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Heraclius' Persian Campaigns and the Revival of the East Roman Empire, 622-630
James Howard-Johnston War In History 1999 6: 1 DOI: 10.1177/096834459900600101 The online version of this article can be found at: http://wih.sagepub.com/content/6/1/1.citation

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Heraclius Persian Campaigns and the Revival of the East Roman Empire, 622-630
James Howard-Johnston
The East Roman empire seemed doomed to destruction in the winter of 621/2.1 From the outbreak of war in 603, the armies of the Sasanian Shah Khusro II had advanced slowly but remorselessly into the heavily defended frontier provinces south and north of the Taurus.2 By the winter of 609/10 they had broken down the Romans' elaborate system of defence-in-depth and stood on the banks of the Euphrates. They breached this innermost line of defence and penetrated into Syria in 610.3 In the north they did likewise a year later, thrusting deep into Anatolia, where they seized Caesarea in Cappadocia.' The new emperor Heraclius flung all his forces into a final, desperate bid to halt the Persian advance. He expelled them from Anatolia in 612 but was then decisively defeated outside Antioch in 613.V Thereafter the
Sources are cited in translation wherever possible. Page or chapter references given by the translator will guide the reader to the relevant passage in the original text. The series Translated Texts for Historians (cited henceforth as TTH) may be singled out for the range of texts made available to a wide readership and the quality of the accompanying commentanies. 2 Fullest coverage of the early phbases of the war is to be found in a seventh century Armenian history formerly attributed to Sebeos (trans F. Macler, Hitoire d Hrkraclius par 1leAveque Lios (Paris, 1904), pp. 56-63; a new English translation by R.W. Thomson is in preparation for TTH); there is supplementary material in the Syriac CAronicle to the Year 724 and CAronicle to the Year 1234 (trans. A. Palmer, in The Seventh Centuy in the West-Syrian CAronicles, TTH 15 (Liverpool, 1993), pp. 17-18, 119-43). The only recent works on this last great war of antiquity are A.N. Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Centuwy i: 602-634 (Amsterdam, 1968), a compendium of surviving source material and secondary authorities, which does not subject the primary sources to the rigorous critical scrutiny which they demand, and B. Flusin, Saint Anastase le Perse et histoire de la Paestine am dut du WY sitcle ii: Commentaiw (Paris, 1992), an account focused on the life of a seventh-century Don Quixote (ed. and trans. in vol. I, Les texes (Paris, 1992), pp. 40-91). 3 CAronicle to 724, p. 17; CAronicle to 1234, p. 127 (and related texts cited in n. 287). 4 Sebeos, pp. 63-4; Vie de Thodore de Syke6n, trans. A.-J. Festugiere (Brussels, 1970) ii, p. 129. 5 Anatolia: Sebeos, p. 65; Vie de Thodore, pp. 123-4; Nicephorus, Beviarium, ed. and trans. C. Mango, NiNphoros Patarch of Comtantinople Short Htory, Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 13 (Washington, DC, 1990), pp. 37-41. Antioch: Sebeos, p. 67.

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Persians encountered only limited local resistance as they set about occupying the rich Roman provinces of the Near East which were now cut off from the organizing centre of the empire except by sea. Syria and Palestine were rapidly overrun in the course of the following four years, which also saw two devastating Persian invasions of Asia Minor.6 Then it was the turn of Egypt to face the massed armies of Khusro. The provincial capital, Alexandria, fell in 619 and subsequent mopping-up operations consolidated the Persian hold on the province by the end of 621.7 Khusro had taken the decision to liquidate the Roman empire some time before - probably as early as the winter of 615/16, when he decided to ignore a grovelling letter, pleading for peace, from the Senate and interned the ambassadors who brought it.8 He now prepared for the final phase of this last war between the great powers of the ancient world - the invasion and conquest of Anatolia. The attack began in the spring of 622. It is hard to discern the exact sequence of operations from the wordy and opaque poem of George of Pisidia which is our main source of information.9 George seems to have been an eyewitness of the opening operations (and the exercises which preceded them), but, as a churchman only temporarily seconded to the emperor's staff, he did not understand everything he saw. His determination to make the most of whatever successes were achieved hangs an extra veil of obscurity over his description of events.10 But the following seems to be a plausible reconstruction.11
6

Syria and Palestine: Sebeos, pp. 68-70; CAronicle to 724, p. 17; Strategius, Capture of JerusaleTg trans. C. Garitte, La prise dejtusalem par les Perses en 614, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 203 (Louvain, 1960), pp. 4-22; Khuzistan CAronicg trans. T. N6ldeke, 'Die von Guidi herausgegebene syrische Chronik', SitzungsbeTichte derphiL.-hist. Classe der kaiserlichen Ak. Wiss. CXXVIII (9) (Vienna,

1893), pp. 247; CAronicle to 1234, p. 128 (and related texts cited in nn. 287 and 289); Isidore of Seville, CAronicle, ed. T. Mommsen, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 11 .2 (Berlin, 1894), pp. 478-9. Asia Minor: CAronicon Paschale 284-628 AD, trans. M. and M. Whitby, TTH 7 (Liverpool, 1989), pp. 159-60; Sebeos, pp. 65-7, 77-9; We et passion de Saint Anaste, pp. 46-8. 7 CAronicle to 724, pp. 17-18; Khuzistan CAronicl pp. 25-6; B. Evetts, ed. and trans., History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic CAurch of Alexandria ii: Peter I to Benjamin 1 (661), Patrologia Orientalis, 1(4) (Paris, 1905), pp. 484-6; H. Delehaye, ed., lUne vie in6dite de Saint Jean lAumdnier', Analecta Bollandiana XLV (1927), p. 25. The advance of the Persians threatened Constantinople's chief source of grain, prompting the authorities to suspend the traditional free distribution of bread in August 618 (CAronicon Paschale, p. 164).
8 9

Letter: Chronicon Paschale, pp. 160-62. Ambassadors' fate: Nicephonus, pp. 47, 49, 63. ETpeditio Persica, ed. and trans., A. Pertusi, in Giorgio di Pisidia, Poemri i: Panegirici epici, Studia Patristica et Byzantina 7 (Ettal, 1959), pp. 84-136. An English translation of

this and George's other secular poems, by Mary Whitby, is in preparation for TTH. 1 N. Oikonomides, A Chronological Note on the First Persian Campaign of Heraclius (622)', Byzantine and Modem Grk Studies I (1975), pp. 1-9, warns us, quite rightly, against being misled by the pompous and grandiloquent style of the poet into supposing that the successes achieved were of great military significance. l My reconstruction differs in certain particulars from that of Oikonomid&s, 'Chronological Note': (i) the military exercises, which were (as Oikonomides argues) the main activity on the Roman side in 622, are placed in Bithynia, not near Caesarea of Cappadocia; (ii) a phrase about the moon's eclipse is taken figuratively War in History 1999 6 (1)
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The Persians attacked in the north, probably using the Romans' long-established support road which led west from Theodosiopolis and skirted the northern edge of the Anatolian plateau.12 They advanced to the north-west corner of the plateau, and there sealed off the routes leading from Bithynia, where the Romans were holding military exercises. Although Heraclius and his troops managed to break through the enemy cordon and won a victory of considerable psychological importance, the position of the Roman empire was even more parlous at the end of the campaigning season than it had been at the start because of events in the west. For a crisis there now required the emperor's personal attention. Evidently it involved the Avars, who had established an empire in eastern Europe, centred on the Hungarian plain. Heraclius left his forces in Anatolia in mid-campaign, probably in August, and hastened back to Constantinople.13 The end was evidently very near. Khusro was on the point of eliminating Persia's old rival in the sedentary world at the western end of Eurasia. Six-and-a-half centuries of Roman rule in the eastern Mediterranean and its hinterlands were drawing rapidly to a close. The future would be Persian, with Egypt and Anatolia forming two great western bastions from which the Sasanian empire would able to dominate the whole Mediterranean. There was an extraordinary reversal of fortunes over the following
rather than literally (following C. Zuckerman, 'The Reign of Constantine V in the Miracles of St. Theodore the Recruit (BHG 1764)', Revue des Jtudes Byzantines XLVI (1988), pp. 209-10), with the consequential loss of the single specific date extracted by Oikonomides from the poem. The latter difference of interpretation introduces a greater measure of chronological uncertainty, but no substantive disagreement there is no doubt but that Heraclius left the field army in mid-campaign, and Oikonomid&s' dating of this to early August seems reasonable. The first disagreement, over the location of the Roman exercises, is more important, since it affects the strategic appreciation of the campaign. It arises from a different evaluation of a long notice, based on George of Pisidia's poem, in Theophanes, CAronographia, trans C. Mango and R. Scott, The CAronicle of TheopAanes Confessor (Oxford, 1997), pp. 436-8: whereas Oikonomides is prepared to accept a number of passages which do not correlate with the poem as long as they are not contradicted by other evidence, I take a stener line and will not accept such items without positive corroboration. Not only is there no corroboration to hand in this case, there is also indirect evidence against accepting the view that Cappadocia was the scene of the exercises. George of Pisidia's silence about a march from Pylae, the Bithynian port where Heraclius landed, deep into the interior of Asia Minor provides, it seems to me, irrefutable evidence in support of the common-sense view that Heraclius would have mobilized and exercised his forces in Bithynia, which was relatively secure and conveniently close to Constantinople. 12 ETpeditio Persica ii.2567 puts the Persian winter quarters in the region of the Pontus. The army which advanced towards Bithynia surely took the most direct and easiest route available, which was the northern support road (on which see D.H. French, 'The Roman Road-System of Asia Minor' and T.B. Mitford 'Cappadocia and Armenia Minor: Historical Setting of the Limes', in H. Temporini and W. Haase, eds, Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt ii, 6ii, 2 (Berlin and New York, 1980), pp. 707-l 1, l 183-5). Exped to Pers ca III, 305-40 for Heraclius' sudden departure. M. Whitby, The Emperor Mafrice and His Historian (Oxford, 1988), pp. 84-9, 169-74, 184-91 for the establishment and expansion of the Avar empire.

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six years. Let us jump to 12 December 627. Heraclius has marched south across the Zagros mountains. On that day he defeats a Persian army near Nineveh, then advances, virtually unopposed, down the left bank of the Tigris, towards Ctesiphon, the Sasanian capital, gathering vast quantities of booty from Khusro's abandoned palaces on the way. By 10 January he is well within the metropolitan area. He halts 12 miles from the Nahrawan canal, which arcs out from the the Tigris and shields Ctesiphon and the paired city of Veh Ardashir on the opposite bank of the Tigris. All available Persian forces have been mobilized and deployed to hold the canal. The bridges over it have been cut.14 Heraclius now decides to pursue an indirect strategy. He turns away and marches north towards Shahrizur at the head of the Diyala valley. He ravages the close-packed towns and prosperous countryside of the Diyala plains, causing immense damage to an important component of the irrigated and intensively cultivated hinterland on which Ctesiphon-Veh Ardashir depends for its food supplies.15 The menacing presence of the Roman army, within easy striking distance of the capital, and the extension week by week of the swathe of destruction, deals a death-blow to Khusro's regime. Disaffected elements in court and army are approached by his eldest son, KavadShiroe, who fears being supplanted as heir apparent. They agree to cooperate. A six-man delegation, led by a certain Gousdanaspa Razei,

448-53; Sebeos, pp. 83-4; Thomas Artsni, History of the Home of the Artsrtnik trans. R.W. Thomson (Detroit, 1985), pp. 160-61; Moses Daskhurantsi, trans. CJ.F. Dowsett, The History of the Caucasian Albanians by Movscs Dasxuranci, London Oriental Series 8 (London, 1961), pp. 88-9; Khuzistan CAronicle, p. 28; Seert CAronicle, trans. A. Scher, Histoire Nestorienne (CAronique de Liert) ii, Patrologia Orientalis 13 (4) (Paris, 1919), pp. 541-2; T. N6ldeke, CtschicAte der Perer und Araber zur Zit der Sasaniden am der arabischen CAronik des Tabari (Leiden, 1 879), pp. 294-6 (cited henceforth as Tabari); and CAronicle to 1234, pp. 137-8 (and related eastern texts cited in n. 316). The Nahrawan canal, the largest single infrastructure project undertaken by the Sasanian state and traditionally associated with Khusro IL completed a programme of agricultural development in the Diyala basin which had been begun in the Seleucid-Parthian period (R. McC. Adams, Land BeAind Baghdad: A Histoyy of Settlemt on the Diyala Plaim (Chicago, 1965), pp. 61-83). 5 Theophanes, p. 453. At this point Theophanes allows his account of events to slip one month forward: he has Heraclius ravage the Diyala countryside and towns for the whole month of February (where his source probably read January). This hbas the effect of pushing subsequent events into March (the arrival of a delegation from opposition elements in Ctesiphon and the fall of Khusro), where they are demonstrably too late (a document reproduced at CAronicon Paschale, p. 183 provides a secure date, 24 February, for the deposition of Khusro). Flusin, Saint Anastase ii, pp. 265-81 accepts the chronology of the saint's life and inserts a month between the start of Heraclius' march south (the crossing of the Lesser Zab, securely dated by Theophanes to 23 December) and its penultimate stage (his arrival at Dastagerd, Khusro's favourite palace,to the south of the Diyala, dated in the Lgfe of St Anastasius to 1 February). This scenario should be rejected, since it makes military nonsense of Heraclius' actions: instead of marching with speed on Ctesiphon, leaving the Persians minimal time to regroup, the victorious Roman army dawdles for a month, well to the north of the metropolitan region; then, after this period of sloth, Heraclius springs into action, speeds south, ravages the Diyala valley, negotiates with the opposition in Ctesiphon, and prepares for his winter march north over the mountains (all in the space of a month).
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is sent to inform Heraclius of what is afoot. The message, which he brings at an unspecified date in February, is encouraging: the conspirators have substantial backing at the highest level (including two sons of the senior general serving in the west, Shahrvaraz) and in the army (22 senior counts are actively involved); if successful, they will forthwith make peace with the Romans; if things go wrong, they will change sides. The delegation then demonstrates the conspirators' commitment to peace by putting themselves at Heraclius' mercy. They tell him that the coup is scheduled for 23 February.16 Heraclius prepares to withdraw north, back over the Zagros, to the town of Ganzak (a short distance to the south-west of Lake Urmia).17 He times his departure to coincide with the putsch and perhaps to distract attention from it. As soon as he knows that it has been launched (from the leader of the original delegation, who returns and stays with the Roman army), he starts the long, dangerous march over the mountains. Snow is already falling and will continue to do so until 30 March. Heraclius is left in suspense about the outcome. It is only a month later, on 24 March, that an official letter reaches him, announcing that Khusro has fallen and that a peace delegation from the new shah is trying to make its way across the Zagros."8 The conspiracy had gone according to plan. The two parties, court and military, linked up on the night of 23/24 February. Political opponents of Khusro and Roman prisoners of war were released. Khusro, alerted at the last moment, slipped into the garden of his palace and hid, but he was soon caught and imprisoned. Kavad-Shiroe was crowned on 25 February, Khusro executed on the 28th.19 So it was that Khusro II, a shah whose achievements outshone those of any of his Sasanian predecessors, was deposed in a virtually bloodless coup. All the prestige which he had accumulated in the previous 20 years of victorious advance was dissipated in the last, climactic phase of the last great war of antiquity.
6 Theophanes, pp. 453-4 gives a detailed but somewhat abbreviated account of this crucial episode. A certain amount of ham-handed editing can be detected: (i) the head of the delegation, named as Gousdanaspa Razei at CAronicon Paschale, p. 186 (on the occasion of his rejoining Heraclius later), is confused with the court magnate who was the chief architect of the conspiracy, Gourdanaspa, retired commander-in-chief of the Persian army (CAronicon Paschale, p. 183); these are conflated into Theophanes' Goundabousan, who is both emissary to Heraclius and leading conspirator; (ii) a sudden surprising shift from the third to the first person as Goundabousan is half-way through delivering his message about Kavad-Shiroe's contacts with the chief conspirator marks the point at which the conflation occurs; (iii) the date of the delegation's arrival has been pushed a month forward into March, as a consequence of the misdating of the devastation of the Diyala plains. 17 K. Schippmann, Die iranischen EeuereiligtieTmer (Berlin and New York, 1971), pp. 346-7 summarizes scholarly opinion on the town's disputed location. 8 Chronicon PascAale pp. 184-7. 9 The most authoritative account is that of op. cit., p. 183, the fullest that of Tabafri, pp. 356-82; see also Sebeos, p. 85, Thomas Artsni, pp. 161-2, Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 90-92, Khuzistan CAronicle, pp. 29-30, Seet CAronicle, p. 551, and CAronicle to 1234, p. 138 (and related eastern texts cited in n. 318).

