Battle of Dara

The Battle of Dara was fought between the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire and the Sassanids in 530. It was one of the battles of the Iberian War.

Battle of Dara
Part of the Iberian War
Battle of Dara-battleplan

map of the battle
Dara (present-day Mardin Province, southern Turkey)
Result Byzantine victory
Byzantine Empire,
Sassanid Empire
Commanders and leaders
John of Lydia
25,000 men[1] 50,000 men[2]
(originally 40,000 men[1])
Casualties and losses
Unknown 8,000+ men[3]


Ruins of Justinian's fortifications at Dara

The Byzantine Empire was at war with the Sassanids from 527, supposedly because Kavadh I had tried to force the Iberians to become Zoroastrians. The Iberian king fled from Kavadh, but Kavadh tried to make peace with the Byzantines, and attempted to have Justin I adopt his son Khosrau. Justin agreed, but on the terms that he would do so only in a rite reserved for barbarians. This failed to satisfy Kavadh, so Justin sent his generals Sittas and Belisarius into Persia, where they were initially defeated. Justinian tried to negotiate but Kavadh instead sent 40,000 men towards Dara in 529. Belisarius was sent back to the region with Hermogenes as his co-commander and 25,000 men in 530; Kavadh replied with another 10,000 troops under the general Perozes, who set up camp about five kilometers away at Ammodius.


Despite being outnumbered, Belisarius decided to give battle to the numerically superior Persians. He dug a number of ditches to block the Persian cavalry, leaving gaps between them to allow a counterattack. These were pushed forward on either flank of his position, while his center was refused back. Here he placed his unreliable infantry behind the center ditch, being placed close enough to the walls of the fortress to provide supporting fire from the city battlements. On the left and right flanks were the Byzantine cavalry, of questionable quality. Supporting them on their interior flanks were small bodies of Huns: 300 Hun cavalry under Sunicas and Aigan supporting the left; and as many more Huns on the right under Simmas and Ascan. Belisarius also placed a body of Heruli cavalry under Pharas in ambush position off of his left flank. A reserve composed of his own bucellarii household cavalry was held behind his center and commanded by John the Armenian, his trusted lieutenant and boyhood friend.


On the first day, according to Procopius, there was no general engagement, but instead a series of challenge fights between champions of both sides. One particular combat involved a Persian knight, who challenged Belisarius to a single combat; but was instead met by a Byzantine bath slave named Andreas. Andreas, who had been secretly training with Belisarius' own household troopers, killed not only this Persian champion, but also a second challenger later in the day. The Persians then withdrew to Ammodius for the night. Some authors, however, have expressed doubt as to the pure historicity of Procopius' account and state that while instances of single combat did likely occur during the course of the battle, Procopius' description is intended to be a narrative device rather than a factual account. Another source, believed to be based on official documents, does indeed reference individual combat, but makes no mention of Andreas and, furthermore, places any single combat engagements at a different stage of the battle.[4]

After the first day of skirmishes, Belisarius sent a letter to the Persian commander. Rather than fight a battle, he believed it was best to avoid conflict and instead insisted that their disputes be settled by discussion. The letter read, "The first blessing is peace, as is agreed by all men who have even a small share of reason. ... The best general, therefore, is that one which is able to bring about peace from war." The letter, however, fell on deaf ears and battle resumed.

On the second day of the battle, 10,000 more Persian troops arrived from Nisibis. The Sassanid and Byzantine light infantry exchanged fire resulting in minor casualties on each side. The Persians formed two lines: the right flank under Pityaxes and the left under Baresamanes.

The first wave of the Persian attack was directed against the Byzantine left flank. The Persians forced a crossing of the ditch, pushing back the Byzantine cavalry. But the intervention of Sunicas' Huns attacking from the interior of the Byzantine line, as well as Pharas' Herulians attacking out of ambush from the opposite side, forced the Persians' wing to retreat.

The Persians then attacked the Byzantine right wing, where Perozes sent the Sassanid Zhayedan, also known as the Immortals, who were the elite Persian armored lancers. The Byzantine cavalry and infantry defending the ditch were pushed back here as they had been on the right. But Belisarius counterattacked with his reserve Bucellari cavalry, and split the Persian troops in two. Half the Persians pursued the Byzantine cavalry, but the rest were trapped, and Baresmanes was killed along with 5,000 other men. The Byzantine cavalry also recovered and routed their pursuers. Belisarius allowed a pursuit for a few miles, but let the majority of Persian survivors escape.


Following the defeat, the Sasanians under Spahbod Azarethes together with their client Lakhmids started another invasion, this time, unexpectedly, via Commagene. Belisarius foiled their plan by swift maneuvering and forced the Persians, who were retreating, into a heavy battle at Callinicum in which the Byzantines were defeated, but with heavy casualties on both sides. The Byzantines eventually paid tributes in exchange for a peace treaty.

