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Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

September 2 2012 at 8:15 AM
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Romulus  (Login romulus007)

Everyone talks of the 4th crusade or battle of Manzikert, but this one is equally important in my opinion.

An enormous Byzantine army with siege machines etc was on its way to Konya to completely crush the Seljuks. Due to excessive bravado the army which was lead by the Emperor Manuel allowed themselves to enter a valley, similar to those we see today the PKK ambushing inside, and the army was outflanked by Seljuks and attacked from the rear. It was real tactical disaster. It took place near Lake Beysehir which is some miles west of Konya in the middle of Anatolia.

Interesting how there can be such catastrophic consequences just from a tactical error (we are not talking grand strategy here). But Byzantium never recovered from this.... sad.gif

The Battle of Myriokephalon, also known as the Myriocephalum, or Miryokefalon Sava in Turkish, was a battle between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Turks in Phrygia on September 17, 1176. The battle was a strategic reverse for the Byzantine forces, who were ambushed when moving through a mountain pass. It was to be the final, unsuccessful effort by the Byzantines to recover the interior of Anatolia from the Seljuk Turks.

Between 1158 and 1161 a series of Byzantine campaigns against the Seljuk Turks of the Sultanate of Rm resulted in a treaty favourable to the Empire, with the sultan recognising a form of subordination to the Byzantine emperor. Immediately after peace was negotiated the Seljuk sultan Kilij Arslan II visited Constantinople where he was treated by Emperor Manuel I Komnenos as both an honoured guest and an imperial vassal. Following this event there was no overt hostility between the two powers for many years. It was a fragile peace, however, as the Seljuks wanted to push from the arid central plateau of Asia Minor into the more fertile coastal lands, while the Byzantines wanted to recover the Anatolian territory they had lost since the Battle of Manzikert one hundred years earlier.[9]

During the long peace with the Seljuks Manuel was able to concentrate his military power in other theatres. In the west he defeated Hungary and imposed Byzantine control over all the Balkans. In the east he recovered Cilicia from local Armenian dynasts and managed to reduce the Crusader Principality of Antioch to vassal status. However, the peace with Byzantium also allowed Killij Arslan to eliminate internal rivals and strengthen his military resources. When the strongest Muslim ruler in Syria Nur ad-Din Zangi died in 1174, his successor Saladin was more concerned with Egypt and Palestine than the territory bordering the Empire. This shift in power gave Kilij Arslan the freedom to destroy the Danishmend emirates of eastern Anatolia and also eject his brother Shahinshah from his lands near Ankara. Shahinshah, who was Manuel's vassal, and the Danishmend emirs fled to the protection of Byzantium. In 1175 the peace between Byzantium and the Sultanate of Rm fell apart when Kilij Arslan refused to hand over to the Byzantines, as he was obliged to do by treaty, a considerable proportion of the territory he had recently conquered from the Danishmends.[10]

The army gathered at Lopadion by Manuel was supposedly so large that it spread across ten miles, and marched towards the border with the Seljuks via Laodicea, Chonae, Lampe, Celaenae, Choma and Antioch. Arslan tried to negotiate but Manuel was convinced of his superiority and rejected a new peace.[11] He sent part of the army under Andronikos Vatatzes towards Amasia while his larger force marched towards the Seljuk capital at Iconium (Konya). Both routes were through heavily wooded regions, where the Turks could easily hide and set up ambushes; the army moving towards Amasia was destroyed in one such ambush. The Turks later displayed Andronikos's head, impaled on a lance, during the fighting at Myriokephalon.[12]

The Turks also destroyed crops and poisoned water supplies to make Manuel's march more difficult. Arslan harassed the Byzantine army in order to force it into the Meander valley, and specifically the mountain pass of Tzivritze near the fortress of Myriokephalon. Once at the pass Manuel decided to attack, despite the danger from further ambushes, and also despite the fact that he could have attempted to bring the Turks out of their positions to fight them on the nearby plain of Philomelion, the site of an earlier victory won by his grandfather Alexios. The lack of forage, and water for his troops, and the fact that dysentery had broken out in his army may have induced Manuel to decide to force the pass regardless of the danger of ambush.[13]

