Siege of Petra (541)

The Siege of Petra took place in 541 when the Sasanian Empire, under King of Kings Khosrow I, besieged the town of Petra in Lazica, held by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. The Sasanians successfully captured the fortress.[1][2]

Siege of Petra
Part of the Lazic War
Location41°46′06″N 41°45′12″E
Result Sasanian victory[1][2]
Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire Sasanian Empire
Commanders and leaders
John Tzibus 
Khosrow I
Gubazes II of Lazica


The 541 capture of Petra was part of Khosrow I's invasion of Lazica.[1][2] This campaign commenced when the Sasanian king was invited by the local king Gubazes II.[1]

The siege

After passing through the difficult terrain of Lazica, the Sasanian forces met and joined Gubazes II. The main objective of the campaign was to capture Petra, where the magister militum per Armeniam John Tzibus had concentrated his forces and had established a monopoly in the port city. Khosrow sent a detachment under Aniabedes to attack the fort, where he found the fort apparently deserted. A detachment that was sent to destroy the gate with a battering-ram was defeated as the Byzantine forces quickly rushed out of the gate in a surprise raid. The Sasanians then camped near the fortifications and began a regular siege. On the following day, the Sasanians went completely around the fort and began shooting with arrows, and the Byzantines responded by shooting with arrows and war engines. The Byzantine commander John was killed by an arrow in the neck, demoralizing the defenders. Petra featured a rough terrain and unusually strong defensive towers, which, instead of being hollow, were made of solid stone to a great height. Nevertheless, the Sasanians managed to bring down one of the two great defensive towers through mining operations: much of the lower stones were removed and replaced by wood by the miners, and the tower fell as the flames slowly loosened the upper layers of stone; the tower was suddenly brought down and the Sasanians entered the fort through the walls. The besieged forces then surrendered and came to terms. The possessions of the rich commander/merchant John Tzibus were seized, but everything else was untouched, and the surviving Byzantine forces joined the Sasanian army. A Sasanian garrison was established in Petra.[4][5][6] An account cited that in the course of the siege, many Persian soldiers died due to the difficult terrain, an epidemic, and lack of supplies.[7][1]

Leif Inge Ree Petersen notes that Roman commanders were killed (without specifying names) during the defense of Petra.[8]


  1. Greatrex & Lieu 2002, p. 115.
  2. Tucker 2010, p. 187.
  3. Petersen 2013, p. 548.
  4. Evans 2002, p. 158.
  5. Bury 1958, pp. 101-103.
  6. Prokopios 2014, pp. 109-110.
  7. Prokopios; Kaldellis, Anthony (2010). The Secret History: with Related Texts. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 9781603841801.
  8. Petersen 2013, p. 271.


  • Greatrex, Geoffrey; Lieu, Samuel N.C., eds. (2002). "Justinian's Second Persian War: the northern front (540-562)". The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars: Part II, AD 363-630. Routledge. ISBN 978-1134756469.
  • Petersen, Leif Inge Ree (2013). Siege Warfare and Military Organization in the Successor States (400-800 AD): Byzantium, the West and Islam. BRILL. ISBN 978-9004254466.
  • Tucker, Spencer C., ed. (2010). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1851096725.
  • Evans, J. A. S. (2002). The Age of Justinian: The Circumstances of Imperial Power. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-55976-3.
  • Bury, J. B. (1958). History of the Later Roman Empire from the Death of Theodosius I. to the Death of Justinian. Courier Corporation. ISBN 978-0-486-20399-7.
  • Prokopios (2014). The Wars of Justinian. Hackett Publishing. ISBN 978-1-62466-172-3.