1071AD Battle of Manzikert - Seljuk Turks begin destruction of Byzantine (1st Christian) Empire

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Battle of Manzikert

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Battle of Manzikert
Part of the Byzantine-Seljuk wars
thumb.

In this 15th-century French miniature depicting the Battle of Manzikert, the combatants are clad in contemporary Western European armour.

DateAugust 26, 1071
LocationManzikert, Armenia (modern Malazgirt, Turkey)
ResultDecisive Seljuk victory
Combatants
Byzantine Empire Great Seljuk Sultanate
Commanders
Romanus IV #,
Nikephoros Bryennios,
Theodore Alyates,
Andronikos Doukas
Alp Arslan
Strength
~ 20,000 [2]
(40,000 initial)

Perhaps some 70,000[1][2]

~ 20,000 [3] - 70,000[3]
Casualties
~ 8,000 [4]Unknown

The Battle of Manzikert, or Malazgirt was fought between the Byzantine Empire and Seljuq forces led by Alp Arslan on August 26, 1071 near Manzikert, Armenia (modern Malazgirt, Turkey) in the Basprakania [4] theme (province) of the Empire. It resulted in the defeat of the Byzantine Empire and the capture of Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes. The Battle of Manzikert played an important role in breaking the Byzantine resistance and preparing the way for the Turkish settlement in Anatolia.[5]

Contents

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[edit] Background

Although the Byzantine Empire had remained a strong and powerful entity in the Middle Ages,[6] the Kingdom began to decline under the reign of the militarily incompetent Constantine IX and again under Constantine X - a brief two year rule of reform under Isaac I Komnenus only delaying the decay of the Byzantine military.[7] It was under Constantine IX's reign that the Byzantines first came into contact with the Seljuk Turks, the latter attempting to anex Ani in Armenia. Rather than deal with the problem by force of arms, Constantine IX signed a truce. The truce did not last; in 1063 the Great Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan came to power and thus the invasion of Armenia, halted in 1045, began again.

During the 1060s, the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan allowed his Turkish allies (Turks and Turkmens), as well as the Kurds, to migrate towards Armenia and Asia Minor. In 1064, they conquered the Armenian capital at Ani.[6] Constantine X (successor to Isaac Komnenus) did much discredit to his predecessor - in 1067 Armenia was taken by the Turks, followed by Caesarea.[8] In 1068, Romanos IV took power and after a few speedy military reforms led an expedition against the Seljuks, allowing him to capture the city of Hierapolis Bambyce in Syria. A Turkic attack against Iconium was thwarted when a Byzantine counter from Syria ended in victory.[9] In 1070, Romanus led a second expedition towards Malazgirt (then known as Manzikert) in the eastern end of Anatolia (in today's Muş Province), where a Byzantine fortress had been captured by the Seljuks, and offered a treaty with Alp Arslan; Romanos would give back Hierapolis if Arslan gave up the siege of Edessa (Urfa). Romanos threatened war if Alp Arslan did not comply, and prepared his troops anyway, expecting the sultan to decline his offer, which he did.

[edit] Preparations

Accompanying Romanos was Andronikos Doukas, the co-regent and a direct rival. The army consisted of about 5,000 Byzantine troops from the western provinces and probably about the same number from the eastern provinces; 500 Frankish and Norman mercenaries under Roussel de Bailleul; some Turkish, Bulgarian, and Pecheneg mercenaries; infantry under the duke of Antioch; a contingent of Armenian troops; and some (but not all) of the Varangian Guard, to total around 60-70,000 troops.[10] The quality of the Byzantine Thematic (provincial) troops had declined in the years prior to the succession of Romanus as the central government diverted resources to the recruitment of mercenaries who were considered less likely to become involved in coups or factional fighting within the Empire. Even when mercenaries were used, they were disbanded after to save money.

