and Iraq. It rises in Turkey near Lake Van and joins the Tigris in Iraq south of Mosul. The drainage basin of the Great Zab covers approximately , and during its course, the rivers collects the water from a large number...

. This was the most decisive Roman victory for many decades; all the territories that had been lost, all the debatable lands, and control of Armenia lay in Roman hands.

The arrangements of 299 lasted until the mid-330s, when Shapur II
Shapur II
Shapur II the Great was the ninth King of the Persian Sassanid Empire from 309 to 379 and son of Hormizd II. During his long reign, the Sassanid Empire saw its first golden era since the reign of Shapur I...

 began a series of offensives against the Romans. Despite a string of victories in battle, his campaigns achieved little lasting effect: three Persian sieges of Nisibis were repulsed, and while Shapur succeeded in taking Amida and Singara, both cities were soon regained by the Romans. Following a lull during the 350s while Shapur fought off nomad attacks on Persia's northern frontier, he launched a new campaign in 359 and again captured Amida. This provoked a major offensive in 363 by the Roman Emperor Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

, who advanced down the Euphrates to Ctesiphon. Julian won the Battle of Ctesiphon
Battle of Ctesiphon (363)
The Battle of Ctesiphon took place on May 29, 363 between the armies of Roman Emperor Julian and the Sassanid King Shapur II outside the walls of the Persian capital Ctesiphon...

 but was unable to take the Persian capital and retreated along the Tigris. Harried by the Persians, Julian was killed in a skirmish
Battle of Samarra
The Battle of Samarra took place 26 June 363, after the invasion of Sassanid Persia by the Roman Emperor Julian. A major skirmish, the fighting was indecisive but Julian was killed in the battle...

. With the Roman army stuck on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Julian's successor Jovian made peace, agreeing to major concessions in exchange for safe passage out of Sassanid territory. The Romans surrendered their former possessions east of the Tigris, as well as Nisibis and Singara, and Shapur soon conquered Armenia. In 384 or 387, a definitive peace treaty was signed by Shapur III
Shapur III
Shapur III was the eleventh Sassanid King of Persia from 383 to 388. Shapur III succeeded his father Ardashir II in the year 383.- Treaty with Rome :...

 and Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

, which divided Armenia between the two states. Meanwhile, the northern territories of the Roman Empire were invaded
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

 by Germanic, Alanic, and Hunnic peoples, while Persia's northern borders were threatened first by a number of Hunnic peoples and then by the Hephthalites. With both empires preoccupied by these threats, a largely peaceful period followed, interrupted only by two brief wars, the first in 421–422 and the second in 440.

Anastasian War



War broke out when the Persian King Kavadh I
Kavadh I
Kavad or Kavadh I was the son of Peroz I and the nineteenth Sassanid king of Persia, reigning from 488 to 531...

 attempted to gain financial support by force from the Byzantine Roman Emperor Anastasius I
Anastasius I (emperor)
Anastasius I was Byzantine Emperor from 491 to 518. During his reign the Roman eastern frontier underwent extensive re-fortification, including the construction of Dara, a stronghold intended to counter the Persian fortress of Nisibis....

. In 502 AD, he quickly captured the unprepared city of Theodosiopolis and besieged Amida
Diyarbakır
Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey...

. The siege of the fortress-city proved to be far more difficult than Kavadh expected; the defenders repelled the Persian assaults for three months before they were beaten. In 503, the Romans attempted an ultimately unsuccessful siege of the Persian-held Amida while Kavadh invaded Osroene and laid siege to Edessa with the same results. Finally in 504, the Romans gained control through the renewed investment
Investment (military)
Investment is the military tactic of surrounding an enemy fort with armed forces to prevent entry or escape.A circumvallation is a line of fortifications, built by the attackers around the besieged fortification facing towards the enemy fort...

 of Amida, which led to the fall of the city. That year an armistice was reached as a result of an invasion of Armenia by the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

 from the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

. Although the two powers negotiated, it was not until November 506 that a treaty was agreed to. In 505, Anastasius ordered the building of a great fortified city at Dara
Dara (Mesopotamia)
Dara or Daras was an important East Roman fortress city in northern Mesopotamia on the border with the Sassanid Empire. Because of its great strategic importance, it featured prominently in the Roman-Persian conflicts of the 6th century, with the famous Battle of Dara taking place before its walls...

. At the same time, the dilapidated fortifications were also upgraded at Edessa, Batnae and Amida. Although no further large-scale conflict took place during Anastasius' reign, tensions continued, especially while work proceeded at Dara. This was because the construction of new fortifications in the border zone by either empire had been prohibited by a treaty concluded some decades earlier. Anastasius pursued the project despite Persian objections, and the walls were completed by 507–508.

Iberian War




In 524–525 AD, Kavadh proposed that Justin I
Justin I
Justin I was Byzantine Emperor from 518 to 527. He rose through the ranks of the army and ultimately became its Emperor, in spite of the fact he was illiterate and almost 70 years old at the time of accession...

 adopt his son, Khosrau
Khosrau I
Khosrau I , also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just Khosrau I (also called Chosroes I in classical sources, most commonly known in Persian as Anushirvan or Anushirwan, Persian: انوشيروان meaning the immortal soul), also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just...

