The sixth annual Society of Ancients Battle Day, Saturday 25 April 2009

Sycamore Hall, Drayton Road, Bletchley, Near Milton Keynes, MK2 3RR

Callinicum 531 AD

Richard Lockwood


“But the army began to insult him, not in silence nor with any concealment, but they came shouting into his presence, and called him weak and a destroyer of their zeal; and even some of the officers joined with the soldiers in this offence, thus displaying the extent of their daring. And Belisarius, in astonishment at their shamelessness, changed his exhortation and now seemed to be urging them on against the enemy and drawing them up for battle, saying that he had not known before their eagerness to fight, but that now he was of good courage and would go against the enemy with a better hope.”

Procopius, History of the Wars, Book I viii 24-27, as found in the Project Gutenberg eBook at




The chosen battle for 2009 features two armies not yet seen at any of our Battle Days, namely the Eastern Romans (also known as Early Byzantines) and Sasanian (formerly known as Sassanid) Persians. Throughout the Battle Pack, I will be referring to them as Romans and Persians. This is also our first foray into the period between the end of the Roman Republic (you will recall we did Caesar at the Sambre, 57 BC, in 2005) and the First Crusade (we did Dorylaeum, 1097AD, in 2006).


A departure in this year’s Battle Pack is to include two separate individual contributions on the armies concerned, from Phil Halewood and Jim Sye. The Society of Ancients is indeed fortunate to be able to call upon a large reservoir of knowledge and goodwill from contributors past and present, and I would like to record my thanks to Phil and Jim for their help with this. I believe Matt Coote has also contributed in reviewing and commenting on their material, so thanks go to Matt as well.


The venue for this year’s Battle Day is once again Sycamore Hall in Bletchley. It has a large hall for the games, a side room for the talks, and a bar! The people running the Hall tell me that over the summer it has had brand new lighting fitted, which was much needed, so we are looking forward to seeing the light next April!


As ever, we welcome anyone who wants to organise a game on the day – particularly FoG or WAB as for some reason these have been seen very rarely at the Battle Day. Typically a group of one or more get together to put on a game, but also usually have capacity to allow others to join in on the game. We also welcome those that want to turn up and join a game they like the look of on the day, and also invite you to “book in advance” for the game using your preferred rule set. Once again we are holding the cost at £7 per attendee, juniors free, to go towards venue and table hire. And of course, we will be awarding the usual, and now much-coveted, prizes in the usual hap-hazard and judgemental way! See the website for photos of last year’s prizes.


Now, on to the meat of the Battle Pack, which should provide the necessary information for you to plan your version of the battle with your chosen rule set. I have used Rome and Persia at War, 502-532 by Geoffrey Greatrex to provide the bulk of my notes below.


The Campaign Background

The Callinicum campaign was the final act of a thirty-year war between Rome and Persia. The previous year had seen the Romans under Belisarius inflict a significant defeat on the Persians at the Battle of Dura, and the Persian King Kavadh needed some form of military success to retain the confidence of the nobility. At the beginning of spring 531 AD, a Persian army crossed the border into Roman territory, planning to invade Syria and Euphratesia by taking a route along the River Euphrates. This was not an invasion as such – by now the Persian method of waging war against the Romans was to launch large-scale raids into the Roman heartland in Asia and return home with as much booty as possible, with the aim of capturing forts and towns on the way. The Romans would have been expecting some form of attack, but the Persians hoped to achieve surprise by invading from an unexpected direction.


The Persian army numbered 15,000 under Azarethes, accompanied by around 5,000 Lakhmid Arab allies led by Al-Mundhir, and achieved early success. They advanced up the north bank of the Euphrates, crossed the river and began to capture Roman towns. It seems the Roman defences were weak in this region, and it was some time before Belisarius, the magister militum per Orientum (the general in charge of all Roman forces east of Constantinople), was informed. However, once aware of the attack, he moved quickly. Setting off immediately with a force of 3,000 cavalry and 5,000 Ghassanid Arab allies under al-Harith (called Arethas by Procopius), Belisarius conducted forced marches that enable him to place his forces in such a position as to block further Persian advances. Meanwhile, Hermogenes, the Emperor Justinian’s magister officiorum, was gathering additional Roman troops and moving to join up with Belisarius.


