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On 3 December 359 AD Constantius II, the Roman Emperor, received the following strong ultimatum from Shapoor II, the then king of Iran of the Sassanid dynasty:
Please be informed that according to written documents which are available and also historians’ reports, the land beyond Strymon River (flowing from Turkey into Aegean Sea) upto the border of Masedonia belongs to Iran. Your Empire should vacate the area from your armed forces, to allow our delegates to collect tax and implement necessary reforms. If my representative, carrying this message, returns without an answer, I will order my army to take back these areas after winter ends (the letter has a cordial language).
From Amida (city of Amad = Diarbaker), the Shah
This letter, which was found in the archive of the Emperor of Rome, is documented in the historic books of medieval centuries. In the same year Shapoor II had beaten the Roman forces and conquered Syria, and was prepared to progress towards the Roman territory in West Anatolia.
The Roman Emperor, who was involved in civil problems and disobedience of a few generals, postponed answering this letter to a time after counseling with the Roman Senate.
Shapoor II did not wait and in spring of 360 AD made the attack. Constantius started gathering forces when he fell ill, and died.
His successor, Julian, who was also a philosopher and writer, not only mobilized the Roman forces but also started recruiting warriors from the Frank tribe (settled in the north of France, which was called Gaul in those days), Almania tribe (people who lived on the border of France and Germany – for this reason the French would call the Germans Almanians and their country Almania), and Illeria tribe (settled in Yugoslavia –the present day Croats) and it took him two years to get prepared for military expedition to the East.
Declaration of Julian dated 17 June 362 AD, against the Christians, was another reason for delay in attacking Iran. On his expedition route towards Iran he sacrificed a white cow in the Zeus temple, to help him win.
Finally, this attack started on 26 June 363 AD with forces that were unique in number and skill. Shapoor II, who knew about their preparations, decided to confront the Roman army inside Iran territory instead of the border. When the huge army of Julian reached the place planned by Shapoor, which was not far from Ctesiphon, they found themselves surrounded by Iranian units and were defeated in the war that took place and one Persian cavalry soldier threw a spear at Julian who was escaping, which caused his death the same night.
According to Roman law, immediately the Roman generals elected Juian, from among them, as temporary emperor and he went into negotiation with Shapoor II, in order to save the remaining Roman forces, and by giving up all the areas that Shapoor had demanded, drew his agreement to cease hostility and removed the defeated Roman units from Asia.
Some of the Roman historians have written that Shapoor II had used elephants in this war. After returning to Europe, the Frank and Almanian warriors told stories about chivalry, patriotism, rigidity and discipline of Iranian soldiers, which have remained upto day.
According to available documents, Juian withdrew from all the claims of the Romans in West Caucasia, Palestine, Syria and five areas in Anatolia, removed 18 border posts, accepted that followers of the Zoroastrian religion have freedom of religion in the Roman territory and that excess tax would not be levied on Iranian merchants.
After returning to Rome Julian attended the October session of the Senate to defend his act in giving many concessions to Iran, and the senators taunted him. Julian could not bear this humiliation and withdrew his request for votes to become emperor and committed suicide with coal gas.
Shapoor II, who became king before birth and the length of his reign was more than his life, expanded Iranian borders from China borders upto the Mediterranean and brought the Arabs under his domination. There are many rumors about his harsh behavior with Arabs, for instance, tying them together with ropes drawn inside their shoulders.
Translation by Rowshan Lohrasbpour (AmordadNews writer)