, but the negotiations soon broke down.* Greatrex (2005), 487; Greatrex–Lieu (2002), II, 81–82 Tensions between the two powers erupted into conflict when Caucasian Iberia
Caucasian Iberia
Iberia , also known as Iveria , was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli , corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia...

 under Gourgen
Guaram I of Iberia
Guaram I was a Georgian prince, who attained to the hereditary rulership of Iberia and the Roman title of curopalates from 588 to c. 590. He is commonly identified with the Gorgenes of the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes....

 defected to the Romans in 524–525. Overt Roman–Persian fighting had broken out in the Transcaucasus region and upper Mesopotamia by 526–527. The early years of war favored the Persians: by 527, the Iberian revolt had been crushed, a Roman offensive against Nisibis and Thebetha in that year was unsuccessful, and forces trying to fortify Thannuris and Melabasa were prevented from doing so by Persian attacks.* Greatrex–Lieu (2002), II, 83, 86 Attempting to remedy the deficiencies revealed by these Persian successes, the new Roman emperor, Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

, reorganized the eastern armies
Byzantine army
The Byzantine army was the primary military body of the Byzantine armed forces, serving alongside the Byzantine navy. A direct descendant of the Roman army, the Byzantine army maintained a similar level of discipline, strategic prowess and organization...

.


In 530 a major Persian offensive in Mesopotamia was defeated by Roman forces under Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

 at Dara
Battle of Dara
The Battle of Dara was fought between the Sassanids and the Byzantine Empire in 530. It was one of the battles of the Iberian War.- Background :...

, while a second Persian thrust in the Caucasus was defeated by Sittas at Satala
Satala
Located in Turkey, the city of Satala , according to the ancient geographers, was situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, a little north of the Euphrates, where the road from Trapezus to Samosata crossed the boundary of the Roman Empire...

. Belisarius was defeated by Persian and Lakhmid forces at the Battle of Callinicum
Battle of Callinicum
The Battle of Callinicum took place Easter day, 19 April 531, between the armies of the Eastern Roman Empire under Belisarius and the Sassanid Persians under Azarethes. After a defeat at the Battle of Dara, the Sassanids moved to invade Syria in an attempt to turn the tide of the war...

 in 531. In the same year the Romans gained some forts in Armenia, while the Persians had captured two forts in eastern Lazica. Immediately after the failure at Callinicum the Persians and Romans negotiated without success. The two sides re-opened talks in spring 532 and finally signed the Eternal Peace in September 532, which lasted less than eight years. Both powers agreed to return all occupied territories, and the Romans agreed to make a one-time payment of 110 centenaria (11,000 lb of gold). Iberia remained in Persian hands, and the Iberians who had left their country were given the choice of remaining in Roman territory or returning to their native land.

Justinian vs. Khosrau I



The Persians broke the "Treaty of Eternal Peace" in 540 AD, probably in response to the Roman reconquest of much of the former western empire, which had been facilitated by the cessation of war in the East. Khosrau I invaded and devastated Syria, extorting large sums of money from the cities of Syria and Mesopotamia, and systematically looting other cities including Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

, whose population was deported to Persian territory. Belisarius, recalled from the campaigns in the West to deal with the Persian threat, waged an inconclusive campaign against Nisibis in 541. Khosrau launched another offensive in Mesopotamia in 542 when he attempted to capture Sergiopolis
Resafa
Resafa , known in Roman times as Sergiopolis, was a city located in what is now modern-day Syria. It is an archaeological site situated south-west of the city of Ar Raqqah and the Euphrates.-History:...

. He soon withdrew in the face of an army under Belisarius, sacking the city of Callinicum en route. Attacks on a number of Roman cities were repulsed, and Persian forces were defeated at Dara. In 543, the Romans launched an offensive against Dvin
Dvin
Dvin was a large commercial city and the capital of early medieval Armenia. It was situated north of the previous ancient capital of Armenia, the city of Artaxata, along the banks of the Metsamor River, 35 km to the south of modern Yerevan...

 but were defeated by a small Persian force at Anglon. Khosrau besieged Edessa in 544 without success and was eventually bought off by the defenders. In the wake of the Persian retreat, Roman envoys proceeded to Ctesiphon for negotiations.* Greatrex (2005), 489; Greatrex–Lieu (2002), II, 113 A five-year truce was agreed to in 545, secured by Roman payments to the Persians.* Evans, Justinian (527–565 AD); Greatrex–Lieu (2002), II, 113

Early in 548, King Gubazes
Gubazes II of Lazica
Gubazes II was king of Lazica from ca. 541 until his assassination in 555. He was one of the central personalities of the Lazic War, first as a Sassanid Persian vassal and after 548 as an ally of the Eastern Roman Empire....

 of Lazica, having found Persian protection oppressive, asked Justinian to restore the Roman protectorate. The emperor seized the chance, and in 548–549 combined Roman and Lazic forces won a series of victories against Persian armies, although they failed to take the key garrison of Petra
Petra
Petra is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited...

. The city was finally subjugated in 551, but in the same year a Persian offensive led by Mihr-Mihroe
Mihr-Mihroe
Mihr-Mihroe, in Byzantine sources Mermeroes was a 6th-century Sassanid Persian general, and one of the leading commanders of the Byzantine–Sassanid Wars of the time.- Life :Nothing is known of his early life, but he is recorded as an old man by 555...

 occupied eastern Lazica. The truce that had been established in 545 was renewed outside Lazica for a further five years on condition that the Romans pay 2,000 lb of gold each year. In Lazica the war dragged on inconclusively for several years, with neither side able to make any major gains. Khosrau, who now had to deal with the White Huns, renewed the truce in 557, this time without excluding Lazica; negotiations continued for a definite peace treaty. Finally, in 561, the envoys of Justinian and Khosrau put together a 50-year peace. The Persians agreed to evacuate Lazica and received an annual subsidy of 30,000 nomismata (solidi). Both sides agreed not to build new fortifications near the frontier and to ease restrictions on diplomacy and trade.