It seems that the various parts of the Roman army concentrated at Barbalissus - see Jim Sye’s discussion below of the forces available to Belisarius, but they were around 9,000 foot and 12,000 cavalry, plus the 5,000 Ghassanid Arab cavalry. The sources suggest that Belisarius was unpopular with his duces (the Roman generals in charge of the troops in the various provinces), and that Hermogenes attempted to reconcile them. This seems to have proved at best only partially successful, not least because Hermogenes himself must have been seen as a threat by Belisarius, coming as he did directly from the Emperor and clearly having influence in that quarter.


Finding themselves with no further opportunities to advance any deeper into Roman territory, the Persians began to retreat back along the Euphrates. Belisarius followed them, one day’s march behind. He clearly had no intention of fighting them, preferring to shepherd them out of Roman territory. However, it seems the other Roman generals, including Hermogenes, were somewhat keener to catch the Persians, and perhaps it was at their instigation that the Romans were following so closely on the Persian heels. It has been suggested that the reason for this desire to bring the Persians to battle was partly driven by confidence that arose from the significant Roman victory the year before at the Battle of Dura, as well as the aim of punishing the Persians for their incursion into their territory. Whatever the reasons, eventually the inevitable happened: after the morning march the day after good Friday on 19 April the Romans came upon the Persians still yet to move off from their camp.


This was the last chance for the Romans to bring the Persians to battle in relatively favourable conditions in their own territory. If they followed the Persians any further they would be operating in inhospitable, uninhabited lands that would be equally difficult for both sides. As a result, the Roman soldiers and generals pressed Belisarius and Hermogenes to offer battle. Belisarius in particular argued strongly against it. He would also have been aware that his army was tired and hungry, having marched without eating since it was the period of religious fasting before Easter Sunday. However, as can be seen from the quotation at the beginning, Belisarius was eventually persuaded to offer battle, against his better judgement.


The Persians had been camped on the opposite side of the Euphrates to the city of Callinicum. When he saw the Romans deploying for battle, the Persian general Azarethes was very happy to oblige them with a battle, for truth be told his raid had not really resulted in much booty or the capture of any impressive towns or cities. In fact, he was in danger of his king accounting the expedition a failure, and he perhaps would have seen this as a last chance to redeem himself.



The Terrain

The terrain is relatively straightforward. The River Euphrates runs down one table side edge – you may choose to model or simply treat it as beginning just off table. For those who cannot resist a modelling challenge, the city of Callinicum lies on the far bank of the Euphrates, with an island in the middle of the river.


After an area of flat terrain around the banks – probably the flood plain -  the ground then slopes upwards away from the river fairly evenly, giving no advantage to either side at deployment, but offering an uphill advantage if either side get to make a flank attack in the direction of the river.


One question is: how wide was the battlefield? There seems little to go on here, but given that the Roman right flank appears to have been “open”, I think we can define the width by the length of the deployed Roman line. Bear in mind when doing this that the Roman divisions would each have had some form of reserve, not just a single line, as well as Belisarius with at least his own retainers as an army reserve.




If we follow Greatrex, who follows Procopius in this matter, Belisarius drew up his forces with his left flank resting on the bank of the Euphrates. Malalas has it that the Romans had their backs to the Euphrates, but since this coincides with events that Procopius describes later in the battle, I think it is reasonable to go with the Procopius deployment, and continuing the quote from the beginning of the Battle Pack:

He (ie Belisarius) then formed the phalanx with a single front, disposing his men as follows: on the left wing by the river he stationed all the infantry, while on the right where the ground rose sharply he placed Arethas and all his Saracens; he himself with the cavalry took his position in the centre.


The Persians drew up on the right, and their Arab allies were on their left facing the Roman Arab allies.


