Notícia

Batalha de Carrhae, 53 AC

Batalha de Carrhae, 53 AC

A Batalha de Carrhae em 53 AC foi uma das maiores catástrofes militares em toda a história romana quando um herói da campanha de Spartacus, Marcus Licinius Crassus (115-53 AC), iniciou uma invasão não provocada do território parta (Irã moderno). A maioria das informações sobre a batalha e suas consequências vêm de duas fontes principais: a biografia de Crasso do historiador Plutarco, do século I dC e História Romana por Cássio Dio (c. 155 - c. 235 dC).

Carrhae provou ser um desastre completo desde o início. Os romanos não estavam apenas acostumados a lutar em terreno aberto e no calor insuportável da Síria, mas também nunca tinham visto nada parecido com a cavalaria parta: os catafratos ou camelos blindados. Iain Dickie, em seu artigo sobre a batalha em Batalhas do Mundo Antigo afirma que Crasso tentou "marcar um gol sobre seus rivais políticos Pompeu e César. Ele esperava glória e riquezas, mas obteve tragédia e morte" (140). No final, 20.000 romanos foram mortos, 10.000 foram capturados e apenas cerca de 5.000 escaparam da carnificina.

Crasso e o Triunvirato

Marco Licínio Crasso não era o comandante inepto que o resultado da batalha exibe. Ele havia sido um líder militar capaz, além de um estadista de sucesso. Junto com Júlio César (100-44 AEC) e Pompeu, o Grande (106-48 AEC), Crasso formou o Primeiro Triunvirato que governou efetivamente a República Romana de 60 a 53 AEC. Uma República instável e uma quase guerra civil levaram esses três homens a deixar de lado suas diferenças e até mesmo desprezar uns pelos outros para unir forças e por quase uma década dominar o governo romano, mesmo controlando as eleições.

Com o sucesso de César na Gália e as vitórias de Pompeu contra os piratas no Mar Mediterrâneo, Crasso precisava de uma conquista militar para avançar a posição política pessoal e familiar em Roma. Já um dos homens mais ricos de Roma e com o dinheiro por trás do triunvirato, Crasso olhou para o leste e para a Pártia em particular. Ele sonhava com a supremacia romana ali e uma oportunidade de glória. Infelizmente para ele, pouco se sabia sobre a Pártia, exceto que era considerada extremamente rica. Outros estados orientais foram facilmente capturados, então por que não Pártia? Embora Pompeu tivesse assinado tratados com os partos, Crasso decidiu ignorá-los. Essa arrogância e ganância significariam sua condenação final, bem como o fim do Primeiro Triunvirato.

Os romanos nunca haviam encontrado nada parecido com a altamente qualificada cavalaria parta, treinada para lutar em terreno aberto.

Campanha contra a Pártia

Saindo de Roma em novembro de 55 AEC, Crasso marchou para o leste, para a Ásia Menor, cruzando o rio Eufrates e chegando ao território parta. Ao longo do caminho, ele saqueou cidades e templos, aumentando sua riqueza pessoal. Crasso deixou 7.000 cavalaria e 1.000 infantaria para guarnecer essas cidades capturadas. Passando o inverno na Síria, ele esperou que seu filho Publius e sua cavalaria gaulesa chegassem. No final, seu exército consistia em 28.000 infantaria, 4.000 infantaria leve, 1.000 cavalaria gaulesa, 3.000 cavalaria romana e 6.000 cavalaria árabe. Infelizmente para Crasso, a cavalaria árabe partiria antes que a luta começasse. Enquanto esperava que o tempo melhorasse, ele foi recebido por enviados partas perguntando sobre o propósito de Roma e exigindo sua retirada. Sua presença era oficial? Crasso informou que era, de fato, oficial.

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Apesar dos conselhos dos armênios que conheciam a região muito melhor, é claro, Crasso e seu exército marcharam para o leste em direção a Selêucia. O rei parta Orodes II (r. 57-37 AEC), que recentemente derrotou os armênios, liderou um exército na Armênia para impedi-los de se juntar a Crasso. Enquanto isso, o governador regional parta Surena reuniu suas forças para se opor aos romanos. Quando chegou a notícia de que os partos estavam se preparando para a batalha, Crasso organizou rapidamente seus homens. No início, ele os formou em uma longa linha, mas depois, percebendo que seus flancos seriam vulneráveis, ele os transformou em um quadrado apertado. Cada lado da praça continha cerca de 5.700 infantaria ou 12 coortes. Dentro do quadrado vazio estavam não apenas a infantaria leve e a cavalaria, mas também a bagagem e os seguidores do acampamento. Plutarco escreveu sobre a apreensão de Crasso:

Todos ficaram muito perturbados, é claro, mas Crasso ficou completamente apavorado e começou a reunir suas forças com pressa e sem grande consistência. A princípio, como Cássio recomendou, ele estendeu a linha de seus homens de armas o mais longe possível ao longo da planície, com pouca profundidade, para evitar que o inimigo os cercasse, e dividiu toda a sua cavalaria entre as duas alas. Então ele mudou de ideia e concentrou seus homens, formando-os em um quadrado oco de quatro frentes, com doze coortes de cada lado. (ch. 25)

Legiões vs. Cavalaria

Os romanos nunca haviam encontrado nada parecido com a altamente qualificada cavalaria parta, especificamente treinada para lutar em terreno aberto. Em primeiro lugar, ao contrário dos exércitos romano e grego, não havia infantaria parta, apenas os infames cataphracts carregando lanças de camelos blindados (cerca de 1.000 no total) e arqueiros montados com blindagem leve (cerca de 10.000). Eles estavam se movendo e atirando rapidamente. Eles enfatizaram a mobilidade e a habilidade em equitação com cargas rápidas e recuos fingidos. Por último, havia o famoso tiro parta, quando um arqueiro montado cavalgava a toda velocidade de seu inimigo e, enquanto girava em sua sela, disparava uma saraivada de flechas sobre a garupa de seu cavalo. A tática provou ser quase impossível de ser combatida, e as flechas partas podiam penetrar a armadura romana enquanto os lanceiros tinham a capacidade de empalar dois soldados ao mesmo tempo.

No lado romano da batalha, estava o famoso legionário, um soldado que provou ser muito mais adaptável no combate corpo a corpo. Ele já havia provado isso contra os gregos. O legionário médio estava armado com um pilum (um dardo pesado) e um Gladius Hispaniensis (uma espada curta e cortante). Ele usava um capacete de bronze, escudo e túnica de malha. Ele também teve que carregar ferramentas entrincheiradas, um saco de dormir, uma capa, utensílios de cozinha e rações. Nada disso o ajudaria contra os partos. Sua falta de treinamento necessário e incapacidade de lutar no vazio do deserto da Síria o colocariam em clara desvantagem.

Batalha

Os romanos, ainda bem organizados em seu quadrado apertado, esperaram por uma carga parta direta que nunca veio. Plutarco escreveu que o som dos partos no campo de batalha confundia a alma:

Pois os partas não se incitam à batalha com chifres ou trombetas, mas eles têm tambores ocos de pele distendida, cobertos com sinos de bronze, e neles eles batem todos em um em muitos quartos, e os instrumentos emitem um tom baixo e sombrio . (ibid)

As táticas partas eram simples: um volume contínuo de fogo. A cavalaria de arqueiro cavalgaria ao redor da praça disparando flechas rapidamente no centro romano. Qualquer tentativa de contra-ataque falhou. Plutarco disse,

... quando Crasso ordenou que suas tropas de armas leves fizessem um ataque, eles não avançaram muito, mas, encontrando uma multidão de flechas, abandonaram seu empreendimento e correram para se abrigar entre os homens de armas, entre os quais causaram o início de desordem e medo, pois estes agora viam a velocidade e a força das flechas, que rompiam a armadura e abriam caminho por todas as coberturas igualmente, fossem duras ou moles. (ibid)

A cavalaria parta não podia ser parada e Crasso percebeu que precisava fazer um movimento. Plutarco escreveu como os romanos esperavam que os partos eventualmente ficassem sem flechas até que vissem os camelos carregados com o que parecia ser um suprimento sem fim.

... quando perceberam que muitos camelos carregados de flechas estavam em locais escolhidos, dos quais os partos ... pegaram um novo suprimento, então Crasso, não vendo fim para isso, começou a desanimar e enviou mensageiros a seu filho com ordens de forçar um engajamento com o inimigo ... (Plutarco, ibid)

Crasso ordenou que Publius liderasse sua cavalaria gaulesa de 1.000, que já estava sofrendo com o calor extremo do verão, 300 cavalaria adicional, 500 arqueiros de pé e oito coortes de legionários para conter o intenso ataque parta.