War for the Caucasus



War broke out again when Armenia and Iberia revolted against Sassanid rule in 571 AD, following clashes involving Roman and Persian proxies in Yemen and the Syrian desert, and Roman negotiations for an alliance with the Turks
Göktürks
The Göktürks or Kök Türks, were a nomadic confederation of peoples in medieval Inner Asia. Known in Chinese sources as 突厥 , the Göktürks under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan The Göktürks or Kök Türks, (Old Turkic: Türük or Kök Türük or Türük; Celestial Turks) were a nomadic confederation of...

 against Persia. Justin II
Justin II
Justin II was Byzantine Emperor from 565 to 578. He was the husband of Sophia, nephew of Justinian I and the late Empress Theodora, and was therefore a member of the Justinian Dynasty. His reign is marked by war with Persia and the loss of the greater part of Italy...

 brought Armenia under his protection, while Roman troops under Justin's nephew Marcianus
Marcianus (nephew of Justin II)
Marcianus was a Byzantine general, recorded to be a kinsman of Emperor Justin II.Theophanes the Confessor records him as a nephew of Justin II, commander of an army fighting the Moors in the Praetorian prefecture of Africa. Bibliotheca by Photios I of Constantinople records him as a mere cousin....

 raided Arzanene and invaded Persian Mesopotamia, where they defeated local forces. Marcian's sudden dismissal and the arrival of troops under Khosrau resulted in a ravaging of Syria, the failure of the Roman siege of Nisibis and the fall of Dara. At a cost of 45,000 solidi
Solidus (coin)
The solidus was originally a gold coin issued by the Romans, and a weight measure for gold more generally, corresponding to 4.5 grams.-Roman and Byzantine coinage:...

, a one-year truce in Mesopotamia (eventually extended to five years) was arranged, but in the Caucasus and on the desert frontiers the war continued. In 575, Khosrau I attempted to combine aggression in Armenia with discussion of a permanent peace. He invaded Anatolia and sacked Sebasteia, but after a clash near Melitene
Malatya
Malatya ) is a city in southeastern Turkey and the capital of its eponymous province.-Overview:The city site has been occupied for thousands of years. The Assyrians called the city Meliddu. Following Roman expansion into the east, the city was renamed in Latin as Melitene...

 the Persian army suffered heavy losses while fleeing across the Euphrates under Roman attack. Treadgold (1997), 224; Whitby (2000), 95


The Romans exploited Persian disarray, and general Justinian
Justinian (general)
Justinian was an East Roman aristocrat and general, and a member of the ruling Justinian dynasty. As a soldier, he had a distinguished career in the Balkans and in the East against Sassanid Persia...

 invaded deep into Persian territory and raiding Atropatene
Atropatene
Atropatene was an ancient kingdom established and ruled under local ethnic Iranian dynasts first with "Darius" of Persia and later "Alexander" of Macedonia, starting in the 4th century BC and includes the territory of modern-day Iranian Azarbaijan and Iranian Kurdistan. Its capital was Gazaca...

. Khosrau sought peace, but abandoned this initiative after Tamkhusro won a victory in Armenia, where Roman actions had alienated local inhabitants. In the spring of 578 the war in Mesopotamia resumed with Persian raids on Roman territory. The Roman general Maurice
Maurice (emperor)
Maurice was Byzantine Emperor from 582 to 602.A prominent general in his youth, Maurice fought with success against the Sassanid Persians...

 retaliated by raiding Persian Mesopotamia, capturing the stronghold of Aphumon, and sacking Singara. Khosrau again opened peace negotiations but he died early in 579 and his successor Hormizd IV
Hormizd IV
Hormizd IV, son of Khosrau I, reigned as the twenty-first King of Persia from 579 to 590.He seems to have been imperious and violent, but not without some kindness of heart. Some very characteristic stories are told of him by Tabari. His father's sympathies had been with the nobles and the priests...

 preferred to continue the war.
During the 580s, the war continued inconclusively with victories on both sides. In 582, Maurice won a battle at Constantia over Adarmahan and Tamkhusro, who was killed, but the Roman general did not follow up his victory; he had to hurry to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 to pursue his imperial ambitions. Another Roman victory at Solachon
Battle of Solachon
The Battle of Solachon was fought in 586 CE in northern Mesopotamia between the East Roman forces, led by General Philippicus, the brother-in-law of Emperor Maurice The Battle of Solachon was fought in 586 CE in northern Mesopotamia between the East Roman (Byzantine) forces, led by General...

 in 586 likewise failed to break the stalemate.

The Persians captured Martyropolis
Silvan, Turkey
Silvan is a district of the Diyarbakır Province of Turkey. Its population is 41,451 Notable attraction is Malabadi Bridge.-History:Silvan has been identified by several scholars as one of two possible locations of Tigranakert, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Armenia, which was built by...

 through treachery in 589, but that year the stalemate was shattered when the Persian general Bahram Chobin
Bahram Chobin
General Bahrām Chobin was a famous Eran spahbod during the late 6th century in Persia, usurping the Sassanid throne for a year as Bahram VI .- Life :...

, having been dismissed and humiliated by Hormizd IV, raised a rebellion. Hormizd was overthrown in a palace coup in 590 and replaced by his son Khosrau II
Khosrau II
250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II (Khosrow II, Chosroes II, or Xosrov II in classical sources, sometimes called Parvez, "the Ever Victorious" – (in Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia, reigning from 590 to 628...

, but Bahram pressed on with his revolt regardless and the defeated Khosrau was soon forced to flee for safety to Roman territory, while Bahram took the throne as Bahram VI. With support from Maurice, Khosrau raised a rebellion against Bahram, and in 591 the combined forces of his supporters and the Romans restored Khosrau II to power. In exchange for their help, Khosrau not only returned Dara and Martyropolis but also agreed to cede the western half of Iberia and more than half of Persian Armenia to the Romans.

Climax




In 602 the Roman army campaigning in the Balkans
Maurice's Balkan campaigns
Maurice's Illyricum campaigns were a series of military expeditions conducted by emperor of Constantinopolis Maurice in an attempt to defend the Illyrian provinces of the East Roman Empire from Avars and Slavs...

 mutinied under the leadership of Phocas
Phocas
Phocas was Byzantine Emperor from 602 to 610. He usurped the throne from the Emperor Maurice, and was himself overthrown by Heraclius after losing a civil war.-Origins:...

