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Caesar invades Parthia

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  Quote Mystic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Caesar invades Parthia
    Posted: 30-Nov-2005 at 18:24
As everyone knows or the story goes, Caesar was planning for an invasion of the east against the Parthians to not only further glorify his own career but to avenge what had happened to his old buddy Crassus too bad he was assassinated before he could carry out his campaign. What would have happened had the invasion actually took place? And what are some the scenarios in which the ancient world would have changed?
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  Quote Maju Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Nov-2005 at 18:57
Well, I didn't know he was planning anything of the like. But guess it would have ended in disaster for Caesar. Romans attempted to conquer Parthia at several moments and they were defeated most of the time. Parthia wasn't Gaul, if you know what I mean. 

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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 00:31

 Caeser was planning a campaign against Parthia just prior to his assassination, infact the news that Caeser was going to the east left the conspirators to assassinate him a small window of opportunity to fulfill their plans before Caeser left. Once he'd left and if he has succeeded in destroying the Parthians, it'd of been impossible to get rid of him.

 Firstly let me put something very clear, Crasses who was so utterly defeated by the Parthians at Carrhae was nothing in terms of being a general compared to Caeser. It isnt right to gauge Romes military exploits against Parthia by using Crassus as a prime example, had Caeser attempted to conquer Parthia and failed then that'd be much different as Caeser was an excellent general. Crassus incited his own annihilation and was far from what I would consider a competent general.

 Now as for whether or not Caeser would of succeeded against Parthia is difficult to say, Caeser I believe was capable of at the very least competing against the Parthians on the battlefield. He wasnt stupid and he will have learned from the fate of Crassus the strengths of the Parthian army and mistakes Crassus made. Caeser doesnt strike me as a man who would plan a campaign against an enemy he cant win against or have no indepth knowledge of, so he must have believed himself that he was capable and that the army was. 

 It would of been entirely different to the warfare he had encountered in Gaul and the Roman army clearly isnt suited to fighting offensively against a cavalry heavy army which used horse archers and heavy cavalry to break its foe.

 I think realistically Caeser could of achieved moderate success probably extended and secured Roman conquests in the east and reached a settlement which would benefit the empire and would give enough food for the propagandists to make it out to be yet another glorious campaign.

 The total conquest of the Parthian empire is very much out of the question, Rome struggled to hold onto even Mesopotamia throughout its history nevermind the entire Parthian empire. A good example is the campaigns of Trajan 150 years after Caeser when Rome was much stronger and Parthia much weaker, yet still Trajans conquests could not be held and where soon withdrawn from.

 

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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 05:44

Personally I hav read the texts by Plutarch and Suetonius on this issue and I am convinced he probably would have achieved a great deal of success. Plutarch explicitly says that Caesar planned to learn about the local topography and Parthian tactics before he committed his forces to an engagement. Caesar was militarily brilliant and it seems likely he would have quickly been able to adapt to the circumstances.

The comparison with Crassus is very unfair. There are a number of key differences in the campaigns of the two men. Crassus was militarily mediocre, Caesar was a connoisuer. Crassus has his third part of the entire Roman forces under his command, Caesar could muster 16 full strength legions not counting vast numbers of auxiliaries (in other words vastly more than Crassus). Caesar could learn from Crassus' mistakes and defeat, Crassus could not. Caesar would have had solid control of the whole Roman world and be able to rely on that completely for logistical support and reinforcements, Crassus was a mere Triumvir whose own political position was tenuous.

