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Manzikert Battle , painting fom Istanbul Military Mueum
BATTLE OF MANZIKERT 1071
THE BEGINNING of THE END OF AN EMPIRE

 

 

Since the last 1000 years before the Battle of Manzikert, Asia Minor and surroundings were being dominated by Byzantine Empire that is also known as ''Eastern Roman Empire'' by some.  The Battle of Manzikert was fought between this powerfull Byzantine Empire and the growing Seljuk Empire on 26 August 1071 near the location known as ''Manzikert,(Malazgirt in Turkish). The battle ends with the results of defeating of the Byzantine army and the capture of the Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes. This result played an important role in undermining process of Byzantine authority in Anatolia and Armenia and allowed for the gradual Turkification of Anatolia. After the Seljuks opened the grand gate to the Anatolia many Turkish Nomadic tribes immigrated to the Asia Minor. 

The battle was conducted by the professional soldiers from the eastern and western tagmata, as large numbers of mercenaries and soldiers from Anatolian inhabitants fled early from the battle area. The defeat also caused to civil conflicts and an economic crisis that weakened the Byzantine Empire's ability to defend its borders. This led to the mass movement of Turks into central Anatolia—by 1080, an area of 78,000 square kilometres had been gained by the Seljuk Turks. 
Although the Byzantine Empire had remained strong and powerful in the Middle Ages, it began to decline under the reign of the militarily incompetent Constantine IX and again under Constantine X. 
One of the reason of This remaining strength was, of course of two channels saparating Asia From Europe side.

BATTLE OF MANZIKERT / MALAZGIRT 1071
THE BEGINNING of THE END OF AN EMPIRE
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Manzikert map

Before the battle;
In about 1053 Constantine IX disbanded the so called "Iberian Army", which consisted of 50,000 men. All the Greek historians agree that by demobilizing these soldiers Constantine did catastrophic harm to the Empire's eastern defenses. 

There was a truce with Konstantine and the Seljuks that lasted until 1064, but a large Seljuk army under the control of Alp Arslan (whose real name was Mohammad Bin davud Chaghri) captured the city of Ani, after a siege of 25 days. After capturing the city its population was slaughtered.

In 1068 Romanos IV took power, and after some speedy military reforms entrusted Manuel Comnenus to lead an expedition against the Seljuks. Manuel captured Hierapolis Bambyce in Syria, next thwarted a Turkish attack against Iconium with a counter-attack, but was then defeated and captured by the Seljuks. Despite his success Alp Arslan quickly seeked a peace treaty with the Byzantines, signed in 1069; by seeing that the Fatimids in Egypt are his main enemy.

In February 1071, Romanos Diogenes sent envoys to Alp Arslan to renew the 1069 treaty, and Alparslan who was desiring to secure his northern flank against attack, eagerly agreed.  Than, he Abandoned the siege of Edessa, and led his army to attack Aleppo which was under control of Fatımids. 
However, the peace offer of Diogenes was a fraud conducted in order to deliberate distraction. He then, led a large army into Armenia to recover the lost fortresses before the Seljuks had time to respond.

Manzikert Seljuks

The Byzantine army was consisted of about 5,000 professional troops from the western provinces and probably  the same number from the eastern provinces. 
There were also 500 Frankish and Norman mercenaries commanded by Roussel de Bailleul, some Turkic tribes like pechenegs and Bulgarian mercenaries, the troops of the duke of Antioch, a contingent of Georgian and Armenian troops and some of the Varangian Guards.  They were all total around 40,000 men. The quantity of the provincial troops had been decreased by the Emperor considering that they more likely can be involved in politics in comparison to mercenaries.

The march all across Asia Minor was long and difficult and Romanos couldn't gain the respect of his troops for the reason of bringing a luxurious baggage train along with him. The local population also suffered some plundering by Frankish mercenaries. The expedition rested at Sebasteia on the river Halys, reaching Theodosiopolis in June 1071.

Considering that Alp Arslan was either far away & busy with Fatımids, Romanos marched towards Lake Van to retake Manzikert and the nearby fortress of Khliat if possible. But, Alp Arslan was already in the area with allies and 30,000 cavalry from Aleppo and Mousul. He was aware exactly where Romanos was, while Romanos was completely unaware of his opponent's movements.