, who succeeded in seizing the throne, and then killed Maurice and his family. Khosrau II used the murder of his benefactor as a pretext for war. In the early years of the war the Persians enjoyed overwhelming and unprecedented success. They were aided by Khosrau's use of a pretender claiming to be Maurice's son, and by the revolt against Phocas of the Roman general Narses. In 603 Khosrau defeated and killed the Roman general Germanus in Mesopotamia and laid siege to Dara. Despite the arrival of Roman reinforcements from Europe he won another victory in 604, while Dara fell after a nine-month siege. Over the following years the Persians gradually overcame the fortress cities of Mesopotamia by siege, one after another. At the same time they won a string of victories in Armenia and systematically subdued the Roman garrisons in the Caucasus.
Phocas was deposed in 610 by Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

, who sailed to Constantinople from Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

. Around the same time the Persians completed their conquest of Mesopotamia and the Caucasus, and in 611 they overran Syria and entered Anatolia, occupying Caesarea
Kayseri
Kayseri is a large and industrialized city in Central Anatolia, Turkey. It is the seat of Kayseri Province. The city of Kayseri, as defined by the boundaries of Kayseri Metropolitan Municipality, is structurally composed of five metropolitan districts, the two core districts of Kocasinan and...

. Having expelled the Persians from Anatolia in 612, Heraclius launched a major counter-offensive in Syria in 613. He was decisively defeated outside Antioch by Shahrbaraz
Shahrbaraz
Shahrbaraz or Shahrwaraz was a general, with the rank of Eran Spahbod under Khosrau II . His name was Farrokhan, and Shahrbaraz was his title...

 and Shahin and the Roman position collapsed.
Over the following decade the Persians were able to conquer Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 and Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, and to devastate Anatolia. Meanwhile, the Avars
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

 and Slavs
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 took advantage of the situation to overrun the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

, bringing the Roman Empire to the brink of destruction.

During these years, Heraclius strove to rebuild his army, slashing non-military expenditures, devaluing the currency and melting down Church plate, with the backing of Patriarch Sergius
Sergius I of Constantinople
Sergius I was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 610 to 638.In 626 during the absence of Emperor Heraclius on campaign against Sassanid Persia, the Avars laid siege to Constantinople. Along with the magister militum Bonus, he had been named regent and was in charge of the city's defense...

, to raise the necessary funds to continue the war. In 622, Heraclius left Constantinople, entrusting the city to Sergius and general Bonus as regents of his son. He assembled his forces in Asia Minor and, after conducting exercises to revive their morale, he launched a new counter-offensive, which took on the character of a holy war
Religious war
A religious war; Latin: bellum sacrum; is a war caused by, or justified by, religious differences. It can involve one state with an established religion against another state with a different religion or a different sect within the same religion, or a religiously motivated group attempting to...

.
In the Caucasus he inflicted a defeat on an army led by a Persian-allied Arab chief, and then won a victory over the Persians under Shahrbaraz. Following a lull in 623, while Heraclius negotiated a truce with the Avars, he resumed his campaigns in the East in 624 and routed an army led by Khosrau at Ganzak
Takht-i-Suleiman
For the similarly named locations see Takht-e Suleyman Massif in Iran, Taxte Soleymān in Pakistan, and Sulayman Mountain near Osh, Kyrgyzstan.Taxte Soleymān, is an archaeological site in West Azarbaijan, Iran...

 in Atropatene. In 625 he defeated the generals Shahrbaraz, Shahin and Shahraplakan
Shahraplakan
Shahraplakan, rendered Sarablangas in Greek sources, was a Sassanid Persian general who participated in the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602–628.Shahraplakan first appears in 624, when the Persian shah Khosrau II Shahraplakan, rendered Sarablangas in Greek sources, was a Sassanid Persian general who...

 in Armenia, and in a surprise attack that winter he stormed Shahrbaraz's headquarters and attacked his troops in their winter billets.
Supported by a Persian army commanded by Shahrbaraz, the Avars and Slavs unsuccessfully besieged Constantinople in 626, while a second Persian army under Shahin suffered another crushing defeat at the hands of Heraclius' brother Theodore.

Meanwhile, Heraclius formed an alliance with the Turks
Göktürks
The Göktürks or Kök Türks, were a nomadic confederation of peoples in medieval Inner Asia. Known in Chinese sources as 突厥 , the Göktürks under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan The Göktürks or Kök Türks, (Old Turkic: Türük or Kök Türük or Türük; Celestial Turks) were a nomadic confederation of...

, who took advantage of dwindling strength of the Persians to ravage their territories
Third Perso-Turkic War
The Third Perso-Turkic War was the third and final conflict between the Sassanian Empire and the Western Turkic Khaganate. Unlike the previous two wars, it was fought, not in Central Asia, but in Transcaucasia. Hostilities were initiated in 627 AD by Khagan Tong Yabghu of the Western Göktürks and...

 in the Caucasus. Late in 627, Heraclius launched a winter offensive into Mesopotamia, where, despite the desertion of the Turkish contingent that had accompanied him, he defeated the Persians at the Battle of Nineveh
Battle of Nineveh (627)
The Battle of Nineveh was the climactic battle of the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602–628. The Byzantine victory broke the power of the Sassanid dynasty and for a period of time restored the empire to its ancient boundaries in the Middle East...

. Continuing south along the Tigris, he sacked Khosrau's great palace at Dastagird and was only prevented from attacking Ctesiphon by the destruction of the bridges on the Nahrawan Canal. Discredited by this series of disasters, Khosrau was overthrown and killed in a coup led by his son Kavadh II
Kavadh II
Kavadh II , twenty-third Sassanid King of Persia, son of Khosrau II , was raised to the throne in opposition to his father in February 628, after the great victories of the Emperor Heraclius...

