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Thread: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

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    Ja mata, TosaInu Forum Administrator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Question The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    For my IB (International Baccalaureate) course I need to complete a 4000 word essay on any topic I like, so I chose the topic of Manzikert and Myriokephalon impacting on the fall of the Byzantine Empire. I would like to ask everyone's opinion on this issue, im trying to gather different opinions (if possible, backed up by historical sources) in order to make it a better essay which could get me up to two extra points for my IB.

    My take is that Manzikert, contrary to popular judgements, wasn't a heavy military defeat at all, but instead it was a political disaster, as the capture of the emperor destroyed the invincibility of the myth of the Byzantine army, and thus more and more Seljuk incursions followed due to the civil war immediately after the battle.

    Myriokephalon was also more of a psychological impact than a military impact, as it proved that the Empire could not destroy Seljuk power in central Anatolia despite the advances made during Manuel's reign as emperor, and it marked the final attempt to recover Anatolia from the Seljuk Turks.

    Opinions? Thoughts?
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 04-16-2009 at 21:16.
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    Member Megas Methuselah's Avatar
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    Post Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Ah, so you're trying to prove it was a defeat more akin to that of the Spanish armada than an exceedingly heavy military loss. I wish I could help, but I don't know about this too much. I'm here to learn.

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    Spirit King Senior Member seireikhaan's Avatar
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Manzikert was not so much a political blow to the Byzantine emperor as it was a manifestation of Byzantine politics. Tarchaniotes' failure to inform Romanus of the failure and retreat from Khilat was probably not just a simple matter of mis-communication. Further signs of the rampant greed and political intrigues upon the emperor can be seen by the abandonment of the rear guard by Andronicus Ducas, leaving the Byzantine army, already in a hazardous positiion from chasing Turks all day, in a completely untenable position, enabling the Turks to close upon the flanks with near impunity. Manzikert wasn't the death blow of the empire- it had already died from the inside.

    -Source: How Wars Are Won: The 13 Rules of War, by Bevin Alexander


    Afraid I have nothing on Myriokephalon.
    Last edited by seireikhaan; 04-16-2009 at 22:44.
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    I heard as well that it cut the Byzantines off from their supplies of troops from Cilician Armenia, can't remember where I read that though.
    At the end of the day politics is just trash compared to the Gospel.

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    Ja mata, TosaInu Forum Administrator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Hmm, thanks for that Shinseikhaan. It will definitely make it into my Extended Essay.

    @Rhyfelwyr

    It is true, that after Manzikert, repeated attacks from the Seljuk Turks on those areas left large areas completely unguarded, and slowly, they managed to conquer most of Anatolia, Armenia, Cilician Armenia, Trebizonda and Niceea until Alexius the Ist came to power.
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    Retired Senior Member Prince Cobra's Avatar
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    Cool Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Basically, I think your point about Myriokephalon and Manzikert was right.

    The problem with Manzikert was the Romanus IV camp. Maybe he was too eager to give a decisive battle. His capture and the supporters of the Doukas, the army and the buracracy did the rest of the work.

    The problem of Myriokephalon was the over-confidence of Manuel. He rushed to extend the Byzantine power in the Meditteranean (the absurd campaign in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and his numerous wars with the Hungarians) instead of just focusing on Minor Asia. I am not expert on the Turks but I think their tactic was the raids. Slowly but surely penetrating in the Byzantine lands pillaging and killing the Christian population/allowing it to convert to the Islam (in fact they had more bearable tax-rate than the Byzantine Empire). It seems Manuel underestimated them since the Byzantine army seemed to be suprerior at that time (my opinion) and he won almost every battle against them. Myriokephalon was the first failure for years and you are right, it showed the failure of the ambitious policy of Manuel. Furthermore, the exhaustion of the Empire triggerred the crisis in the Empire.

    I think the biggest problem of Byzantium was its position. Pressed from both East and West, it had to combine the Eastern absolutism with the Western feudal pattern. Energetic and strong willed and cautious Emperor were needed for these new reforms unseen from the time of Heracles. After the death of Basil II, it was ruled by the declining Macedonian dynasty. Instead of energetic rulers to make the needed reforms (or to continue the old policies of Basil) and keeping the reins of the state, it was ruled by incompetent and very old Emperors and Empresses. I believe Basil II was personally responsible for the decline of the Empire because of his hatred to the women. He never married and produced a heir, his brother was too weak-willed to force his daughters to marry on time. When he made his mind, his daughters were already in their fifties and the hope for heir was... as little as the sexual abilities of the sixty year old groom who later became Romanus III Argyrus. Manzikert was the result of the struggle for the throne between the puppets of the bureacracy and the aristocratic families for the vacant throne of the Macedonian dynasty.