Morte de Publius

Seguindo os arqueiros montados em retirada, Publius estava a alguma distância da praça quando os partos pararam e se viraram. Os romanos pararam imediatamente, tornando-se alvos fáceis para os arqueiros partas. Plutarco comentou que Publius realmente acreditava que era vitorioso em sua perseguição aos partos até que percebeu que havia sido enganado: "[a] luta foi desigual tanto ofensiva quanto defensivamente, pois seus golpes [de Publius] foram feitos com pequenos e lanças fracas contra couraças de couro cru e aço ... "(Plutarco, cap. 25)

Sobre a morte de Publius, Cassius Dio escreveu:

Quando isso aconteceu, a infantaria romana não recuou, mas valentemente se juntou à batalha com os partos para vingar sua morte. No entanto, eles não realizaram nada digno de si mesmos por causa dos números e táticas do inimigo ... (441)

Dos 5.500 romanos, 500 foram capturados, enquanto o restante foi crivado de flechas. A cabeça de Publius foi carregada em uma lança no próximo ataque que as catafratas fizeram na praça romana. Plutarco escreveu sobre o efeito que isso teve sobre os romanos:

Esse espetáculo abalou e desequilibrou os espíritos dos romanos mais do que todo o resto de suas experiências terríveis, e todos foram preenchidos, não com uma paixão por vingança, como era de se esperar, mas com estremecimentos e tremores. 26)

Os partas "desdenhosamente" indagaram sobre a família de Publius, acrescentando que o covarde Crasso não podia ser pai de um filho de tão nobre e esplêndido valor. No entanto, apesar do desdém, eles concederam a Crasso uma noite tranquila para lamentar o filho.

Estando mal equipados para a defesa noturna e temendo um ataque romano, os partos optaram por não continuar seu ataque, em vez disso, acamparam longe dos romanos. Plutarco escreveu que foi uma noite preocupante para os romanos, pois eles não podiam enterrar seus mortos ou cuidar dos feridos. Apesar disso, naquela noite, 300 romanos comandados por um comandante chamado Inácio fugiram para Carrhae, informaram a cidade sobre a batalha e seguiram em frente. Plutarco escreveu:

Inácio saudou as sentinelas nas paredes na língua romana e, quando elas responderam, ordenou-lhes que contassem a Copônio, seu comandante, que havia ocorrido uma grande batalha entre Crasso e os partos. Então, sem outra palavra, e sem nem mesmo dizer quem ele era, ele cavalgou para Zeugma. Ele salvou a si mesmo e a seus homens, mas ganhou uma má fama por ter abandonado seu general. 27)

Retire-se para Carrhae

Crasso percebeu que ficar era inútil e que precisava escapar. Deixando os feridos para trás, o restante do exército romano seguiu para a segurança de Carrhae, embora quatro coortes tenham se perdido durante a noite. Crasso percebeu que não poderia ficar muito tempo na cidade e já planejava partir.

Nas paredes de carrhae, os partos exigiram que Crasso e seu segundo em comando, Cássio, fossem entregues acorrentados.

Na manhã seguinte, os partos chegaram ao acampamento romano, massacraram os 4.000 soldados feridos e abandonados, encontraram e eliminaram as quatro coortes desaparecidas e depois seguiram para Carrhae. Nas muralhas da cidade, os partos exigiram que Crasso e seu segundo em comando, Cássio, fossem entregues acorrentados. De acordo com Plutarco, Surena não queria perder os 'frutos de sua vitória', então ele enviou um mensageiro que falava 'a língua romana' para pedir que Crasso ou Cássio se encontrassem e tivessem uma conferência. Com suprimentos limitados na cidade e um exército desanimado, Crasso, não querendo se encontrar com Surena, viu que era essencial deixar a cidade. No final, a tentativa de fuga seria desastrosa.

Naquela noite, Crasso e seu exército fizeram uma tentativa fracassada de fugir para a Armênia apenas para retornar a Carrhae, onde se perderam em um pântano. Cassius Dio escreveu:

Pois Crasso, desanimado, acreditava que não conseguiria mais resistir com segurança nem mesmo na cidade, mas planejou a fuga imediatamente. E como lhe era impossível sair de dia sem ser detectado, comprometeu-se a fugir à noite, mas não guardou segredo, sendo traído pela lua, que estava cheia. (441)

Esperando por uma noite sem lua, eles novamente partiram na escuridão, mas ficaram confusos em um terreno desconhecido e se perderam. Infelizmente, Crasso havia confiado no homem errado para conduzi-lo e a seus homens a um lugar seguro: o traidor Andromachus.

Mas como não é costume, e também não é fácil, que os partas lutem à noite, e como Crasso partiu à noite, Andromachus, conduzindo os fugitivos ora por um caminho e ora por outro, planejou que os perseguidores não devessem ser deixado para trás e, finalmente, ele desviou a marcha para pântanos profundos e regiões cheias de valas, tornando-a difícil e tortuosa para aqueles que ainda o seguiam. (Plutarco, cap. 29)

Os romanos se refugiaram em uma grande colina. Enquanto isso, o comandante romano Otávio escapou com 5.000 homens para Sinnaca, mais tarde retornando para ajudar a expulsar os partos apenas para encontrar sua própria morte nas mãos de um soldado parta. Finalmente, os termos foram novamente oferecidos. Crasso estava relutante, mas seus homens insistiram com ele "... abusando e injuriando-o por colocá-los à frente para lutar contra homens com os quais ele mesmo não teve a coragem de conversar, mesmo quando eles vieram desarmados" (Plutarco, cap. 30).

Os resultados do encontro e da morte de Crasso e Otávio são matéria de conjectura e mito. Supostamente, Surena pediu termos que exigiam que os romanos abandonassem todo o território a leste do Eufrates. Crasso, segundo Cássio Dio, estava com medo. O encontro não saiu como planejado, pois Crasso morreria. Plutarco observou: "... os partos vieram e disseram que, quanto a Crasso, ele havia se encontrado com seus desertos, mas que Surena ordenou que o resto dos romanos descessem sem medo" (cap. 31). Alguns obedeceram, enquanto outros tentaram escapar apenas para serem capturados e 'cortados em pedaços'.

Cássio Dio escreveu que Crasso foi morto "... ou por um de seus próprios homens para evitar sua captura com vida ou pelo inimigo porque estava gravemente ferido" (445). Outra história afirma que os partas derramaram ouro derretido em sua boca "em zombaria" de sua vasta riqueza. A cabeça de Crasso foi enviada ao rei parta, onde foi usada como adereço na peça de Eurípides As bacantes - tornou-se a cabeça do trágico Penteu que foi decapitado por sua mãe.

Rescaldo

Por causa da ganância e ambição de Carrhae, Crasso o cegou para as realidades da guerra no leste. Anteriormente, Crasso teve sucesso como comandante militar, mas Carrhae mostrou o fracasso de sua habilidade normalmente capaz de executar um plano racional. Foi sugerido que ele pode ter sofrido de PTSD (transtorno de estresse pós-traumático). Certamente, ele parece ter demonstrado raiva, falta de concentração, alienação e depressão, especialmente após a morte de seu filho quando ele se recusou a sair de sua tenda.

Com a morte de Crasso, o triunvirato estava condenado. Crasso fora a cola, e logo César e Pompeu estavam em conflito - isso finalmente terminaria com a morte de Pompeu. Supostamente, como um autoproclamado ditador vitalício, Júlio César esperava liderar seu exército para o leste para vingar a morte de Crasso e recuperar os estandartes de águia perdidos das legiões caídas, mas sua morte nos idos de 44 de março de AEC iria significar o fim de qualquer represália planejada.

Embora Roma ocasionalmente penetrasse no território parta - os imperadores Trajano e Septímio Severo progrediram - a guerra com a Pártia nunca se materializou. A Pártia provou ser muito mais defensiva do que agressiva. A área sempre seria um espinho no lado do império. No entanto, apesar das perdas catastróficas em Carrhae, Roma foi capaz de sobreviver, continuar a conquistar e emergir como um império. A Batalha de Carrhae, junto com as batalhas em Canas (216 aC) e Adrianópolis (378 dC), permanecem entre os piores desastres militares da história romana.