All sources agree that the Byzantine force was of exceptional size. Historian John Haldon estimates the army at 25,000 men, while John Birkenmeier puts it at 35,000 men.[3][14] The latter number is derived from the fact that sources indicated a supply train of 3,000 wagons accompanied the army, which was enough to support 3040,000 men.[4] Birkenmeier believes that the army contained 25,000 Byzantine troops and the rest included an allied contingent of Hungarians sent by Manuel's kinsman Bla III of Hungary and tributary forces supplied by the Principality of Antioch and Serbia.[15][16]

The Byzantine army was divided into a number of divisions, which entered the pass in the following order: a vanguard, largely of infantry (the other divisions being composed of a mix of infantry and cavalry); the main division (of eastern and western Tagmata); then the right wing (largely composed of Antiochenes and other Westerners), led by Baldwin of Antioch (Manuel's brother-in-law); the baggage and siege trains; the Byzantine left wing, led by Theodore Mavrozomes and John Kantakouzenos; the emperor and his picked troops; and finally the rear division under the experienced general Andronikos Kontostephanos.[4][17] No estimate of Seljuk numbers has been possible. However, primary sources have provided figures for other Seljuk campaigns. In 1160, John Kontostephanos defeated a force of 22,000 Seljuk Turks and about 2024,000 Turks invaded the Maeander river valley in 1177.[4][18] These numbers offer a reasonable range for the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum's military strength.

The Byzantine vanguard was the first to encounter Arslan's troops, and went through the pass with few casualties, as did the main division. Possibly the Turks had not yet fully deployed in their positions.[19] These divisions sent their infantry up onto the slopes to dislodge the Seljuk soldiers, who were forced to withdraw to higher ground. The following divisions did not take this precaution, also they were negligent in not maintaining a defensive formation of closed ranks and they did not deploy their archers effectively.[20] By the time the first two Byzantine divisions exited the far end of the pass, the rear was just about to enter; this allowed the Turks to close their trap on those divisions still within the pass. The Turkish attack, descending from the heights, fell especially heavily on the Byzantine right wing. This division seems to have quickly lost cohesion and been broken, soldiers fleeing one ambush often running into another. Heavy casualties were sustained by the right wing and its commander, Baldwin, was killed.[21] The Turks then concentrated their attacks on the baggage and siege trains, shooting down the draught animals and choking the roadway. The left wing division also suffered significant casualties and one of its leaders, John Kantakouzenos, was slain when fighting alone against a band of Seljuk soldiers.[22] The remaining Byzantine troops were panicked by the carnage in front of them and the realisation that the Turks had also begun to attack their rear. The sudden descent of a blinding dust-storm did nothing to improve the morale or organisation of the Byzantine forces, though it must have confused the Seljuk troops also.

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This message has been edited by romulus007 on Sep 2, 2012 8:16 AM


 
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Romulus
(Login romulus007)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 2 2012, 8:17 AM 

At this point, Manuel seems to have suffered a crisis of confidence and reputedly sat down, passively awaiting his fate and that of his army.[23]

The emperor was eventually roused by his officers, re-established discipline and organised his forces into a defensive formation; when formed up, they pushed their way past the wreck of the baggage and out of the pass.[23] Debouching from the pass they rejoined the unscathed van and main divisions, commanded by John and Andronikos Angelos, Constantine Makrodoukas and Andronikos Lampardas. Whilst the rest of the army had been under attack in the pass the troops of the van and main divisions had constructed a fortified encampment. The rear division, under Andronikos Kontostephanos, arrived at the camp somewhat later than the emperor, having suffered few casualties.[24]

The night was spent in successfully repulsing further attacks by Seljuk mounted archers.[23] Choniates states that Manuel considered abandoning his troops but was shamed into staying by the scathing words of an anonymous soldier and the disapproval of a shocked Kontostephanos.[25] However, this would appear to be hyperbole on the historian's part as Manuel would have placed himself in much greater danger by flight than if he remained in the midst of his army. The following day, the Turks circled the camp firing arrows; Manuel ordered two counterattacks, led by John Angelos and Constantine Makrodoukas respectively, but there was no renewal of a general action