The march across Asia Minor was long and difficult, and Romanos did not endear himself to his troops by bringing a luxurious baggage train along with him; the Byzantine population also suffered some plundering by Romanos' Frankish mercenaries, whom he was forced to dismiss. The expedition first rested at Sebasteia on the Halys, and reached Theodosiopolis in June 1071. There, some of his generals suggested continuing the march into Seljuk territory and catching Arslan before he was ready. Some of the other generals, including Nikephoros Bryennios, suggested they wait there and fortify their position. Eventually it was decided to continue the march.

Thinking that Alp Arslan was either further away or not coming at all, Romanos marched towards Lake Van expecting to retake Manzikert rather quickly, as well as the nearby fortress of Khliat if possible. However, Arslan was actually in Armenia, with 30,000 cavalry from Aleppo, Mosul, and his other allies. Arslan's spies knew exactly where Romanus was, while Romanos was completely unaware of his opponent's movements.

Romanos ordered his general Joseph Tarchaneiotes to take some of the Byzantine troops and Varangians and accompany the Pechenegs and Franks to Khliat, while Romanos and the rest of the army marched to Manzikert. This split the forces in half, each taking about 30,000 men.[10] It is unknown what happened to the army sent off with Joseph Tarchaneiotes - according to Islamic sources, Alp Arslan smashed his army; however Byzantine sources remain quiet of any such encounter,[10] whilst Attaleiates suggests that Tarchaneiotes fled at the sight of the Seljuk Sultan - an unlikely event considering the reputation of the Byzantine general. Either way, Romanus' army was reduced to less than half his planned 60-70,000.[10]

[edit] The battle

Byzantine territory (purple), Byzantine attacks (red) and Seljuk attacks (green).
Byzantine territory (purple), Byzantine attacks (red) and Seljuk attacks (green).

Romanus was unaware of the loss of Tarchaneiotes and continued to Manzikert, even thpugh he was, which he easily captured on August 23. The Seljuks responded with heavy incursions by bowmen The next day some foraging parties under Bryennios discovered the Seljuk force and were forced to retreat back to Manzikert. The Armenian general Basilaces was sent out with some cavalry, as Romanos did not believe this was Arslan's full army; the cavalry was destroyed and Basilaces taken prisoner. Romanos drew up his troops into formation and sent the left wing out under Bryennios, who was almost surrounded by the quickly approaching Turks and was forced to retreat once more. The Turks hid among the nearby hills for the night, making it nearly impossible for Romanus to send a counterattack.

On August 25, some of Romanos' Turkish mercenaries came into contact with their Seljuk relatives and deserted. Romanos then rejected a Seljuk peace embassy[11] as he wanted to settle the Turkish problem with a decisive military victory and understood that raising another army would be both difficult and expensive. The Emperor attempted to recall Tarchaneiotes, who was no longer in the area. There were no engagements that day, but on August 26 the Byzantine army gathered itself into a proper battle formation and began to march on the Turkish positions, with the left wing under Bryennios, the right wing under Theodore Alyates, and the centre under the emperor. Andronikos Doukas led the reserve forces in the rear - a foolish mistake, considering the loyalties of the Dukas. The Seljuks were organized into a crescent formation about four kilometres away,[11] with Arslan observing events from a safe distance. Seljuk archers attacked the Byzantines as they drew closer; the centre of their crescent continually moved backwards while the wings moved to surround the Byzantine troops.

The Byzantines held off the arrow attacks and captured Arslan's camp by the end of the afternoon. However, the right and left wings, where the arrows did most of their damage, almost broke up when individual units tried to force the Seljuks into a pitched battle; the Seljuk cavalry simply fled when challenged, the classic hit and run tactics of steppe warriors. With the Seljuks avoiding battle,[9] Romanos was forced to order a withdrawal by the time night fell.[9] However, the right wing misunderstood the order, and Doukas, as an enemy of Romanos, deliberately ignored the emperor and marched back to the camp outside Manzikert, rather than covering the emperor's retreat. Now that the Byzantines were thoroughly confused, the Seljuks seized the opportunity and attacked.[9] The Byzantine right wing was routed; the left under Bryennios held out a little longer but was soon routed as well.[12] The remnants of the Byzantine centre, including the Emperor and the Varangian Guard, were encircled by the Seljuks. Romanus was injured, and taken prisoner by the Seljuks. The survivors were the many who fled the field and were pursued throughout the night; by dawn, the professional core of the Byzantine army had been destroyed but many of the Peasant troops and levies who had been under the command of Andronikus fled.[12]

