15.1 C
New York
Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Persian campaign of Julian the Apostate

- Advertisement -

Before the Campaign

The invasion of Roman troops under the command of Emperor Julian the Apostate on the territory of Persia was one of the links in the chain of Roman-Persian wars that began in the first half of the 3rd century. n er (after the Sassanid dynasty came to power in Iran) and became the continuation of the Roman-Parthian wars of the 1st-3rd centuries. n er

From the late 330s (from the time of the expiration of the 40-year-old Nisibis peace treaty concluded in 298 ) to the mid- 350s. fighting between the Roman and Persian armies were relatively sluggish in nature. Mostly the initiators of the conflicts in the border area were the Persians, and their most significant success, except for the constant minor raids on the Roman territories in Upper Mesopotamia, was the capture in 348 of the important Roman fortress – Singaras. After that, the Persian army returned to its territory.

In subsequent years (until the end of the 350s ), Shapur II did not take any active large-scale military actions against the Roman Empire. At this time, all the efforts of the king were focused on the organization of the defense of the north-eastern borders of his state. Shapur, according to Ammianus Marcellinus, “was busy at war with neighbors and drove away wild peoples from their borders, who in their changing mood often step on him, and sometimes when he goes to war with us, they help him”. Opponents of the Persians were Chionites and Kushans.

The Roman emperor Constantius II, in turn, also did not have the opportunity to organize hostilities against Persia, which could provoke a response from Shapur – he was absorbed in fighting internal ( usurpers Magnets and Silvan ) and external ( Saracens, Alemanni, Franks, Sarmatians and Quads ) by the enemies of the empire.


Although the difficult situation in the East did not allow Shapur II to wage a full-fledged war against Rome, the Persians, nevertheless, during the 350s. Roman border garrisons in Mesopotamia were systematically disturbed, keeping them in constant tension. In addition to actions directed directly against Rome, Shapur organized attacks on allied Rome, Armenia. In general, the anti-Roman actions of the Persians were very successful, to which the Romans themselves greatly contributed: instead of organizing the defense of the Roman borders, their commanders were busy plundering the local population.

The situation in the Roman-Persian relations again aggravated in the late 350s. By this time, Shapur II victoriously ended the war on the eastern borders of Persia, entered into a military alliance with former adversaries – the Chionites – and began preparations for the invasion of Roman possessions. The fighting began in the year 359, when Amid was taken by the army of Shapur II. In 360, the Persians captured two more Roman fortresses – Singara and Bezabdu.

The immediate prologue to the Roman-Persian conflict of 363 was the coming to power in the Roman Empire in 361, by Emperor Julian II.


Immediately after coming to power, Julian begins active preparations for the campaign against Persia. The planned expedition from a military-strategic point of view was, in spite of all its external aggressiveness, a defensive event. The invasion of Persia conceived by Julian was a preemptive strike designed for a certain (ideally for as long as possible) time to protect the eastern borders of the Roman Empire from the devastating Persian raids. Thus, the Persian expedition of Julian the Apostate was an attempt to move Rome to the east (Persian) direction from passive defense to active.

An important role in organizing the invasion of Persian territory by Julian was also played by subjective reasons, namely, the emperor’s ambition. As Ammianus Marcellinus notes, Juliana “consumed her thirst for battle for two reasons: firstly, because he could not endure peace at all and was delirious with combat signals and battles, secondly, because… he was eager to add the title of Parfyansky to his glorious military distinctions ”

In addition, the campaign of Julian the Apostate against Persia was also designed to solve foreign economic problems: in case of its successful completion, the empire hoped to take control of the trans-Eurasian trade routes in their Persian segment, the struggle for which was generally one of the factors in the confrontation between Rome and its eastern neighbors.

As one of the main goals of Julian, Soviet historians of the middle of the 20th century also advanced his aspiration by victorious war to reduce the intensity of the class struggle in the late Roman society and strengthen its shaken positions.

Preparing for the invasion

In accordance with the campaign plan developed at Julian’s headquarters, by the spring of 363, Roman army units were concentrated at various points along the eastern border, awaiting the approach of the main forces led by Julian.

The actions of the Romans should have been supported by the Armenian army led by the king Arshak II, who received an order to concentrate forces on the border of Persia and wait for further instructions from Julian. It was envisaged to send a 30-thousand detachment of Romans under the command of two committees, Procopius and Sebastian, to connect with Arshak. The task of this united group was to protect the northern part of the Roman-Persian border in order to prevent the sudden transition of the Persians through the Tigris. In addition, the possibility of active operations of the Roman-Armenian army on the territory of the Persian Mussel, as well as its connection with the main forces of Julian was envisaged.

The actions of the ground forces had to support numerous – more than 1000 units – the fleet, which, according to the developed plan, was to follow parallel to the army across the Euphrates and supply it with everything necessary, as well as carry out military support. In addition, special vessels were being built in the river flotilla to be built to direct crossings.

Stage I (from the speech from Antioch to the approach to Ctesiphon)

Julian’s army marched from Antioch on March 5, 363, and soon, joining the rest of the units, crossed the Euphrates. On March 27, Julian was already in Kallinik (now the city of Rakka in Syria ).

