End of 5th Century
The end of the 5th century was dominated by the emperor Zeno and his successor Anastasius, they were very interested in the West and if it survived the Burgundians invading. The East Romans provided minimal help to their western counterparts.
During the sixth century, the east romans started to falter and Constantinople was greatly weakened by the years of war that dominated its streets. Peace would not be seen in Constantinople until 540. Fighting for Constantinople would last for 20 years and the east romans would only be successful with the help of their western counterparts.
In 500 Anastasius continued his reign over the dominant East Roman Empire. Around this time the Avars were growing in strength north of the Danube river.
In 515, the Sassanids declared war against an unready East Roman Empire and they crushed the legions on the border and proceeded to take huge amounts of land in syria and anatolia. They could not take Egypt so they focused their attack on Anatolia.
In 517 the Avars took over most of the land north of the Danube and their raids were getting more and more aggressive as the year progressed.
In 518, Justin I took the throne of the East and he worked on defending the remaining land in Anatolia. Later this year Justin moved his son Justinian I to Nicomedia.
In 519 the Avars declared war on the unready East Romans, betraying their trust and the Avars took all of the Balkans and Greece. Later in 519 they besieged Constantinople with the help of the Persians when Justin I was away from the city defending against the Persians in western Anatolia.
In late 520 a spy in the city of Constantinople opened the gates to the invading armies and the city was sacked and taken by joint Avar-Sassanid forces. The Avars heavily outnumbered the Persians and killed the same people who helped them, to keep control of the city.
In 521, Justin I was deposed of by Narses and Justinian I was put on the throne.
Justinian was a weak emperor, with Belisarius and Narses having the real power behind the throne, in this way Justinian was a puppet.
In spring of 522, Belisarius mounted a counter-attack against the advancing Sassanids, supported by Narses he made major gains against the Sassanids and pushed them back to Central Anatolia by 524, years of heavy fighting in the regions would continue.
In 528, Belisarius made a decision about the situation in the Balkans, he would remove some legions on the Persian frontier to reclaim the Balkans and Greece from the Avars. Narses was against this idea, he believed that the stopping the Persians was more important than reclaiming old land, most of the Eastern Empire opposed Narses and supported Belisarius' decision, including Justinian I.
In the summer of 529, Belisarius landed in Athens and he didn't even have to siege the city because the Greek population welcomed the East Roman army. Most of Greece did the same, the cities switched sides with out resistance. Belisarius was surprised how easy Greece fell, but he did not know how hard the Avars in the Balkans would fight.
In 530, Belisarius encountered the first Avar army in the Balkans, he swiftly defeated that army.
From 530-538 Belisarius had trouble fighting the Avars in the Balkans but he eventually overcame them.
In 538, Belisarius would finally reach his target, the great city of Constantinople, the whole point of his campaign in the balkans. He besieged it in 538, he knew that the city would not fall easy so he sent spies into the city to try to open the gates from the inside, he failed in this for the most part.
The siege lasted for two years. In December of 539 he learned that Narses was losing on the Persian front and that he needed help soon or the front would fall. Early 540 Belisarius learned that Narses died in a battle on the Persian front but his death was not in vain because due to his leadership he was able to drive the Sassanids back. Knowing this Belisarius knew that he must finish this war fast so he called upon the Western Empire to send help besieging Constantinople. Grudgingly the Western Emperor accepted and sent 1000 Western Infantry to assist. With the help of the West and the success of Belisarius' spies the Romans assaulted the city in August of 540 and they took reclaimed the city and moved the imperial capital back to Constantinople.
Justinian I arrived in the ruins of the once great city started to rebuild the city as soon as he arrived, he left the military affairs to Belisarius and other generals. So Justinian had no power in military matters but he did rebuild and restore the eastern capital.
After a triumphant campaign in the Balkans, Belisarius returned to the Persian front and continued warfare there. Filled with energy from his previous campaign, he delivered a crushing defeat to the Sassanids. From 541-545 Belisarius reclaimed all of Anatolia and parts of western Armenia. Belisarius negotiated a short cease-fire between East Rome and the Sassanids.
In 546, major revolts occurred in egypt, Belisarius quickly crushed the revolts and increased roman authority in egypt.
In 547 Belisarius dies of a heart attack near Tarsus. His death shook the Eastern Empire, knowing that one of their greatest generals is dead, greatly demoralized the population. Around this time the Sassanids attacked the East Romans again. Justinian I, who has no military experience is taken the worst at the news of Belisarius' death because he wouldn't usually have to burden himself about the military as long as Belisarius took care of it and Justinian I had no general he could trust. Justinian I quickly fell into madness. News of the great Sassanid army wreaking havoc and reversing many of Belisarius' reconquests in Anatolia only made Justinian I fall deeper into madness.
In July of 548 Justinian I was killed by the one of his generals, Julian IV. The same day the army crowns the capable general Julian IV as the new East Roman emperor.
Nicomedia was always a fortified city, but with the Sassanids causing trouble in Anatolia, it became the most fortified city in the world, surpassing Constantinople. The city had walls built by Belisarius that started construction in 530 and finished construction in 542. The walls of Belisarius are greater than the walls in Constantinople.