Both sides, it appears, had suffered casualties, though their extent is difficult to quantify. As the Byzantine army moved back through the pass after the battle it was seen that the dead had been scalped and their genitals mutilated, "It was said that the Turks took these measures so that the circumcised could not be distinguished from the uncircumcised and the victory therefore disputed and contested since many had fallen on both sides."[27] Most importantly Manuel's siege equipment had been captured and destroyed. The Byzantines, without any means of attacking Iconium, were now no longer in a position to continue the campaign. Also the Seljuk Sultan was keen for peace to be restored as soon as possible; he sent an envoy named Gabras, together with gifts of a Nisaean warhorse and a sword, to Manuel in order to negotiate a truce.[28] As a result of these negotiations, the Byzantine army was to be allowed to retreat unmolested on condition that Manuel destroy his forts and evacuate the garrisons at Dorylaeum and Sublaeum in the Byzantine-Seljuk border lands.[29] However, despite Kilij Arslan's protestations of good faith, the retreat of the Byzantine army was harassed by the attacks of Turcoman tribesmen (over whom Kilij Arslan probably had very little control). This, taken with an earlier failure by the sultan to keep his side of a treaty signed in 1162, gave Manuel an excuse to avoid observing the terms of this new arrangement in their entirety. He therefore demolished the fortifications of the less important fortress of Sublaeum but left Dorylaeum intact.[30]

Manuel himself compared his defeat to that of Manzikert, sending a message to Constantinople ahead of his army likening his fate to that of Romanos Diogenes. However, in the same message he: "Then extolled the treaties made with the sultan, boasting that these had been concluded beneath his own banner which had waved in the wind in view of the enemy's front line so that trembling and fear fell upon them."[31] It is notable that it was the sultan who initiated peace proposals by sending an envoy to Manuel and not the reverse. The conclusion that Kilij Arslan, though negotiating from a position of strength, did not consider that his forces were capable of destroying the Byzantine army is inescapable. A possible reason for Kilij Arslan's reluctance to renew the battle is that a large proportion of his irregular troops may have been far more interested in securing the plunder they had taken than in continuing the fight, thus leaving his army seriously weakened

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Myriokephalon



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WAFFer
(Login GavurYunan)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 2 2012, 8:40 AM 

The empire lost a lot of territoty after Murokefalon.Territory was also lost in the Balkans to various enemies. The remaining territories after 1176 included the Greek peninsula, Macedonia, Thrace, and the coastal areas of Minor Asia, including Pontus. In other words, only the provinces with Greek population remained.

The Europeans started mocking Manuel Komnenos:

"Look at Manuel. He is pretending to be the Emperor of the Romans, while in fact he is only the King of the GREEKS"

..



"The Turkish Cypriots looted, robbed and ravaged Greek Cypriot properties. They must start producing instead of being mere consumers. The Turkish Cypriots wanted to live without working!"

Major-General Bedrettin Demirel (1917-1988)
Commander of the Turkish Invasion Forces in 1974

 
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Romulus
(Login romulus007)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 3 2012, 11:46 AM 

my point about myriokephalon was simple

the army of Manuel was on its way with a force of 25,000 men to completely wipe out the Seljuks at Konya

because of arrogance and hot-headedness they plunged into a tactically disadvantageous situation

they were attacked from the flanks and the rear but Seljuk ambushers

so in other words a tactical error lead to the end of the golden age of byzantium, byzantium was never able to independently defend itself again... this finally led to the squabbles between factions and the catastrophic defeat at the hands of the IVth crusade...



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Romulus
(Login romulus007)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 3 2012, 11:47 AM 

by the way this isn't an exclusive "greeks only" thread or series of lectures, anybody with an interest in the history of the region and byzantinology is free to post their view

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Kallimachos
(Login Kallimachos)
Elite WAFF Vet Club

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 3 2012, 1:59 PM 

From a historical point of view we have to understand the following. Most populations of Anatolia were not Greek, but instead they were Hellenized. They were Greek for x years because it was convenient for them to be, just as it was convenient for them to be Roman and again Greek during the Hellenistic period.