    The Comnenian dynasty had many capable figures but the ambition of Manuel, a very good ruler, triggered the fatal crisis and break the peace needed for this transformation. Andronicus the First was too harsh and extreme to keep the power. The Angelus dynasty had its decent ruler in the face of Isaac Angelus but IMHO he was busy in securing the borders and winning position for the new dynasty and therefore gave too many concessions to the magnates. Alexius III was a disaster. The Crusades of the Fourth Crusades were at proper time and place and immensely contributed to the eventual fall of the Empire.
    Last edited by Prince Cobra; 04-23-2009 at 18:41.
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    Boondock Saint Senior Member The Blind King of Bohemia's Avatar
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Most historians are now leaning towards alternative arguments regarding Byzantium's alleged military downfall in the eleventh century - particularly John Haldon - and the general consensus now indeed is that Manzikert was not a disastrous defeat in military terms. That the situation was not recovered had more to do with the ineffective Byzantine administration at that point. Attaleiates talks of the thematic troops going to the dogs, and its clear the army in general was in a rather shabby state, not helped at all by largely unable leadership, particularly from the top. Byzantium's 'Golden Age' from 959-1025 was largely attributable to it being ruled by superb commanders - Phokas, Tzimiskes and Basil II - who effectively ran a military state. With the spate of 'civilian emperors' that followed, who blew most of Basil's treasury and dismantled the Iberian themata, the long-term effect was always going to be disastrous. True the professionalization of the army began under Phokas - more mercenaries and a progressive doing away with thematic soldiers - but this would have worked as long as a militarily capable, strong emperor was in charge. George Maniakes and Isaac Komnenos probably presented the best chance for the Empire to return to former glories, but it was not to be. I think Romanos IV was very brave and was royally shafted by the Doukai.

    Stephen Asen it is never said that Basil II hated women. Like Nikephoros Phokas it seems he was rather bookish and had little time for such distractions, instead preferring government and war, but to blame him as the chief perpertrator of the misfortunes of the 11th century, for not having an heir, is, I feel, rather harsh. Angold also blamed Basil and there are not many who subscribe to his theory.

    And with the loss of Anatolia, we should not forget that Byzantium lost much of its best manpower, should they have even tried to rejuvenate the theme system.

    Just try not to believe most of what Psellos says, since he was strongly aligned with the Doukai.

    As far as sources go, Attaleiates is the best on Manzikert, but he's not available in English translation (I do however have the Manzikert passages translated). Psellos and Skylitzes Continuatus are also of some use. I know a recent book came out - Turkish Myth and Muslim Symbol: The Battle of Manzikert - which may be useful to you.
    Last edited by The Blind King of Bohemia; 04-25-2009 at 12:46.

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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Quote Originally Posted by The Blind King of Bohemia View Post

    Stephen Asen it is never said that Basil II hated women. Like Nikephoros Phokas it seems he was rather bookish and had little time for such distractions, instead preferring government and war, but to blame him as the chief perpertrator of the misfortunes of the 11th century, for not having an heir, is, I feel, rather harsh. Angold also blamed Basil and there are not many who subscribe to his theory.

    1) He could have married at least. Yet, with a mother like Theophano...

    2) He could have forced his neices to marry on time. Both Theodora and Zoe (the heiresses to the throne) were left unmarried. A capable husband might have secured the future of the dynasty. A strong dynasty with a capable leader was essential for the surviving of the Empire (with few exceptions). Instead sterile and old rulers, both men and women, followed one after another.

    Basil II was indeed very capable as general and a politician but I think he underestimated the importance of strong bloodline.
    ---------------
    Isaac Comnenus was indeed a good choice. As far as I can remember, he had problems with the dynatoi (strong centralism policy) and the capital administration. Yet, his bad health contributed a lot to his failure.
    Last edited by Prince Cobra; 04-25-2009 at 14:46.
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    Boondock Saint Senior Member The Blind King of Bohemia's Avatar
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    I think we shouldn't overlook Basil's obvious disdain for the old aristocracy. Families like the Phokades, Maleinoi and Mellissenoi saw their power broken during his reign, and clearly he'd been threatened enough time by the major aristocratic clans to not wish to strongly align with them. Aside from Nikephoros Ouranos, there clearly weren't many military figures he readily trusted (prior to 1000 many of his choices to command his armies in various arenas - Bardas Phokas, Michael Bourtzes, - were largely made out of necessity). Therefore, I couldn't see him marrying his neices to any internal figure worth their salt. Why he didn't marry is another issue - indeed, whole articles have been written on his celibacy. But I still can't blame him. I just think there were enough chances to redeem the situation.

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    Ja mata, TosaInu Forum Administrator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Quote Originally Posted by The Blind King of Bohemia View Post
    As far as sources go, Attaleiates is the best on Manzikert, but he's not available in English translation (I do however have the Manzikert passages translated). Psellos and Skylitzes Continuatus are also of some use. I know a recent book came out - Turkish Myth and Muslim Symbol: The Battle of Manzikert - which may be useful to you.
    I am using all of the primary sources for my essay, especially Psellos, Attaleiates and Choniates. I found out that it is indeed how you said it, there is no English translation for Attaleiates.

