Sasanian conquest of Egypt

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Sassanid conquest of Egypt
Part of the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628
LocationDiocese of Egypt
Result Decisive Sassanid victory
Sassanids capture Egypt.
Sasanian Egypt established
Byzantine Empire Derafsh Kaviani flag of the late Sassanid Empire.svg Sassanid Empire
Commanders and leaders
Nicetas Shahrbaraz[1]

Between 618 and 621 AD, the Sassanid Persian army defeated the Byzantine forces in Egypt and occupied the province. The fall of Alexandria, the capital of Roman Egypt, marked the first and most important stage in the Sassanid campaign to conquer this rich province, which eventually fell completely under Persian rule within a couple of years. A good account of the event is given by Butler. [2]


The Persian shah, Khosrau II, had taken advantage of the internal turmoil of the East Roman Empire after the overthrow of Emperor Maurice by Phocas to attack the Roman provinces in the East. By 615, the Persians had driven the Romans out of northern Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine. Determined to eradicate Roman rule in Asia, Khosrau turned his sight on Egypt, the East Roman Empire's granary.[3]

Fall of Egypt[edit]

The Persian invasion of Egypt began either in 617 or 618, but little is known about the particulars of this campaign, since the province was practically cut off from the remaining Roman territories.[4] The Persian army headed for Alexandria, where Nicetas, Heraclius' cousin and local governor, was unable to offer effective resistance. He and the Chalcedonian patriarch, John V, fled the city to Cyprus.[3] According to the Khuzistan Chronicle, Alexandria was then betrayed to the Persians by a certain Peter in June 619.[5][6]

After the fall of Alexandria, the Persians gradually extended their rule southwards along the Nile.[4] Sporadic resistance required some mopping-up operations, but by 621, the province was securely in Persian hands.[7]


Egypt would remain in Persian hands for 10 years, run by general Shahrbaraz from Alexandria.[1] As the Roman emperor, Heraclius, reversed the tide and defeated Khosrau, Shahrbaraz was ordered to evacuate the province, but refused. In the end, Heraclius, trying both to recover Egypt and to sow disunion amongst the Persians, offered to help Shahrbaraz seize the Persian throne for himself. An agreement was reached, and in the summer of 629, the Persian troops began leaving Egypt.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Howard-Johnston (2006), p. 124
  2. ^ A. J. Butler, The Arab Conquest of Egypt, (1902). Reprinted (1978) by Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-821678-5
  3. ^ a b Frye (1993), p. 169
  4. ^ a b Dodgeon et al. (2002), p. 196
  5. ^ Dodgeon et al. (2002), pp. 196, 235
  6. ^ Howard-Johnston (2006), pp. 10, 90
  7. ^ Howard-Johnston (2006), p. 99