A desastrosa campanha romana de Carrhae

Em meados do verão de 53 AEC, o Triunvir Crasso romano foi severamente derrotado em sua campanha pelas terras do Império Parta. Seu desejo de adicionar os territórios capturados de Alexandre ao Império Romano o levou a um fim catastrófico e marcou o confronto como uma das perdas mais pesadas que já sofreram. Foi também a primeira vez que uma legião romana perdeu seu Aquila, um evento que trouxe vergonha, desonra e desgraça.

Quando os romanos fizeram essa tentativa e atacaram as províncias partas orientais, seu exército foi esmagado pelas forças do general persa Surena. O evento custou a vida de quase todo o exército romano, e quem não foi morto à espada foi vendido como escravo nas províncias do norte do Império Persa.


A batalha de Carrhae em 53 aC foi uma vitória romana?

se os romanos avançassem, provavelmente teria sido uma batalha ainda mais humilhante, os legionários são a melhor infantaria do mundo na época, mas eles não podem atacar a cavalaria porque a cavalaria é ágil o suficiente para escapar, mesmo catafratas fortemente blindadas. suas linhas teriam sido interrompidas e os arqueiros a cavalo poderiam ter derrubado ainda mais deles porque eles não estavam em formação de testudo e então os catafratos poderiam arar através das linhas interrompidas e potencialmente eliminá-los

se Crasso tivesse concordado em passar pela Armênia em vez do deserto, ele poderia ter se aliado aos armênios e lutado com todo o exército parthian, incluindo a infantaria, em terreno mais favorável. os armênios teriam uma grande força de cavalaria experiente o suficiente para derrotar a própria cavalaria parthian e os legionários poderiam ter derrotado a infantaria parthian

Don_Giorgio

GiantMonkeyMan

Don_Giorgio

Midgard

Lembre-se de que Crasso tinha 70 anos na época de Carrhae. Duvido que ele tivesse mais de 10 anos de vida e, mesmo assim, ainda teria que pacificar a Pártia. Foi preciso César, com forças maiores e talvez mais talento militar, pelo menos tanto tempo para pacificar a Gália. Imagine quanto tempo Crasso teria de gastar para pacificar os partas o suficiente para poder fazer QUALQUER lance realista pelo poder em Roma. Ele teria que gastar muito tempo em campanha antes de ter legiões que são tão leais a ele quanto as de César foram a ele.

Por outro lado, o filho de Crasso, que na época era um dos melhores tenentes de César, poderia ser um verdadeiro candidato no futuro. Imagine Crasso morrendo, digamos, por volta de 50-49 aC, e a ascensão de seu filho ao comando sendo o início de uma crise. Ele tem boa reputação militar, é respeitado nas legiões e pode ser o cara que "cruza o Rubicão". talvez até em aliança com César, já que os dois sempre se deram muito bem e se respeitaram muito.


Qual foi o impacto da Batalha de Carrhae (53 AC) em Roma?

A guerra definiu o século final da República Romana. A batalha de Carrhae (53 aC) foi uma das mais importantes porque teve profundas implicações tanto para Roma quanto para as províncias orientais de seu Império. Nesta batalha, pela primeira vez real, os Impérios de Roma e Pártia se enfrentaram. Carrhae foi uma das maiores e mais decisivas derrotas romanas em seus mil anos de história.

Este artigo examinará o impacto da derrota em Carrhae em Roma. A derrota resultou na queda de Crasso, o que acelerou o início da guerra civil entre César e Pompeu. O resultado disso foi o fim da República Romana e a introdução de um sistema imperial em Roma. Carrhae também quis dizer que a expansão romana no leste foi contida e que por várias décadas os partos foram uma grave ameaça no leste romano. A derrota romana deixou um legado de inimizade entre Roma e a Pártia que levou a muito mais guerras na região.

Fundo

Romano anexou a Ásia Menor e o truncado Império Selêucida no primeiro século DC. Isso teria repercussões estratégicas de longo alcance para os romanos. Pela primeira vez, eles entraram em contato com o Império Parta. Os partos eram um povo iraniano que formou um vasto Império fora do Império Selêucida. Seu império se estendia do moderno Iraque ao Paquistão. Roma no século I dC expandiu muito seu Império e muitos de seus líderes acreditavam que a República era invencível. [1]

Roma na década de 50 aC era governada por um "Triunvirato" de César, Pompeu e Crasso. Este, conhecido como o "Primeiro Triunvirato", foi uma aliança política informal entre os três homens mais importantes de Roma. César, que havia sido o líder do partido popular, estava na Gália conquistando aquela vasta área. Pompeu havia conquistado muitas vitórias no Oriente e era comumente referido como Pompeu, o Grande. O poder de Crasso (115-53 aC) baseava-se em sua fabulosa riqueza e em sua habilidade como operador político.

Nesse período, o sucesso na batalha era um requisito para o poder político. Crasso estava muito ciente de que não havia grandes vitórias militares. Ele havia desempenhado um papel importante na supressão da Revolta de Spartacus, mas isso não era considerado glorioso o suficiente para ele. Ele precisava de uma vitória para a carreira dele e de seu filho. A Pártia era em grande parte uma entidade desconhecida, mas os romanos ouviram dizer que ela havia se enfraquecido recentemente devido a uma crise de sucessão. Isso e sua ambição política persuadiram Crasso a invadir o Império com a crença de que poderia conquistá-lo. Ele próprio nomeou o governador da Síria e fez preparativos para invadir a Pártia. Isso era contrário à política do Senado, que não buscava conflito com os monarcas partas.

A batalha

Crasso desembarcou na Ásia Menor com um grande exército, alguns estimam que tenha 50.000 homens. O comandante romano tinha pouca experiência militar, mas seu filho era um militante experiente e respeitado. Os romanos sabiam pouco sobre as terras que iriam invadir. [2] O rei da Armênia se ofereceu para permitir que o exército invasor entrasse na Pártia por meio de seu reino. Isso teria permitido que as legiões romanas marchassem para o Iraque moderno e para a capital da Pártia, Ctesifonte. Em vez disso, Crasso invadiu por meio da Turquia. Esta era uma área em grande parte de planícies e era ideal para a cavalaria. Vários comandantes romanos, incluindo Cássio, tentaram dissuadi-lo desse curso.

No entanto, Crasso estava muito confiante e acreditava que seu exército era invencível. Os romanos superavam os partos e seus aliados em número de quatro para um. Os partos eram principalmente de cavalaria e tinham pouca infantaria. Eles eram liderados por um general de gênio Surena, que veio da Ásia Central. Suren adotou táticas de guerrilha no início e usou sua cavalaria superior para perseguir e infligir baixas aos romanos. [3]. Surena decidiu enfrentar o avanço de Crasso na pequena cidade de Carrhae, na Turquia moderna. Os partas usaram seus arqueiros de cavalaria para lançar ataques de ataque e corrida contra os romanos que estavam em formações compactas. Crasso esperava que os partas ficassem sem flechas, mas Suren usou camelos bactrianos para reabastecer suas forças com flechas. Sob as chuvas implacáveis ​​de flechas, os legionários romanos não podiam se mover e seus suprimentos acabaram. [4]

De acordo com Plutarco "Agora, se eles tinham esperanças de que o inimigo exaurisse seus mísseis e desistisse da batalha ou lutasse de perto, os romanos resistiram, mas quando perceberam que muitos camelos carregados de flechas estavam próximos, dos quais os partos que primeiro cercou-os levou um novo suprimento. '[5] O comandante romano repetidamente ordenou que seu exército avançasse e se enfrentasse com o inimigo. No entanto, cada vez que as legiões avançavam, a cavalaria parta recuava e atirando flechas como eles. Isso causou muitas baixas entre eles. os romanos e seu moral começaram a entrar em colapso. [6] Diz-se que muitas das flechas partas podiam perfurar armaduras e prender os romanos no chão. Depois de vários dias, o exército de Crasso estava à beira do motim. Eles forçaram Crasso a negociar com Suren. Nessas negociações, chegou-se a um acordo provisório que poderia ter permitido aos romanos se retirarem com segurança do território parta em troca da evacuação de várias guarnições romanas de a leste do Eufrates (no atual Iraque).

