Battle of Manzikert

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Battle of Manzikert
Battle of Manzikert, 15th century French miniature showing fighters in Western European armor
Battle of Manzikert, 15th century French miniature showing fighters in Western European armor
date August 26, 1071
location near Manzikert , north of Lake Van
exit Seljuk victory
Parties to the conflict




Romanos IV.

Alp Arslan

Troop strength
about 40,000 under 30,000



In the battle of Manzikert (today Malazgirt , north of Lake Van ), the Byzantine emperor Romanos IV. Diogenes was defeated on August 26, 1071 by the Turkish Seljuks under Alp Arslan . This battle played a decisive role in the temporary collapse of Byzantine resilience and initiated the Turkish settlement in Anatolia with the immigration of numerous Oghusen / Turkmens .


In 1046 the Byzantines first came into military contact with the Seljuks when they wanted to conquer the Armenian capital Ani . The under Emperor Constantine IX. The negotiated armistice lasted until 1064. In 1053 Constantine was forced for financial reasons, among other things. to dismiss his Armenian troops, so that the eastern border of the empire was only under weak protection. Overall, the neglect of the army had considerable consequences for the empire. Constantine lost most of Byzantine Italy - with the exception of the Bari area - to the Normans . From 1064, Sultan Alp Arslan led raids against the neighboring Christian states such as Armenia , Georgia and the Byzantine Empire. He conquered several fortresses, including the fortress of the Armenian capital Ani, the castle of Şavşat in today's Artvin , the castle of Kars and Oltu in Erzurum . In 1067 the conquest of the rest of Armenia and Caesarea followed . At the same time, the Pechenegs devastated the Balkans in autumn 1064.

Military action under Romanus IV. Diogenes

In response to the increasing number of Seljuk raids, the imperial court saw itself under Empress Eudokia , who since the death of Constantine IX. ruled for her underage son Michael VII , forced to put a soldier at the head. The choice fell on Romanus IV Diogenes , who was led by Constantine XI. shortly before his death was sentenced to death on charges of participating in a conspiracy and then sent into exile.

After his marriage to the Empress, Romanos IV was appointed Magistros and Stratelates on December 25, 1067. He immediately raised an army and set out on his first campaign in the east to secure the front in early 1068. In this campaign he closed the access to the region around Antioch on the Orontes for Seljuk raiding gangs by taking the city of Hierapolis and the Fort Artha.

In February 1071, Romanos IV, who had been Michael VII's co-emperor since 1068, sent his envoys to Alp Arslan to renew a peace treaty of 1069 and thus protect the northern flank against further attacks by the Seljuks. Alp Arslan happily agreed to the treaty, broke off his siege of Edessa , and next prepared for war against the Fatimid heartland in Egypt. Shortly afterwards he conquered Aleppo .

Romanos wanted to take the opportunity to take active action against the Muslim threat to his empire in the east. In 1071 he set out with his army from Constantinople to the east in order to recapture the fortresses that had already been lost in Armenia before the Seljuks could react. When Alp Arslan, who was besieging Edessa (today's Şanlıurfa ), heard about it, he gathered his armies and advanced against Romanos.


After a peace agreement with Romanos IV, the Seljuks moved to Egypt. When Alp Arslan in Aleppo learned of the advance of Byzantine troops to recapture lost territories in Armenia, he moved north and met the Byzantines north of Lake Van.

There are different descriptions of the course of the battle by two contemporary Byzantine authors:

The version of Michael Attaleiates

According to the description of Michael Attaleiates , who took part in the battle himself, Romanos IV divided his army into two parts at Theodosiopolis : Romanos ordered his general Joseph Tarchaneiotes , with part of the regular troops and the Varangian Guard together with the Pechenegs and the Franks to follow suit To draw Khliat . Romanos and the rest of the army marched on Manzikert. As a result, the army was divided into two halves of around 20,000 men each. It is not known for certain what happened to the troops of the Tarchaneiotes. According to Islamic sources, Alp Arslan smashed this army. Nothing of this is mentioned in the Byzantine sources. The plan was that the two parts could quickly support each other in the event of an enemy army.