Most of the non-Greek anatolian population despised the Byzantine Greeks due to their high taxes. While the Turks were not charging any taxes to anyone who converted, which is why the Byzantine Greeks lost Anatolia relatively fast.

Now if we look at Moorish Spain though, the same did not happen. Spain was indeed conquered, but the Spaniards did not convert en masse because they have a national consciousness. The Anatolians have been Hittite, Lydian, Carian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Greek, and now Turk.

Which is why the Spaniards were able to re-conquer the Iberian peninsula back from the Moors and throw them out of Europe.

The Byzantine Army was successful at many battles against the Seljuks or Ottomans, but ultimately it lost the battle for the loyalty and mind of the Anatolian peasant.





[linked image]

 
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(Login GK87)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 3 2012, 11:24 PM 

Kallimachos is right. The big defeats that everyone usually blames for the loss of Anatolia were not as catastrophic as they are made out to be. At Manzikert most of the army survived, it was the political instability that followed that did the damage. At Myriokephalon again most of the army remained intact, Kilij Arslan initiated the peace talks and accepted terms favorable to the Byzantines, and shortly after the battle the Byzantines won other battles in the area against the Turks. The real loss of Myriokephalon, IMO, is the lost opportunity to crush the Turks. Manuel had a massive army and he wasted it with a blunder that seems out of place for an otherwise good emperor.

It seems the common theme is Byzantine emperors forming huge armies and then not knowing what to do with them. Probably more could have been done if those men had been spread amongst a number of smaller forces in a broader offensive rather than concentrated in one army to take one city. Forming one huge army meant for a decisive battle to destroy the enemy was not the usual Byzantine style and was in fact not recommended by any Byzantine military manuals.

 
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WAFFer
(Login TOROS_2000)
The Conquerors (Turkey)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 3 2012, 11:39 PM 

"Which is why the Spaniards were able to re-conquer the Iberian peninsula back from the Moors and throw them out of Europe."

Most Spaniards are of Arabic and Jewish origin and catholicism no longer unites the nations of Northern Iberia.

 
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(Login TheKhun)
The Conquerors (Turkey)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 4 2012, 12:41 AM 

Than let me contribute a little.
Today the exact place of the war is unknown but it was around town called Civril.
[linked image]

close up to Civril
[linked image]

Estimated pass that war took place
[linked image]




 
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Viper
(Login Apeirotan)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 4 2012, 12:52 AM 

@The Khun

Are you sure?Wikipedia says that the battle took place near Lake Beyehir.

-----------------------------------------------
Kneel Before The Turk Eater
[linked image]

 
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Talatpasha
(Login TheKhun)
The Conquerors (Turkey)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 4 2012, 1:04 AM 

Are you sure?Wikipedia says that the battle took place near Lake Beyehir.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Turkish sources point Civril. There are two passes around Civril, but most probable one is Duzbel Pass on the picture.




 
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Romulus
(Login romulus007)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 4 2012, 4:03 AM 

although this topic is really about the battle of Myriokephalon itself, it is true that there was some rivalry between the landed aristocracy and the peasantry. Also between the Constantinopolitans and the provinical lords.

The epitome of this rivalry was in the rivalry of John Cantacuzenos vs John IV Paleologos (See the Zealots in Thessaloniki for a case in point). All this served to disintegrate the empire in its long decline especially as there was a reliance on foreign troops, Venetian, Genoese, Catalan and even Seljuk to support the internal rivalries and dfeuds.

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WAFFer
(Login GK87)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 4 2012, 7:22 AM 

@ TheKhun,

Thanks for the pictures! Always cool to see the sites, or at least potential sites, of great battles in history.

 
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Romulus
(Login romulus007)

Re: Byzantinology Special Topic : Battle of Myriokephalon

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September 4 2012, 11:37 AM 

yeah thanks for those pictures

that was really helpful, I was looking for something like that

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