Battle of Misiche

Battle of Misiche
Battle of Msiche
Part of the Roman-Persian Wars
Date Winter of 244
Location Misiche, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq)
Result Sassanid victory
Sassanid Persians Roman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Shapur I Gordian III
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Battle of Misiche, Mesiche, or Massice (dated between Jan. 13 and March 14, 244 AD.[1]) was fought between the Sassanid Persians and the Romans somewhere in ancient Mesopotamia. The result was a Roman defeat.


Background and the Battle

The initial war began when the Roman Emperor Gordian III invaded Persia (Iran) in 243. His troops advanced as far as Misiche. The location of that city (or maybe a district) is conjectural.[2] It is often placed roughly 64 km west of Baghdad in Iraq, near the modern city of Fallujah; Ehsan Yarshater calls it "not far from Ctesiphon."[3] The Romans were defeated and it is unclear whether Gordian died during battle or was assassinated later by his own officers.

Battle is only mentioned on the trilingual inscription king Shapour made at Naqsh-e Rustam:

When at first we had become established in the empire, Gordian Caesar raised in all of the Roman Empire a force from the Goth and German realms and marched on Babylonia against the Empire of Iran and against us. On the border of Babylonia at Misikhe, a great frontal battle occurred. Gordian Caesar was killed and the Roman force was destroyed. And the Romans made Philip Caesar. Then Philip Caesar came to us for terms, and to ransom their lives, gave us 500,000 denars, and became tributary to us. And for this reason we have renamed Misikhe Peroz-Shapur.[4]

On the contrary, the contemporary and later Roman sources claim that the Roman expedition was entirely or partially successful but the emperor was murdered after a plot by Philip the Arab.[5] However, some scholars think that the Sassanid victory must not be invented and reject Philip's plot as the ultimate reason of Gordian's murder. Even if that is true, it isn't likely that Gordian died in the battlefield, as Shapur's inscription claims[1][6]. Even more, some sources mention a cenotaph of the murdered emperor at Zaita, near Circesium of Osroene (some 400 km north of Misiche)[7][8]. The confusion of the sources about the expedition and the assassination of the emperor makes it more possible that, after the defeat, Roman army was frustrated enough to get rid of the teenage emperor.[1]


Gordian's successor, Philip the Arab was proclaimed emperor of Rome and made peace with Shapur. Next major clash between the two empires took place in 252, when Shapur defeated the Romans at the battle of Barbalissos and successfully invaded Syria and part of Anatolia.


  1. ^ a b c Potter, Empire at Bay, p.234–235,
  2. ^ Ernst Herzfeld counters Rostovtzeff's view that it was in Assyria, writing "But Sas[sanid] Asuristan is Babylonia..., and Mesiche is Pliny's Masice, the point on the Euphrates in the measurements of the Bematists." Herzfeld, The Persian Empire: Studies in Geography and Ethnography of the Ancient Near East (F. Steiner, 1968), p. 219.
  3. ^ E. Yarshater, The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanid Periods, Part 1 of 2 (Cambridge University Press, 1983: ISBN 052120092X), p. 125.
  4. ^ Res Gestae Divi Saporis, 3-4 (translation of Shapur's inscription at Naqsh-e Rustam).
  5. ^ This version of the events is accepted by Christian Körner, Philippus Arabs, Ein Soldatenkaiser in der Tradition des antoninisch-severischen Prinzipats, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2002.
  6. ^ Michael I. Rostovtzeff, p.23
  7. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, 23.5.7
  8. ^ Zosimus, Nova Historia, book 3


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