, who at once sued for peace, agreeing to withdraw from all occupied territories. Heraclius restored the True Cross
True Cross
The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a Christian tradition, are believed to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.According to post-Nicene historians, Socrates Scholasticus and others, the Empress Helena The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a...

 to Jerusalem with a majestic ceremony in 629.

Aftermath



The devastating impact of this last war, added to the cumulative effects of a century of almost continuous conflict, left both empires crippled. When Kavadh II died only months after coming to the throne, Persia was plunged into several years of dynastic turmoil and civil war. The Sassanids were further weakened by economic decline, heavy taxation from Khosrau II's campaigns, religious unrest, and the increasing power of the provincial landholders
Shah
Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

. The Roman Empire was also severely affected, with its financial reserves exhausted by the war, and the Balkans now largely in the hands of the Slavs. Additionally, Anatolia was devastated by repeated Persian invasions; the Empire's hold on its recently regained territories in the Caucasus, Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt was loosened by many years of Persian occupation.

Neither empire was given any chance to recover, as within a few years they were struck by the onslaught of the Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s (newly united by Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

), which, according to Howard-Johnston, "can only be likened to a human tsunami". According to George Liska, the "unnecessarily prolonged Byzantine–Persian conflict opened the way for Islam". The Sassanid Empire rapidly succumbed to these attacks and was completely destroyed. During the Byzantine–Arab Wars, the exhausted Roman Empire's recently regained eastern and southern provinces of Syria
Muslim conquest of Syria
The Muslim conquest of Syria occurred in the first half of the 7th century, and refers to the region known as the Bilad al-Sham, the Levant, or Greater Syria...

, Armenia, Egypt
Muslim conquest of Egypt
At the commencement of the Muslims conquest of Egypt, Egypt was part of the Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople. However, it had been occupied just a decade before by the Persian Empire under Khosrau II...

 and North Africa
Umayyad conquest of North Africa
The Umayyad conquest of North Africa continued the century of rapid Arab Muslim expansion following the death of Muhammad in 632 CE. By 640 the Arabs controlled Mesopotamia, had invaded Armenia, and were concluding their conquest of Byzantine Syria. Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad caliphate....

 were also lost, reducing the Empire to a territorial rump consisting of Anatolia and a scatter of islands and footholds in the Balkans and Italy. These remaining lands were thoroughly impoverished by frequent attacks, marking the transition from classical urban civilization to a more rural, medieval form of society. However, unlike Persia, the Roman Empire (in the form of the Byzantine Empire) ultimately survived the Arab assault, holding onto its residual territories and decisively repulsing two Arab sieges of its capital in 674–678
Siege of Constantinople (674)
The First Arab Siege of Constantinople in 674 was a major conflict of the Byzantine-Arab Wars, and was one of the numerous times Constantinople's defences were tested. It was fought between the Byzantine Empire and the Arab Umayyad Caliphate...

 and 717–718
Siege of Constantinople (718)
The Second Arab Siege of Constantinople was a combined land and sea effort by the Arabs to take the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. The Arab ground forces, led by Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik, were held off by the massive city walls, decimated by an outbreak of plague and...

. The Roman Empire also lost its territories in Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 and southern Italy to the Arabs
History of Islam in southern Italy
The history of Islam in southern Italy begins with the Islamic conquest and subsequent rule of Sicily and Malta, a process that started in the 9th century. Islamic rule over Sicily was effective from 902, and the complete rule of the island lasted from 965 until 1061...

 in later conflicts, though these too were ultimately recovered.

Strategies and military tactics



When the Roman and Parthian Empires first collided, it appeared that Parthia had the potential to push its frontier to the Aegean
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

 and the Mediterranean. However, under Pacorus and Labienus, the Romans repulsed the great invasion of Syria and were gradually able to take advantage of the weaknesses of the Parthian military system, which, according to George Rawlinson
George Rawlinson
Canon George Rawlinson was a 19th century English scholar, historian, and Christian theologian. He was born at Chadlington, Oxfordshire, and was the younger brother of Sir Henry Rawlinson....

, was adapted for national defense but ill-suited for conquest. The Romans, on the other hand, were continually modifying and evolving their "grand strategy" from Trajan's time onwards, and were by the time of Pacorus able to take the offensive against the Parthians. Like the Sassanids in the late 3rd and 4th centuries, the Parthians generally avoided any sustained defense of Mesopotamia against the Romans. However, the Iranian plateau
Iranian plateau
The Iranian plateau, or Iranic plateau, is a geological formation in Southwest Asia. It is the part of the Eurasian Plate wedged between the Arabian and Indian plates, situated between the Zagros mountains to the west, the Caspian Sea and the Kopet Dag to the north, the Hormuz Strait and Persian...

 never fell, as the Roman expeditions had always exhausted their offensive impetus by the time they reached lower Mesopotamia, and their extended line of communications through territory not sufficiently pacified exposed them to revolts and counterattacks.

From the 4th century AD onwards, the Persian Sassanids grew in strength and adopted the role of aggressor. They considered much of the land added to the Roman Empire in Parthian and early Sassanid times to rightfully belong to the Persian sphere. Everett Wheeler argues that "the Sassanids, administratively more centralized than the Parthians, formally organized defense of their territory, although they lacked a standing army until Khosrau I". In general the Romans regarded the Sassanids as a more serious threat than the Parthians, while the Sassanids regarded the Roman Empire as the enemy par excellence.