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This brief account of the events of the winter of 627/8 is based mainly upon the detailed record which Heraclius sent back to his subjects in his victory dispatches. The substance of the ninth-century chronicler Theophanes' narrative about the military operations is derived from one such dispatch, which was sent off on 15 March 628 and covered the period from 17 October 627.20 The full text of another, a chaser sent on 8 April, in which Heraclius reported the successful outcome of the coup and crowed over the deposition and death of his old adversary, is preserved in the Chronzcon Paschale21 There can therefore be little doubt about the extraordinary, near-miraculous sequence of events which was to lead to the restoration of Roman rule in the Near Eastern provinces. How did Heraclius halt the apparently ineluctable advance of the Persian armies? How did he succeed in resuscitating the moribund Roman Empire? How did he manage to leach Khusro II of almost all his prestige and reduce him to a discredited, unpopular and vulnerable figure by February 628? These striking, melodramatic events, which look like the fantasies of a writer of pseudo-historical fiction, cry out for investigation and for some sort of sober explanation. This article is a report on work in progress. The analysis and evaluation of the extant sources has been completed. The more reliable material has been winnowed from the tendentious and semi-legendary, and a narrative for the years 622-30 has been constructed on what ought to be fairly solid foundations. The key results of the historiographical investigation are summarized in section IL an outline narrative of events following in section II. Doubtless modifications will be required when Heraclius' Persian campaigns receive exhaustive coverage in a full-blown history. This is true above all of the set of explanations offered in section III, which is but a first interpretative essay. But I am confident that the main storyline is sound, since it corresponds in essentials to that presented a century ago by Gerland, the first and finest of the scholars who have studied Heraclius' counterstrokes in detail.22
20 Theophanes, pp. 449-54. Heraclius defined the chronological scope of this dispatch and summarized some of its contents in his next, sent on 8 April or a little later (CAronicon Paschale, pp. 184-5). Theophanes skips over the account which the dispatch must have given of Heraclius' march south across the Zagros mountains and only picks up the story from 1 December. He probably drew this documentary material from a revised version of Heraclius' war dispatches which was produced for circulation in the Near East in the 630s (as is argued in the next section). 21 CAronicon PascAle, pp. 182-8. 22 E. Gerland, 'Die persischen Feldzfge des Kaisers Herakleios', Byzantinische Zeitschrft III (1894), pp. 330-73. Failure to follow Gerland's chronology vitiates much in a series of articles written by N.H. Baynes: 'The First Campaign of Heraclius against Persia', EHR, XIX (1904), pp. 694-702, 'The Date of the Avar Surprise', Byzantinische Zeitschnft, XXI (1912), pp. 110-28, 'The Restoration of the Cross atjerusalem', FIER XXVII (1912), pp. 287-99, 'The Military Operations of the Emperor Heraclius', United Service Magazine XLVI (1912-13), pp. 526-33, 659-66, XLVII (1913), pp. 3038, 195-201, 318-24, 401-12, 532-41, 665-79.
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I. Sources
The three main Greek sources for the history of Heraclius' counteroffensive have already been cited. George of Pisidia stood close to the heart of affairs in the 620s. He was a protege of the Patriarch Sergius. His secular poems were evidently intended for a highly educated audience. At least one, the Expeditio Perszca, was commissioned by the emperor who is the subject of most of its fulsome flattery.23 He does not seem to have ventured much outside Constantinople. His only known foray into the field took place in 622. He watched the military manoeuvres held across the Sea of Marmara in Bithynia in 622 and then accompanied Heraclius on the truncated campaign which followed (from end May/beginningJune to the middle of August).24 He describes the manoeuvres and operations in the Expeditio Persica. There is nothing to indicate that he witnessed any of Heraclius' subsequent campaigns at first hand. Since it issurely inconceivable that he would have restrained himself from alluding to his own experience of the hardships and dangers of Heraclius' two great counteroffensive expeditions had he shared them personally, his silence must be taken as incontrovertible evidence that he stayed put in Constantinople. This conclusion is confirmed by two later poems of his, In Bonum Patric'um and Bellum Avavncum, which refer to his presence in the capital when it was besieged by Avars, Slavs and Persians in summer 626.25 The most useful of his poems for the reconstruction of the history of Heraclius' campaigns is the Heraclias. It is, however, relatively short of hard, detailed information about military operations, George's aim being to encompass all the emperor's achievements to date within a single flattering poem. The first two cantos cover his career from his seizure of power in 610 to the opening campaign of the main counteroffensive in 624. The third and final canto is, alas, lost, but probably carried the story on to the achievement of final victory in 628.26 The most valuable section of the extant cantos gives a brief account of Heraclius' 624 campaign.27 This enables us to establish the direction of his march and hence the key features of his strategy that year. Doubtless the lost third book would have provided similarly valuable indi23 Pertusi, Giorgio di Pisidia, pp. 11-16 summarizes the little that is known of George's life and lists his known works. 24 The vivid and episodic character of the poem is best explained if the poet's three claims to eyewitness status (Expeditio Persica, II.122-6, III.131-6, 253-61) are accepted at face value. Mary Whitby takes a different view, in the commentary on her forthcoming translation, arguing that the poet sought to heighten his audience's emotional involvement by conjuring up scenes as a retrospective imagined eyewitness. 25 Giorgio di Pisida, ed. and trans. Pertusi, pp. 163-70, 176-200. 26 Gp. cit., pp. 240-61. Pertusi (pp. 23-7) is surely right to accept the testimony of a scholium on fo. 19T4 of Cod. Vat. Ottob. 342 that the Heraclias had three cantos. However, I see no reason to suppose that there was a gap between the composition of the first two cantos (written in the first flush of victory, in 628) and the third, which Pertusi dates to 630 (p. 29). 27 Heraclias, II. 160-230.

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cations about his movements and the major engagements over the following years. Its loss greatly hampers research. The anonymous author of the Chronzcon Paschalewas a contemporary of George of Pisidia's and, like him, probably served in the offices of the patriarchate in Constantinople. There is no evidence, however, that his work was sponsored by the Patriarch Sergius. The Chronzcon is a universal history, from Creation to the author's own time. The only manuscript has a folio missing at the end (it breaks off in May 628), but originally probably halted at Easter 630.28 The coverage of seventhcentury events in the last section is relatively full, although no attempt is made to provide a continuous narrative. The author is preoccupied with Constantinopolitan affairs, but he widens his net to include a few notices about events elsewhere. The Chronzcon is of inestimable value for two reasons. First, it provides a number of precisely fixed chronological points. From them a framework can be constructed for the political and military history of the period. This can then be used to judge the chronological accuracy of the other extant sources. Second, it reproduces whole documents. Among them are three of great importance which date from the 620s - a report on the Avar siege of Constantinople from 29 July to 8 August 626 (the text of which is unfortunately marred by the presence of a lacuna, covering three whole days and parts of two others), Heraclius' second victory dispatch sent off on 8 April and read out in St Sophia's on Sunday 15 May, and the new Shah Kavadh-Siroe's first letter to Heraclius (the text of which is incomplete).29 The Chronographza of Theophanes, the third important Greek source to have survived, was put together nearly two centuries later, between 810 and 814. Theophanes was inevitably dependent on such written materials as had survived to his day and were accessible to him.30 He knew and used the poems of George of Pisidia, but had great difficulty in making sense of them. He made valiant efforts to extract a clear narrative from the ornate and convoluted language of the Expeditio Perszca but failed comprehensively. His version is full of confusion and unwarranted inferences, which lead him into serious errors. He had access to two chronicles. One may well have been the principal source used by his contemporary Nicephorus in the first part of his Short History, recently identified as a continuation after 610 of the chronicle of John of Antioch.31 The second, of which he made much more extensive use, was a Greek translation of a Syriac chronicle of dubious value. This was composed probably in the middle of the eighth century by Theophilus, a high-flying intellectual from Edessa. It was also the principal source for the early seventh century used by the important west
28 29

30 31 Mango,

Nikephoros, pp. 12-14, noting that the visible Theophanes are very slight.

Chronicon PascAa/e pp. ix-xiv. pp. 182-8. Gp. cit., and 169-81,CAronicle of Theophanes, pp. Iii-Ixiii, lxxiv-xcv. Scott, Mango

points of contact with
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Syrian historian Dionysius of Tell-Mahre in the ninth century, and by Agapius, an Egyptian author writing in Arabic in the tenth century.32 Theophilus' waywardness, especially as regards chronology, wreaks havoc on large parts of Theophanes' Chronographza. The damage is made worse by too much editorial boldness on Theophanes' part. But Theophanes interleaved the garbled passages based on the poems of George of Pisidia and those drawn from the two lost chronicles with material evidently derived from a far higher-grade source. This material is well-ordered and detailed; it istherefore relatively easy to detect and isolate. It is clear and precise: military movements and actions are described lucidly; times and places are specified; important protagonists are carefully identified; captured equipment and other booty are itemized. Material of this sort almost certainly derives ultimately from the dispatches which Heraclius sent back to Constantinople from the various theatres where the expeditionary force was operating. The immediate source, though, seems to have been an official account of the campaigns which was published after the conclusion of the war for circulation inside and outside the empire. George of Pisidia was, I believe, responsible for this re-edition of the emperor's dispatches.33 For the editor did not simply abridge the original documents and add linking passages but set out to embellish them with short poems in place of the digressions and speeches in prose which were essential elements of elegant, classicizing history. These poems are written in the style of George of Pisidia and in the iambic trimeters which he used. The inference that he wrote them has been universally accepted, and the fragments preserved in Theophanes' text are reprinted in the authoritative edition of his works. Since they are grafted with great skill into the body of material taken from Heraclius' war dispatches, it is highly unlikely that Theophanes, who was even at his best a clumsy compiler and allowed the sutures between his sources to show in his text, was responsible for combining the poetry and the dispatches. The most economical hypothesis is to suppose that the revision and the embellishment were the work of a single hand, that of George of Pisidia. It receives some support from the absence of any trace elsewhere of a lost full-blown poem by George from which the fragments could be derived. Most of Theophanes' notices about Heraclius' actions in 624, 625, March-April 626 and December 627-March 628 were based on this official, published account. These notices provide the solid foundations for reconstructing a narrative of events in these crucial years.
32

33

L.I. Conrad, 'The Conquest of Arwad: A Source-Critical Study in the Historiography of the Early Medieval Near East', in A. Cameron and L.I. Conrad, eds., The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East i: Problems in the Literayy Source Material, Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam 1 (Princeton, 1992), pp. 322-48. J. Howard-Johnston, 'The Official History of Heraclius' Persian Campaigns', in E. D;tbrowa, ed., The Roman and Byzantine Army in the East (Cracow, 1994), pp. 57-87.
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The last of them, it is worth noting, dovetails neatly with the second of the documents from the 620s reproduced in the ChromiconPaschale.34 This is a second victory dispatch which continues the story from exactly the point at which Theophanes' abridged version of the hypothetical revision of the first dispatch leaves off. The second victory dispatch also refers explicitly to its immediate predecessor. One must, however, always be wary of ham-handed editorial intervention by Theophanes himself. He was undoubtedly working fast and was often careless. His precis even of relatively intelligible texts may be far from perfect. On occasion he may leap over incidents. He may make simple errors of transcription. His worst mistakes are, however, chronological. Leaving aside a general and systematic discrepancy between his two methods of dating (by financial years and years from Creation) in this section of his text, he displaces all his notices about Heraclius' Persian campaigns 624-8, locating them one year too early. Thus Heraclius' departure from Constantinople in 622 marks the beginning of six years' uninterrupted command of operations in Asia Minor, Transcaucasia and the Near East. As a result, the negotiations between Romans and Avars which were intended to defuse the tensions evident in 622, and which preoccupied Heraclius through most of the 623 campaigning season and nearly resulted in his capture at a planned summit meeting with the Avar khagan, are squeezed out from their proper place in 623 and are shifted, apparently arbitrarily, to the year 617/18. There can be no doubt that 623 is the correct date, since it is that provided by the Chronzcon Paschale and corroborated by a clear reference in George of Pisidia's Expedztio Perszca.35 Frightful muddles ensue when Theophanes reaches the year 626, which will be discussed below. Gerland was clear-sighted and identified these serious errors. Although his arguments have not had much influence on his successors,36 they seem to me irrefutable. His chronology is therefore adopted, with but minor modifications, in the summary narrative of military operations and diplomatic activity given below. The Greek sources can be supplemented from a number of works written in those regions of the Near East where Christianity had taken strong root in late antiquity - Transcaucasia in the north and Syria in the south. Three among these non-Roman sources stand out and deserve a brief discusion. The Histary of Heraclius, which is in reality focused on his Persian adversary Khusro II, was written in the middle of the seventh century. It covers the whole reign of Khusro, and carries on to describe the initial, explosive phase of the Arab conquests. Khus-

