Battle of Ankara
|Battle of Ankara|
Battle of Ankara (A Mughal illustration)
|Timurid Empire|| Ottoman Empire
|Commanders and leaders|
Shah Rukh (left wing)
Khalil Sultan (left wing)
Miran Shah (right wing)
Abu Bakr (vanguard)
Sultan Huseyn (advance guard)
Mohammed Sultan (main body)
Taj al-Din Shah-i Shahan Abu'l Fath
|Bayezid I (POW)
2,000 - 10,000 Serbs
|Casualties and losses|
|15,000-25,000 killed and wounded||15,000-40,000 killed and wounded|
The Battle of Ankara or Battle of Angora, fought on 20 July 1402, took place at the field of Çubuk (near Ankara) between the forces of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I and Timur, ruler of the Timurid Empire. The battle was a major victory for Timur, and it led to a period of crisis for the Ottoman Empire (the Ottoman Interregnum). However, the Timurid Empire went into terminal decline following Timur's death just three years after the battle, while the Ottoman Empire made a full recovery, and continued to increase in power for another two to three centuries.
Timur had conquered Georgia and Azerbaijan in 1390 and Syria in 1399 after defeating the Mamluks, expanding his empire to the borders of the Ottoman Empire. The two powers soon came into direct conflict. Bayezid demanded tribute from one of the Anatolian Beyliks who had pledged loyalty to Timur and threatened to invade. Timur interpreted this action as an insult to himself and in 1400 sacked the Ottoman city of Sebaste (modern Sivas). In 1402, the Ottomans campaigned in Europe, trying to conquer Hungary. Timur, a wise and educated military leader, found it as a proper moment to attack and destroy the Ottoman empire. Bayezid was stung into furious action and when Timur invaded Anatolia from the east, hurried back from Europe in order to confront fast moving Timur somewhere in the west of Turkey. Timur, whose whole army was mounted, took a u-turn moving fast through Anatolia, slaughtering Ottoman conscripts, taking away horses, destroying Ottoman cities and towns in his path. The conflict, overall, was the culmination of years of insulting letters exchanged between Timur and Bayezid.
The exact size of the conflicting armies is not known. When Timur invaded Asia Minor, his army of horsemen with no infantry allowed him to move fast through the Ottoman Empire, destroying the Empire's defense piece by piece. Later, before the main battle and during the battle, a number of Bayezid's allies and vassals joined Timur. In Turkey Old and New: historical, geographical and statistical (1880), Sutherland Menzies states that both armies amounted to nearly one million men. Peter Fredet claims that Timur and Bayezid's armies consisted of 800,000 and 400,000 men, respectively. Robert Henlopen Labberton argues that Timur's army had 600,000 men, while Bayezid's army was only 120,000 strong.
In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, historian Edward Gibbon explained in detail the discrepancies over the strength of both forces:
This number of 800,000 was extracted by Arabshah, or rather by Ebn Schounah, ex rationario Timuri, on the faith of a Carizmian officer (tom. i. c. 68, p. 617); and it is remarkable enough that a Greek historian (Phranza, l. i. c. 29) adds no more than 20,000 men. Poggius reckons 1,000,000; another Latin contemporary (Chron. Tarvisianum, apud Muratori, tom. xix. p. 800) 1,100,000; and the enormous sum of 1,600,000 is attested by a German soldier who was present at the battle of Angora (Leunclav. ad Chalcondyl. l. iii. p. 82). Timour, in his Institutions, has not deigned to calculate his troops, his subjects, or his revenues. ... Timour himself fixes at 400,000 men the Ottoman army (Institutions, p. 153), which is reduced to 150,000 by Phranza (l. i. c. 29), and swelled by the German soldier to 1,400,000. It is evident that the Moguls were the more numerous. [The forces of Bayezid are put at 90,000 by Sad ad-Din (tr. Bratutti, 214). Of course the number given by Timur cannot be accepted.]
In Armies of the Ottoman Turks, 1300–1774, David Nicolle remarked that "[t]he sizes of the two armies are reliably estimated at 140,000 on Timur's side and no more than 85,000 under Sultan Bayezid I". Gjon Kastrioti (Skanderbeg's father) together with other Ottoman vassals from Albania (Koja Zaharia, Dhimiter Jonima and probably Tanush Dukagjini) personally led their retainers participating in this battle on Ottoman side.