No entanto, durante a reunião entre os comandantes romanos e partas, um dos soldados de Suren agarrou as rédeas do cavalo de Crasso e isso levou a uma escaramuça. [7] Nisso, Crasso e seu filho foram mortos, deixando os romanos sem liderança e eles foram efetivamente isolados em território inimigo. [8] Surena então ordenou que sua cavalaria pesada, os catafratos (os precursores do cavaleiro medieval), atacassem as linhas romanas. Eles foram ineficazes, mas causaram pânico entre os legionários. Os romanos iniciaram uma retirada desorganizada e sofreram constantes ataques das forças de Suren. Muitos romanos conseguiram voltar em segurança para a Síria, mas estima-se que cerca de 20.000 legionários foram mortos e outros 10.000 capturados durante a retirada caótica. Os capturados desfilaram pela capital parta e depois trabalharam como escravos na Ásia Central. [9]

Resultado imediato

Os vencedores em Carrhae tentaram tomar o território romano na Síria, mas foram derrotados pelas forças romanas restantes sob Cássio, que mais tarde foi um dos líderes no assassinato de Júlio César reagrupado na Síria. Suren, apesar de sua vitória, foi mais tarde executado pelo monarca parta Odores II, que temia seu poder e popularidade. Isso pode ter sido uma bênção para os romanos, pois, sem a liderança e a visão estratégica de Surena, eles não conseguiram garantir seus objetivos. Cassius provou ser um general muito capaz. O príncipe herdeiro parta invadiu a Síria, mas foi emboscado por Cássio, derrotado e morto.

No entanto, os partos foram capazes de conquistar o reino estratégico da Armênia no Cáucaso. A partir daqui, eles foram capazes de ameaçar as possessões romanas na Ásia Menor, uma situação que duraria muitas décadas. Carrhae deixou o Oriente Romano exposto e seria invadido várias vezes nas décadas seguintes pela Pártia. A Síria foi ocupada duas vezes pelos partos e em uma ocasião eles instalaram um rei fantoche na Judéia. Por várias décadas, até o reinado de Augusto, o Oriente romano ficou exposto a incursões e interferências partas regulares, com a derrota de Crasso em 53 aC.

Guerras Romanas e Partas

Antes de Carrhae, Roma havia se expandido rapidamente e quase à vontade. No entanto, a derrota em Carrhae acabou com essa expansão aparentemente implacável no Oriente Médio. Após a derrota, Roma retirou algumas guarnições do lado oriental do rio Eufrates. No entanto, a derrota foi uma humilhação nacional e especialmente para as águias legionárias que foram apreendidas pelos partos em Carrhae. César jurou vingança, e muitos acreditam que ele invadiria a Pártia antes de ser assassinado. A derrota em Carrhae era algo que os romanos deviam vingar. Durante as guerras civis, os partos apoiaram os inimigos de César. Durante as guerras civis romanas na década de 40 AEC, os partos ocuparam grande parte do Oriente romano. [10]

O fim da segunda Guerra Civil Romana permitiu aos romanos retomarem suas posses. Mais tarde, Mark Anthony lançou uma invasão da Pártia para punir os vencedores de Carrhae, mas também terminou em desastre. As lições da derrota não foram aprendidas. Coube a Augusto desenvolver uma estratégia que conduzisse a um período de paz. Posteriormente, ele conseguiu negociar para que os estandartes do legionário capturados na derrota fossem devolvidos a Roma. No entanto, a derrota continuou a assombrar Roma e muitos imperadores sonhavam em vingar a derrota mais calamitosa. Houve tensões persistentes entre Roma e a Pártia. Os dois países eram rivais estratégicos após a batalha e cada um disputava influência no reino estrategicamente importante da Armênia. [11] A relativa calma do primeiro século terminou com a invasão de Trajano da Pártia e nas décadas seguintes muitas guerras entre as duas grandes potências na Antiga Perto. Carrhae foi o início de cerca de dois séculos de desconfiança e, ocasionalmente, de guerra entre Roma e a Pártia.

Carrhae e o fim da República Romana

O desastre em Carrhae foi logo seguido por uma série de guerras civis que só terminaram com a queda da República. A República foi fortemente enfraquecida pela marcha de Sulla sobre a cidade e sua tomada de poder. No entanto, a morte de Crasso em Carrhae foi um estágio crucial na queda da República Romana. Muitos historiadores relacionaram a morte de Crasso em Carrhae com o início das guerras civis. Crasso havia garantido que Pompeu e César continuassem a cooperar no Primeiro Triunvirato. A morte de Crasso e a morte de Júlia, esposa de Pompeu e filha de César, encerraram os laços que uniam Pompeu e César.

Sem Crasso no Primeiro Triunvirato, era inevitável que a aliança política desmoronasse. Se Crasso tivesse vivido, ele poderia ter mantido o equilíbrio de poder entre Pompeu e César, o que poderia ter prolongado a vida da República. Outra teoria é que Crasso foi essencial para o relacionamento entre César e os senadores romanos. Sem ele, a relação entre o conquistador da Gália e o Senado se deteriorou na esteira de Carrhae. [12] Após a morte de Crasso, a relação entre César e o Senado se desfez, irremediavelmente, devido ao comando das legiões na Gália. A Guerra Civil estourou quando César cruzou o Rubicão. O desastre em Carrhae ajudou a criar um conjunto de circunstâncias que levaram a um período de guerras civis que terminou com uma forma imperial de governo em Roma.

Conclusão

Carrhae foi uma humilhação para Roma. Também teve profundas implicações para a República e, mais tarde, para seu sucessor, o Império. A quase aniquilação da força invasora de Crasso teve implicações profundas. Significou que o Oriente Próximo romano ficou muito exposto por várias décadas e sofreu frequentes incursões e interferências partas. Foi somente com o estabelecimento do sistema imperial que as províncias orientais de Roma puderam ser devidamente protegidas. O desastre em Carrhae significou que Roma passou a temer e odiar a Pártia e muitos, como Mark Anthony, queriam vingar a derrota. Tudo isso contribuiu para uma série de guerras entre a Pártia e Roma. A morte de Crasso ajudou a desestabilizar a política em Roma. Ele foi capaz de manter um equilíbrio de poder entre Pompeu e César. Com sua morte, talvez fosse inevitável que os dois homens lutassem pela supremacia em Roma. O conflito entre César e Pompeu levou a uma série de guerras civis, que acabaram resultando no colapso da República Romana.


Um pedido de ajuda

A confiança de Crasso estava se deteriorando rapidamente. Ele enviou uma mensagem a seu filho Publius para se juntar à batalha levando 1.300 cavalaria, 500 arqueiros e oito coortes da infantaria. A esperança de Crasso era atrair alguns partos para longe da praça, enquanto eles tentavam cercar os romanos. No entanto, foram dadas duas razões para os partos tentarem isso. The first was to envelop the Romans completely, that in due time the legions would crowd closer as their numbers dwindled. However, Plutarch mentions that the Parthians had trouble enveloping the Roman rear due to marshy terrain, making it difficult for the horses to maneuver. The second reason Plutarch gave seems more plausible, and that was to leave a window open just big enough to make the Romans think that they had found an advantage. Deceiving the Romans into thinking that the Parthians could not surround them, Crassus’ son Publius took the bait and charged ahead. However, it was an old steppe trick. Thinking they were retreating, Publius shouted excitedly, “’They are on the run,’ and charged after them.” The faked retreat worked, Publius was on the move and the Parthians, stationed farther ahead and well hidden, were awaiting his arrival.

Depiction of a battle scene of Trajan’s Column: On the left, Parthian horsemen in armor, fleeing before Roman riders. (Domínio público)

Publius and the men were full of joy, thinking that they now had the advantage and victory was surely imminent. But moving farther away from the main body, they soon realized the pursuit was nothing more than a trick when the horse archers wheeled around and were joined by fresh troops. Publius ordered the men to halt where the Parthian cataphract was stationed in front of him. He hoped that they would engage in close combat. Instead, the horse archers in loose order rode around the Romans, kicking up so much sand that a mini-sandstorm fell on top of the Romans and it became nearly impossible to see the enemy.

By using nature as a weapon to disguise their movements, the horse archers were able to engage the Romans safely. Using nature as a force multiplier gave them the advantage of fighting uninhibitedly. Publius and his men could not see or breathe very well, inciting fear, which soon led to panic. The Romans in their disarray tripped, stumbled, and fell in each other’s way. The Parthian horse archers quickly took advantage and the shower of arrows began. Publius did what any commander in the field would do — reestablish order among the men. However, it was too late.

In the convulsion and agony of their pain they writhed as the arrows struck them the men broke them off in their wounds and then lacerated and disfigured their own bodies by trying to tear out by main force the barbed arrow heads that had pierced through their veins and muscles.

Many of the men died a slow, agonizing death in this fashion. Publius needed to act quickly. The Romans could not engage the horse archers in close combat while the Parthian chain of command, the cataphract, remained nearby. If the Romans could make a break for the cataphract and engage them in close combat, they might have a chance to turn the tide of battle, especially if they could reach the Parthian commander, Surena, and kill him.