Please see the map below, and the notes from Jim Sye and Phil Halewood for further details of the army deployment.






The Battle

Greatrex summarises the two main sources for the battle, Procopius and Malalas, as being pro- and anti-Belisarius respectively. Zachariah gives additional details. He sees the battles as going like this: first there is an archery duel. Although Procopius says the Romans get the better of it, Zachariah says otherwise and blames this on the wind being westerly and so blowing directly into the Romans faces. Malalas does not mention the archery duel. It appears that the Romans were fairly static, and the Persians were advancing on them and then retreating, attempting to draw the Romans out. After  a few hours – Procopius says two-thirds of the day had passed by now and the battle cannot have started before midday – the Persians made a decisive attack on the Roman right wing with their best troops. Procopius again:

Then by mutual agreement all the best of the Persian army advanced to attack the Roman right wing, where Arethas and the Saracens had been stationed. But they broke their formation and moved apart, so that they got the reputation of having betrayed the Romans to the Persians. For without awaiting the oncoming enemy they all straightway beat a hasty retreat. So the Persians in this way broke through the enemy's line and immediately got in the rear of the Roman cavalry. Thus the Romans, who were already exhausted both by the march and the labour of the battle,—and besides this they were all fasting so far on in the day,—now that they were assailed by the enemy on both sides, held out no longer, but the most of them in full flight made their way to the islands in the river which were close by, while some also remained there and performed deeds both amazing and remarkable against the enemy.


With their Arab allies fleeing, the Romans flank was turned and the Persians had the advantage of attacking downhill. It seems the Roman cavalry under Ascan put up stout resistance, but eventually he was killed and his troops broken, along with the “Isaurian” (actually Lycaonian) infanty.


At this point Malalas has Belisarius and the army standard fleeing across the river in boats with his retainers, leaving the remains his army to conduct heroic resistance: Sounikas and Simmas continued fighting the Persians and these two exarchs, persevering with their surviving army, dismounted and valiantly fought a battle on foot. By skilful deployment they destroyed many of the Persians.


Procopius has Belisarius remain to command this defensive action and gives more details of the struggle:

There he himself gave up his horse and commanded all his men to do the same thing and on foot with the others to fight off the oncoming enemy. And those of the Persians who were following the fugitives, after pursuing for only a short distance, straightway returned and rushed upon the infantry and Belisarius with all the others. Then the Romans turned their backs to the river so that no movement to surround them might be executed by the enemy, and as best they could under the circumstances were defending themselves against[44-52] their assailants. And again the battle became fierce, although the two sides were not evenly matched in strength; for foot-soldiers, and a very few of them, were fighting against the whole Persian cavalry. Nevertheless the enemy were not able either to rout them or in any other way to overpower them. For standing shoulder to shoulder they kept themselves constantly massed in a small space, and they formed with their shields a rigid, unyielding barricade, so that they shot at the Persians more conveniently than they were shot at by them. Many a time after giving up, the Persians would advance against them determined to break up and destroy their line, but they always retired again from the assault unsuccessful. For their horses, annoyed by the clashing of the shields, reared up and made confusion for themselves and their riders. Thus both sides continued the struggle until it had become late in the day. And when night had already come on, the Persians withdrew to their camp, and Belisarius accompanied by some few men found a freight-boat and crossed over to the island in the river, while the other Romans reached the same place by swimming.


Whether you believe one source or the other as to whether Belisarius remained, it is clear that the remaining Roman army now turned ninety degrees and with their backs to the river, the cavalry dismounted and stood alongside the infantry, and together they held off the repeated and determined attacks of the Persians until nightfall. The Persians then withdrew, and only then did the remnant of the Roman army retreat across the river.


Although it seems there was stout resistance from the Romans at the end of the battle to prevent an outright disaster, it is impossible to characterise this battle as anything other than a decisive victory for the Persians. Note that casualties were high on both sides.


The Aftermath

After an official enquiry ordered by the Emperor Justinian (yes, they had such things in those days too!), Belisarius was removed from command and ordered home. However, his disgrace did not last long, since he was just too good a general and Justinian had need of his talents.