[edit] Captivity of Romanus Diogenes

When the Emperor Romanos IV was conducted into the presence of Alp Arslan, he refused to believe that the bloodied and tattered man covered in dirt was the mighty Emperor of the Romans. After discovering the identity of the Emperor, he treated him with considerable kindness, and again offered the terms of peace which he had offered previous to the battle - all of course, after the Seljuk Sultan had forced his neck to the ground, placed his boot upon it and made Romanus kiss the ground before him.[12] He was also loaded with presents and Alp Arslan had him respectfully escorted by a military guard to his own forces. But prior to that, when he first was brought to the Sultan, this famous conversation is reported to have taken place:

Alp Arslan: "What would you do if I were brought before you as a prisoner?"
Romanus: "Perhaps I'd kill you, or exhibit you in the streets of Constantinople."
Alp Arslan: "My punishment is far heavier. I forgive you, and set you free."

Romanus remained a captive of the Sultan for a week. During this time, the Sultan allowed Romanus to eat at his table whilst concessions were agreed upon; Antioch, Edessa, Hieropolis and Manzikert were to be surrendered.[13] A payment of 10 million golden pieces as a ransom was deemed as too high by Romanus so the Sultan reduced its short-term expense by instead asking for 1.5 million as an initial payment followed by an annual sum of 360,000 pieces of gold.[13] Finally, Romanus would marry one of his daughters to the Sultan. The Sultan then gave Romanus and escort of two emirs and a hundred Mamelukes to Constantinople. Shortly after his return to his subjects, Romanos found his rule in serious trouble. Despite attempts to raise loyal troops, he was defeated three times in battle against the Doukas family and was deposed, blinded and exiled to the island of Proti; soon after, he died as a result of an infection caused by an injury during his brutal blinding. Romanus' last events in the Anatolian heartland that he worked so hard to defend was a public humiliation on a donkey with a rotten face.[13]

[edit] Aftermath

Despite being a complete tactical disaster and a long-term strategic catastrophe for Byzantium, Manzikert was by no means the massacre that earlier historians presumed. Modern scholars estimate that Byzantine losses were relatively low, considering that many units survived the battle intact and were fighting elsewhere within a few months. Certainly, all the commanders in the Byzantine side (Doukas, Tarchaneiotes, Bryennios, de Bailleul, and, above all, the Emperor) survived and took part in later events.

Doukas had escaped with no casualties, and quickly marched back to Constantinople where he led the coup against Romanos. Bryennios also lost few men in the rout of his wing. The Seljuks did not pursue the fleeing Byzantines, nor did they recapture Manzikert itself at this point. The Byzantine army regrouped and marched to Dokeia, where they were joined by Romanos when he was released a week later. The most serious loss materially seems to have been the emperor's extravagant baggage train.

The disaster the battle caused for the Empire was, in simplest terms, the loss of its Anatolian heartland. John Julius Norwich says in his trilogy on the Byzantine Empire that the defeat was "its death blow, though centuries remained before the remnant fell. The themes in Anatolia were literally the heart of the empire, and within decades after Manzikert, they were gone." Or, as Anna Komnene puts it a few decades after the actual battle,

...the fortunes of the Roman Empire had sunk to their lowest ebb. For the armies of the East were dispersed in all directions, because the Turks had over-spread, and gained command of, countries between the Euxine Sea [Black Sea] and the Hellespont, and the Aegean Sea and Syrian Seas [Mediterranean Sea], and the various bays, especially those which wash Pamphylia, Cilicia, and empty themselves into the Egyptian Sea [Mediterranean Sea].[5]

Years and decades later, Manzikert came to be seen as a disaster for the Empire; later sources therefore greatly exaggerate the numbers of troops and the number of casualties. Byzantine historians would often look back and lament the "disaster" of that day, pinpointing it as the moment the decline of the Empire began. It was not an immediate disaster, but the defeat showed the Seljuks that the Byzantines were not invincible — they were not the unconquerable, millennium-old Roman Empire (as both the Byzantines and Seljuks still called it). The usurpation of Andronikos Doukas also politically destabilized the empire and it was difficult to organize resistance to the Turkish migrations that followed the battle. Within a decade almost all of Asia Minor was overrun. Finally, while intrigue and deposing of Emperors had taken place before, the fate of Romanos was particularly horrific, and the destabilization caused by it also rippled through the centuries.