Romans in China: The Lost Legions of Carrhae

The Romans in the first century BCE were perhaps the most growing empires around. Though the civil wars of Caesar and Pompey, and Octavian and Marc Antony dominated the scene a lot more happened around them. In 53 BCE a Roman army under Marcus Licinius Crassus, vanquisher of Spartacus and richest man in Rome, attempted to extend Roman power into Parthia, modern day Iran. He got as far as modern day Harran in southeast Turkey before he was met by a Parthian army under Surena.

Crassus was a little too cocky and pushed forward, thinking victory would be easy against these inferior barbarians. He was sadly mistaken as the Parthians were an efficient semi-professional army with the most elite horse archers the world had ever seen at the time. In a slaughter known as the battle of Carrhae the Romans lost nearly their entire army and Crassus was killed. The remaining 10,000 or so Roman legionaries were captured.

The Parthians had a standard practice of employing captured soldiers as border guards. By transferring the 10,000 legionaries to the eastern boarders they prevented any realistic chance of escape for the Romans who likely would have simply accepted their new lot in life. Record of the soldiers vanish for about 17 years when the battle of Zhizhi was fought as a Chinese army under Chen Tang assaulted a border town known today as Taraz, located in Kazakhstan near the border of Kyrgyzstan. Chinese historians note that the defenders held their shields in a “fish scale” pattern. The fight for the town was intense but the Chinese prevailed. The Chinese, under the Han Dynasty at this point, were near the height of their power this battle represented their greatest Westward expansion and their victory was achieved in part because many of the locals defected to the Chinese out of fear.

The Chinese were so impressed by these foreign warriors that they put them into another border town, this time guarding the border between China and Tibet as Tibetan raids were not uncommon around this time. Anywhere from 100 to 1,000 or more soldiers established themselves in this town that was known by the Chinese as Liqian/Li-Jien, which is pronounced as “legion”. These men were known to use tools such as tree trunk counterweight construction devices, and to reinforce the area into a square fort, a common site in the Mediterranean but quite rare in Asia.

The victorious Surena

It seems these Romans lived peacefully in Liqian, and 2,000 years later we have DNA evidence that over 50% of the villagers in modern day Liqian have Caucasian ancestry including green and blue eyes, increased average height and other distinguishing characteristics such as distinctly Roman noses. The people in the small village are aware of and proud of their ancestry, celebrating the Romans and showing a fond interest in bulls, a heavily worshiped animal of Roman legions.

The long journey of the Roman legion(s) lost at Carrhae, a distance of over 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) and nearly 5,000 miles from Rome itself. By Talessman CC BY 3.0

A great many modern historians absolutely dismiss the story of the legionaries in China as more of a fairytale than truth, though some prominent historians still argue that this sequence of events is quite possible and even the most probable of theories. Just because it is a hard to believe tale does not at all make it untrue. In every reference from the Asian sources the foreigners appear to be none other than the 10,000 legionaries captured at Carrhae. The only gap in knowledge is that the Romans transferred from Parthian control to Mongol control as the Mongols held the town at the battle of Zhizhi. It seems that either the Romans were captured and transported again, or more likely that they were sold as mercenaries.

Parthian horseman. notice a drawn bow while the horse is mid jump Parthians were experts at horse archery. Jean Chardin By Jean Chardin – CC BY-SA 3.0

Their “fish scale” formation at the battle is almost certainly the well-known Testudo formation, and the professional practice points to seasoned soldiers. These Romans would have had just each other for company through these many years so it’s understandable to think they had outstanding discipline and kept up their training, which would lead to them having such an impressive showing at Zhizhi that the Chinese used them to guard their own territory.

The modern descendants of the Romans are decent evidence of the Roman’s presence but two other theories are possible. The town of Liqian was near the multicultural Silk Road, therefore the Caucasian DNA could be from travelers along the road. The other possibility is that the soldiers at the battle and settlers of the Chinese town were actually descendants of Alexander the Great’s army, though this seems even more unlikely as the events are multiple generations removed from Alexander’s campaigns and the army at Zhizhi was clearly fighting in a professional and western way.

The only remaining evidence needed to authenticate the story would be Roman coins or other artifacts at Liqian. If the story is true, it is an amazing story of tragic loss followed by strict adherence to professional soldiery. By the time they settled in Liqian these soldiers would be in their forties and fifties and looking forward to retirement. Based off of the DNA of their descendants it does seem like they weren’t subject to many Tibetan raids, or perhaps they were put to the test again and finally held their own ground.


Battle of Carrhae (53 BCE)

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In 54–54 BCE, the Triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus let a reckless and unprovoked invasion of Parthia (modern Turkey). The Parthian kings had gone to considerable lengths to avoid a conflict, but political issues in the Roman state forced the issue. Rome was led by three competing dynasts, Crassus, Pompey, and Caesar, and all of them were bent on foreign conquest and military glory.

At Carrhae, the Roman forces were crushed, and Crassus was killed. With the death of Crassus, a final confrontation between Caesar and Pompey became inevitable. It wasn't the crossing of the Rubicon that was the death knell of the Republic, but the death of Crassus at Carrhae.


What if: Battle of Carrhae 53 BCE had been a Roman Victory?

What if instead of pursuit of the Parthians in Mesopotamia Crassus had engaged them in Armenia given word from allied chieftain of the presence of that army?

What would be the effects on Roman politics from Crassus still being alive?

If the Parthian force were defeated could the Romans have hoped for much greater eastern expansion?

Could this victory like the Punic Wars have set precedence for the Roman Republic to swallow up the Parthian Empire?

What would be the effects on the eastern civilizations if Roman expansion reached that far?

Mrbsct

Não muito. The force led by Surena was not designed to destroy Crassus but delay him. It was a small force of only 10,000 horsemen. The Parthian king was shocked when Surena brought Crassus's head.

Had the Romans won, they would likely face the full blunt of the Parthian army which includes both infantry and cavalry.

Audaces fortuna iuvat

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Não muito. The force led by Surena was not designed to destroy Crassus but delay him. It was a small force of only 10,000 horsemen. The Parthian king was shocked when Surena brought Crassus's head.

Had the Romans won, they would likely face the full blunt of the Parthian army which includes both infantry and cavalry.

Michael Howze

Audaces fortuna iuvat

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SomeWhatEvil

Incompetent Space Tyrant.

In the Middle East not much, Parthia and Rome see-sawed back and forth for centuries it would be just one more period of Rome having the upper hand for however long it lasted. Parthia stretched all the way to the border of India to much territory for Rome to take and hold ending the wars.

In Rome the Triumvirate doesn't collapse as it did in the OTL. Caesar is in real danger when his governorship ends and he is recalled to Rome. The Civil War if it still happens might have three factions. Caesar was the junior partner in the Triumvirate behind the military power of Pompey and the wealth of Crassus. A lot of his actions in Gaul far exceeded the authority granted him by the Senate. Will the Roman Empire still rise or will something else replace the Roman Republic. Ptolemaic Egypt might even last a few more generations or pull off a miracle by surviving.

Audaces fortuna iuvat

Range cleared thot

In the Middle East not much, Parthia and Rome see-sawed back and forth for centuries it would be just one more period of Rome having the upper hand for however long it lasted. Parthia stretched all the way to the border of India to much territory for Rome to take and hold ending the wars.

In Rome the Triumvirate doesn't collapse as it did in the OTL. Caesar is in real danger when his governorship ends and he is recalled to Rome. The Civil War if it still happens might have three factions. Caesar was the junior partner in the Triumvirate behind the military power of Pompey and the wealth of Crassus. A lot of his actions in Gaul far exceeded the authority granted him by the Senate. Will the Roman Empire still rise or will something else replace the Roman Republic. Ptolemaic Egypt might even last a few more generations or pull off a miracle by surviving.


Roman-Persian Wars: Battle of Carrhae

In 53 B.C., seven Roman legions, some 50,000 men, marched into the searing Mesopotamian desert. They had come to this eastern province of the kingdom of Parthia seeking conquest and plunder but, deceived by a false guide and commanded by an arrogant blunderer, the legions were almost annihilated. Aside from a lucky few, the Romans were either slaughtered and their bodies mutilated, or else were captured and enslaved. Their commander was decapitated, and his head was used as an ornament at the banquet of the Parthian king.

