In the late sixth century, Sasanian Empire of Persia and the Ethiopia-based Aksumite Empire fought a series of wars over control of the Himyarite Kingdom in Yemen, Southern Arabia. After the Battle of Hadhramaut and the Siege of Sana'a in 570, the Aksumites were expelled from the Arabian peninsula. They had re-established their power there by 575 or 578, when another Persian army invaded Yemen and re-established the deposed king on his throne as their client. It marked the end of Ethiopian rule in Arabia.
Around 520, Kaleb of Axum had sent an expedition to Yemen against the Jewish Himyarite king Dhu Nuwas, who was persecuting the Christian community there. Dhu Nuwas was deposed and killed and Kaleb appointed a Christian Himyarite, Esimiphaios ("Sumuafa Ashawa"), as his viceroy. However, around 525 this viceroy was deposed by the Aksumite general Abraha. After Abraha's death, his son Masruq ibn Abraha continued the Axumite vice-royalty in Yemen, resuming payment of tribute to Axum. However, his half-brother Ma'd-Karib revolted. After being denied by Justinian, Ma'd-Karib sought help from Khosrow I, the Sasanian Persian Emperor.
Khosrau sent his general Vahrez and his son Nawzadh to Yemen at the head of a small expeditionary force of eight hundred cavalrymen of Dailamite origin, in one version men of good birth who had been consigned to prison but were now given a chance to redeem themselves by achieving victory. The Persian army, onboard eight ships, sailed around the coasts of the Arabian peninsula; and, although two of the ships were wrecked, the rest landed in Hadramaut. The strength of the Persian expeditionary force is variously given as 3,600, 7,500 (Ibn Qutaiba), or 800 (al-Tabari). A modern estimate is 16,000. The army sailed from the port of Obolla, seized the Bahrain Islands, and headed to Sohar, the capital of Oman (al-Tabari was apparently ignorant of the conquest of Oman). He then captured Dhofar and Hadhramut, before landing at Aden
During the invasion, Nawzadh was killed, which made Vahriz furious at Masruq, the Ethiopian ruler of Yemen. Vahriz then met Masruq in battle and killed the latter with an arrow at Battle of Hadhramaut, which made the Ethiopians flee.
He then approached Sana'a, where he is known to have said: "My banner shall never enter [a town] lowered! Break down the gateway!"
After having captured Sana'a, Vahrez restored Sayf ibn Dhi-Yazan to his throne as a vassal of the Sasanian Empire. Al-Tabari reports that the main reason behind victory of Vahrez over the Axumites was the use of the panjigan (probably a ballista equipped with heavy darts), a piece of military technology with which the local peoples were utterly unfamiliar. After having conquered Yemen, Vahrez then returned to Persia with a great amount of booty.
However, in 575 or 578, the vassal king was killed by the Ethiopians, which forced Vahrez to return to Yemen with a force of 4000 men, and expel the Ethiopians once again. He then made Maʿdī Karib, the son of Sayf, the new king of Yemen. Vahriz was then appointed as governor of Yemen by Khosrau I, which would remain in Sasanian hands until the arrival of Islam. Vahriz was succeeded by his son Marzbān as governor of Yemen.
Vahrez made Maʿdī Karib, the son of Sayf, the new king of Yemen. Vahrez was then appointed as governor of Yemen by Khosrau I, which would remain in Sasanian hands until the arrival of Islam. Vahriz was succeeded by his son Marzbān as governor of Yemen.
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