Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Justiniana Prima - Roman Fortified City

Remnants of the city of Justiniana Prima

Defending The Roman Balkans
The City-Fortress of Justiniana Prima

In the centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire it is hard to believe that there were any people at all left in Central Asia - - - just about every tribe imaginable marched southwest and invaded the Eastern Roman Empire.

By the year 500AD the entire northern bank of the Danube from Belgrade to the Black Sea was occupied by one Slavic tribe or another. Why these tribes showed up no one knows. But in their desire for loot, slaves or land they put mounting pressure on the Roman frontier. Two of the earliest Slavic tribes were the Antes and the Sclaveni.

Justiniana Prima was one of the many fortified cities founded by the Emperor Justinian to help stabilize the Balkan frontier. The city existed from 535 to 615 near modern Lebane in southern Serbia. The city served as the metropolitan seat of the Archbishopric of Justiniana Prima, that had jurisdiction over the provinces of the Diocese of Dacia.

The city was a completely new foundation in honour of the nearby village of Tauresium, the birthplace of Justinian. According to Procopius Bederiana, the birthplace of Justinian's uncle and mentor Justin I was nearby.

Justinian himself ordered the foundation of the city by law in 535, establishing the Archbishopric of Justiniana Prima, making it at the same time the capital of the prefecture of Illyricum instead of Thessaloniki (although this is disputed among historians). 

Justinian made sure that this city, which was one of his favorite projects, received all the necessary support.

"He therefore built a wall of small compass about this place in the form of a square, placing a tower at each corner, and caused it to be called, as it actually is, Tetrapyrgia. And close by this place he built a very notable city which he named Justiniana Prima, thus paying a debt of gratitude to the home that fostered him. In that place also he constructed an aqueduct and so caused the city to be abundantly supplied with ever-running water. And many other enterprises were carried out by the founder of this city - works of great size and worthy of especial note. For to enumerate the churches is not easy, and it is impossible to tell in words of the lodgings for magistrates, the great stoas, the fine marketplaces, the fountains, the streets, the baths, the shops. In brief, the city is both great and populous and blessed in every way."
Procopius' description of Justiniana Prima in The Buildings.

The town was abandoned at around 615. Invading Avars coming from north of the Danube may be one factor, missing political interest in the town after the time of Justinian may be another. 

Recreation of Justiniana Prima

Contemporary Historian Procopius:

Thus did the Emperor Justinian fortify the whole interior of Illyricum. I shall also explain in what manner he fortified the bank of the Ister River, which they also call the Danube, by means of strongholds and garrisons of troops. 

The Roman Emperors of former times, by way of preventing the crossing of the Danube by the barbarians who live on the other side, occupied the entire bank of this river with strongholds, and not the right bank of the stream alone, for in some parts of it they built towns and fortresses on its other bank. However, they did not so build these strongholds that they were impossible to attack, if anyone should come against them, but  they only provided that the bank of the river was not left destitute of men, since the barbarians there had no knowledge of storming walls.  

In fact the majority of these strongholds consisted only of a single tower, and they were called appropriately "lone towers," and very few men were stationed in them.  At that time this alone was quite sufficient to frighten off the barbarian clans, so that they would not undertake to attack the Romans.  But at a later time​ Attila invaded with a great army, and with no difficulty razed the fortresses; then, with no one standing against him, he plundered the greater part of the Roman Empire.  

But the Emperor Justinian rebuilt the defences which had been torn down, not simply as they had been before, but so as to give the fortifications the greatest possible strength; and he added many more which he built himself.  In this way he completely restored the safety of the Roman Empire, which by then had been lost.

A recreation of a "single tower" Roman fortification.

Justiniana Prima in 1937. Photo archive of the 
Military Geographical Institute of Serbia.

Justiniana Prima

Endless Slavic tribes pounded the Roman 
fortifications in the Balkans.

The Collapse of the Roman Empire
By 650 AD (map above) the Balkan Roman frontier was in complete collapse with Slavic tribes advancing all the way to southern Greece. 