Theophanes, pp. 438-45, 448-54. Mango and Scott, CAronicle of Theophanes, pp. lxiv-lxvii. Theophanes, pp. 433-4; CAronicon Paschale, p. 165; Exk&ditio Persica iii.305-21. 36 Notably Baynes, 'The Avar Surprise'.
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ro s war against the Romans is the centrepiece.37 The traditional attribution to Bishop Sebeos, eighth signatory of the canons of the Council of Dvin in 645, has been questioned,38 but, whoever he was, the author appears to have had access to the archives of the catholicate at Dvin (to judge by the texts of two important letters concerning the Persian occupation of Jerusalem which he reproduces in full).39 When the History of Heraclius is tested against the evidence of the reliable material extracted from Greek sources, both the substance of its narrative and its dating can be shown to be generally accurate.40 The author has, however, made one serious mistake which reduces the value of his history for a decade. He has conflated Shahen's expedition to Chalcedon in 615 with Shahrvaraz's invasion of 626 when he attempted in vain to link up with the Avar forces besieging Constantinople across the Bosporus.i1 There are damaging consequences for his coverage of the intervening period. He leaps over the last phase of Persian expansion (the conquest of southern Syria, Palestine and Egypt), and supplies disconnected information about Heraclius' first counteroffensive (624-5). After 626 he recovers his bearings and gives an excellent, succinct account of military action and diplomacy from 627 to 629. A second important Armenian source is Moses Daskhurantsi's HistoTy of the Caucasian Albanzans. This compilation was put together in its final form in the tenth century or a little later.42 It includes a group of valuable notices about Albania (now ex-Soviet Azerbaijan), Persian politics, and relations between the three great powers (Roman, Persian and nomadic) of western Eurasia in the period of Heraclius' counteroffensive. This connected set of substantial notices can be used with reasonable confidence, since it can in general be corroborated where its coverage overlaps with that of other extant sources of proven value
Several short passages appear to have dropped out of the only extant ims, dating from the late seventeenth century, on which the critical edition is based. They form an integral part of material about the end of the Sasanian empire excerpted from Sebeos by Thomas Artsruni (pp. 152-65, 167-8, 169-70) in the early tenth century. Thomas Artsruni evidently had access to an early, fuller manuscript. 38 J.-P. Mah6, Critical Remarks on the Newly Edited Excerpts from Sebeos', in TJ. Samuelian and M.E. Stone, eds, Medieval Armeian Culture (Chico, CA, 1984), pp. 218-39. 39 Sebeos, pp. 70-76. 40 Events are dated mainly by Persian regnal years, reckoned from the start, in June, of the calendar year in which a shah was crowned. Thus Khusro II's first regnal year ran from 27 June 589 to 26 June 590, his actual accession occurring on 15 February 590. See MJ. Higgins, The Persian War of the Emperor Maurice (582-602) i: The CAronology with a Brief History of the Persian Calendar (Washington, DC, 1939), pp. 131, with the important corrections of F. de Blois, The Persian Calendar', Iran XXXrV (1996), pp. 39-54. 41 Sebeos, pp. 77-9. 42 Dowsett, Hotry of the Caucasian Albanians, p. xx presents two alteratives (tenth century or the end of the eleventh/beginning of the twelfth century) and reserves judgement; A.A. Akopjan, Albanya-Aluank v gvko-latinskikh i dwvnearmjanskikh itochnikakh (Erevan, 1987), pp. 169-77 rejects a widely canvassed seventh-century date for books I and ii and places the compilation of the whole work in the tenth century.
37

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and, where the information is unique to Moses, it complements what is already known.)3 There are two distinct strands in this seventh-century material, one relatively dispassionate in tone and full of precise information for which an ultimate documentary origin may be conjectured, the other much more emotional, sometimes verging on the melodramatic, which appears to be taken from a lost Life of the Catholicus Viroy (596-629), who is credited with saving Albania from destruction at the hands of the northern nomads.44 The two strands were apparently woven together long after the events recounted, and a certain amount of chronological confusion is discernible.45 The editorial hand was presumably that of Moses, who may also have been responsible for mistakenly calling the northern nomads Khazars.i6 Finally, the relatively voluminous but on the whole unreliable material transmitted in the east (Mesopotomian) and west (north
Syrian) Syriac historical traditions includes one short text which deserves special attention. It is an anonymous universal chronicle, put together in the 720s, apparently rather ill-organized (it looks at first sight like the notes of an enterprising reader). Embedded in it isa distinctive body of material taken from a source of high quality written in the 630s.47 It supplies a number of valuable notices, short but packed with precise information and carefully dated. These are the six principal sources from which an outline narrative of events may be reconstructed. There is, of course, much supplementary material to be gleaned from a multitude of other contemporary and later sources, written in Greek, Armenian, Syriac, Georgian, Arabic
4 Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 75-106 (bk. ii, cc. 9-16). There are only two glaring errors: the foundation of a new city of Antioch near the Persian capital in Mesopotamia is ascribed to Khusro II instead of Khusro I (pp. 77-8); a false report, which recurs in o th er sourc es, th at H eracl ius j ourn eyed by sea to Arm eni a in 62 4 is tack e d onto th e generally reliable account of the year's operations (p. 78). 44 Strand (i): pp. 76-92, 104-6 (bk. ii, cc. 10-13, 16). Strand (ii): pp. 92-103 (bk. ii, cc. 14, 15). Akopjan, A6anya-Aluank, pp. 189-96 takes a different view. He emphasizes the coherence of this section of Moses' work; he believes that it was composed originally between 630 and 632 and was then incorporated whole into Moses' compilation. He characterizes it as a well-written history of Albania which provides material of exceptional quality. Since the Catholicus Viroy is the main protagonist, he calls it 'The History of Viroy' and ascribes all the chapters except one (15) to the same author, who was, in his opinion, a close associate of Viroy's. Viroy was, he suggests, the author of c. 15, which he rightly takes to be a short homily interpolated into the text by Moses. 45 Dowsett, Hotry of the Caucasian Alanians, pp. xiv-xv. Moses' chronology of Khusro II's reign lags a year behind Sebeos' true reckoning, his deposition and execution in February 628 being placed in his 38th rather his 39th regnal year (bk. ii, c. 11, p. 83). 46 A. Bombaci, 'Qui 6taitjebu Xak'an?', Turcica, 1(1970), pp. 7-24 establishes that the northern nomads in question were Turks, not Khazars as they are called, in my view anachronistically, by Moses Daskhurantsi. The Khazars only replaced the Turks as the dominant power in the steppes to the north of the Caucasus towards the end of the seventh century. 47 Palmer, Seventh Century, pp. 5-12, but dating the composition of the whole chronicle to 639-40 and viewing the list of early caliphs with which it ends as the addition of an early eighth-century copyist. War in History 1999 6 (1)
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and Latin. On the whole, the more localized the information they supply, the more trust may be placed in them. The main gap which the historian must lament is a dearth of Persian documentary material to match and offset the Roman. Two Nestorian chronicles, one contemporary, one probably compiled in the tenth century, together with the work of the universal Arab historian, Tabari, are unsatisfactory substitutes. The material which they supply on Sasanian political and military history has been transmuted to a greater or lesser degree in transmission and is thus hard to use on its own.48

II. Events
His empire truncated, the wealth of the Near East in Persian hands by 621 (above all Egypt, the bread-basket of the ancient Mediterranean), Heraclius had to take the war to the enemy. An initial counterthrust, still largely defensive in character, which was designed to halt the Persian advance over Anatolia, petered out in the second half of 622 because of a serious crisis in the Balkans. But over the following years, once an expensive new agreement had been negotiated with the Avars, Heraclius launched two sustained counteroffensives, the first lasting from spring 624 to the end of 625, the second from spring/summer 627 through the following winter to March 628. He took personal command of operations, thus breaking with the established practice of fighting wars by proxy and thereby shouldering personal responsibility for the future of the empire.49 The success he achieved was, as has already been seen, quite remarkable. Before trying to explain it, we must look at what happened on the ground.

Crisis in the West, 622-623
We last saw Heraclius hurrying back to Constantinople, probably in August 622. George of Pisidia does not say what form the crisis took in the west, but evidently it was very serious, probably involving military action, since it demanded the emperor's personal attention. A crisis on this scale is described in another source, a history of the miracles of St Demetrius, patron saint of Thessalonica. A long chapter gives a graphic and detailed account, perhaps based on an official report, of an attack in massive force on the city by the Avars and their Slav clients and the ensuing siege of 33 days. No date is given and historians have generally placed it rather earlier (618 is favoured currently).50 It is

Khuzstan CAronic& pp. 28-33; Seet CAronicle pp. 540-42, 551-61; Tabari, pp. 293-96, 351-92. 49 M. Whitby, The Persian King at War', in D;tbrowa, Roman and Byzantine Army, pp. 256-9. 5 P. Lemerle, Les plu ancierm cueils des miracls de Saint LYmtrius (2 vols, Paris, 197981), " pp. 180-84 (extended summary in French), ii, pp. 94-103 (commentary).
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surely more plausible to equate it with the crisis which forced so dramatic a change of plan on Heraclius in 622. Heraclius' response had to be diplomatic, since the field army was committed in the east. Substantial inducements would have to be offered if peace were to be restored in Europe. Prolonged negotiations were set in train and seemed to be going well in summer 623 when we next catch sight of Heraclius. A summit meeting was arranged to take place amid much pomp at which Roman emperor and Avar khagan would finalize details of a new treaty. The place of their meeting was to be Heraclea, just outside the Long Wall which guarded the European approaches to Constantinople. Heraclius and his entourage set off from Selymbria, inside the Long Wall, on 5 June 623, and realized at the last moment that the Avar khagan was using the summit as a bait to capture them. Heraclius managed to escape in disguise, but the Avars captured the ceremonial apparatus which he was bringing, broke through the Long Wall and caused mayhem in the suburban country beyond. The reliquary casket containing the Virgin's Robe was hacked out from its place in the church of the Virgin at Blachernae and rushed into the city for safekeeping. But a large haul of prisoners and booty, including the rich treasures of two other churches, was gathered by the Avars. Negotiations were eventually resumed and led to an agreement on humiliating terms for the Romans.51 This western entanglement proved most convenient for the Persians (and was, we may suspect, no coincidence). It distracted Heraclius from the Asia Minor theatre of war throughout the 623 campaigning season. During his absence the Persians launched a naval offensive to seize Rhodes and many other islands, and renewed their attack on Anatolia. Ancyra fell, but no attempt was made to establish a forward base there by installing a garrison (the following year's campaign preparations reveal the Romans to be still in control of the Anatolian plateau). There is no information about Roman defensive measures by sea or by land this year, nor indeed about the identity of the general who stood in for Heraclius in Asia Minor. Things seem to have gone badly by sea, and there is nothing to indicate that the defenders of Anatolia could do more than try to contain the invading army.52

CAronicon PascAle, p. 165; Nicephonus, pp. 51, 53; Theophanes, pp. 433-34. Blachemnae reliquary: the sermon delivered by Theodore Syncellus, a senior Constantinopolitan churchman, on the occasion of its reinstallation at Blachemnae is translated and discussed by A. Cameron, 'The Virgin's Robe: An Episode in the History of Early Seventh-Century Constantinople', Byzantion, XLIX (1979), pp. 42-56, reprinted in her Continuity and Change in SxtA-Centuy Byzantium (London, 1981), no.17. The terms finally agreed involved a huge payment and the handover as hostages of two close relatives of Heraclius (illegitimate son and nephew) and a son (also illegitimate) of Bonus, who was to be lay regent during Heraclius' absence on campaign (Nicephonus, p. 59; cf. Theophanes, p. 434). 52 Rhodes: CAronicle to 724, p. 18. Ancyra and 'many islands in the sea': CAronicle to 1234, p. 133 (and three other derivatives of Theophilus of Edessa, including Theophanes, p. 434, cited by Palmer, n. 300).
51 Attack:

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Operations of 624 and 625
It was in 624 that Heraclius reappeared in Asia Minor and initiated the northern counteroffensive which he had been forced to postpone in August 622. He left Constantinople on 25 March accompanied by his new second wife (and niece) Martina and the two children of his first marriage. They celebrated Easter, which fell that year on 15 April, near Nicomedia. He then travelled south-east with Martina while the children were sent back to Constantinople. The expeditionary force had been mobilized and was encamped at Caesarea in Cappadocia. After Heraclius' arrival, the text of a letter purporting to come from Khusro was read out to the assembled troops. In it Heraclius was contemptuously dismissed as a brigand leader who had robbed Khusro of some of his treasure and some of his subjects, and the Christian God was mocked as a powerless divinity. This letter was almost certainly a piece of deliberate disinformation, fabricated by the Romans to impress on the troops, as on governing circles in Constantinople to whom it had been read out earlier, the gravity of the situation and to stoke up anti-Persian feeling.53 Then operations began. Heraclius struck north-east and in so doing seems to have caught the Persians off guard. For although Khusro himself was at Ganzak with a substantial military force (40 000, according to Theophanes), he had evidently been misled by the news of the Roman mobilization at Caesarea into expecting a Roman thrust southeast against northern Syria or south against Cilicia. He had not blocked the northern route chosen by Heraclius, who advanced unopposed up the Euphrates valley past Theodosiopolis and then down that of the Araxes. During its march through what had traditionally been the Persian sector of Armenia (east of the Euphrates-Araxes watershed) the Roman army caused as much damage as it could to the cities in its path, including Dvin and Naxcawan. Then, after a rousing speech by Heraclius, it turned south and invaded Atropatene (now Iranian Azerbaijan), laying waste cities and villages. Gaining intelligence of Khusro's position, Heraclius made for Ganzak - at which Khusro abandoned the city and his army and fled south into the Zagros mountains. The shah's army also lost its nerve and scattered. Atropatene was now an inviting prey.54 Ganzak (by which is probably meant its undefended
CAronicon PascAale, pp. 1667, Sebeos, pp. 79-81 (conflating this departure with that in 622 and misdating it to 623), Theophanes, p. 306/19-27 (misdating Heraclius' departure to 15 March and the invasion of Persia to 20 April (probably the day he and Martina left Nicomedia) ). The official character of the notice about Heraclius' departure for the east in the CAronicon Paschale establishes 624 incontrovertibly as the correct date. It follows that there is a rare slip in the CAronicle to 724, p. 18, its single sentence summary of the emperor's activities in 624 being misplaced under 622/3. 54 Heraclias ii.160-66, Sebeos, p. 81, Thomas Artsnmi, p. 159, Theophanes, pp. 438-9, Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 78-9. Heraclius' routes on this and subsequent campaigns are discussed by J.A.Manandian, Marshruty persidskikh pokhodov imperatora Iraklia', Vizantki Vrenwnnik, III (1950), pp. 133-53. Manandian's reconstruction is generally sound, although he misdates Heraclius' first counteroffensive to 623-24 and leaves out the main operations of the second year of that campaign (spring-

