Battle of Herat (484)
|Battle of Herat|
Map of the Sassanid empire after the disaster against the Hephthalites, light green is the areas the Sassanids lost to the Hephthalites, however, the Sassanids later recaptured occupied land from the Hephthalites.
|Hephthalite Empire||Sassanid Empire|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Khush-Newaz||Peroz I †|
The Battle of Herat was a large scale military confrontation that took place in the year 484. The battle was fought between an invading force of the Sassanid Empire composed of around 100,000 men under the command of Peroz I and a smaller army of the Hephthalite Empire (AKA the White Nomads) under the command of Khush-Newaz. The battle was a catastrophic defeat for the Sassanid forces who were almost completely wiped out. Sassanid King Peroz I was killed in the action.
In 459, the Hephthalite Empire occupied Bactria and were confronted by the forces of the Sassanid king, Hormizd III. It was then that Peroz I, in an apparent pact with the Hephthalites, killed Hormizd, his brother, and established himself as the new king. He would go on to kill the majority of his family and began a persecution of various Christian sects in his territories.
Peroz I quickly moved to maintain peaceful relations with the Byzantine Empire to the west. To the east, he attempted to check the Hephthalite expansion whose armies had began their conquest of eastern Iran. The Romans supported the Sassanids in these efforts, sending them auxiliary units. The efforts to deter the Hephthalite expansion met with failure when Peroz I chased their forces deep into Hephthalite territory and was surrounded. Peroz I was taken prisoner in 481 and was made to deliver his son, Kavadh I as a hostage for three years, further paying a ransom for his release.
It was this humiliating defeat which led Peroz I to launch a new campaign against the Hephthalites.
The Battle 
In 484, after the liberation of his son, Peroz I formed an enormous army and marched northeast to confront the Hephthalites. The king marched his forces all the way to Balkh where he established his base camp and rejected emissaries from the Hunnic king Khush-Newaz. Peroz I's forces advanced from Balkh to Herat. The Huns, learning of Peroz I's way of advance, left troops along his path who proceeded to cut off the eventual Sassanid retreat and surround Peroz' army in the desert around the city of Herat. In the ensuing battle, almost all of the Sassanid army was wiped out. Peroz I was killed in the action and most of his commanders and entourage were captured including two of his daughters. The Hephthalite forces proceeded to sack Herat before continuing on to a general invasion of the Sassanid Empire.
The Huns invaded the Sassanid territories which had been left without a central government following the death of the king. Much of the Sassanid land was pillaged repeatedly for a period of two years until a Persian noble from the House of Karen, Zarmihr (AKA Sokhra) restored some order by establishing one of Peroz I's brothers, Balash I, as the new king. The Hunnic menace to Sassanid landswould continue until the reign of Khosrau I. Balash I failed to take adequate measures to counter the Hephthalite incursions, and after a rule of four years, Balash I was deposed in favor of Kavadh I, his nephew and the son of Peroz I. After the death of his father, Kavadh I fled the kingdom and took refuge with his former captors, the Hephthalites, who had previously held him as a hostage. He there married one of the daughters of the Hunnic king who gave him an army to conquer his old kingdom and take the throne. The Sassanids were made to pay tributes to the Hephthalite Empire until 496 when Kavadh I was defeated in battle by Mazdak and forced to flee once again to Hephthalite territory. King Djamasp was installed on the throne for two years until Kavadh I returned at the head of an army of 30,000 troops and retook his throne, reigning from 498 until his death in 531 when he was succeeded by his son Khosrau I.
- Heritage World Coin Auction #3010. Boston: Heritage Capital Corporation, 2010, pp. 28
- Frye, 1996: 178
- Dani, 1999: 140
- Christian, 1998: 220
- Much of the information on this page was translated from its Spanish equivalent.
- David Christian (1998). A history of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-20814-3.
- Richard Nelson Frye (1996). The heritage of Central Asia from antiquity to the Turkish expansion. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, ISBN 1-55876-111-X.
- Ahmad Hasan Dani (1999). History of civilizations of Central Asia: Volumen III. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ., ISBN 81-208-1540-8.