Julian IV proved to be a capable emperor for the early part of his reign. He maintained a frontier against the Sassanids in the eastern Anatolia-western Armenia region. The early years of his reign were documented with fighting against the Sassanids and he made significant gains against the Sassanids.
Most of the battles fought would be skirmishes but there would be a few significant battles during the years 548-555. One notable battle was the battle of Tyana. He stopped the approaching Sassanid army and pushed them back to west Armenia.
The later part of his reign proved to be disastrous, in 555 he led an army against the Sassanids in the Battle of Arsamosata and he was utterly crushed in that battle, he barely escaped with his life.
That battle led wide scale revolts and he had to fight multiple civil wars at once.
Once he arrived in Constantinople in 556, one of his most trusted generals named Tiberian I had him killed at the imperial palace and had himself crowned emperor. Tiberian I was very popular with the troops and he quickly united the warring empire due to the Sassanids sacking cities in Anatolia. The Sassanids sacked all the way up to Melitene before they were driven back.
The reign of Tiberian I marked the start of a East Roman offensive towards the Sassanids, which ultimately exhausted the eastern empire in the long run.
In 557 Tiberian I immediately set out to eastern Anatolia to stop the advancing Sassanids, he reached the Sassanids at Derbe and the two huge armies fought. The battle of Derbe was one of the first turning points in the East Roman-Sassanid war because up until that point the East Romans for the past 50 or so years they were on the defensive and always had to reconquer their lost land and they have not recovered Syria in those reconquests. But this crushing East Roman victory completely changed the situation the east. Now the Sassanids were on the defence, shocked by this battle they recalled troops and sent them to Anatolia to try to stop the Romans but they couldn't.
In 559 Tiberian had pushed the Sassanids out of Anatolia and Tiberian marched to Antioch in June of that year.
The siege of Antioch(559-563) crippled Sassanid occupation in Syria and after the siege Syria was basically empty of Sassanid troops.
The siege lasted for 4 years, exhausting Sassanid efforts in Syria. The Sassanids suffered defeats outside the city when they tried to break the siege with enforcing armies. Tiberian I himself led the siege and other campaigns in Syria.
After the siege the East Romans finally connected Egypt to the rest of the empire when they took back territories in the mid east. They took back Jerusalem in 564, the city was back in Christian hands after years of Zoroastrian occupation. Tiberian called for celebrations to be held all over the empire.
In 566 when Tiberian finished campaigning he returned to Constantinople and held a huge triumph at the Hippodrome. Tiberian I also pushed the Roman-Persian frontier back towards Persian lands.
Because of this the Sassanids pulled back to Mesopotamia and focused on defending their capital at Ctesiphon.
In 567, Tiberian I died and is succeeded by his son Tiberian II. Tiberian II inherited an exhausted empire and he made economic reforms to the empire, replacing the outdated taxation system and reorganizing the army. Tiberian II organized the army back into legions.
Latin was the first language of Tiberian II, he instituted many of the older Roman traditions in Constantinople.
The Platonic academy resurfaced during the reign of Tiberian II and it flourished because Tiberian II was an avid student of ancient Greek philosophers, but he also admired his Roman heritage. The Neoplatonic ideas spread to Alexandria and Antioch, allowing for Neoplatonic schools to be opened there.
The Sassanids were in worse shape than the East Romans and that made the border stable for a time. The Sassanids had 21 years of civil war before they stabilized.
In 575 Tiberian II learned of the devastation of North Africa by the West Romans.
In 583, Tiberian II died when he fell down the stairs in the palace and his son Justin II succeeded him.
Justin II was only 19 when he became emperor but he inherited an empire with a full treasury and stable borders. For most of his reign Justin II lived in decadence, he lived a life in the public eye and he spent most of his time in Constantinople attending lavish parties, wasting the treasury on his self indulgence.
In 587 the Sassanids stabilized and started to attack border forts, Justin II responded by levying more troops and sending them to the border. The border remained stable until the 7th century.
In 593 the Khazars break through the Danube front and take Moesia, Roman Dacia and parts of Northern Thrace, shocking the East Romans, sending the empire into a state of panic.
In 597, Justin II was killed on the orders of Anastasius II, one of his most trusted court advisors. Anastasius II took power after Justin II was killed.
In 601, Anastasius II was killed by Constantine III, a general and statesman.
Constantine negotiated peace with the Khazars after defeating them in Northern Thrace. In 603, the Sassanids sacked Edessa. Constantine III responded by leading an army and besieging Edessa. He took the city and defeated the Sassanid army inside. The Sassanids started to use mercenaries from the steppe and India.
In 604, the Sassanids sacked Amida and they made their way into Anatolia.
In June of 605, Constantine III was killed by Leo III.
In 606, a young man named Heraclius I became a general under Leo III, Heraclius led the army in eastern Anatolia and pushed the Sassanids past the frontier. Leo III got all of the credit for pushing back the Sassanids.
