The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars, A.D. 363-630: accompanying webpage

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General points

Hewsen 2001: 71-91 offers excellent colour maps of the Caucasus region for this period. Hoyland 2001 has useful sections on the Arabs covered in the source book, as well as some relevant translations (see below).

New information/updates

General points

On diplomatic relations and the role of exchanges of silver between the two powers, see now Cutler 2005. Both sides sent gifts to one another, which could on occasion be presented as tribute, as Cutler notes; there was also considerable artistic influence of each power on the other. Sasanian silver cups seem to have been produced and used exclusively for diplomatic purposes: see Diebler 1995: 209-10. It is not surprising therefore that they should almost invariably present images of the king. For an example (in this case of a plate), see British Museum acc. n o. 124092, a plate ascribed to Shapur II by the BM, to Bahram V by Diebler 1995: 211 (following Marschak).

Winter and Dignas 2007 have now provided an English version, expanded and updated, of their 2001 German source book. It is a very useful resource, particularly in the numerous photos and illustrations it offers. See my review of the work in sehepunkte 8.5 (2008). A good number of the sources translated there are also to be found in our work (as also in Dodgeon and Lieu 1991, since Winter and Dignas cover the whole Sasanian period).

Chapter 1

p.1: On reactions to the cession of Nisibis see Mazza 2003: 420-1.

p.3 and n.12: Winter and Dignas 2007: 132 n.66 place Chiliocomum to the north of Corduene (in their translation of the same passage from Ammianus).

p.13: Valens in Antioch. See Lenski 2007: 111, arguing (convincingly) that this took place in November 371, not 370, noting that Malalas' indiction year began on 1 September.

p.14: the seven-year peace reported by Malalas: Lenski 2007: 112 connects this with the truce agreed after the battle of Vagabanta (p.25, Ammianus Marcellinus 29.1.4) and thus finds it credible.

p.14-15: the uprising of Mavia. See also Woods 2004: 732-3 and Lewin 2004: 234-6. Lenski 2007: 121-2 argues that Mavia's revolt took place in mid-377, thereby preventing Valens from leaving Antioch when he had originally intended. He was also therefore unable to intervene as the Roman position in the Caucasus deteriorated (see below).

Chapter 2

My article on the partition of Armenia in 387 (= Greatrex 2000a) is available here: the Ancient History Bulletin is no longer to be found on the web. Lenski 2007 offers an important revision of the chronology of the period from 364 to 378, correcting various dates proposed in our work; this also has implications for dates offered in ch.1. See further below.

p.20: on this passage of John the Lydian see also Mazza 2003: 407-13, Mazza 2004: 59-62, Schamp 2006, tome 2: xxvii-xlvi. Mazza 2003: 412-20 discusses the terms of the peace of 363, concluding that the Romans did indeed agree to pay an annual tribute to the Persians (despite the evidence to be found in REF).

p.21: Ammianus XXVII.12.3. On the prison at Agabana in which Arsaces was imprisoned, see Traina and Ciancaglini 2002. Ammianus' reference to silver chains is probably the misunderstanding of an Armenian term, he argues (p.409). See also Mazza 2003: 427-37 on events in Armenia at this time.

p.23: for detail on the chronology here see Lenski 2007: 102-4. Pap's five months in Lazica were in late 369 probably, before he was restored by Arintheus in spring 370.

p.24: Lenski 2007: 104 dates Sauromaces' restoration to summer 370.

p.26-8: The chronology of 2007: 116-22 should now be followed, although for this period it differs little from that we present (but see above on his redating of Mavia's revolt). Lenski 2007: 118-19 well brings out Valens' problems in 377, when he realised that intervention in the Balkans would be necessary; hence he could do little to prevent the deterioration of the situation in Armenia.

p.27 and p.254 n.40: see also Hewsen 1992: map XIII (p.61A) and p.154 on Asthianene and Belabitene, the two districts in question.

