Battle of Manzikert

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Battle of Manzikert
Part of the Byzantine-Seljuk wars
Image:131 Bataille de Malazgirt.jpg
Date August 26, 1071
Location Manzikert, Armenia (modern Malazgirt, Turkey)
Result Decisive Seljuk victory
Byzantine Empire Seljuk Turks
Romanus IV Image:White flag icon.jpg
Nikephoros Bryennios
Theodore Alyates
Andronikos Doukas
Alp Arslan
~ 40,000 ~ 70,000
About 10,000
[citation needed]

The Battle of Manzikert, or The Battle of Malazgirt, was fought between the Byzantine Empire and Seljuk Turkish forces led by Alp Arslan on August 26, 1071 near Manzikert in the Eastern Anatolian provinces of the Empire (modern Malazgirt, Turkey). It resulted in the defeat of the Byzantine Empire and the capture of Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes.


[edit] Background

During the 1060s the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan allowed his Turkish allies to migrate towards Armenia and Asia Minor. In 1064 they conquered the Armenian capital at Ani. In 1068 Romanos IV led an expedition against them, but his slow-moving infantry could not catch the speedy Turkish cavalry, although he was able to capture the city of Hierapolis in Syria. 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 Franks and Normans 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 40,000 troops. 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.

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 of 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 John 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 probably split the forces in half, about 20,000 men each. Although it is unknown precisely what happened to Tarchaneiotes and his half of the army after this, they apparently caught sight of the Seljuks and fled, as they later appeared at Melitene and did not take part in the battle.

[edit] The battle

Romanos was unaware of the loss of Tarchaneiotes and continued to Manzikert, which he easily captured on August 23. 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 embassy and attempted to recall Tarchaneiotes, who was of course 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. The Seljuks were organized into a crescent formation about four kilometres away, 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, Romanos was forced to order a withdrawal by the time night fell. 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. The Byzantine right wing was routed; the left under Bryennios held out a little longer but was soon routed as well. Romanus was injured, and taken prisoner when the Seljuks discovered him.

When the Emperor Romanos IV was conducted into the presence of Alp Arslan, he was treated with considerable kindness, and again offered the terms of peace which he had offered previous to the battle. 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."

Shortly after his return to his subjects, Romanos was deposed, and then blinded and exiled in the island of Proti; soon after he died as a result of an infection caused by an injury during his brutal blinding.

[edit] Outcome

In line with the still ongoing discussions on the actual numbers of combatants in the confronting armies and their respective casualties, numerous sources relativize the Byzantine losses on the basis of many of their units having survived the battle intact and fighting elsewhere within a few months. Certainly, all commanders in the Byzantine side (Doukas, Tarchaneites, Bryennios, du Bailleul, and, above all, the Emperor) had survived and were going to be taking parts in later events.

Despite the defeat, Byzantine casualties were apparently relatively low. 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 loss 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 and Syrian Seas (Mediterranean Sea), and the various bays, especially those which wash Pamphylia, Cilicia, and empty themselves into the Egyptian Sea (Mediterranean Sea)."[1]

Years and decades later, Manzikert came to be seen as a disaster for the Empire; later sources greatly exaggerate the numbers of troops and the numbers 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, however, an immediate disaster; most units survived intact and were fighting in the Balkans or elsewhere in Asia Minor within a few months. On the other hand, 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 a resistance to the Turkish migrations that followed the battle. Within the next few decades almost all of Asia Minor was overrun by the Seljuks. 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 ring, that were going to destabilize the Empire in the years after the battle. The intrigues for the throne, the horrific fate of Romanos, Roussel de Bailleul attempting to carve himself an independent kingdom in Galatia with his 3000 Frank, Norman and German mercenaries, defeating 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 turning to the spreading Seljuks to conclude an agreement asking them to overcome de Bailleul (which they did, then delivering him over), all acted in interaction to create a vacuum which the Turks have 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.

[edit] References

  • John Haldon, The Byzantine wars: battles and campaigns of the Byzantine era, 2001. ISBN 0-7524-1795-9.
  • Warren Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8047-2421-0.
  • Sir Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades (Volume One), Harper & Row, 1951.
  • John Julius Norwich, Byzantium: The Apogee, Viking, 1991. ISBN 0-670-80252-2.cs:Bitva u Mantzikertu

de:Schlacht von Mantzikert es:Manzikert fr:Bataille de Manzikert it:Battaglia di Manzicerta he:קרב מנזיקרט nl:Slag bij Manzikert ja:マラズギルトの戦い pl:Bitwa pod Manzikert sr:Битка код Манцикерта fi:Manzikertin taistelu sv:Slaget vid Manzikert tr:Malazgirt Savaşı

Battle of Manzikert

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