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8-08-2015, 00:12

The byzantine reconquest Alexios I Komnenos

On 1 April 1081, the Byzantine troops who had proclaimed Alexios I Komnenos (1081–1118) emperor entered Constantinople; Nikephoros III was deposed. By this time, Anatolia was a patchwork; Byzantine strongholds held out side-by-side with areas under Turkish control. It was the revolt of Nikephoros Melissenos against Nikephoros III in 1079–81 that gave the Turks access to many Byzantine cities in Phrygia and Galatia (see above, p. 610). The Byzantines still held the Mediterranean coastline of Asia Minor, south of Phokaia.28 Similarly they still controlled the chief cities in Paphlagonia, while Theodore Gabras had liberated Trebizond by 1081. It was around this time, certainly by June 1081, that Suleiman felt himself strong enough to shake off nominal Byzantine suzerainty. He occupied Nicaea and Nikomedeia and proclaimed himself sultan. Meanwhile other parts of Asia Minor became subject to new lords: the Danishmends in Sebasteia (Sivas), Caesarea (Kayseri) and Amaseia (Amasya); the Mengucheks in Keltzene, Kamacha and Tephrike (Divriˇgi on the upper Euphrates; and the Saltuqs in Theodosioupolis (Erzurum).Of these, the emirate of theDanishmends was the mightiest. Rivalry, yet sometimes unity, between the Seljuq sultans of Rum and the mighty Danishmends characterised the internal politics of Turkish-dominated AsiaMinor from the 1080s until the 1170s. Until the First Crusade, Alexios I’s strategy in Asia Minor was to expel the Seljuq Turks from Bithynia; preserve the Byzantine strongholds on the sea coast; and impose imperial authority or at least overlordship, however tenuous, on the motley assortment of warlords – Turkish, Greek or Armenian – who had emerged elsewhere in the peninsula. Despite his lack of military resources, Alexios I’s eastern policy was successful, even in the first fifteen, most difficult years of his reign. Firstly he succeeded in reconquering the coastline of Bithynia from Suleiman, including Nikomedeia. A peace treaty had been signed by 17 June 1081, establishing the Drakon river as the frontier between the empire and the sultanate of Rum. In 1086, after Suleiman’s death, Malik Shah offered Alexios an alliance, to be cemented by marriage between Alexios’ daughter (and future historian) Anna Komnena and Malik Shah’s son Barkyaruq. Although the marriage was never concluded, with Malik Shah’s permission Alexios retook Sinope and other Pontic cities from the Seljuqs. The sultan’s concession was not particularly generous: both rulers were united in antipathy towards the Nicaean statelet, now ruled by Suleiman’s successors.29 Some of the Christian lords ruling over the remnants of the Byzantine territories in Anatolia still recognised imperial authority. Philaretos remained Byzantine domestic of the East and doux of Antioch untilDecember 1084 when Suleiman seized the city. Gregory Pahlavuni, the nephew of Catholicos Gregory II the Martyrophile (1066–1105), was the Byzantine magistros, doux and ‘kouropalat¯es of the East’ until 1099 when he was killed in the neighbourhood of Ani. Finally, in 1091 Theodore Gabras visited Constantinople and accepted the authority of the emperor. However, Alexios I’s foremost concern upon his accession was the Turkish statelets in western Anatolia. Although Suleiman had proclaimed himself sultan, his power base was far from solid, despite controlling the old Byzantine military road from Nicaea to Ikonion. The situation became even more volatile when he moved his armies back to Cilicia and thence to Syria in 1082–3. Suleiman almost destroyed Philaretos’ lordship, taking Antioch and finally Melitene in 1084–5, but he was himself killed in battle against Malik Shah’s brother Tutush near Aleppo in May–June 1086. However, Suleiman’s departure from Anatolia and subsequent death did not halt the Turkish incursions into Mysia, Lydia and Ionia. At the end of 1083, shortly after Suleiman had withdrawn his forces to Syria, Alexios was forced to repel a series of attacks against the Byzantine cities along the Sea of Marmara by Abu al-Qasim, chief deputy to the sultan of Rum. In 1092, while the rapprochement between emperor and sultan after the death of Suleiman was still in force, Alexios I organised a counter-attack against the Turks in Nicaea; his general Tatikios marched on Nicaea to help the army of Malik Shah’s amir Buzan besiege the city, while Manuel Boutoumites destroyed Abu al-Qasim’s fleet near Kios in Bithynia. By the end of 1092 or early 1093, Abu al-Qasim was required to sign a peace treaty while receiving imperial hospitality in Constantinople and he accepted the Byzantine title of sebastos from Alexios.30 Malik Shah died on 19November 1092 and for two years after his death a struggle raged between the newsultan, Barkyaruq (1094–1105) and his uncle Tutush. In early 1094, Buzan ordered the murder of Abu al-Qasim near Isfahan, and became Barkyaruq’s commander-in-chief in Asia Minor; just before Abu al-Qasim was killed, Suleiman’s son Kilij Arslan I (1092–1107) entered Nicaea. Alexios I also subdued two other over-active Turkish beys in the early 1090s: Tzachas (C¸ aka) of Smyrna, who occupied Klazomenai, Phokaia and Chios from 1090 to 1093 (see above, p. 611), and at the end of 1093, a certain Elchanes who, judging by his title, was Buzan’s or Kilij Arslan I’s deputy in Apollonias and Kyzikos. Around this time Alexios regained Nikomedeia and built some other forts looking onto the Gulf of Nikomedeia.31 Yet despite all these measures, the most the Byzantines achieved in Asia Minor between 1081 and 1096 was the temporary halting of Turkish incursions into north-west Anatolia. It was the participants of the First Crusade who destroyed the Turkish statelet in Bithynia. Not only did they besiege and takeNicaea on 19 June 1097; they also defeated the army of Kilij Arslan I at Dorylaion on 1 July 1097 (see above, p. 623). So shattering was this defeat to the Seljuqs of Rum that the sultan, who was later supported by the malik known as Danishmend, only managed to organise resistance on the eastern borders of his realm, in Hebraike near Heraclea-Cybistra, at the beginning of September 1097. Once again, the crusaders were victorious. The Byzantine reconquest of western Anatolia began almost as soon as Nicaea had fallen to the Crusaders. By 28 June 1098 the Byzantine armies had cleared the Aegean coast and the provinces of Phrygia, Ionia and Lydia of the Turks and reached the river Maeander. Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea became Byzantine, and imperial troops penetrated as far as Polybotos. At the end of 1099 or early in 1100 General Manuel Boutoumites’ expedition to Cilicia brought Antalya back to the Byzantines, although the road between the city and the Byzantine strongholds on theMaeander remained vulnerable to possible Turkish incursions. Antalya (Attaleia) became the springboard for further Byzantine campaigns into Cilicia, where Alexios I established a nucleus for Byzantine administration in 1101. Towards the end of his reign, the emperor succeeded in subjugating the lands around Kotyaeion in the summer of 1113, reaching Kedrea (near Amorion) and Philomelion in the autumn of 1116.

 

 

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