Assyria (Roman province)

Assyria (Roman province)

Assyria was one of three provinces (Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria) created by the Roman emperor Trajan in 116 C.E. following a successful military campaign against Parthia, in present-day Iraq. Despite Rome's military victory, Trajan's province was plagued with difficulties from the start. In 116, a Parthian prince named Santruces organized an armed revolt in the new Roman provinces. During the revolt, Roman garrisons in Assyria and Mesopotamia were driven from their posts, and a Roman general was killed as his army tried unsuccessfully to stop the rebellion. [David Magie, "Roman Rule in Asia Minor to the End of the Third Century After Christ", Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950: p. 609.]

When Trajan died in 117, his successor, Hadrian, implemented a new policy with respect to the recently acquired territories in the east. Hadrian believed that the empire was overextended, and wanted to retract Roman rule to more easily defensible borders. [Charles Freeman, "The World of the Romans", New York: Oxford University Press, 1993: p. 62.] As a result, Hadrian evacuated Trajan's three provinces in 118. ["The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XI", London: Cambridge University Press, 1970: p. 640.]


Although many sources cite the creation of a province named Assyria during Trajan's Parthian campaign, some disagreement exists regarding its exact location. Some modern scholars argue that the "Assyria Provincia" was located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in present-day central Iraq, a location that is corroborated by the text of the fourth-century Roman historian Festus. [C.S. Lightfoot, "Trajan's Parthian War and the Fourth-Century Perspective," "The Journal of Roman Studies, Volume 80", (1990), p. 121-122.] However, other sources contend that the province was located east of the Tigris, in a region formerly known as Adiabene. [Lightfoot p. 121; Magie p. 608.]

Further Roman activity in the region

Hadrian's withdrawal from Assyria and its neighboring provinces in 118 did not mark the end of Roman rule in this region. A second Parthian campaign was launched from 161-165 under the command of Lucius Verus, with the Roman army once more conquering territories east of the Euphrates. ["The Cambridge Ancient History" p. 640.] Rome pursued military action against the Parthians again in 197-8 under the command of emperor Septimius Severus. Following his successful campaign, Severus instituted two new Roman provinces--Osroene and Mesopotamia--on the territories annexed by Trajan in 114-117. Severus also stationed two Roman legions in the new provinces to ensure stability and prevent against first Parthian, and later Sassanian attacks. [Magie p. 674-5; Fergus Millar, "The Roman Empire and its Neighbors", London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967: p. 211.] Roman influence in the area came to an end under Jovian in 363, who abandoned the region after concluding a hasty peace agreement with the Sassanians and retreating to Constantinople to consolidate his political power. [Ammianus Marcellinus The Later Roman Empire (354-378) "A shameful peace concluded by Jovian" 6.7 pg.303, Penguin Classics, Translated by Walter Hamilton 1986]

Despite continued Roman activity in the region, no further reference is made to a Roman province of Assyria following Hadrian's evacuation in 118. When Septimus Severus created the provinces of Osroene and Mesopotamia at the end of the second century, no mention is made of a Roman province of Assyria. During his travels with Jovian in the Near East, the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus says, "Within this circuit is Adiabene, which was formerly called Assyria;" ostensibly referring to Trajan's former "Assyria Provincia." Ammianus Marcellinus also refers to a region called Assyria located between the Tigris and Euphrates, but makes no reference to a current Roman province bearing that name. [Ammianus Marcellinus XXIII.6.20 and XXXIII.3.1, from ] Thus, it seems that the province of Assyria only existed during Trajan's reign, and was not reinstated during later Roman occupations of the region.

See also

*Assyria (Persian province)
*Syria (Roman province)
*History of the Assyrian people


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