Militarily, the Sassanids continued the Parthians' heavy dependence on the combination of light-horse archers and cataphract
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

s, the heavy armored cavalry
Heavy cavalry
Heavy cavalry is a class of cavalry whose primary role was to engage in direct combat with enemy forces . Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the region and historical period, they were generally mounted on large powerful horses, and were often equipped with some form of scale,...

 provided by the aristocracy. They added a contingent of war elephant
War elephant
A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A division of war elephants is known as elephantry....

s obtained from the Indus Valley, but their infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 quality was inferior to that of the Romans. The Persian heavy cavalry inflicted several defeats on the Roman foot-soldiers, including those led by Crassus in 53 BC, Mark Antony in 36 BC, and Valerian in 260 AD. The need to counter this threat led to the introduction of cataphractarii into the Roman army; as a result, heavily armed cavalry grew in importance in both the Roman and Persian armies after the 3rd century AD, and until the end of the wars. The Romans had achieved and maintained a high degree of sophistication in siege warfare, and had developed a range of siege machines. On the other hand, the Parthians were inept at besieging; their cavalry armies were more suited to the hit-and-run tactics
Hit-and-run tactics
Hit-and-run tactics is a tactical doctrine where the purpose of the combat involved is not to seize control of territory, but to inflict damage on a target and immediately exit the area to avoid the enemy's defense and/or retaliation.-History:...

 that destroyed Antony's siege train in 36 BC. The situation changed with the rise of the Sassanids, when Rome encountered an enemy equally skilled in siegecraft, who made use of artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

, machines captured from the Romans, embankments, and siege tower
Siege tower
A siege tower is a specialized siege engine, constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification. The tower was often rectangular with four wheels with its height roughly equal to that of the wall or sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on...

s.

Towards the end of the 1st century AD, Rome organized the protection of its eastern frontiers through a line of fortifications, the limes
Limes
A limes was a border defense or delimiting system of Ancient Rome. It marked the boundaries of the Roman Empire.The Latin noun limes had a number of different meanings: a path or balk delimiting fields, a boundary line or marker, any road or path, any channel, such as a stream channel, or any...

system, which lasted till the Muslim conquests of the 7th century after improvements by Diocletian. Like the Romans, the Sassanids constructed defensive walls opposite the territory of their opponents. According to R. N. Frye, it was under Shapur II that the Persian system was extended, probably in imitation of Diocletian's construction of the limes of the Syrian and Mesopotamian frontiers of the Roman Empire. The Roman border units were known as limitanei
Limitanei
The limitanei, meaning "the soldiers in frontier districts" The limitanei, meaning "the soldiers in frontier districts" The limitanei, meaning "the soldiers in frontier districts" (from the Latin phrase limes, denoting the military districts of the frontier provinces established in the late third...

, and they faced the Lakhmids
Lakhmids
The Lakhmids , Banu Lakhm , Muntherids , were a group of Arab Christians who lived in Southern Iraq, and made al-Hirah their capital in 266. Poets described it as a Paradise on earth, an Arab Poet described the city's pleasant climate and beauty "One day in al-Hirah is better than a year of...

 in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, who frequently aided the Persians in their contests with the Romans. Shapur intended a permanent defense force against other Arabs of the desert, especially those allied with Rome. Shapur also built a line of fortifications in the west on the model of the Roman system of limes, which impressed the Sassanids.

By the beginning of Sassanid rule, a number of buffer states existed between the empires. These were absorbed by the central state over time, and by the 7th century the last buffer state, the Arab Lakhmids of Al-Hirah
Al-Hirah
Al Hīra was an ancient city located south of al-Kufah in south-central Iraq.- Middle Ages:Al Hīra was a significant city in pre-Islamic Arab history. Originally a military encampment, in the 5th and 6th centuries CE it became the capital of the Lakhmids.The Arabs were migrating into the Near East...

, was annexed to the Sassanid Empire. Frye notes that in the 3rd century AD such client states played an important role in Roman–Sassanid relations, but both empires gradually replaced them by an organized defense system run by the central government, and based on the limes and the fortified frontier cities, such as Dara. Recent studies and assessments comparing the Sassanids and Parthians have reaffirmed the superiority of Sassanid siegecraft, military engineer
Military engineer
In military science, engineering refers to the practice of designing, building, maintaining and dismantling military works, including offensive, defensive and logistical structures, to shape the physical operating environment in war...

ing and organization, as well as ability to build defensive works.

Assessments


The Roman–Persian Wars have been characterized as "futile" and both too "depressing and tedious to contemplate". Prophetically, Cassius Dio  noted their "never-ending cycle of armed confrontations" and observed that "it is shown by the facts themselves that [Severus'] conquest has been a source of constant wars and great expense to us. For it yields very little and uses up vast sums; and now that we have reached out to peoples who are neighbor of the Medes and the Parthians rather than of ourselves, we are always, one might say, fighting the battles of those peoples." In the long series of wars between the two powers, the frontier in upper Mesopotamia remained more or less constant. Historians point out that the stability of the frontier over the centuries is remarkable, although Nisibis, Singara, Dara and other cities of upper Mesopotamia changed hands from time to time, and the possession of these frontier cities gave one empire a trade advantage over the other. As Frye states:
"How could it be a good thing to hand over one's dearest possessions to a stranger, a barbarian, the ruler of one's bitterest enemy, one whose good faith and sense of justice were untried, and, what is more, one who belonged to an alien and heathen faith?"
Agathias
Agathias
Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus , of Myrina , an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor , was a Greek poet and the principal historian of part of the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558....

(Histories, 4.26.6, translated by Averil Cameron) about the Persians, a judgment typical of the Roman view.


