- Mountain system that extends 1,210 kilometers from the Black Sea (q.v.) to the Caspian Sea, acting as a divide between Asia and Europe. Through this divide were several passes, the most famous being the Caspian Gates (q.v.), which steppe (q.v.) peoples from the north could penetrate if left undefended. The defense of these passes was shared mutually by Byzantium and Persia (qq.v.) from 363-422, after which Byzantium arranged to subsidize the Persian defenses. The wars with Persia during the reign of Justinian I (q.v.) included fighting in Abchasia and Lazika (qq.v.), just south of the Caucasus (q.v.) along the Black Sea (q.v.) coast, with the aim of preventing the Persians from gaining access to the Black Sea. Justinian I (q.v.) also had an interest in the region as a way of connecting with northern trade routes to China (q.v.), thus circumventing Persian middlemen who controlled the silk (q.v.) trade.
Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . John H. Rosser .
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