Important to consider about the Parthian Empire is that it was not a well united, homogeneous bloc. It was a feudal society bound together by local rulers of various ethnic groups agreeing to pay homage to the Parthian King. As long as these subject peoples and their leaders agreed to help the Pathian King, Parthia had an army capable of enforcing the will of that King. However, many times this fragmentary nature of Parthia proved to be a weakness. In the first half of the 1st century AD, the Hyrcanians revolted with the effect of paralyzing the Parthian military effort against Rome on a number of occasions. It seems likely to me that Caesar would repeat his political moves in Gaul, invading at the behest of subject peoples and making the Romans appear as liberators. Mesopotamia would likely be taken and Caesar would most likely form the ex-subject peoples in the Zagros mountains, the southern Caspian and Atropatene peoples into a confederacy to keep the Parthians out. Parthia, as nice as it looks on the map, was a feudalistic nation often at odds with its subject peoples. More than likely Caesar would use this to his advantage, take the most defensible and desireable slices of Parthian territory for Rome and set up a system of client-patron alliances with erstwhile subject peoples of the Parthians.

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  Quote tadamson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 09:45
More importantly, Ceasar would be less likeley to ignore his allies and guides. As subsiquent Roman attacks through Armenia were sucessful, this might have been much better.  Remember that Antony beat the Parthians not long after Crassus defeat.
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  Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 15:09

The comparison with Crassus is very unfair. There are a number of key differences in the campaigns of the two men. Crassus was militarily mediocre, Caesar was a connoisuer. Crassus has his third part of the entire Roman forces under his command, Caesar could muster 16 full strength legions not counting vast numbers of auxiliaries (in other words vastly more than Crassus). Caesar could learn from Crassus' mistakes and defeat, Crassus could not. Caesar would have had solid control of the whole Roman world and be able to rely on that completely for logistical support and reinforcements, Crassus was a mere Triumvir whose own political position was tenuous.

Mark Antony, with a huge force, was forced to turn back because the Parthians used scorched earth tactics and frustrated him, the Parthians were not stupid, I think they too knew which battles they could and could not win.  Rome's military was inherently weak against that of the Iranians, their advantage lay in organisation and tactics.

How would you guys rate Caesar against Belisarius as a general? 

I have read that in one battle a Sassanid Savaran army of 15,000 cavalry conclusively defeated Belisarius's force of 40,000 Romans in Mesopotamia, Bel only escaped under the cover of darkness.

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  Quote Heraclius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 15:54

 I believe the battle you refer to Zagros is the battle Callinicum in 531, it was a Sassanid victory but hardly a resounding one the Roman army withdrew in good order despite the Persians breaking the Roman right flank. I think Belisarius actually had around 25,000 to 30,000 men rather than 40,000, anyway the Sassanids for whatever reason didnt follow up this victory and withdrew from Imperial territory.

 It should be remembered though that only a year earlier Belisarius had defeated the Persians at Dara whilst significantly outnumbered himself.

 I think when looking at Belisarius you have to look at what he had to work with. His army was made up almost entirely of unruly mercenaries who were almost as likely to turn on the Byzantines than they were their supposed enemies.

 A good example is the "battle of Tricameron" in 533 against the Vandals, Belisarius' Hun mercenary cavalry only decided to fight with the Romans when the battle was already going their way. They could easily of gone over to the Vandals who had already showed interest in attempting to tempt the Huns to abandon the Romans.

 In Italy, Belisarius was often starved of men, resources and money, Justinians swings between support and jealously for his general were extremely unpredictable and often Belisarius was abandoned and forced to survive alone with an army that by and large had little loyalty to him whilst his Emperor ignored him.

 Under such conditions the success Belisarius had in Italy is even more impressive than it would normally of been. The fact Belisarius remained loyal throughout his career is sound tribute to the man who could easily of betrayed Justinian and even become Emperor of the west at one point. I doubt he'd of had much trouble ousting Justinian who himself was hardly popular, whilst Belisarius was loved by the people for his successes. 

 As a general I think the siege of Rome is a great example of his ability http://historynet.com/mh/blbelisarius/index.html an example of his skill despite the odds he faced.

 I havent time at the moment to give an indepth comparison, but I thought i'd provide a basic outline of Belisarius for others to continue off, I think our own *Belisarius* will have 1 or 2 things to say

 

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  Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 16:53

I will illustrate my point better.