Both sides attempted to justify their respective military goals in both active and reactive ways. The Roman quest for world domination was accompanied by a sense of mission and pride in Western civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

, and by ambitions to become a guarantor of peace and order. Roman sources reveal long-standing prejudices with regard to the Eastern powers' customs, religious structures, languages and forms of government. John F. Haldon underscores that "although the conflicts between Persia and East Rome revolved around issues of strategic control around the eastern frontier, yet there was always a religious-ideological element present". From the time of Constantine on, Roman emperors appointed themselves as the protectors of Christians of Persia. This attitude created intense suspicions of the loyalties of Christians living in Sassanid Iran, and often led to Roman–Persian tensions or even military confrontations. A characteristic of the final phase of the conflict, when what had begun in 611–612 as a war of raid was soon to be transformed into a war of conquest, was the pre-eminence of the Cross as a symbol of imperial victory, and of the strongly religious element in the Roman imperial propaganda; Heraclius himself cast Khosrau as the enemy of God, and authors of the 6th and 7th centuries were fiercely hostile to Persia. This tradition of a "pro-Roman"
historical scholarship prevailed for centuries, and it was not until recently that scholars adopted a broader approach, and attempted to illuminate the lesser-known Persian position.

Historiography



The sources for the history of Parthia and the wars with Rome are scant and scattered. The Parthians followed the Achaemenid tradition and favored oral historiography
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

, which assured the corruption of their history once they had been vanquished. The main sources of this period are thus Roman
Roman historiography
Roman Historiography is indebted to the Greeks, who invented the form. The Romans had great models to base their works upon, such as Herodotus and Thucydides. Roman historiographical forms are different from the Greek ones however, and voice very Roman concerns. Unlike the Greeks, Roman...

 (Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, Marius Maximus
Marius Maximus
Marius Maximus was a Roman biographer, writing in Latin, who in the early decades of the 3rd century AD wrote a series of biographies of twelve Emperors, imitating and continuing Suetonius. Marius’s work is lost, but it was still being read in the late 4th century and was used as a source by...

, and Justin) and Greek historians
Greek historiography
The historical period of Ancient Greece is unique in world history as the first period attested directly in proper historiography, while earlier ancient history or proto-history is known by much more circumstantial evidence, such as annals, chronicles, king lists, and pragmatic epigraphy.Herodotus...

 (Herodian
Herodian
Herodian or Herodianus of Syria was a minor Roman civil servant who wrote a colourful history in Greek titled History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus in eight books covering the years 180 to 238. His work is not entirely reliable although his relatively unbiased account of Elagabalus is...

, Cassius Dio and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

). The 13th book of the Sibylline Oracles
Sibylline oracles
The Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen books and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive...

 narrates the effects of the Roman–Persian Wars in Syria from the reign of Gordian III to the domination of the province by Odaenathus of Palmyra. With the end of Herodian's record, all contemporary chronological narratives of Roman history are lost, until the narratives of Lactantius
Lactantius
Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius was an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, guiding his religious policy as it developed, and tutor to his son.-Biography:...

 and Eusebius at the beginning of the 4th century, both from a Christian perspective.

The principal sources for the early Sassanid period are not contemporary. Among them the most important are the Greeks Agathias
Agathias
Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus , of Myrina , an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor , was a Greek poet and the principal historian of part of the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558....

 and Malalas, the Persians Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

 and Ferdowsi
Ferdowsi
Ferdowsi was a highly revered Persian poet. He was the author of the Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran and related societies.The Shahnameh was originally composed by Ferdowsi for the princes of the Samanid dynasty, who were responsible for a revival of Persian cultural traditions after the...

, the Armenian Agathangelos
Agathangelos
Agathangelos , appropriately so named, was a supposed secretary of Tiridates III, King of Armenia, under whose name there has come down a life of the first apostle of Armenia, Gregory the Illuminator, who died about 332. It purports to exhibit the deeds and discourses of Gregory, and has reached us...

, and the Syriac Chronicles of Edessa and Arbela, most of whom depended on late Sassanid sources, especially Khwaday-Namag
Khwaday-Namag
The Khwaday-Namag was a Sasanian history text, now lost, imagined first by Theodor Nöldeke to be the common ancestor of all later Arabic histories of the Sasanian Empire. It was supposed to have been first translated into Arabic by Abd-Allāh Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ , who had access to Sassanid court...

. The Augustan History
Augustan History
The Augustan History is a late Roman collection of biographies, in Latin, of the Roman Emperors, their junior colleagues and usurpers of the period 117 to 284...

 is neither contemporary nor reliable, but it is the chief narrative source for Severus and Carus. The trilingual (Greek, Parthian, and Middle Persian) inscriptions of Shapur are primary sources. These were isolated attempts at approaching written historiography however, and by the end of the 4th century AD, even the practice of carving rock reliefs and leaving short inscriptions was abandoned by the Sassanids.

For the period between 353 and 378, there is an eyewitness source to the main events on the eastern frontier in the Res Gestae of Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

. For the events covering the period between the 4th and the 6th century, the works of Sozomenus, Zosimus
Zosimus
Zosimus was a Byzantine historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I . According to Photius, he was a comes, and held the office of "advocate" of the imperial treasury.- Historia Nova :...

, Priscus
Priscus
Priscus of Panium was a late Roman diplomat, sophist and historian from Rumelifeneri living in the Roman Empire during the 5th century. He accompanied Maximinus, the ambassador of Theodosius II, to the court of Attila in 448...

, and Zonaras
Joannes Zonaras
Ioannes Zonaras was a Byzantine chronicler and theologian, who lived at Constantinople.Under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos he held the offices of head justice and private secretary to the emperor, but after Alexios' death, he retired to the monastery of St Glykeria, where he spent the rest of his...

 are especially valuable. The single most important source for Justinian's Persian wars up to 553 is Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

. His continuators Agathias
Agathias
Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus , of Myrina , an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor , was a Greek poet and the principal historian of part of the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558....

 and Menander Protector
Menander Protector
Menander Protector , Byzantine historian, was born in Constantinople in the middle of the 6th century AD. The little that is known of his life is contained in the account of himself quoted by Suidas. He at first took up the study of law, but abandoned it for a life of pleasure...

 offer many important details as well. Theophylact Simocatta
Theophylact Simocatta
Theophylact Simocatta was an early seventh-century Byzantine historiographer, arguably ranking as the last historian of Late Antiquity, writing in the time of Heraclius about the late Emperor Maurice .-Life:His history of the reign of emperor Maurice is in eight books...

 is the main source for the reign of Maurice, while Theophanes
Theophanes the Confessor
Saint Theophanes Confessor was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church .-Biography:Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac,...

