- Battle of Dara
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Dara
Byzantine Empire, Heruli, Huns
casualties2=5,000+The Battle of Dara was fought between the Sassanids and the
Byzantine Empirein 530. It was one of the battles of the Iberian War.
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 Justinianadopt his son Khosrau. Justinian refused and sent his generals Sittas and Belisariusinto Persia, where they were initially defeated. Justinian tried to negotiate but Kavadh instead sent 30,000 men towards Dara in 529. Belisarius was sent back to the region with Hermogenes and 25,000 men in 530; Kavadh replied with another 10,000 troops under the general Firouz, who set up camp about five kilometers away at Ammodius.
Despite being outnumbered, Belisarius decided to attack the poorly-armed Persians. He dug a number of ditches, with gaps between them to allow a counterattack, on the road towards Dara to block the Persian cavalry, and organized most of his infantry in a single block. On the left and right flanks were the
Herulicavalry under Pharas and Bouzes. Also on the left was 300 Huncavalry under Sunicas and Aigan, along with 600 more Huns on the right under Simmas and Ascan. A reserve of Byzantine cavalry led by the general John was located in the rear of the right flank. Before the battle began these forces remained behind the ditches.
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 Heruli right flank, which at first retreated, but fearing retaliation from their own Hun allies, then counterattacked and forced the Persians to withdraw (with, however, only seven casualties). There was then a respite from the battle, during which one Persian soldier challenged the Byzantines to a single combat, and was killed by a Heruli named Andreas. Andreas also killed a second challenger. The Persians then withdrew to Ammodius for the night.
On the second day of the battle, 10,000 more Persian troops arrived from
Nisibis. The Persians and Byzantines exchanged volleys of arrows, with a few casualties on each side but mostly ineffective. Meanwhile Belisarius hid a force of cavalry behind the hill to the left of Dara. The Persians then attacked the Byzantine line and the troops in the centre began to withdraw, but both Belisarius' hidden force and the right flank of Huns closed in and forced the Persians to retreat. Firouz sent the Persian Immortals, the elite Persian troops, against the Byzantine cavalry, which was defeated, but Belisarius counterattacked 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.
Outcome and later attacks
The victory didn't last long for the Byzantine Empire. Following the defeat, the Lakhmid King al-Mundhir IV ibn al-Mundhir, a Sassanid vassal, sent his troops to aid the
Sassanid army. With Lakhmid aid, Kavadh Idefeated the Byzantine army under command of Belisarius at Battle of Nisibisin 530, and on 19 April, 531, under the command of the Spahbod Azarethes, they defeated Belisariusat the Battle of Callinicum, which led the Byzantines to pay heavy tributes for years in exchange for a peace treaty.
540and 544Dara 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 IIto go insane. Justin's wife Sophia and his friend Tiberius II Constantinetook 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
586and 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 639the Muslim Arabs captured it, and it remained in their hands until 942when it was sacked by the Byzantines. It was sacked again by John Tzimiscesin 958, but the Byzantines never recaptured it.
Procopius, "History of the Wars"
*Warren Treadgold, "History of the Byzantine State and Society"
*John Haldon, "The Byzantine Wars"
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