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Battle of Myriokephalon

History -- Military history -- List of battles

The Battle of Myriokephalon, also known as Myriocephalum, was a battle between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Turks in Phrygia on September 17, 1176.

Battle of Myriokephalon
ConflictByzantine-Seljuk Wars
DateSeptember 17, 1176
PlaceNear Ankara, Turkey
ResultSeljuk victory
Manuel I Comnenus
Baldwin of Antioch
John Cantacuzenus
Andronicus Vatatzes †
Kilij Arslan II
About 50 000About 50 000
(Tens of thousands)

Manuel I Comnenus had been at peace with Kilij Arslan II, the Seljuk Sultan of Rum until 1175, when Kilij Arslan refused to return territory he had conquered from their common enemy the Danishmends. Manuel first sent an army under Andronicus Vatatzes towards Amasia while his larger force marched towards the Seljuk capital at Iconium. The army moving towards Amasia was destroyed, and Turkish envoys brought Manuel the head of its commander. Meanwhile Kilij Arslan harassed Manuel's army to force it into the Meander valley, where he ambushed it at the pass of Myriokephalon.

Both sides numbered about 50 000 men. Manuel's army included many western ("Latin") mercenaries, including a force from the Crusader Principality of Antioch, one of his most important allies. Both sides suffered heavy casualties, but the Byzantines had the inferior force and were allowed to escape only when Manuel promised to remove his forts and armies on the frontier at Dorylaeum and Siblia.

Myriokephalon had more of a psychological impact than a military impact, as it proved the Empire still could not defeat the Seljuks despite the advances made during Manuel's reign. The army was quickly restocked with mercenaries and recaptured some territory in 1177. Manuel continued to meet the Seljuks in smaller battles throughout his reign, until he died in 1180. However, the defeat ultimately meant that the Anatolian plateau was lost forever to the Byzantines.