Why did the Byzantines fail to reconquer the interior of Anatolia in the 12th century?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,936
SoCal
#1
Looking at these maps of the Byzantine Empire, one could see a Byzantine peak in the early 11th century (relative to the previous couple of centuries) followed by a sharp decline in the later 11th century and a partial recovery in the early 12th century:







The years for these maps are 1025, 1081, and 1143, respectively.

Anyway, my question is this--why did the Byzantines fail to reconquer the interior of Anatolia in the 12th century like they did with Anatolia's coastal areas?
 
Likes: macon
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
#2
The Seljuks were a very tough enemy, and several Byzantine campaigns against them met with defeat, resulting in a shift of policy from reconquest to simply defending what they still had. Central Anatolia is a very mountainous region where supplies and logistics were very hard to maintain and ambushes were constant and hard to avoid (as the crusaders during the doomed Second Crusade discovered). The coast was always more valuable and easier to supply.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,936
SoCal
#3
The Seljuks were a very tough enemy, and several Byzantine campaigns against them met with defeat, resulting in a shift of policy from reconquest to simply defending what they still had. Central Anatolia is a very mountainous region where supplies and logistics were very hard to maintain and ambushes were constant and hard to avoid (as the crusaders during the doomed Second Crusade discovered). The coast was always more valuable and easier to supply.
That makes sense, but why were the Byzantines more successful in holding the Anatolian interior in the previous several centuries (as in, before the Battle of Manzikert in 1071)?
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
#6
Yes, but what made the Arabs so incompetent relative to the Seljuks? I mean, the Arabs were able to conquer so much territory, but not Anatolia!
The Fatamids, who were the Byzantines' neighbour for the 10th and 11th centuries, were not a particularly expansionist Muslim empire, compared to their predecessors. They were satisfied with maintaining the territories older caliphates did, but not going out of their way to conquer more land, and central Anatolia was never, for any extended period of time, ruled by the Arabs. Additionally, the Byzantines and Fatamids had fairly good relations with each other and both empires preferred keeping the peace and the status quo. Both of them realised that they Seljuks were a bigger existential threat. Emperor Alexius was even angry when the crusaders turned on the Fatamids and conquered the Levant, since he wanted there to be a permanent peace between the Fatamids and his empire. He implied he would not have given the crusaders passage if he knew they would attack the Fatamids instead of the Seljuks.
 
Likes: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,936
SoCal
#7
The Fatamids, who were the Byzantines' neighbour for the 10th and 11th centuries, were not a particularly expansionist Muslim empire, compared to their predecessors. They were satisfied with maintaining the territories older caliphates did, but not going out of their way to conquer more land, and central Anatolia was never, for any extended period of time, ruled by the Arabs. Additionally, the Byzantines and Fatamids had fairly good relations with each other and both empires preferred keeping the peace and the status quo. Both of them realised that they Seljuks were a bigger existential threat. Emperor Alexius was even angry when the crusaders turned on the Fatamids and conquered the Levant, since he wanted there to be a permanent peace between the Fatamids and his empire. He implied he would not have given the crusaders passage if he knew they would attack the Fatamids instead of the Seljuks.
What about beforehand, though? For instance, the Umayyads and Abbasids?
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#8
Anyway, my question is this--why did the Byzantines fail to reconquer the interior of Anatolia in the 12th century like they did with Anatolia's coastal areas?
The first question that has to be asked is whether they actually wanted to? The centre of Anatolia is a dry, upland region much better for exploitation by steppe peoples than sedentary ones. Constantinople controlled the rich coastal regions, and after 1100 few of the elite families in the court had major landholdings in the far east or centre of Anatolia, so there was less pressure on the emperor to reclaim those lands. We also need to remember that these Turks are "Seljuk" in name only - they do not answer to Baghdad and never did. They are mostly independent operators without sophisticated political systems, which made them particularly vulnerable to Byzantine diplomacy. All the Komnenoi regularly fought with competent and loyal Turkish auxiliaries provided by the Turkish states in Asia, and Byzantium would continue to play them against each other right down to the moment that the Ottomans finally took out the Danishmendids and Trebizond was finally alone, but that was centuries later.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#9
What about beforehand, though? For instance, the Umayyads and Abbasids?
The Umayyads had trouble wintering across the Tauros mountains, and the only times when we see them do so is when they had naval support. Their preferred strategy was to win over eastern generals (Saborios, Leo III) and then attack Constantinople, which they attempted to do three times. The Abbasids had come to accept the world order and had too many other problems. Harun al-Rashid marched to the Bosporos once, but that was it.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,936
SoCal
#10
The first question that has to be asked is whether they actually wanted to? The centre of Anatolia is a dry, upland region much better for exploitation by steppe peoples than sedentary ones. Constantinople controlled the rich coastal regions, and after 1100 few of the elite families in the court had major landholdings in the far east or centre of Anatolia, so there was less pressure on the emperor to reclaim those lands. We also need to remember that these Turks are "Seljuk" in name only - they do not answer to Baghdad and never did. They are mostly independent operators without sophisticated political systems, which made them particularly vulnerable to Byzantine diplomacy. All the Komnenoi regularly fought with competent and loyal Turkish auxiliaries provided by the Turkish states in Asia, and Byzantium would continue to play them against each other right down to the moment that the Ottomans finally took out the Danishmendids and Trebizond was finally alone, but that was centuries later.
What exactly did the Anatolian Turks gain from providing auxiliaries for the Byzantines?

The Umayyads had trouble wintering across the Tauros mountains, and the only times when we see them do so is when they had naval support. Their preferred strategy was to win over eastern generals (Saborios, Leo III) and then attack Constantinople, which they attempted to do three times. The Abbasids had come to accept the world order and had too many other problems. Harun al-Rashid marched to the Bosporos once, but that was it.
When did they have naval support for this? Do you know the years?

Also, out of curiosity--do you think that most or all of Europe would have turned Muslim (as a result of falling to the Muslims) had the early Muslim invaders (Umayyads and/or Abbasids--but especially the former, given their actual interest in doing this) somehow managed to successfully conquer the Byzantine Empire?