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outskirts) was devastated, but the great prize was the premier fire-temple of Persia, the formidable ruins of which are still visible at Takht-iSulaiman.55 The fire was extinguished and the waters of the lake in the temple complex polluted by corpses. Khusro himself was pursued and forced to keep moving in the mountains, while the swathe of destruction grew steadily larger in Atropatene. Then, as winter drew near and a Persian scratch force harried the Romans, Heraclius decided to withdraw, not west but north. He marched to Albania (exSoviet Azerbaijan). There he established his winter quarters, in the Kura valley west of Partaw, the regional capital which was evacuated by the Persian authorities.56 The winter was uneventful, although a small Persian army (under Shahraplakan) was detailed to keep an eye on the Romans from nearby highlands (modern Nagorno Karabagh). One change of camp by the Romans is reported. Considerable numbers of Christians from Transcaucasia were probably answering a call to arms which Heraclius had issued before he arrived in Albania. He had invited the princes and governors of Albania, Iberia (modern Georgia) and Armenia to j'oin his service. The good response is evident from the extent of the influence exercised by the northern contingents on decision making during the following year's campaign. One other initiative of Heraclius' is reported. He sent off an ambassador to enlist the support of the Turkish empire which dominated the steppe world to the north of the Cauc-

asus.57
The strategic balance swung back in the Persians' favour by spring 625. Three armies were mobilized against Heraclius, whose position was now known and whose options were therefore limited. Shahraplakan with his shadowing force was to prevent a renewed attack on Atropatene. Shahrvaraz, who had been recalled from the west with his expeditionary force in 624 and had spent the winter at Nisibis, was ordered to cross Armenia and to bar Heraclius' direct line of retreat west through Iberia. The third general, Shahen (with 30 000 men according to Sebeos), took up a position by the Bitlis pass, from where he could intercept Heraclius if he were to withdraw by a more circuitous southern route through Armenia. Heraclius' plan of campaign - to invade Persia again, circumventing Nagorno Karabakh - was
summer 625). Corrections may be made on certain points of detail: Ganzak should be distinguished from the fire-temple at Takht-i-Sulaiman, and Heraclius probably kept the Axurean river on his east flank as he marched south from Tiflis in autumn 627. A fuller account of Heraclius' subsequent movements in Mesopotamia is given by F. Sarre and E. Herzfeld, Archaeologche Reise im EupArat- und Tigris-Gebiet ii (Berlin, 1920), pp. 87-9. R. and E. Naumann, Takht-i-Suleiman (Munich, 1976); C. Herrmann, The Iranian Revival (Oxford, 1977), pp. 113-18. 56 Sebeos, pp. 81-2, Thomas Artsruni, p. 159, Theophanes, pp. 439-40, Heraclias ii.167230, Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 79-80. 5 Theophanes, p. 441, Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 79-81, 86-7. The latter alone reports the negotiations with the steppe power. The date given (after June 625) is probably that of the return embassy's arrival in Constantinople.

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thwarted by opposition from some of his new northern auxiliaries. He was left stranded between the armies of Shahraplakan (close at hand) and Shahrvaraz (some distance away but menacingly placed to the north of Lake Sevan). Only when the dangers of the position became apparent did the whole army become his pliant instrument.58 Operations now began in earnest. Heraclius' essential task was to avoid encirclement and to keep his force intact. By a complicated series of manoeuvres he succeeded in outmarching and outwitting the three opposing Persian armies, and was able to defeat them in detail. He concentrated at first on the weakest and closest of them, that of Shahraplakan to his rear. Harassed unceasingly, night and day, its morale had sunk by the time it joined Shahravaraz's army. At this point Heraclius set off south at high speed. False intelligence - that he was fleeing - was rendered convincing when the two pursuing armies drew near and he appeared to accelerate into headlong flight (the impression given by an all-night march, which enabled him to elude a planned dawn attack). Advancing confidently, with a certain laxness in their formation, the Persians suddenly came across the Roman army which had halted, was occupying a strong position on a wooded hill and was ready for battle. The engagement which followed ended in Roman victory, and was followed up by an unremitting pursuit. The situation was still confused when Shahen arrived and was defeated in turn.59 There is a dearth of place-names in the sole detailed version of events (Theophanes'), so that it isimpossible to localize these operations with any precision. Only the general lines of Heraclius' movements can be seen. After worsting each of the three pursuing forces, he gained some freedom of manoeuvre, while they were regrouping. He then turned north, crossed some rugged country to come within striking distance of the Black Sea coastlands, and then stood his ground in a day-long confrontation with the united forces of Shahrvaraz and Shahen, thereby covering the retreat of his Laz and Abasgian allies. Then came another change of direction: he marched south across Siunia to the middle Araxes valley (past Naxcawan once again), turned south-west and camped for the winter on or close to Lake Van. A final engagement took place in the depths of winter, when Shahrvaraz's headquarters came under attack, Shahrvaraz only escaping capture by the skin of his teeth.60 These successes undoubtedly had considerable psychological effect on the morale of the opposing forces. Nonetheless the Persians could still field far superior numbers, and Heraclius had suffered a damaging blow when two of his northern contingents had departed. The Persians remained on the offensive as the start of the 626 campaign season
" Sebeos, p. 82, Theophanes, pp. 441-2. 59 Theophanes, p. 442, Sebeos, p. 82, Moses Daskhurantsi, p. 81. 60

Theophanes,

pp. 442-3,

Sebeos,

pp. 82-3, Moses

Daskhurantsi,

p. 81.

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drew near. They massed their troops for an invasion of Anatolia and an assault on Constantinople itself (for which they had sought and obtained a promise of Avar aid in Europe). In spite of his defeat in midwinter, Shahrvaraz was appointed to command one of the two Persian invasion armies. Shahen was general of the other, which was to invade Anatolia by a northern route.

The Siege of Constantinople and Other Operations in 626
Heraclius left his winter quarters north of Lake Van on 1 March 626 and hastened back to Anatolia, to take charge of its defence. The route, which he chose after sounding out opinion in the army, was not the direct one running down the Arsanias valley and then up past Tarantum to the Anatolian plateau, but one with more plentiful supplies which ran south across the Taurus, then west through northern Syria and Cilicia. Shahrvaraz took longer to mobilize his men and set off in pursuit, but he caught up with Heraclius before he crossed the Euphrates. He then drove the Roman army before him as he advanced westward - past Germanicia and Adana. A rearguard action directed by Heraclius succeeded in holding the strategic bridge over the Sarus river long enough to allow the Roman army to pass through the Cilician Gates safely. Once on the plateau Heraclius veered north-east to Sebasteia. Here he was well placed to intercept Shahen's army which was attacking from Armenia, and to communicate with the capital along the northern support road. It was another disconcerting move which probably took the Persians by surprise. For it was surely inconceivable to them that the emperor would not hurry to the defence of his capital when it was clearly under threat.61 Instead Heraclius trusted in the defensive measures which he had taken some time before - the construction of a fleet of light craft to provide forward defences for the relatively weak sea-walls, and the stockpiling of substantial grain reserves. He now rushed reinforcements to the city, which arrived safely before Shahrvaraz reached Chalcedon in the middle of June. They were followed by written instructions for strengthening the city's defences and constructing artillery.62 The main body of the field army, presumably still under Heraclius' command, then intercepted the perhaps unwary invasion force advancing from Armenia and won a victory so complete as to lead to the
61 62

Theophanes, pp.

444-5; Sebeos, p. 83; Moses Daskhurantsi, p. 81. Fleet: Bellum Avaricum, I . 276-7; CAmnicon PascAle, pp. 174-5, 176-8. Grain: J.D.

Howard-Johnston, 'The Siege of Constantinople in 626', in C. Mango and C. Dagron, eds., Comtantinople and Its Hinterland (Aldershot, 1995), pp. 135-6. Reinforcements: Theophanes, p. 446; CAronicon Paschale, p. 172 (putting the strength of the cavalry component of the city's garrison at 12 000 or more men, a figure which was clearly inflated since it was intended for the Avar khagan's ears). Instructions: Bellum Avaricum, 11 266-75, 288-301; Theodore Syncellus, ed. L. Sternbach, Analecta Avarica, Rozprawy Akademii Umiejetnosci, Wydzial Filologicny, ser. 2.15 (Cracow, 1900), pp. 302-4.
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immediate disgrace of its commander, Shahen.3 Heraclius' subsequent movements are a matter for guesswork. Roman deception aimed at confusing and demoralizing the enemy succeeded all too well in bewildering the chroniclers who attempted to describe the campaign. There is no reason to suppose that he left Asia Minor for Transcaucasia, as is alleged by Theophanes and was implied by a Roman ambassador at an audience with the Avar khagan during the siege of Constantinople. Since there are good reasons, outlined below, for distrusting Theophanes at this point and there is no reliable record of Heraclius' presence in Transcaucasia until the next campaigning season, the Roman ambassador's assertion that Heraclius was in the Persians' country 'utterly destroying it' should be dismissed as a piece of disinformation intended for the three Persians emissaries who had managed to cross the Bosporus and were in attendance.64 We may safely assume that Heraclius' prime objective was to apply pressure, by action or threat of action as well as words, on Shahrvaraz's army, so as to hasten its withdrawal from Chalcedon, and to minimize the damage which it might do on its return march. It may therefore be inferred that he moved west, after defeating Shahen, to within striking distance of Chalcedon. Shahrvaraz pillaged Chalcedon, built a camp and waited for the arrival of the Avars on the European shore. They mobilized their client peoples and approached with a huge army. The main force under the khagan halted at Adrianople, where final preparations were made for the siege. Supplies were procured, a large wagon-train was assembled, and key components for trebuchets and other siege-engines were manufactured. A vanguard, 30 000 strong, appeared outside the Long Wall on 29 June, crossed it without encountering opposition and advanced on Constantinople. Communications with the Persians, by fire-signals, were established by the middle of July. Although the Persians had not come with a fleet, hence could not be expected to play a large part in siege operations, their menacing presence increased the psychological pressure on the defenders, and there was always the possibility that Avar naval transport might convey some contingents across the Bosporus. The khagan arrived on 29 July and put on an awesome display of military might, a parade of his full force (estimated to number 80 000 men) before the walls, stretching from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. We are fortunate to have three eyewitness accounts of the siege, including an official report probably intended for Heraclius. They
63

64

Theophanes, pp. 4467. Another account, much transmuted, may be present in a later text recounting the miracles of St Theodore of Euchaita, trans. Zuckerman, 'The Reign of Constantine V, p. 206. See Howard-Johnston, 'Siege of Constantinople', n. 1, p. 134, arguing against the earlier context in 622 proposed by Zuckerman (pp. 206-8). Theophanes, p. 446; CAronicon Paschag pp. 175-6.

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enable us to follow operations in considerable detail.65 After a day of preparations, a first general assault was launched on 31 July and the main offensive siege-engines began to be deployed, trebuchets and siege-towers. The fighting continued over the following days, and the number of machines arrayed against the city steadily grew (by the end twelve siege-towers were concentrated against the central sector of the land walls). The pressure was intensified when, on 1 August, a fleet of Slav boats was launched in the Golden Horn to threaten the sea walls. An attempt was made (on 3 August) to ferry across a contingent of 3000 or 4000 Persian troops to join in siege operations, but this was thwarted by Roman naval units. Then the Avars prepared for a second general assault, in which their full strength would be pitched against the city. Attacks were launched along the full length of the land walls on 6 August. They were sustained through that day and the following night. Then, on the morning of the 7th, the front was broadened as an infantry assault force was carried by Slav boats towards the sea walls. This last attack had, however, been anticipated and was foiled. There was terrible slaughter at sea and, as the land assault continued without success, there were increasing signs of dissension in the the Avar army. The following night it withdrew, after burning the siege-engines. The khagan's prestige was gravely damaged. The task of maintaining Avar authority over multifarious and rebellious subject peoples would preoccupy him for many years to come.66 Shahrvaraz was now in danger of being trapped between the sea and the mountains. His troops must have been demoralized by the events in Europe, of which they had been powerless spectators, as well as by news of Shahen's defeat and of the lurking presence of a Roman army in their rear. Rumours (which were true) of a Turkish invasion of Caucasian Albania may also have reached them by now, further lowering their spirits.67 In these circumstances no purpose would be served by lingering, and Shahrvaraz left Chalcedon several days after the end of the siege. His troops were probably shadowed but not engaged by

65 The most detailed account, in Pasehale, pp. 169-81, was probably an official report written by the lay regent, Bonus, for Heraclius immediately after the event. Theodore Syncellus, who was at the centre of affairs (he sewed on a 5-man

CAmnicon

delegation received by the khagan during the siege - CAronicon Paschal, p. 175), delivered his sermon when events were still fresh in his and his congregation's minds. It may be postulated that the occasion was the service of thanksgiving at Blachernae, probably held within a few weeks of the city's deliverance (Nicephorus, p. 61). George of Pisidia probably took months rather than weeks to write the Belurm Avayricun4 but, like Theodore's sermon, it was finished before Heraclius' return to Constantinople. The quoted figures for Avar troop strengths are given at Bellum Avayricun4 11. 217-19 (whole army) and CAronicon PascAle, p. 171 (vanguard). 66 A fuller account is given by Howard-Johnston, 'Siege of Constantinople', pp. 131-42. Size of Persian contingent sent across: 3000 troops offered (CAmnicon Paschale, p. 175); 4000 caught and slaughtered at sea (Sebeos, p. 79). 67 Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 87-8.
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Heraclius.68 It was probably late in the year, long after the initial victory celebrations in Constantinople, that Heraclius returned home, took charge of the government and began to plan the next phase of his northern counteroffensive. It was to involve closer cooperation with his Turkish allies.69

The Second Counteroffensive, 627-628
Theophanes' account of events in 626 is confused, because he attempts to connect a section of his systematically misdated narrative of military operations (which places the events of 626 in 625) with a correctly dated account of the siege of Constantinople (the date probably being well known and documented in several sources). His efforts to produce a coherent narrative lead him into several errors: he invents a winter beginning after Heraclius returns to eastern Anatolia in April 626 (625 for Theophanes), in order to shift the main events of that campaigning season forward a year and associate them, as they had to be associated, with the siege of Constantinople; on the other hand, he does not question the dating (one year early) of the following year's events, and thus telescopes the main operations of 626 and 627 into a single year; as a result of this conflation he is forced to remove Heraclius from the main scene of action in 626 and to spirit him away to Transcaucasia (a year too early), since that is where he has to be in order to meet the Turks outside Tiflis in 627 (626 for Theophanes); finally, he extends Shahrvaraz's stay on the Bosporus into the autumn of 626 so that it overlaps with Heraclius' final invasion of Persian Mesopotamia (dated by Theophanes to 626), thereby adding extra drama to this last phase of the war.70 It is possible to unravel Theophanes' narrative and to discern the main lines of events in 626 (as has been done in the reconstruction presented above). It is, however, quite impossible to fill the gap in Theophanes' narrative which extends from the middle of August 626 to spring/summer 627 (another consequence of the conflation of two
68 Theodore Syncellus, pp. 313-14. There is no reason to believe a story, which later gained considerable currency, that Heraclius and Shahrvaraz struck a political deal at this time (Seet CAronicle, pp. 540-41, CAronicle to 1234, pp. 136-7 (and the three other derivatives of Theophilus of Edessa cited by Palmer, nn. 311-12, including Theophanes, pp. 452-3), Tabari, pp. 300-3 and Nicephonts, pp. 57, 59). This seems to be another instance of Roman deception, dating from late 627, when there was much to be gained by promoting discord between the government of Khusro and the senior Persian general in the west (but see C. Mango, Deux etudes sur Byzance et la Perse sassanide', Travaux et M6moires IX (1985), pp. 107-9). 69 As already indicated, Heraclius was still away when Theodore Syncellus delivered his sermon and George of Pisidia wrote the Bellurm Avaricum. His return (which is not documented in any extant text) may be postulated not only on the grounds that there were many matters demanding his attention at the centre but also because he would be better placed in Constantinople to monitor developments abroad (especially in the Balkans, after the shocks of 623 and 626) and to conduct diplomacy. Not to mention a natural inclination to see his new wife and baby son, or the need to give his men some time to recuperate. 70 Theophanes, pp. 445, 446-7, 450.

