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Byzantinische Zeitschrift

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Byzantine Responses to the Battlefield Tactics of the Armies of the Turkoman Principalities: The Battle of Pelekanos (1329)

Savvas Kyriakidis1

1İstanbul

Citation Information: Byzantinische Zeitschrift. Volume 103, Issue 1, Pages 83–97, ISSN (Online) 1864-449X, ISSN (Print) 0007-7704, DOI: 10.1515/byzs.2010.008, November 2010

Publication History

Published Online:
2010-11-04

Abstract

This article examines the Byzantine responses to the battlefield tactics followed by the armies of the Turkoman chiefdoms during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The most characteristic example reflecting the difficulties faced by the Byzantine army when confronted by the Turkomans is the battle of Pelekanos, in the gulf of Nikomedia. It was fought in 1329 between the Byzantines under the command of the emperor Andronikos III (1328–1341), and the Ottomans whose leader was Orhan (1326–1362). The outcome of this battle typifies the inability of the late Byzantine armies to deal effectively with the Turkoman cavalry archers, despite the instructions given by the military treatises which were compiled in the earlier periods of Byzantine history, despite the experience of fighting against enemies of similar nature in the past, and despite the fact that generals such as Kantakouzenos possessed a good knowledge of the fighting methods of the Turkomans. This article argues that the inability of the Byzantines to adjust to the demands of the battlefield tactics of the Turkoman warriors was a combination of many factors. The loss of Asia Minor deprived Byzantium of its main source of competent archers. The Byzantines relied on heavy cavalry which, although it proved ineffective against the Turkomans, was the symbol of exalted status of members of the aristocracy. Moreover, stereotyped views about the Turkomans affected the performance of the Byzantines on the battlefield. It seems that Byzantine generals, even if they knew the fighting methods of the Turkomans, very often could not fully understand the strength of their armies. This article concludes that the failure to react successfully to the battlefield tactics of the Turkomans could be partly described as a failure of cultural adaptation, reinforced by stereotypes about ‘barbarians.’

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