What followed the battle was a chain of events - of which the battle was the first link - that undermined the Empire in the years to come. They included intrigues for the throne, the horrific fate of Romanos and Roussel de Bailleul attempting to carve himself an independent kingdom in Galatia with his 3,000 Frankish, Norman and German mercenaries. He defeated the Emperor's uncle John Doukas who had come to suppress him, advancing toward the capital to destroy Chrysopolis (Üsküdar) on the Asian coast of the Bosphorus. The Empire finally turned to the spreading Seljuks to crush de Bailleul (which they did, then delivering him over). These events all interacted to create a vacuum that the Turks filled. Their choice in establishing their capital in Nikaea (İznik) in 1077 could possibly be explained by a desire to see if the Empire's struggles could present new opportunities.

In hindsight, both Byzantine and contemporary historians are unanimous in dating the decline of Byzantine fortunes to this battle. It is interpreted as one of the root causes for the later Crusades, in that the First Crusade of 1095 was originally a western response to the Byzantine emperor's call for military assistance after the loss of Anatolia. From another perspective, the West saw Manzikert as a signal that Byzantium was no longer capable of being the protector of Eastern Christianity or Christian pilgrims to the Holy Places in the Middle East.

Delbruck considers that the importance of the battle has been exaggerated; but it is clear from the evidence that as a result of it, the Empire was unable to put an effective army into the field for many years to come.

The Battle of Myriokephalon, also known as the Myriocephalum, was 'also' compared to the Battle of Manikert, as a 'pivotal' point in the "decline' of the Byzantine Empire.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Konstam, Angus (2004). The Crusades. London: Mercury Books, p. 40.
  2. ^ Norwich, John Julius (1997). A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books, p. 238.
  3. ^ David Eggenberger, An Encyclopedia of Battles, Dover Publications, 1985.
  4. ^ Hewsen, Robert H. (2001). Armenia: a historical atlas. The University of Chicago Press, p. 126. ISBN 0-226-33228-4.
  5. ^ Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann Katharine Swynford Lambton, Bernard Lewis The Cambridge History of Islam, 1977, p.231,232 [1]
  6. ^ a b Konstam, Angus (2004). The Crusades. London: Mercury Books, p. 40.
  7. ^ Norwich, John Julius (1997). A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books, p. 236.
  8. ^ Norwich, John Julius (1997). A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books, p. 237. - "The fate of Caesarea was well known"
  9. ^ a b c d Grant, R.G. (2005). Battle a Visual Journey Through 5000 Years of Combat. London: Dorling Kindersley, p. 77.
  10. ^ a b c d Norwich, John Julius (1997). A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books, p. 298.
  11. ^ a b Norwich, John Julius (1997). A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books, p. 239.
  12. ^ a b c Norwich, John Julius (1997). A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books, p. 240.
  13. ^ a b c Norwich, John Julius (1997). A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books, p. 241.

[edit] References

  • Haldon, John. The Byzantine Wars: Battles and Campaigns of the Byzantine Era, 2001. ISBN 0-7524-1795-9.
  • Treadgold, Warren. A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8047-2421-0.
  • Runciman, Sir Steven. A History of the Crusades (Volume One), Harper & Row, 1951.
  • Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: The Apogee, Viking, 1991. ISBN 0-670-80252-2.
  • Carey, Brian Todd; Allfree, Joshua B.; Cairns, John. Warfare in the Medieval World, Pen & Sword Books ltd, 2006. ISBN 1-84415-339-8
  • Konstam, Angus. Historical Atlas of The Crusades

[edit] External links