Conquest of Iran

A 7th-century Description

We don’t know the name of the person who wrote this passage. It is part of the Chronicle of Khuzistan, a 7th-century history written by a Christian (member of the Church of the East) in Syriac.

Then God brought up against them [the Persians] the sons of Ishmael, who were [as many] as the sands on the seashore. Their leader was Muhammad. Neither walls nor gates stood before them, nor did weapon or shields, and they dominated the entire land of the Persians. Now [the Sasanian emperor] Yazdegerd sent countless troops against them, but the Arabs destroyed all of them and killed [the Sasanian general] Rustum too. Yazdegerd enclosed himself within the walls of Mahoze, and at the end, he escaped fleeing. He went to the lands of Hozaye and Marozaye where he ended his life. The Arabs took control of Mahoze and of all the lands. They also went to the Byzantine lands, plundering and ravaging all the lands of Syria. Heraclius, the Byzantine king, sent armies against them, but the Arabs killed more than one hundred thousand of them. Now the Catholicos Ishoʿyahb, when he saw Mahoze ruined by the Arabs and its gates carried off to ʿAqula [the Arab garrison of Kufa], and those who remained inside it were consumed by hunger, went to reside in Bet-Garmai in the village of Karka…

Once the Arabs subjugated all the lands of the Persians and the Byzantines, they also marched and invaded Bet-Hozaye, subjecting all the fortified cities, that is Bet-Lapat, Karka-d-Leddan, and the fortress of Susa. Susa and Shushtra remained (untouched) because they were much fortified, and none of all the Persians remained resisting the Arabs except for King Yazdegerd and one of his commanders whose name was Hormizdan of Medea, who gathered forces and held Susa and Shushtra. This Shushtra is very extensive in habitation and much fortified by the powerful rivers and canals that surround it on each side like ditches… Then one of the Arab commanders called Abu Musa marched up against Hormizdan of Media. The former built Basra as a settlement for the Arabs, where the Tigris pours into the Great Sea, situated between cultivated land and a desert. Likewise, Saʿad, the son of Waqqas, built the city of ʿAqula, which was called Kufa after the term “the turning around” of the Euphrates, as another settlement for the Arabs.

Source, pp. 78-82, then 94-100.

A 7th-century Description

This passage is from the history of John bar Penkaye, who was a Christian (member of the Church of the East) living in Northern Mesopotamia who wrote in Syriac.

When the kingdom of the Persians came to an end, in the days of their king Khosro, the kingdom of the children of Hagar at once gained control over more or less the whole world, for they took the whole kingdom of the Persians. overthrowing all their warriors who prided themselves in the arts of war.

We should not think of the advent (of the children of Hagar) as something ordinary, but as due to divine working. Before calling them, (God) had prepared them beforehand to hold Christians in honour, thus they also had a special commandment from God concerning our monastic station, that they should hold it in honour. Now when these people came, at God’s command, and took over as it were both kingdoms, not with any war or battle, but in a menial fashion, such as when a brand is rescued out of the fire; not using weapons of war or human means. God put victory into their hands in such a way that the words written concerning them might be fulfilled, namely, ‘One man chased a thousand and two men routed ten thousand’! How, otherwise, could naked men, riding without armour or shield, have been able to win, apart from divine aid, God having called them from the ends of the earth so as to destroy, by them, a sinful kingdom, and to bring low, through them, the proud spirit of the Persians.

Only a short period passed before the entire world was handed over to the Arabs; they subdued all the fortified cities, taking control from sea to sea, and from East to West – Aigyptos and the whole of Mesrin, and from Crete to Cappadocia, from Yahelman to the gates of Alan, Armenians, Syrians. Persians, Byzantines, Egyptians and all the intermediary regions: their hand was upon everyone, as the prophet says. Only half the Byzantine empire was left by them. Who can relate the carnage they effected in Greek territory, in Kush, in Spain, and in other distant regions, taking captive their sons and daughters and reducing them to slavery and servitude. Against those who had not ceased in times of peace and prosperity from fighting against their Creator, there was sent a barbarian people who had no pity on them.

Having reached thus far, however, in the narrative, let us end this book here, and give praise to Father, Son and Holy Spirit forever, Amen.

…As for the Church of Persia, as it was under the domination of the Magians, it had nothing else to oppose.  Although some scandals arose, these scandals, however, were not allowed to grow, because from the first the Lord repressed them.  So while these things were going thus from apostolic times to the reign of the last Khosro, our Saviour, to whom everything is clear even before it happens, saw how much we had lost during this long peace and to what evils we were led by the interference of Christian kings who wanted us to say that this nature above to all suffering suffered — something even the demons have not dared to put forward. He revealed to us many signs, some of which we did not even notice.  For since that unfortunate schism happened right up until today, three times he has showed us the sun which he showed to those who crucified him at the time of the crucifixion along with tremblings, quakes and terrifying signs in the sky, indicating the malice of the heretics and the events that were to happen on the earth.

When he saw that there was no amendment, he raised a barbarian kingdom against us, a people who would not hear supplications, who knew no compromise, no peace, and disdained flattery and meanness. Its delight was in shedding blood without reason, and its pleasure laying hands on everything. Its passion was raiding and stealing, and its food hatred and anger; it was never appeased by offerings made to it. When it had prospered and done the will of Him who sent it, it had taken possession of all the kingdoms of the earth, had subjected brutally all the peoples and brought their sons and daughters into a bitter slavery, had avenged in them the opprobrium of God the Word, and the blood of the martyrs of Christ shed through no fault of their own, then our Lord was satisfied and rested, and He agreed to give grace to his people.


