Byzantine-Persian Relations and Armenia

Byzantine-Persian Relations and Armenia
(End of the 5th century through the mid-6th century)

By Nicholas Adontz


Translated into English by Robert Bedrosian


This article was written during 1940-1941 in Brussels. Translated from Russian into Armenian and edited, with notes, by O. S. Vardazaryan, it was published in Volume 4 of the Works of Nicholas Adontz in Five Volumes (Erevan, 2009), P. H. Hovhannisyan, editor, pp. 535-591. Footnotes by N. Adontz (marked [NA]) and O.S. Vardazaryan (marked [OV]).

The accurate assessment of many aspects of the life of Armenians in the given period, and the connection to some questions in the literature require, among other things, that we first clarify the general course of foreign political events in those realms where Armenians formed a part of the population, and determine the significance of these events from the standpoint of local interests. Our goal merely is to observe the struggle between Byzantium and Persia to dominate Armenia during the 6th century. This struggle, which was of long duration, had the result that at the end of the 6th century, Byzantium had enlarged its domains at the expense of Persian Armenian territories.

Delimiting the Armenian territories from the neighboring countries, though it may seem strange, creates some difficulties, because the geographic and ethnographic borders did not always coincide. Firstly, our aim is to establish the territorial relations of Armenia with neighboring countries in connection with its internal social situation, that is, with the naxarar (lordly) system, since it is precisely that system which we encounter in the period of interest to us.

Although Armenia no longer existed as a political entity, as a feudal country with military power it did not lose its significance even after the elimination of sovereign royal power. The calculations of the powers dividing Armenia turned out to be wrong—its division did not bring them either peace or tranquility. Armenia still troubled them and was an occasion for constant hostility. Prolonged warfare between Byzantium and the Sasanian empire began in the late 5th century and lasted from the 6th to the 7th century, up until the fall of the Sasanians. During this time, Armenia did not act merely as a neutral observer—the theater of military operations—but, thanks to the naxarar system, it had enough forces to conduct active operations. The lords (naxarars) often acted as initiators of military confrontations or had a decisive influence over the outcomes of conflicts. Consequently, the events that took place within the Armenian territories—between the two states that decided its fate—are much more closely related to the inner life of the Armenian people than is usually the case under conditions of political subordination.

Peaceful relations between the two empires, based on the treaty of 422, had begun to fray increasingly by the end of the 5th century, turning into a feud. Moreover, from the time of the accession to the throne of [Persian shah] Kavad I (488-496, 498-531), they developed into open hostility. Contemporary historians interpret the causes of these events in different ways. According to one hypothesis, the start of the war could be blamed on the Persian king. Due to the intervention of the Hephthalites, disputes In the Persian court over succession to the throne had ended in favor of Kavad. Kavad returned to the throne with Hephthalite help and was obliged to provide monetary rewards for this service. Not having the funds required, the king turned to Emperor Anastasius (491-518) and asked him for money to pay the debt. Under the influence of court officials, the emperor [537] rejected Kavad’s proposal. Those close to the emperor put forward the idea that it was not beneficial at all “For, as they pointed out, it was inexpedient to make more secure by means of their money the friendship between their enemies and the Ephthalitae; indeed it was better for the Romans to disturb their relations as much as possible.” (see Procopius, The Persian War, I.7 [NA])

Having received the rejection—and for no other reason, as the historian Procopius of Caesarea claims— Kavad declared war on the Byzantines.

[Another version of events by] Zacharias the Rhetor of Mytilene or, rather, the Anonymous Continuator of his work, does not mention such monetary demands by Kavad. According to this account, in the 13th year of the reign of the Persian king Peroz (459-484) and during the reign of the emperor Anastasius (sic!) [491-518], the Huns, passing from their highlands through the gate defended by the Persians (i.e., the Chora Pass [OV]), invaded Persian territory. To justify their raids, they announced to Peroz who came out to meet them with his army: “What the kingdom of the Persians gives to us by way of tribute is not sufficient for us Barbarians, who, like rapacious wild beasts, reject God in the Northwest region; and we live by our weapons, our bow and our sword; and we support ourselves by flesh-food of all kinds; and the king of the Romans (Here and elsewhere, by the words Rome, Roman Empire, and Romans, should be understood Byzantium, Byzantine Empire, and Byzantines [OV]) has promised by his ambassadors to give us twice as much tribute whenever we shall dissolve our friendship with you Persians; and accordingly we made our preparations, and we have come here, that either you shall give us as much as the Romans, and we will ratify our treaty with you, or else if you do not give it to us, take war.” (see Zachariah of Mytilene, VII.3, [NA])

In the war that ensued, the Persians were defeated and Peroz paid with his life for his duplicitous conduct. When Kavad ascended the throne, as the same historian asserts, among the nobles in the Persian court, there was absolute indignation against the Byzantines, who were considered the cause of the tyranny of the Huns and the destruction of their rich country. In order to retaliate for their oath-breaking behavior, and with the aim of seeking vengeance, King Kavad undertook this campaign.

Joshua the Stylite, a special historian of Kavad’s war, dwells on events preceding the war. In his work we also find some historical indications that are very valuable for understanding the mutual relations between the two states and the real reasons for the war. According to Joshua, in the year 363, after the unsuccessful invasion of Julian (361-363), Emperor Jovian (363-364) ceded the city of Nisibis to the Persians—not in perpetuity, but for a term of 120 years, after which it had to revert to its prior owners (The reference is to the “Shameful” treaty which had been signed in 363 [OV]). That term expired in 483, during the reign of Emperor Zeno (474-475, 476-491). The Persians, however, refused to return the city, and this circumstance threatened a breach of peace [causing enmity between them]. In addition, according to the same historian, a treaty was concluded between the Persians and the Byzantines, according to which they bound themselves, on demand, to support each other in case of war against other countries, according to the wishes of the party in need, either by providing 300 choice armed cavalry, or else as an indemnity, contributing 300 staters for each person [300x300=90,000]. The Byzantines never needed the help of the Persians. As for the Persian kings, cases are mentioned when they sent their envoys and received money for their own needs, but not as tribute, as some think (see Joshua the Stylite, VIII [NA]). According to the testimony of the same Joshua, the Persian king Peroz, in connection with the war against the Kushan Huns, repeatedly received financial support from the Greeks, justifying his demands by the fact that the Persians, by crushing the forces of the Huns, would deprive the latter of the opportunity of ruining Byzantine territories. [Peroz] also reminded the Byzantines of the period of [emperors] Honorius and Arcadius, during whose reign, in 395, the Huns made a devastating invasion on Byzantine domains in Western Asian. Thanks to Byzantine money, Peroz managed to push back the Huns and even conquered many districts belonging to them (see Joshua the Stylite, IX-X, [NA]).

Following the death of Peroz, when his brother Vagharsh ascended the throne (484-488), the Huns resumed their raids. The Persian king again turned to emperor Zeno for money. This time, however, Zeno—who was busy suppressing the revolt of Illus and Leontius—refused, alluding to the fact that the Persians were still enjoying the revenues from the city of Nisibis, a city which should have been handed over to the Romans long ago (see Joshua the Stylite, XIX, [NA]). Vologases’ successor, Kavad, insisted on his predecessor’s demand and sent delegates with gifts to Zeno. In Antioch in Syria, the delegates learned about Zeno’s death [in 491] and already wanted to return home, but they received an order from Kavad to present themselves to the new emperor Anastasius quickly and demand the money, to be paid according to custom, and in case of refusal to declare war (see Joshua the Stylite, XXIII, [NA]). Anastasius retorted: “If you ask for a loan, I will send it. But if you demand it, according to tradition, as a requirement, I will not neglect the Greek army now engaged in the war against the Isaurians, in order to come to the aid of the Persians”.

John of Lydia (John Lydus) wrote somewhat more clearly about the contract vaguely mentioned by Joshua the Stylite. We quote in full the relevant passage, since it bears on the question we are interested in.

“52. Because the ankle-spurs of the Caucasus (Adontz’ variants include: “narrow beginning” and “The narrow belt at the beginning of the Caucasus Mountains” both of which, of course, refer to Derbend [OV]) are parted by nature towards the north wind [North] by the Caspian Sea (Adontz proposed also the variant “separated” [OV]) towards the sun [the East] when it rises under the constellation of Leo at the narrow beginning of the Caucasus, an entrance was formed for the barbarians who dwell around Hyrcania, unknown both to us and to the Persians. They would attack through that entrance and ravage both the areas towards the East that belonged to the Persians and the areas towards the North that belonged to the Romans. And, as long as the Romans held Artaxata and even farther lands under their own authority, they used to march against them because they were present there; but, when they had given up possession of that territory and so much else during Jovian’s reign, the Persians were not strong enough to guard both their own territory and that which formerly belonged to the Romans, and unbearable agitation constantly beset the Armenians of both sides. Naturally, then, after the ill-success of the Romans during Julian’s reign, discussions were held by both Salutius on our side, who was prefect, and the most eminent men of the Persians, and later Yazdgird, to the effect that both governments with mutually shared expenses build a fort at the aforementioned entrance and set up a garrison in the area for curbing the barbarians who were pouring down through it. Because, however, the Romans were being troubled with wars in the West and the North, the Persians, inasmuch as they were closer to the raids of the barbarians, were compelled to erect a bastion there against them, which they called Biraparach (Βιραπαράχ) in their ancestral speech, and stationed forces, and no enemy intruded. 
53. From this pretext the Persians, streaming forth little by little into the Syrias and Cappadocias, attacked the Romans for allegedly being wronged in consequence of being deprived of the Romans’ share in the expense incurred for their common interests; consequently, the first Sporacius was dispatched by the elder Theodosius to confer with the Persians, and he by both might of money and sagacity in argument hard by the Persians attempted to persuade them, as if the Romans were conceding to them, to be at peace, if the Romans should pay tribute, and to be friends. And this state of affairs dragged on down to the time of our Anastasius with both conferences and pacts, and, in a word, with suspensions. During his reign, however, a war occurred when the aged Kavadh led all Persia against the Romans.”

These remarks of John Lydus require some comment. The mention of the name of Sporacius during the reign of Theodorus I the Great (379-395) is incorrect. Sporacius, who was the father’s brother of general Anatolius, was a prominent government figure who lived during the reign of Theodosius II the Lesser (408-450), and became a consul in 452. For this reason, G. Rawlinson has proposed correcting [Θεοδοσίου] μείζονος to μεικον. However, John Lydus calls Sporacius “the first,” thereby obviously wanting to distinguish him from another Sporacius who lived during the reign of Theodosius the Lesser. It is possible, as J. Markwart believes, that the source used by John Lydus has confused two embassies. John mentions first Stilicho’s embassy, which was sent to Persia in 384, by Theodosius I to negotiate the partition of Armenia. However, John may have confused it with another, later, embassy in 441, which conducted negotiations between Theodosius II and Yazdkert II, and which, perhaps, was conducted by Sporacius. The consistent testimonies of Joshua and John fully confirm the fact of the agreement between the two states, according to which the border military points were to be defended from the raids of the mountain tribes by joint forces. The only issue of dispute is which period this treaty refers to, was it about the peace conditions that were reached by Jovianus in 363 as John of Lydia attests?

This same question was probably raised in 384, during the partition of Armenia on the occasion of the invasion of the Huns, which happened shortly before (see Life of Shmon and Gurias, Acta Sanctorum, VI [NA]). John Lydus’ allusions are a reason to assume that during the reign of Theodosius and Yazdgird, the issue was reviewed again, according to which the Byzantines were obliged to share with the Persians the costs of the construction and defense of the fortifications in terms either of personnel or equivalent monetary value. It was surely based on this type of agreement that the monetary claims, which, as is known from reliable sources, were constantly presented to the Byzantine emperors by the Persian kings. According to Priscus of Pania, in 464 Emperor Leo I of Thrace (457-478) was presented by the delegates of the Persian king, with a demand that the Byzantines participate in the defense of Tsuropahak fortress (The name of the fortress is given variously by different authors: ’Ιουρείααχ (Constantine Porphyrogenitus), Βιραπαράχ (John Lydus) [OV]) near the Caspian Gate or pay money in exchange for it, or send a garrison (Prisci Fragmenta, Historici Graeci Minores, vol. I [NA]). The same demand was repeated two years later in 466, when the Saragurs, in alliance with the Akatyrs and other tribes, raided Persia. The Persian delegation again demanded “that they be given either money or men for the defense of Tsuroipaax [Tsuropahak] fortress” (Priscus, Fr. 37 [NA]).

Priscus states that the Persian delegation did not succeed, but there are also reports that the Greeks sometimes met their demands. Joshua the Stylite testifies that “the Persians used to send emissaries and get money for their needs” (Joshua the Stylite, VIII [NA]) and he mentions a special case when Emperor Zeno sent money and secured the release of the Persian king Peroz, who had been captured by the Huns (Joshua the Stylite, X [NA]). In another case, a delegation came to Zeno from Vologases with a demand for funds, but was refused (Joshua the Stylite, XVIII [NA]).

