Battle of Levounion

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Levounion
partof=the Komnenian restoration and Byzantine-Seljuk Wars

caption=Painting of Alexios I, from a Greek manuscript in the Vatican library.
date=April 29 1091
place=Levounion (near Enos, modern European Turkey)
result=Decisive Byzantine victory
combatant1=Byzantines, supported by Cumans, Vlachs, Bulgarians and Frankish and Flemish mercenaries. [John W. Birkenmeier. "The Development of the Komnenian Army: 1081-1180 ", p. 76, Brill Academic Publishers, 2002, ISBN 9004117105.]
Seljuk Turks
commander1=Alexios I Komnenos, Byzantine Emperor
strength1=20,000 Byzantines 40,000 Cumans 5,000 Vlachs
500 Flemings
strength2=80,000 Pechenegs
casualties2=Unknown, but thought to be extremely heavy
Campaign|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 Pechenegs was heavily defeated by the combined forces of the Byzantine Empire under Alexios I Komnenos and his Cuman allies.


On August 26, 1071, a Byzantine army under Romanos IV Diogenes was defeated by the Seljuk Turks at 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 Anatolia in 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 Smyrna suggested 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.]

Pechenegs invade

In the spring of 1087, news reached the Byzantine court of a huge invasion from the north. The invaders were Pechenegs from the north west Black Sea region; 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 Maritsa river. 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 Constantinople once 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".

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Battle of Beroia — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Battle of Beroia partof=the Komnenian restoration caption=Emperor John II Komnenos, commander of the Byzantine forces in the battle. date=1122 place=Beroia (today Stara Zagora), Bulgaria casus= territory= result …   Wikipedia

  • Medieval warfare — Battle of Crécy (1346) between the English and French in the Hundred Years War. Warfare …   Wikipedia

  • Komnenian restoration — The Byzantine Empire before the First Crusade …   Wikipedia

  • Cuman people — Historical coat of arms of Kunság. The coat of arms now are used as the general coat of arms of the Cumans Cuman Kipchak confederation in Eura …   Wikipedia

  • Cumans — ( bg. Кумани [Златарски, В. История на Българската държава през средните векове, Притурка 13: Известия за куманите] , Byzantine: Kuman or Cuman [Encyclopædia Britannica Online [ 9045588/Kipchak Kipchak ] ] , hu …   Wikipedia

  • Komnenian army — Infobox War Faction name= Byzantine army war= the Byzantine Seljuk wars, the Byzantine Bulgarian Wars, the Byzantine Norman Wars and other conflicts active= 1081–1204 AD leaders= Byzantine Emperor headquarters=Constantinople area= Asia Minor,… …   Wikipedia

  • Michael Doukas (protostrator) — John Doukas Born ca. 1061 Died before 1117 Allegiance Byzantine Empire Rank protostrator …   Wikipedia

  • Constantine Dalassenos (thalassokrator) — For other people named Constantine Dalassenos, see Constantine Dalassenos. Constantine Dalassenos Allegiance Byzantine Empire Rank doux of the fleet, thalassokrator Battles/wars …   Wikipedia

  • List of battles 601–1400 — List of battles: before 601 601 1400 1401 1800 1801 1900 1901 2000 2001 current 7th century * 603 Battle of Degsastan Northumbrian king Aethelfrith defeats Scots under Áedán mac Gabráin * 612 ** Battle of Yodong fortress Korean Goguryeo defeat… …   Wikipedia

  • Byzantine army — Infobox War Faction name= Byzantine Army war= Wars of the Byzantine Empire caption= active= 330 1453 AD ideology= leaders= Byzantine Emperor (Commander in chief) headquarters=Constantinople area= Balkans, Asia Minor, Middle East, Italy, North… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.