Login *:
Password *:


8-08-2015, 00:12

Two ‘wings’: the strategy of John II Komnenos

When Alexios I died on 15 August 1118, he left his successor John II Komnenos (1118–43) a well-organised and prosperous state, and John continued his father’s policy in AsiaMinor. Like Alexios, he undertook military operations against Seljuq territory to forestall Turkish invasions and capture strategically important border fortresses. However, there was a difference. John II’s military activity was largely focused on the two ‘wings’ of the Byzantines’ territories in Asia Minor: Paphlagonia and the Pontos in the north; and Pisidia, Pamphylia and Cilicia in the south. Despite this, John’s diplomatic and military activities were no less successful than those of his father. Southern Asia Minor was the more important of the two ‘wings’: the main cities of the Seljuq sultanate of Rum were to be found there, while the lowlands of Cilicia served as a base for Byzantine support for, or military pressure on, the Crusader states in Syria. In 1119 John II took Laodicea and Sozopolis inwestern AsiaMinor fromtheTurks.He then managed to secure the road to Antalya, occupying the fortresses that protected the port from its hinterland. In 1124 the emperor involved himself in the dynastic struggle between Sultan Masud (1116–55) and his brother Malik ‘Arab, ruler of Kastamonu and Ankara. Combining both military and diplomatic pressure, John II forcedMasud to become his ally, while holding the defeatedMalik Arab as a hostage in Constantinople. In spring 1136 John undertook an expedition against the principality of Antioch, whose vassal Count Baldwin of Marash had defeated, imprisoned and then released the Rupenid prince Leo I. By the summer of 1137 John II had conquered both the highlands and the lowlands of Cilician Armenia, including the cities of Tarsus, Adana, Mopsuestia and Anazarbos (see above, p. 632). The unfortunate Leo I was once again imprisoned, this time by the Byzantine emperor, and sent to Constantinople. Although theDanishmendidMuhammadGhazi (1134–42) soon drove the Byzantine garrisons out of the Cilician highlands, Byzantine administration persisted in Tarsus, Adana andMopsuestia until 1183, apart from two short intervals in 1152–8 and 1173–5, when the Rupenid princes Thoros II (1148–68) and Mleh successively gained temporary control of the lowlands of Cilicia.32 John II was less successful in his northern campaigns. Although his expeditions against Kastamonu and Gangra in 1131–2 and 1134–5 achieved the temporary subjugation of both fortresses, his siege of Neocaesarea (Niksar) in 1139–40 was fruitless. John faced considerable difficulties in Asia Minor after 1130, when the sultanMasud switched his allegiance from the Byzantines to AmirGhaziDanishmendid (1104–33/4). Another ally of AmirGhazi was Constantine Gabras, the doux of Trebizond, which was effectively an independent polity from 1126. John II’s response was to launch military campaigns deep into Paphlagonia and the Pontos. Although he never managed to take Neocaesarea or to break the alliance between Masud and the Danishmends, John nevertheless brought the Pontic provinces to heel in 1140. The furthest-flung ‘wings’ of Byzantine AsiaMinor – the Pontos and Cilicia – became firmly reunited with the main body of the Byzantine state in western Anatolia.