Priscus relates that the Persians—seeking financial help against the Hun-Kidarites—explained that the Byzantines, in the event of a Persian victory, would receive the benefit that the Huns “would not be allowed to cross into Roman territories” (Priscus, Fr. 31 [NA]). But Priscus is not right. The Romans were not in any danger from the Kidariates living beyond the Caspian Sea, and if he attributes such a reason to the Persians, then it is only due to their attempt to legitimize their demands on some basis. If the Persian delegation spoke about the war against the Huns in connection with the defense of Tsuropahak, then it is clear that its demand was based on the emperors’ contractual obligations regarding defense of the Caucasus Gate, and not on the benefit the Byzantines would derive from Kidarites’ submission to the Persians. Since the Byzantines did not fulfill the aforementioned obligations for their own reasons or due to circumstances beyond their control, and the entire burden of defense fell on the shoulders of the Persians, the latter, feeling the need for money to fight against the Kidarites, demanded the money that they had spent to protect the Gate. The Byzantines had never categorically refused the requests of the Persians, but gave more or less vague and evasive answers and tried to settle the problem somehow through ambassadors. This dragged on until Kavad, who decided to defend his right militarily. After our detailed discussion of the issue, one cannot disagree with Edward Gibbon who wrote that “the motive or pretext of the war was Anastasius’ inhuman stinginess.”

Kavad’s Campaign 

In August of 502, Kavad, at the head of his army, moved north, crossed into Byzantine territory and stopped before the city of Theodosiopolis (Karin) in Armenia. After a few days, he captured the city without facing any resistance. Constantine, the governor of that area, because of his enmity towards Anastasius, betrayed him and surrendered the city to the Persians. The Persians captured that fortified city, burned it, and also destroyed the nearby villages, taking the inhabitants captive. Kavad took Constantine into Persian service and designated him as head of the Persian garrison of the city (Joshua the Stylite, 48 [NA]).

The importance that Theodosiopolis had in the north, the city of Amida had in the south. Kavad, after besieging it, decided to capture the fortresses protecting the city on the east and north, Martyropolis and Anggh (Ingilene). Martyropolis, the main city of Tsopk (Sophanene), one of the five autonomous Armenian satraps, was located on the banks of the river Nymphios which delimited it, one day’s journey from Amida. At that time, the satrap was a certain Theodoros. [He was one of the Armenian princes, since only Armenian princes were appointed to that position.] When the Persian army approached the city, the inhabitants, convinced that it was impossible to defend the city even for a short time, visited Theodorus, who was dressed in satrapal regalia (The southewestern Armenian states which were part of the Byzantine empire were called satrapies—there were five of them, and there governors were called satraps [OV]) and proposed submitting to Kavad, handing over the city to him and paying the state tribute for two years. The Persian king dismissed the inhabitants without causing them any harm, did not change anything in the administration of the city, and, trusting the satrap Theodorus, left him in his position, handing over to him the emblems of the satrapal authority (Procopius, On Buildings, III.2 [NA]). [From Joshua the Stylite’s words on the matter, that Kavad destroyed Anggh and Tsopk (Joshua the Stylite, 50 [NA]), it can be concluded that Anggh fortress had also been captured by the Persians].

[The siege of Amida, October, 502] 

The Persian army attacked Amida and besieged it on October 5th of 502. The Persians besieged the city for three whole months and could not take it in any way, the inhabitants of the city, although they were not ready for a military confrontation, bravely repelled all the attempts of Kavad to take the city. The Persian king, already desperate, wanted to end the siege, when a favorable event helped the Persians. Near one of the towers of the city they discovered an old stream bed, carelessly covered with pebbles, leading inside the wall. Thanks to that discovery, the Persians managed to invade the city and capture it by force of arms on January 10th of 503. Kavad subjected the townspeople to severe punishments for their stubborn resistance. Then leaving in the city one thousand, or, according to other information, three thousand, men as a guard under the command of the Persian Glones, Kavad returned to his country with his army and prisoners (Procopius, the Persian War I.7 [NA]). On receiving news about the siege of Amida by Kavad, Anastasius sent a considerable military force under four generals: Areobindus, son-in-law of Olibrius Caesar and grandson of the general of the same name, of Theodosius II, who at that time also held the position of magister militum per Orientem; Celeres, commander of the palace regiments (milites palatini); as well as the commanders of the capital’s troops (magistri militum in praesenti) under the leadership of Patricius of Phrygia and Hyapatius, the nephew (brother’s son) of Emperor Anastasius.

Apparently, Anastasius did not expect decisive actions from the Persians. Having received news about the attack of Kavad, he sent the patrician Rufinus with money, instructing him to give it to the Persian king in case he was still on the border and had not undertaken to invade Roman territory. But Rufinus, having arrived at Caesarea in Cappadocia, learned about the devastating raids of Kavad in Anggh, Tsopk, Armenia and Arabia. He left the money in Caesarea and went to Kavad to try to convince him to receive the money sent by the emperor and return to his territory. Kavad rejected the proposal of the imperial delegate and arrested him. While the main forces were besieging Amid, a detachment of the Persian army was directed to Constantina or Tella, for joint operations with an ally of the Persians, Naaman, king of the Arabs of Hira. Naaman was on his way to Harran (Hellenopolis) by order of Kavad. Olympius (or according to Theophanes, Alipius), duke of Tella, and Eugenius, duke of Melitene. Arriving there on November 19 of 502, they met the Persian garrison with united forces and defeated it. But the army of the Arabs under the command of Naaman arrived in large numbers, defeated the dukes and devastated the territory from Harran to Edessa. Olympius was trapped in Constantina, while Eugenius, not having enough manpower to defeat the Persian army, retreated north with his troops, and then attacked Theodosiopolis and captured it, destroying the Persian garrison.

After the capture of Amida, Kavad released Rufinus so that he would report everything to the emperor (April, 503). At the same time, Kavad again sent emissaries to Anastasius, demanding either that he send him money or fight. In response, Anastasius gathered a large army and sent it to fight under the command of Areobindus, Patricius and Hypatius. Areobindus, then magister militum per Orientem, at the head of 12,000 men, encamped on the boundary line between Dara and Amida, opposite Nisibis. With the main army of 40,000 at their disposal, Patricius and Hypatius marched towards Amida. Apion, an important personage highly trusted by the emperor, who had been appointed to supply the army, took up residence in Edessa. As Areobindus’ forces were not large, Kavad sent 20,000 soldiers against him from the mountains of Singara, where he had gathered his army after the capture of Amida. Areobindus successfully repulsed their attacks, but a new force of Persians, Huns, and Arabs, under the command of Constantine, the former commander of the garrison of Theodosiopolis, who had been expelled from there by Eugenius, Duke of Melitene, came to [Kavad’s] aid. Areobindus pleaded in vain for support from Patricius and Hypatius. But they remained near Amida, and Areobindus, unable to withstand the superior forces of the enemy, abandoned his camp and took refuge at Tella, and then retreated to Edessa.

After learning of Areobindus’ fate, Patricius and Hypatius led the army out of the camps and marched to meet Kavad. Theodorus the Armenian, the satrap of Tsopk, after Kavad had quit Martyropolis, abandoned the city and came to the Byzantine camp near Amida. In the vicinity of Amida [as a stratagem], together with the Laz Pharesmanes, he stole and hid a herd of sheep from the Persians. The Persians dispatched 400 choice warriors, who left the city to bring back the livestock. At that point, the detachment of Theodorus and Pharesmanes, came out of their ambuscade, attacked the Persians, slaughtered all of them, and captured their commanding marzban. Since the latter had promised to hand over Amida to them, Patricius and Hyapatius hurriedly returned to Amida. But the governor did not fulfill his promise, because the city’s the inhabitants refused to submit to him. The cross was removed by order of the Byzantine commanders.

503, August. The Persian army, receiving auxiliary forces composed of Huns, Qalish and Armenians, began to attack in the direction of the city of Opadna. Patricius advanced to meet them, but, unable to withstand the surprise attack of the Persians, was defeated and fled headlong to the city of Samosata on the far side of the Euphrates. The Persians took possession of the fortress of Sifrion (Ashparin) and marched against Areobindus towards Edessa. After an unsuccessful attempt to take the city of Tella enroute, Kavad reached Edessa and camped in front of the city, in September of 503. Initially, the Persian king entered into negotiations with Areobindus and expressed his desire to sign a peace treaty with him if the Byzantines paid 10,000 litrai of gold and agreed to pay the usual amount annually. Areobindus offered him only 7,000 litrai. Kavad did not aaccept this and began a siege. After a failed attack, Kavad renewed negotiations, promising to end the siege in exchange for 2,000 litrai of gold, but to no avail.

At that time, new troops arrived from the capital under the leadership of Celer, the commander of the palace regiments (palatini milites). Celer wintered at Mabbug on the Euphrates, and in the spring marched to Ras alAyn and from there to Amida (March, 504). Patricius, wintering at Melitene, also headed to Amida. Kavad, being informed about the arrival of Celer, ended the siege of Edessa and left for Beth-Armayye, but, having learned about the buildup of adversaries near Amida, he sent 10,000 troops there to help.

The Byzantine military commanders, not being able to capture the city of Amida, plundered Persian territory and, wrecking the country and slaughtering its inhabitants, caused considerable damage. Celer, crossing the Nymphius River, attacked and devastated the Armenian province of Arzanene (Aghdznik), which was subject to the Persians (Procopius I.8 [NA]). Areobindus invaded Persarmenia with his troops, slaughtered up to 10,000 Armenians and Persians, captured 30,000 women and children, looted and burned many villages and returned to Amida, bringing along with him 120,000 small and large horned cattle. The Armenian Mushlek (Mushegh, Musheghak), who was then subject to the Persians, surrendered with his army and went over to the side of the Romans (Stylite, 75 [NA]). Judging by the name, Mushegh was one of the ruling princes of the district of Taron, a district bordering on the theater of military operations. His defection to the Byzantines was apparently the result of Areobindus’ campaign. (Probably, Mushegh was the same Christian prince upon whose request Kavad, as reported by Zakaria the Rhetor, in 502 spared the lives of 40 martyrs who took refuge in the church during the massacre following the capture of Amid (Zachariah). According to Zakaria, he was the prince of Arran. Abul-Faraj [Bar Hebraeus] calls him an Armenian prince (Gregorii Barhebraei Chronicon Syriacum, ed. P. Bedjan, Paris, 1890, p. 80). I think that it is possible to see in "Arran" the name "Taron," the dynastic estate of the Mamikonians (cf. M. Chamitchian, Hayots' patmut'iwn [History of the Armenians], II, p. 234, G-H. Lebeau, Histoire de Bas-Empire, VII, p. 35). In this case, Mushegh's defection to the Byzantines must be dated after the capture of Amida by the Byzantines, since the Kavad did not heed the traitor's request. [NA])

The devastating raids of the Roman troops besieging Amida were too much for the Persians to cope with. Kavad sent astabid Bawi (boi — ekan = Βόας) against them with 20,000 troops, instructing him to start peace negotiations with the adversaries if a favorable opportunity presented itself. The Persians realized that Amida could not defend itself for long due to insufficient food supplies. The Byzantines were also inclined to peace. Having lost hope of capturing the city by armed force, the Byzantines suffered from a long siege, which was associated with all the difficulties of winter weather. Negotiations began between the two sides: the Persians agreed to return Amida which they had captured, in exchange for a thousand pounds of gold. The head of the garrison, Glones, had died during the siege due to the plots of the enemy. It was his son who accepted the money and, in 505, handed the city over to the Byzantines (Procopius I.9 [NA]). After taking Amida, the Byzantine general retreated to Tella, Rasa’ain, and Edessa to spend the winter. The peace negotiations did not conclude at the time, so they were resumed in the following year, 506, in the springtime by Celer.

But due to the death of Bawi, the negotiations were for a time delayed. 

Bawi’s replacement, the Persian general Aspebedes, continued negotiations with Celer and concluded a truce for seven years. The terms of the peace treaty are unclear. In any case, historians do not have any precise information about it. All that is known is that the Byzantines paid a sum of money for the ransom of Amida (Marcell, Chron [NA]), which some valued at 1,000 litrai of gold (Procopius I.9 [NA]), and others at 1,100 (Zacharia, VII.5 [NA]) or 30 talents (Theophanes, A.D. 503/504 [NA]). The important question about the Tsuraparhak pass, regarding which, as a pretext, the war had started, remained pending. Due to the ongoing war against the Huns/Hephthalites, the Persians hastened to conclude a truce, but there was no doubt that Immediately after the end of the war, at the first opportunity, the old problem of protecting the Caucasus passes would be raised again. 

One of those passes, which ancient authors called the Caspian Gates, now the Darial Pass, was in the hands of Ambazuk, the ruler of the Huns, who lived there. The latter, bound by friendly ties with Anastasius, and nearing death, offered Anastasius the Gate and the fortress in exchange for money. The emperor, fully realizing the difficulties involved in maintaining an army in a country inhabited by such barren and hostile tribes, wisely rejected Ambazuk’s proposal. After the death of Zaramyal Ambazuk, the Persian king, learning of his secret relations with the Romans, expelled his sons and seized the Pass. After concluding an armistice (Procopius I.10 [NA]), Anastasius was concerned with strengthening the eastern borders of the empire, in view of a possible resumption of war against the Persians. He surrounded the town of Dara—which was not far from Nisibis— with a strong wall, turned it into a city and named it Anastasiopolis after himself. Theodosiopolis in Armenia was also fortified for the same reason. Two of these border points, occupying strategic positions in the south and north, were supposed to serve as a stronghold and a base for military operations against the Persians. The Persians tried to disrupt the construction work of the Byzantines, but were unsuccessful, as their forces were still fighting the Huns. As soon as the war against the latter ended, Kavad sent a delegation to Constantinople and complained about the construction of fortifications on the border on the basis of the treaty (signed in 422 during the reigns of Theodosius and Yazdgird), according to which both sides were strictly prohibited from building new fortifications in the border area (Procopius places this treaty in 422, Persian War, I.10; On Buildings, II.1 [NA]). Emperor Anastasius, in response to the complaint of the Persians, sent a considerable amount of money and tried to pacify them, sometimes with threats sometimes with kind words.

