The expedition against Sassanid Persia was already planned by Constantius II, but it was not due to the fact that the young Julian by the legions that were not going to take part in the war in the east. After the death of Constantius and assuming the reign, Julian did not intend to waste the situation – under his command was a huge army that made it possible for the Sassanids to retaliate for their recent attack on the eastern border of the Empire.
The emperor against the Persians left Antioch on March 5, 363, initially leading only his bodyguards. On March 9, Julian with his retinue reached Hierapolis, where the army was gathering, scattered over several nearby provinces in winter, so as not to burden the local population excessively with the maintenance of such a huge mass of troops. The Roman forces were indeed huge, such a powerful army had not been seen for a long time, and for a long time another one had not been seen. From 65,000 to 100,000 people stood under Julian’s banner. soldiers, many of whom were seasoned veterans.
Hierapolis was abandoned in the second week of March, initially marching north to confuse Shapur II’s scouts. Then the army split into two corps – the northern one, under the command of Procopius, who was to simulate the main forces and the southern one led by the emperor himself. Julian marched towards the Persian capital – Ctesiphon. Already during the march, contingents issued by Arab allies joined the southern corps.
In early April, Roman forces reached the abandoned city – the fortress of Dura Europos on the Euphrates. On April 9, the army marched out of this former Roman fortress into Persian territory.
When planning the campaign in the desert, the emperor realized that the key to its success was securing the army. Julian had experience in this area from Gaul, where he was very effective in providing food supplies by organizing grain ships from Britain. The campaign was planned along the Euphrates so that the supplies for these enormous forces could be packed on ships and transported along the navigable river.
To transport the right amount of supplies, an impressive river fleet has been assembled – up to 1,250 ships operated by 20,000 people. sailors – there were 50 warships in this number, which were to provide cover for transports. The river fleet was commanded by the tribune Constantianus and Comes Lucylian.
Julian’s fleet carried not only food and water, the ships also carried artillery and ready siege equipment, so as not to waste time building it under the walls of Persian fortresses. Even a huge siege tower was carried on decks of river barges. Many ships had ballistae arranged so that it was possible to fire directly from their decks.
Anata (now Ana) is an ancient city located on the Euphrates in what is now Iraq.
Known as Ha-na-at in the Babylonian period, the name comes from the name of the war goddess Anat, sister of the storm god Baal Hadad. This centre also functioned in the Assyrian times, during the reign of Macedonian and the heirs of the diadochi called Anatho. In the 4th Ammian, Marcelin calls the fortress city Anata.
During the Roman-Persian wars, the city was situated on an island in the Euphrates.
Agents of Julian
Julian was an excellent organizer, he also prepared the Persian campaign down to the smallest detail. Most likely, secret contacts were made with a number of commanders of Persian fortresses. Corrupting the Persian nobles must have been easier, as they must have already heard the news of a great army gathering on the Roman side of the border.
The basis of the emperor’s plan was surprising. In order to exploit them as much as possible, he had to act very quickly. Julian wanted to reach Ctesiphon in the shortest possible time and conquer the city before the arrival of the main Persian forces under the command of the king of kings. Maintaining a high pace of the march would be impossible if the Romans had to besiege fortified Persian garrisons on the way to Ctesiphon – hence it was so important to seize the fortresses without a fight, or at least to ensure the neutrality of their crews.
Four days after leaving Dura Europos, the Romans reached the shore of the Euphrates called Fatuza, opposite Anata – a fortified island. The Persian garrison was commanded by Pauzeus.
Julian wanted to take the fortress by surprise, avoiding the protracted fight, especially due to the favourable geographic location of the defenders, so he ordered the army not to approach Anata during the day. The Roman army only left the Euphrates after dark.
For the covert attack on Anatha, the emperor commissioned a unit separated under the command of Commander Lucylian, under the command of which he gave a thousand light infantrymen (according to A. Drabik, they were lanciarii). Lucylian’s soldiers set off against the fortress in speedboats.
After landing on the island, the Romans began preparations to conquer the walls – ropes and other necessary equipment were prepared. However, these activities dragged on for a long time, and it was dawn before the assault group climbed the walls. After the sun rises, the castle servant came out on the river bank to get some water, then he noticed the aggressors and raised the alarm. The Romans had to escape under fire from bows.
Despite the failure of the night action, Julian could not afford to be delayed at the very beginning of the expedition. Hours after the retreat of the group, Lucylian stood outside Anata’s walls with his entire fleet, advancing the ships with propelling engines. The emperor demanded immediate surrender. The Persians, seeing the power of Rome gathered under their walls, asked for a conversation with Hormizd – Shapur II’s brother accompanying Julian. Before him, Anata’s garrison surrendered.
The conditions under which the fortress garrison surrendered were very favourable to him. All inhabitants retained their life and freedom. They were relocated to the border of the empires, to Chalcis. Pauses, on the other hand, received the title of tribune and joined the officer corps accompanying Julian on the Persian expedition. The fortress was burnt down.
The seizure of Anata was the first armed clash during Great Julian’s Persian campaign.
A Roman in Anat?
When the Roman forces entered the fortress, it turned out that an old man lived in it, surrounded by a group of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Apparently, he was approaching the hundredth year of life. It was supposed to be a Roman soldier who was taken prisoner of Persia during the reign of Emperor Galerius. This Roman was to persuade the Persian command of the fortress to surrender it because he allegedly always claimed that before he turned 100 years old, he would rest on Roman soil. Currently, not all historians treat this story as an authentic event.
Pauzeus as Julian’s agent?
Many researchers now believe that Pauzeus was already recruited by Julian. This view makes his joining the Roman forces more likely – he may have been afraid to leave with the inhabitants and Anata’s garrison, as his betrayal could have been noticed.