In 540 and 544 Dara was attacked by Khosrau I, who was unable to take it either time. Khosrau finally captured it in 573; its fall was said to have caused Justin II to go insane. Justin's wife Sophia and his friend Tiberius Constantine took control of the empire until Justin died in 578. Meanwhile, the Persians were able to march further into the empire, but Khosrau died in 579.

Maurice defeated the Persians at Dara in 586 and recaptured the fortress, but the Persians under Khosrau II defeated the Byzantines in 604. This time Persians destroyed the city, but the Byzantines later rebuilt it in 628. In 639 the Muslim Arabs captured it, and it remained in their hands until 942 when it was sacked by the Byzantines. It was sacked again by John I Tzimiskes in 958, but the Byzantines never recaptured it.

The battle in literature and media

The Battle of Dara is described in detail in, "Archaeological and Ancient Literary Evidence for a Battle near Dara Gap, Turkey, AD 530: Topography, Texts & Trenches" - see sources below. It was depicted in 2005 in the TV series Time Commanders. The battle is described in detail in the 1938 novel "Count Belisarius" by Robert Graves. It is also mentioned in the 2006 novel Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last.


  1. ^ a b J. Haldon, The Byzantine Wars, 29
  2. ^ J. Haldon, The Byzantine Wars, 31
  3. ^ J. Haldon, The Byzantine Wars, 31–32
  4. ^ Whately, Connor. "Battles and Generals: Combat, Culture, and Didacticism in Procopius' wars". Brill, 2015, p. 75


  • Procopius, History of the Wars, book I, chapter xiii.
  • Warren Treadgold, History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford (California): Stanford University Press, 1997.
  • John Haldon, The Byzantine Wars. Stroud: The History Press, 2008.
  • Christopher Lillington-Martin, "Archaeological and Ancient Literary Evidence for a Battle near Dara Gap, Turkey, AD 530: Topography, Texts & Trenches", British Archaeological Reports (BAR) –S1717, 2007 The Late Roman Army in the Near East from Diocletian to the Arab Conquest Proceedings of a colloquium held at Potenza, Acerenza and Matera, Italy (May 2005) edited by Ariel S. Lewin and Pietrina Pellegrini with the aid of Zbigniew T. Fiema and Sylvain Janniard. ISBN 978-1-4073-0161-7. (pages 299–311).
  • B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy. London: G. Bell & Sons, 1929.

Coordinates: 37°10′48″N 40°57′18″E / 37.1800°N 40.9550°E


Year 530 (DXXX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Lampadius and Probus (or, less frequently, year 1283 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 530 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.


Azarethes (Greek: Ἀζαρέθης), also recorded as Exarath (Ἑξαράθ) and Zuraq, was a Sassanid Persian military commander during the Byzantine–Sassanid Wars. His Greek name is possibly a misunderstanding of the honorific title hazaraft.


Baresmanas (Greek: Βαρεσμανᾶς) was an eminent Sassanian Persian general. He is known only from his participation in the Battle of Dara in 530 against the Byzantines led by Belisarius, recorded by Procopius of Caesarea. In this battle, Baresmanas was the second-in-command of the Persian army under Perozes, and was killed during the fight by Sunicas. According to the account of Procopius, he was one-eyed.

Battle of Callinicum

The Battle of Callinicum took place on Easter Saturday, 19 April 531 AD, between the armies of the Byzantine Empire under Belisarius and a Sasanian cavalry force under Azarethes. After a defeat at the Battle of Dara, the Sasanians moved to invade Syria in an attempt to turn the tide of the war. Belisarius' rapid response foiled the plan, and his troops pushed the Persians to the edge of Syria through maneuvering before forcing a battle in which the Sasanians proved to be the pyrrhic victors.

Battle of Satala (530)

The Battle of Satala was fought between the forces of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Sassanid (Persian) Empire in summer 530, near Satala in Byzantine Armenia. The Persian army approached the city to lay siege, when it was attacked in the rear by a small Byzantine force. The Persians turned back to meet them, but were then attacked by the main army from inside the city. A determined attack by a Byzantine unit led to the loss of the Persian general's flag, causing the panicking Persians to retreat.

Battle of Thannuris

The Battle of Thannuris (or Battle of Mindouos) was fought between the forces of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire under Belisarius and Coutzes and the Persian Sassanid Empire under Xerxes in summer 528, near Dara in northern Mesopotamia. As they were trying to build a fortress in Minduous, the Byzantines were defeated by the Sasanian army. Belisarius managed to flee but the Sasanians destroyed the buildings. Despite their victory, the Persians suffered heavy losses, angering Kavadh I, the Sasanian king of Persia.

Battle of Wanat

The Battle of Wanat took place on July 13, 2008, when about 200 Taliban insurgents attacked American troops near Quam, in the Waygal district in Afghanistan's far eastern province of Nuristan. The position was defended primarily by United States Army soldiers of the 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

The Taliban surrounded the remote base and its observation post, attacking it from Quam and surrounding farmland. They destroyed much of the U.S. heavy munitions, broke through American lines, and entered the main base before being repelled by artillery and aircraft. The United States claimed to have killed at least 21 Taliban fighters for the loss of nine U.S. soldiers killed and 27 wounded, and four Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers wounded.The Battle of Wanat has been described as one of the bloodiest Taliban attacks of the war and one of several attacks on remote outposts. In contrast to previous roadside bombings and haphazard attacks and ambushes, this attack was well-coordinated with fighters from many insurgent groups with an effort that was disciplined and sustained which was able to precisely target key equipment such as a wire-guided missile launcher.

