16

End of the Sassanid Empire

Justinian (527–565), who replaced Justin as Byzantine emperor during this period of heightened tensions with Persia, continued his predecessor’spolicy of strengthening the fortifications along the Persian frontier, ordering the improvement of the fortifications at a number of sites as well as the construction of a new fort near Nisibis. This blatant disregard of the 442 treaty, which specifically prohibited such actions, provoked an attack in 528 by a Persian army, under the prince Xerxes, that saw the defeat of the great Byzantine general Belisarius, who was forced to flee for his safety. The setback was only temporary, however, and Belisarius soon returned with a larger Byzantine army that subsequently inflicted a significant defeat on the Persians. Nonetheless, the struggle remained inconclusive and was ultimately brought to an end in the spring of 532, after Qavad had died and was succeeded by Chosroes (Khusrau) I or Nushirwan (531–579).

The treaty that brought the conflict to a close was supposed to provide for an “Endless Peace.” Under its terms, Byzantium was to pay to Persia the sum of 11,000 pounds of gold to finance the defense of the Caucasian passes, which was to be carried out by Persia. Second, Dara was to be permitted to remain a fortified post, but was not to serve as Byzantine military headquarters in Mesopotamia. Third, Byzantium was to return a district and castle recently captured from the Persians, while the latter were to return the forts taken by them in Lazica. Finally, the pact contained a mutual security and assistance provision under which Byzantium and Persia were obligated to come to each other’s aid with men and money whenever such became necessary as a result of third-party conflicts.

While it would appear that Persia gained the most from the treaty, it was actually of far greater significance to Justinian. He urgently needed peace

-201-

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The Pre-Islamic Middle East
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