    BKB, if you can post the English translation, it would be of immense help.
    And thank you for the suggestion, I shall look at it.


    @the Basil II topic

    Basil was a strong man enough to keep pesky Theophano at bay, but for some reason he abandoned his "youth policies", when he used to go after women 24/7 and didn't care at all about the Empire.
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 04-26-2009 at 10:58.
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    Boondock Saint Senior Member The Blind King of Bohemia's Avatar
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    I get the impression from Psellos that he abandoned his reckless youth due to him being thrust into a situation where he either fought tough and nail or allow his imperial birthright to be snatched from his grasp.

    I will have a look for my English translation though its been a long while since I had it, if I find it I will try to scan it.

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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Ed I found out today that the English translation of the Manzikert part of Attaleiates is included in the preface to that Turkish Myth and Muslim Symbol book.

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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Perfect! The librarian of our school ordered it for me so it will be of help for my Extended Essay.
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    BKB, you saved me. The Turkish Myth and Symbol book is absolutely amazing, and I'm taking it a step further and I will contact the author so she can clear some things up for me. Brilliant book, I'm recommending it to anyone interested in the subject.
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    Member Member anweRU's Avatar
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Turkish tribes were already infiltrating Anatolia prior to Malazgirt (its Turkish name). However, from the Turkish side, it was important in that it lead to a flood of Turkish immigration into the region. Eventually, the Byzantine order collapsed.

    With regards to the tax rates: the Turks did indeed have a lower tax rate than the Byzantines. But a more important reason for gaining the allegiance of the newly-conquered territories was the religious tolerance. The Selchuks didn't care what particular Christian sect their subjects belonged to - a Christian was a Christian. So a number of different sects that suffered under Byzantine Orthodox persecution could live in peace.
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    Ja mata, TosaInu Forum Administrator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Quote Originally Posted by Shinseikhaan View Post
    Manzikert was not so much a political blow to the Byzantine emperor as it was a manifestation of Byzantine politics. Tarchaniotes' failure to inform Romanus of the failure and retreat from Khilat was probably not just a simple matter of mis-communication. Further signs of the rampant greed and political intrigues upon the emperor can be seen by the abandonment of the rear guard by Andronicus Ducas, leaving the Byzantine army, already in a hazardous positiion from chasing Turks all day, in a completely untenable position, enabling the Turks to close upon the flanks with near impunity. Manzikert wasn't the death blow of the empire- it had already died from the inside.

    -Source: How Wars Are Won: The 13 Rules of War, by Bevin Alexander


    Afraid I have nothing on Myriokephalon.
    Shinseikhaan, can you please provide me with the page number and the edition of your book? It would be of massive help.

    Thank you very much
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    Default Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Byzantine empire was already dying by now. This may or may not have hastened its demise, more of a poilitcal disaster than a military one. Bragging rights if you will.

    As to basil the 2 abandoning his wild ways, that is very common for men of this time period. They would often appear to be stupid partyers to avoid attracting unwanted attention from throne seekers and then snatching it with an iron grip when they felt they were ready or they inherited. Prime example of this, Henry the V

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    Retired Senior Member Prince Cobra's Avatar
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    Post Re: The effects of Manzikert and Myriokephalon on the fall of the Byzantine Empire

    Quote Originally Posted by Centurion1 View Post
    Byzantine empire was already dying by now. This may or may not have hastened its demise, more of a poilitcal disaster than a military one. Bragging rights if you will.
    How much Byzantium was dying before Manzikert is a bit questionable. It underwent big changes: the feudalisation of its society. Centuries ago Emperor Heracles did a reform that created cheap, efficient and easy to upkeep peasant infantry. During the Emperors Phocas and John Tzimiskes an elite guards were created, during Basil the Second the elite Imperial corps were filled with the fearsome Vikings, or as the Russians used to call them Varangians. However, after Basil the Second this strong system started to fall apart since the state was unable to cope with the feudalisation. Reforms were needed to organise a suitable feudal system like that of the Iberian peninsula or with more luck close to the one of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies or,in a more traditional way, to hold the process with few decades . But right at this moment there was nobody to hold the reins tight. Basil II left no male heirs and there were no strong figures to cope with that. I think it was destiny and bad luck rather than destinied downfall of the Eastern Roman Empire.

    I will go slightly off-topic but I think the MTW1 image of Byzantium for the Early period could have been quite realistic, had Isaac Comnenus (mid XIth century) succeded to secure his power on the throne and thus to establish the strong Comnenus dynasty decades before Alexius Comnenus and therefore before the catastrophy of Manzikert.

    Just a sophisticated speculation.
    Last edited by Prince Cobra; 10-15-2009 at 22:34.
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