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distinct campaigning seasons). We can only speculate about Roman diplomatic and military actions in this period. Heraclius probably spent the winter in Constantinople, while his troops were allowed to rest after three years' arduous campaigning.71 In 627 he took command of the army once again and directed operations in Lazica (what is now the western, more troubled part of Georgia). There were good reasons for concentrating on Lazica: it was a region of Transcaucasia which had hitherto been untouched by the war; and Persian defences in the north fell into disarray in 627 when a large Turkish army overwhelmed the frontier defences between the Caucasus and the Caspian and overran Albania (provoking a lastminute panic-stricken evacuation of the regional capital, Partaw) 72 There are indications, somewhat garbled in the telling, that Heraclius made his way to Lazica by sea. He was accompanied, we may assume, by his personal staff, baggage and a certain amount of ceremonial equipment for which a need was likely to arise in the course of the campaign. Given the dangers of sea travel and the limited capacity of ancient shipping, there was no question of dispatching the whole field army by sea. We should therefore envisage the troops reassembling and preparing for action in the emperor's absence, at a convenient location in northern Asia Minor, possibly in the coastal plain east of Trebizond which provides relatively easy access to western Georgia.73 The Turks did not bother to hunt down the fugitive population of Partaw in the mountainous cantons of Arcax (modern Nagorno Karabakh), but turned west, invaded Iberia and began to besiege the regional capital, Tiflis.74 Heraclius now marched east, over the formidable Likhi range dividing the Black Sea coastlands from the valley of the Kura river, to join them before Tiflis. A carefully staged ceremony greeted him on his arrival. Before an audience of troops, with his senior officers placed at a higher level (on a rocky hillside), the yabghu khagan, deputy to the supreme khagan of the Turks, rode forward, embraced Heraclius and - so the Roman sources assert - dismounted
The army was withdrawn well away from the forces of Shahrvaraz (presumably back south of the Taurus) and dispersed, according to Sebeos, p. 83. 72 The invaders are correctly identified as Turks by Theophanes, pp. 447, 448 and Nicephonus, pp. 55, 57. Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 83-5 follows his usual practice and calls them Khazars (as Theophanes does once, at p. 447). 7' The voyage to Lazica is mentioned by Nicephonus, p. 55, and Moses Daskhurantsi, p. 78. It is followed in Moses by an account of Heraclius' finrt counteroffensive (6245), in Nicephorus by notices about the birth of Heraclonas (Heraclius' eldest son by Martina) and the second counteroffensive (itself placed before the siege of Constantinople in 626). However, a date before 627 can be ruled out since there is good authority for supposing that Heraclius took short sea crossings in 622 (to the south shore of the gulf of Nicomedia) and 624 (across the Bosporus). Two late, less reliable sources refer to Black Sea voyages, but have Heraclius disembark at Trebizond (M. van Esbroeck, lUne chronique de Maurice a H6raclius dans un recit des sieges de Constantinople', Bedi Karthsa XXXIV (1976), p. 93 and M. Breydy, trans., Das Annalnwerk des Eutychios von Alexandrien, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Scriptores Arabici 45 (Louvain, 1985), p. 104. 7' Moses Daskhurantsi, p. 85; Theophanes, p. 447.
71

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to do him obeisance. The yabghu khagan was showing one of the two senior rulers of the sedentary world at the western end of Eurasia all due deference, whatever the exact form of his obeisance. Heraclius reciprocated with a series of counter-civilities. He invited the yabghu khagan to mount again, designated him his son, crowned him with his own crown and laid on a full ceremonial banquet. When this was over, he bestowed on him all the plate which had been used, along with an imperial robe and earrings adorned with pearls. He also distributed court earrings to his entourage of senior officers. These honours conferred high, near-equal status on the yabghu khagan (even in Roman eyes), but that status was elevated yet further by a final, quite unprecedented act: Heraclius offered him the hand of his daughter Eudocia, cementing their political and military alliance with a family tie.75 The Romans nowjoined in the siege of Tiflis. They deployed their machines, including great stone-throwers, and diverted the river so as to undermine the walls. They did not, however, break the defenders' will. The siege evidently continued for some time, many casualties being suffered by the besieging infantry. It was only after Stephen, Persian client ruler of Iberia and commander of the garrison, had been killed on a sortie that Romans and Turks managed to capture the lower city. What remained of the garrison held out in the citadel to which it had withdrawn.76 The allied forces now divided. The yabghu khagan stayed put with part of his army to press the siege to a final conclusion, while the whole Roman army and a Turkish escort, said by Theophanes to have numbered 40 000, marched south. The only Persian army operating in Transcaucasia at this stage, under the command of Shahraplakan, which included 1000 mounted guardsmen from Ctesiphon, could do nothing but watch this massive invasion army move off, just as earlier it had been unable to relieve the pressure on Tiflis.77 The allied army seems to have marched unhurriedly at first, reimposing Roman authority on what had traditionally been the Roman
Moses Daskhurantsi, p. 85 merely notes the meeting. The ceremonial details are reported by Theophanes, p. 447 and Nicephonus, pp. 55, 57, whose accounts, largely complementary, I have combined, ironing out some minor discrepancies. Nicephonus, p. 57 and CAronicle to 1234, p. 137 (and related easter texts cited in n. 312) report the offer of Eudocia's hand. See also C. Zuckerman, 'La petite Augusta et le Turc: Epiphania-Eudocie sur les monnaies d'H6raclius', Revue Numsmatique CL (1995), pp. 113-26. 76 Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 85-6, 94-5 gives some details about siege operations but has the Turks (his Khazars) withdraw early, to avoid the heat of summer, and return the next year to take the city in a general assault after a second, two-month siege. He seems to have divided material about a single siege between two chapters and two campaigns. Georgian CAronicles, trans. R.W. Thomson, Rewriting Caucasian Hitory (Oxford, 1996), pp. 233-4, focus on the actions of Heraclius and the defenders of Tiflis, almost but not entirely eliminating the Turks (the yabghu khagan can be recognized in Jibga, described as a prince, who was left in charge of the siege of the citadel). Theophanes, p. 447 refers in passing to the siege. 77 Geogian CAronicles, pp. 234-5 (the citadel falls within a few days); Theophanes, p. 447; Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 85, 94-5. Theophanes took the figure of 40 000 Turks from his eastern source: it also appears in CAronicle to 1234, p. 137 (and related eastern texts cited in n. 312).
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sector of Transcaucasia. Its route, to the west of the Axurean river, took it across the Araxes and into the hill country beyond. A second Persian army now comes into view. It had been mobilized hurriedly in Mesopotamia to deal with the crisis in the north and placed under the command of Rahzadh/Roc Vehan. It was shadowing the invading army from a safe distance. Rahzadh, seeing that Heraclius was making for the district of Kogovit, seems to have expected him to turn west into the basin at the head of the Arsanias river and to take the easy route down the river valley towards Anatolia. At any rate he was taken by surprise when Heraclius turned east, round the head of Lake Urmia, and invaded Atropatene, in September. A campaign which may hitherto have seemed rather fluid for lack of dating indicators can now at last be given some chronological definition.78 Heraclius and his Turkish allies were already in Atropatene, devastating the cities and villages in their path, when news of their change of direction reached Rahzadh. Immediately he set off in pursuit, but was careful to keep his distance while the Turks remained with Heraclius. It was at the approach of winter, when Heraclius was probably nearing or had reached the Zagros foothills, that his Turkish allies departed. Rahzadh was several days' march away, at Ganzak, when Heraclius halted for a week from 9 October, to rest his men before the next phase of the campaign. He was now surprised for the second time by Heraclius, who struck south across the Zagros. As soon as he realised what had happened, he set off on a desperate and exhausting pursuit.79 There follows a blank period, because Theophanes, our chief source, jumps from 16 October to 1 December, when Heraclius can be seen crossing the Greater Zab and entering the plain of Nineveh. He seems to have tried and failed to hold the line of the river. Once Rahzadh reached its right bank, Heraclius resumed his march until he found suitable ground on which to stand and fight, not far from Nineveh. He was anxious to engage the Persian army before it was reinforced by 3000 troops whom he knew were on their way from Ctesiphon. The battle took place on 12 December, with early morning mist concealing the Roman position. Heraclius won a decisive victory. Rahzadh was killed together with his three senior commanders and many other officers. Many prisoners were taken (4000 according to one source). The way was now open for an advance south on Ctesiphon.80
78 Heraclius' m ovements: Georgian CAronicles, pp. 234-5; Sebeos, p. 83; Theophanes, p. 448; Set Chronicle, p. 541; CAronicle to 1234, p. 137 (and related easter texts cited in n. 316). Mobilization and deployment of Rahzadh's army: Theophanes, pp. 448-9; Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 88-9; Seet CAronicle p. 541; Tabari, pp. 294-5; Sebeos, p. 83; CAronicle to 1234, p. 137 (and related eastern texts cited in n. 316). 79 Theophanes, pp. 448-9; Sebeos, pp. 83-4. Moses Daskhurantsi, p. 88, Seat CAronicl p. 541 and Tabari, p. 294 include brief notices about the invasion of Mesopotamia. 80 Theophanes, pp. 449-50 focuses on the emperor's feats in the battle, but gives a sober and detailed account of previous and subsequent operations. Sebeos, p. 84 (with additional material in Thomas Artsni, p. 160) gives a better account of the battle, but disagrees on two points: the reinforcements arive before the battle and the Persian army is destroyed as a fighting force (Thomas Artsruni adding that 4000
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Of this and its political repercussions Theophanes gives a detailed

account, ultimately derived from Heraclius' war dispatches. Finally, nervous perhaps of the possibility that Shahrvaraz might intervene,
Heraclius set off for the comparative safety of Atropatene on 24 Febru-

ary, at the start of a period of heavy snowfalls which were to last over a month. He reached his destination, Ganzak, by 15 March and established a camp there, authorizing his men to stable the animals
(including spare mounts) in the 3000 houses of the city. It was at Ganzak that he received news of the success of the planned putsch, on 24 March. Peace negotiations began on 3 April when the ambassador sent by the new shah, Kavad Shiroe, arrived at the camp.8

Peace Negotiations and Their Outcome
The ambassador brought a letter from Kavad Shiroe, in which he announced his accession, expressed a desire for peaceful relations with all his neighbours, and formally recognized the Roman empire's right to exist and its parity of status, by addressing Heraclius as his brother ruler. It was his intention, he said, to release all Roman prisoners of war held in Persia, clearly a gesture of goodwill to get negotiations off to a good start. But the key proposal delivered orally by the ambassador was an offer to return all occupied Roman territory. While welcoming the embassy and responding with a gesture of his own (the release of the prisoners and booty in his hands), Heraclius adopted a tough negotiating stance, designating the new shah his son (and therefore his political inferior) and instructing his own ambassador to ask pointedly about the fate of the last Roman deputation sent to the Persian court in 615 (two of the ambassadors had been executed by Khusro, the third dying of natural causes).82 An armistice seems to have been observed from the time Kavadh Shiroe's letter was received. There is no record of military action throughout the remainder of 628 on the part of Persians, Romans or Turks. At the close of his victory dispatch of 8 April, Heraclius announced that he was striking camp that day and taking the route to Armenia. The expeditionary army marched west back to Roman territory. Heraclius himself returned in triumph to Constantinople, where

prisoners were taken); Theophanes' version, clearly based on a dispatch, should be preferred. See also Seert CAmnic& p. 541, Moses Daskhurantsi, p. 89, Tabari, pp. 2956 and CAronicle to 1234, pp. 137-8 (and related easter texts cited in n. 316). 1 CAronicon Paschale, pp. 1847. See also Sebeos, pp. 84-5 and CAronicle to 1234, p. 138 (and related eastern texts cited in n. 318). 82 CAronicon PascAale, pp. 187-8, together with an ingenious restoration of the damaged text of the second half of Kavad Shiroe's letter and the beginning of Heraclius' reply in N. Oikonomid&s, 'Correspondence between Heraclius and Kavadh-Siroe in the Paschal CAronicle (628)', Byzantion XLI (1971), pp. 269-81; Sebeos, p. 86; Nicephorus, p. 63. Way in History 1999 6 (1)
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he was best placed to direct Roman negotiations with the Persians and the Turks, as well as to manage his own empire.83 Heraclius' ambassador accompanied his Persian opposite number back to Ctesiphon, and there set about negotiating a full peace agreement.84 The crucial issue must have been the definition of what was and what was not Roman territory. It may be inferred, with reasonable confidence, that the Persians either had in mind from the first or were persuaded in the course of negotiations into accepting the frontier agreed in 387 and not subsequently in dispute save at its northern extremity (Lazica). This left them with the lion's share of Transcaucasia (four-fifths of Armenia and the whole of Iberia and Albania) and all Mesopotamia except for its northern segment. Although it was an extraordinary concession forced on Kavad Shiroe to offer to return to the traditional status quo, he was not relinquishing all the territorial gains of the war. For Khusro II had been forced to cede extensive and strategically important tracts of territory in Transcaucasia as the price for the Roman political and military backing which secured him his throne in 591. This territory had been recovered in the first campaigns of the war.85 It was unrealistic to expect Kavad Shiroe to reinstate the frontier of 591-602 (and there is nothing to suggest that Heraclius made a serious demand for this). Had he done so, Kavad Shiroe would not only have written off the immense investment of lives, money and matriel made by Khusro II, but would also have left Persia's security gravely impaired. For he would have ceded, for the second time, control of the whole Armenian Taurus to the Romans, thereby giving them a decisive advantage of inner lines for shifting troops between the northern and southern theatres of war. He would also have allowed Roman power to advance well beyond the Euphrates-Araxes watershed, menacingly close to the regional capitals of Armenia and Iberia. Concessions on this scale would have been certain to provoke determined and widespread opposition in Persia, on such a scale as to imperil the new shah's regime. In the event, however contentious the issues confronted, an agreement was reached in the first round of negotiations at Ctesiphon. The sources are silent about the detailed provisions save for two - the evacuation of traditionally Roman territory, the order for which Kavad Shiroe drafted in the Roman ambassador's presence, and an undertaking by the shah to seek out and hand over the fragments of the True Cross, which had been removed from Jerusalem in 614.86 It proved impossible to implement the central element in the agree-

CAronicon PascAa/e pp. 187-8; We et passion de Saint Anastae, trans. flusin, pp. 88-90; Theophanes, p. 457. CAronicon Paschale, p. 187; Sebeos, p. 86. 85 Whitby, The Empor Maurice and His Historian, pp. 197-202, 304 for the pre- and post8 86

Sebeos, pp. 86-7; cf. CAronicle to 1234, pp. n. 318) and Theophanes, p. 455.

