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Old June 7th, 2012, 11:09 AM   #1
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Why were the Seljuk Turks so succesfull?


Why were the Seljuk Turks so successful against the Byzantine empire? is it because the Byzantine empire had conflicts elsewhere or was there a different reason?
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Old June 7th, 2012, 01:49 PM   #2

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Why were the Seljuk Turks so successful against the Byzantine empire? is it because the Byzantine empire had conflicts elsewhere or was there a different reason?
The best answer to this that I have seen is in Mark Whittow's article How the East Was Lost. In short: Byzantium was busy fighting another war against itself principally in Anatolia. The breakdown of the thematic system and the destruction of the eastern elite estates limited the manpower that the empire could call on while simultaneously giving the great landowners in the east no incentive to defend their lands, as all their interests were focused on Constantinople. The lack of thematic troops meant that not only was it possible for the Turks to occupy land that the Arabs never had the ability to. During the desperate wars with the Arabs, the Byzantines had an eastern frontier dotted with hundreds of little fortresses and a strategic policy of sallying out from those fortresses and raiding the Arab armies. The Arabs could take a few fortresses, but it was very difficult for them to maintain major siege trains and invest the dozens and dozens that dotted the frontier. This system did not exist when the Turks arrived, but many of those fortresses did. The lack of military manpower caused the Byzantines to look for new sources of troops, and thus they hired the Turks for the civil wars and established them in the fortresses, thus handing Anatolia over in many places unintentionally. Keep in mind that most of the Turkic groups that entered Byzantine territory were not part of a Seljuk invasion. They were the more uncontrollable elements of the Seljuk armies sent into the Caucasus and left to do whatever they wished.
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Old June 7th, 2012, 02:56 PM   #3

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battle tactics also had a role maybe?
as far as i know byzantine army had the armored phalanxes and heavy cavalry as the main force against light selçuk cavalry with bows. turks exhaust the phalanxes and other heavy infantry/cavalry by riding backwards and shooting meanwhile. then they encircle the foe. maybe the oldest trick in the book but apparently it worked against the byzantines.
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Old June 7th, 2012, 02:59 PM   #4

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Keep in mind that most of the Turkic groups that entered Byzantine territory were not part of a Seljuk invasion.
That is right, actually both Eastern Roma Empire and Seljuks were sick of nomadic Oghuz Turkmens which was a threat to security of both empires, harrassing both Seljuk and Byzantine territory and also as far as I remember Alparslan campaigned against these Oghuz Turkmens in 1070 to solve this problem but campaign was unsuccessful. Moreover Alparslan's aim was not to conquer Anatolia even he avoided bad relations with Byzantine, he also offered peacy treaty before Manzikiert but rejected by the Emperor. However the defeat of Eastern Roma Empire in Manzikiert helped Alparslan to canalize all the nomadic Oghuz Turks inside the Anatolia...
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Old June 7th, 2012, 04:35 PM   #5

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That is right, actually both Eastern Roma Empire and Seljuks were sick of nomadic Oghuz Turkmens which was a threat to security of both empires, harrassing both Seljuk and Byzantine territory and also as far as I remember Alparslan campaigned against these Oghuz Turkmens in 1070 to solve this problem but campaign was unsuccessful. Moreover Alparslan's aim was not to conquer Anatolia even he avoided bad relations with Byzantine, he also offered peacy treaty before Manzikiert but rejected by the Emperor. However the defeat of Eastern Roma Empire in Manzikiert helped Alparslan to canalize all the nomadic Oghuz Turks inside the Anatolia...
Alp Arslan did more than offer a peace treaty to Romanus IV Diogenes before the battle in 1071, he gave him an extremely generous one afterwards. Romanus was not on campaign against Byzantium. He was marched to fight the Fatimids, but at the same time the Byzantine army under the emperor was deep into the Caucasus. Alp Arlsan could not leave the easy road to Baghdad open to a major Byzantine army, even though they were not his enemy at that moment.

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battle tactics also had a role maybe?
as far as i know byzantine army had the armored phalanxes and heavy cavalry as the main force against light selçuk cavalry with bows. turks exhaust the phalanxes and other heavy infantry/cavalry by riding backwards and shooting meanwhile. then they encircle the foe. maybe the oldest trick in the book but apparently it worked against the byzantines.
Maybe, but those same steppe tactics that allowed light horsemen to exhaust heavy infantry also tend to make it very difficult for the horsemen to hold any ground. We'd need more specific information to substantiate this argument.
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Old June 8th, 2012, 05:30 AM   #6

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Originally Posted by infestør View Post
battle tactics also had a role maybe?
as far as i know byzantine army had the armored phalanxes and heavy cavalry as the main force against light selçuk cavalry with bows. turks exhaust the phalanxes and other heavy infantry/cavalry by riding backwards and shooting meanwhile. then they encircle the foe. maybe the oldest trick in the book but apparently it worked against the byzantines.

The problem here is, that though the light horse tactics and archery of the Turks may have been very handy at outmanoeuvring the enemy, ultimately there has to be a final confrontation, they have to close to finish the job in a melee. While undoubtedly very good at sapping the strength and numbers of the byzantines in using such tactics, winning solely on that is unlikely. Battle has to eventually be joined.
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Old June 8th, 2012, 09:07 AM   #7
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Old June 8th, 2012, 10:38 AM   #8

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Alp Arslan did more than offer a peace treaty to Romanus IV Diogenes before the battle in 1071, he gave him an extremely generous one afterwards. Romanus was not on campaign against Byzantium. He was marched to fight the Fatimids, but at the same time the Byzantine army under the emperor was deep into the Caucasus. Alp Arlsan could not leave the easy road to Baghdad open to a major Byzantine army, even though they were not his enemy at that moment.
I think you mean here Alparslan. Yes, he immediately directed his army to Emperor's army, but again he had no intention of battling, because Byzantine army was formed of 50.000 soldiers whereas his army was around 20.000 men and tired when the peace offer rejected, he even requested upon his death in battle, Melikshah would be the successor of him...
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Old June 8th, 2012, 12:16 PM   #9

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I think you mean here Alparslan. Yes, he immediately directed his army to Emperor's army, but again he had no intention of battling, because Byzantine army was formed of 50.000 soldiers whereas his army was around 20.000 men and tired when the peace offer rejected, he even requested upon his death in battle, Melikshah would be the successor of him...

Yes, I do mean Alp Arslan. Romanos would be campaigning against his own countrymen soon enough after the battle.

As for numbers, Romanos' campaign army was probably 40,000-50,000, but the force which he actually had at Manzikert probably did not exceed 20,000.
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Old June 8th, 2012, 12:39 PM   #10

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Yes, I do mean Alp Arslan. Romanos would be campaigning against his own countrymen soon enough after the battle.

As for numbers, Romanos' campaign army was probably 40,000-50,000, but the force which he actually had at Manzikert probably did not exceed 20,000.
Actually when he was bargaining peace, he also considered buying time also since 10.000 cavalry was on the way but Emperor knew time was clicking for him...
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