Battle of Levounion
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Levounion
Komnenian restorationand Byzantine-Seljuk Wars
caption=Painting of Alexios I, from a Greek manuscript in the Vatican library.
April 29 1091
place=Levounion (near Enos, modern European
result=Decisive Byzantine victory
Byzantines, supported by Cumans, Vlachs, Bulgariansand Frankishand Flemish mercenaries. [John W. Birkenmeier. "The Development of the Komnenian Army: 1081-1180 ", p. 76, Brill Academic Publishers, 2002, ISBN 9004117105.]
Alexios I Komnenos, Byzantine Emperor
strength1=20,000 Byzantines 40,000 Cumans 5,000 Vlachs
casualties2=Unknown, but thought to be extremely heavyCampaign|name= Byzantine-Seljuk wars|battles=Caesarea - Manzikert - Nicaea - Antioch - Battle of Levounion - Nicaea (1097) - Myriokephalon
The Battle of Levounion was the first decisive Byzantine victory of the
Komnenian restoration. On April 29 1091, an invading force of Pechenegswas heavily defeated by the combined forces of the Byzantine Empireunder Alexios I Komnenosand his Cumanallies.
August 26, 1071, a Byzantine army under Romanos IV Diogeneswas defeated by the Seljuk Turksat Manzikert in eastern Asia Minor. The defeat caused the emperor to be deposed and replaced by the ineffectual Michael VII Doukas, who refused to honour the treaty that had been signed by Romanos. In response, the Turks began to move into Anatoliain 1073, meeting no opposition. Chaos reigned as the empire's resources were squandered in a series of disastrous civil wars. Thousands of Turkoman tribesmen crossed the unguarded frontier and moved into Anatolia. By 1080, an area of 30,000 square miles had been lost to the empire. It is almost impossible to overestimate the significance of these events, as within less than a decade more than half of the manpower of the empire had been lost, along with much of its grain supply. Thus the battle of Manzikert resulted in the greatest blow to the empire in its 700 years of history.
It is against this backdrop of defeat and disaster that Alexios Komnenos, a successful young general who had been fighting against the Turks since the age of fourteen, ascended the throne on Easter Sunday,
April 4 1081. According to John Julius Norwich, the significance of Alexios' rise to power was that "...for the first time in over half a century the empire was in capable hands." Alexios determined to restore the fortunes of the Byzantine Empire, whatever the cost. Around 1090 or 1091, Emir Chaka of Smyrnasuggested an alliance with the Pechenegs in order to completely destroy the Byzantine Empire.W. Treadgold. "A History of the Byzantine State and Society", p. 617.]
In the spring of
1087, news reached the Byzantine court of a huge invasion from the north. The invaders were Pechenegsfrom the north west Black Searegion; it was reported that they numbered 80,000 men in all. Taking advantage of the precarious situation of the Byzantines, the Pecheneg horde headed towards the Byzantine capital at Constantinople, plundering the northern Balkans as they went. The invasion posed a serious threat to Alexios' Empire, yet due to years of civil war and neglect the Byzantine military was unable to provide the emperor with enough troops to repel the Pecheneg invaders. Alexios was forced to rely on his own ingenuity and diplomatic skill to save his empire from annihilation. He appealed to another nomadic tribe, the Cumans, to join him in battle against the Pechenegs.
Won over by Alexios' offer of gold in return for aid against the Pechenegs, the Cumans hurried to join Alexios and his army. In the late spring of
1091, the Cuman forces arrived in Byzantine territory, and the combined army prepared to advance against the Pechenegs. On Monday, 28 April 1091, Alexios and his allies reached the Pecheneg camp at Levounion near the Maritsariver. The Pechenegs appear to have been caught by surprise. At any rate, the battle that took place on the next morning at Levounion was practically a massacre. The Pechenegs had brought their women and children with them, and they were totally unprepared for the ferocity of the attack that was unleashed upon them. The Cumans and the Byzantines fell upon the enemy camp, slaughtering all in their path. The Pechenegs quickly collapsed, and the victorious allies butchered them so savagely that they were almost wiped out. The survivors were captured by the Byzantines and taken into imperial service.
Levounion was the single most decisive victory achieved by a Byzantine army for more than half a century. The battle marks a turning point in Byzantine history; the empire had reached the nadir of its fortunes in the last twenty years, and Levounion signalled to the world that now at last the empire was on the road to recovery. The Pechenegs had been utterly destroyed, and the empire's
European possessions were now secure. Alexios had proved himself as the saviour of Byzantium in its hour of need, and a new spirit of hope began to arise in the war-weary Byzantines.
In the years ahead, Byzantium would go on to stage a remarkable recovery under Alexius and his descendants, the
Komnenoi. Byzantine armies returned to Asia Minor, reconquering much of the lost territory there including the fertile coastal regions, along with many of the most important cities. With the restoration of firm central government, the empire became rich during the course of the next century, and Constantinopleonce more became the metropolis of the Christian world. Thus, the battle at Levounion in 1091 marked the beginning of a resurgence of Byzantine power and influence that would last for a hundred years, until the demise of the Komnenian dynasty at the close of the twelfth century.
*Norwich, John Julius (1997). "A Short History of Byzantium". Viking. ISBN 0679772693
*Haldon, John (2001). "The Byzantine Wars". Tempus. ISBN 0752417770
*Angold, Michael (1997). "The Byzantine Empire, 1025–1204, A Political History". Longman. ISBN 0582294681
*Memisoglu, Leon. "Turks through History".
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