Bayezid reluctantly withdrew his forces from the blockade of Constantinople and marched them across the midsummer heat. When they arrived, they were tired and thirsty, but were allowed no time to rest or recuperate. Bayezid was advised by his generals to takeup defensive positions and when Timur's forces push back the Ottomans, to withdraw into the mountains and force Timur to break ranks and attempt to hunt the Ottomans in their own terrain during the midsummer heat. Bayezid instead chose to take an offensive stance and marched eastward. Advancing Ottoman scouts found no traces of the Timurids who secretly marched South westward, rested his troops, and were not situated to the rear of the Ottomans. The Timurids encamped in the same locations that the Ottomans had previously occupied, making use of abandoned tents and water sources.
The battle began with a large-scale attack from the Ottomans, countered by swarms of arrows from the Timurid horse archers. Several thousands were killed and many surrendered to Timur. Serbian Prince Stefan Lazarević and his knights together with Wallachian forces successfully fought off the Timurid assaults and did cut through the Mongol ranks three times. Each time Stefan advised Bayezid to break out with him but Bayezid repeatedly declined to do so resulting in the proud and stubborn Sultan after a lengthly resistance to be captured. But the Serbians managed to save one of Bayezids sons and the treasury from the Mongols and made their way to Constantinople. The Serbian troops wore heavy black armour which reflected the Timurid arrows Timur admired the Serbian troops who "fight like lions". During the battle the main water supply of both armies, Çubuk creek, was diverted to an off-stream reservoir near the town of Çubuk by Timur, which left the Ottoman army with no water. The final battle took place at Catal hill, dominating the Çubuk valley. The Ottoman army, both thirsty and tired, was defeated, though Bayezid managed to escape to the nearby mountains with a few hundred horsemen. However, Timur had the mountains surrounded and, heavily outnumbering Bayezid, soon captured him. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Ottoman army was further weakened by the desertion of the Tatars and the Sipahis from the Anatolian beyliks, who left Bayezids' side and joined Timur's forces.
European populations had, at first, seen the Timurids as a blessing and the Genoese were said to have flown the Mongol standard from the walls of Galata in support of Timur. However, after a few months following his destruction of the Ottoman power in Anatolia, fear of being the next target had gripped the European people. Preferring the devil they knew to one they did not, Italian ships ferried the beaten Ottoman soldiers into Thrace to safety. Timur was furious at the Italian sailors who rescued the Ottoman soldiers, but with no ships, he was in no position to do anything to stop it. At least one Muslim writer complained that, despite being Muslims, Timur's soldiers ravaged in Asia Minor like barbarians.
Due to the Timurid invasion, the Ottomans abandoned their most recent siege of Constantinople and their troops were transferred to Asia Minor to counter the new threat. The Ottoman defeat at the Battle of Ankara bought the Byzantine emperor and much of Eastern Europe a brief respite.
This event was catastrophic for the Ottoman state, fracturing what remained and bringing almost total collapse of the empire. This resulted in an civil war among Bayezid's sons. A total collapse of the Ottoman Empire was probably only averted due to the fact that Timur himself died only three years later, sparking their own Timurid civil war as various family members battled each other for succession. The Ottoman civil war continued for another 11 years (1413) following the Battle of Ankara. The victor, now Sultan Mehmed I, wisely chose to relocate his empire's capital to the European side of the Bosphorus. Succeeding years of internal social and religious strife would lead to further delays in any meaningful Ottoman expansion. Remarkably, only 51 years after this near collapse, the Ottomans would finally achieve the long sought-after Islamic dream of capturing Constantinople (1453). This was a feat only realized once before, by the Western knights of the Fourth Crusade in 1204.
It has been claimed that over 50,000 Turks laid dead within just a few hours.
- Unknown. "Battle of Ankara". A Mughal book illustration.
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About the Serb contingent: Ducas (35. edit. Paris) makes the Servians 5000; Chalcocondila (78) says 10,000. But the Servian contingent was fixed at 2000 heavy cavalry in the first treaty between Servia and the Byzantine empire and Sultan Bayezid adopted the same number when he completed the subjection of Servia
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- Encyclopædia Britannica: Ankara, Battle of
- DBA Battle Scenario: The Battle of Angora
- Military- Engineering Strategy used by Timur at the Battle of Ankara (1402)
- History of Battle of Ankara from Turkish sources
- Map of Mongol dominions after the Battle of Ankara, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
- Battle of Ankara animated battle map by Jonathan Webb