Shortly thereafter, Anastasius died and Justin I (518-527) ascended the throne. Kavad was ready to tolerate the injustices committed by the Byzantines and maintain peaceful relations, only if Justinus promised to raise his youngest son, Khosrov, to the throne after Kavad’s death. Kavad had several sons. The eldest of them, Kawus, was the rightful heir to the throne, but did not earn his father’s favor; the second son, Zamasp, who had been deprived of one eye, had no right to inherit the throne according to the law that forbade persons with physical defects from becoming kings (According to Theophanes, he had a fourth son, Φθασυάρσας, who was the candidate of the Mazdakists and was slain during the crushing of that sect in 529 (see Malalas. According to al-Tabari, Kavad had 10 sons (II, p. 148). [NA]). Kavad especially loved his youngest son, Khosrov, born from Aspebed’s sister. In order to secure the throne for him, Kavad appealed to Justinus, suggesting that he adopt Khosrov and hand over the supreme power to him after his death. In exchange, the Persian king agreed to forgive the Romans for their unjust actions.

Justinus and his relative Justinian accepted Kavad’s proposal with satisfaction. But Proclus the quaestor, who was known for his selfless service and was one of the people trusted by the emperor, perceived and interpreted the intentions of the Persian king in his own way. He suspected Kavad of a skillfully disguised plan to conquer the Byzantine Empire, since the fact was that Justinus had no children and, according to Proclus, in the case of Khosrov’s adoption, the throne should pass to him by right of succession (According to Roman law, adopted children acquired the authority of their adopters, and benefited from hereditary laws; see Procopius [NA]). The quaestor warned Justinus against the intrigues of the Persian court and with his advice dissuaded him from accepting Kavad’s dangerous proposal.

After that, representatives of the two powers met at the border itself to discuss the terms of the peace treaty in detail. The Byzantines were represented by Anastasius’ cousin, Hypatius, and Patrikius, magister militum per Orientem, and the Persians by Seoses (Siyavush) “a very important and influential official” in the position of Αδρασταδαραν σαλάνης (Άδρασταδαραν σαλάνης was a very high official position which began with Seoses and disappeared after him. Subsequently there was no official called by this name in Persia (Procopius, I, 11) [NA]) and by Mebodes, commander of the army (Μεβόδης - P. A. de Lagarde (Gessammelte Abhandlungen, S. 185) suggested changing this form to Μοβήδης. Μοβήδης had the sense of ["master's power"] τήν μαγίστρου άρχήν. if "master" is understood as "commander," then P. Lagarde's spelling is difficult to understand, and Sebodes should be seen as a personal name. It is possible, however, that "magistros" here simply means "chief", a representative of religion. Mobeds (magisters) were often present at the signing of the decrees. According to Saint-Martin, in the eastern sources, Mehbond = άρχιμάγειρος, the head of the farm/land (Lebeau, VIII, 169) [NA]). The delegates, however, did not manage to resolve the controversial points. Moreover, it is unlikely that the issue of the Persian prince’s adoption had the significance that the historian Procopius tends to attribute to it. The threats which Proclus foresaw were not considered well-founded in any case.

The main reasons for the unsuccessful conclusion of the negotiations were more important political issues: the issue of Yurapakhak and the Caucasian Gates which had been taken back by Ambazuk, the construction works in Theodosiopolis and Dara which were not allowed according to the [existing] agreement, and finally, the recent confiscation of Lazica by the Byzantines. These were the points of disagreement, and only after their solution could one hope for permanent peace (The futility of the negotiations was to some extent blamed on the representatives of Seoses and Hyapatius, who were allegedly personally against reconciliation. If it is not royal gossip, then it is reasonable to assume that Seoses was fighting for the candidacy of Jam, the second son of Kavad, who, with his reputation as a valiant warrior, had many supporters in the court, Procopius' Persian War I.11 [NA]). The representatives of the Persians seem to have particularly insisted on the necessity of the release [to Persia] of Lazica. In reality, the rejection of Kavad’s proposal about adopting Khosrov was not the reason for the failure of the negotiations, but its consequence. Thus, there was no consensus on the points discussed, and the old situation was threatened with a new war. Events in Iberia [Georgia] precipitated hostilities.

The Iberians were vassals of the Persian kings. During the reign of Kavad, their country once again became the stage for the centuries-old struggle between Christianity and the Sasanian religious dictatorship. Kavad decided to suppress the freedom of the Christian religion and “Gurgen demanded from the king that they accept the Persian rites, including not burying, but letting the corpses be devoured by dogs and birds” (Procopius’ Persian War, I.12 [NA]). The people of Iberia, as fervent Christians, who, according to Procopius, “observed the rites best of all”, came under Justinian’s patronage and asked for his support against Persian violence.

The emperor, by means of money, tried to convince the Huns, who lived In the area between the Chersonese and the Bosporus (Sevastopol and Kerch), to come to the aid of the Iberians. But he did not succeed, and he sent the general Petros to Lazica together with a small detachment of Huns to help [the Iberian/Georgian king] Gurgen. Such insignificant support did not allow the king of Iberia to act against the large army sent to Iberia by Kavad under the command of a Persian general Boes, who held the position of “variz” (Πέρσην, Ούαρίζην μὲν τὸ άξίωμα, Βόην δέ όνομα, Proc., Persian War I, 12, p. 58 I, 12 [NA]).

Gurgen fled to Lazica with his wife and children, the eldest of whom was named Peranius, along with his brothers and the Iberian nobles. Due to the difficult terrain, he was able to stay in Lazica for a while, but the Persian invasion forced him to leave the country and go to Byzantium (where Peter was also recalled). The Laz, unable to withstand the Persian attacks, abandoned the protection afforded by the Iberian border towns of Scanda and Sarapanis. Many of the Roman garrison stationed there were forced to abandon these positions due to lack of food supplies. The Persian army occupied the fortresses without obstacles.

Emperor Justinus, for his part, sent two armies to act against the Persians in Armenia and Mesopotamia. The first army under the command of Sittas and Belisarius invaded Persian Armenia (Persarmenia) by surprise, devastated the country, captured many inhabitants and turned back. The border areas of Armenia, which were the targets of destruction, belonged to the noble Kamsarakan princes. A little later, Sittas and Belisarius invaded the territories of the Kamsarakans again, but this time they were repelled by the valiant brothers Narseh and Hrahat, who defeated the Romans in battle and forced them to retreat. This battle is famous for the fact that Belisarius, who in the future was destined to be ranked among the greatest generals of the ancient era, partipated in person for the first time.

The other Roman army, which had invaded Mesopotamia, also was unsuccessful. Its commander, the Thracian Liberarius, was removed from his position, and Belisarius was appointed in his place (Justinus, for the years 522-527: All three of the events occurred in the reign of Justin I and took place until 527, the year of his death. When each occurred is not precisely defined in the sources. Attempts by modern scholars to arrange the events, people, and dates are based on mere guesses. Belisarius' invasion of Armenia, according to Muralt, dates to 522, Narseh and Hrahat's triumph, to 523. According to Clinton (?) it was in 526 (Fasti Rom. I, p. 745) [NA]).

By order of Justinian, who ascended the throne shortly after these events, Belisarius built new fortresses on the Persian border, before Nisibis, and in the area of Minduos. Moreover, what had happened during the reconstruction of Dara was repeated here. The Persians tried to disrupt the works, first with espionage and then with violence. Despite new troops arriving from the capital, the Byzantines were defeated and the construction sites they had begun were completely destroyed by the Persians. 

[Battle of Ammodios 530 A.D.] Justinian appointed Belisarius “master for the East” (στρατηγὸς τῇς ἔω — magister per Orientem), ordering him to wage war against the Persians. Belisarius had sent an army of 25,000 to Dara. The Persian army, consisting of 40,000 soldiers, appeared in large numbers, and camped at the place called Ammodios, 20 stadia distant from Dara. The overall commander was Peroz the Persian, from the Mihran clan (Zachariah of Mytilene, VII [? III]. Μιρράνης τὸ άξίωμα (ούτω γὰρ τήν Αρχὴν καλούσι Πέρσαι, Περόζης δὲ δνομα (Proc., Bella Persica, p. 62). Interpreting the word Mihran (mirran = *mihran) as an office or calling, as Procopius does, is incorrect. Mihran was Peroz' clan name. See Justi, [Iranishe Namenbuch, Marburg, 1895], (Malalas Μηράμ, Teoph. Μηράν) [NA]), and the most famous of the other military leaders were Pitias and Varesman (Πνπάξης and Βαρεσμάνης. The first name is bdeshx, and the second is Μαρεσβάνης - marzpan. Compare С.-H. Lebeau VIII, 136 ո. 3. Lebeau is mistaken thinking that at the time the marzpan of Armenia was the one-eyed (έτερόφθαλμος) Mzhezh. [NA]).

Before the battle, Belisarius and his assistant Hermogenes tried to achieve peace by conducting written negotiations with the Persian commander. The peace proposals, however, were rejected. Peroz-Mihran declared that “he would believe their words, if they were not Romans, since for them it is easy to make promises but hard to implement them” (Procopious, Persian War, I.14 [NA]). Then both sides began to prepare for battle. Despite their numerical superiority (According to Procopius, 50,000; according to Malalas, 70,000 [NA]), the Persians were defeated, leaving 5,000 dead on the battlefield, including the commander Varesman (According to Procopius, Varesman was attacked by the leader of the Huns, Sanica. Malalas (p. 453) [Malalas, Book 18.50] calls the Persian leader killed by Sanica "Sag" (έν αυτή δέ τή συμβολή καὶ ίξαρχος Περσών κατεσφάγη όνόματι Σάγος, Σουνίκα του δουκός καὶ έξάρχου 'Ρωμαίων είς μονομαχίαν αυτόν προτρεψαμένου) ["during the same conflict, the Persian general Sag was also killed, being called to a duel by the leader (literally exarchus) Sanica and the exarchus of the Romans." It is obvious that we are dealing with the same person, Varesman Sag. It is clear that Βαρεσμάνης is the word Μαρεσβάνης, and the person endowed with this office is Sag. This confirms Saint-Martin's conjecture. According to Malalas (p. 452) and Theophanes (I, p. 277) [Theophanes I], the commanders of the Persian army were 1) Mihran, 2) the son of the Persian king. Above we identify Sag and Varesman. It is very likely that the Pitiaxs-bdeskh was one of the royal princes. In this case, he is not the bdeshkh of the Armenian marz but of the Kadish people, whom, as it appears from Procopius, he led in the battle of Ammodius. [NA]), and they withdrew from the Nisibis area (According to Malalas. According to Procopius, “they did not wish to withdraw from Dara, until Rufinus, the delegate of Justinian, appeared before Kavad, proposing peace” (Procopius, I.16 [NA]). The battle near the site of Ammodius, in the vicinity of Dara, took place in July 530, in the 8th Indiction.

[Battle of Satala, 530]. The actions of another army sent by Kavad against Byzantine Armenia also were unsuccessful. This army was composed of Armenians subordinate to the Persians, [and also] Sunits, who neighbored the Alans (Procopious, Persian War, I.15 [NA]), and 3,000 Hun-Sabirs. A large army of 30,000 under the command of the Persian Mermeroes marched to the city of Theodosiopolis and, encamping at a distance of three days march (630 asparez [stadia] = a little more than 100 versts), prepared for the attack. At that time, the commander of Byzantine Armenia was Dorotheus, a wise and skilled man in military affairs, and the general commander of the active army was Sittas, one of the generals from the capital and a comrade-in-arms of Belisarius. The Byzantines, having received news of the attack of the Persians, first investigated their strength and position, then suddenly attacked their camp and, after inflicting heavy losses, retreated. Mermeroes, gathering his forces, invaded Byzantine territory and went as far as the city of Satala.

In the vicinity of Satala, in the village of Oktabe, there was a Byzantine army of about 15,000 men.

Given the numerical superiority of the enemy, Sittas was afraid of an immediate battle and, ordering Dorotheus not to leave the city, he concealed himself with a small detachment of 1,000 men behind the ramparts surrounding the city. As the Persians began to attack the city, Sittas’ squad ambushed them and threw them into utter panic. The Persians lifted the siege. As they retreated, Dorotheus emerged from the city and quickly fell upon them. The Persians, who found themselves between the two Byzantine detachments, suffered heavy losses and were forced to leave the enemy’s territory and return to their borders.

At that time, the Byzantines captured the Persian border fortress of Bolos and the site called Pharangium, which was famous for its gold mine (To this period also relates the move of Hrahat and Nerseh to the Byzantine side [NA]).

Shortly before that, they took control of the Tzans, a people who had been enjoying autonomy until that time (Procopious, Persian War, I.15 [NA]).

