What is Asia Minor now

Re: The ethnogenesis of the Turks in Asia Minor

12.04.2016, 12:43

The Battle of Manzikert 1071

In the 9th century, the vast empire of the Abasid caliphs in Baghdad began to break up into a number of individual states. In a struggle with rival clans and provincial governors, the Caliph Mutasim (833-842) took a disastrous measure. From personal clients and slaves (mostly of Turkish origin) he created a bodyguard as a personal elite group. This temporarily gave him power over his opponents again, but the Guard quickly realized that the Caliph was just as dependent on them as they were on him. From now on the rulers were prisoners of their own troops, the center of power shifted to the Turkish officers and the caliphate became the plaything of the rival cliques in the generals.

In 945 the Abasids in Baghdad lose their power to the Persian tribe of the Bujids, who now provide the bodyguards and make the caliph completely dependent on themselves. These belligerent nomads are Shiites who ruthlessly exploit the land.
In his distress, the caliph turns to a tribe of the Qghuzen, who named themselves Seljuk, Seljuks after their leader. (Seljuk probably just means Führer). Around 1000 they had moved into pastureland on the Aral Sea, but were now heading towards the crumbling abasid kingdom. They had already established an empire in eastern Iran, now a successor of Seljuk, Thurig-Bel, is moving into Baghdad at the urging of the caliph and driving out the Bujids. The ruler appoints him sultan, which at that time meant something like "deputy of the caliph".

The new deputy very quickly becomes the real ruler. The Seljuq tribe now provides the military and administration. The empire is formally huge, it includes: Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and North Africa. But in Egypt and Syria there is a different caliph, the Fatimid dynasty, against whom a campaign is now to be waged. The son of Thurig-Bel, Alp Aslan (= the power of the empire, the father of courage Mohammed) is supposed to direct this.

But there is another evil that must be ended first. The Oghuz Turkmen, relatives of the Seljuks who live on the west bank of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, invade Iran and Byzantine Anatolia again and again. They are kidnapping farmers, laying down villages and market towns in rubble and ashes. They don't want to occupy new land, they just want to rob it.

In Byzantium, too, they want to put an end to this ghost. A former general, Ramonos Diogenes, ruled there since 1067, and he is gathering a large army near Erzurum in Armenia. Alp Aslan and his army are now marching into the same area. Although it was originally supposed to go against the looters, both rulers feel threatened by the deployment of the soldiers and now there is a confrontation between the two.

Manzikert is located in the Armenian mountain country, north of Lake Van. The basileus pitched his army camp near the lake. Alp Aslan is also drawn there, although it is unlucky that its Iraqi troops are fleeing. The Byzantines hear about it and believe that the moment to attack is opportune and the army is marching on.

Leading the way are marauding mercenaries under the command of Roussel de Bailleul, a Scot at the head of Franconian mercenaries who leave a trail of devastation, occupy, burn, and rob the town of Manzikert.

Alp Aslan has about ten to fifteen thousand Kurds and Turkmens available, all of them mounted archers. The Byzantine troop is said to have been much larger and consists of Greeks, Franks, Pechenegs, Georgians, Russians and Alans, knights, foot soldiers, lancers and archers, most of them mercenaries. They have many vehicles with them with hundreds of war machines that are completely useless in the steppes.

On August 16, the armed forces were caught in a hail of arrows from the Turkmen and had to hide themselves. But the place had previously been devastated by Bailleul and there was no food. In order to get hold of these, the soldiers swarm out and are often killed by the enemy in the process. The next day the Seljuks attack and ride towards the center of the Byzantine army, but then apparently turn to flee. The Byzantines rush after, but get caught in a pincers when they are attacked from left and right. Their troops disintegrate in a wild flight and the basileus itself is taken prisoner. But he is released again for a ransom. The following dialog was transmitted:

Alp Arslan: "What would you do if I were brought to you as a prisoner?"
Romanos: "Maybe I would have killed you or exhibited you in the streets of Constantinople."
Alp Arslan: “My punishment is much harder. I forgive you and set you free. "

At home in Constantinople, Michael Dukas, an opponent of the emperor, has now seized power. He has the defeated Romanos blinded and thrown into prison, where he dies a year later.

Byzantium lost Anatolia to the defeat, but Alp Arslan withdrew again. The real winners were the Turkic tribes from Azerbaijan, who could now flow into Asia Minor unhindered.