The Sassanid military was greatly superior to the Parthian army.

Belisarius's Byzantine armies were adapted specifically to counter the Iranian cavalry threat and were superior to Ceasar's legions and the older Parthian armies.

The bottom line is that Belisarius's campaigns against the Sassanids were failures, how would Caesar have faired better against the Parthians?  Both faced similar odds. Strokes of luck and inciting rebellions aside.



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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 17:53

The Sassanid state was more centralized and much more aggressive than the Parthian, from what I have read. It was not long after the success of Septimius Severus in capturing Ctesiphon that the Parthian state actually collapsed to be replaced by one which centred on Persian power. Persian rule was much more hands on than the Parthian Empire. The Persians had at their disposal a much greater pool of loyal troops to draw on, the Parthians being limited by the disloyalty of their subject peoples. The change in rule from Parthian to Persian sees a significant change in favour of the Sassanids, the Romans thereafter had much less success against a better organised and more centralised enemy. A good indication of this is the number of times the Romans were able to capture Ctesiphon once rule became Sassanid instead of Parthian.

It is true that Antony threw much of what he had at Parthia, but authors of the day attribute his defeat as much to hasty preparations and Cleopatra's distractions as to the Parthian scortched earth policy.

I don't think a comparison between 6th century Byzantium and 1st century BC Rome is entirely fair. Rome in 50 BC was a far more stable, economically powerful and militarily dominant nation than it was in 550 AD. At the same time, as I mentioned, the arrivals of the Sassanids to power saw a tranformation of that Eastern state into one of much greater power and unity. The Byzantines were still able to overwhelm the Sassanids, as under Heraclius, but this took far more out of the Romans at that time period than it would likely have done 5 centuries earlier (they very nearly lost their death match to Persia in the 620s afterall).

Regarding Belisarius' campaigns against Persia it is fair to say that the whole affair was a lostling match, we lose one year, we win another year.... etc etc. Belisarius could hardly march down to Mesopotamia and attempt conquest simply because he was not allowed to decide that. The decision was Justinian's, who felt intensely that the East could wait and the West needed to be reconquered. Had Belisarius invaded Persia his Emperor would not only have not supported him, but would most likely done whatever he could to remove him. A conquest of Persia was not on the Emperor's agenda at the time, so Belisarius could not pursue it.

Caesar vs Belisarius? That's a tough one. I think Belisarius was more resourceful, but he could never inspire the personal loyalty in his men quite like Caesar could. The two generals also had two different styles of fighting, one with massed heavy infantry and the other with a polyglot army with a much greater emphasis on cavalry and missile troops. But I will go with Belisarius, though only just. Belisarius did incredible things with a tiny fraction of Byzantium's forces, while Caesar did amazing things with about 1/3 of Rome forces. I will go with Belisarius just on resourcefulness.



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  Quote Ikki Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 18:27
Following your argument Zagros, the campaigns of Trajan, Lucius Verus and Septimius Severus (and other romans) was unimaginable.


Romans, with their typical armies, defeated to the parths at I century BC, it wasn't impossible, hard but not impossible. I agree with the hypothesis of Constantine XI, northern Mesopotamia and operations in the mountain territory.

The advantage in warfare is not a "spiritual" question between two peoples, iranians and romans, is a question of Facts. The sassanian armies, based on heavy cavalry (primary)+archer cavalry+light infantry can not be confront with an armie from I century because that sassanian army fought with a roman army from V century; you must compare the parthian army and the parthian state from I century with the Caesar's Rome.