Justinian reluctantly got involved in the war. Therefore, although the Persian invasions were successful, he was the first to initiate peace negotiations. Rufinus, who had arrived at Hierapolis before the war, and was tarrying there until new orders were issued, presented himself to Kavad by order of the emperor and, protesting the groundlessness of his hostilities, proposed to end the affair peaceably. Kavad, in turn, put all the blame for the war on the Byzantines, accusing them of not fulfilling the obligations of the treaty, the obligations that the two states had confirmed regarding the construction of new forts on their border and about the Caspian Gate. The Persian king rejected Rufinus’ peace proposals, declaring that “the Persians will not lay down their arms until the Romans agreed to share the defense of the Caspian Gate with them, or to destroy the city of Dara” (Procopious, Persian War, I.16 [NA]), Rufinus returned unsuccessfully.

In spring of 531 the Persians resumed military operations.

This time, it was Euphratesia [Commagene], not Mesopotamia, which was chosen as the theater of war. The initiative and plan of the new invasion belonged to Alamundaros [al-Mundhir], the king of the Saracens under Persian rule. A wonderful strategist with unprecedented energy and wide experience, Alamundaros was extremely devoted to the Persians, and filled with bitter hatred for the Byzantines. For fifty years without a break he roiled the Byzantine state with impunity through his endless raids. With quick surprise attacks, he ravaged the Byzantine domains from Egypt to Mesopotamia. Alamundaros, endowed with royal authority and power that extended over all the Saracens subject to the Persians, had a fairly powerful army at his disposal. The Byzantine Saracens were not able to withstand the raids of Alamundaros, because their forces were divided between several ethnarchs, the so-called philarchos. The emperor Justinian united the Saracen tribes under a common kingship and gave the crown to Aretas, son of Gabala, who was the leader of the Saracens of Arabia. But Aretas was far inferior to Alamundaros in his military abilities and could not deter him from further raids.

Kavad greatly valued Alamundaros’ abilities. When the Persian king planned a new invasion, the resourceful Saracen strongly advised him to transfer the war from Mesopotamia to Euphratesia. Mesopotamia and Osroene as the primary frontier regions, with their fortress-cities and the troops gathered there, were, according to Alamundaros, unreliable as a theater of war for the Persians. Foraying into those lands was a dubious affair, with all the dangers of possible defeat. Meanwhile, the territory on the other side the Euphrates River and neighboring Syria with its capital Antioch, which was one of the empire’s most advanced and populous cities was in such a condition that they had neither fortresses nor an adequate number of troops to defend the territory. It was possible to operate there without interruption and without any surprises.

Kavad found Alamundaros’ arguments convincing and he supplied him with 15,000 cavalry.

In place of Peroz-Mihran (Procopious, Persian War, I.17 [NA]), who was removed for his defeat in the battle of Dara, the king appointed Azaret as general, and ordered him to accompany Alamundaros as a guide. The Persian army moved south towards Assyria and, crossing the desert, found itself in Euphratesia. Belisarius, learning of the sudden movement of the Persians, at the head of 20,000 cavalry and infantry, hastened to meet them, and overtook them in the town of Gabbulon, which was 110 stadia (about 19 versts) distant from the city of Chalcis (Qenershin in Arabic. Lebeaux III [NA]). With this amazing speed, the Byzantine general destroyed all the plans and expectations of Alamundaros. Azaret, also disheartened, did not consider it possible to continue the attack and decided to return to Persia. From the town of Gabbulon, where the Persian camp was located, he was retreating along the western bank of the Euphrates, and Belisarius, following him, near Suron (now Surikh), fought a battle in front of Kallinichos, which did not end in his favor (The battle of Kallinikos took place on April 19, 531, see Malalas 18 [NA]). The battle took place on Holy Saturday, April 19, 531. Although Azaret was successful in battle, he suffered serious casualties and was disgraced by Kavad (Procopious, Persian War, I.18 [NA]).

After the battle, Justinian again tried to make peace with the Persians, a peace that was all the more desirable to him because of the war erupting in Africa against the Vandals. But Kavad, angered by the failure of the Euphratesian invasion, rejected Justinian’s offer and resumed hostilities in Mesopotamia. Three outstanding generals, Khanaranges Adergudunbades, Aspebedes and Mermeroes, invaded Armenia with a large army and surrounded the city of Martyropolis in Tsopk. Sittas, who had been designated in place of Belisarius, came forth from Armenia (Malalas, 18 [NA]), where he had been staying... (The continuation of this sentence is crossed out by the author [OV]), and hurried to the aid of Martyropolis. He encamped at a place called Attakhas (ές χωρίον... ՛Aτταχάς, Procopious, Persian War, I.21 [NA]), 100 stadia distant from the besieged city. Martyropolis was threatened with immediate collapse due to lack of food supplies and military equipment. The fate of the besieged residents upset Sittas, but he had no other way to help them than to send delegates to the Persian commanders and to propose an end to the siege under the pretext that ambassadors would arrive from the emperor who would go to the king to settle all disputes peacefully. The commanders of the large army were Khanaranges Adergudunbades, Aspebedes and Mermeroes (Procopious, Persian War, I.21 [NA]). A part of it marched to Osroene and besieged the fortress of Abgarashat, built by Abgar [Osroene’s] ruler (Άβγαρσᾶτον, κτισθὲν ύπο Άβγάρου, τοπάρχου τῆς Όσροηνῶν πόλεως). The Persians captured the city and put the entire garrison to the sword, though at the cost of heavy casualties (1,000 men) (Malalas, 18 [NA]). The other army, consisting of 6,000 men, marched north and, encamping on the banks of the river Nymphios, threatened the city of Martyropolis.

Justinian dismissed Belisarius and replaced him with Mundos (Μουνδος), who assumed the post of Magister militum per Orientem. Contrary to Procopius, [the historian] Malalas connects the recall of Belisarius with a report that was presented by the special messenger sent to the East to learn about the true course of affairs. 

Sittas, στρατηλάτης πραισέντου, that is, magister etachm praaesentis, who was staying in Armenia at that time, received an order to go to the battlefield. Sittas descended from the Armenian mountains to Samosata and from there emerged to help Martyropolis.

While the Persian commanders were busy besieging Martyropolis, Dorotheus, the general of Armenia (ό τής ‘Αρμενίας στρατηλάτης) acted aggressively against the Persians, winning battles, treating them with cruelty, and slaughtering as many Persians as Armenians. He captured many forts, among them destroying one impregnable fortress that stood on a hill. Only a narrow path—by which the inhabitants descended to the river to get water—led to it. There, as the safest place, local merchants hid their goods. Learning about the village, Dorotheos besieged the fortress, then placed troops on the trail to it and starved the besieged into surrender. Taking possession of the place, he sent word to the emperor about the treasures located in the castle. The chamberlain Narses was sent from the emperor to take charge of them (Malalas, 18 [NA]).

Meanwhile, the Persian camp near Martyropolis had received news about the death of Kavad and the accession of a new king to the throne [Khosrov I Anushirvan]. Fearing possible succession disputes, the Persians agreed to accept Sittas’ peace offer, especially since alarming reports of an imminent invasion by the Huns also were arriving. Apparently, the Persians had incited the Huns to attack the Byzantines, although in response to Justinian’s inquiry, they had refused any complicity for attaching the Huns to their expeditions. Procopius narrates that when Justinian, learned about the danger posed by the Huns from the captured Persian spies, he rewarded them handsomely and persuaded them to go to the besieged Martyropolis and spread the news that the Huns, bribed by the Byzantines, were preparing to turn their arms against the Persians (Procopious, Persian War, I.21 [NA]). This circumstance greatly contributed to the quick lifting of the siege by the Persians.

Rumors of Hun raids were not unfounded and, indeed, the raids soon came to pass. Invading through the Caspian Gate, the Hun-Sabirs swept into Byzantine domains and with a devastating raid went through Armenia and all the territories as far as Euphratesia, Cilicia, and Cyrestikon (Above Aleppo, Saint-Martin (Lebeau) VIII [NA]). Dorotheus was ordered to push the Huns back. Hearing about this, the Huns immediately retreated to their borders. Dorotheus pursued them and recaptured much of the booty (Malalas, 18 [NA]).

The ambassadors sent by Justinian soon presented themselves to the Persian king. Negotiations proceeded slowly and intermittently. The conditions presented by the Persians seemed difficult to the Byzantines. After long arguments, agreement was reached on the following points: 1. The Byzantines would pay the Persians 110 centinares; 2. The fortresses captured during the war would be mutually returned. The Persians would cede to the Byzantines the fortresses of Skanda and Sarapanis in Lazica, while Bolos and Pharangium, captured by the Byzantines in Armenia, would return to the Persians; 3. Byzantine generals would move their military base from Dara to Constantina; 4. The Iberians would be given the freedom to return to their homeland or stay in Byzantium; and 5. Additionally, according to Malalas (Malalas, 18 [NA]), peace called for restoration of the friendly relations of the past, which manifested themselves in mutual aid should it be required, with money or troops.

With these provisions (Procopius, Persian War, I.22 [NA]), the so-called “Eternal Peace” (άπέρατον καλουμένη ειρήνη) was signed in the fourth year of Justinian’s reign, 532, and was confirmed the following year 533 (Marcell [NA]).

This “Eternal Peace,” however, did not live up to its name. The peace reigning in the East gave complete freedom to Justinian to pursue a policy of conquest in the West. The wars in Libya and Italy brought Justinian additional territorial gains.

[The Conquest of Libya in 533-534]. The Vandal state was in decline as a result of contention between the Goth rulers and the native population, the Moors. To maintain their rule, therefore, the Vandal kings valued friendly ties with the Byzantine emperors at this time. Hilderic was especially associated with Justinian. In 530 he was dethroned by Gelimer, who was an ardent supporter of a policy independent of Byzantium, because of Hilderic’s sympathy for the Byzantine court. Justinian, as the defender of the defeated Hilderic, declared war on the usurper. Belisarius in 533-534, in a decisive battle near Trikameron, defeated Gelimer’s forces and annexed Libya to the empire.

The successes of the Byzantine army made the Persians envious. Khosrov I (531-579), who closely followed the actions of the Byzantines, feared that Byzantium would become overly large by new conquests. Congratulating Justinian on the conquest of Libya, Khosrov jokingly asked him to allocate a part of the Libyan booty to him, “because if the Persians had not signed a treaty, he would not have defeated the Vandals” (Procopius, Persian War, I.26 [NA]). Justinianus placated Khosrov by sending him money.

[Conquest of Italy 535-539]. Immediately after the conquest of Libya, a war broke out in Italy against the Eastern Goths. Justinian’s intervention in their affairs served as a pretext for creating a situation similar to the one realized in Africa. Amalasunta, a supporter of Byzantium, was killed, and one of the leaders, named Vitiges, ascended the throne. The troops sent under the leadership of Belisarius in 535 captured Sicily and then set out to conquer Italy.

The successful course of the war agitated Khosrov even more. He was ready to break the peace and was only looking for a suitable opportunity. Circumstances favored his intention; certain facts became known to him, which could be sufficient grounds for severing peaceful relations.

A dispute arose between the chieftains of the Saracens, who were subordinate [to Byzantium and Persia] over the extensive pastures south of Palmyra. Aretas claimed their Roman origin, referring to them by their Latin name ‘Strata’ (paved road).

Alamundaros [al-Mundhir], on his part, also insisted that the disputed area had actually been designated for his use. The judges appointed by Justinian to examine the dispute further complicated the problem by inviting Khosrov’s accusation that they were trying to bring Alamundaros, a friend of the Persians, to their side through bribes (Procopius, Persian War, II.1 [NA]). The Persian king also expressed his displeasure with the secret propaganda conducted by the Byzantine authorities among Huns they were friendly with, with the aim of inciting them to rebel against the Persians. Khosrov furthermore referred to Justinian’s provocative letters, which were delivered to him as though by the Huns themselves.

The delegation of the Goths, who arrived at that moment, Incited Khosrov even more. Vitiges, king of the Goths, after unsuccessfully trying to find an ally against Belisarius among the Germans and Longobards, intended to involve the Persian kingdom in the war against Justinian. For this purpose, he sent a secret delegation to Persia, which consisted of two Ligurian elders (Procopius, Persian War, II.2 [NA]). The delegates called on Khrorov to break the peace treaty he had signed with Byzantium, and they thought that Justinian, restless in character and eager for other people’s property, wanted to conquer the entire world, so he could not be seen as a friend of the Persians. He only temporarily stopped the war against the Persians to subdue the Vandals, then, after destroying their king, he turned his attention to the Goths. There is no doubt that, having crushed the forces of the Goths, he would not hesitate to turn his weapon against the Persians; his friendship and oaths being meaningless.

Based on these considerations, he (that is, Vitiges) persuaded Khosrov to forestall this danger and not to miss an opportune moment to start a war (Procopius, Persian War, II.2 [NA]).

The alarming events in Armenia hastened the breakdown of relations. The political ferment spreading among the Armenian population was certainly due to Justinian’s most recent alterations in the way the country was governed (On these reforms, see in detail chapters 6-8 in Adontz’ Armenia in the Period of Justinian [OV]).