The battle became the focus of debate in the United States, generating "...a great deal of interest and scrutiny among military professionals and from outside observers..." mainly due to the relatively "...significant number of coalition casualties..." Several investigations were launched into events leading up to the battle. The initial investigation was completed in August 2008. In July 2009, Senator James Webb requested that the U.S. Army formally investigate the battle and previous investigation. Lieutenant General Richard F. Natonski conducted another investigation in late 2009 which led to orders of reprimand for the chain of command. In June 2010, the U.S. Army revoked the reprimands. They stated that no negligence was involved and said of the soldiers that " their valor and their skill, they successfully defended their positions and defeated a determined, skillful, and adaptable enemy."


Bawi was a Sasanian military officer from the Ispahbudhan family who was involved in the Anastasian War and the Iberian War between the Sasanian and Byzantine Empire. He is also known as Aspebedes, which is a corruption of the title spahbed.


Flavius Belisarius (Greek: Φλάβιος Βελισάριος, c. 500 – 565) was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century before.

One of the defining features of Belisarius's career was his success despite varying levels of support from Justinian. His name is frequently given as one of the so-called "Last of the Romans".

Belisarius is considered a military genius who conquered the Vandal Kingdom of North Africa in the Vandalic War in nine months from July 533 to March 534. He defeated the Vandal armies at the battles of Ad Decimum and Tricamarum and compelled the Vandal king Gelimer to surrender. After the conquest of North Africa, Belisarius took over most of Italy from the Ostrogothic Kingdom in a series of sieges between 535 and 540 during the Gothic War.


Bouzes or Buzes (Greek: Βούζης, fl. 528–556) was an East Roman (Byzantine) general active in the reign of Justinian I (r. 527–565) in the wars against the Sassanid Persians.

Dara (Mesopotamia)

Dara or Daras (Greek: Δάρας) was an important East Roman fortress city in northern Mesopotamia on the border with the Sassanid Empire. Because of its great strategic importance, it featured prominently in the Roman-Persian conflicts of the 6th century, with the famous Battle of Dara taking place before its walls in 530. The former (arch)bishopric remains a multiple Catholic titular see. Today the Turkish village of Oğuz, Mardin Province, occupies its location.

House of Mihran

The House of Mihrān or House of Mehrān (Middle Persian: 𐭬𐭨𐭥𐭠𐭭), was a leading Iranian noble family (šahrdārān), one of the Seven Great Houses of the Sassanid Persian Empire which claimed descent from the earlier Arsacid dynasty. A branch of the family formed the Mihranid line of the kings of Caucasian Albania and the Chosroid Dynasty of Kartli.

Iberian War

The Iberian War was fought from 526 to 532 between the Byzantine Empire and Sassanid Empire over the eastern Georgian kingdom of Iberia.

List of Byzantine battles

The following is a list of battles fought by the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, from the 6th century AD until its dissolution in the mid-15th century, organized by date. The list is not exhaustive. For battles fought by the Byzantine Empire's Roman predecessors, see List of Roman battles.

Military history of Greece

The military history of Greece is the history of the wars and battles of the Greek people in Greece, the Balkans and the Greek colonies in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea since classical antiquity.


The Paygan (also known as Paighan) were the conscript light infantry unit within the Sasanian army and formed the bulk of its infantry force. The Paygan were sometimes referred to as being used as "cannon fodder".


Perozes (Greek: Περόζης, from Middle Persian Pērōz) was the Sassanid Persian general opposing the Byzantines under Belisarius at the Battle of Dara (530).

According to the description of the Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea, he was "a Persian, whose title was "mirranes" (for thus the Persians designate this office), Perozes by name". Mirranes (Μιρράνης) however probably refers not to an office, but to the House of Mihran, one of the seven great noble clans of the Sassanid Empire. After his defeat at Dara, he was disgraced by the Persian shah Kavadh I. Nothing else is known of his life. He may however be identical to the mirranes who according to Procopius tried to lay siege to Dara during the Anastasian War.


Sunicas (Greek: Σουνίκας) was a Hun who served in the Byzantine military during the Iberian War, in the early reign of Emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565).


Zhāyēdān (literally "The Immortals") were warriors of an elite unit within the Sassanian army, numbering 10,000 men. They are possibly modeled on the former Immortals, who served the rulers of the Achaemenid Empire, and possibly wore the same clothing as their predecessors. These warriors bore the very finest quality weaponry and armor of the entire Sassanian military. The Zhayedan were led by a commander bearing the title of "Varhranighan-khvadhay".

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