, Chronicon Paschale
Chronicon Paschale
Chronicon Paschale is the conventional name of a 7th-century Greek Christian chronicle of the world...

 and the poems of George of Pisidia are useful sources for the last Roman–Persian war. In addition to Byzantine sources, two Armenian historians, Sebeos
Sebeos
Sebeos was a 7th century Armenian bishop and historian who participated in the first Council of Dvin in 645.The history of Sebeos contains detailed descriptions from the period of Sassanid supremacy in Armenia up to the Islamic conquest in 661...

 and Movses
Movses Khorenatsi
Moses of Chorene, also Moses of Khoren, Moses Chorenensis, or Movses Khorenatsi , or a 7th to 9th century date) was an Armenian historian, and author of the History of Armenia....

, contribute to the coherent narrative of Heraclius' war and are regarded by Howard-Johnston as "the most important of extant non-Muslim sources".

Primary sources


  • Agathias
    Agathias
    Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus , of Myrina , an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor , was a Greek poet and the principal historian of part of the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558....

    , Histories. Book 4.
  • Aurelius Victor
    Aurelius Victor
    Sextus Aurelius Victor was a historian and politician of the Roman Empire.Aurelius Victor was the author of a History of Rome from Augustus to Julian , published ca. 361. Julian honoured him and appointed him prefect of Pannonia Secunda...

    , Liber de Caesaribus. See original text in the Latin Library.
  • Cassius Dio, Roman History. Book LXXX. Translated by Earnest Cary.
  • Chronicon Paschale
    Chronicon Paschale
    Chronicon Paschale is the conventional name of a 7th-century Greek Christian chronicle of the world...

    . See the original text in Google books
  • Corippus, Johannis Book I.
  • Eutropius, Abridgment of Roman History. Book IX. Translated by the Rev. John Selby Watson.
  • Herodian
    Herodian
    Herodian or Herodianus of Syria was a minor Roman civil servant who wrote a colourful history in Greek titled History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus in eight books covering the years 180 to 238. His work is not entirely reliable although his relatively unbiased account of Elagabalus is...

    , History of the Roman Empire. Book VI. Translated by Edward C. Echols.
  • John of Epiphania. History
  • Joshua the Stylite
    Joshua the Stylite
    Joshua the Stylite is the attributed author of a chronicle which narrates the history of the war between the Later Roman Empire and Persians in 502 - 506, and which is one of the earliest and best historical documents preserved in Syriac.The work owes its preservation to having been incorporated...

    , Chronicle. Translated by William Wright.
  • Justin, Historiarum Philippicarum. Book XLI. See original text in the Latin Library.
  • Lactantius
    Lactantius
    Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius was an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, guiding his religious policy as it developed, and tutor to his son.-Biography:...

    , De Mortibus Persecutorum. See original text in the Latin Library.
  • Plutarch
    Plutarch
    Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

    , Antony. Translated by John Dryden
    John Dryden
    John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

    .
  • Plutarch
    Plutarch
    Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

    , Crassus. Translated by John Dryden
    John Dryden
    John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

    .
  • Plutarch
    Plutarch
    Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

    , Sylla. Translated by John Dryden
    John Dryden
    John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

    .
  • Procopius
    Procopius
    Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

    , History of the Wars, Book II. Translated by H. B. Dewing.
  • Sibylline Oracles
    Sibylline oracles
    The Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen books and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive...

    . Book XIII. Translated by Milton S. Terry.
  • Sozomen
    Sozomen
    Salminius Hermias Sozomenus was a historian of the Christian church.-Family and Home:He was born around 400 in Bethelia, a small town near Gaza, into a wealthy Christian family of Palestine....

    , Ecclesiastical History, Book II. Translated by Chester D. Hartranft, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace.
  • Tacitus
    Tacitus
    Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

    , The Annals. Translation based on Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb.
  • Theophanes the Confessor
    Theophanes the Confessor
    Saint Theophanes Confessor was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church .-Biography:Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac,...

    . Chronicle. See original text in Documenta Catholica Omnia. (PDF)
  • Theophylact Simocatta
    Theophylact Simocatta
    Theophylact Simocatta was an early seventh-century Byzantine historiographer, arguably ranking as the last historian of Late Antiquity, writing in the time of Heraclius about the late Emperor Maurice .-Life:His history of the reign of emperor Maurice is in eight books...

    . History. Books I and V. Translated by Michael and Mary Whitby. (PDF)
  • Vegetius
    Vegetius
    Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, commonly referred to simply as Vegetius, was a writer of the Later Roman Empire. Nothing is known of his life or station beyond what he tells us in his two surviving works: Epitoma rei militaris , and the lesser-known Digesta Artis Mulomedicinae, a guide to...

    . Epitoma Rei Militaris
    De Re Militari
    De Re Militari , also Epitoma Rei Militaris, is a treatise by the late Latin writer Vegetius about Roman warfare and military principles as a presentation of methods and practices in use during the height of Rome's power, and responsible for that power...

    . Book III. See original text in the Latin Library.
  • Zacharias Rhetor
    Zacharias Rhetor
    Zacharias of Mytilene , also known as Zacharias Scholasticus or Zacharias Rhetor, was a bishop and ecclesiastical historian....

    . Historia Ecclesiastica.