Following the battle of Satala in 531, Sittas and Dorotheus occupied the Persian border fortresses of Bolos and the site called Pharangium, where the Persians mined gold and supplied their king with it (Procopius, Persian War, I.15 [NA]). The passing of these important places into the hands of the Byzantines happened at the initiative of their owners, the local Armenian princes. Bolos was under the rule of the Kamsarakan brothers Narseh, Hrahat and Isaac. At the beginning of the war, when Belisarius and Sittas invaded Persia shortly before Justinian’s accession to the throne, probably in 526 (see Rawlinson [NA]), Narseh and Hrahat successfully repelled their attack (see Procopius, Persian War, I.12 [NA]). Soon, however, they separated themselves from the Persians and moved with their mother to Byzantium. The imperial treasurer, their countryman Narseh, received them with all warmth and lavishly bestowed gifts on them. Their younger brother, Isaac, followed suit. He began secret negotiations with the Byzantines about handing over to them the fortress of Bolos, which was under his protection. Alerting the Byzantines, Isaac opened the fortress gates in the dead of night and admitted the soldiers who were waiting nearby. After that, he went to be with his brothers (Procopius, Persian War, I.15 [NA]).

As for the area of Pharangium, neighboring Bolos, its fall into the hands of the Byzantines caused complications. Pharangium, as was mentioned, was rich in gold mines. They belonged to the state treasury and were managed [rented] by private individuals who were appointed by the government (On the gold mine at Pharangium, see N. Adontz’ article Hayastani oskenk’e’’ [The Gold Mine of Armenia] [OV]). During the reign of King Peroz, the mines were overseen by a certain Vriv, the son of an Assyrian, a man of non-noble origin and inexperienced in business. Not being able to handle the matter entrusted to him, Vriv accused Vahan Mamikonian in the presence of Peroz, saying: “In no way did he permit me to approach the work of gold-mining. Having taken to himself all of the gold in the land, he now plans to go the emperor and/or to the land of the Huns, give them gold, request a brigade, and rebel” (see Ghazar Parpeci’s History of the Armenians [NA]).

During the reign of Kavad and by his order, the mine was managed by one of the local residents, Shmavon, who sent the extracted gold to the treasury. Taking advantage of the circumstances of the war, Shmavon decided to deprive Kavad of the income from the mines. He [also] passed to the Byzantine side, apparently during the retreat of Mermeroes. Placing both himself and Pharangium under Byzantine patronage, Shmavon nonetheless reserved for himself the privilege of operating the mines.

The Byzantine government did not Insist on receiving a share of the mined gold, apparently content that the Persian treasury had lost such a profitable source. Owing to the natural conditions of the site of Pharangium, the Persians were unable to take forceful measures against Shmavon, who now was under the protection of Byzantium (Procopius, Persian War, I.15 [NA]). But Shmavon, through his greed, made enemies in the local Armenian elite. Taking advantage of the emperor’s favor, he expanded his estates at the expense of his neighbors. The war was still raging when he asked Justinian for some villages belonging to other Armenian princes. The request was honored and the villages were handed over to him. Infuriated by that action, the two sons of Peroz, the rightful owners of the villages, seeking revenge for the insult done to them, killed him and fled to Persia. By order of Justinian, Shmavon’s brother’s son, Hamazasp, inherited the rights pertaining to his uncle’s villages and was appointed the ruler of [that part of] Armenia.

Not long after, Hamazasp also became a victim of the taunts of a certain Akakios, who enjoyed the emperor’s trust and was of Armenian origin. Akakios secretly accused Hamazasp of persecuting the Armenians, of having a secret connection with the Persians, and of planning to surrender Theodosiopolis and other cities to them. By the emperor’s knowledge, Akakios deceived Hamazasp, killed him, and took over the administration of Armenia. Being evil by nature, he displayed the qualities of his soul by behaving with unspeakable cruelty against the population—extorting illegal fees and imposing an unheard of tax on the land amounting to four centinares, or 400 litrai of gold. Having lost their patience, the Armenians conspired against Akakios. One of the conspirators was Artavan Arshakuni (Procopius, Persian War, II.3 [NA]). After murdering Akkakios, the conspirators fled to Pharangium.

In order to suppress the disturbance and establish order, Sittas arrived from the capital. He was a man whom [the people] of the country knew very well from the time of his wars against the Persians. He avoided drastic actions, worked to appease the residents by peaceful means and return those hiding to their homes. He promised to intercede for them for the abolition of the new taxes introduced by Akakios, which weighed heavily on the people and were the main cause of the rebellion. However, through the slanders of Akakios’ son Adolius (who, apparently, had inherited his evil tendencies from his father), Sittas’ peaceful policy was not accepted in the court with satisfaction. A rebuke from the emperor for delay forced Sittas to take offensive action. In order to facilitate the solution of the problem, he tried to draw some Armenians to his side by promising them large rewards. The Aspetians-Bagratunis, one of the most numerous and influential among the Armenian noble clans, were inclined towards peace (The next sentence is crossed out. However, it is possible to read “Procopius names them according to their clan title Άσπετιανοί Aspetiane, which was the hereditary office aspet [OV]).

They expressed their readiness to lay down their arms and also detach their kinsmen from the uprising on the condition that they would not be persecuted and would have unencumbered possession of their own property. Sittas gladly accepted the terms offered to him, convinced that after the surrender of influential princes, he would succeed in suppressing the rebellion without a fight. However, Sittas did not fulfill his initial promise, treacherously betraying the Armenians who relied on him. The Armenian [rebels] were located in the Oinokalako area (χωρίον Οίνοχαλάκων), where their forces were concentrated, and they were waiting for the outcome of the negotiations. The reply sent by Sittas was positive. However, when the Byzantine army moved towards the Armenian military camp, the vanguard etachment, meeting some Armenians, acted with hostility towards them. Procopius assures us that this group was not aware of the agreement, though Sittas himself did know about it, and yet he disgraced himself by putting to the sword women and children who had been hiding in some rocky ravine.

Sittas’ betrayal upset the Aspetianes. They united with their countrymen and attacked the Byzantines. The mountain terrain, intersected by valleys and gorges, did not allow the battle to be concentrated in one place. The [dispersed] troops were operating separately in the foothills and elsewhere. Sittas accidentally encountered a small group of Armenians who were separated from him by a ravine. The Byzantine commander crossed the gorge with some warriors and attacked the Armenians. The latter receded a bit. Sittas [himself] did not pursue them, but remained in place, waiting, with his helmet struck into the ground. One of the warriors, turning back from the pursuit to his comrades, could not restrain his heated horse in time and, hitting the helmet, broke It. The general became bitter over this, perhaps seeing it as an evil omen. Indeed, Sittas’ hunch was right. The Armenians recognized him among the warriors, because, by chance, he did not wear the helmet, and that fact betrayed his identity. The Armenians attacked him, and while Sittas, drawing his sword, was again crossing the ravine, one of them overtook him and wounded him on the head with a sword. Sittas continued to advance, but Artavan Arshakuni, son of Hovhannes, killed him on the spot with a spear thrust (Procopius, Persian War, II.3 [NA]). According to Procopius, some attributed the murder to Simon, a man of low birth.

Thus died Sittas, a valiant warrior and one of the greatest generals of his time. Buzes arrived in Armenia as his replacement. He pretended to be a supporter of the peace policy, and promised to reconcile the Armenians with the emperor. With this pretext he tried to start negotiations with the most influential princes. The Armenians, from bitter experience, did not trust Buzes and saw his promises as a way to deceive and trap them. But one of the Armenian princes, Hovhannes Arshakuni, Artavan’s father, having friendly relations with Buzes, trusted him and, accompanied by several Armenian nobles and led by his son-in-law Vasak [Mamikonian], went to Buzes. When they got to the designated meeting place, Byzantine troops surrounded them. Vasak, realizing what sort of trap they had fallen into, vainly urged his father-in-law, Hovhannes, to flee. Vasak was opposed to leaving him and secretly escaping with the rest. It turned out that the Armenians were right not to trust Buzes. Despite his old friendship, he treacherously killed Hovhannes.

The riots breaking out In Armenia, judging from the attention paid to them by Procopius, were quite serious in nature. The conflicts began in that part of Byzantine Armenia where the three princely dynasties were located: the descendants of the last crown-bearing Arshakuni residing in Theodosopolis; the Bagratunis of Sper, and the Mamikonians of Tayk’.

Peroz, whose sons killed Simeon (Shmavon) in order to seize their villages, was probably an Arsacid. Persian names were accepted and used in the [Armenian] Arsacid dynasty. Locating Pharangium in the province of Sper, Simeon, the owner of the mines, should be identified as one of the hereditary Bagratid princes of Sper. The name of this prince gave Saint-Martin (Lebeau, VIII [NA]) reason to believe that he was not Armenian, but Assyrian, perhaps the heir of the aforementioned Vriv. However, Saint-Martin was not right. If Shmavon’s name is not Armenian, then his cousin Hamazasp’s name is completely Armenian, and it was usually borne by Mamikonians. It is possible that Hamazasp was Shmavon’s uncle (sister’s son), in which case he was definitely Mamikonian.

Hamazasp was destroyed by the intrigues of Akakios, an Armenian by origin, but a man estranged from his fatherland (The killing of Hamazasp took place before the year 536, since by that year Akakios was Armenia’s acting consul [NA]). Apparently, he was one of the Armenians of the capital and enjoyed a closeness to Justinian. Since his son, Adolius, later served in the court in the position of silentiarios, it is possible that Akakios also performed a similar service. Both valued the favor of the emperor more than the interests of the people. As the ruler of Armenia, Akakios abused his power considerably, but the collection of new taxes from the people can hardly be attributed to his initiative alone. Apparently, it was connected with the changes that were implemented in the military and political administration of Armenia during his reign, in 536, on the occasion of the new division. If the tax increase had been only Akakios’ doing, Sittas would not have needed the emperor’s permission to cancel it. The persecutions of Akakios caused general unrest in the country.

After the murder of Akakios, the popular disturbances expanded into the political sphere. This may be explained by the ongoing struggle between two powerful clans [of Western Armenia]. Artavan Arshakuni is mentioned among the killers of the vice-consul (Procopius, Persian War, II.3 [NA]). There is reason to believe that the entire initiative of the conspiracy against Akakios belonged to the Arshakunis (The powerful dynasty of the Arsacids, having lost royal power, was not completely deprived of its political importance. According to the treaty signed by the last king, Arshak, before his death, his descendants were to be guaranteed absolute freedom in the future. They enjoyed that privilege for an entire century. Beginning with the 530s, the Byzantine government began to harass them, perhaps in view of their growing power. From the speeches the Armenians gave when they presented themselves before Khosrov in 539, it can be seen that the government had placed a tax on them. It is difficult to think, however, that Justinian taxed [only] the Armenian nobility. Taxes actually increased to 4,000 grvank'a (sacks ?) of gold under Akakios, and this is explained not by Akakios being insatiable or self-righteous, as Procopius has it, but largely by the new organization of the country [NA]). The [Byzantine] government was hostile to the famous dynasty. According to the herald, “the last king of the Arshakunis (The reference is to Armenian king Arshak III (378-389) [OV]) of his own free will surrendered his kingdom (This probably took place in 389 [OV]) to Theodosius (Theodosius the Great (379-395) [OV]) so that he and his relatives would live permanently free and not be subject to any taxes” (Procopius, Persian War, II.3 [NA]). According to them, this decision was valid until 532, and the conclusion of the infamous treaty between the Byzantines and the Persians. The riots in Armenia started right from this moment, and the Arshakunis themselves played a leading role in them. Undoubtedly, there was something in Justinian’s ventures that particularly annoyed the Arshakunis. The exact meaning of the indicated arrangement is difficult to understand. It is impossible that the expression [“his relatives”] ‘oi κατὰ γένος αὐτὦ (sc. ‘Αρσάκη) should be taken in the sense of the entire Armenian people. It is very likely that it has a narrow meaning and refers only to the Arsacid family. Equally unclear is the nature of the freedom that the Arshakunis retained when transferring their own seat to Byzantium. It included freedom from government [military] guards. However, we do not know what the tax relations were between the Armenian lords and Byzantium. Therefore, it is difficult to determine what kind of tax was imposed on the previously free Arshakunis to their displeasure during the reign of Akakios—whether it was obligatory for other naxarar (lordly) clans or was a stricture intended only for the Arshakunis, due to to their relatively greater power and influence in the country. In terms of position and importance, their fierce rivals were the noble Bagratuni princes. Arshakunis led the initial [protest] movement. In order to break their power, Sittas tried to use the struggle of the noble houses to drive a wedge between them.