Believing that Alparslan was away, Romanos acted with consfidence and ordered his general Joseph Tarchaniotes to take some of the regular troops and the Varangians and accompany the Pechenegs and Franks to retake Khliat retake, while himself and the rest of the army would march to Manzikert. 
This strict decision split the forces into halves of about 20,000 men each. Manzikert Battle was held between 20.000 men of Romanos and Alparslan's forces and resdulted with a certain defeat of Byzantine army. The destiny of the army sent off with Tarchaniotes is not known. Some Islamic sources, reports that Alp Arslan smashed that army, but Roman sources do not mention mention of any such encounter.  Tarchaniotes could have fled at the sight of the Seljuk Sultan seeing the power of the Seljuk army but it is an unlikely event considering the reputation of the Roman general.

Manzikert battle
Alp Arslan onderwerpt Romanos IV Diogene

Alp Arslan summoned his army and gave an encouraging message that he was ready to die in battle. Romanos was unaware of the loss of Tarchaneiotes and continued to Manzikert, which he easily captured on 23 August.  The Seljuks responded with heavy incursions of bowmen. The next day, Seljuk army was discovered and byzantine troops forced to retreat back to Manzikert. Romanos still wasn't believing that this was Alp Arslan's full army & sent the Armenian general Basilakes and some cavalry to attack. The cavalry was destroyed and Basilakes taken prisoner. Romanos drew up his troops into formation and sent the left wing out under Bryennios, who was almost surrounded by Turks and was forced to retreat once more. The Seljuk forces hid among the nearby hills for the night, making it nearly impossible for Romanos to counterattack.

On 25 August, some of Romanos' Turkic mercenaries came into contact with their Seljuk kin and deserted. The Emperor attempted to recall Tarchaneiotes, who was no longer in the area. There were no engagements that day, but on 26 August the Byzantine army gathered itself into a proper battle formation and began to march on the Turkish positions. Andronikos Doukas led the reserve forces in the rear. The Seljuks were organized into the usual crescent formation about four kilometres away. 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 Alp Arslan's camp by the end of the afternoon. However, the right and left wings, had most of the damage. The Seljuk cavalry simply used classic hit and run tactics of steppe warriors. By the time night fell, Romanos was forced to order a withdrawal, however, the right wing misunderstood the order, and Doukas, marched back to the camp outside Manzikert, rather than covering the emperor's retreat. So, the Seljuks seized the opportunity and attacked. The Byzantine right wing was almost immediately routed, thinking they were betrayed either by the Armenians or the army's Turkish auxiliaries. 
Some authors suppose that Armenians were the first to flee and they all managed to get away, while by contrast the Turkish auxiliaries remained loyal to the end. 
Other sources suggest that Armenian infantry were stoutly resisting and not turning tail and did not abandon the emperor like the others adding that In the end, the emperor's personal troops and Armenian foot soldiers suffered the heaviest casualties in the Byzantine army. 
The left wing under Bryennios held out a little longer but was also soon routed. The remnants of the Byzantine centre, including the Emperor and the Varangian Guard, were encircled by the Seljuks. Finally, Romanos was injured and taken prisoner. 
By dawn, the professional core of the Byzantine army had been destroyed whilst many of the peasant troops under the command of Andronikus had fled.

Captivity of Romanos Diogenes

When Emperor was conducted into the presence of Seljuk Sultan, he couldn't believe that the blood and dirt covered man was the mighty Emperor of the Romans. After discovering his identity, he placed his boot on the Emperor's neck and forced him to kiss the ground.  A famous conversation is also reported to have taken place:

Alp Arslan: "What would you do if I were brought before you as a prisoner?"

Romanos: "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."

Alp Arslan treated Romanos with considerable kindness and again offered the terms of peace that he had offered prior to the battle.
Romanos remained a captive of the Sultan for a week. During this time, the Sultan allowed Romanos to eat at his table whilst concessions were agreed upon: Antioch, Edessa, Hierapolis, and Manzikert were to be surrendered.  This would have left the vital core of Anatolia untouched. A payment of 10 million gold pieces demanded by the Sultan as a ransom for Romanos was deemed as too high by the latter, so the Sultan reduced its short-term expense by asking for 1.5 million gold pieces as an initial payment instead. Besides, a royal marriage alliance was prepared between Alp Arslan's son and Romanos’ daughter. The Sultan then gave Romanos  an escort of two emirs and one hundred Mamluks on his route to Constantinople.

 
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