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Battle of Edessa
Part of the Roman-Persian Wars
Bas relief nagsh-e-rostam al.jpg
A rock-face relief at Naqsh-e Rostam, depicting the triumph of Shapur I over the Roman Emperor Valerian.
Date 259
Location Edessa, Mesopotamia (southern Turkey)
Result Decisive Sassanid victory
Sassanid Empire Roman Empire
Shapur I Valerian
40,000 70,000
Casualties and losses
Minimal Entire Force[1][2]

The Battle of Edessa took place between the armies of the Roman Empire under the command of Emperor Valerian and Sassanid forces under King Shapur I in 259. In this battle, the Sassanids crushed the entire Roman army, while suffering minimal losses.



Prior to the battle, Shapur I had penetrated several times deeply into Roman territory conquering and plundering Antiochia in Syria in 253 or 256. In order to halt these advances and retaliate, Emperor Valerian gathered an army, which included the Roman Praetorian Guard, and marched eastward to the Sassanid borders. He succeeded initially and recaptured Syrian provinces. He then marched to Carrhae and Edessa where he met the main Persian army under command of the King Shapur I. After minor skirmishing with the Persian forces, the main battle commenced.


Shapur I defeated and captured Emperor Valerian, along with many other high ranking officials, though not much is known about the battle itself. The outcome of the battle was an overwhelming Persian victory, with the entire 70,000-strong Roman force being slain or captured. This compared starkly to the minimal number of Persian casualties.


Some scholars claim Shapur sent Valerian and some of his army to the city of Bishapur, where they lived in relatively good condition. Shapur used the remaining soldiers in engineering and development plans. Band-e Kaisar (Caesar's dam) is one of the remnants of Roman engineering located near the ancient city of Susa.[3]

Other sources say Valerian was captured with most of his army, by treachery, while negotiating a peace (Zosimus). According to Lactantius, Shapur humiliated Valerian, using the former emperor as a human stepping-stool while mounting his horse. Valerian's body was later skinned and stuffed with manure to produce a trophy of Roman submission preserved in a Persian temple.


The Humiliation of Valerian by Shapur (Hans Holbein the Younger, 1521, pen and black ink on a chalk sketch, Kunstmuseum Basel).
  1. ^ Avalanche Press, Sassanid Persia.
  2. ^ Kevan Barwise, Sassanid Persian - DBA 73a&b (220AD-637AD).
  3. ^ Zarinkoob, Abdolhossein, Ruzgaran: tarikh-i Iran az aghz ta saqut saltnat Pahlvi pp. 195.


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