The clan of the Aspetians mentioned by Procopius, the nobles whom Sittas Invited to visit him, were Bagratids. They are called by their clan title ‘aspet’ (In the Viennese publication of Procopius, instead of "Ασπετιανοί" there is printed 'Απετιανοί (cf. Aspetiani in the Latin translation). Destunis, the Russian translator of Procopius, suggests reading Άπετιανός as Άπεγιανός (II, p. 18, note 9). The proposal is unsuccessful. First, the exact Greek transliteration of "Abeghian" in Armenian would be Άβελ<ι>ανός. Destunis used the translations of V. Langlois, and the latter, like other French Armenologists, followed the Western Armenian transliteration while translating Armenian words, under the influence of the Mkhitarists. Besides that, the Abeghian dynasty was among the smallest, and did not play an important role in the 6th century, or before; whereas the Aspetians of Procopius are "a numerous and distinguished clan," τὸ τῶν Άπετιανῶν καλούμενον γένος, μέγα τε δν καὶ πολιάνθρωπον; Procopius, Persian War, II.3, 12-13 [NA]). However, matters developed in a way unfavorable to Sittas, since the Bagratunis became even more hostile towards him. Sittas’ successor, Bouzes, continuing the same politics of division, tried to act through the Arshakunis. Hovhannes responded to [Bouzes’] call [and arrived] with his son-in-law, Vasak. [This was because the] Armenians fully understood that they could not resist for a long time and that eventually they would be obliged to submit to [Byzantine] rule. The Arsacid princes were most interested in the peaceful settlement of the situation, as their main domains were located in the Byzantine part of Armenia (As is clear from what remains of Adontz' [unpublished] legacy, the author continued to be interested in the fate of the Arsacids after the first division of Armenia (387) and the fall of the government (428). The historian undertook the creation of a separate monograph with the title "The Fate of the Last Arsacids," from which, unfortunately, only one single page has survived (see the Nicholas Adontz Depository at Hamazkayin University, Beirut, in drawer/folder 10, A, 8). It is not possible even to guess at the size of this vanished study and to know whether or not the author had succeeded in completing the task he had set before himself. All that is clear is that in time (1929) he dedicated a separate monograph to one of the last Arsacids, Artavan (see p. 619, note 29). Beyond that, there is present among Adontz' writings in the drawer an unfinished Russian manuscript in 70 pages with the title "Noteworthy Armenians in the Period of Justinian," composed of the following sections: 1. Artavazd Mamikonean 2. Artavan Arshakuni 3. The conspiracy of 548 4. Nerseh and Isahak Kamsarakan 5. Varaztirots' [Bagratuni] 6. The Armenian cavalry force in Italy 7. Isahak Kamsarakan and his army 8. Glak Hay 9. Hovhannes Arshakuni. The underlined portions are immediately connected with the last Arsacids and, consequently, may form part of the regrettably lost work with the title "The Fate of the Last Arsacids." [OV]).

After the heinous act of Buzes, the Armenians gave up hope of reconciliation with the emperor and, unable to rely on their own strength, turned to the Persian king for help and patronage. The delegation sent to Khosrov was headed by Vasak, an extremely active man, endowed with all the extraordinary abilities that were peculiar to the Mamikonian clan.

“Many of us, O Master, are Arsacidae, descendants of that Arsaces who was not unrelated to the Parthian kings when the Persian realm lay under the hand of the Parthians, and who proved himself an illustrious king, inferior to none of his time. Now we have come to thee, and all of us have become slaves and fugitives, not, however, of our own will, but under most hard constraint, as it might seem by reason of the Roman power, but in truth, O King, by reason of thy decision, — if, indeed, he who gives the strength to those who wish to do injustice should himself justly bear also the blame of their misdeeds. Now we shall begin our account from a little distance back In order that you may be able to follow the whole course of events. Arsaces, the last king of our ancestors, abdicated his throne willingly in favor of Theodosius, the Roman Emperor, on condition that all who should belong to his family through all time should live unhampered in every respect, and in particular should in no case be subject to taxation. And we have preserved the agreement, until you, the Persians, made this much-vaunted treaty, which, as we think, one would not err in calling a sort of common destruction. For from that time, disregarding friend and foe, he who is in name thy friend, O King, but in fact thy enemy, has turned everything in the world upside down and wrought complete confusion. And this thou thyself shalt know at no distant time, as soon as he is able to subdue completely the people of the West. For what thing which was before forbidden has he not done? Or what thing which was well established has he not disturbed? Did he not ordain for us the payment of a tax which did not exist before, and has he not enslaved our neighbors, the Tzani, who were autonomous, and has he not set over the king of the wretched Lazi a Roman magistrate? — an act neither in keeping with the natural order of things nor very easy to explain in words. Has he not sent generals to the men of Bosporus, the subjects of the Huns, and attached to himself the city which in no way belongs to him, and has he not made a defensive alliance with the Aethiopian kingdoms, of which the Romans had never even heard? More than this he has made the Homeritae his possession and the Red Sea, and he is adding the Palm Groves to the Roman dominion. We omit to speak of the fate of the Libyans and of the Italians. The whole earth is not large enough for the man; it is too small a thing for him to conquer all the world together. But he is even looking about the heavens and is searching the retreats beyond the ocean, wishing to gain for himself some other world. Why, therefore, O King, dost thou still delay? Why dost thou respect that most accursed peace, in order forsooth that he may make thee the last morsel of all? If it is thy wish to learn what kind of a man Justinian would shew himself toward those who yield to him, the example is to be sought near at hand from ourselves and from the wretched Lazi; and if thou wishest to see how he is accustomed to treat those who are unknown to him and who have done him not the least wrong, consider the Vandals and the Goths and the Moors. But the chief thing has not yet been spoken. Has he not made efforts in time of peace to win over by deception thy slave, Alamoundaras, O most mighty King, and to detach him from thy kingdom, and has he not striven recently to attach to himself the Huns who are utterly unknown to him, in order to make trouble for thee? And yet an act more strange than this has not been performed in all time. For since he perceived, as I think, that the overthrow of the western world would speedily be accomplished, he has already taken in hand to assail you of the East, since the Persian power alone has been left for him to grapple with. The peace, therefore, as far as concerns him, has already been broken for thee, and he himself has set an end to the endless peace. For they break the peace, not who may be first in arms, but they who may be caught plotting against their neighbors in time of peace. For the crime has been committed by him who attempts it, even though success be lacking. Now as for the course which the war will follow, this is surely clear to everyone. For it is not those who furnish causes for war, but those who defend themselves against those who furnish them, who are accustomed always to conquer their enemies. Nay more, the contest will not be evenly matched for us even in point of strength. For, as it happens, the majority of the Roman soldiers are at the end of the world, and as for the two generals who were the best they had, we come here having slain the one, Sittas, and Belisarius will never again be seen by Justinian. For disregarding his master, he has remained In the West, holding the power of Italy himself. So that when thou goes against the enemy, no one at all will confront thee, and thou wilt have us leading the army with good will, as is natural, and with a thorough knowledge of the country” (Procopius, Persian War, II.3 [NA]).

The speech Is thoughtful and very persuasive. Of course it, like all other speeches found in the works of Procopius, should not be viewed as a genuine document. They were compiled by the historian himself. It is a special form of narration adopted by classical authors. But although such speeches are invented by the historians and put into the mouths of the actors, their content does not lose anything from the point of view of their worth. Sometimes it is easier for the author to speak through someone else’s lips, and expose facts, and express views that he himself, for some reason, would not. The factual aspect of the Armenian delegation’s dialogue is accurate. The bitterness felt in it corresponds to the reality itself, which is depicted with all accuracy. Everything that is said about the Armenians, Laz, Tsans, Vandals and other nationalities is true and is confirmed by corresponding passages in Procopius’ history.

It Is Interesting to compare the speech of the Armenians with the speech of the delegates of Vittigis. In their principal thoughts and their whole spirit generally, these speeches are identical and betray the author who invented them. In these speeches, Justinian is presented as a man with disruptive behavior, insatiable, disdainful of other people’s rights and property (Procopius, Persian War, II.2 [NA]). “Justinian,” say the Goths, “being restless by nature and desiring what does not belong to him, cannot be satisfied with what he receives, but uses all means to subjugate all kingdoms and conquer the entire world.” Armenians characterize him in the same way (Procopius, Persian War, II.3 [NA]). The whole world seems small to him, he cannot fit in it. For him, to rule over all the human habitations is too little. He has his eyes fixed on the sky and is searching the space above the oceans, wanting to gain some other land. It is true, Procopius himself adds, that “Justinian was reproached for those acts for which a king endowed with an honest soul deserves praise that he was trying to expand and glorify his realm” (Procopius, Secret History [NA]). There is no doubt, however, that Procopius is false in these words, and not in the speeches which he puts into the mouths of Justinian’s enemies. 

The Armenian delegation presented Itself to Khosrov In the fall of the thirteenth year of Justinian’s reign, i.e., in 539. Khosrov proposed the issue of [resuming] the war to the council of higher officials for discussion, where a positive decision was made. 

Emperor Justinian, learning about the Persian king’s military preparations, took measures to forestall the danger. He sent explanations justifying himself and denied the accusations. Justinian reproached Khosrov for inventing non-existent reasons and looking for vain excuses to break the peace, and he expressed the opinion that it was unbecoming for the king to destroy with lies the oath he had taken. Justinian’s delegates made every effort to convince Khosrov to prudently avoid a destructive initiative for which the Persians would take full responsibility (Procopius, Persian War, II.4 [NA]). Justinian’s exhortations were in vain. The Persians were preparing for war and waiting for the end of winter.

[Khosrov’s first invasion, in 540 spring — late summer]. When spring arrived, Khosrov invaded Byzantine territory with a large army and thus broke the infamous “Perpetual Peace.” The army marched along the western bank of the Euphrates along the same route that Khosrov’s father, Kavad, had taken in 531. Intending to destroy Syria and Cilicia, Khosrov did not engage with the Byzantines, who occupied the border fortress of Circesion (Κιρκήσιον, on the Euphrates, at the site near the mouth of Abbora (modern Harura). On its ruins today is the small town of Abu Saray, K. Ritter, Erdkunde, XI, 266 [NA]). The Persian troops advanced rapidly and reached Sabo after an abortive and unsuccessful attempt to capture the city of Zenobia. Hitting the road, Khosrov moved the army towards the city to attack. The head of the garrison, Arshak, an Armenian, stubbornly resisted. Arraying troops on the ramparts, he fought valiantly, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy by brave counterattacks until finally he himself was killed by an arrow. When the Persians resumed the attack the next day, the inhabitants of the city, depressed by the death of their chief commander, decided to surrender. At the intercession of their bishop, they entered into negotiations with Khosrov, promising to pay as much in taxes as possible, if only he would spare the inhabitants.

After capturing the city, Khosrov, ignoring the conditions of the agreement, treated the population very cruelly, destroyed the city to the ground, and took captive 12,000 people, whose ransom was later provided by the bishop of the neighboring city, Sergiopolis. The Persian army approached the city of Hierapolis, whose inhabitants, in order to prevent its destruction, promised to pay Khosrov 2,000 litrai of silver. After receiving the money, the Persian king marched to Beroea (Aleppo [NA]) because its defenses were weak. Here, Khosrov demanded double the amount paid by the people of Hierapolis. The residents gave him only 2,000 litrai of silver, and refused to pay the rest of the money because they did not have it. Thanks to the intercession of the bishop of Antioch, the affair ended without bloodshed.

The Inhabitants of Antioch, the richest city in the region, sent their bishop to Khosrov to propose peace. Khosrov promised to leave Byzantine territory immediately after their paying him 10 centinares or 1000 litrai of gold. At that time, delegates from the capital city [Constantinople] came to Antioch to conduct negotiations with Khosrov, and forbade the inhabitants to redeem the imperial city with money. Khosrov marched on Antioch, and soon Persian military tents were spread out before the city. Once more through his delegate Khosrov expressed his terms for ransoming the city. Having received a refusal, the troops surrounded the city and, despite the stubborn resistance of the population, captured it.

The Persians did not spare the city. They put people to the sword regardless of age, looted property, enslaved many people, mercilessly destroyed and burned many buildings, including magnificent churches, whose rich vessels and marble sculptures were singled out to be taken to Persia.

After the capture of Antioch, Justinian’s delegates again presented themselves to Khosrov, again protesting the Persians’ unjust actions, perfidy, and breach of treaty. Khosrov replied to the delegates’ speeches that “the friendship of peoples based on money, like the money itself, which is spent, decreases and disappears” (Procopius, Persian War, II.10 [NA]).

Khosrov informed them that a certain sum of money was necessary for a lasting peace, which the Byzantines should pay him annually, not as a tribute, of course, but as a recompense to the Persians for guarding the Caspian Gate, as well as for the city of Dara. After a long argument, a preliminary agreement was reached, according to which the Byzantines were obliged to pay Khosrov a lump sum of 50 centinares, and an additional 5 centinares a year, so that he would leave Byzantine territories. In order for the Byzantines to fulfill the terms correctly, Khosrov demanded hostages and began to retreat. He did not choose the route by which he had been invading. After visiting the coastal city of Seleucia, he went to the Syrian city of Apamea, ostensibly to see it, but instead to plunder it. Without being bothered by the contract just signed, he demanded 1000 litrai of silver from the inhabitants, also took away the silver and gold vessels kept in the churches as well as many other precious objects. From Apamea he went to Kaghkis (Arabic, Keneshirin [NA]). The inhabitants, horrified by his threats, collected, with difficulty, 2 centinares of gold and thereby averted the otherwise inevitable disaster.

Near the village of Ovanna, not far from Barbalissa (now Belis) fortress, Khosrov crossed the Euphrates and headed for Edessa. Khosrov wanted to discourage the Christians from their belief that the city was impregnable, but was soon forced to abandon this attempt. After receiving two centinares of gold from the inhabitants, he left. Near Edessa, Khosrov received Justinian’s letter in which he confirmed the terms of peace. Then Khosrov released the hostages, but continued to demand ransom from the cities he encountered. The people of Carrhae and Constanina brought him a lot of money. On reaching Dara, he besieged it. The garrison, led by Martinus, bravely resisted. Desperate to succeed, Khosrov entered into negotiations with the besieged, received 1000 litrai of gold, and then left for his own country. Summer was already ending (Procopius, Persian War, II.13 [NA]).

