The Tale Of The Golden Gear Of Rhazates

Rhazates was the name given by scholars of Constantinople to a general of the Persian army who clashed against Emperor Heraclius of Constantinople (r. 610-641) in a series of skirmishes and battles that were said to have occurred in 626. Emperor Heraclius, so the story goes, lured Rhazates into an ambush near the Great Zab River around December 12, 626. During this battle, Heraclius dealt a decisive defeat to the Persian forces and Rhazates (with many other Persian officers) was killed in battle. Curiously, if tales about Rhazates’ wardrobe are true, the Persian general’s own fashion choices may have contributed to his downfall, for he was allegedly not inconspicuous at all on the battlefield. Quite the opposite, he supposedly would have been dazzling, for Rhazates and his horse were evidently outfitted from head to toe in shining golden gear that would have been easily visible to every single glory-seeking warrior of Emperor Heraclius’ army. A chronicler named Theophanes (c. 750s-818) described Rhazates’ golden equipment in a list of items that were said to have been looted by Emperor Heraclius’ army after the battle near the Great Zab River. Theophanes wrote, “The Romans took many solid-gold swords, gold-encrusted belts, pearls, Rhazates’ solid-gold shield (which had a hundred twenty golden leaves), and his solid-gold corselet. They brought back his robe, his bracelets, his solid-gold saddle, and his head” (Theophanes, Chronographia, entry for Annus Mundi 6118). Geared in golden armor or not, Rhazates did not survive the battle at the river.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Darius Marching to the Battle of Issus, produced by the workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni between 1450 –  1455, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the Rijksmuseum).



  • Theophanes, The Chronicle of Theophanes, translated by Harry Turtledove. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.

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