The first appearance of the Slavs in the Eastern Roman Empire can be dated no earlier than the 6th century. Throughout this century, beginning with the reign of Justinian, Slavs repeatedly invaded the Balkan possessions of the Empire. Not until the reign of Maurice, however, did any Slavs settle in these territories. Between the years 579-587 there took place the irruption of several barbarian waves led by the Avars, but consisting mostly of Slavs. The latter came in great numbers, and, as the troops of the Empire were engaged in the war with Persia, they roamed the country at will.

Slavs devastated Illyricum and Thrace, penetrated deep into Greece and the Peloponnesus, helped the Avars to take numerous cities, including Singidunum, Viminacium (Kostolac), Durostorum (Silistria), Marcianopolis, Anchialus, and Corinth, and in 586 laid siege to the city of Thessalonica, the first of a series of great sieges which that city was destined to undergo at their hands. What is more, they came to stay.

(Procopius Buildings)    (unesco)    (Justiniana)

(panacomp.net)    (justiniana-prima.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Military Theme of Anatolic


Eastern Roman Reenactor
The thick felt cap wrapped with a turban, worn with the thick padded coat and high boots was considered basic but adequate battle gear. Likewise the axe was minimum regulation weaponry.

First themes: 7th–8th centuries  

The massive Arab invasions forced major changes in the Eastern Roman military.  At some point in the mid-7th century, probably in the late 630s and 640s, the Empire's field armies were withdrawn to Anatolia, the last major contiguous territory remaining to the Empire. The armies were assigned to the districts that became known as the themes.

For 500 years the Eastern Roman heartland of Anatolia was ground zero for endless invasions by Arab Muslim forces and counter attacks by Roman troops.

At the heart of the battle against Islam was the Anatolic Theme, more properly known as the Theme of the Anatolics, was an Eastern Roman theme (a military-civilian province) in central Asia Minor

From its establishment, it was the largest and senior-most of the themes, and its military governors (stratēgoi) were powerful individuals, several of them rising to the imperial throne or launching failed rebellions to capture it. 

The theme and its army played an important role in the Arab–Byzantine wars of the 7th–10th centuries, after which it enjoyed a period of relative peace that lasted until its conquest by the Seljuk Turks in the late 1070s.

Initially, the Anatolic Theme included the western and southern shores of Asia Minor as well, but by c. 720 they were split off to form the Thracesian and Cibyrrhaeot themes.

Under Theophilos (r. 829–842), its eastern and south-eastern portions, facing the Arab frontier zone and including the forts that guarded the northern entrance to the Cilician Gates. 

The theme's capital was Amorium, until the sack of the city by the Abbasids in 838. After that, it was probably transferred to the nearby fortress of Polybotos.

The themes or thémata were the main military/administrative divisions of the Eastern Roman Empire. They were established in the mid-7th century in the aftermath of the Slavic invasion of the Balkans and Muslim conquests

The first themes were created from the areas of encampment of the field armies of the East Roman Army, and their names corresponded to the military units that had existed in those areas.

Click to Enlarge
The Roman Empire in 650 under Constans II.  The Anatolic Theme would have been created roughly about this time.  Arab forces had captured Syria and Egypt.  The themes in Asia Minor were created to organize defenses against the Arabs.

According to the 10th-century Arab geographers Qudama ibn Ja'far and Ibn al-Faqih, the Anatolic Theme, "the largest of the provinces of the Romans", fielded 15,000 men, and contained 34 fortresses. 

It and its military governor, or stratēgos, first attested in 690, ranked first in precedence among the theme governors. As such, the "stratēgos of the Anatolics" was one of the highest in the Empire, and one of the few posts from which eunuchs were specifically barred. 

The holders of the post received an annual salary of 40 pounds of gold, and are attested as holding the senior court ranks of patrikiosanthypatos, and prōtospatharios. In addition, they were the only ones to be appointed to the exceptional post of monostrategos ("single-general"), overall commander of the Asian land themes.