Chapter 3

p.31-3: On the rapprochement of 399 and the issue of Antiochus see Mazza 2004: 41-8. Heil 2006: 170-4 categorically rejects the episode, while Boerm 2007: 310-11, is somewhat less sceptical. See Greatrex 2008 (forthcoming). See also Winter and Dignas 2007: 94-7, 220-5.

p.34, concerning the good relations between Rome and Persia in the early fifth century. A possible reflection of this situation may be found in floor mosaics from Antioch, cf. A. Gonosova in Kondoleon 2000: 130-3. The representation of a lion dating from the early fifth century at Antioch seems to owe much to Sasanian influence: a ribbon around the neck of the lion has been identified with a Sasanian royal symbol. It is uncertain, however, to what extent the presence of such Sasanian motifs, also found in later periods when relations were much worse, may be seen as evidence for cultural contacts or influence. See also Winter and Dignas 2007: 242-65 on the cultural influences each side had on the other, cf. Balty 2006 (on third-century Persian mosaics) and Boerm 2007: 276-96.

pp.35-6, concerning the Life of Alexander Akoimetos. See also Kowalski 1997: 47-8 on this work, who offers a translation into English of ch.35.

pp.38-42, on the war of 421-2, and pp.44-5, the war of 440. Greatrex 1993 is now available on line here in pdf format. See also Mazza 2004, 48-56, and Schuol 2005, who argues that Socrates devotes so much space to the war not only because he wished to highlight the piety of Theodosius' court and the victories it brought, but also because he was aware of the importance for the history of Christianity of the developments in Persia, which led ultimately to the establishment of a separate church.

p.43, on this piece of legislation see also Mazza 2004: 57.

p.44, on the war of 440 see also Mazza 2004: 58-9; he places it rather in 441.

p.46, 7 lines up, read 'Narses' for 'Narsai'.

p.47, on Arab raids, c.474, see Ivanov 2005 who finds allusions in a Slavonic version of the Life of Aninas to Arab raids around this time, although the chronology is not precise and could refer to those of the 480s.

p.48, on Persia's wars with the Hephthalites. Nokandeh et al. 2006 offers a detailed examination of the Sasanian walls to the east of the Caspian Sea, which were probably constructed under Peroz. The 'Wall of Tammishe', on the other hand, running south from the Caspian Sea, to the west of the great wall of Gorgan (running eastwards from the Caspian Sea), faced west (p.152, 162), implying that it was more probably directed against invaders from the Caucasus heading south and east, presumably having penetrated the Derbent (and Dariel) passes.

p.48, the letters of Barsauma: I omitted Barsauma from the bibliography of primary sources. His letters are to be found at the end of the Synodicon Orientale, which is in the bibliography.

p.56, on the war with Gobazes, see Mazza 2004: 71-2. Rance 2016 has found a new fragment of Priscus concerning the war between the Romans and the Lazi.

p.61, 7 lines up, read 'Mazdakites' for 'Mazakites'.

p.57, on the fragment of Priscus, see Carolla 2013, a useful discussion on religious minorities in the two empires and Leo's eastern policies.

Chapter 5

p.62-74, on the Anastasian War, see now Haarer 2006: 52-67, for a recent account. Severus' Hymns 265-7 in PO 7 (1911), 713-15 (tr. Brooks) were written 'on the war made by the Persians' and clearly imply that it was not going well for the Romans. They may therefore refer to the opening of the Anastasian war.

p.74-7, on the fortification programme following the Anastasian War and the construcution of Dara, see Haarer 2006: 65-70; also, on Dara, see Brands 2004.

p.77, 506-518: Haarer 2006: 70-2.

p.78, on the Sabir raid of 515. Severus' Hymns 263-4 in PO 7 (1911), 263-4, were written 'on the war waged in Cappadocia by the Huns', clearly referring to this raid (tr. Brooks).

p.81, line 11: for 'negotations' read 'negotiations'

Chapter 6

p.85: On the strengthening of Palmyra's defences, see Kowalski 1997: 50-2, translating the relevant material. More on the transformation of the existing city into a Justinianic fortress may be found in Baranski 1994: 14-15.

p.88: On the role of al-Harith and the Ghassanids in frontier defence generally see also Parker 2000: 380-4, Liebeschuetz 2006 (on relations with nomads in general).

p.99: On the deterioration of defences, see Parker 2000: 381-2, who finds numismatic confirmation of Procopius' assertions about the stopping of the pay of the limitanei in Jordan.

Chapter 7

p.102, line 4 of the translation from Tabari. Insert 'and' between 'Khalid ibn Jabala,' and 'a man of Lakhm'.

p.113, the dating of the Persian attack on Edessa. We followed Kislinger and Stathakopoulos on this, but Meier 2003: 320 n.84, takes issue with their redating of this event on the grounds that it backs too many events (e.g. negotiations) into a short period of time.

Chapter 9

p.123, on Yazdgushnasp/Zikh, see also Diebler 1995: 199-200.

p.124-8, the translation from De Caeremoniis I.89-90. A French translation is to be found in Diebler 1995: 211-16.

p.125: on the praetorian prefect Constantine mentioned, see Diebler 1995: 212 n.157 for some possibilities.

p.128: Diebler 1995: 216 offers an interesting extract (in translation) from the Shahnameh detailing the reception of embassies at the Persian court, which he argues (207-8) probably comes from a similar period to Peter's account.