In March of 607, Leo III died of a heart attack in the palace. Constans II succeeded him.
In September of 608, Constans II died fighting the Sassanids at Palmyra. He is succeeded by Leontius I.
Leontius I was a reckless general and he made bad decisions on the battlefield. Leontius I lost the battle of Edessa in 609 and the battle of Ancyra in 611.
By 612, the Sassanids took over most of Anatolia, the Levant and Sinai. In July of 612, Leontius I was killed by Heraclius I. Heraclius I had all that it took to be a great emperor.
Heraclius I started to train more troops and made it clear that it was a total war situation in the East.
In 613, the Sassanids took Ephesus and started to march their armies towards Nicomedia. Upon learning of the fall of Ephesus, Heraclius prepared the city for a siege.
In May of 614, the Sassanids besieged Nicomedia with a huge force that consisted of Indian mercenaries and Steppe nomad mercenaries. The Belisarian Walls proved to be too great for the Sassanid force. The Romans in Nicomedia manned the walls and inflicted heavy casualties to the Sassanids force by arrows. In July of 614, the Sassanids withdrew from Nicomedia and fell back to Ancyra.
In 615 Heraclius mobilized his army, launching a devastating campaign against the Sassanids.
From 615-620, Heraclius won a series of battles that pushed the Sassanids into Mesopotamia, he won the battles of Tyana, Caesarea, Sebastea, Amida, Edessa and at Hierapolis.
In 621 Heraclius invaded deep into Mesopotamia, he besieged Opis.
The siege of Opis was a pivotal battle in the war, it lead to the crushing Roman victory and the devastation of Persian morale. The siege lasted from July of 621 to September of 623. After he took Opis, he sacked Ctesiphon without major Sassanid resistance.
The East Romans made it all the way down to Charax, a rich port city and after a brief siege it fell to the young general Tiberian III, who was a descendant of Tiberian II.
In 627, Heraclius made peace with Hormizd V. Heraclius celebrated his victory throughout the empire and held a grand triumph at the Hippodrome in 629. Heraclius broke Sassanid power in Mesopotamia and he annexed Mesopotamia all the way down to Charax. He made Mesopotamia into a province in 630.
Heraclius died in 631, when Tiberian III stabbed him in his sleep killing him, after killing his wife.
On the same day Heraclius died, Tiberian III took power in the empire, with the backing of the troops. Tiberian III imprisoned all of Heraclius' children and he executed all of them over a period of time.
In 634 Arabs started to raid the southern part of the Levant. Tiberian III sent a force to crush them, which resulted in the battle of Petra (634). The battle was a major Roman victory, sending the Arabs back south further into Arabia.
In 636, Tiberian III was assassinated by Basiliscus II, a distant relative of Leontius I. Basiliscus II took power that year. In 639, Basiliscus II realized that the frontier in Mesopotamia was unstable, needing to be defended from Persia and Arabia. Basiliscus II set up Roman client states in Mesopotamia and he recalled his troops back to the old frontier. Basiliscus II also was involved in Sassanid politics, when he supported Hormizd VI in the Sassanid civil war of 630-640.
In 639 the Khazars invade across the Danube, invading deep into Macedonia. They were met by the Imperial army at Thessalonica in 640.
The Khazars were beaten back and made peace with the Romans.
In 640, the Sassanids stabilized and attacked the Roman client states in Mesopotamia. Hormizd VI fled to the court of Basiliscus II.
In 642, Charax was besieged by the Sassanids, Basiliscus II sent relief to the city and routed the Sassanids, preventing a Persian reconquest of Mesopotamia.
In 644, Hormizd VI returned to Persia with the support of Basiliscus II and he tried to take the throne. He was successful and he became the ruler of Persia, keeping friendly relations with the Romans.
In 645, the Hephthalites invade eastern persia, attacking the Sassanids. Hormizd VI requests help from Basiliscus II but his calls went unheeded. Hormizd VI was angry about the betrayal and cut off the trade agreement the Sassanids had with the eastern empire.
In 647, the Hephthalite-Sassanid war ended, with the Hephthalites taking portions of east persia. Hormizd felt pressured to attack Rome and take back mesopotamia after the disgraceful defeat in the east.
In 649, Hormizd VI declared war and invaded the Roman client states in Mesopotamia.
In 650, Hormizd VI took southern Mesopotamia excluding Charax. He besieged Ctesiphon in 651. The city got no relief from the Romans. It soon fell after 7 months of sieging. Hormizd continued his campaign and took northern Mesopotamia. He encountered a proper Roman army when he sieged Circesium. He lost the siege and offered peace to Basiliscus II. Basiliscus II took the peace offer and levied new legions to serve on the frontier.
In 655, Basiliscus II was killed in the streets of Constantinople for the inaction during the Sassanid assault on Mesopotamia.
In 656, he was succeeded by Tiberian IV, who was the son of Tiberian III.
In 657, Hormizd VI took Charax and went east to deal with the Hephthalites.
In 658, Tiberian IV stabilized the Danube front and prepared for a war against the Sassanids.