For the captives of Suron 200 [litrai] of gold, Hieropolis 2000 [litrai] of silver, Antioch, plundered (10,000),Apamea, plundered, Kaghkis, 200 gold, Edessa, 200 gold, Dara, 1000 gold. 

Total: 2,000 silver 1,600 gold Not counting 10,000 Antioch [(24)].

At that time Belisarius arrived in Byzantium from Italy with the captured Goth king Vittigis. Having wintered in Byzantium (in 540), in the spring he marched to the East against the Persians, taking with him the generals from Italy. One of them, Valerianus, was assigned to head the Armenian troops. At the same time Martinianos [Martinus] was sent to Dara, whom Khosrov encountered while he was retreating... (Procopius, Persian War, II.14 [NA])

This new circumstance did not favor the Laz. The permanent presence of a foreign army among them was very unsuitable. The poor population of the country [Lazica] had to raise an army at its own expense, from which it would not receive any benefit, and which, under the pretext of defense, kept the fatherland in chains. Even more apparent was the capricious rule of the principal commanders. With little concern for the welfare of the populace, these commanders ruled the territory guided by their own interests. The commanders suppressed the residents, persecuting any manifestation of free and independent activity. Under these circumstances, the authority of [Byzantine] royal power was diminished and the rights of the king gradually passed into the hands of all-powerful commanders. The king, says Procopius, sharing the servant’s fate, was terrified of the general commanding him. The first of the commanders, Petros, caused much trouble with his selfishness and indecent behavior towards the population and left a bad reputation in the country. Among the subsequent commanders was one, John [Hovhannes], nicknamed Tzibus, who surpassed his predecessors in negative qualities.

Coming from a lowly background, he rose to the position of military commander thanks to his agility in the field of service and his ability to not discriminate between [proper and improper] means to achieve the goal. Appointed as the military commander of Lazica, John misbehaved with the local residents and by this means strengthened the unfavorable sentiments already existing regarding the Byzantine authorities in the country. Considerations of self-interest and wealth were paramount to him, and some of the actions stemming from these considerations undermined the well-being of the population. The Laz carried on extensive trade with the Byzantine coast, and by exchanging the raw materials of their country for vital commodities, provided themselves with ample food. John decided to introduce a monopoly and take over the entire trade. Envious of Justinian, he obtained permission and built the city of Petra, which he made a center for domestic and foreign trade. The right to import and export was taken away from the residents. Securely located in the fortress of Petra, he personally managed all commercial transactions. The import and export of goods was handled by John, who also set prices at his own discretion (Procopius, Persian War, II.15 [NA]).

The persecutions of John and the fear of the emperor's role being reduced and eventually abolished led the Laz to seek the patronage of the Persian king. A delegation of Laz were sent to Persia on a secret mission to inform Khosrov of their intention. In the mouth of a Laz delegate, the historian [Procopius] puts the following speech, delivered in Khosrov’s presence (Procopius, Persian War, II.15 [NA]; the passage is absent in N. Adontz’ manuscript [OV]).

“If any people in all time have revolted from their own friends in any manner whatsoever and attached themselves wrongfully to men utterly unknown to them, and after that by the kindness of fortune have been brought back once more with greatest rejoicing to those who were formerly their own, consider, O Most mighty King, that such as these are the Lazi. For the Colchians in ancient times, as allies of the Persians, rendered them many good services and were themselves treated in like manner; and of these things there are many records in books, some of which we have, while others are preserved in thy palace up to the present time. But at a later time it came about that our ancestors, whether neglected by you or for some other reason (for we are unable to ascertain anything certain about this matter), became allies of the Romans. And now we and the king of Lazica give to the Persians both ourselves and our land to treat in any way you may desire. And we beg of you to think thus concerning us: if, on the one hand, we have suffered nothing outrageous at the hands of the Romans, but have been prompted by foolish motives in coming to you, reject this prayer of ours straightway, considering that with you likewise the Colchians will never be trustworthy (for when a friendship has been dissolved, a second friendship formed with others becomes, owing to its character, a matter of reproach); but if we have been in name friends of the Romans, but in fact their loyal slaves, and have suffered impious treatment at the hands of those who have tyrannized over us, receive us, your former allies, and acquire as slaves those whom you used to treat as friends, and shew your hatred of a cruel tyranny which has risen thus on our borders, by acting worthily of that justice which it has always been the tradition of the Persians to defend. For the man who himself does no wrong is not just, unless he is also accustomed to rescue those who are wronged by others when he has it in his power. But it is worthwhile to tell a few of the things which the accursed Romans have dared to do against us. In the first place they have left our king only the form of royal power, while they themselves have appropriated the actual authority, and he sits a king in the position of a servant, fearing the general who issues the orders; and they have put upon us a multitude of soldiery, not In order to guard the land against those who harass us (for not one of our neighbours except, indeed, the Romans has disturbed us), but in order that they may confine us as in a prison and make themselves masters of our possessions. And purposing to make more speedy the robbery of what we have, behold, O King, what sort of a design they have formed; the supplies which are in excess among them they compel the Lazi to buy against their will, while those things which are most useful to them among the products of Lazica these fellows demand to buy, as they put it, from us, the price being determined in both cases by the judgment of the stronger party. And thus they are robbing us of all our gold as well as of the necessities of life, using the fair name of trade, but in fact oppressing us as thoroughly as they possibly can. And there has been set over us as ruler a huckster who has made our destitution a kind of business by virtue of the authority of his office. The cause of our revolt, therefore, being of this sort, has justice on its side; but the advantage which you yourselves will gain if you receive the request of the Lazi we shall forthwith tell. To the realm of Persia you will add a most ancient kingdom, and as a result of this you will have the power of your sway extended, and it will come about that you will have a part in the sea of the Romans through our land, and after thou hast built ships in this sea, O King, it will be possible for thee with no trouble to set foot in the palace in Byzantium. For there is no obstacle between. And one might add that the plundering of the land of the Romans every year by the barbarians along the boundary will be under your control. For surely you also are acquainted with the fact that up till now the land of the Lazi has been a bulwark against the Caucasus mountains. So with justice leading the way, and advantage added thereto, we consider that not to receive our words with favour would be wholly contrary to good judgment.”

So spoke the envoys.

[Khosrov’s second invasion, 541 A.D.] Khosrov liked the speeches of Lazi delegates. They corresponded to his plans to reconquer Lazica, which had once belonged to the Persians. The Persian king accepted the Lazi’s offer and began to prepare for the invasion. In order to divert the attention of the Byzantine authorities, Khosrov spread the word that he was going to Iberia/Georgia to see to local affairs, as well as to repel the invasion of Persian territories by the Huns (Procopius, Persian War, II.15 [NA]). Khosrov, with a large army, crossed Iberia and entered the land of the Lazi. The escorts were Lazi delegates, with whose help the Persians were able to overcome all the difficulties caused by the mountainous and forested terrain. They cut down trees and filled the ravines and gorges with them, thus paving the way, and thus facilitating the advance of the army.

Khosrov went deep into the country without encountering opposition. King Guvaz [Gubazes] of Lazica (Opsites’ cousin) came out to meet the Persian army, declared himself obedient to Khosrov, and surrendered his capital and all of Lazica then under his patronage (Procopius, Persian War, II.17 [NA]).

The Byzantine troops under the command of John Tzibus were stationed in Petra. Khosrov sent a unit against them, ordering his troops to take Petra by storm. Aniavedes (Άνιαβέδης) was appointed as head of the brigade. The city of Petra, once an insignificant settlement, was strongly fortified and turned into an impregnable fortress by the efforts of John during the reign of Justinian. It was located on the coast, on the landward side, where perpendicular cliffs rose up ("From this the city received its name, Πέτρα," Procopius, Persian War, II.17 [NA]), joined together by strong walls. Aniavedes approached the city and was preparing to place ladders against the wall. But the garrison, by attacking, caused great losses to the Persian army with an unexpected blow and forced it to retreat from the city. Khosrov, furious, ordered that Aniavedes should be crucified because he, supposedly a warrior, was defeated by the merchant John. Then the Persian king himself besieged the city with his entire army. Many brave attacks made by the Persian army were in vain, and so the army began a regular siege. The garrison resisted bravely, but its tenacity was broken by the death of John. John died after receiving a wound in the neck, and the besieged despaired. When the Persians began to dig mines under the city’s towers, the inhabitants thought it wise to enter into negotiations with Khosrov in order to save the city from inevitable destruction. The Persian king promised them safety of life and property. After the fall of the city, he seized for himself the incalculable riches of John, but did not touch the belongings of the population. The city’s military forces united with Khosrov’s troops (Procopius, Persian War, II.17 [NA]).

At the time when Khosrov was conducting military operations in Lazica, the Byzantine army was operating in Armenia and Mesopotamia and had achieved some success.

Beginning the invasion, Khosrov called on the Huns to occupy the imperial troops stationed in Byzantine Armenia and prevent word of Khosrov’s initiative and the events of Lazica. And the Huns, in fact, did not delay their invasion of Armenia. Here, however, they received a strong repulse from Valerianus, the commander (strategos) of the troops, who attacked them, routed them, and almost completely destroyed their army (Procopius, Secret History, II [NA]).

At the same time, Belisarius was attacking Mesopotamia in the south. Arriving from Italy together with Vittigis in 540, he wintered in the capital and in the spring of 541 went to the East. Here he found the troops in deplorable condition. Discipline and order were completely absent, most of the soldiers did not have weapons and armor, and Khosrov’s victory had caused such terror that according to a contemporary, “they trembled merely at the name of the Persians” (Procopius, Persian War, II.16 [NA]). The powerful voice of the commander [Belisarius] brought the army together, inspired it with a glow of spirit, and turned the disaffected warriors into a united army, capable of upholding the honor of the Byzantine military. Centralizing the troops, Belisarius convened a military council at Dara for all the commanders to discuss and plan the upcoming operations.

Belisarius had no idea what was going on in Lazica. Spies reported that Khosrov was engaged in a war against the Huns in another region (at the edge of his realm). Their reports, as we have seen, were based on rumors deliberately spread by the Persians themselves. Influenced by these reports, the council decided to launch an attack on enemy territory. The troops left Dara and marched confidently towards Nisibis. There [the Persians] were under the command of an important official, Navedes (Ναβέδης), whose respectable Persian force was ready to repulse the attack of the Byzantine troops. For this reason, Belisarius considered it dangerous to approach the city and halted not far from it. The vanguard of Belisarius’ army moved a little closer to Nisibis. Navedes skilfully took advantage of their carelessness, and while they were disarmed and enjoying their rest, he emerged from the city and attacked them in full force. They were so unwary that they engaged in battle and failed, but Belisarius stopped the Persian attack in time and saved the Byzantine troops from total annihilation. Navedes, pursued by the Byzantine troops, retreated and shut himself up in the city once more.

Belisarius did not besiege the city because he had no hope of capturing it. He decided to move forward and try to damage the foe on his own territory. A day’s journey from Nisibis was Sisavranon (Siege of Sisavranon, 541A.D. Σισαυράνων. Σισαΰριον Proc., Σισαρβάνων Theoph. Sim. B. 60, 17. It was situated south-east of Nisibis, in a hilly but fertile country called the Roman field, supposed to be the present Rumail, on the road from Nisibis to Mosul, Forbiger, under the word Σισαύριον [NA]), a populous frontier fortress. A small detachment of select cavalrymen, under the command of the Persian noble Bleskhames, was all that guarded the city (Βλισχάνης, Proc., Bella Gothica II; Βλησχάμης, Secret History, 2 [NA]). The Byzantines besieged the fortress.

The Persians repulsed the Initial attack, Inflicting great damage on the attackers. Belisarius was convinced that the city would be difficult to capture, but it was too dangerous to leave such a fortress behind and move forward. He continued the siege of the fortress, and ordered Aretas, the leader of the Saracens, to raid Assyria with his detachment, destroy the enemy’s country and, appraising those forces, return to the main camp. The inhabitants of Sisavranon soon began to feel depressed by the siege, as they were already experiencing a lack of supplies. Learning about this from the captive Persians, Belisarius offered them a chance to surrender on the [following] terms ... (The sentence breaks off and the section about the provisions is not provided [OV]). The offer was accepted. Belisarius took possession of the fortress and razed its walls to the ground. The Christian population was set free, and Bleskhames was sent to Byzantium together with the Persians.

Then Arethas moved beyond the Tigris, and marched swiftly through the fertile and defenseless country, conquering it without encountering any opposition. However, he disobeyed Belisarius’ order and did not return to him, fearing that the latter would take the rich booty away from him.

In addition to Aretas, another small Byzantine detachment did not return. Its commander, having been deceived by Aretas, retreated to the border of Byzantium by another route.