591 frontiers.

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ment. For Shahrvaraz, commander-in-chief in the west, based in distant Alexandria, refused to obey the shah's order to evacuate the occupied territories, most of which had been conquered by his troops. The

impasse was not resolved by October when Kavad Shiroe died and was succeeded by his young son Ardashir.Y" Shahrvaraz was now indubitably the most powerful figure in the Persian empire. Heraclius had no choice but to turn to him and to try to hammer out a new agreement, if he were to expel Persian forces from the Roman Near East. He now proposed a deal: he would offer Roman political backing (and a token military force) for a bid by Shahrvaraz to seize power at Ctesiphon, on condition that Shahrvaraz fulfilled the terms of the agreement reached with Kavad Shiroe. In the negotiations, which were carried out by correspondence, Shahrvaraz proved a tougher bargainer than the shah (as he had to be if he was not to forfeit military and civilian support) and insisted on retaining significantly more of the territory which he and Shahen had conquered. The frontier in future would follow the line of the Euphrates, leaving south-west Armenia (the Arsanias valley and its mountain hinterlands), the whole length of the Armenian Taurus, and the Roman forward defensive zone in northern Mesopotamia in Persian hands. The strategic consequences of this territorial division were as damaging for the Romans as that agreed in 591 had been for the Persians. There is no evidence about the course of negotiations, save that a general understanding was reached by early summer 629. By then Heraclius had been forced to make the territorial concessions (Shahrvaraz presumably arguing that, without them, his bid for power was likely to fail). Persian troops began to move out of Egypt inJune, and the evacuation was well advanced when Heraclius and Shahrvaraz met, at Arabissus in the Anti-Taurus, to finalize their agreement. As with the yabghu khagan, Heraclius sought to bind his new ally to him with family ties (in this case betrothing Theodosius, his second son by Martina, to Shahrvaraz's daughter Nike). In return for his concessions, he seems to have obtained a promise of some war reparations (in the form of generous presents) and to have left Shahrvaraz a free hand to deal with the Turks." The Persian withdrawal continued. Shahrvaraz marched on Ctesiphon, encountered some resistance but soon entered the city and took power. At some stage before February 630, he was forced to send an army to confront the Turks in Armenia and suffered a reverse. Before long, though, the Turkish problem resolved itself, when news of a political crisis in central Asia sent the Turkish forces hurrying back to the Shahrvaraz's refusal: Sebeos, pp. 86-7. Kavad Shiroe's death: Khuzan CAronicle, p. 31 and Tabari, pp. 383-5 (after a reign correctly put at 8 months); CAronicle to 724, p. 18 and Moses Daskhurantsi, p. 92 (after 7 months); Set CAronicle, pp. 553-4 (after 6 or 8 months); Sebeos, p. 88 (after 6 months). 88 Sebeos, pp. 88-9; Thomas Artsruni, pp. 162-3; CAronicle to 724, pp. 13, 17-18; Kuztan CAronic& p. 32; Nicephorus, p. 65. See also Tabari, pp. 302-3.
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steppes from Transcaucasia. Peace was taking hold in the south. Persian forces had withdrawn, as agreed, beyond the Euphrates. A first payment of reparations was made. The fragments of the True Cross were found and returned.89 Heraclius, who had celebrated his military victory on his return to Constantinople in 628, could now celebrate the recovery of the Near Eastern provinces and his own role as saviour of Christendom. He went to Palestine and, on 21 March 630, made a ceremonial entry into Jerusalem carrying the precious relic of the True Cross, as the trophy of victory, and reinstalled it in the church of the Holy Sepulchre.90 From Jerusalem he moved north into Syria, where he was to embark on an ambitious (but doomed) project of reuniting the fractious confessions of Christendom while memories of the war against Zoroastrian Persia were still fresh.91 Before long, political events in Ctesiphon strengthened Heraclius' position. Shahrvaraz, who had the young shah Ardashir executed in April and took formal power himself, paid for his presumption with his life, 40 days later (on 9 June). Boran, a daughter of Khusro II whom he had married, now headed a weak government and hastened to secure Heraclius' goodwill. In these changed circumstances, Heraclius had no difficulty in modifying the territorial agreement he had made with Shahrvaraz. The Roman-Persian frontier was pushed far to the east, back to the line of 591. All of Khusro's gains had now been wiped out.92 Thus the ancient world order was restored after 30 years of turbulence. It looked as if the two great powers would once again be running the affairs of sedentary western Eurasia, with the Romans now the senior partners. Both were bloodied, humbled - and aware that trouble was brewing from a new quarter, the south. But for the moment at least there was an appearance of normality, and the chief external danger, that of the Turks, had vanished in an almost miraculous way.

III. Explanations
This condensed, but still lengthy narrative may, simply by virtue of the details and sequences which it presents, help the distant observer gain
8 p. 89 (with Thomas Artsruni, p. 163); Khuzistan CAronicle, pp. 31-2; Set CAronicle, p. 556; Tabari, pp. 386-8; Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 104-6. See also Nicephonus, p. 65 and CAronicle to 1234, p. 142 (and related eastern texts cited in

Sebeos,

n. 330).
90

91 92

Sebeos, pp. 90-91; Strategius, pp. 54-5; Theophanes, p. 459; George of Pisidia, In Restitutionem Sancti Crucis; Retour des reliques du saint martyr Anastase, trans. Flusin, p. 98. See also Nicephorus, p. 67. Chronology: Mango, 'Deux etudes', pp. 112-13; Flusin, Saint Anastase, pp. 293-319. Op. cit., pp. 312-13, 319-27. Shahrvaraz's death: Sebeos, p. 89; Khuzistan Chronicle, p. 32; Seert CAronicle, p. 556; Tabari, pp. 388-90 (giving a precise date); CAronicle to 1234, p. 143 (and related texts cited in n.335). Boran's embassy (led by the Nestorian patriarch in summer 630): Khuzistan CAronicle, pp. 32-3; Seert CAronicle, pp. 557-60 (with discussion in Flusin, Saint Anastase, pp. 320-22). Reinstatement of 591 frontier: Sebeos, p. 9 1.
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a better understanding of this last phase of the last great war of antiquity. It should be clear already that the war was not lost by the Persians. There was no failure of political will on their part, no fundamental strategic error, no unusual incompetence in the conduct of operations. A strategy of military and political expansion was pursued with consistency and adapted intelligently to changing circumstances. The balance of resources and military power shifted remorselessly in the Persians' favour and it was quite reasonable for them to redefine their objectives accordingly. It was not unrealistic to aim for the liquidation of the Roman empire once Persian armies had reached the Mediterranean and had divided the empire in two. The success of Persian arms over the following years, which resulted in the conquest of Syria, Palestine and Egypt and the transfer of their economic resources to the Persian side, made it virtually inevitable that the Romans' last redoubt in Asia Minor would fall before long, while Roman authority was likely to fade away in their principal European possessions under Avar, Slav and Lombard pressure. The question to be asked then is - how did the Romans, under Heraclius' leadership, manage to halt and reverse the Persian advance in the 620s? Fortunately answers are obtainable since the great maj ority of extant sources look at events from the Roman side and thus can throw light on the resources still available to the Roman state in this prolonged crisis, on the policies of Heraclius' government, and on the military capability of the army which conducted the two bold counteroffensive campaigns of 624-5 and 627-8. First, however, we must ask some basic questions about the ultimate instrument of victory, the field army commanded by Heraclius, hitherto a shadowy force of indefinite character and unquantified size. The Roman army of the early seventh century bore little resemblance to the army which had conquered the Mediterranean world. The size of the basic fighting unit had shrunk from the 5500 men of a legion to 1000 or 500, and there had been a steady rise in the relative importance of cavalry. The growth in cavalry strength can be documented through the fourth century, and was sustained subsequently.93 By the age of Justinian, in the middle of the sixth century, it was the premier fighting arm, so much so that, a generation or so later, experienced military commanders were ready to take to the field without any infantry at all (against the Avars in the Balkans in the 590s).94 There was, however, no question of Heraclius following suit in campaigns against the Persians. He needed infantry for several reasons: for all the heavy work involved in digging entrenchments for camps; for constructing, manhandling and operating siege-engines (the only roles in
9 W. Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army 284-1081 (Stanford, CA., 1995), pp. 44-64, 8793. Advice on drill, formations and operations for a purely cavalry army predominate in a military manual written, in the first instance, for Balkan generals in the 590s, trans. C.T. Dennis, Maurices Strateikon (Philadelphia, 1984).

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which they are clearly visible, before Tiflis in 627);95 for supervising the army's supply train; for maintaining security in camp and on the march, especially when there were defiles or wooded country to be traversed; for taking and holding enemy strongholds and cities; and finally for imparting greater solidity to the battle array through the infantry's more tenacious grip on terrain. The ratio of infantry to cavalry may tentatively be put at 2: 1, a ratio which is documented for the Byzantine army in its late tenth-century heyday and which corresponds to that recommended in a brief section on joint cavalry-infantry operations tacked onto to the end of a military manual written for Balkan commanders at the end of the sixth century.96 That military manual is not as helpful as it might be on the size of Roman armies on campaign. So anxious is the author to conceal the actual strength of Roman units and whole field armies, so careful is he to avoid numerical consistency in the examples he uses and the diagrams which accompany his text, that the reader may approach the three orders of magnitude which he gives for purely cavalry armies with a certain scepticism: (i) from 2000 to 5000 or 6000 men, classified as 'of moderate strength'; (ii) from 5000 or 6000 up to 10 000, 12 000 or 15 000, also classified but at another point as 'of moderate strength'; and (iii) 15 000 or 20 000 or more. 97 In any case, no figure at all is given for the mixed armies normally deployed on campaign. So we are forced to glean figures from the sources dealing with Heraclius' Persian campaigns, above all those which derive ultimately from dispatches. All but the obviously wild figures (such as the 120 000 men said to have invaded Persia in 624)98 have been cited in the narrative section above. Figures such as 30 000 for Shahen's army in 625 or 40 000 for the Turks operating with Heraclius in 627 are not impossibly high (despite the questionable provenance of the latter), in view of the Avars' ability to mobilise some 80 000 men against Constantinople in summer 626 (a figure corroborated by the 30 000 estimate for the vanguard included in the official report on the siege). But two figures for Persian forces which originated in dispatches received or sent by Heraclius point to a rather lower order of magnitude: 3000 troops were offered by Shahrvaraz to the khagan of the Avars in 626, a figure which was clearly intended to impress the Roman delegation to whom it was announced and for which Sebeos provides general corroboration (he has 4000 subsequently killed in transit); Heraclius certainly viewed the same number of reinforcements, which he learned were approaching early in December 627, as a very substantial addition to Rahzadh's strength, and strove to force an engagement before they arrived. Tabari's figure of 12 000 for Rahzadh's army is
9 Moses Daskhurantsi, p. 85. 96 C.T. Dennis, ed. and trans., Three Byzantine pp. 247, 275; Maurices Stratgikon, p. 133. 7 G. cit. pp. 43-45. 9 Sebeos, p. 81.

Militayy Treaties

(Washington, DC, 1985),

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probably nearer the mark than 30 000 or 40 000. It is impossible to match these Persian figures with similarly document-based figures for Heraclius' expeditionary force since numbers were not normally included in Heraclius' dispatches, for obvious reasons of security. We can only make the roughest of estimates, on the assumption that its strength was commensurate with that of the individual Persian armies which it encountered. I would plump for a range between 15 000 and 25 000 men, which accords with the strength of expeditionary forces fielded in the reign of Justinian.9 But how were the Romans able to sustain their apparently forlorn military effort for so long? What material and immaterial resources could they draw on? How efficiently and effectively did they deploy them? What role was played by other forms of action beside war? Was the army itself subject to radical reform? Is there evidence of tactical or strategic innovation? These and other questions must now be asked.

East Roman Resources In 622
We must begin by emphasizing that the Persians had made little headway in Asia Minor. In the north, Sebasteia was probably still in Roman hands in 622 as it certainly was in 626. This suggests that the limit of territory effectively controlled by the Persians lay east of the Anatolian plateau, and that Satala or possibly Nicopolis was their forward base on the northern invasion route. Further south, Melitene had fallen, probably in 617, and could thenceforth act as a secure bridgehead west of the Euphrates. The need to guard against attack from Melitene probably explains the rise to military prominence of Tarantum (modern Darende) which guarded the main route onto the Anatolian plateau from Melitene. It was important enough by 626 to be mentioned in the debate about which route of withdrawal Heraclius should take. Finally in the south, there is no evidence that the Persians had gained control of the Taurus mountains, since Heraclius had no qualms about using the Cilician Gates in 626. There were therefore formidable natural obstacles barring the way deeper into Asia Minor. The large armies which the Persians could put into the field would face considerable dangers if they attempted to cross one of the small number of passes which cut through the AntiTaurus and Taurus ranges. For defending forces, heavily outnumbered though they might be, could exploit the advantages of terrain to ambush and harass invading armies with a good chance of victory, and could be sure of disorganizing and demoralizing the jostling, compacted masses of the enemy during their passage. The natural ramparts of Asia Minor are breached by somewhat easier routes ofinvasion only in the east - by western extensions of the two routes which run down or parallel to the valleys of the upper Euphrates and its main tributary,
9 Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army, pp. 47, 60-61.

