Siege of Petra (549)

The Siege of Petra took place in 549 when the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, under Emperor Justinian I, besieged the strategic fortress of Petra in Lazica, held by the Sasanians. Petra's garrison took heavy casualties, but it stood firm until the arrival of a strong army under Mihr-Mihroe relieved the siege.[1]

Siege of Petra
Part of the Lazic War
Location41°46′06″N 41°45′12″E
Result Sasanian victory[1]
Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire
Sasanian Empire
Commanders and leaders
John Gouzes (WIA)
Gubazes II of Lazica
8,000 Byzantines[2] (including 1,000 Tzani)[3]
Unknown number of Lazi
~40,000 men
Casualties and losses
Unknown Garrison:
1,000 killed[1]
350 wounded[1]
1,000+ killed[4]

The siege

The Roman army was consisted of 7,000 regulars and 1,000 Tzani, and were under command of the magister militum per Armeniam Dagisthaeus. The Roman archery was very efficient during the siege; as they suppressed the defenders of the town, the sappers were able to approach the walls of Petra. However, mining operations were unsuccessful.[1] According to Procopius, the small Sasanian garrison under "Mirranes" made a "display of valour such as no others known to us have made". At the end of the siege, 1,000 men of the 1,500-strong garrison had been killed and 350 men were wounded. The defenders had kept all of the corpses inside the fortification in order not to inform the attackers of their losses.[4]

Dagisthaeus abandoned the siege as a Sasanian army of cavalry and infantry from Iberia was approaching under Mihr-Mihroe. The latter reportedly taunted the Byzantines because of their inability to defeat 150 men "without a wall", referring to the partially destroyed city wall.[5][6]

Subsequent conflicts

Lacking enough supplies for his army, Mihr-Mihroe hastily repaired the fallen portion of Petra's wall with linen bags filled with sands, garrisoned the fortress with 3,000 men, left 5,000 men under Fariburz in Colchis to supply the garrison, and himself headed for Persarmenia with the rest of the army.[5][6]

The combined Byzantine-Lazi force, numbering 14,000, defeated Fariburz in a surprise attack, capturing the supplies brought from Iberia by Mihr-Mihroe for Petra. Another force under Chorianes was also defeated after the latter was killed in action. However, in the meantime, the Sasanians somehow managed to resupply the garrison at Petra. Dagisthaeus was later stripped of his commands due to his alleged poor leadership of the Byzantines in Petra, and was replaced by Bessas.[5][6]

A year later, in 550, the Byzantines finally managed to retake the town from the Sasanians after a lengthy siege.[7]


  1. Petersen 2013, p. 271.
  2. Greatrex & Lieu 2002, p. 117.
  3. Procopius, History of the Wars, Book II: XXIX
  4. Procopius, History of the Wars, Book II, XXIX
  5. Bury, J. B. (2013). History of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. 2: From the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian. Courier Corporation. ISBN 9780486143392.
  6. Greatrex, Geoffrey (2007). The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars Ad 363-628. Psychology Press. p. 118. ISBN 9780415465304.
  7. Petersen 2013, pp. 288, 542.


  • Greatrex, Geoffrey; Lieu, Samuel N.C., eds. (2002). The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars: Part II, AD 363-630. Routledge. pp. 1–408. ISBN 978-0415465304.
  • 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.