The Sasanian Navy revisited

Dmitriev, Vladimir. 2017. The Sasanian navy revisited: An unwritten chapter in Iran’s military history. International Journal of Maritime History 29(4), 727-737.

In modern historiography, Sasanian Iran is commonly perceived as a land power. However, various primary sources indicate that the Sasanian navy played an important role in the military efforts of the Persians in late antiquity. The Sasanian navy was established to ensure the external security of the Persian state by exerting control over the sea lanes in the Persian Gulf region, and based on the aspiration of the Sasanid authorities to enhance their military and political, as well as commercial, influence in the northern part of the Indian Ocean. The most dynamic phase of the Persian navy’s activities occurred during the reign of Khosrow Anushirwan (531–579 CE), when fleet operations enabled the Persians to conquer Yemen and there was an attempt to establish the navy in the Black Sea basin. The last phase of Sasanian naval activity took place during the Byzantine–Persian war of 602–628 CE. In this conflict, the Persian fleet initially achieved some success in the Mediterranean Sea, but eventually it was completely defeated by the more skillful Byzantine navy. The main areas of the Persian navy’s activities were the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. The Sasanids’ attempts to establish fleets in the Black Sea in the 540s and Mediterranean in the 620s were ended by Byzantium. After the fall of the Sasanian Empire, Persian ships became part of the Arabian armed forces and for some time continued to participate in wars on the side of the Arabs, whose victories over the Byzantines were, to some extent, due to the naval experience of the Persians.