The city of Manzikert was taken almost without a fight, and after a garrison was stationed, the army camped nearby. It was only then that Romanus IV received the news that a large Seljuk army was nearby and was marching towards him. At that time, Romanos IV was not aware that Alp Arslan was leading the army. After the Seljuks attacked foraging Byzantine units, troops under Nikephoros Byrennios were sent in response. There was no winner in the skirmish that followed. However, the request for reinforcements was initially refused by Romanos IV. The Seljuks could be driven out by the whole army. The following night, however, they contested the Byzantine camp and shot it with arrows. The aim of this action was to cut off the Byzantine army from the water. The next day half of the Pechenegian mercenaries defected to the Seljuks. At this point, Romanos IV wanted to continue to wait for reinforcements before venturing into battle. The next day the Seljuks began sending messengers to negotiate peace. However, this was interpreted as a game for time by the emperor's generals and advisers, after which the army was set up for battle.

According to Attaleiate's report, the Seljuks were so surprised by the attack that they fled. The pursuit of the Seljuk troops lasted until dusk. It is very likely that the Seljuk retreat was for tactical reasons and therefore was orderly. When Romanos IV realized how far the army had been distributed, he had his troops return to the camp. This order was misunderstood by parts of the army as a sign of the death of the emperor. Andronikos Dukas also spread this rumor further. The Seljuks recognized and used the subsequent panic and confusion and went back to attack. Romanos IV., Who wanted to gather the troops after Attaleiates, was surrounded and injured in the shoulder in the fight. He was then forced to surrender.

The version of Nikephoros Bryennios

Nikephoros Bryennios , the grandson or son of the general of the same name and participant in the battle, describes a conventional battle in his chronography. Since Romanos IV. Diogenes knew the tactics of the Seljuks and the successful use of mounted archers well, a strong reserve force was placed under the command of Andronikos Dukas , from where he could have supported the troops more effectively. When the right flank of the Byzantine army collapsed, Andronikos is said to have refused to support Dukas for no reason and withdrew. Romanos IV is said to have been surrounded and captured in battle. Whether the majority of the army with the contingent was occupied with the siege of Khilat is not described in this representation.

Emperor Romanos himself was captured. After Valerian , he was the second emperor in Roman-Byzantine history to experience this. The Byzantine aristocracy fled to help the Dukas family gain the imperial crown.

Significance and consequences

Alp Arslan humiliates Romanos IV (15th century manuscript)

The Battle of Manzikert in 1071 is an important landmark in Byzantine and Turkish history. Of the areas of Asia Minor, which had established its strength over centuries, Byzantium (after the reconquest of the West and some port cities in the course of the 1st Crusade , which was supposed to be an indirect consequence of the battle) could hardly do more than hold the coastal regions, even if Manuel I. Komnenos went on the offensive one last time. About a century after Manzikert, however, the defeat of Manuel I in the Battle of Myriokephalon against the Rum Seljuks sealed the end of all attempts at reconquest. From the middle of the 13th century, the defensive struggle in the east was finally completely neglected because of the constant military pressure in the Balkans.

In modern research, however, it is very controversial whether the Turkish "land grab" was planned and whether Manzikert himself represented a real catastrophe at all. Romanos IV had already come to power through a coup and was therefore not undisputed. However, Alp Arslan had already signed a kind of contract with his predecessor, Constantine X. Initially, Alp Arslan's goal was not Anatolia, but the elimination of the Fatimids . Surprised by Romanos IV's offensive, Alp Arslan reacted more spontaneously than deliberately. The losses of the Byzantines at Manzikert are also assessed to be rather moderate overall; the majority of the Byzantine troops had apparently been able to leave intact. Many modern historians also believe that it was the cost of the campaign and the ransom payments that paralyzed the Byzantine economy and thus also weakened Byzantium's military resilience. Above all, however, they assume that the inner-Byzantine civil war that followed the battle made the agreement that Romanos IV had concluded with Alp Arslan ineffective, which is why the Seljuks continued their advance, although the inner-Byzantine battles against them would have enabled the gradual occupation of Inner Anatolia, which had not previously been the goal of Alp Arslans.