The Persian army was able to complete its return to its own territory where, somewhat surprisingly, the Persian general Azarethes was also dismissed in disgrace. It seems that his failure to capture any significant cities or fortresses, combined with the very high casualties suffered, left his king very unimpressed. Procopius says King Kavadh  rebuked Azarethes for the victory and thereafter ranked him among the most unworthy. This is important to note in the context of Persian war aims and objectives, and can be contrasted with the “western way of war” where fighting and winning decisive battles is seen as the principal aim of warfare.



The Sasanian Army at Callinicum by Phil Halewood

At this time in its history, the Sasanian Empire had just survived a period of great internal and external turmoil; would soon lose the aged King of Kings Kavad I, and was about to (or possibly had begun to) experience a period of cultural greatness which is often viewed as the zenith of the dynastic achievement.


Details of the Sasanian army that fought at Callinicum are scant, but what little material there is allows us to discern the overall nature of the force of Eran and non Eran which faced the might of the Roman Empire. It does not provide details of units and their specific deployment. Our wider knowledge of their military exploits helps to block in some of the sketchy detail we have of the actual event.


Procopius of Caesarea (1), John Malalas (2), and Zachariah of Mytilene (3) provide us with the bulk of  what we know; a Persian army of 15,000 – under a Royal Standard (4), all cavalry, under Azarethes (possibly a transliteration of a Sasanian military title ‘hazaraft’) (5), had launched an invasion/raid or what we might call a razzia, into Roman territory. The Persians were all mounted (6) and nearly all bowmen (7). This force was accompanied by a Lakhmid Arab allied force of 5,000; under their King Mundhir (Procopius calls him Alamoundaras; he lived c503/4 – 554).


This was not a rag-tag group of Arab bandits accompanying an assortment of Sasanian feudal levies merely satisfying an annual obligation to serve. The Persians and Arabs who fought in this campaign were experienced veterans of many years of campaigns against their hereditary enemies of Roman and Arab origin (8).


The religious, social and military structure of the Sasanian state all contributed to the character of the troops they would field (9). The description of the force as ‘bearing a Royal Standard’ (10), indicates that the force was of ‘principal troops’; comprising the closest thing the state had to what we would today call ‘regulars’ (11). On this basis the main element of cavalry would probably have been armoured cavalry; principally armed with shield, lance and bow (along with a lengthy list of other sidearms), mounted on well-protected mounts.


Confirmation of their training is provided by the comments that they established their camp at night in the vicinity of the riverbank; protecting it with a ditch/trench and beyond this they sewed deep fields of iron caltrops (12) to prevent surprise attacks. The single entrance to the camp was no doubt well protected. When faced with a defended town, the invading force had been able to construct the appropriate wooden siege engines (13) to ensure its rapid reduction. The Romans were careful to keep behind the Persians and allow them to keep marching homeward, until Belisarius felt compelled to give battle (14). Scouting/raiding parties of Lakmids were presumably active while the army was encamped and moving; some of these being attacked by the advancing Roman forces (15).


In battle the Sasanians traditionally relied upon their excellent archery and the shock of impact dealt by the lances in the hands of well-seated (on bow and horned saddles) riders on relatively heavy, armoured horses. Their mobility was relatively high and this, combined with their ability to attack in wedge, reduce and increase the density of their formation to take into account enemy tactics, made them a formidable foe (16).

The deployment of the Sasanian army was by division, and it was in these it fought. The size, composition and nature of units within these divisions are not described in the surviving accounts. When fighting with Sasanian armies, allied forces were usually deployed separately – and usually on a flank; presumably to minimise the potentially disruptive effect they might have on the rest of a combined division if they were to break. This was the case with the Lakhmids, who occupied the Persian left; in a position to make the most effective use of their mobility (and relative lack of protection). We are also aware that better quality Persian troops were positioned in the centre; perhaps as the reserve, or on the right of the Persian line (the offensive position) as they were later switched to the left to launch the decisive attack of the battle with the Lakhmid Arabs.