Such was the Battle of Carrhae, a disaster almost unmatched in the otherwise glorious history of Roman arms. It was a battle of shocking brutality, even by ancient standards. It was also an early example of hit-and-run, guerrilla-style warfare, carried out in a manner that would stand up well by 21st century standards. Most of all, it was a monument to the delusions, conceits and military incompetence of the Roman commander, Marcus Licinius Crassus.

Our guide across this ancient battlefield will be the famous 1st-century Greek biographer, Plutarch. Where quotation marks are used in this article, the words are his.

Rome at the time of Carrhae, though still a republic, was ruled by three powerful public figures known as the First Triumvirate: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus-known to posterity as Pompey the Great-Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus Licinius Crassus. Pompey was Rome’s most famous general, having earned his honorific title of Magnus for his many victories and conquests. The young aristocrat Caesar had been known mostly for his eloquent speeches in the Senate, but the martial talents he had recently displayed in Gaul and Britannia were fast giving rise to a new legend. Crassus, a nouveau riche entrepreneur, was both a successful politician and the richest man in Rome. For all of his wealth and political power, Crassus, according to the 1st century Greek historian Plutarch, had always envied Pompey’s military fame. When Caesar too began to exhibit military prowess, Crassus, then aged 60, suddenly decided to seek conquests of his own. ‘Being strangely puffed up, and his head heated, Plutarch wrote, he proposed himself in his hopes to pass as far as Bactria and India, and the utmost ocean.

Crassus had some military accomplishments on his resum. He was one of Lucius Cornelius Sulla’s lieutenants during the early civil wars, alongside young Pompey-the future triumvirs’ rivalry dated from that time. Crassus’ first substantial opportunity to show his martial mettle came in 73 BC, when a band of gladiators, armed with cooking knives and led by a Thracian named Spartacus, broke out of their training school in Capua and managed to capture a wagonload of weapons. Before long the breakout snowballed into a full-fledged slave revolt throughout Italy that became known as the Third Servile War. Under Spartacus’ leadership the slaves won several pitched battles over Roman troops, and were soon well on their way to marching out of Italy to freedom. Alarmed, the Roman Senate gave Crassus command of an army. One of his first acts was to revive the ancient practice of decimation: every tenth man in a unit that had been routed by Spartacus was punished with death. Next, in 71 BC Crassus maneuvered Spartacus onto the peninsula of Rhegium, where he bottled up the slave army by building a trench across the isthmus, described by Plutarch as three-hundred furlongs long, fifteen feet broad and as much in depth. Spartacus and one-third of his force managed to break out on a wild, snowy night, however, by filling a section of the trench with earth, thereby making it passable.

Spartacus still hoped to fight his way out of Italy. But after winning another battle over one of Crassus’ lieutenants, the slaves, over-confident and never really disciplined, persuaded him to lead them in a final, decisive battle. This was exactly what Crassus wanted, since Pompey was coming with an army from Iberia, and Crassus desperately needed a quick victory before his old rival arrived. In this final battle the slave army was indeed destroyed and according to Plutarch Spartacus himself, deserted by those that were about him…surrounded by the enemy and bravely defending himself, was cut in pieces.

Pompey arrived in Italy in time to assist Crassus in rounding up the surviving slaves, who were crucified on rows of crosses that lined the Appian Way. For that mopping up operation, coupled with his more significant conquests in Iberia, the Senate awarded him a formal triumph, while Crassus had to settle for a mere ovation. What is more, the Roman citizens, according to Plutarch, thought Crassus petty for accepting even that much-a victory over slaves was not thought to be very heroic. Perhaps Crassus recalled that turn of events 18 years later, when his mind turned once again to thoughts of military glory.

When Crassus revived his army career, the opponent he chose was the Parthian kingdom. The Parthians were Iranian, inheritors of the old Persian Empire that had been destroyed by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. The Parthians were not at war with Rome, and both Sulla and Pompey, on previous tours of duty in the east, had negotiated with them on friendly terms. But Parthia was big enough and close enough to be a potential nuisance to Rome, and Crassus was looking for new worlds to conquer.

For all the preparations he made in mobilizing a mighty invasion force, Crassus’ first mistake was his failure to acquaint himself with the tactics of the Parthian army. This was a significant error, because the Parthians waged war like no nation Rome had ever faced.

The Parthians occasionally employed mercenaries or raised militia to serve as infantry, but very often-including at Carrhae-their forces were entirely mounted. Their heavy cavalrymen were called cataphracts, from the Greek word cataphractoi, which means covered over. The cataphract wore scale body armor, articulated plating on his arms and greaves on his legs. With a long lance as his primary weapon, he looked like a forerunner of the medieval knight, differing only in the absence of stirrups hanging from his saddle.

More important to the Parthians than their armored cataphracts were their light cavalry, the horse-archers. These used a very short composite bow, stiff to pull but accurate and with tremendous firepower. Horse-archers would ride swiftly at the enemy, loose an arrow at the enemy and then wheel around and retreat short range. This, the proverbial Parthian shot, was the sort of tactic that the Romans were apt to regard with disdain, as being cowardly.

Crassus nearly failed to launch his campaign at all. Public opinion at Rome, led by a tribune named Ateius, was for calling off the whole expedition, on the grounds that the war he sought was arbitrary and immoral. Pompey and Caesar had at least conquered enemies that were perceived as a threat to Rome. As to this Parthian war, though, Plutarch wrote that Ateius and many others murmured that one man should undertake a war against a people that had done them no injury, and were at amity with them.

Ateius went so far as to have Crassus arrested. Crassus was forced to call for help from, of all people, his bitter rival Pompey, who was popular among both the senators and the citizens. Pompey appeared with a pleasing countenance, interceded for Crassus and escorted him out of Rome unmolested.

Before Crassus departed Rome, however, Ateius publicly cursed him, setting down a chafing-dish with lighted fire in it, pouring incense and burning libations on it, Plutarch reported, and calling upon and naming several strange and horrible deities. So terrible were these curses, according to Plutarch, that they doomed the utterer as well as the person he cursed.

Crassus next went to the port of Brundusium (now Brindisi in southern Italy). He decided to sail immediately, despite the appearance of a storm, and so began his campaign by losing a number of ships. Arriving in Syria in the autumn of 54, Crassus relieved the local commander and set about some minor conquests before next year’s major campaign. Crossing the Euphrates, he occupied and garrisoned a few Mesopotamian towns. All surrendered to the Romans voluntarily, except for Zenodotia. Plutarch reported Crassus took it by storm, plundered the goods, and sold the inhabitants. He then required his army to salute him as Imperator (or field marshal) for what he regarded as a great victory. What he failed to do, though, was continue on to occupy the cities of Babylon and Seleucia, which had large Greek-speaking populations and were not friendly to their Parthian occupiers.

Before withdrawing into winter quarters, Crassus was joined in Syria by his son, Publius, who had been serving with distinction under Caesar in Gaul. He brought with him 1,000 Gallic cavalry, who would play an important part at the battle to come.

Crassus spent his time in Syria during the winter of 54-53, more like an userer than a general, Plutarch wrote, noting that it pleased him to weigh, by scale and balance, all the treasures in the local temples he had captured. He accepted cash payments from the native citizens, in lieu of levies of militia for the coming campaign.

Emerging from winter quarters in 53 BC, the Romans were met by an embassy from King Orodes II of Parthia. The king’s message was that if Crassus’ army was sent by the people of Rome, Parthia would have no mercy but if the invasion was Crassus’ private adventure, for his own profit, Orodes would take pity on Crassus’ dotage, and allow the army to depart. Crassus replied scornfully that he would give his answer at Seleucia. The Parthian ambassador laughed and showed Crassus the palm of his hand, saying, hair will grow there before you see Seleucia.

Crassus next received word from his ally, King Artavasdes of Armenia, along with 6,000 Armenian cavalry. The king advised Crassus to invade Parthia by way of his realm-the Romans would then be provisioned by the Armenians, and the hilly country of that land would be unfavorable to Parthian cavalry. Inexplicably, Plutarch wrote, Crassus refused that offer, and returned the king but cold thanks.

Crassus’ blunders continued. He advanced to the city of Zeugma on the Euphrates and crossed to the east bank. He was advised by his lieutenant, Gaius Cassius Longinus (better known to history for his role in cutting Julius Caesar’s ambitions down to size on the Ides of March, nine years later) to advance along the Euphrates towards Seleucia, having his flank protected and his water supply guaranteed by proximity to the river. Crassus paid no attention. Instead he was taken with a local Arab chieftain named Ariamnes, who persuaded Crassus that only a token force of Parthians, commanded not by King Orodes but by a General Surena, was nearby to oppose him.

