The news of the debacle at the River inflamed Ctesiphon. A second Persian army had been cut to pieces by this new and unexpected force emerging out of the barren wastes of Arabia. Each of the two Persian army commanders had been an illustrious imperial figure, a 100,000 dirham-man. And not only these two, but two other first-rate generals had been slain by the enemy. It was unbelievable! Considering that this new enemy had never been known for any advanced military organisation, these two defeats seemed like nightmares-frightening but unreal.
Emperor Ardsheer decided to take no chances. He ordered the concentration of another two armies; and he gave this order on the very day on which the Battle of the River was fought. This may surprise the reader, for the battlefield was 300 miles from Ctesiphon by road. But the Persians had a remarkable system of military communication. Before battle they would station a line of men, picked for their powerful voices, at shouting distance one from another, all the way from the battlefield to the capital. Hundreds of men would be used to form this line. Each event on the battlefield would be shouted by A to B; by B to C; by C to D; and so on.2 Thus every action on the battlefield would be known to the Emperor in a few hours.
Following the orders of the Emperor, Persian warriors began to concentrate at the imperial capital. They came from all towns and garrisons except those manning the western frontier with the Eastern Roman Empire. In a few days the first army was ready.
The Persian court expected the Muslims to proceed along the Euphrates to North-Western Iraq. The Persians understood the Arab mind well enough to know that no Arab force would move far from the desert so long as there were opposing forces within striking distance of its rear and its route to the desert. Expecting the Muslims army to move west, Ardsheer picked on Walaja as the place at which to stop Khalid and destroy his army. (See Map 10.)3
The first of the new Persian armies raised at Ctesiphon was placed under the command of Andarzaghar, who until recently had been military governor of the frontier province of Khurasan and was held in high esteem by Persian and Arab alike. He was a Persian born among the Arabs of Iraq. He had grown up among the Arabs and, unlike most Persians of his class, was genuinely fond of them.
Andarzaghar was ordered to move his army to Walaja, where he would soon be joined by the second army. He set off from Ctesiphon, moved along the east bank of the Tigris, crossed the Tigris at Kaskar,4 moved south-west to the Euphrates, near Walaja, crossed the Euphrates and established his camp at Walaja. Before setting out from the capital he had sent couriers to many Arab tribes which he knew; and on his way to, Walaja he picked up thousands of Arabs who were willing to fight under his standard. He had also met and taken command of the remnants of the army of Qarin. When he arrived at Walaja he was delighted with the strength of his army. Patiently he waited for Bahman who was to join him in a few days.
Bahman was the commander of the second army. One of the top personalities of the Persian military hierarchy, he too was a 100,000 dirham-man. He was ordered by the Emperor to take the second army, when ready, to Walaja where Andarzaghar would await him. Bahman would be in over-all command of both the armies, and with this enormous might would fight and destroy the Muslim army in one great battle.
1. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Dar Abi Hayyan, Cairo, 1st ed. 1416/1996, Vol. 6 P. 421.
2. Tabari: Vol. 3, p. 43.
3. No trace remains of Walaja. According to Yaqut (Vol. 4, p. 939), it was east of the Kufa-Makkah road, and a well-watered region stretched between it and Hira. Musil (p. 293) places it near Ain Zahik, which, though still known by that name to the local inhabitants of the region, is marked on maps as Ain-ul-Muhari and is 5 miles south-south-west of Shinafiya. The area of Walaja, now completely barren, was then very fertile.
4. This was the place where Wasit was founded in 83 Hijri. In fact Kaskar became the eastern part of Wasit.