From the above, the overall deployment I would suggest is three front line divisions; Lakhmids (5,000 strong), Sasanian cavalry (5,000 strong), and Sasanian cavalry (5,000 strong) from left to right, and a centrally held (and located) reserve or second line of Sasanian cavalry (5,000 strong). This is pretty broad brush, but would make sense in the context of the final outcome.


The descriptions of the battle we have include the following details:

There was a protracted exchange of missiles at the outset and throughout the battle (17).

Champions and heroes or skirmishers from both forces fight each other between the battleline (18).

Having routed the Roman right, the successful Persian division regrouped, reformed and returned to the fray (19).

Once the Roman forces had been compressed into a small area, with their backs to the riverbank, the Sasanians launched repeated assaults; retiring, regrouping and going in again and again to attack the enemy (20).

Also, the nature of Sasanian command and control was such that forces could be controlled by audible signals, that the Commander in Chief was not usually hands on; being positioned in a centrally located vantage point behind the battle line, and the loss of him would often prove decisive (21).

All of the above are worth considering in relation to the way you organise the forces on the tabletop and the mechanisms within the rules used. Are you brave enough to use a stationary or restricted radius of movement Commander in Chief on the tabletop?


To conclude – and someone with an interest and favourable disposition towards the Sasanians would say this wouldn’t he -  the accounts of this battle and its aftermath come from partisan, Roman sources. The accounts are unwilling to openly acknowledge the martial prowess of the Sasanians and their allies; their ability to defeat in detail a field army no doubt being the source of intense Imperial embarrassment. Scapegoats, in the form of commanders and specific units are all too easy to find named in the texts. The hard fact that the enemy were better overall was perhaps too hard to swallow. After all, the Persians were the smaller force.



Those who have consulted Geoffrey Greatrex (Rome and Persia at War, 502-532,  Francis Cairns, Leeds, 1998) will note that he places great an emphasis upon the traditional western sources when discussing the Sasanian army; acknowledging the sophistication of their martial machine. I do not believe that he gives sufficient consideration or weight to the, admittedly mainly of later date, limited eastern sources available. These provide a useful counterpoint, and in some cases validate, but also broaden the knowledge derived from western material.


Combined Bibliography and References

  1. Dewing, H.B. (Trans.), Procopius Books I and II., Loeb Classical Library No. 48, William Heinemann Ltd., London. 1979. 
  2. E. Jeffreys, M. Jeffreys and R. Scott, et al (Trans.), The Chronicle of John Malalas., Australian Association for Byzantine Studies Byzantina Australiensa 4, Melbourne, 1986.
  3. G. Greatrex and S.N.C. Lieu, The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars Part II AD 363-630: A Narrative source Book., Routledge, London. 2002.
  4. John Malalas 18.60.
  5.  Greatrex, G., Rome and Persia at War: 502-532. Francis Cairns (Publications) Ltd. Leeds. 1998. p.196.
  6. Procopius of Caesarea I.xvii.1).
  7. Procopius of Caesarea I.xviii.32).
  8. See ref. 4 above.
  9. For some discussion of these aspects see ‘Heirs of the Achaemenids Part 3: The Character of the Sasanian Soldier; the Legal, Moral and Religious Influences Upon Him.’ Phil Halewood in Slingshot 186, p.22ff and ‘Heirs of the Achaemenids Part 4: The Training and Discipline of the Army (Spah).’ Phil Halewood in Slingshot 187, p.15ff.
  10. See ref. 4 above.
  11. See ref. 7 above.
  12. See ref. 4 above and also ‘Eat My Caltrop.’ Phil Halewood and Steven Neate in Slingshot 218, p.15ff and ‘Heirs of the Achaemenids Part 8: Military Encampments.’  Phil Halewood in Slingshot 191, p.17ff).
  13. See ref. 4 above and also ‘Heirs of the Achaemenids Part 9: Field Engineering.’ in Slingshot 192, p.6ff.
  14. Procopius I.xviii.11ff.
  15. See ref 4 above and also ‘Heirs of the Achaemenids Part 5: General Tactical Doctrine, Tactics and Tactical Deployment.’  Phil Halewood in Slingshot 188, p.5ff.
  16. See ‘Heirs of the Achaemenids Part 6: Tactical Deployment.’  Phil Halewood in Slingshot 189, p.6.
  17. Procopius I.xviii.31.
  18. Procopius I.xviii.31.
  19. Procopius I.xviii.44.
  20. Procopius I.xviii.46.
  21. See ref. 16 above.



