By: Mir M.Hosseini
After the death of Constantinus 2 on Nov, 3, 361, Julianus Apostata proclaimed the sole Emperor of Rome. He spent more than 2 years preparing for an expedition against the Sassanid Empire. Intelligence from Roman spies suggested that Shapour 2’s departure from capital was the best time for an all out attack on Tisfun. Julianus set out with an army of 90,000 men on March, 5, 363.
Such a surprise attack without declaring war is a characteristic of low-life bandits and does not fit a real Emperor. Nevertheless, the main Sassanid army was on a mission to stop the Huns incursions in Asia Minor. When Shapour heard about the Roman army approaching, they were already close to Capital Tisfun. He returned towards his capital but it was a long way and he was counting on comparatively few Iranians left for defense
What some historians call the Battle of Tisfun, took place on May, 29, 363 A.D. in a place about 36 km north of Tisfun near today’s Baghdad. The veteran Persian commander, Sepahbod Merena and his brigade of top-notch spearmen and mounted cavalries took Julianus Apostata by surprise and engaged the immense invading army immediately. Merena’s brave soldiers started reckless charges and ripped through Roman infantry formations in a flash, inflicting some casualties. This hit-and-run strategy confused the enemy and the Roman army was stalled.
But after the second day, the Roman army started closing in towards Tisfun when first Persian light cavalry enforcements headed by Shapour 2 arrived. The news brought more courage to the Persian army and caused great fear among Roman commanders who were expecting an easy victory. Now, fully armored Persian knights known to Romans as Cataphracts showed up wielding their Gorz among rows of Roman mercenaries, blowing tens of heads off at a time. Some of the Roman army deserted the field and the rest started retreating towards Samara on June, 16th.
Then, the Iranian army’s mounted cavalries engaged columns of Roman army in sporadic skirmishes in order to prevent them from regrouping while main brigades of the Sassanid army were slowly taking the fleeing enemy under siege. The ring was closed at the Battle of Samara, on June, 26th and there was no way out. Julianus was wounded by the shot of a spearman before he was taken captive alive. He was brought before Shapour and kneeled for mercy before he died.
In order to save their lives, Roman commanders offered a treaty with Shapour 2, surrendering; giving up territorial claims on Armenia, Mesopotamia, Kurdistan and Eastern Turkey.