Ars Bellica

Battles In Brief

Battle of Ninive

12 December 627

The opponents

Heràclius I emperor of east (575 -641)

Son of Heraclius exarc of Africa, was a skilled general, he dethroned the tyrannical Seal (610), immediately devoting himself to the persian problem: after 16 years of victories and skilled retreats, it imposed to the Sasanidis (628) a peace that he forced them to retire from the territories conquered after the 604. It favored the monotelismo to give to the empire, reunified militarily, a firmer religious unity.

When his father in 608 rebelled him against Seal, Heraclius moved toward Constantinople where killed the tyrant and he was crowned emperor the 5 ott. 610 from the patriarch Sergio. Between 612 and 617 it conducted three unlucky consignments against the Persianis that had ransacked Jerusalem; taken back the offensive in 622, it conducted in admirable way: made an accord with the Misers, new allies of the Persianis, it passed (623) through the Cappadocia and Armenia in territory persiano, winning Cosroe. He had still limited successes in 624 and in 625, in an alternate story of progress and skilled retreats; but in July of 626 suddenly owed reenter to Constantinople besieged by the Misers that they had broken the peace. It harshly defeated them, and taken back the country in the Average, where near the ruins of Niniveh it beat the Persianis, imposing (628) to the successor of Cosroe, Kavadh II Shiroe, a hard peace that forced him to the withdrawal from all the busy territories after the 604. Reentered to Constantinople, he wanted to favor the monotelism contrived by the patriarchs Sergio of Constantinople and Ciro in Alexandria to grant the monofisitis with the orthodox ones. In 634-6366 owed face the invasion of the Arabs that occupied Syria and therefore Egypt, where Alexandria was busy the same year of the death of Heraclius. With Heraclius I begins the eracliana dynasty, that reigned in Bisanzio up to the 711.


Rhahzadh, originally Roch Vehan, known in the Byzantine sources as Rhazate, has been a persian general of Armenian origin lived under the rerno sasanide of Cosroe II. While the war that was initiated in 602 between Sasanids and the Byzantine empire was near to its 25th year, the Byzantine emperor Heraclius was protagonist of an audacious movement. Just the 627 country was concluded, Heraclius picked up his heterogeneous army, composed of Göktürks and Romans, and invaded the heart of the Persia to the beginning of September. The news threw Cosroe in the panic. After so many years of war, his army was exhausted and his two more important general were not more available; Shahin was dead and Shahrbaraz was absent in Egypt, fearing that Cosroe wanted him dead. Accordingly, Cosroe picked up an army and named as his commander Rhahzadh, a noble and brave warrior.

Rhahzadh immediately moved the same army, so that to cut the road to Heraclius and to prevent to reach him Ctesifonte, the capital shutter. Heraclius continued the march, burning and ransacking anywhere it went. The same Byzantine general finally crossed the Great river Zab camping and preventing so to Rhahzadh to cross the same bridge if not through the clash. The same general decided to momentarily avoid the battle and definite to ford the river more to valley. When Heraclius was informed about this movement he took part of his army under Baanes to attach Rhahzadh. In the skirmish that followed the Romans killed and captured many persians, among which the personal assistant of Rhahzadh. From him Heraclius learned that Rhahzadh attended around a further reinforcement from 3000 warriors. The Byzantine general taken seriously in consideration this further turn in his country, especially in consideration of the fact that the army he was seriously already weakening for the desertions of the Turkish contingent: the reinforcements that he would eventually have had available could make this way to decidedly hang the balance for the persians. This way, December 12 th 627, near Niniveh, Heraclius began to line up his army in a lowland attending the arrival of Rhahzadh. The persian general, didn't consider the accuracy of the Byzantine disposition and moved his own troops to face the Greek. His army threw in three divisions similar to phalanxes, and he advanced toward Heraclius. To the peak of the battle Rhahzadh suddenly challenged Heraclius to duel with the hope of forcing the Romans to run away. His choice however it showed him too hazardous: it died in that same duel and with his life they ended the hopes of victory of the army persians at Niniveh and in the whole Byzantine-sasanid war.

The genesis

Besides to always face the pressing actions of some Slavic populations in his own northern confinements, the Roman empire of east, or Byzantine, was also encharged of one of the challenges never closed by its predecessor: the conflict in east with the persians. The wars, by now secular, against the empire, first partic and now sasanid developed during the centuries, and they were closed only with the war 602-628 Roman-shutter, fought really against the persians of the Sasanid dynasty. The preceding war was concluded in 591 following the military intervention of Maurice against the usurper sasanide Bahram Chobin to restore the legitimate king sasanide Cosroe II on the throne. In 602, Maurice was murdered by a revolt of the army that he elected emperor the trace Seal. The murder of its benefactor furnished the pretext to declare war to Seal to Cosroe, with the justification to have to avenge the murder of Maurice. The war lasted three decades, and it involved big part of the Middle East besides the Tracia: the involved zones were particularly Egypt, the Mesopotamia, the Caucaso, the Anatolia, and even the outskirts of same Constantinople.

If in the first phase of the conflict (from 602 to the 622) the Persians achieved important successes, occupying without great difficulties Syria, Palestine, Egypt and some regions of the Anatolia, the ascent to the Byzantine throne of Heraclius in 610 it brought at the end to the defeat shutter, despite the initial successes of Cosroe II. The countries of Heraclius conducted in persian territory from 622 to 626 altered the equilibrium, forcing the Persians on the defensive and allowing the Byzantines to regain terrestrial space. Once joined him the Avars, the Persians made a last attempt to conquer Constantinople in 626, but they failed in the enterprise.