The exact date of the theme's establishment is unknown. Along with the other original themes, it was created sometime after the 640s as a military encampment area for the remnants of the old field armies of the East Roman army, which were withdrawn to Asia Minor in the face of the Muslim conquests

The Anatolic Theme was settled and took its name from the Army of the East. The theme is attested for the first time in 669, while the army itself is mentioned, as the exercitus Orientalis, as late as an iussio of Justinian II in 687.

The thematic capital, Amorium, was also a frequent target of the Arabs. It was attacked already in 644, captured in 646, and briefly occupied in 669. The Arabs reached it again in 708 and besieged it without success in 716, during their march on Constantinople. 

Map of the Eastern Roman-Arab frontier zone in southeastern Asia Minor, with the major fortresses.

The tide of the Arab attacks ebbed in the 740s, after the Byzantine victory at the Battle of Akroinon and the turmoil of Muslim civil wars. Under Emperor Constantine V (r. 741–775), the Anatolics spearheaded the Roman campaigns into Arab-held territory. This in turn provoked the reaction of the Abbasid Caliphate, which in the quarter-century after 780 launched repeated invasions of Roman Asia Minor. Thus the Anatolics suffered a heavy defeat at Kopidnadon in 788, and Amorium was threatened again in 797. 

In the early years of the 9th century, Cappadocia was the focus of Arab attacks, which culminated in the great invasion of 806 led by Caliph Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809) himself, which took Heraclea Cybistra and several other forts.

The late antique urban fabric suffered considerably from the Arab attacks and the concomitant decline of urbanization, but most of the cities in the interior of the theme, i.e. in Phrygia and Pisidia, survived, albeit in a reduced form. The cities of eastern Cappadocia which bordered the Caliphate were practically destroyed.

With new Roman settlers moving east Arab raids were often absorbed there, and seldom reached the Anatolic Theme's territory.

Apart from the Caliph's great invasion against Amorium in 838, some attacks penetrated into the Anatolics' territory are reported for the year 878, when the thematic troops successfully defended Mistheia, and again in 888, 894 and 897, always in the southeastern portion of the theme around Iconium.

The first Turkish attack on the theme is recorded in 1069, when the Turks attacked Iconium. Most of the province was overrun by the Turks after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, with Iconium becoming the seat of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in the 12th century. 

The last appearance of the Anatolic Theme in the historical sources is in 1077, when its stratēgosNikephoros Botaneiates, proclaimed himself emperor (Nikephoros III, r. 1078–1081). 

The Romans managed to recover some of the western and northern portions of the theme in the subsequent decades under the Komnenian emperors, but the Anatolic Theme was never reconstituted.

Click to enlarge
Amorium, capital of The Anatolic Theme
Artist's impression of the Roman Lower City at Amorium in ca. A.D. 800, showing the bathhouse and wine-making installations (by Tatiana Meltsem). © The Amorium Excavations Project.  (metmuseum.org)
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Because it faced the forces of the Caliphate during its first centuries of existence the Anatolic Theme was the most powerful and most prestigious of the themes.

Its very power, however, also meant that it was a potential threat to the Emperors.

As early as 669 the thematic army revolted and forced Constantine IV (r. 668–685) to re-install his brothers, Heraclius and Tiberius as his co-emperors, while in 695 a former stratēgosLeontios (r. 695–698), usurped the throne from Justinian II (r. 685–695, 705–711), and in 717 the then stratēgosLeo the Isaurian, became emperor (Leo III, r. 717–741) after deposing Theodosios III (r. 715–717).

The Anatolic Theme served as the base for several bids for the throne in later centuries as well: the failed revolt of Bardanes Tourkos in 803 was followed by the successful proclamation of Leo V the Armenian (r. 813–820) by the Anatolic troops in 813, and the large-scale rebellion of Thomas the Slav in 820–823. 

In the 10th century, however, the theme appears on the sidelines of the rebellions of the period. The next and last rebellion by a stratēgos of the Anatolics was that of Nikephoros Xiphias in 1022, against Basil II (r. 976–1025).