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the Arsanias. But these routes too had pinch-points where assaults could be launched, and were rendered virtually impassible for several months a year by prolonged and severe winters. The bitter cold of winter, the heavy snowfalls and the drifts formed by high winds were indeed all-important allies of the Romans on the eastern plateau of Anatolia as they prepared to defend their last redoubt. For they would interrupt the operations of Persian invasion forces and halt the movement of reinforcements and supplies to any forces already established in Anatolia. Thus the troops of any general bold enough to go into winter quarters on Roman soil would be isolated, and would become a tempting target for counterattack by a concentration of Roman defending forces.100 Winter also interrupted sea communications and thus helped protect the richest, most urbanized provinces of Asia Minor which lay on the coast. Its help was, however, less needed by sea, since the Persians seem to have been reluctant to resort to naval action, perhaps because too much Roman shipping had succeeded in escaping from the ports of Syria and from Alexandria.10 Apart from successful attacks on Cyprus (around 619) and Rhodes and other unspecified islands in 623,102 the islands of the Aegean, the rich western coastlands of Asia Minor, and Constantinople itself were never subjected to direct attack by Persian seaborne forces.103 Persian weakness at sea is evident as late as 626, when they were forced to rely on Slav monoxyla to transport the 3000 troops they had promised the khagan of the Avars across the Bosporus. Thus in the 620s the Roman empire still retained a substantial and defensible land mass in Asia Minor. Roughly the same extent of territory formed the heartland of Dark Age Byzantium and was able to provide the resources, human and material, necessary to sustain the war effort against the greatly superior forces of Islam for the two centuries when the Caliphate exercised effective authority over its empire and could muster large forces for the jihad against Byzantium. The resources upon which Heraclius could draw in Asia Minor were therefore far from negligible. They probably exceeded by a considerable margin those of the empire's Dark Age successor state, since the process of urban decline which contributed to an evident economic

Naval Intelligence Division, Geographical Handbook Seri Tur*ey (London, 1943) i, pp. 142-227. A guerrilla strategy tailored to Anatolian conditions was used in later centuries by the Byzantines against Arab invaders, and is recorded in an imperially sponsored tenth-century military manual (trans. Dennis, Three Byzantine Milita?y Treatises, pp. 145-239), with commentary in C. Dagron and H. Mihaescu, Le trait sur la gutilla (De velitatione) de IEmprur Nicphore Phocas (963-969) (Paris, 1986), pp. 137-287. 101 Khuztan CAronicle, pp. 25-6 for the only recorded case of a large number of vessels falling into Persian hands (at Alexandria). 102 Rhodes and other islands: Chronicle to 724, p. 18, Chronicle to 1234, p. 133 (and related texts cited in n. 300). 103 Their seabomne enemies were Slays, whose depredations are reported under 622/3 by CAronicle to 724, p. 18.
0

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depression only gathered pace in the middle of the seventh century. It is unlikely that the three Persian invasions of Asia Minor in 611, 615, and 617 caused extensive and irreparable damage to city life. Economic destruction was not a prime aim, except for Shahen's army for part of summer 611, before it was blockaded in Caesarea, and cities were resilient in the short term in the face of enemy action. The real enemy of city life was, paradoxically, the imperial government, which had the bureaucratic means to extract the punitively high taxes needed to sustain the war effort against Islam decade after decade. It was this squeezing dry of the urban economy which brought about so marked a lowering in material conditions and culture in the early Byzantine

period.104 Finally, we should not be misled by the gloomy picture presented by the detractors of Heraclius' predecessor, Phocas,05 into believing
that in his reign the Slavs had inundated lowlands as well as highlands in the northern Balkans, had reached Greece and Thrace as well as Dalmatia and Illyricum. In reality Phocas made peace (at a price) with the Avars, the chief force in Balkan history at this time, a peace which seems to have held until 619 or so.106 Until this date the Avars probably acted as a restraining influence on the Slavs, and thus conserved for the Romans rather more Balkan resources for use in the war in the east than is commonly supposed.

Financial Management
The most urgent task confronting Heraclius as the Persians overran the richest provinces of the Roman Near East was to obtain enough material resources from his remaining subjects, above all enough money and bullion, to sustain the Roman war effort. George of Pisidia alludes to the problem (Heraclius' reason held firm when he saw that the sinews of battle, wealth, had flowed away to the barbarians), but does not tell us how it was overcome save by Heraclius' determination.107 Other sources provide but exiguous information. An austerity programme was introduced after Heraclius' efforts to stem the tide of Persian advance had clearly failed. Two measures are mentioned by the sources: official salaries and military pay were halved in 615; and the free distribution of grain was suspended from August
The Making of Orthodox Byzantium 600-1025 (London, 1996), pp. 8995, 104-6, as against C. Foss, The Persians in Asia Minor and the End of Antiquity', EIR XC (1975), pp. 721-47. 105 Theophanes, p. 429. 106 Gp. cit., p. 420. Apart from an attempt to surprise the city by night (dated by Lemerle to 604 or 610), Thessalonica first faced a serious threat from a number of Slav tribes acting in concert some three years before the long siege of Thessalonica, which, it has been argued above, forced Heraclius to leave Asia Minor in midcampaign in 622. Lemerle, Miracles de Saint Dtmitrius, "pp. 120-24, 169-74, 180-84 (full summaries) and ii, pp. 71-73, 91-4, 99-100 (commentary, arguing for dates in 615 and 618). 107 George of Pisidia, Heradias i.161-4.
104 Cf. M. Whittow,

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618 after a charge had been imposed earlier in the year. "" The government also tapped the very considerable reserves of gold and silver bullion held by the church in the form of plate and revetment. Every effort was probably made to remove what was portable from Syria, Palestine and Egypt at the approach of the Persians, as also to rescue precious relics, such as the Sponge which arrived in Constantinople in September 614 and the Lance which arrived in October 614, both spirited out of Jerusalem. 109 This, together with the resources of churches and religious institutions in Asia Minor, the Balkans and Constantinople, formed a massive stock which could, zn extremis, be turned into coin. It is impossible to say exactly when and by what means (a call for contributions to the war effort or forced loans) Heraclius began to draw on this stock, save that a particularly large amount was raised as a loan from St. Sophia and religious establishments (probably also in Constantinople) on the eve of his Persian campaigns.110 The war also forced Heraclius (and his maligned predecessor, Phocas) to begin reorganizing the financial structure of the empire. The huge, ramshackle Praetorian Prefecture of the East which was responsible mainly for expenditure and local government throughout Asia Minor (together with the Roman sector of Transcaucasia) and the Near Eastern provinces was not an effective intrument of war, least of all when it had lost so much of its territory, nor was it sensible for revenue collection to be shared by it with two other ministries. The crucial function of financial control at the centre was probably hived off at an early stage in the war and allocated to the Sacellarius, or Keeper of the Purse in the imperial Bedchamber (hence the prominence of an appointee of Phocas to that post). Military expenditure, which had to be targeted effectively, followed suit before long, the head of the military department, a logothete, being made independent of his old boss, the Praetorian Prefect (the logothete Theodosius who was on the five-man delegation to the Avar khagan in 626 was surely the military logothete). These were two first crucial steps in adapting institutions developed in a large empire in a relatively peaceful age to the very different circumstances of prolonged and difficult warfare conducted from a much-reduced core territory. In the long run the Praetorian Prefecture would be entirely dismembered (other logothetes becoming autonomous), local government would be reorganized, and a new system of financial management introduced at the centre (revenue collection consolidated into a single department, expenditure distributed among a number of specialized bureaux) ."
108

CAmnicon Paschale, pp. 158, 164.

vessels, which were restored after the end of the war, were removed from Jerusalem as well as relics associated with the Passion: Sebeos, pp. 90-91; CAonicon Paschale, p. 157. l10 Theophanes, p. 435 and the less reliable notice of Nicephonts, p. 55. 111 CAronicon Paschale, pp. 152 (Sacellarius), 175 (logothete). General discussion: J.F. Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Century (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 173-94.
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Military Training
Reorganization of the army, whether of commands or provisioning or relations with the civil authorities in the localities, was likewise an extended process, which reached a term only in the middle of the eighth century.112 Heraclius had no time and no incentive to alter structures, since there would be no immediate military benefit. His efforts were directed rather at improving the morale, training and tactical flexibility of his troops. Hence the intensive, closely supervised military exercises in Bithynia 622, and the emperor's confidence-boosting harangues. The effects of this training showed in all subsequent campaigns: Roman troops had confidence in their ability to defeat Persian armies equal or numerically superior to them in open, orthodox combat; the tactical flexibility of their battle array (modelled on that of nomad armies and made possible by a carefully drilled elasticity of individual formations)113 gave them a decisive edge in conventional engagements; their greater stamina gave them superior strategic mobility again and again they demonstrated their ability to outmarch and outmanoeuvre Persian armies; and they had been trained in winter combat, thus giving Heraclius the option of operating outside the conventional limits of the campaigning season, which could have a dramatic psychological effect on Persian armies and political circles. Finally, Heraclius himself broke with traditional Roman strategic thinking: he cut loose from Roman territory, disregarding the consequent loss of direct contact; he made no use of fortifications save the perimeter defences of camps; and he prepared to move between enemy armies (something which was anathema to sixth-century Roman generals) 114 confident that he could move faster and would be able to use a temporarily superior concentration of his forces to dispose of Persian armies in detail.

Propaganda and Its Effects
Almost the only type of aggressive action which Heraclius could take from 614 to 621 was the dissemination of propaganda. The object was to enhance the loyalty of his remaining subjects, to retain that of his former subjects in the occupied provinces of the Near East, and to arouse opposition among the numerous Christian peoples living in the Transcaucasian component of the Persian empire (Laz, Abasgians, Iberians, Albanians and Armenians). The sack of Jerusalem by Shahrvaraz's troops in 614 provided a rich seam of material, with plenty of gory details and shocking deeds. It was exploited to the full, so as to
112 Gp. cit., pp. 201-32. 3
1

114 e.g.

strong Persian garrisons threatening his rear: Procopius, Histony of the Wars, ed. and trans. H.B. Dewing, I (Cambridge, MA, 1914), pp. 419-21.

Maurices Strategikor, pp. 35-51, 127-36. Belisarius, unwilling to advance deeper into Persian territory in 541 with two

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induce horror in all Christians and to emphasize their common interests in the face of a ruthless and expansionist dualist power. The Persians were accused of atrocities and gross acts of sacrilege. Much stress too was laid on the ill-treatment of the deported prisoners ofwar and on the removal of the fragments of the True Cross from their proper place in Jerusalem. Propaganda material of this sort forms the central part of the monk Strategius' account of the fall of the city. It is also registered in several other sources.115 Its effect was such that the Persians were compelled to issue counter-propaganda about their conciliatory policies in occupied Jerusalem - material which is picked up and preserved for us by Sebeos.116 Roman verbal propaganda was backed up with cash. After a long gap in which silver had only been used for ceremonial issues, large quantities of heavy silver coins (hexagrams, with a theoretical weight of 6.82 g) were minted in 615 and the following years. Initially they were used to pay soldiers and civilians at half the old rate, but it is highly likely that they were also intended for use beyond the Roman frontier, in or near the Persian zone of silver currency. This is confirmed by the known provenances of a few major hoards of hexagrams: these were probably vestiges of consignments of subsidy in specie intended for princes and local auxiliaries in Transcaucasia, as well as for leaders of the western component of the Turkish empire. The coins were not simply objects of value, but conveyed a message encapsulating contemporary Roman propaganda: on the reverse a cross stood above a globe on three steps, a symbolic fusion of the great jewelled cross at Calvary (steps) and the cross dominating the world (globe). Thus two messages were packed into the design: there was a clear reference to the True Cross, which the Persians had torn from its proper place in Jerusalem (a central theme of Roman polemic), but the core ideology of the Christian empire was also signalled - that the Romans alone were authorized by God to rule the earth. A brief legend, also on the reverse, appealed to God for help (Dens adzuta Romanzs), an appeal also surely addressed to Christians everywhere.117 This barrage of propaganda was probably maintained until the victorious conclusion of the war in 630. Undoubtedly it had an effect on opinion among the traditionally ambivalent Christian peoples of Transcaucasia. The plan adopted by Heraclius for his first sustained counteroffensive, involving a northern attack, and his decision to winter in Albania provide the clearest indications that he expected to find a favourable reception in Transcaucasia. Opinion was evidently swing"5

116
117

Strategius, pp. 14-24, 32-41; CAronicon Paschale, p. 156; Sebeos, pp. 68-9; Theophanes, p. 431.

Sebeos, pp. 69-76.

CAronicon PascAle, p. 158; A.R. Bellinger and P. Grierson, Catalogue of the Byzantine Coim in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whitmoe Co&ection II( l) (Wasbhington, DC, 1968), pp. 17-18, 95-9; P. Yannopoulos, LhAexagramme un monnoyage byzantin en argent du Vlle sile, Numismatica Lovaniensia 3 (Louvain, 1978), pp. 102-8.
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ing in the Romans' favour and masking traditional rivalries between peoples and local principalities. One of the prime purposes of the winter spent in Albania was to rally the northern peoples to the Roman cause. A general call was issued beforehand for princes and governors to serve Heraclius, to which the response was evidently good, given the influence exercised by certain of the Transcaucasian contingents (Laz, Abasgian and Iberian) over the next year's campaign. The Armenians, who were probably the most numerous, are strangely elusive in the extant texts, mainly perhaps because they were less hesitating in their support - but some, who must have been rushed to Constantinople in 626, can be glimpsed butchering Slav sailors who managed to swim ashore after their rout at sea. The direct involvement of the northern peoples also helps explain the high level of interest shown by chroniclers from the region in Heraclius' exploits.118 The Transcaucasian contingents may also have left a permanent mark on the organization of the Roman army. A new command, that of the Obsequium, almost certainly dates from Heraclius' reign, and its institution can most plausibly be associated with the recruitment of northern Christian troops into the Roman field army.119 The word obsequium was familiar enough to Romans, but in non-military contexts. With a basic meaning of compliance in attitude or action, it was widely used as a legal term for the relationship which ought to obtain between an ex-slave and the master who had manumitted him - the freedman was expected to show obsequzum, respect or deference, towards his exmaster, now his patron.120 In this sense obsequium was a loose form of service, thus a weak, informal version of the duty of absolute obedience owed by slaves to their masters (or by soldiers to their officers). The second main usage of obsequium was in the apparatus of government, denoting the services rendered by subordinates (including palace staff) to their superiors, i.e. the performance of assigned tasks, activities and duties.121 Finally it was also used of public service, the performance of civic duties. 122 It is hard to see then how it made the leap to the military sphere and became the name of a senior command with a long future in the Byzantine army, how it ousted the old designation of Praesental for the metropolitan forces which it absorbed in due course. Its exact equivalent in Armenian may provide the most satisfactory answer. Tsarayt)iwn, corresponding to the Latin serutium and obsequzum, could be
118 Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 79-80; Theophanes, p. 441; CAronicon PacAahg p. 178. 19 Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Centuy, pp. 21 3-17 summarizes what is known of the

early history of the

new

command (transliterated as

Cpsikion in Greek), but

postulates a different origin. 120 e.g. Codex lustinianu, 6.6, ed. P. Krueger, Corpw Iurs Civihs ii (Berlin, 1954), p. 246 and Novellae, 78.2, ed. R. Schoell and C. Kroll, Corpm uuris Civilis III (Berlin, 1954), pp. 384-5. The whole Justinianic corpus is translated by S.P. Scott, The Ci vil Law (Cincinnati, 1932). 121 e.g. Codex Iustinianu, 12.17.3, 12.49.1, pp. 458, 479. 122 e.g. op. cit., 10.32.18, 12.57.5, pp. 411, 483.

