The Reign of Kavad

  November 25, 2021   Read time 3 min
The Reign of Kavad
Internal affairs occupied Kavad till the end of his reign although the accession of a new emperor in Byzantium, Justin, at first caused a strain in relations between the two states.

The Mazdakites continued to flourish but their excesses were held in check by the orthodox priesthood and the nobility, which in reality may have strengthened the hand of Kavad against all opposition. The question of succession worried Kavad for he wished to name his successor himself and not leave the matter to election by the nobility. He had three sons, the youngest of whom, Khusrau, he favoured as his successor. In order to ensure his succession to the throne, Kavad proposed to Justin that he adopt Khusrau as his son and accept the responsibility to support Khusrau as ruler of Iran. But the Byzantine emperor did not want to accept the adoption as Kavad had proposed it, and as a result relations between the two empires cooled.

At this time a tribal kingdom was founded in Arabia by the tribe of Kinda, and its leader Harith b. 'Amr was able to defeat Mundhir III, king of the Lakhmids, and seize his capital Hira. The Kind! occupation of Hira probably lasted only a few years, perhaps 525-8, but the Kindl Arabs had taken over parts of Iraq as early as 506.1 Events in Georgia also occupied the Persians during the second reign of Kavad. Gurgenes, the king of Georgia, had to fight against his nobility, which sought to limit, if not abolish altogether, the power of their king. The Persians were happy to take advantage of this discord and supported the nobles with an army in 523. The king fled to neighbouring Lazica on the shores of the Black Sea, north-west of Georgia, and the Persians occupied the cities of Georgia. A marzban ruled the country and Sasanian garrisons were established in the chief city, Mtskheta (near modern Tiflis), and other cities. Persian success in Transcaucasia was matched by the defeat of a Byzantine army in Mesopotamia, in which Belisarius the famous general held a command. In 527 Justin turned over the reins of government to his nephew Justinian, but the war continued in Lazica and on the Mesopotamian frontier, though in a desultory fashion. Belisarius was placed in command of a Byzantine army in the east and instructed to erect forts on the frontier. He was defeated by a Persian force but Justinian instead of removing him from command made Belisarius general of the east. He met the Persians again outside the walls of Dara and defeated them. In the Caucasus region too the Sasanians suffered several reverses.

Kavad then heavily supported his Arab ally Mundhir of the Lakhmids in a great raid into Syria, flanking the Roman fortifications and Belisarius, with the intention of capturing and plundering Antioch. Belisarius, however, was not surprised and moved to meet the new threat. In a battle at Callinicum in 531 Belisarius was defeated and retreated but the Sasanian forces had lost so heavily that they too withdrew. Kavad only prepared another army under new commanders and sent it into Roman Mesopotamia, with more hope of success, since Belisarius had been recalled by Justinian and sent against the Vandals in North Africa. Nothing was accomplished, however, for the death of the aged Kavad brought an end to hostilities. The new ruler Khusrau was to become the most illustrious of the Sasanian rulers, comparable to Shah 'Abbas in Safavid times.

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