Ariamnes, of course, was a spy, sent to lead Crassus into a trap, but Surena was in fact the Parthian commander-and an interesting character in his own right. Though not yet 30 years old, he was deemed the second man in the kingdom and had had the honor of placing the crown on King Orodes’ head. Wherever he traveled, even to battle, he required 1,000 camels to carry his baggage, 200 wagons to transport his concubines, and was accompanied by 1,000 armed bodyguards. Crassus agreed to engage Ariamnes as a guide through the Mesopotamian desert. Leaving the river, the Arab guided the Romans along a way that was at first pleasant and easy but afterwards very troublesome by reason of the depth of the sand, Plutarch wrote. Indeed, the Romans soon found themselves in a sea of sand with no water in sight. While Crassus was on the march, fresh word arrived from King Atavasdes: He was under attack by a Parthian force under King Orodes himself, and was not able to send the reinforcements he had promised. Once again, the Armenian urged that Crassus withdraw from the desert and renew the attack from Armenia, where their forces could be joined on friendly ground. Plutarch wrote that Crassus, out of anger and perverseness, decided that this was actually treachery on the part of the Armenians. He returned no answer, but promised to revenge himself on Armenia when he was through with Parthia. Things went from bad to worse. Crassus’ Arab guide vanished. The Romans found themselves stranded in the Mesopotamian desert, not far from a little town called Carrhae. Some of the army’s scouts, now battered and bloodied, came in to report that their comrades were dead, and that they themselves had barely escaped. The Parthian army was nearby, they said, and ready to attack.

That revelation, according to Plutarch, left Crassus struck with amazement and initially paralyzed. Then, in something of a panic, he shuffled and re-shuffled his troops, finally settling on a square formation. Each side of the square was manned by 12 heavy cohorts (roughly 6,000 infantry to a side), with a troop of cavalry between each pair of cohorts. The baggage train occupied the interior of the square. The army then blindly and awkwardly marched ahead, and in a rare stroke of good luck stumbled upon the Balissus River. The parched troops were at least able to refresh themselves before the battle.

Most of Crassus’ officers were for staying by the river and awaiting the Parthian attack. But young Publius Crassus persuaded his father to advance toward the enemy. The Romans did so and, eventually confronting the Parthians, were pleasantly surprised to find that the enemy did not appear so numerous as they had feared. Unknown to them, however, Surena hid the main body of his army behind the first rank, and had them conceal the glittering of their armor. Then, at a signal, the Parthians threw off their cloaks and raised a clamor of kettle-drums that Plutarch described as producing a hideous noise that had a psychological impact on the legions.

Surena made the first move, but when a charge by his cataphracts, proved unable to break the Roman line he had them withdraw, feigning disorder and confusion. His cavalrymen then swiftly surrounded the Roman square. With his cumbersome infantry formation unable to counter Surena’s maneuver, Crassus ordered a cavalry charge, but the Romans were met with a shower of arrows that Plutarch said passed through every kind of covering, hard and soft alike. Once they had broken and repulsed the Roman cavalry, the Parthians were easily able to pour arrows into the infantry square, for, indeed, the order of the Romans was so close, that they could not miss.

To maintain his punishment of the Roman legions, Surena had cleverly arranged for a running supply train of camels to keep his horse archers resupplied with arrows. Seeing no end to the deluge of arrows that assailed his men, Crassus, was compelled to send his son Publius, with 6,500 men, including the Gallic cavalry, on a desperate counterattack. The sally seemed to succeed at first-the Parthians fled and Publius exultantly detached his cavalry in pursuit. But that apparent retreat was just another feint, for when the Romans had been lured a sufficient distance from the square the Parthians suddenly turned and reappeared in force. Plutarch described how they then rode round and round Publius’ force, raising such a cloud of dust that the Romans could neither see nor speak to one another. Isolated and encircled as his father’s square had been, Publius’ men were packed in too close, and were easy pickings for the horse-archers. When Publius tried to rally his troops for a counterattack, they showed him their hands nailed to their shields, and their feet stuck to the ground.

Publius was able to rally some of his Gallic cavalry, though, and they managed the closest thing to a genuine Roman success in the whole sorry campaign. The fierce Celts were able to seize the cataphracts’ lances and drag them to the ground, where the Parthians’ heavy armor rendered them helpless. Some Gauls dismounted and crept under the Parthian horses, which they disemboweled, unhorsing the riders. Those tactics, however, could only delay the inevitable. Publius was severely wounded and was dragged away by some survivors to a nearby hill for a last stand. Two of Publius’ friends urged him to flee with them to Carrhae, but he courageously decided to stay and die with his troops. When the hill was finally overrun, Publius ordered his armor-bearer to run him through.

Back at the square, Marcus Licinius Crassus had received no word from Publius, because all of the latter’s messengers were slain. Then the horrifying drumming began again, and Crassus finally learned his son’s fate. The Parthians rode forward with Publius’ head on the point of a spear, and, Plutarch wrote, scoffingly inquired where his parents were, and what family he was of, because it was impossible that so brave and gallant a warrior should be the son of so pitiful a coward as Crassus.

Crassus for once kept himself together, and made no outward show of dismay. He even tried to exhort his men with a patriotic speech, but Plutarch claimed that he saw but few who gave much heed to him. When he ordered a cheer, the army only made a faint and unsteady noise.

Whether Crassus knew it or not, the battle of Carrhae was lost, but his legions, seeing no better option, fought on, suffering heavy losses, until nightfall. At that point, Plutarch wrote, Crassus wrapped his cloak around him, and hid himself.

That night, Cassius and some other officers who saw that he had suffered a complete breakdown, took upon themselves the decision to withdraw all the able-bodied troops they could to the town of Carrhae, leaving their wounded behind. When the retirement began, however, and the wounded realized they were being abandoned, Plutarch noted that a strange confusion and disorder, with an outcry and lamentation, seized the camp. This dreadful wailing of the wounded seems to have horrified the escaping legionaries, so that instead of slipping away quietly they simply ran, as if the enemy were at their heels. In the confusion and the dark the fleeing columns became separated, with the result that some groups never made it to Carrhae, and those that did wandered in throughout the long night.

The Parthians, though aware of the Romans’ escape that night, made no effort to pursue them. The next morning they entered the abandoned camp and slaughtered the surviving wounded, to the number of 4,000. They also picked off a number of stragglers who got lost on the night march to Carrhae. Four companies were surrounded on a nearby hill and all but 20 killed-the survivors escaping with their lives only because the Parthians let them go, out of admiration for their bravery.

While that slaughter went on, the main Parthian force was laying siege to Crassus and the surviving Romans in Carrhae. Surena himself rode to the city gate and demanded the delivery of Crassus in chains as a precondition of any negotiations. Incredibly, Crassus at first entertained the fantastic hope that the Armenians would come to his rescue, until his officers brought him to his senses. The Romans ultimately decided to split divide their army into small groups and go their separate ways under different commanders, again under cover of darkness.

The final pathetic phase of Crassus’ campaign began when he opted once again to hire a local guide to lead him and his 1,500-man contingent in their breakout. Not surprisingly, that guide also turned out to be a spy. That night, Plutarch wrote, he led Crassus out of Carrhae and into the midst of morasses and places full of ditches, so that the Romans were hopelessly lost as morning broke, then disappeared. Crassus’ band did find their way to a road, but were immediately forced to retreat back into the thickets when the Parthians discovered them. The Parthians attacked, but Crassus was momentarily saved when another band of wandering Romans, also misled, spotted his position and came to his rescue.

By then the spy had informed Surena of Crassus’ position and the Parthian general treacherously offered the Romans a truce, claiming that he intended to let them go home under honorable terms. Crassus reluctantly went to Surena’s camp to discuss the terms and was promptly murdered. The rest of the Romans in Crassus’ contingent either surrendered or were hunted down and killed.

A number of Romans did manage to escape from Carrhae that night, including the group led by Cassius. Plutarch estimated the final count of Roman casualties to be 20,000 killed and 10,000 captured.

In the aftermath of Carrhae, Surena led his army back to Seleucia in a procession he mockingly called a triumph. A captured Roman soldier who physically resembled his late commander was placed at the head of the army, forced forced to wear women’s clothes and to answer to the name of Crassus. Surena’s soldiers marched behind, each carrying a Roman head. Behind them came Parthian singing women, chanting what Plutarch described as abusive songs on the cowardice and effeminacy of Crassus. Surena delivered Crassus’ head and one of his dismembered hands to King Orodes at a feast, which was held to celebrate the marriage of Orodes’ son to the sister of the Armenian king.

