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8-08-2015, 00:15

The new old enemy

The Seljuq state in Rum was multi-ethnic: its subjects wereGreeks, Syrians, Armenians, Turks, Kurds, Arabs and Persians. Of these, the Turks were for the most part nomads; the Greek and Armenian populations were partly rural and partly urban, as were the Syrians and Arabs in the south-east of Asia Minor. As for the Persian townsfolk, they only moved into Anatolia after the Seljuq conquest. Although the Seljuq aristocracy was predominantly Turkish by origin, the ruling dynasty adopted Iranian names such as Kay-Kawus, Kay-Qubad, and Kay-Khusraw, which were derived from the names of the legendary shahs of the Kayanid dynasty in Iran (see above, pp. 139–40). This was no accident. The vast bureaucratic apparatus, strongly influenced by both Persian language and culture, was the chief instrument with which the sultans ruled their immense Anatolian realm. When the Mongols finally subdued Rum in 1261, they weakened the sultan’s power as much as they could. Between the 1260s and the 1290s semidependent Rum lords dominated the region, most powerful of whom was the parwanah Mu‘in al-Din, the uncrowned head of state from 1260 until 1277.54 The question of governance was further complicated by Mongol infiltration into the Seljuqs’ state apparatus. Deprived of effective control over their finances, army and households, the sultans soon becameMongol puppets. The Mongol conquests also shifted the ethnic balance in Asia Minor. Under their onslaught, many Turkish nomads had fled from central Asia to Anatolia, but now the Mongol troops also occupied the best pastures of the Anatolian plateau. From the 1260s the number of the Turks who migrated to the Byzantine borders increased sharply. The Turks began to form sizable permanent tribal confederations. The largest of these seems to have been the Turks of Laodicea (Denizli), whose ruler, Mehmed-bey, dared to resist Hulagu in 1262. Although he was killed on the orders of the Ilkhan, his confederation survived until around 1284. Other Turkmen confederations included the A˘gac¸eri, literally ‘men of the forest’, who controlled the lands between Melitene and Germanikeia, stretching as far as Cilician Armenia; the confederations of Germiyan and Karaman, based respectively in Kotyaeion (K¨utahya) and to the south-east of Konya; the Turks of Kastamonu, close to the southern shores of the Black Sea; and, finally, the Turks of the Pontos, of whom the most prominent was the tribe of c¸epni. Of these confederations at least three – those of K¨utahya, Kastamonu and Denizli – occupied lands close to the Byzantine border. Military pressure on the Byzantines increased as the Turks, whose territory the Mongols ravaged, tried to compensate by taking over Byzantine lands for themselves. The defence of the Nicaean empire, which was an improved variant of the Komnenian military system, relied on three elements: the provincial garrisons or themata, situated in the frontier towns and castles; the nomads of Turkish and Cuman origin who were allowed to settle on Nicaean soil; and, finally, the akritai, smallholding soldiers installed in the frontier zone (see below, p. 739). Although important during the period of the Nicaean empire, from the 1260s onwards the akritai were no match for the Turks, whose powerful confederations were strong enough to resist even theMongol t¨umens with some success. The only appropriate response on the part of the Byzantines was to embark on military reform. Such reform was implemented by Michael VIII Palaiologos. He carried out a cadastral survey of the borderlands in 1264–5 and, as a consequence, converted into a pronoia that part of each individual’s landed property which was estimated to have an annual revenue of 40 hyperpera. This reform changed the status of the akritai: those who held state land free of tax, and who had formed irregular military units during the reign of the Laskarids, nowbecame mobile themata troops, easily mobilised for a variety of military campaigns. Michael VIII’s second innovation was to maintain closer supervision of the professional Byzantine army along the border, both the tagmata and the themata. For example, in 1263–4 the Turks of Denizli, who had been defeated by the Mongols in 1262, penetrated as far as Tralles (Aydin). Michael’s brother, John the despot, moved his army to AsiaMinor from the Balkans, restoring order on the Anatolian frontier in 1264–7 and concluding a peace treaty with the Turks. The Byzantines managed to maintain their defence system more or less intact up to the 1290s. In the early 1280sMichael VIII succeeded in driving out the Turks who had recently encroached on Byzantine territory, despite being preoccupied at the time with his relations with the west. The Turkish invasion of 1279 had been a direct consequence of their great revolt against the Mongols in 1277–9. The rebels proclaimed as their leader a certain Cimri, maintaining that he was the son of the exiled Kay-Kawus II, Sultan Ala’ al-Din Siyawush: Kay-Kawus was still remembered for his opposition to the Mongols. The Mongols retaliated mercilessly, devastating not only the epicentre of the revolt, Pamphylia, but also those territories close to the Byzantine border, from Konya to Denizli (Laodicea). The large confederation of the Turks of Denizli was totally dispersed, to be replaced by new confederations, in particular the ‘emirate’ of the Mentes¸e. Our Byzantine sources record the ensuing invasion that engulfed the lands between the riversMaeander and Cayster.Michael’s response was swift and decisive: he sent his son and co-emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos to theMaeander in 1280, while he himself secured the northern reaches of theByzantine frontier in a series of military expeditions along the river Sangarios in 1280–2. UnderMichael VIII, Byzantium held onto its Anatolian territories, with the loss of only Strobilos, Stadiotrachia and Antioch-on-the-Maeander. But under Michael’s successor, Andronikos II (1282–1328), Byzantine strategy towards the east became non-interventionist (see also below, pp. 806, 808). The Byzantine army – the most vital element in the defence of AsiaMinor – does not seem to have been militarily active in the region at all between 1284 and 1295, despite the loss of Tralles in 1284 and a series of turbulent Turkish revolts against theMongols. The emperor adopted the old Laskarid strategy of rebuilding fortresses and supplying their garrisons with money and soldiers. Very soon, however, Andronikos ran short of money. He tried to solve his financial problems at the army’s expense: in 1284–5 a special 10 per cent tax was imposed on the pronoia holders. The emperor went even further than his father in debasing the coinage (see below, p. 809). At the end of the winter of 1292–3 the Turks had crossed the Byzantine border and devastated the theme of Neokastra. The emperor appointed Alexios Philanthropenos as commander-in-chief. Philanthropenos managed to restore the status quo on the border but, unfortunately, he himself rebelled at the end of 1295. Although Andronikos managed to capture and blind Philanthropenos, his army, now in profound crisis, disintegrated. The soldiers, who had suffered greatly as a result of the emperor’s financial measures, no longer trusted him. After a severe winter in 1298–9 the Turks crossed the Byzantine borders along theMaeander. Facing ineffective and disorganised Byzantine resistance, by 1302 they had occupied the lowlands between the Maeander and the Hermos rivers and within two years the whole coastline of western Anatolia stretching as far north as Adramyttion was in Turkish hands, save for Phokaia, a Genoese possession. The northern sector of the Byzantine border defences was also breached after the imperial army was defeated at the battle of Bapheus on 27 July 1302 at the hands of Osman, one of the more determined and effective of the Turkish beys in Bithynia. Later attempts by Andronikos to use foreign mercenaries, the Catalans, ended in disaster: the Catalans rebelled and threatened the very existence of the empire in 1305–11 (see below, pp. 811, 835).