Chapter 10

p.136-7. See also Harmatta 2000, 250-1, on the Turkic overthrow of the Hephthalite empire and contacts between the Romans and Turks.

Chapter 11

p.151, n.4, on major and minor embassies. For a detailed analysis of these different types of embassies (and other ones), see Diebler 1995: 190-7.

Chapter 12

For an interesting discussion of Romano-Persian relations in the reign of Maurice see McCotter 2003 (with much on Maurice's Strategikon).

p.167 and n.4, p.170: on the Prison of Oblivion, where Golinduch was imprisoned, see Traina 2004. The Qadishaye are not to be identified with the Caucasian Cadusii, however, contra Traina, p.402, cf. Greatrex 1998, 77 and n.18. See also Traina and C. Ciancaglini 2002 and Boerm 2007: 216-17 on the Prison of Oblivion.

p.172: The fall of Hormizd IV and the accession of Khusro II. Tyler-Smith 2004 examines the Sasanian numismatic evidence in detail for the events of early 590 and concludes that Higgins' chronology, which we adopted in the book, is incorrect. It is more likely that Khusro II was crowned in late June or July 590 (not February): see esp.36-9, 47-8. Bahram would then have crowned himself in August. Maurice would not then have hesitated so long as we thought before deciding to support Khusro.

p.174-5: Shahid 2004 offers heavy criticism of Maurice's support of Khusro and of the terms of the boundary changes agreed between the two rulers. He argues, 231-6, that Maurice took too much, thus humiliating the Persians and threatening their security. On the other hand, it must be remembered that the Persians had acquired four fifths of Armenia in the partition of 387 (see chapter 2).

p.173, n.42 (at p.293): On this Maria see Panaino 2006, 228, 231-3, who seems prepared to accept that she was Maurice's daughter, or at least a Roman, although the former is, as we note, unlikely.

p.179: On Roman attitudes to Persia at the end of the sixth century and in the early seventh century see Carile 2000, 191-2 (taking into account the Strategikon, but also bringing other sources to bear).

Chapters 13-14

There has been much recent work on the reign of Heraclius which was not available at the time of the publication of REF. Kaegi 2003: chapters 2-5 offer a narrative account of the relevant parts of Heraclius' reign, including some useful maps and plans. For a detailed assessment of Kaegi's work, see Greatrex 2004. Several contributions in Reinink and Stolte 2002 deserve mention. On sources (discussed in REF, 182-3, 198) see now Howard-Johnston 2002 (on Pseudo-Sebeos and Movses Daskhurantsi) and Watt 2002 (on the Syriac sources). M. Whitby 2002 discusses George of Pisidia. There is some discussion of Jews in Jerusalem and the capture of the city by the Persians (REF, 190-3) in van Bekkum 2002: 103-6. See also van Ginkel 2002 on hagiographical sources like the Life of Theodore of Sykeon and Trombley 2002 on warfare in this period.

Concerning sources (ch.13, p.182-3), Altheim-Stiehl 1995 offers a positive assessment of the worth of the Chr. 724, as against later sources such as Michael the Syrian and Chr. 1234; she notes how the former gets the date of the siege of Jerusalem in 614 right (REF, 190-3), unlike the later chronicles, which date it to the sixth year of Heraclius' reign (i.e. 615-16).

p.183: the reasons for the outbreak of war are discussed by Shahid 2004, esp. 226-8. He argues that ideological considerations were important, esp. the recreation of the Achaemenid empire (discussed in further detail, 238-43). Reminiscences of the earlier glory of the Achaemenids may have played a part, but Shahid is on firmer ground in seeing Maurice's peace of 591 as contributing to the renewal of conflict; it had been a humiliating occasion for the Persians, even if its terms were not as harsh as he suggests.

pp.186-7: Ep.18, from the Iberian patriarch Kiwrion to the Armenian catholicos Abraham, makes the following statement (tr. Greenwood 2010, 27): 'And the king of kings (i.e. the Sasanian king Khusro II) is lord of the Romans as much as the land of the Aryans, and they are not, as you have written, two distinct kingdoms'. French tr. in Garso´an 1999, 551. The implication is that Khusro already claims to rule the Roman empire by this point.

