The joint history of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid Empire appears to be dominated by almost constant warfare. My understanding is that this weakened both empires to the point of making the rapid Muslim conquest of the entire Sassanid and large parts of the Eastern Roman empire possible.

Was there any significant obstacle to the two empires coming to a lasting peaceful arrangement? If so, was it "material" (e.g. stuff both needed to control) or "cultural" (e.g. the Romans never had to make lasting peace with anyone before, so didn't know how to), or some combination of both?

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    Both empires assumed that war meant strength and peace meant weakness. If nothing else, when you are at war, you know who your generals are fighting. If you are at peace, the generals may choose to use those troops to rebel, or engage in policies not endorsed by the state. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 3 '17 at 12:45
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    Really? I doubt that any rational actor would engage a minor target when an empire posing an existential threat was on the doorstep. Proxy wars were common. The question presumes the modern assumption that peace is better than war - that is not shared at the time - war & conquest were a necessary part of national income. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 3 '17 at 12:58
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    Not enough for a definitive answer, but an issue was that both Empires did have client states along their common borders (e.g. Armenia). Often wars would be caused by escalation of internal conflicts in those countries; for example a pro-Persian clan dethroning a pro-Roman king and the like. – SJuan76 Apr 3 '17 at 13:01
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    @SJuan76 - true - proxy wars are a standard way for two empires to export conflict to a client kingdom where it has less impact on domestic support. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 3 '17 at 13:06
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    Mark C Wallace - can you cite any sources for your contentions as to the 2 empires' reasons for fighting so often? I am no expert on this, but hope someone else might know, is there any evidence that religious differences between Persian Zoroastrianism and late Roman Christianity, or even the (usually) more tolerant paganism Roman paganism had anything to do with it? Also, do we know if the border regions of Mesopotamia (once a or the major centre of world civilization) and Syria were still particularly rich and lucrative areas to want to control? – Timothy Apr 3 '17 at 16:21

But they did make a lasting peace...in 628 when Kavadh II agreed to Hieraclius' terms. History took a sharp turn a few years later, when the Arabs conquered the Sassanid Empire, but the Arabs didn't impose the settlement of 628.

Perhaps you meant to ask why they didn't make a lasting peace much sooner?

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    Kavadh II agreed to end the war that Kavadh I began in 502, which had paused with an Eternal peace treaty in 532, restarted in 540, paused again with another peace treaty in 562, kicked off again in the 570s, paused again in the 590s, kicked off again in 602, and ran until 628. Kavadh II's peace only lasted because the Sassanid Empire collapsed before hostilities could resume! – sempaiscuba May 15 at 18:03
  • Of course the resumption in 602 was only because of a coup in the Roman Empire, so part of the problem was the problem that peaces between empires are personal between the emperors. Or possibly one could say that Maurice's army preferred to fight Persians rather than deal with cold Balkan winters fighting against Slavs and Avars.... – C Monsour May 15 at 22:30
  • However, the peace of 628 came about through a fantastic campaign by Hieraclius and defensive collapse by the Persians. It might not have lasted forever but, being based on a decisive military outcome, it was about as lasting a peace as you were going to get, absent total annihilation of one party. – C Monsour May 15 at 22:39
  • So the Sassanid Empire was defeated by the Eastern Roman Empire, and in less than a generation had ceased to exist in the Islamic Conquest. That's not quite the same thing as a 'lasting peace'. – sempaiscuba May 15 at 23:03
  • Well, as we learned in the last century, not even a decisive military victory like 1918 necessarily leads to a lasting peace. But how much closer can one really expect? So I don't know how to judge "lasting peace" except by whether the peace lasted, which in the case of 628, it did. – C Monsour May 16 at 6:35

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