Surena’s reward for his great victory, according to Plutarch, was to be executed, out of mere envy. But Orodes would join the general he betrayed in 38 BC, at the hands of his own son, Phraactes. The young man at first tried to poison his father, but when Orodes began to recover, Phraactes was forced to take the shortest course, and strangled him. As for Rome, the immediate effect of Carrhae, apart from the disgrace, was the upsetting of the political situation caused by the death of a triumvir. With Crassus dead, the rule of three became a rule of two. But even that proved to be one ruler too many. The way was now clear for civil war, as Pompey and Caesar squared off to fight for supremacy in Rome.

Antony’s first move upon entering Parthian territory in 36 BC was to lay siege to the city of Phraata. But Antony was in such haste to depart for Phraata (according to Plutarch, to conquer it quickly and return to Cleopatra) that he failed to bring along any siege equipment, including his 80-foot ram. As a result his army was routed and he decided to suspend the campaign.

Antony’s troubles were only beginning. As he tried to march his army back to the safety of Armenia, he was abandoned by his disgusted ally, King Artavasdes-the same Artavasdes who so preoccupied Crassus’ thoughts in 53 BC. Food supplies ran out, and many of the soldiers became sick. Meanwhile, the Parthians, led by King Phraates IV-the regicidal son of the late Orodes II-harassed the column throughout its march.

At least Antony did not repeat the most glaring mistakes of Crassus’ venture. He did not trust Phraates’ offer of safe passage in return for surrender, and refused the services of a guide in a journey across the desert, instead following a course over hilly terrain that was unfavorable to Parthian cavalry. He also made better use of his own cavalry, actually driving the Parthians from the field in several skirmishes. Hunger and disease continued to wrack the army, however, and at one point some of Antony’s troops actually mutinied. Plutarch reported that rioting legionaries stormed into his tent, and broke all his rich tables and cups, dividing the fragments among them. Antony thought that the Parthians were attacking the camp, and ordered his armor-bearer to run him through with his sword if the base should be overrun. Order was finally restored the next morning.

At last, 27 days after the retreat from Phraata, Antony’s ragged troops reached safety, where Plutarch said they kissed the ground for joy, shedding tears and embracing each other in their delight. Twenty-four thousand Romans perished in this ill-starred campaign, half from disease.


This article was written by Belleville, Illinois-based contributor Bryan Dent. For further reading, he recommends: Plutarch’s Lives and Warfare in the Classical World by John Warry.

This article was originally published on TheHistoryNet.com in June 2005 issue for História Militar revista.

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Roman Empire vs. Parthia

Inconclusive Wars

Under the threat of an impending war between the two powers, Gaius Caesar and Phraataces worked out a rough compromise between the two powers in 1 AD. According to the agreement, Parthia undertook to withdraw its forces from Armenia, and to recognize a de fato Roman protectorate over the country. Nonetheless, Roman-Parthian rivalry over control and influence in Armenia continued unabated for the next several decades. [14]

The decision of the Parthian king Artabanus II to place his son, Arsaces, on the vacant Armenian throne triggered a war with Rome in 36 AD. Artabanus III reached an understanding with the Roman general, Lucius Vitellius, renouncing Parthian claims to a sphere of influence in Armenia. [15] A new crisis was triggered in 58, when the Romans invaded Armenia after the Parthian king Vologases I forcibly installed his brother Tiridates on the throne there. [16] Roman forces under Corbulo overthrew Tiridates and replaced him with a Cappadocian prince. This prompted Parthian retaliation and an inconclusive series of campaigns in Armenia ensued. The war came to an end in 63, when the Romans agreed to allow Tiridates and his descendants to rule Armenia on condition that they received the kingship from the Roman emperor. [17]

Armenia would henceforth be ruled by a Parthian dynasty, and despite its nominal allegiance to Rome, it would come under increasing Parthian influence. In the judgment of later generations, “Romans had lost Armenia”, and although the Peace of Rhandeia ushered in a period of relatively peaceful relations that would last for 50 years, Armenia would continue to be a constant bone of contention between the Romans, the Parthians, and their Sassanid successors.

As for Corbulo, he was honoured by Nero as the man who had brought this “triumph” to be, but his popularity and influence with the army made him a potential rival. Together with the involvement of his son-in-law Lucius Annius Vinicianus in a foiled plot against Nero in 66, Corbulo became suspect in the eyes of the emperor. In 67, while journeying in Greece, Nero ordered him to be executed upon hearing of this, Corbulo committed suicide.

Trajan’s Parthian War

A sestertius issued by the Roman Senate in 116 to commemorate Trajan’s Parthian campaign. / Image via Classical Numismatic Group, Wikimedia Commons

A new series of wars began in the 2nd century, during which the Romans consistently held the upper hand over Parthia. In 113, the Roman Emperor Trajan decided that the moment was ripe to resolve the “eastern question” once and for all time by the decisive defeat of Parthia and the annexation of Armenia his conquests marked a deliberate change of Roman policy towards Parthia, and a shift of emphasis in the “grand strategy” of the empire. [3]

In 114, Trajan invaded Armenia, annexed it as a Roman province, and killed Parthamasiris who was placed on the Armenian throne by his relative, the king of Parthia, Osroes I. [18] In 115, the Roman emperor overran northern Mesopotamia and annexed it to Rome as well its conquest was deemed necessary, since otherwise the Armenian salient could be cut off by the Parthians from the south. [18] The Romans then captured the Parthian capital, Ctesiphon, before sailing downriver to the Persian Gulf. However, in that year revolts erupted in Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and northern Mesopotamia, while a major Jewish revolt broke out in Roman territory, severely stretching Roman military resources. Trajan failed to take Hatra, the capital of the Kingdom of Hatra, which avoided total Parthian defeat. Parthian forces attacked key Roman positions and Roman garrisons at Seleucia, Nisibis and Edessa were evicted by the local populaces. Trajan subdued the rebels in Mesopotamia, installed the Parthian prince Parthamaspates as a client ruler, and withdrew to Syria. Trajan died in 117, before he could renew the war. [19]

Trajan’s Parthian campaign is considered, in different ways, the climax of “two centuries of political posturing and bitter rivalry.” [20] Trajan was the first emperor to carry out a successful invasion of Mesopotamia. His grand scheme for Armenia and Mesopotamia were ultimately “cut short by circumstances created by an incorrect understanding of the strategic realities of eastern conquest and an underestimation of what insurgency can do.” [20]

Hadrian’s Policy and Later Wars

Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, promptly reversed his predecessor’s policy. He decided that it was in Rome’s interest to re-establish the Euphrates as the limit of its direct control, and willingly returned to the status quo ante, surrendering the territories of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Adiabene back to their previous rulers and client-kings. Once again, at least for another half century, Rome was to avoid active intervention east of the Euphrates. [19]

War over Armenia broke out again in 161, when Vologases IV defeated the Romans there, captured Edessa and ravaged Syria. In 163, a Roman counter-attack under Statius Priscus defeated the Parthians in Armenia and installed a favored candidate on the Armenian throne. The following year Avidius Cassius began an invasion of Mesopotamia, winning battles at Dura-Europos and Seleucia and sacking Ctesiphon in 165. An epidemic, possibly of smallpox, which was sweeping Parthia at the time now spread to the Roman army, leading to their withdrawal. [21]

Relief of the Roman-Parthian wars at the Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome. / Image via Wikimedia Commons

In 195, another Roman invasion of Mesopotamia began under the Emperor Septimius Severus, who occupied Seleucia and Babylon, and then sacked Ctesiphon yet again in 197. These wars led to the Roman acquisition of northern Mesopotamia, as far as the areas around Nisibis and Singara. [22] A final war against the Parthians was launched by the emperor Caracalla, who sacked Arbela in 216, but after his assassination, his successor Macrinus fought an inconclusive battle against the Parthians at Nisibis, the last engagement of the Parthian Wars. [23]

Rise of the Sassanids

Parthia was finally destroyed by Ardashir I when he entered Ctesiphon in 226. The Sassanids were more centralized than the Parthian dynasties. Until the Sassanids came to power, the Romans were mostly the aggressors. However, the Sassanids, being Persians, were determined to reconquer lands that the Achaemenid dynasty had once held and now lost. Their nationalistic zeal made them much more aggressive foes of the Romans than the Parthians ever were. For more information, see Byzantine-Sassanid Wars.