A 7th/10th-century Description

This passage is from the History of the Caucasian Albanians by Movses Dasxuranc’i. Albania was a Christian province of the Sasanian empire, roughly analogous to the modern Republic of Azerbaijan. The author was an Albanian Christian, but he wrote in Armenian in the 10th century. He preserved a 7th century source about the Albanian prince Juanshir.

Four years after the death of the great Xosrov, king of Persia, his son Yazkert became king. The race of Hagar, an alliance of twelve tribes, grew powerful, and approaching from a distant clime in a bold and terrifying mass like a tempest blowing over the desert, they crossed the land of Asorestan and swiftly marched against the king of the Persians. Thereupon those generals and princes, lords and indigenous nobles of the various regions subject to the kingdom of Persia recruited an army to march against the foreign foe. At the time of these events, Varaz-Grigor, prince of Albania, being himself a noble of the family of Artasir, saw his second son Juansher to be brave, dignified and well-formed. On his face a downy beard had scarce begun to bloom; he was beloved of his father, and swift to strike as an eagle, was skilled in the art of war. ]uansher, who was successful in all his undertakings and was trusted by his father, had resolved to assist him in the practical affairs of the country, to be on equal terms with the great and to serve before kings. This being so, Varaz-Grigor thought it best to send him, of all his sons, to represent him at the court of the king. Receiving a battalion from his father, he arrived at the common meeting-place of thousands before the prince of Siwnik’ and the sparapet [general] of Armenia. When the general Rostam saw him, he looked upon him as a brother or a son, and he was liked by all. The general took many thousands of horsemen and proceeded to Ctesiphon to King Yazkert, and brought before him the young Juansher. The king forthwith laid his hands upon his head, praised him, and named him field-marshal (sparapet) of Albania.

Crossing the river Tigris, Juansher arrived in the canton of Veh Kawat, and proudly putting his trust in his immense and innumerable army, he haughtily expected to trample all the southerners underfoot. He camped before them on the other side of the Dead Water. When the troops advanced, the sparapet of Albania met them and carried off a brave victory. Slaying some at the very outset, he waxed most valiant, for he knew that the Lord was with him. After a few days, in the month of Mehekan, on Christmas Day, 30,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry marched against them. The sons of Hagar, coming from al-Qadisiya with a host of cavalry and 2o,ooo infantry, sped forward with serried shields and began the battle against the Persian army. The sparapet of Albania, however, entering the fray with his brave men, struck down two of his opponents and withdrew with three grievous wounds, while his steed was wounded in four places. The enemy pursued him with frenzied hostility to the river where, still fighting back, he jumped in and swam across. His clothes were smothered in gore and his weapons in mud. Seeing that the nobles and soldiers were all of them mown down like grass, he hurried away to the court of the king. When the king was told of his feats of valour and his severe wounds, he ordered that he be given a palace and that he be tended by the royal physicians; and he was greatly feted in the land. When he had recovered, he came before the king, who placed his hands upon his head, spoke well of him for all to hear, and bestowed upon him the insignia of a general, with clarions to herald him and two golden spears and two shields chased in gold which were always borne before him. He honoured him above all others. He invested him with a belt of gold studded with pearls, a sword of wrought gold bracelets for his arms, and set a coveted crown upon his head. He gave him also leggings sewn with pearls, and as many pearls again [on a collar] round his neck. They clothed him in a dark tunics with four hems, and taffeta and silken Persian coats1 with fringes of spun gold. They ordered him to be given villages as his vassals and rivers full of fish. All these things were seen to be, in the words of the scriptures, “the glorious fruit of righteousness” [Heb. xii. I 1 ]. After receiving such royal honours, he made even greater advances. For in May (Media) and in Ahmatan (Hamadan) two generals were fighting each other in bitter enmity, and he struck down and prostrated one of them in the presence of all, thus inducing them like a wise man to keep the peace; and for this the general Xotazat received him with great esteem.

In the eighth year of Yazkert the enemy rose again and besieged the king in Ctesiphon for six months. General Xotazat and the sparapet of Albania marched with their armies against the enemy. Lifting up his eyes, the brave Juansher sallied forth with 3,ooo men, and driving them back by his vigorous assaults, he crossed the river and did not permit them to cross the Tigris for six months while the king was taken to the great Dastakert.6 In a terrifying mass the enemy swarmed upon him, and from there they transferred the king to Beklal; but the children of the south, resembling in their tremendous violence the waves of the sea, streamed along in pursuit. Standing firm for a few days, the sparapet of Albania did not cease to march against them and to demonstrate his personal valour for all to see, and many a time did he bring back and throw before the king the heads of the foreign foe. After this, while the armies battled one against the other, the Lord visited the army of the Persians with a cruel defeat at the close of their days. The command came from on high and destroyed their kingdom. Now the brave Juansher fought for seven years in those painful battles until, having received eleven grievous wounds, he took leave of them and retired to the province of Atrpatakan [now: Iranian Azerbaijan], where the Persian general, in consideration of his glorious renown, urged him to take his sister to wife. Juansher, however, not wishing to take a wife from among the unbelievers, returned to his own country. At this his affectionate father felt great joy, like the patriarch Jacob upon seeing the first-born of Rachel. With ardent heart he embraced his son, enhancing the colour of his face with the silver bloom of his hair.

Source: Dasxuranc’i, History of the Caucasian Albanians, trans. Dowsett, pp. 109-113.