Battle Of Manzikert – Seljuk Turks vs Byzantine Empire


Battle Of Manzikert

Battle of Manzikert (1071) Byzantine Empire vs Seljuk Turks

Turks rode horses in Central Asian steppes and established big states one after another. As a nomad and warrior tribe, Turks lived together with Mongolian tribes for centuries.  Although Mongols and Turks established marriage relations and allied together, they also fought against each other as well.

With its thousands of kilometers length, Chinese Wall was built in order to stop the ongoing invasions of this highly mobile and effective warriors.

Turkish tribes which immigrated from Central Asia to the West in 11th Century founded a militarily strong, culturally developed and religiously tolerant state in Iran’s Isfahan city. Known as Great Seljuk Empire, this state was declared the protector of Islam by Abbasid caliphate who was living in Baghdad and it ruled over the holy lands.

Battle of Manziket Map Seljuk Advance To Byzantine Empire Territory
battle of manzikert Map

Map Of Great Seljuk Turks

Seljuks Arrive at Byzantine Borders

After Abbasi Caliphate named Seljuk Sultan Tugrul Bey as the King of the East and the West and when the borders of the state expanded to the west, political tension increased in the region day by day.

Eastern Roman Empire, known as Byzantines in modern history, was the undeniable super power in the region until Seljuks arrived. However, expansion of Seljuks during TugrulBey continued during the rule of Alp Arslan so when Armenian and Georgian lands were captured, a war between Byzantines and Seljuks were inevitable.

Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan Vs Byzantine Emperor Romanos Diogenes IV
battle of manzikert 1071

Battle of Manzikert 1071

Story of the Battle of Manzikert 1071 AD

The war that changed the fate of Turks and Byzantines forever. The war that determined the future of Anatolia.

Prelude The War

In 1071 Seljuk army of Sultan Alp Arslan and legions of Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes faced each other at Manzikert valley near Van Lake. The number of soldiers in Byzantine army was fairly more than the Seljuks. Howeverthe fact that the majority of Seljuk army was comprised of cavalry and advanced mobility of them gave a good advantage to Alp Arslan.

Sultan Alp Arslan of Great Seljuks Turks

Sultan Alp Arslan was a strong leader. His boldness and success in war earned him the title Alp (meaning hero, brave). He was an educated and wise man.

Romanos IV Diogenes Of Byzantine Empire

Romanos IV Diogenes, who was an emperor with military history, succeeded to the throne when Byzantine was in decline militarily and politically. Although he was brave and fearless, his bitter personality was criticized. His proper military maneuvers slightly relieved Byzantine  but his tough personality was not liked by the aristocracy of Constantinople.

Byzantine Empire was a state famous with throne fights and intricate plots. Noble Doukas family hated Romanos and they were plotting against him. The Battle of Manzikert was a holy grail for them. This noble family openly betrayed the emperor through their connections in the army which was weakened as a result.

The Battle Between Seljuks & Byzantines

The Battle of Manzikert was a tough war for both sides who saw this war as a matter of life and death. That is why, they fought to death. General Andronikos Doukas in Byzantine army disrupted the wing defense at a critical moment and began retreating. He was shouting that emperor died when they started to retreat. As a result, Byzantine army was demoralized. Realizing the situation, Sultan Alp Arslan began to surround Byzantine army through the wings. Romanos Diogenes and his soldiers at a central position was surrounded by Seljuk cavalries and they were beaten. Byzantine army was severely defeated.

We should note that there were Scandinavian soldiers (known as Varangian Guards) who were fighting fiercely to defend the emperor. A signature of one of the members of this elite soldiers can be seen on the second floor of Hagia Sophia as Viking Inscription.


As a result, Emperor Romanos was held captive and brought to Alp Arslan. Captivity of Roman Emperor was a big deal in Middle Ages. He was eventually released on condition that he would pay a hefty compensation and he would sign a peace treaty including grave conditions.

However Romanos Diogenes was captured by Doukas family before he had a chance to go back to the capital and he was kept in a monastery in Prince Islands after he was blinded.

The Rise and the Fall of  Great Seljuk Empire

The fact that Alp Arslan won the Battle of Manzikert cracked the Byzantine defense completely. Before Byzantine Empire found time to get on their feet, Seljuks had already captured Eastern and Central Anatolia.

After reaching the peak power during Alp Arslan and his son Meliksah era, Seljuk Empire went under a period of decline with the death of Meliksah at 1192.

With the start of the Crusades, wave of attacks weakened the Seljuk power in Anatolia and Byzantine got the chance to reclaim the lost lands. With the pressure from the East by other Turkish tribes, Seljuks could not maintain the central administration and eventually fell.

Seljuk Sultanate Of Rum Map

Battle of Manzikert summary

Seljuk Sultanate Of Rum Map

Seljuk Sultanate of Rum

Remaining communities after the fall of the Seljuk Empire founded Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, based in Konya. Ruled by the Seljuk Sultan, most of the population of this state was comprised of non-Muslims. Continuing the tradition of ruling with the principle of tolerance, Seljuk Sultanate of Rum succeeded in establishing a culture of blending with Greek, Muslim and Jewish citizens.

Incredible mosques, caravanserais, churches and synagogues were built. These works of art are the best pieces of Turkish architecture that Seljuks built in Anatolia. The best examples can be seen in Erzurum, Sivas and Konya.


The city of Konya, which was the heart of Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, saw the results of the freedom of faith and philosophy of the era. One of the biggest poets, thinkers and scholars of the history of Islam, Rumi, lived in Konya and developed Sufism.

With its spiritual leadership and oration, he developed Sufism philosophy whose impact has reached until today and he gathered whirling dervishes around him.

From Great Seljuk Turks to Ottoman Empire

Seljuks had occupied Byzantine two centuries ago and beaten them. A strange turn of fate brought them to the same outcome. Worn off as a result of the pressure by the tribes coming from the East, Seljuks could not resist the strong attack of the Mongols and they were severely beaten at the Battle of Kose Dag.

After the fall of Seljuks, many Turkish principalities (princedoms) appeared. Among those, there was one principality that came on top of others with its dynamism and belligerence. Osmanli Principality and its founder Osman Bey paved the way for the foundations of one of the biggest empires ever in the history of humankind.

Further Recommended Reading:

Battle of Manzikert Blog History Post by Serhat Engul

Battle of Manzikert Summary, Byzantine Empire Vs Seljuk Turks


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