While the siege of Constantinople was still in progress, Heraclius tightened an alliance with the Kazaris, promising the hand of his daughter Eudossia Epifania to their khan Ziebel, forming so an army of 70.000 men among Byzantine and their allies. The sasanid empire was by now in difficulty; the last chance (the siege of Constantinople) had not worked and the Persia had now to fight two enemies because of the entrance in war of the same Kazaris.

In the 627 spring the 'Augustus' one launched his last campaign against the Persians. The Kazaris in the Caucaso had sent him 40.000 of their soldiers as reinforcements, invading in 626 the persian empire and marking the beginning of the Third persian-Turkish war. The operations coordinated between Byzantines and Göktürk assembled him on the siege of Tiflis, where the Byzantines used traction catapults to create breaches among the boundaries, one of the first known uses of this weapon among the Byzantines. Cosroe sent 1.000 knights to strengthen the defense of the city, but despite everything it fell in hands kazare in the 628. Ziebel nevertheless it perished at the end of that same year freeing Epiphany from the perspective of a marriage with a Barbarian. Toward halves September of 627, Heraclius left Ziebel to continue the siege of Tiflis deciding to invade the heart of the empire persiano in an amazing winter country. His/her army understood among the 25.000 and the 50.000 Byzantine soldiers, to which must be added 40.000 Göktürks that, nevertheless, intimidated by the arrival in the winter and by the constant attacks of the Persians, they decided to destroy returning in their country.

Heraclius quickly advanced however, but he was tailed by an persian army conducted by the Armenian Rhahzadh, that he met difficulty to supply his army because of the Byzantine requisitions of provisionings during their advance to south toward the Assiria. Heraclius in the meantime was completing a series of lootings and massacres (a way to take revenge some lootings completed by the Persians) and from 9 to October 15 it stopped him in the earth of Chamaetha, where it let to rest his troops. On December 1 627 Heraclius reached the Great river Zab, it crossed it and reached Niniveh.

The battle

Heraclius had found, in the lowland to west of the Great river Zab, to a certain distance from the ruins of Niniveh, a perfect site in which to give battle. The conformation of the lowland allowed the Byzantines to be able to take advantage of their points of strength, that is lances and fight body body. Besides, a providential fog reduced the persian offensive potential, whose archers and javeliners could not prevent the Byzantines, under those conditions, to load to full regime without suffering important losses.

Rhahzadh decided to divide his strengths in three parts and attacked. Heraclius, imitating that that will be the technique prince of the future enemies of Byzantium, the Arabs, it effected a feint retreat to conduct the Persians to the lowlands before reversing the sense of march of his troops taking completely of surprise the Persians. After eight hours of fight, the Persians, suddenly, considering that a true crash of the was not verified yet really army, decided to retire, and to run away in the outskirts of the same lowland. In reality, the escape shutter was justified from a decisive event that was verified a little before. To the peak of the battle Rhahzadh suddenly challenged Heraclius to singolar tenzone with the hope of forcing the Romans to run away. Heraclius has accepted the challenge and it spurred the horse in before and with an only hit has struck the head of Rhahzadh, taking as trophies from the dead body of the persian general the shield and the caress formed from of 120 gold tables. With the death of Rhahzadh the hopes of victory of the Persianis perished: seeing their brave commander and many other officers of tall rank to be killed by Heraclius and by his troops, the soldiers persianis decided to give him to the escape. But this escape not him traformò in a defeat. The Byzantines, also considering the strong position in which they were found, the pursuit they were not given to even after being him insureds the total dominion of the battleground, with some losses soconosciute but surely least. The persianis left near Niniva at least 6000 fighters, among which the them same general Rhahzadh. At the end of the day, almost as a prank, the arrived even 3.000 men of reinforcement to the persianis, but by now it was to be able to do the difference in the battle of Niniveh too late.

The aftermath

The victory of Niniveh was not total, considering that the Byzantines were not neither able to capture the field persiano, neither to exterminate its army. Nevertheless, this victory was meaningful because it destroyed the hopes of resistance of the Persians. With any persian army remained to oppose to him, Heraclius with his/her victorious army Dastagird ransacked, the building of Cosroe earning enormous wealths, besides the recovery of 300 standards Roman / Byzantine lost during the seculars clashes with the persianis. Cosroe, in the meantime on the mountains of Susiana was already run away for trying to get helps for the defense of Ctesifonte. But Heraclius could not attach the same city since the Channel of Nahrawan was stopped by the collapse of a bridge.

The persian army rebelled him and Cosroe II upset, bringing his child to the power as Kavadh II. Cosroe perished in an underground after having suffered for four days, naked, the hunger. It seems that he was killed, slowly, with the throwing of arrows on to end some fifth day. Kavadh was immediately activated for the peace sending an offer ready to Heraclius. Heraclius didn't impose difficult conditions for the persianis, knowing that its empire was also to exhaust it. In base to the essay of peace, the Byzantines regained all of their lost territories, their captured soldiers, an indemnity of war, and as symbol, from the great spiritual meaning, the Vera Croce and other relics that had been lost to Jerusalem in the 614. The battle marked so the end of the Roman-Sasanid wars.