(Anatolic)    (Amorium)

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Battle of Myriokephalon - Seljuks vs Romans (1176AD)

Late Roman / Eastern Empire dart throwing infantry.
While uniforms and armor varied over the centuries the basics changed very little.

A Declining Roman Empire?

Maybe Not.

The Battle of Manzikert in 1071 has always been the point in time historians say marked the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire.

But is that true?

The Roman Republic and Empire had recovered again and again from military defeats. In this article we see over 100 years after Manzikert that the Roman Army was still able to mount major campaigns against the Turks in Anatolia, in the Balkans, in Italy and in Egypt. The Romans held their lands and even expanded.

In my view the "decline" of the Eastern Empire had a lot more to do with the treachery of the Crusaders in 1204 and their sack of Constantinople. The sack of the city happened only 28 years after this battle.


Between 1158 and 1161 a series of Roman campaigns against the Seljuk Turks of the Sultanate of Rûm resulted in a treaty favorable to the Empire, with the Sultan recognizing a form of subordination to the Roman 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 honored guest and an imperial vassal. Following the Sultan's visit there was no overt hostility between the two powers for many years.

BOTTOM LINE - The Turks badly wanted to expand over to the coast, but they took one look at the Roman Army and declined to take action.

The Romans took advantage of this peace to expand their power. 

Emperor Manuel I Komnenos pursued an energetic and ambitious foreign policy. In the process he made alliances with Pope Adrian IV and the resurgent West. He invaded the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, although unsuccessfully, He was the last Eastern Roman emperor to attempt reconquests in the western Mediterranean

In the East, the Emperor recovered Cilicia from local Armenian dynasts and managed to reduce the Crusader Principality of Antioch to vassal status.

The passage of the potentially dangerous Second Crusade through his empire was adroitly managed. Manuel established a Roman protectorate over the Crusader states. Facing Muslim advances in the Holy Land, he made common cause with the Kingdom of Jerusalem and participated in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egypt. Manuel reshaped the political maps of the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean, placing the kingdoms of Hungary and Outremer under Roman hegemony.

While the Romans were rebuilding their power so were the Turks. 

Kilij Arslan used this peaceful period 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 Rome. 

In 1175 the peace between the Empire and the Sultanate of Rûm fell apart when Kilij Arslan refused to hand over to the Romans, as he was obliged to do by treaty, a considerable proportion of the territory he had recently conquered from the Danishmends.

Both side moved to a new war.

Strengthening the Economy

Here is a good spot to review the growing power of the Romans.

Former money changer Michael IV the Paphlagonian (1034–41) assumed the throne in 1034 and began the slow process of debasing the gold coins

The debasement was gradual at first, but then accelerated rapidly. about 21 carats (87.5% pure) during the reign of Constantine IX (1042–1055), 18 carats (75%) under Constantine X (1059–1067), 16 carats (66.7%) under Romanus IV (1068–1071), 14 carats (58%) under Michael VII (1071–1078), 8 carats (33%) under Nicephorus III (1078–1081) and 0 to 8 carats during the first eleven years of the reign of Alexius I (1081–1118).

Under Alexius I Comnenus (1081–1118) the debased solidus (tetarteron and histamenon) was discontinued and new gold coinage of higher fineness (generally .900-.950) was established, commonly called the hyperpyron.

Income to the Roman Treasury is a vital measurement of the strength of the state.

The exact amount of annual income the Roman government received, is a matter of considerable debate, due to the scantiness and ambiguous nature of the primary sources. The following table contains approximate estimates.

