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7-08-2015, 23:53

Constantine x, romanos iv and the turkish challenge

The attack on Patriarch Michael I Keroularios cost Isaac I Komnenos a good deal of support. Michael Psellos saw which way the wind was blowing. He persuaded the emperor to resign at a time when a bout of illness had left him in a state of depression. The new emperor was Constantine X Doukas (1059–67) who happened to be married to a niece of the patriarch. It was an admission among other things that the reforms initiated by Isaac Komnenos and supervised byMichael Psellos were not working. Constantine X immediately repealed them and restored honours to those who had been deprived of them. Setting out his programme in a speech delivered before the guilds of Constantinople, Constantine X emphasised that truth and justice, and not the sword, were to be the keynotes of his reign. It was a return to the policies that had been tried at the beginning of Constantine IX Monomachos’ reign. Constantine X was sensible enough to dispense with Michael Psellos’ political services. Less wise was his decision to appoint Psellos tutor to his son and heir Michael Doukas. Contemporaries were unanimous that this rendered the latter unfit to rule. Constantine X had to all appearances a remarkably successful reign. He was well fitted to be emperor, having good connections with both the military families of Anatolia and the great families of Constantinople. He also anticipated the future in the way he associated his family in government. He relied heavily on the support of his brother John, whom he raised to the rank of caesar. He was later criticised for his overgenerous distribution of honours and pensions to the people of Constantinople and for the way he allowed the military establishment to run down. There was increasing pressure on the frontiers of the empire. The Normans made significant advances in the south of Italy in the wake of their alliance with the papacy in 1059, but Constantine X reacted energetically, despatching a number of expeditions to secure the main Byzantine bases along the Adriatic coast.He himself led the army that mopped up an Uze invasion of the Balkans. Less was done on the eastern frontier. The defences of Melitene were rebuilt in 1063, but Ani – the Armenian capital – was lost to the Seljuqs the next year. Constantine will not have heard of the sack of Cappadocian Caesarea and the desecration of the cathedral of St Basil which occurred around the time of his death in May 1067. Only an emperor as securely in control as Constantine was could adopt such a strategy in the east: a war of attrition. He aimed to hold the key positions and allow the eastern provinces to absorb Turkish pressure. There was increasing agitation for a more aggressive policy (see below, pp. 699, 701). In the normal course of events ConstantineXwould have been succeeded by his son Michael, who was aged about sixteen, but he was already seen as something of a liability. Constantine therefore left the regency to his empress Eudocia Makrembolitissa, but she was forced to swear on oath never again to marry.24 She also undertook to rule with the aid of the caesar John Doukas, untilMichael Doukas was capable of carrying out the duties of an emperor. In good dynastic fashion Constantine X Doukas was trying to safeguard the succession for his family. The oath was administered by Patriarch John Xiphilinos (1064–75), who was soon persuaded that the common interest required that Eudocia should be released from her oath. This allowed her to marry Romanos Diogenes, the head of a powerful Anatolian family. He came to the throne on the understanding that he would respect the eventual succession of Michael Doukas. The chances of this happening soon became remote as Eudocia bore her new husband two sons in quick succession. Romanos IV (1068–71) needed a decisive victory in order to establish himself and his line in power. His efforts to search out and destroy the Turkish bands of marauders left him open to ridicule. The Turks were far too nimble for the lumbering and badly trained troops at his disposal. Romanos changed his strategy. Instead of waiting for the Turks to invade the Byzantine provinces, he decided to engage them at their major point of entry into Byzantine territory. This was the bottleneck to the north of Lake Van, which was commanded by the fortress ofManzikert. In the summer of 1071 Romanos led all the troops he could muster to Lake Van and recovered possession ofManzikert and other strategic points which had been lost to the Turks. The emperor appears not to have known that the Seljuq sultan Alp Arslan (1063–73) was also operating in the area. Once he learned of the sultan’s presence he seized on the opportunity to engage him in battle. The combat lasted two days, the Byzantines fighting with surprising tenacity and discipline. They had the better of the battle until towards evening on the second day, when a rumour started to spread that Romanos had fallen. This was the work of Andronikos Doukas, a son of the caesar John Doukas. His motives were political. If Romanos emerged from the battle with credit, the Doukas cause was doomed. Andronikos Doukas was in command of the rearguard and in a position to do maximum damage. He abandoned the field leaving Romanos and his elite troops unprotected. They had fought bravely, but they were now quickly surrounded by the Turks and the emperor was captured. In military