A Roman Army List for the Battle of Callinicum by Jim Sye



The Cavalry


All these troopers fought in close order as the Romans seem to have lacked native light cavalry.


1,000 Bucellari belonging to Belisarius and Hermogenes.

These were private retainers belonging to senior officers. They were generally the best and most experienced soldiers in the army, lured to private service by the prospect of higher wages and advancement. They had the best and most stylish equipment. Their defensive gear consisted of: helmets, body armour, small, round shields and, perhaps, greaves. Their horses would have had not been given protective equipment. Their weaponry consisted of a spear, a bow, arrows, and sword.  They would have been organised in two units (one belonging to Belisarius, the other to Hermogenes) modelled on regular army formations of perhaps 400 men, these were either brigaded with the comitatensis cavalry, or held as a reserve directly behind them. The balance of the bucellari remained with their patrons as bodyguards.


The Line Cavalry

This consisted of 3,000 comitatensis cavalry and 8,000 limitanei cavalry, which were divided into three divisions with the comitatensis positioned between the two 4,000-strong divisions of limitanei cavalry.  As Magister Militium per Orientem, Belisarius commanded the comitatensis and bucellari cavalry, whilst the Limitanei cavalry on their right hand side was under the command of Ascan, the cavalry division to their left was jointly led by Sunicas and Simmas. (Please note: the men in this division were not Huns.) All of these commanders would have possessed retainers who would have fought alongside them.


Both the comitatensis and limitanei cavalry were further sub-divided into formations of 3-400 men. These units would have formed up ten files deep in battle. They would have worn the same protective panoply as the bucellari. There is no clear-cut description of the weaponry of the line cavalry, it may well be that they were closer in equipment to “Late Roman” cavalry than to that described by “Maurice” (the Strategikon  was written about 50 years after Belisarius’ early campaigns).  Nevertheless, the Strategikon is the closest statement we have of which weapons these troopers wielded; thus, it does seem prudent to base our line cavalry on that account. This is a far froma final position on this problem, but it does at least allow the game to proceed. So the first two and the last men in these files would have been equipped with spears, large shields and swords. The third and fourth ranks should be archers, with bows, arrows, swords and small, round shields like those of the bucellari. The remaining ranks consisted of men using whichever missiles they could wield, some bowmen, and some javelin throwers. There may have been a minimum of horse-archers.


The Ghassanids

The Arabian allies were mostly light horse; armed with javelins, light spears and swords. Some may have had bows, but not enough for it to be an issue. The elite – chieftains, nobles, their followers and other notable warriors- would have had armour supplied by the Romans as both military supplies and bribes to ensure fidelity. But! They would remain light horse. They should be commanded by their own leader, a weak one, newly appointed, always looking over his shoulder, checking out the loyalty of his followers.



The Infantry


The Line Infantry

There were 7,000 infantrymen in the battle organised into a single division led by Peter. This block would have consisted of 8 or 9 units, drawn from both the comitatensis and limitanei, each unit was about 800 men strong. There is no definitive authority on how deeply they formed up. According to the military manuals, they would have formed up 8 or 16 deep, but this is simply adopting the doctrines of Hellenistic encyclopaedists; it may be prudent to assume a decimal organisation and form them up 5 or 10 deep.


Between 2-3,000 men would have been missile men, the remainder, spearmen in phalanx formation. Archers and spear carriers would have been organised in specialist units, the sources do not suggest composite regiments, however, the bowmen could have either formed up amongst the spearmen or behind them to give supporting fire. Others may have formed-up as batteries, shooting en masse into the enemy (As at the battle of Taginae).