The battle is mentioned in several sources, the best of which is the Byzantine Michael Attaleiates , who personally took part in the battle. However, his view is distorted by an attempt to defend Romanos IV . Nikephoros Bryennios can be seen as a source that casts a different perspective on the battle . He dedicated his chronicle to his grandfather Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder , who also took part in the battle. The Seljuk perspective fell victim to its own legends. Apart from specific details, these are only used to research historical reception.

There are also several contemporary sources that are anti-Byzantine. These include Michael the Syrian and Matthias von Edessa , who see the defeat of the Byzantines as a “divine punishment”. There is no contemporary Muslim source. One of the earliest Muslim sources comes from Ibn al-Qalanisi .


  • Dimitris Krallis, Anthony Kaldellis (eds.): Michael Attaleiates: The History (= Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. 16). Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA et al. 2012, ISBN 978-0-674-05799-9 (original text and English translation).
  • Diether Roderich Reinsch (Ed.): Michaelis Pselli chronographia (= Millennium Studies , Vol. 51). De Gruyter, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-11-034548-3 .
  • E. Meineke in Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Hist. Byz. (1836) with a valuable commentary by Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange .
  • Aristakes Lastivertsi: The History.
  • Johannes Skylitzes : The Continuum of Johannes Skylitzes.


  • Claude Cahen : La Campagne de Mantzikert d'apres les sources musulmanes . In: Byzantion 9, 1934, pp. 613-642.
  • Claude Cahen: The Turkish Invasion: The Selchükids . In: Kenneth M. Setton (Ed.), A History of the Crusades . Vol. 1, Madison / Wisconsin 1969, pp. 135-176 ( online ).
  • Jean-Claude Cheynet: Manzikert - un désastre militaire? . In: Byzantion 50, 1980, pp 410-438.
  • Carole Hillenbrand : Turkish Myth and Muslim Symbol: The Battle of Manzikert . Edinburgh 2008. ISBN 978-0-7486-2572-7 (new overview work, especially on the tradition of the battle in Islamic historiography up to the present day)
  • Paul Meinrad Strässle: Mantzikert . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages . Vol. 6, Col. 208-209.

Web links


  1. ^ The Battle of Manzikert: Military Disaster or Political Failure? De re militari, December 2, 2013
  2. Kaldellis, Anthony ,: Streams of gold, rivers of blood: the rise and fall of Byzantium, 955 AD to the First Crusade . New York, NY, ISBN 978-0-19-025322-6 .
  3. John Haldon: The Byzantine Wars. Battles and Campaigns of the Byzantine Era . Tempus, Stroud 2001, ISBN 0-7524-1795-9 , p. 172.
  4. ^ Paul Markham: The Battle of Manzikert: Military Disaster or Political Failure? accessed on February 13, 2018.
  5. John Haldon: The Byzantine Wars. Battles and Campaigns of the Byzantine Era . Tempus, Stroud 2001, ISBN 0-7524-1795-9 , p. 180.
  6. John Julius Norwich: Byzantium: The Apogee . Viking, London 1991, ISBN 0-670-80252-2 , p. 238.
  7. Kaldellis, Anthony ,, Krallis, Dimitris ,,: The history - Michael Attaleiates . Ed .: Pérez Martín, Inmaculada ,. Cambridge, Massachusetts, ISBN 978-0-674-05799-9 , pp. 279-291 .
  8. Kaldellis, Anthony ,: Streams of gold, rivers of blood: the rise and fall of Byzantium, 955 AD to the First Crusade . New York, NY, ISBN 978-0-19-025322-6 , pp. 248 .
  9. Michael Neumann-Adrian, Christoph K. Neumann: Turkey. One country and 9,000 years of history . List, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-471-78225-7 , p. 148.
  10. Cf. Haldon: Warfare, state, and society in the Byzantine world , p. 312, note 39. See also Cheynet, Manzikert in general on the following .
  11. See Ralph-Johannes Lilie : Byzanz. The second Rome . Berlin 2003, p. 326f.
  12. Kaldellis, Anthony ,: Streams of gold, rivers of blood: the rise and fall of Byzantium, 955 AD to the First Crusade . New York, NY 2017, ISBN 978-0-19-025322-6 , pp. 246 .