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used of relations near the apex of the social order in Armenia, denoting the service owed by princes and nobles to a king.123 It may therefore be postulated that the princes and governors, together with their followings, who answered Heraclius' call to arms, were designated collectively his tsaraytiwn, a term (and its Latin equivalent) which had the added advantage of overlaying the ethnic identities of individual contingents. The importance of these Transcaucasian forces serving Heraclius (and his immediate successors) might then be gauged from the success of their collective name in elbowing out alternative designations with better Roman pedigrees.

Religious fervour
We have already seen that Heraclius understood the value of propaganda and made effective use of it after 614 to maintain the notional existence of the Christian Roman empire, in the minds of the provincials living under Persian occupation and of the Christian peoples of Transcaucasia. He also deployed every rhetorical trick and propaganda device to raise the spirits of his regular troops, both on exercise and in the field, in order to give them the mental resilience which was a precondition for bold campaigns deep into enemy territory. One particular theme came to play a more and more important part in his addresses to his troops. We can observe its development thanks to George of Pisidia's Expeditio Persica and to verse summaries of the most notable campaign speeches which he included in his revised edition of Heraclius' dispatches and which are quoted almost verbatim by Theophanes. In spring 622, during the exercises in Bithynia, Heraclius portrayed the war as a religious one against a loathsome, pagan enemy and urged his troops to act as God's plasmata, as the obedient agents of His will. In summer 624, as they set foot on Persian soil for the first time, he ordered them to fight in the fear of God, to avenge the insult done to God and the many terrible things inflicted on the Christians, and to defend the independence of the Roman empire. In the course of this speech, he emphasized that confrontation of danger 'is not without recompense but leads to eternal life'. He concluded by expressing his confidence that God would aid them and would destroy their enemies. He then led them against the great fire-temple at Takht-iSulaiman, the premier cult centre of Persia, and destroyed it - to demonstrate by deed as well as word that it was a holy war of Christian against Zoroastrian. A year later, in a dark hour, when two of the northern contingents (the Laz and the Abasgians) had just left the army, Heraclius set about reviving his men's spirits. The gist of his speech is preserved once again in a verse summary, probably written by George of Pisidia. It is worth quoting Theophanes' version of it in full. 'Be not disturbed, 0 brethren, by the multitude [of the enemy]. For when
123 N. Adontz, Armnia in the Period ofjutinian (Lisbon, 1970), p. 349.
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God wills it, one man will rout a thousand. So let us sacrifice ourselves to God for the salvation of our brothers. May we win the crown of martyrdom that we may be praised zn future and receive our recompense from God.' In this speech, which he delivered in autumn 625, Heraclius made explicit a doctrine of holy war which had been implicit in his earlier speeches of 624 and 622. He classified death in battle against the Persians as martyrdom and declared that all martyrs were entitled to heavenly rewards.124 Heraclius' message was well attuned to the times and to one particular section of his audience, the Armenian auxiliaries. For such ideas had been current in Armenia since the middle of the fifth century.125 It was Heraclius, though, who first impressed the notion forcibly on the consciousness of a large army (and of Christendom at large). By harnessing religion to war he heightened his troops' commitment and increased the chance of ultimate success.

Alliance with the Turks
In spite of all his efforts to husband Roman resources, to hone the manoeuvring and fighting skills of his troops, to recruit non-Roman Christian forces from the north and to boost the confidence of his men (as well as sustain hope in all Christians), Heraclius could not expect to reverse almost 20 years of Persian victories in a few campaigning seasons. He must have contemplated a long war of attrition and he must have feared its effects. For the Persians had far superior resources on which to draw for reinforcements and for replacement equipment. He therefore had to magnify the military pressure which he could bring to bear, so as to force Khusro's government to agree a political settlement in a relatively short time. His only hope of doing so lay in an alliance with the third great power in western Eurasia, the revived Turkish empire.126 This provided an additional motive for Heraclius' surprising decision to invade Persia from the north-west, when we might have expected him to move into the occupied territories in Syria and Mesopotamia in the hope of sparking off a general uprising of the provincials. His northern route would take him near the outlying western regions of the Turkish empire and would thus enable him to make diplomatic contact with the regional Turkish authorities. As soon as he was in a position to do so (once he had gone into winter quarters in Albania at the end of 624) that is exactly what Heraclius did. Our main source for these negotiations, and the Turkish military and diplomatic actions which resulted from them, is Moses Daskhur124 ETpeditio Persica ii.88-115; Theophanes, pp. 439-40, 442-3. 125 R.W. Thomson, trans., T Hetorny of Lazar (Atlanta, 1991), pp. 11 93, 201. 126 TJ. The Frontier (Oxford, 1989), pp. 131-45 for a concise the Turkish empire focused on its relations with China. Barfield may well underestimate its dynastic and territorial cohesion.

P`zrci

Barfeld,

Perilous

1-17, 190history of

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antsi's History of the Caucaszan Albanzans. Although he had some difficulty in arranging his material in the correct chronological order, the course of negotiations and subsequent Turkish interventions can be reconstructed with a fair degree of probability from his text. It was late in 624 or early in 625, after he had secured his army's position in Albania, that Heraclius sent an ambassador called Andrew north to the yabghu khagan, viceroy of the king of the north, 'with promises of immense and countless treasure' if he would agree to enter the war on the Roman side. A return embassy escorted by an elite force of 1000 Turkish troops travelled at speed through the Caspian Gates, up the Kura valley and across Iberia to the Black Sea coast. They were then conveyed by ship to Constantinople. The enthusiastic agreement of the yabghu khagan to Heraclius' proposals (whatever they were) was reported. Oaths were exchanged and the Turks received instructions 'concerning their expedition which no-one suspected'. Negotiations were clearly at an advanced stage, since a specific plan of military action was under discussion.127 The plan was put into effect in 626.128 A Turkish army attacked, under the command of the supreme khagan's nephew who held the title of shad.129 It caused widespread damage in Albania and part of Atropatene. From a camp on the banks of the Araxes, an ultimatum was sent to Khusro from 'the king of the north, the lord of the whole world, your king and the king of kings'. Khusro, who was addressed as governor of Mesopotamia, was curtly ordered to evacuate occupied Roman territory and return all prisoners as well as the fragments of the True Cross, or he would face the might of the king of the north.130 After he had refused, the threatened invasion materialized in 627. Persian defences collapsed in Albania, and the Turks marched west into Iberia. There, before the besieged capital, Tiflis, they were joined by Heraclius and his army.131 The story of what followed has already been told. These devastating Turkish campaigns caused grave damage to Khusro's prestige and held out the depressing prospect of a long war on ever-worsening terms. They broke Persia's military hold on Transcaucasia, where the loyalty of the provincials had already been undermined by Heraclius' propaganda and actions. They opened the way for an attack on Atropatene and the western sector of the Iranian plateau.
127 Moses

Daskhurantsi, pp. 86-7. The date which he gives, Khusro's 36th regnal year (625/6 on his chronology), is probably that of the arrival of the return embassy in Constantinople (see n. 57 above). He is mistaken to suppose that Heraclius was there

to receive it.

128 Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 87-8 (at the beginning of Khusro's 37th regnal year, i.e. summer 626 on his reckoning). 129 Shad was the title held by princes appointed to gover the major component parts of the Turkish empire (Barfield, Perilou Frontier, p. 132). If he was the same shad as the commander left in charge of Turkish troops in Albania from 628 (as seems likely), he was also son of the yabghu khagan. Moses Daskhurantsi, pp. 81-2, 87-8.

Gp.

cit., pp. 82-6.

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They thus brought into question the security of highland Iran which was ultimately of greater concern to the governing classes of the Sasanian empire than that of the non-Iranian metropolitan provinces in Mesopotamia. It was above all this growing danger in the north, combined with the extraordinary resilience and boldness of Heraclius' army, which discredited Khusro's government and prepared the political ground for the putsch which deposed him.

Heraclius' Generalship
Finally, we should not forget Heraclius himself. His counteroffensive strategy was brilliantly conceived. He was realistic about the prospect of breaking Persian control over the occupied territories in northern Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. A southern attack would have involved a head-on conflict with the main body of the Persian armed forces under their most experienced general, Shahrvaraz. And the outcome was likely once again to be a crushing defeat, because Persian numerical superiority would be easier to bring to bear in relatively open country where major watercourses would severely restrict Roman movements. The northern line of attack which was chosen had several advantages. It caught the Persians off guard. It struck at the potentially weakest region of their empire, where their political authority was most open to challenge. It also enabled Heraclius to approach the Turkish empire, the only outside power which could shift the strategic balance back in the Romans' favour in a short time. The plan was executed with consummate skill. The psychological and political pressure on Khusro's government was never relaxed after Heraclius' first bold invasion in 624, which induced panic in the Persian court and brought about the destruction of the famous fire-temple at Takht-i-Sulaiman. The initial military aims were probably modest to preserve the last effective fighting force which the Roman empire could put into the field and to hope for the unexpected. The objective of survival was just achieved, thanks to the superior mobility and better training of Heraclius' troops and to the active support which they enjoyed from the local populations of the Persian north-west. The modern observer is astounded at those long marches through enemy territory when discipline was maintained and the army remained alert and ready for battle, at the marching and countermarching which outwitted three great Persian generals in 625, and at the long retreat back to Asia Minor in 626 which was transformed in Heraclius' hands (by his choice of a southern route) into a dramatic demonstration to the peoples of the occupied territories that the Roman empire lived on and was still a power to be reckoned with. Once the expeditionary army had proved its mettle and its survival seemed fairly assured (by autumn 626), Heraclius raised his military sights. Weak points were appearing in an overextended adversary, and a powerful ally was being courted in the north. It was now, at the climax of the war, in the campaign of autumn-winter 627-8, that he
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displayed his generalship to best advantage and his troops the stamina, experience and elan gained over the previous years. It was a campaign which should rank very high in the annals of war. It produced a victory so spectacular that contemporaries explained it, not unreasonably, as the result of God's direct intervention in human affairs.

IV. Conclusion
Mounting military pressure induced increasing stress in the Persian empire. The various forms it took were revealed in the roster of charges laid against Khusro as disaffection took hold in court and army. The cost of a war, now without end in sight, was too high, both in lives lost and in long years spent in service far from home. The economy was damaged because long-distance trade routes were cut. It was above all the arrogance of Khusro which was resented, an arrogance born of the extraordinary series of successes he had gained in the first two phases of the war. His rule was harsh and inflexible, and the fiscal pressure, needed initially to sustain a war effort probably unprecedented in scale, was not subsequently relaxed when additional sources of revenue were acquired in the conquered lands and a large surplus began accumulating in the treasury.132 In the end the war was not decided by the balance of material resources which favoured the Persians so strongly, but by the relative strength of the commitment of each side. On this immaterial plane Heraclius won a comprehensive victory, steeling army and population at large to war, however badly things were going, retaining provincials' loyalty in the occupied lands, gaining support in Christian Transcaucasia and sowing doubt in the Persian heartlands beyond. The sudden collapse of Persian resistance, miraculous though it might have seemed, can be explained in human terms. The ambition of creating a single great power in western Eurasia failed because the Persians lacked the necessary driving conviction, because they could not entirely throw aside a traditional world-view according to which two great powers ran the affairs of the known world. That traditional world order was recreated in the course of the extended peace negotiations which followed the deposition and execution of Khusro. Within four years, though, it was once again under threat, this time from the south, and events moved with frightening speed. Within two decades the Persian empire had been destroyed and swallowed whole by Islam, and the Romans had lost, for the second time, all their rich Near Eastern provinces. The process of Arab expansion and the forces at work lie beyond the scope of this paper. It should only be noted that the political after-shocks of Khusro's war disabled Persia at a critical time, and that the Romans had
132

Op.

cit., pp. 89-90;

Tabari, pp. 351-6, 362-5.
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had little time to re-establish their administration in the provinces vacated by Shahrvaraz's troops and to organize the vital Beduin shield needed to guard a long, indefensible desert frontier, before the storm broke. By 652 western Eurasia had changed out of all recognition, and the Arabs were preparing for the last phase of their war against the great powers, the conquest of Asia Minor and capture of Constantino-

ple.133
In this endeavour the Arabs failed just as the Persians had. But they sustained the pressure against Anatolia for much more than a few years. The supreme achievement of the dismembered Roman empire which we call Byzantium was to resist this pressure decade after decade for over two centuries. Radical changes were required to inherited structures, military, fiscal, administrative, but the process of adaptation had already been initiated in the war against Khusro. The army too had been transformed into a taut, highly mobile, resilient fighting unit, which could, without too much difficulty, resort to a new type of warfare, guerrilla in character, exploiting every advantage offered by a familiar terrain and the active support of a militarized society, to contain the greatly superior military forces of Islam. But the principal contribution of Heraclius to the struggle waged by his successors was the ideological commitment which he had implanted in his Christian, Roman subjects. This gave army and people the vital self-belief which enabled them to sustain their resistance for so many dark years ahead.
Unzverszty of Oxford

133 The most authoritative source is the contemporary account of Sebeos, pp. 96-102, 104, 108-11, 131-2. Modem summary: H. Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates (London and New York, 1986), pp. 57-72.

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