Another question, your analysis of the war between East Roman Empire and Sassanian Empire at the time of Belisarius is very curious: was a defensive war for the romans, offensive for the persians, the main campaigns of Belisarius wasn't failures because he achieved his objective, repel to the enemy. The sassanians had the edge, true, but the romans could resist in one of their many fronts; a global draw, although, romans won the last war. By this time, the crucial element was the power of the states, and both was equaly powerful.
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  Quote Ikki Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 18:33
Ups, i couldn't read your analysis paleologus, you explain this question with better words than i, very good.
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  Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 18:36

This defeat was the first of Belisarius's series of unsuccessful wars against Sassanids, which led Byzantine to pay heavy tributes in exchange for peace treaty. Callinicum ended the first Belisarius' Persian campaigns, returning all of the land lost to them to Roman rule under Justinian I in the Perpetual Peace agreement signed in September of 532.

 
The war you mention, involving Heraclius, lasted thirty years. He circumvented the main Iranian force and went for Ctesiphon which resulted in a subsequent ceasefire. 
 
Sure the Romans could defeat the Parthians, but I don't think they could conquer Parthia, otherwise they would have, and they did try.


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  Quote Imperator Invictus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 19:51
In terms of army composition and tactics, the Parthians were superior to the Romans during Caesar's time. However, I think Caesar could have compensated this by using Rome's superior manpower. Still conquest of Parthia is out of question because Parthia was a fresh Empire at that time. Neither Trajan nor Septimius Severus were able to conquer a decaying Parthia, much less could Caesar have done conquered a strong one.
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  Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 20:45
Perhaps the answer to the question is, how would Ceasar have done it differently to Trajan?
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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2005 at 23:16
I never said the conquest of the whole Parthian realm was possible, even for someone like Caesar this would have been impossible. A capture of certain strategic points and a confederacy of erstwhile subject states was the best the Romans could hope for. I don't see the Romans advancing over the Zagros mountains.
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  Quote Belisarius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Dec-2005 at 10:25
I doubt Ceasar would really have learned from Crassus. The thing about Ceasar is that he was excruciatingly arrogant. He never studied his opponents before a battle, confident that his skills would carry the battle. He would not learn from anyone but himself, especially since Crassus was his hated rival.

As for Belisarius, most of the juicy stuff has been said. As Constantine mentioned, Belisarius was under orders from Justinian. He was to hold the frontier, not subjugate all of Eranshahr (I just learned this was the real name of the Sassanid Empire!!). Despite his ability, I doubt he could have because of Justinian's inevitable refusal to send him men and supplies. The Sassanids were a real superpower of the time, not like the Germanic kingdoms.

As a general, Belisarius had a myriad of skills. He successfully used every troop type, and was skilled in offensive and defensive manuvuers. His defense of Rome was simply brilliant. At times, he was prone to engage in heroic charges with both infantry and cavalry. His resourcefulness is unmatched by any other general I know of. His unquestioned loyalty was also an admirable trait. If Justinian had realized this, a great many future disasters might have been avoided.

In comparison with Ceasar, I would say they are very similar in how both are reactionary generals. However, I think that Belisarius had a greater range of skills, as he commanded larger amounts of different troop types. His resourcefulness definately puts him over.
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  Quote Ikki Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Dec-2005 at 16:55
Originally posted by Zagros

This defeat was the first of Belisarius's series of unsuccessful wars against Sassanids, which led Byzantine to pay heavy tributes in exchange for peace treaty. Callinicum ended the first Belisarius' Persian campaigns, returning all of the land lost to them to Roman rule under Justinian I in the Perpetual Peace agreement signed in September of 532.

 


The campaigns between Belisarius and the persians was as follow:

1. Belisarius as a low officer, not general, fight with the roman army against the persians; the romans are defeated.
2. Belisarius as general, begin the build of a new fortress near Nisibis; the persiasn attack and defeat to the romans, but Belisarius is forgiving because their syirians officers disobeyed him.
3.1 Year 530, the persians begin the attack against the roman empire (possibly, before a roman offensive). Justinian send a very powerful army, with the best generals and commanded by Belisarius; the romans win the great Battle of Dara, but they can't exploit their victory. (Another persian army was defeated in Armenia by Sitas)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dara

3.2 Year 531, a very selected persian army supported by arabs invade the Empire; when they are retreating, Belisarius attack (forced by his men). The persians destroy the cavalry force and the arab force, but they can't destroy to the roman infantry, that resist all the persian charges with the back against the river; at night, the infantry retreat to an island in the river and then are resqued by ships. Is the Battle of Callinicum; when the sassanid King is reported about the persian casualties, the general fall into disfavor.
The truce signed is advantageous for the persians, but not very much.

