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Battle of Issus (194)


Battle of Issus (194)

Battle of Issus
Date 194
Location Issus, Asia Minor
Result Decisive Severan victory
forces of Septimius Severus forces of Pescennius Niger
Commanders and leaders
Publius Cornelius Anullinus Pescennius Niger
Casualties and losses
20,000 according to Cassius Dio

The Battle of Issus was the third major battle in 194 between the forces of Emperor Septimius Severus and his rival, Pescennius Niger, part of the Year of the Five Emperors.


  • Background 1
  • Battle 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • Citations 4
  • References 5


Pescennius Niger was the Roman governor of Syria who had been acclaimed Emperor by his troops, like Severus, following the death of Pertinax.

Following its successive defeats at Cyzicus and Battle of Nicaea in 193, Niger's army successfully withdrew to the Taurus mountains, where it fiercely defended the Cilician pass. At this time the commander of the Severan troops, Tiberius Claudius Candidus, was replaced by Publius Cornelius Anullinus, perhaps due to the failure of the former to prevent the withdrawal of the rival army.[1]


Eventually, Anullinus entered Syria and the final battle took place in May 194, near Issus, the place where Alexander the Great defeated the Persian King Darius III in 332BC.[1] Severus took advantage of the control he had on the lives of the children of the provincial governors, who were left at Rome, as well as the rivalries of the cities in the region, thus encouraging governors to change sides, one legion to desert to him and some cities to revolt.[1]

Severan troops attacked first while Niger's forces were hurling missiles to them. According to Dio, Severan legionaries applied testudo, using their shields for protecting either themselves[2] or their own missile shooters[3] (however, it seems that it was not the real testudo that was used in sieges or against highly mobile attackers[2]). At the same time, the Severan cavalry attacked from the rear.[3] The fight was hard but in the end Severus won decisively and Niger fled back to Antioch. A sudden thunderstorm played some role in lowering the morale of Niger's troops, who were directly facing it, because they attributed it to divine intervention.[4]

A triumphal arch was set on site, commemorating the victory of Severus.[1]


While this concluded hostilities on the field between the two rivals for control of the East (Niger was captured and killed, a few days later), the city of Byzantium withstood a siege by Severan troops until 196, possibly on the hope that a third rival to the principate, the governor of Britain Clodius Albinus, nominally allied with Niger, would defeat Severus in the West. The opposite occurred at the Battle of Lugdunum.


  1. ^ a b c d Potter 2004, p.104
  2. ^ a b The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare: Rome from the Late Republic to the Late Empire, Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp.130-31. ISBN 0-521-78274-0.
  3. ^ a b Erdcamp, Paul. A Companion to the Roman Army, John Wiley and Sons, 2010, p.263. ISBN 1-444-33921-4.
  4. ^ Campbell, J. B. War and Society in Imperial Rome, 31 BC-AD 284, Routledge, 2002, p.60. ISBN 0-415-27881-3.


  • Potter, David S. The Roman Empire at Bay AD 180–395, Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0-415-10058-5.

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