YearAnnual Revenue
3059,400,000 solidi/42.3 tonnes of gold
4577,800,000 solidi
5188,500,000 solidi
5335,000,000 solidi
54011,300,000 solidi/50.85 tonnes of gold
5556,000,000 solidi
5658,500,000 solidi
6413,700,000 nomismata
6682,000,000 nomismata
7751,800,000 nomismata
7752,000,000 nomismata
8423,100,000 nomismata
8503,300,000 nomismata
9594,000,000 nomismata
10255,900,000 nomismata
11505,600,000 hyperpyra
13031,800,000 hyperpyra
13211,000,000 hyperpyra

Click to enlarge map
A map of the Roman Empire showing the location of Myriokephalon.

The Empire Was NOT in Decline

With 20-20 hindsight historians jump on the decline of the Empire side.

To me three factors show the Empire was not in decline: 

  1. The improved Roman political and military position in the Balkans and in the East; 
  2. The improved value of the nation's gold coins; 
  3. And the steady growth since 775 AD on (above chart) tax income to the treasury.

Yes there were problems, but when did problems not exist for any nation?

While not at a peak of power it is fair to say the Empire had recovered from Manzikert and was growing its power.

A Mamluk soldier by Carle Vernet, 1822.
Mamluk translated as "one who is owned", meaning "slave", is a term most commonly referring to non-Arab, ethnically diverse Muslim slave-soldiers and freed slaves to which were assigned military and administrative duties.

The Roman Army

All sources agree that the Emperor gathered an exceptionally large army to teach the Turks a lesson.

One historian puts Manuel's army at around 35,000 men. The number is derived from the fact that sources indicated a supply train of 3,000 wagons accompanied the army, which was enough to support 30,000–40,000 men.  

The army may have contained 25,000 Roman troops with the remainder composed of an allied contingent of Hungarians sent by Manuel's kinsman Béla III of Hungary and tributary forces supplied by the Principality of Antioch and Serbia.

The main division of the army consisted of the eastern and western Imperial Tagmata Regiments. The vanguard was mostly infantry with some cavalry units. The right wing was largely composed of Westerners led by Baldwin of Antioch (Manuel's brother-in-law). 

Then we have baggage and siege trains. The Roman left wing, led by Theodore Mavrozomes and John Kantakouzenos; then comes the Emperor and his picked troops; and finally the rear division under the experienced general Andronikos Kontostephanos.

The Seljuk Army

Modern historians have estimated that the various Seljuk successor states (such as the Sultanate of Rum) could field at most 10,000–15,000 Turks. 

This is likely a closer estimate for the possible Seljuk strength at Myriokephalon considering the much larger and united Seljuk Empire fielded around 20,000–30,000 men at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. 

The Sultanate of Rum was much smaller territorially than the Seljuk Empire and probably had smaller armies, for example, its army at the Battle of Dorylaeum in 1097 has been estimated at between 6,000–8,000 men.

The Seljuk army consisted of two main sections: the askars of the sultan and of each of his emirs, and an irregular force of Turkoman tribesmen. The askari (Arabic for 'soldier') was a full-time soldier, often a mamluk, a type of slave-soldier though this form of nominal slavery was not servile. 

They were supported by payments in cash or though a semi-feudal system of grants, called iqta'. These troops formed the core of field armies and were medium to heavy cavalry; they were armored, and fought in coherent units with bow and lance. 

In contrast, the Turkoman tribesmen were semi-nomadic irregular horsemen, who served under their own chieftains. They lived off their herds and served the sultan on the promise of plunder, the ransom of prisoners, for one-off payments, or if their pasturelands were threatened. These tribesmen were unreliable as soldiers, but were numerous, and were effective as light mounted archers, adept at skirmish tactics.

The Battle - September 17, 1176

The Emperor assembled the full Imperial army and marched against the Seljuk capital of Iconium. Manuel's strategy was to prepare the advanced bases of Dorylaeum and Sublaeum, and then to use them to strike as quickly as possible at Iconium.

The battle took place near Lake Beyşehir.

Speed may have been the goal, but Manuel's army of 35,000 men was large and unwieldy. According to a letter that Manuel sent to King Henry II of England, the advancing column was ten miles long.