Less lavishly provided for than the cavalry, there would still have been an effort made to supply metallic armour to as many infantrymen as possible, certainly to the front rankers in the spear-armed formations, these last may also have been given greaves. Those who could not be so equipped made do with the padded jacks worn under the metallic armour by others more fortunate. Helmets would have been distributed as widely as possible amongst the infantry, with thick padded hats being given to those who did not receive helmets. Some archers may have preferred to wear nothing on their heads. The spearmen would have had large shields, the archers perhaps small, round ones like the cavalry’s. Their spears, bows and arrows aside, the infantry would have wielded swords of various types as offensive weapons.


The Isaurians

The pseudo-Isaurian infantry were newly raised, and incompletely trained formations raised to combat the Arab raiders. They numbered 2,000 men and were organised into four units commanded by Dorotheus, Longinus, Mamas and Stephanacius. Given their deployment in the battle in some rising ground, they would have in a loose formation, lightly equipped, their chief weapon being, perhaps, the Isaurian javelin.



Some Reasons Why the Romans Lost


*        They were hungry and tired having marched a good part of Good Friday whilst fasting. Military theorists and generals believed that the best way to deal with Persian archers was to advance rapidly towards the Persian lines. They don’t seem to have had the energy to attack the Persians, which played into the hands of the enemy, who were superior in missile capability. And the passivity of the Romans may have encouraged the Persians to become more aggressive as the battle developed and Romans remained passive, making no attempt to seize the iniative.

*        The command was divided. Never mind Sunicas and Belisarius not speaking to one another; were Hermogenes and Belisarius communicating? It may well be that the three cavalry commands were being led by men each in a massive strop!

*        Belisarius did not want to fight. He did not seek to grasp the initiative by attacking. Perhaps he hoped to hold out until dark and then with a new day, either lead an army into battle that was re-energised by a night’s sleep, or else direct an army hat had decided to let the Persians limp back over the border (His preferred plan). His battle plan was lacklustre, amounting to little more than lining his units up in a single at Callinicum, a practice strongly deplored by Maurice (See II.1. in its entirety). It is hard to believe that it was the same man who planned this shambles as had plotted the brilliant use of trenches, topography and ambushes (The last, a career trademark) at Daras the year before.

*        Bouzes and his troops were absent: the extra troops might have held the right wing and prevented the annihilation of Ascan’s division and the Isaurians.

*        We must not forget the wind: the wind was against the Romans – another reason to attack and not sit back.


Select Bibliography


Bury, 1923 = J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire from the death of Theodosius I to the death of Justinian (2 Volumes), Dover Publications, New York, 1958, ISBN 0-486-20398-0 (Vol. I) and 0-486-20399-9 (Vol. II) Pages 85-7, dated in places, but still possessing high scholarship and wonderfully written.


Greatrex, 1998 = Geoffrey Greatrex, Rome and Persia at War, 502-532 (ARCA Classical and Medieval Text, Papers and Monographs 37), Francis Cairns (Publications) Ltd., Leeds, 1998, 0-905205-93-6. See pages 193-207.


Greatrex and Lieu, 2002 = Geoffrey Greatrex and Samuel N.C. Lieu, The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars, Part II: AD 363-630, Routledge, London, 2002, ISBN 0-415-14687-9. See pages 92-4.


Sye, 2004 = Jim Sye, “Procopius i.xviii.32-35. Part 2: Belisarius’ army at Callinicum, 531, ad” (in) Slingshot, 237, 2004, pages 2-5.


Syvanne, 2004 = Ilkka Syvanne, The Age of the Hiptoxotai: Art of War in Roman Military Revival and Disaster (491-636), (Acta Universitatis Tamperensis 994), Tampere University Press, Tampere, 2004, ISBN 951-44-5918-0. Pages 462-4 describe the battle, but there are many valuable insights on the encounter throughout this book.



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