Belisarius, unaware of the situation, worried about the fate of the Aretas and the detachment. Anxiously awaiting their return, the army lingered for some time near Sisavranon. Unused to the hot Mespotamian climate, the soldiers were infected with a severe fever, and one-third of the army, affected by this disease, lay half dead. In addition to this evil, the Lebanon regiments asked to be sent home so that they could defend their lands from the expected raids and plundering of the Saracen leader, Alamundaros. Under these circumstances it had become extremely dangerous to be in the territory of this armed enemy. Belisarius convened a military council, which decided to return to Dara. Once the decision was implemented, Belisarius returned to Constantinople, at the emperor’s order. The futility of the campaign brought forth vigorous complaints in Byzantium. People ignorant of the situation blamed the renowned general for it. Later, Procopius himself, changing his attitude towards Belisarius, also changed his view of this expedition (Procopius, Secret History, II [NA]). He thought that Belisarius should have crossed to the other side of the Tigris, in which case he could have looted all the Persian territories as far as Ctesiphon without meeting any resistance. Procopius ventures to assert that Belisarius was prevented from going further into Persia by his excessive attachment to his wife, whom he was unwilling to leave alone. The historian, becoming indignant, probably forgot the facts he himself had disclosed earlier, which justify the actions of Belisarius. It is unfortunate, however, that the historian discredits himself enough to defame a man who was the pride of military strategy in his time.

Khosrov, who was occupied in Lazica, had no idea about the events taking place in his absence in the south. Petra had already been captured when he came to know about the military operations in Mesopotamia conducted by the Byzantine forces. Khosrov immediately left Lazica and led the army back to Persia. Procopius later unreasonably scolded Belisarius for not blocking the route taken by the retreating Persian army.

[Khosrov’s third invasion, in the year 542]. Having successfully returned from Lazica, Khosrov launched another campaign in the spring of the following year, apparently to avenge the destruction inflicted by Aretas. Judging by its results, however, this campaign had only a demonstrative and exploratory nature. The Persian army was moving in exactly the same direction that had been chosen for the first raid. Khosrov quickly advanced to the western shore of northern Euphrates. Bishop Candidus came to him near Sergiopolis, apologizing for not being able to fulfill his promise about providing the ransom for the residents of Suron. To accomplish it, he suggested that Khosrov take the treasures of the church in Sergiopolis. Dissatisfied with that, Khosrov sent people under the pretext of inspecting the city’s property, with a secret mission to capture it. The inhabitants, being warned about the Persians’ intention, did not let them into the city. After several unsuccessful attempts to capture the city by force, Khosrov continued on his way and crossed to Euphratesia.

The territories through the army marched were already exhausted by the extortions of the previous raid, so Khosrov did not cause them any harm. He was more attracted by rich Palestine, and tales of the mythical treasures of Jerusalem. The Byzantine military commanders in the region locked themselves in their fortresses and did not even think about counter-attacking Khosrov. Belisarius, who, as we have seen, had been summoned to the capital prior to this, was again sent against the Persians by Justinian. With swift imperial horses called “veredas” (βερέδας) (See Lagarde, Gesammte Abh. [NA]), he hastened to Euphratesia, assembled his military forces, and encamped in Europas. As soon as Belisarius appeared, Khosrov halted his advance. He sent to the Byzantine general one of the royal secretaries named Vardan (αρδάνην όνομα = Վարդան, II, 20, p. 243. Judging from the name, the secretary was of Armenian origin [NA]), who was known as a tactful man, and through him expressed his displeasure that Justinian was still hesitating to ratify the terms of the peace which had been concluded. According to Procopius, however, Vardan's secret mission was to investigate the personality and forces of the general.

Belisarius behaved very astutely and with cunning towards Vardan. He singled out 6,000 select champion warriors and left the main military camp with them under the pretext of going hunting. At the same time, by his order, the Armenian Akakios, the son of Adolios, who once had served in court in the position of silentiarius, and at that time was the commander of the Armenian regiment, together with 1,000 horsemen crossed to the other bank of the Euphrates and occupied a threatening position there, with the supposed intention of blocking the road in case of Khosrov’s retreat. Belisarius received the Persian delegate in a simple tent pitched in a deserted place, surrounded by a guard composed of gigantic warriors—Thracians, Illyrians, Goths, Eruli, Vandals, and Moors—and spoke to him in dignified language about the groundlessness of the statements of Khosrov, who had broken the peace without any reason. These events had the desired effect on the envoy of the king of Persia. Returning to Khosrov, “he advised him to take his departure with all possible speed. For he said he had met a general who in manliness and sagacity surpassed all other men, and soldiers such as he, at least, had never seen, whose orderly conduct had roused in him the greatest admiration. And he added that the contest was not on an even footing as regards risk for him and for Belisarius, for there was this difference, that if he conquered, he himself would conquer the slave of Caesar, but if he by any chance were defeated, he would bring great disgrace upon his kingdom and upon the race of the Persians; and again the Romans, if conquered, could easily save themselves in strongholds and in their own land, while if the Persians should meet with any reverse, not even a messenger would escape to the land of the Persians" (Procopius, The Persian War, II.21 [NA]).

Khosrov obeyed Vardan’s exhortations and immediately crossed to the other bank of the Euphrates. He sent delegates to Belisarius to explain that he was withdrawing the troops on the condition that Belisarius would speed up the establishment of peace. In response, Khosrov received hostages from Belisarius and began to retreat. The end of the Khosrov’s campaign, generally, was positive for the Byzantines.

Belisarius’ forces were far smaller than Khosrov’s magnificent army. Despite this, the Persian king avoided battle and left without a fight. Historians attribute this circumstance to the clever strategy of Belisarius. Procopius says that Khosrov retreated ostensibly out of pacifism—but in reality he fled, fearing Belisarius’s good fortune, or being deceived by his trick. Without reducing the importance of the personal qualities of this great military figure and also giving due credit to his genius we can, nonetheless, assume that news about the plague epidemic (which, according to the sources, broke out in the same year 542) (According to Evagrius (Hist. Eccl. IV, 29; IV, 29), it broke out two years after Antioch was conquered by the Persians (540). Procopius also attributes its appearance to this period, speaking about it immediately after Khosrov's invasion [NA]) played no less a role in the sudden retreat of the powerful king. The plague started in Egypt and gradually spread to other countries. Palestine, as a neighboring country to Egypt, was the first victim of the great epidemic. Undoubtedly, it is this circumstance that dissuaded Khosrov from the temptation of raiding Palestine. (The assumption that Khosrov’s retreat was dependent on the plague belongs to Rawlinson. It is also defended by Spiegel. Destunis believes that Rawlinson’s assumption is highly unlikely. However, his objection—according to which the plague spread and penetrated into Persia already after Khosrow’s retreat and began only when he crossed Atrpatakan—does not fundamentally refute Rawlinson’s conjecture. What is important is not when the plague spread to Persia, but the moment of its emergence as such. Historians attribute this to 542, and it is beyond doubt [according to Clinton, F.R. I, 778, A.D. 542 in summer]. The news of such a global catastrophe might have forced Khosrov to return to his country to take preventive measures against its introduction into Persia. Rawlinson also expresses himself in this spirit. Khosrov may well have hesitated to confront this terrible enemy. He did not ultimately escape it; but he might have hoped to do so, and it would clearly have been the height of imprudence to have carried out his intention of invading Palestine when the plague was known to be raging there [NA])

Another of Destunis’ suggestions deserves more attention. It is known that Procopius in his Anecdota or Secret History, tries in every possible way to belittle Belisarius’ merits, accusing him, among others, of the fact that he did not pursue Khosrov due to cowardice. Even though Khosrov would have had a disastrous fight against Belissarius, [Procopius] would have diminished his hero if he had ascribed the cause of Khosrov’s shameful flight to the plague. Destunis sees this as proof that there was no plague at that time. But his conclusion is incorrect. It is indisputable that the plague had appeared by A.D. 542. Theophanes places the appearance of plague in 542, even in Byzantium.

[The fourth year of the war, 543, in Armenia]. The following year, hostilities resumed, moving from Mesopotamia to Armenia. Khosrov traveled from Ctesiphon to Atrpatakan, the site of the famous Persian sanctuary, the great atrushan (pirion) with its unquenchable eternal fire. Here he saw to preparations to march across Persian Armenia to invade Byzantium. Navedes, commander of the Mesopotamian army, was also transferred to Armenia. The change of the battlefield and the transfer of military forces from the south to the north is explained by the emergence of the pro-Byzantine movement. Three years had passed since the time when the Armenians, dissatisfied with imperial Byzantine rule, went over to the Persian side, but the situation of the Armenians did not improve and their expectations were not fulfilled. However, the Persians could not break the power of Byzantium and did not bring any significant benefit to the Armenians. Disappointed in their expectations, the Armenians, after the third invasion of Khosrov, which ended in retreat, abandoned the Persians and went over to the side of their former enemy.

A reconciliation was made between them, after Ih [the representatives of the Armenians] together with Vasak [Hovhannes Arshakuni’s brother-in-law (wife’s brother)] went to Constantinople to see the emperor. The departure of Artavan Arshakuni from Armenia to Byzantium, where he later became a noteworthy figure (Adontz has a separate work devoted to Artavan Arshakuni [OV]), can probably be placed in this period.

In order to delay Khosrov’s expected attack, Justinian sent a messenger to inform him that delegates would soon arrive to negotiate peace. The delegates, however, were delayed on the way because of the illness of one of them. At that time, the plague managed to enter Persia, a circumstance which further encouraged Khosrov towards reconciliation. He did not wait for the delegates, but fearing the pestilence, took his entire army and retreated to Assyria, which was not infected with the terrible disease. Conducting negotiations was entrusted to Navedes, the military commander of Persian Armenia (The same sentence is emphasized in pencil in the lower margin “Navedes sent the sitting Armenian Catholicos in Dwin to Valerianus, military commander of the forces of Byzantine Armeni [OV]). In order to hasten the concluding of peace, Navedes appealed to the Armenian Catholicos of Dvin (In that period, the Armenian Catholicos was Kristapor I Tirarinjtsi, 539-545 [OV]) and sent him to Valerianus, [590] who was the military commander of Byzantine Armenia. The kat’oghikos, accompanied by his brother, went to Valerianus and advised him to hasten to make peace. The kat’oghikos, noting the emperor’s kindness and his own devotion to the emperor as leader of the Christian Church, at the same time did not deny his personal influence on Khosrov—the kat’oghikos assured [Valerian] that if the [Byzantine] envoys went with him to Persia, it could be expected that peace would be signed on the most favorable terms for Byzantium.

The brother of the kat'oghikos, however, held a meeting with Valerianus and secretly conveyed to him the information that Khosrov’s current pacifism could be explained by the difficult situation in which he found himself due to the rebellion of his son who aspired to the throne (This reference is to the rebellion of Anushzad which, however, is dated to 551 [NA]), as well as because of the plague that had reached and restrained him and the entire army.

The fact that the Armenian kat’oghikos and his brother were involved in these events makes the supposition above—that the military activities taking place were related to Armenian affairs—more probable. The kat’oghikos, as the leader of the Christian Church, mostly lived thanks to peace and diligently tried to preserve it. But his brother, unknown to us, was acting in the opposite direction due to the troubles that drove the Armenians from Khosrov to Justinian again.

Valerianus sent the kat’oghikos back, promising that he would grant his wish and send envoys soon. In reality, however, he delayed the dispatch of the delegation and reported to Justinian all that he had learned about Khosrov’s crisis. In response to the report came Justinian’s order to stop negotiations and attack the enemy.

The troops of the Eastern army received written instructions to immediately mobilize and move to the enemy’s borders, to invade Persarmenia. Valerianus centralized his forces not far from Theodosiopolis, having with him Narseh (Kamsarakani), who was the commander of a detachment composed of Armenians and Eruls.

Martinus, the military commander of the Eastern army (Magister militum per Orientem), who had been appointed to this position when Belisarius] had been summoned back [to Constantinople], marched his troops to the fortress of Cytharizon, which was a four days’ journey from Theodosiopolis, and encamped there. The garrison was commanded by Narseh’s brother, Isaac. Adolios, the son of Akakios, Peter, the former governor of Lazica, and other leaders also arrived there.

The Erul regiments under the command of Philemut and Beros were stationed In the villages of Khorzanene, not far from Cytharizon. And finally, the emperor’s brother Justus, together with Peranius, son of Gurgen, and other generals, entered the region of Martyropolis and halted near the fortress of Pason.

All the troops together amounted to 30,000 men. There was no particular consensus among the commanders, nor did they meet in a military council to discuss the attack plan; rather, they communicated through their men. The lack of a common team and the desire of the commanders to act independently of each other was destructive for the course and outcome of the war. Peter, who was stationed near Cytharizon, started the attack on his own initiative and invaded Persian territory without warning the other generals. His example was attractive to the Eruls. Martinus moved after them, and Valerianus followed him. In the territory of the enemy, they gathered together and marched in military ranks to Dwin, the seat of Persian Armenia, a rich and populous city. Navedes halted here with a small army, while Khosrov took the main forces to Assyria. Hearing about the enemy’s attack, he plundered Dwin and retreated with his troops to the village of Anglon (Probably a reference to the village of Anggh in Tsaghkotn district [OV]). It was located at the foot of a towering and difficult mountain. An impregnable fortress of the same name stood on the slope of the mountain. Navedes, who had only 4,000 men, relied mainly on the inaccessibility of his position. He blocked the roads leading to the village with heavy boulders and carts, to make it more invulnerable (Procopius, The Persian War, II.25 [NA]).


The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite.

Procopius. The Persian War.

The Syriac Chronicle of Zachariah of Mitylene.

The Chronicle of John Malalas Books 16-18.

Eustatius Epiphanius, fragments preserved in Dindorfii Historici Graeci Minores I, 354-364.

The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor.

Markwart, J. (1901). Eransahr.

Rawlinson, G. (1875). The Seventh Great Oriental Monarchy. 


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