4.1 Year 540, Antiochy devastated by the persians.
4.2 Year 541. The  own persian King, Khosrau I invade the northern territory, Belisarius the south; when the King go to the south, Belisarius is not here yet (he was informed, falsely informed, by the allied arab Aretas that a huge persian army was aproached)
4.3 Year 542. Khosrau II wanted sack Palestine, but when he was crossing Syria, Belisarius approach from the north. The King retreat although, the situation was critical for the romans.

(Belisarius left Orient, finally the war was unfavourable for the romans)


Now, which unsucessful campaigns after Callinicus? Belisarius could resist to the enemy (that was the objective, not other), although the general view is favourable for the persians; by this time, the general result is a draw. The emperor Maurice could put a new king in the persian throne,  (!!) and win all Armenia and eastern Mesopotamia.
The problem was: at the time of Justinian, the romans was involved in other fronts or was preparing new campaigns in the west, and the persians was centred in the war against the romans. Then the romans could centre their efforts in Orient, and the persians had internal problems. When the persians are distracted in the east, against the nomads, they didn't attack to the west; and the romans didn't attack the east if they are distracted in the west. Actually, i think that the romans was more distracted in the west than the persians in the east (for VI century), that is one of  the reason of the persian advantage.

Thinking about this last question, the upper hand of the persians, first, correct me if i am in a mistake, but both enemies was equal in power: demographic, economic, organization... From this, we can regard several factors:

1. The strategical factor (west, east...), favourable for the persians.

2. The military factors:
A. The persian army was a national army, more cheap for the persian state, and more loyal to the King (although there were many noblemen...)
B. In persian army the cavalry was more important (numerically). With that arms they could launch more deep offensive wars.

But the east roman army was better balanced, best heavy infantry and best... archery, at the battle of Callinicus, the roman archers win the combat with the persian archers (i read that the roman archer was more slow but more powerful ?)And could resist with the fortress system.

In a field battle, two "perfect" armies (east roman and persian) can win.

The war you mention, involving Heraclius, lasted thirty years. He circumvented the main Iranian force and went for Ctesiphon which resulted in a subsequent ceasefire.

Between the arrival of Heraclius and the conclusion of the war are seven years, for that time, he fought with the persians in Anatolia; when finally the romans attack the heart of the Kingdom, the persians were defeated in the Battle of Nnive.

Sure the Romans could defeat the Parthians, but I don't think they could conquer Parthia, otherwise they would have, and they did try.

I agree.


bye



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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Dec-2005 at 21:42

Key here is. Caesar would not trust the Amernians. And he would not march in the open plains.

Crassus was not defeated by millitary might. He was defeated by deceit and stupidity.

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  Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2005 at 06:44

Good info, but - you underestimate the foes in the East, the Gok Toruks and Hephthalites (White Huns).

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  Quote J.Caesar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Apr-2006 at 01:23
Very hard to say. Caesar was arrogant and felt his men could beat all. And did but only with hand to hand combat. He humiliated the Celts and the Germans while being amazingly outnumbered. He crossed the Rhine and arrgantly marched around for a few weeks and daring any to fight. (Most fled in terror) Caesar accounts put the German forces there at at least 20 to one advantage. He didn`t care! He believed in his men and they believed in him.
However, all the bravery in the world couldn`t stop streams of arrows ripping the Romans apart form a distance. That could have been Caesars fate in Parthia.
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