terms Manzikert was not a disaster; the Byzantine casualties were relatively slight.25 It should only have confirmed Turkish domination of the Armenian highlands, not that almost the whole of Anatolia would be overrun by the Turks within ten years. Early Turkish settlement was concentrated a thousand miles west of Manzikert along the northern and western rims of the Anatolian plateau. Why should a defeat at the extreme limit of Byzantium’s eastern frontiers have opened up Anatolia to Turkish settlement? Part of the answer isweight of numbers. TheTurkswere a people on the move seeking new pastures. But their penetration of the Byzantine empire was facilitated by the civil wars sparked off by the defeat atManzikert. Partisans of the Doukas cause at Constantinople, including Michael Psellos, seized control of the government for Michael VII Doukas (1071– 78). Romanos IV had not, however, been killed in the battle, as rumour suggested. He was soon released by the sultan and rallied his supporters to his base in Amaseia.Defeated by an army despatched from Constantinople, Romanos retreated to Antioch. The next year 1072 he was again defeated by an army sent out from the capital, commanded by Andronikos Doukas and consisting largely of Frankish mercenaries. Romanos was captured and taken back under safe-conduct. As they were approaching Constantinople the order came that he was to be blinded. This was done so savagely that he died a few weeks later on 4 August 1072. The year of civil war had given the Turks an opportunity to exploit their victory, but it did not end there. Russell Balliol, a Norman mercenary in Byzantine service, seized the main chance. He had taken part in the opening stages of the Norman conquest of Sicily, and recognised a similar opportunity in the confusion produced by the aftermath of Manzikert. Balliol made Amaseia his centre of operations and soon brought most of the old theme of Armeniakoi under his control. Local people welcomed his presence because he offered some protection from the marauding Turks. The government at Constantinople took the threat from Russell Balliol far more seriously than that presented by the Turks. Its apprehension increased when Balliol captured the caesar John Doukas, who had been sent with an army against him; Balliol proclaimed Doukas emperor and advanced on Constantinople. The Doukas government brought in Turks as the only means of combating Balliol and in the short term it worked. Balliol was defeated, but managed to get back to Amaseia, where he retained his independence. In retrospect, the use of Turks was a miscalculation on the part of the Byzantine government, but at the time the Turks seemed no kind of threat to Constantinople. Cocooned in the capital, Michael VII and his advisers may well have felt that the Turks could be treated like the Pechenegs in the Balkans: given lands and a degree of tribal autonomy and in due course absorbed within Byzantine government and society. Eventually the young Alexios Komnenos was sent to deal with Russell Balliol. It was his first major commission.With the help of a local Turkish chieftain he managed to apprehend the Norman and take him back to Constantinople.He acquitted himself with great skill and assurance, but the result was that much of northern Anatolia fell under Turkish domination. Alexios Komnenos had the greatest difficulty in extricating himself and his prisoner from Amaseia because the whole country was alive with Turks.He made a detour to Kastamonu where he expected a friendly reception, since it was the centre of his family’s estates. He found instead his grandfather’s palace occupied by Turks and he had to hurry on. This incident reveals how swiftly Byzantine control in the region collapsed. It was largely because of a lack of local leadership. The story was much the same in other parts of Anatolia. In 1077 Nikephoros Botaneiates – a noted general – abandoned his estates in western Asia Minor and marched on Constantinople with his retinue of 300 men. He left the area unprotected. Still worse, he engaged the services of a Turkish chieftain named Suleiman ibn Qutlumush (1081–6). Botaneiates seems to have been unaware that he was no ordinary warband leader, but a capable and ambitious scion of the ruling Seljuq dynasty. It was a colossal miscalculation on Botaneiates’ part, though he might not otherwise have overthrown Michael VII Doukas to become Emperor Nikephoros III (1078–81). Botaneiates in turn would have to face a challenge which compounded his own folly. Nikephoros Melissenos raised the standard of revolt on the island of Kos and he too turned to the Turks for support. The price was the surrender of cities along the western coast of AsiaMinor, such as Smyrna. A succession of revolts and civil wars had drawn the Turks westward to the shores of the Aegean and handed them most of the great cities of Asia Minor. Thus was the fate of Byzantine Anatolia sealed. The Turks established themselves in force on the northern and western edges of the Anatolian plateau and proved impossible to dislodge: Suleiman’s horde roamed across Bithynia and, after occupying Nicaea and Nikomedeia, he proclaimed himself sultan (see below, p. 708). Behind this shield the much slower process of Byzantine Anatolia’s transformation into Turkey could go on more or less unhindered. In retrospect, the loss of Anatolia to the Turks seems to have been folly on a grand scale.

 

 

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