Greatrex 2003 enters into more detail concerning Khusro II's relations with the Christians of his kingdom (relevant also to the Khuzistan Chronicle, translated in REF, ch.15).

p.190, on the fall of Jerusalem, see also Sivan 2004, who dates the Persian expulsion of the Jews from the city to 618 (p.91). Stoyanov 2011, ch.1, is an important analysis; see also Patrich 2011, 208-9, which deals with the impact of the Persian conquest at Jerusalem and the surrounding monasteries, e.g. that of Martyrius, where a coin hoard testifies to its abandonment c.614. Ben-Ami, Tchekhanovets and Bijovsky 2010 discuss a gold coin hoard (the Giv'ati hoard) recently found in Jerusalem, which provides evidence both of destruction during the Persian occupation and of the presence of a Roman mint in the city in the run-up to its fall. For justified scepticism of some accounts of Jewish involvement in support of the Persians see Cameron 2002, 60-5.

p.194-5. For a detailed analysis of the letter from the Senate to Khusro see Kalogeras 2004.

p.197, on Khusro's take-over of the Near East. An account by Cyriacus of Amida about the relics of Jacob Baradaeus in PO19 (1925), following John of Ephesus' Lives of the Eastern Saints, describes (p.269-71) how Khusro took over the region east of the Euphrates and how he appointed orthodox (i.e. anti-Chalcedonian) bishops at the prompting of Shirin in Amida, Edessa, Resaina and Constantia. Bishop Mar Zakkai sent four men and two clergy to Casium to recover Jacob's relics in year 933 (= 621/2). Heraclius subsequently recaptured the entire region.

p.200-2. On the effectiveness of Roman diplomatic activity in the Transcaucasus see Howard-Johnston 2004.

p.205. Szadeczky-Kardoss 2000 investigates in detail relations between the Persians and the Avars in connection with the siege of 626, though failing to take into account some recent important treatments of the episode (e.g. Howard-Johnston 1995).

Chapter 14

p.204 and n.38: Seibt 2007 discusses this passage of Theophanes in detail. He proposes a different route for Heraclius (cf. Zuckerman 2002), proposing that the emperor went first to Agdam, then south of today's Armenia to Nakhchewan, thus leaving the Terter valley. It seemed thus to the Persian generals that he was withdrawing westwards towards Roman territory. The reference to the Huns (text to n.38) is an error for the Armenian district of 'Apahunik' mentioned by Sebeos, he suggests; he also (text to n.40) suggests that the reference to the mysterious Salbanon might be a corruption of Albania, since Cedrenus (I, 724.18) refers to khorion Alban˘n.

p.219-20: on the coup against Khusro and the various sources see Howard-Johnston 2004, 108-12.

Chapter 15

A new English translation of the whole Khuzistan Chronicle was published in 2016 by Nasir al-Ka'bi (Piscataway, NJ). See the Gorgias press website for details; why the author claims (pp.xviii-xix) that our commentary is based on N÷ldeke's German one is unclear to me.

p.229 n.10, the vision of Sabrisho which appeared to Khusro II. Hutter 1998: 376 n.15 rightly prefers the version of Chr. Seert, which places this episode during Khusro's war against Bestam.

p.230, n.21 on p.315: the cross-reference should be to p.293 n.42 (not n.41).

p.233, 2nd paragraph. According to Chr. Seert, PO 12 (1919), p.524, this Mar Aba led a diplomatic mission to Constantinople. Diebler 1995: 204 places this mission in 588, claiming to derive the date from Sako 1983. Sako, however, p.114, places it around 599, and suggests that it was an effort to assuage Maurice following the repression of the revolt at Nisibis.

p.235, on the condition of Jews in Jerusalem after its capture in 614, see Cameron 2002, 64, discussing this passage.

Chapter 16

p.242: On Flavius Platanius Serenianus, vir perfectissimus, dux Orientis... See Kowalski 1997: 46-7 for a recent consideration of this inscription, attributing it to the fourth century (which seems more probable than the sixth).

p.244: On IGLS 288 = AAES 318 from Anasartha see Bowersock 2002, who dates the inscription definitively to 579; he also offers an interesting analysis of the position of Anasartha in the period. The emperors commemorated would be Justin II and Tiberius (or possibly the latter and his wife). An emendation proposed by C.P. Jones would give the name of the commander referred to as Magnus (cf. p.149). The reference to 'gates' could be to the nave of a church, Bowersock also notes.


For Aba, see Mar Aba. Note that the index should distinguish between two people named Mar Aba, the catholicos under Khusro I, and the head of the Persian church under Khusro II. The first reference is to the former, the second to the latter; he is also mentioned at p.233.

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