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Battle of Callinicum
Part of the Iberian War
Date 19 April 531
Location Ar-Raqqah, northern Syria
Result Desicive Sassanid victory
Sassanid Empire Byzantine Empire
Spahbod Azarethes Belisarius
15,000 25,000
Casualties and losses
Minimal Heavy

The Battle of Callinicum took place between the armies of the Eastern Roman Empire under the command of General Belisarius and Sassanid Persians under Sepahbod Azarethes on 19 April AD 531 during the Iberian War. Belisarius had been skirmishing with the Persian forces after the Battle of Dara in an attempt to incite a rout, but the Persians were generally successful at Callinicum and both sides withdrew.



Belisarius' forces consisted of about 20,000 men and another 5,000 Ghassanid Arab allies, who had been marching down the road leading into the heart of Persian territory along the right bank of the Euphrates in what today would be northern Iraq, then the eastern borders between the Roman Empire and Persia. The retreating Persian forces numbered about 10,000 with an additional group of 5,000 Lakhmid Arabs. After several days of forced march, the Persians turned and deployed for battle.

Both groups formed up differently, Belisarius again choosing an "odd" formation that confused his opposing general. In this case he anchored his left flank on the bank of the river with infantry, put the Ghassanid Arab allies on the right flank, and placed several ranks of heavy cavalry, the cataphracts, in the center of the front line. In more standard formation the Persians split their forces into two roughly equal groups, with infantry in front of cavalry.

The Persians broke through the Roman right flank, forcing Belisarius to retreat in an effort to re-form his line, but the retreat was followed and soon the Romans found themselves pressed against the river. Here, the Romans were able to resist the Persians and withdraw much of their army across the river. The Persians chose not to follow up this victory, and returned to their withdrawal from Roman territory.

Zachariah says of this battle:

"[The Romans] turned and fled before the Persian attack. Many fell into the Euphrates and were drowned, and others were killed."[1]

However, it is unknown what stage of the battle Zachariah was referring to.


This defeat was the first of Belisarius' series of unsuccessful wars against Sassanids, which led Byzantine to pay heavy tributes in exchange for a peace treaty. Callinicum ended the first of Belisarius' Persian campaigns, returning all of the land lost to them to Roman rule under Justinian I in the Perpetual Peace agreement signed in September of 532.

See also


  1. ^ Historia IX.4,95.4-95.26


  • Kaveh Farroukh. Sassanian Elite Cavalry AD 224-642.



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