The Seljuk Turks defeated the Byzantine army in 1071 Manzikert Battle and opened up Anatolia for Turkish rule. This is how the seeds of the Ottoman Empire were planted.
by ZEYNEP ŞAHIN
First published in TRT World
The Battle of Manzikert was fought in Turkey’s eastern province of Mus, on August 26, 1071 between the Byzantine Empire and the Great Seljuk Empire.
At the time, the Seljuks governed a medieval Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim empire founded by Tughril Beg in 1037.
It controlled a vast territory stretching from the Hindu Kush to eastern Anatolia and from Central Asia to the Arabian Gulf.
The battle started after Seljuk leader Alp Arslan learned that the Byzantine emperor Romanos IV Diogenes, with a large army of 30,000, was planning to attack his rear army along what is today’s border with Armenia.
Arslan marched quickly with around 15,000 soldiers and reached Manzikert.
He first proposed terms of peace. But Romanos rejected the offer and the two forces went on to wage the Battle of Manzikert.
The Seljuks won the war.
The Byzantine empire ruled Anatolia for hundreds of years. This peninsula was strategically the most important region to the Byzantine Empire as it was the commercial center.
The Manzikert battle led to the opening of Anatolia to Turkish penetration and the gradual Turkification and Islamisation of the peninsula.
The decisive defeat of a Byzantine field army and capture of the Eastern Roman emperor sent shockwaves across the Christian and Islamic worlds.
A decade of civil war further weakened the Roman Empire, forcing emperor Alexius I Comnenus to ask for military assistance from Pope Urban II.
Manzikert is widely seen as the beginning of a series of events that eventually led to the origins of the First Crusade and the Catholic occupation of the Levant.
The birth of the Ottoman Empire
The Great Seljuk Empire declined as decades passed and a new administration was founded.
This new administration consisted of a number of Anatolian beyliks, small principalities governed by Beys.
Bey is equivalent to a “Lord” in some European societies.
The beylik of Osmanogullari, or the “Sons of Osman” was founded in Bursa, Turkey’s northwestern province.
It conquered the other Anatolian beyliks by the late 15th century, and this evolved into the Ottoman Empire.
Nearly four centuries after the Manzikert battle, the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople and led the demise of the Byzantine empire the longest lasting empire in recorded history.
Turkey commemorates the battle’s anniversary
The battle is commemorated every year in Malazgirt. But this year, the occasion was marked by the attendance of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
“The Manzikert victory for a long time was unacknowledged. The Battle of Manzikert is the most concrete manifestation of unity and pluralism in Anatolia. As 80 million people, we stand as one. One flag,” Erdogan said during his speech.
Along with Erdogan and Yildirim, the ceremony was also attended by Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.
Atilla Ulas, a 28-year-old man from Mus, told TRT World that these kind of commemorative ceremonies are important because they remind people where their ancestors came from.
“These events symbolise the sacrifices our grandfathers made in the past to leave us a homeland. I think the new generation doesn’t really know about it. If these events commemorating our history continue to take place, today’s generation would learn their values,” he said.
Neslihan Ciplak, 14-year-old student from the Malazgirt district said: “In the past, we [locals] used to come here to celebrate it, we were alone as the Malazgirt locals here. We are happy today, because people from around Turkey came here and have acknowledged that Manzikert battle is also important for Turkey.”