The Turks destroyed crops and poisoned water supplies to make Manuel's march more difficult. King Arslan harassed the Roman army in order to force it into the Meander valley, and specifically the mountain pass of Tzivritze near the fortress of Myriokephalon.

IMPORTANT - Just outside the entrance to the pass at Myriokephalon, Manuel was met by Turkish ambassadors, who offered peace on generous terms. The Sultan saw a Roman army perhaps three times the size of his own force and offered peace.

The mistake came from the Roman leadership. Most of Manuel's generals and experienced courtiers urged him to accept the offer. The younger and more aggressive members of the court urged Manuel to attack, however, and he took their advice and continued his advance into a narrow pass.

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.

Manuel made serious tactical errors, such as failing to properly scout out the route ahead. These failings caused him to lead his forces straight into a classic ambush.

Maria of Antioch with Emperor Manuel I Komnenos

In this matter the Emperor, at a minimum, acted foolishly to pass up a peace proposal and acted recklessly to march a 10 mile long army column into a narrow pass that was not properly scouted.

The Roman vanguard was the first to encounter King Arslan's troops. They went through the pass with few casualties, as did the main division. Possibly the Turks had not yet fully deployed in their positions.

The Roman 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.

By the time the first two Roman 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 Roman 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.

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.

The remaining Roman troops were panicked by the carnage in front of them and the realization 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 organization of the Roman forces, though it must have confused the Seljuk troops also.

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.

The Emperor was eventually roused by his officers, re-established discipline and organized his forces into a defensive formation; when formed up, they pushed their way past the wreck of the baggage and out of the pass.

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.

The night was spent in successfully repulsing further attacks by Seljuk mounted archers. Niketas 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. 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.

Eastern Empire reenactors. The headwear shows the 
influence of the Arabs they fought for centuries.


The Roman siege equipment had been quickly destroyed, and Manuel was forced to withdraw – without siege engines, the conquest of Iconium was now impossible.

Both sides had suffered casualties, though their extent is difficult to quantify. Modern historians have postulated that about half of the Roman army was engaged and around half of those became casualties.

As the Roman 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."

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. As a result of these negotiations, the Roman 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 Roman-Seljuk borderlands.

However, despite Kilij Arslan's protestations of good faith, the retreat of the Roman army was harassed by the attacks of Turkoman tribesmen. 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.

The defeat at Myriokephalon has often been depicted as a catastrophe in which the entire Roman army was destroyed. Manuel himself compared the defeat to Manzikert.

In reality, although a defeat, it was not too costly and did not significantly diminish the Roman army. Most of the casualties were borne by the right wing, largely composed of allied troops commanded by Baldwin of Antioch, and also by the baggage train, which was the main target of the Turkish ambush.

In a message to Constantinople the Emperor: "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." 

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 Roman 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.

The limited losses inflicted on native Roman troops were quickly recovered, and in the following year Manuel's forces defeated a force of "picked Turks". John Komnenos Vatatzes, who was sent by the Emperor to repel the Turkish invasion, not only brought troops from the capital but also was able to gather an army along the way. Vatatzes caught the Turks in an ambush as they were crossing the Meander River; the subsequent Battle of Hyelion and Leimocheir effectively destroyed them as a fighting force. 

This is an indication that the Roman army remained strong and that the defensive program of western Asia Minor was still successful. After the victory on the Meander, Manuel himself advanced with a small army to drive the Turks from Panasium, south of Cotyaeum.

Manuel continued to meet the Seljuks in smaller battles with some success, and concluded a probably advantageous peace with Kilij Arslan in 1179. However, like Manzikert, Myriokephalon was a pivotal event and following it the balance between the two powers in Anatolia gradually began to shift, and subsequently, the Eastern Empire was unable to compete for dominance of the Anatolian interior.

This image by Gustave Doré shows the Turkish ambush at the pass of Myriokephalon. This ambush destroyed Manuel's hope of capturing Konya.

Click to enlarge map

(Manuel I Komnenos)    (Byzantine economy)    (Byzantine coinage)

(Myriokephalon)    (Mamluk)

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