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For the record : How many times did Rome sack Ctesiphon ?
#16
Theo,

Now I have to wonder if Galerius sacked Ctesiphon or not. None of the original sources I could find directly claim he did, which I think would be very unusual if in fact he had. For instance, Lactantius, a contemporary, writes of Galerius' victory but does not mention Ctesiphon being captured. Eutropius doesn't, which again I think is pretty good evidence that it never happened. I haven’t read Aurelius Victor either, though it’s been claimed that both Aurelius Victor and Eutropius drew from a single, identical lost source.

That modern historians claim Galerius captured Ctesiphon may be due to the circumstances of his victory against Narseh. That Galerius captured so many members of the royal family and the Persian nobility is a good indication of the totality of his victory, but not that Ctesiphon was taken. The captured "wives, sisters and children" reported by Eutropius was more likely the royal harem, which Iranian kings (and even the lesser nobility) invariably brought with them when on campaign. As for Narseh's escape, what a late Roman would have considered the "remotest deserts" is hard to define, as much of Iran is desert and Rome's image of the Sassanian Empire was probably pretty inexact. Also, according to Europius, after his victory Galerius returned to Diocletian in "Mesopotamia," (probably northern Mesopotamia) and the two moved north to campaign against the Carpi, Bastarnae and Sarmatians. No mention is made of further campaigns in southern Mesopotamia, though Galerius would have needed some time to re-secure Eastern Mesopotamia for Rome and to place Tiridates back on the Armenian throne.

As for Constantine, what he is reported to have said is, "Memphis and Babylon [it was declared] shall be wasted and left desolate with their fathers' gods. Now these things I speak not from the reports of others, but having myself been present and actually witnessed the pitiful fate of these cities." Even if we assume this is an authentic quote (and this is by no means certain), it may be nothing more than rhetorical flourish. There is nothing in the evidence to suggest the Roman conquest of southern Mesopotamia at that time.

The Sassanian Empire had only recently handed Rome some of the most humiliating defeats in her history, and I think there's little doubt the capture of the Sassanian capitol would have been an important enough event to have earned a mention, had it actually occurred.

Gregg
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#17
Hi Gregg,

Yes, I'm still not sure what these modern authors base their claims on either. If not based on literary evidence then maybe there's archeological findings to suggest a sack or burning of the city at the time of Galerius' expedition.

But the original sources I've been able to read, I agree, seem ambiguous at best. I remember reading somewhere that some sources exaggerated Galerius' exploits by claiming that he reached India ! So, the sources themselves may not be all reliable.

Thanks for that quote from Constantine. Very interesting even if not authentic ; I've never encountered it before despite reading three books on the man.

Quote:The Sassanian Empire had only recently handed Rome some of the most humiliating defeats in her history, and I think there's little doubt the capture of the Sassanian capitol would have been an important enough event to have earned a mention, had it actually occurred.
You're probably right. Another, less probable, possiblity could be that it would seem anti-climatic to mention it since Galerius already thoroughly defeated and humiliated the Persian king by taking his treasure and concubines. That's a tough act to follow, one that surely can't be eclipsed by the capture of a poorly defended, empty capital. Who knows though...?

~Theo
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