Coming out of Kallinik, the army of Julian began to move south, along the left bank of the Euphrates; on the way, the emperor accepted the embassy of local Arab leaders, who provided him with troops to perform auxiliary functions. At the same time, the Roman fleet, consisting of 1,000 cargo and 50 warships, as well as 50 ships adapted for the guidance of ferries, or a total of 1,100 units, arrived at the same time. Ammian’s information is somewhat at odds with Zosima’s data: according to his data, Julian had 600 wooden and 50 warships, 500 to build ferries, and many others carrying food and siege devices, ships, thus, more 1150 ships. An even greater figure gives Magn Karrsky – 1,250 ships.

Now accompanied by the fleet, Julian continued to move along the Euphrates, passing by the cities of Kirkusy, Zayt, and Dara. At the beginning of April the army of the Romans crossed the river Aboru (modern Khabur ), the left tributary of the Euphrates, after which the bridges built by order of Julian were burned, so that no one of the Romans would think of going back. Then the Persian possessions began, and the troops, having adopted the order of battle, began to move forward more cautiously. The column of Romans stretched for 10 miles, that is, almost 15 km. Ahead, and from the flanks, the column was accompanied by a detachment of light cavalry with 1,500 horsemen, who provided the outposts of the main forces of the Romans. The fleet followed the river parallel to the army.

In mid-April, the Romans met the first enemy fortress – Anafa, which stood on an island in the middle of the Euphrates. Her garrison, yielding to the entreaties and promises of the Sassanian prince Ormizd who was in the Roman army, agreed to voluntarily surrender. The commander of the garrison – a Persian named Pusei – was given the rank of a tribune ; the population of Anafa was taken to Syria, and the city itself was burned. After this, Julian’s army continued to move forward, destroying everything in its path. The next Persian fortresses on the path of Julian were Tiluta and Akhayyahala. Both of them, like Anafa, were on the rocky islands in the middle of the Euphrates, but, unlike Anafa, their defenders did not want to surrender immediately, but stated that if the Romans moved ahead, they would occupy the inner regions of the Persian kingdom, then they will go to the side of the winner. Julian, trying to avoid waste in vain, moved on, passing the terrain called Baraksmalha and the city of Diakira.

A few days later there was a first skirmish between the troops of Julian and the Persian-Arab detachment, as a result of which the opponents of the Romans retreated. Soon the Romans approached the powerful Persian fortress of Pirisabore. After a few days of siege, the garrison of Pyrisabors, in whose hands only the citadel remained, decided to start negotiations on surrender; as a result, 2500 Persians, led by the garrison commander Mamersid, received personal security guarantees, surrendered, and Pyrisabora itself was looted and then burned. All this time, the Persians incessantly disturbed the Roman army with sudden attacks and shelling, often taking the Romans by surprise; Once, Julian was even forced to use decimation in order to force his warriors to be more vigilant and cautious.

The next significant fortified point in the path of the Roman troops was Mayomalux. The city was under siege, but none of the many storms did not succeed. As a result, it was decided to make a tunnel and penetrate the fortress through it. This plan was a success, and Mayomalhas was taken. The warriors who entered the city first were awarded siege wreaths ( corona obsidionalis ) – one of the highest military awards in the Roman army.

Of the entire garrison during the storming of the fortress, only 80 people survived, headed by their commander Nabdat; The captured Persians were given life.

After the capture and destruction of Mayozalmalha, the Roman army continued to move further south, constantly being subjected to unexpected attacks by Persian cavalry while suffering heavy losses. Reaching Kochi ( Seleucia ), the Romans spent two days under its walls for the purpose of rest. Then the Roman army approached the dried-up Canal of Trajan, which had been dug by Emperor Traian during his campaign against Parthia (and later repaired by Septimius Severus, through which the fleet could not pass; therefore, water was flown into the channel and the army built with the help of ships, floating bridges, moved to the nearby Ctesiphon.

Soon the Roman army was already at the gates of the Persian capital.

Ammianus Marcellinus Roman history. M., 2005.
Dexipp . History // Byzantine historians Deksipp
Gregory the Theologian . Collection of Creations
Eutropius . Brief history from the founding of the City
Theophanes Byzantium . Chronicle of the Byzantine Theophanes from Diocletian to the kings Michael and his son Theophylact
Theodoret Cyrus Church history. SPb

- Advertisement -

Stay Connected


Latest Articles

History of Denmark (1848 – 1905) Part 2

November 15, 1863, Frederick VII died, the last representative of the governing Danish line. The death of the king opened a wide way for...

The Rule of Odoacer The King of Italy

Early History There are several versions of the origin of Odoacer. Odoacer's father, who belonged to Attila’s entourage, probably died in a battle in Bolia...

The Coup of Odoacer and the Fall of Rome

Background In 474, Julius Nepos became Roman emperor. He successfully fought against the Vandals, and also commanded a fleet that defended the shores of the...

The History of Medieval Ukraine – High Middle Ages

In the second quarter of the twelfth century, the single state broke up into independent principalities. The chronological beginning of the period of fragmentation...

Pre-History and Ancient Period of Ukraine

The first human settlements emerged on the territory of Ukraine in the early Paleolithic era. The pebble industries of the sites of the Southern...