NAZAROV A.D. Persian Immigrants in the Armed Forces of Early Byzantium


Andrey D. Nazarov

Engineer Researcher,

Laboratory of Comparative Studies of Tolerance and Recognition, Ural Federal University,

Mira St, 19, 620002 Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. The article is devoted to Persians who served in the Early Byzantine armed forces. Even during the Principate period, alae and cohortes which were originally recruited from Parthians were part of the Roman imperial army. Units from Persian defectors and prisoners were also created from the 4th to the 6th century.

Methods. Using tools of the positivist methodology makes it possible to provide a critical analysis of information from the sources. At the same time, the prosopographical method allows to study mechanisms of integration of immigrants from neighboring realms into the Early Byzantine society using examples of individual fates.

Analysis. According to “Notitia Dignitatum”, a significant part of military units of Persian origin served in eastern provinces of the empire. It is also known that cavalry vexillationes which consisted of immigrants from Iran were included in mobile armies. Some numeri with Persian prisoners were transferred to Italy in the 6th century. These units consisted mainly of heavily armed horsemen who were famous for eastern neighbors of Rome and Byzantium. In the framework of the presented article, the author refers to individual personalities who held commanding posts in the imperial armed forces. It is important to note that among them there were representatives of the Sasanian family. Ormizdas, the son of Hormizd II, Kavad, the grandson of Kavad I, and Khosrow II sought to find salvation from Iranian strifes at the court of the emperors. These individuals were considered as completely loyal to Byzantium candidates for the Shahanshah’s throne. However, only Khosrow II managed to return victorious to Iran in 591 with the support of eastern Roman emperor Maurice.

Results. The author concludes that military service was the main channel of integration into the society of the empire for Persian immigrants as well as other foreigners in the Late Antique period.

Key words: Late Roman empire, Byzantine empire, Late Roman army, Byzantine army, Persia, Sasanians.

Citation. Nazarov A.D. Persian Immigrants in the Armed Forces of Early Byzantium. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2020, vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 201-210. (inRussian). DOI:

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Persian Immigrants in the Armed Forces of Early Byzantium by Nazarov A.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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