Table of contents introductio

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Introduction. 1

Chapter 1.Sources. 5

1) Sources about the battle. 5

2) The “Historia” of Nicetas Choniates. 9

3) The Letter of Manuel Komnenos to Henry II Plantagenet. 11

4) The only source of the “other side”.The Chronicle of Michael the Great 14

5) The sources: Summary. 17

Chapter 2. The Battle 18

1) Historical background 18

2) Objectives, preparations, and the battle-plan. 21

a. The Byzantines 21

b. The Seljuks. 30

a. The Byzantines 34

b) The Seljuks 41

4) After the fight. 44

a. The Negotiations. 44

b. Concluding the peace 46

c. Conditions and Results of the Peace. 48

5) Relations in the wake of the battle and the propaganda war. 49

a. The Byzantines: A long way home 49

b. The Seljuks: All the sultan’s men 52

6) Summary 53


Chapter 3. Representation and Images 54

1) Introduction to the question 54

2) The Byzantines 55

a. The case of John Kinnamos 55

b. The Letter of Manuel Komnenos 58

c. The case of Nicetas Choniates 60

3) The case of Michael the Syrian 72

4) Enemies at Myriokephalon: Representations and images 76

Conclusions 78

Bibliography 82

Appendix 1. Maps 89


I would like to thank the Department of Medieval Studies at the Central European University for a research grant to Vienna. I would also like to thank Cristian Nicolae Gaspar, instructor at the department, who helped me a lot at all the stages of my work on the thesis. Last but not the least, the person I would like to acknowledge here is my external supervisor Dr. Rustam Shukurov who suggested me the very idea of coming to the CEU.

List of illustrations:

  1. The beginning of the battle at Myriokephalon…………………….39

  2. The apex of the battle at Myriokephalon…………………………..40

  3. The end of the battle ………………………………………………41

  4. The position of the Byzantine Empire in Eastern Mediterranean….90

  5. The way to Myriokephalon………………………………………...91

  6. The probable place of the battle at Myriokephalon………………..92


BZ =Byzantinische Zeitschrift

DOP = Dumbarton Oaks Papers

MGH SS = Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Seria Scriptores (in Folio)

REB =Revue des études byzantines

RHC = Recueil des historiens des croisades

VV = Vizantiyskiy vremennik


On the 17th of August, 1176, a long defile east of Ikonion was awakened by the sounds of thousands horse hooves, which raised a cloud of dust on the old Roman road. A long column of armor-clad warriors under the banners of the Byzantine Empire began to enter the narrow pass from the west. To them it seemed empty, but it was not – on the slopes of the meadows and up on the heights thousands of men from the army of Kilic Arslan II prepared their famous bows and were awaiting the signal of the commander to shoot at the heads of the enemy. This was the beginning of the battle which is considered to be one of the most fascinating events of the whole Byzantino-Seljuk military conflict -- a conflict which began one century before at the battle of Mantzikert (1071) and finished thirty years later with the fall of Constantinople (1204). This was the beginning of the battle “of the thousand heads” – the battle at Myriokephalon.


This battle is probably one of the best known and most studied events in the whole conflict, for many reasons. The main reason is that this event is described in many sources and in some of them – in great detail. Another important reason is that the person who wrote the most about Myriokephalon was none other than Nicetas Choniates, the famous Byzantine historian. European scholars of the era of positivism were fascinated by the “objective” description by this talented bureaucrat and gave credit to him up to the last word. The other sources – the narrative of Michael the Syrian, the Gesta of William of Tyre – were also used for the reconstruction of the battle, but the account of Choniates was considered the primary guide.1

The situation began to change when Alexander Vasilyev widened the circle of possible sources and established the exact date of the battle.2 The works of Claude Cahen and Speros Vryonis created a good base for further studying the topic.3 The next step was taken in 1976, when Ralph-Johannes Lilie published his article in which he carefully discussed consequences of the battle of Myriokephalon.4 The following years saw the beginning of a discussion between N. Mersich and M.F. Hendy about the actual place of the battle.5 Later on Paul Magdalino and Ralph-Johannes Lilie created important pieces, which changed very much the viewpoint on the reign of Manuel Komnenos in general and on his relations with the Crusaders States in particular. Both works were revolutionary in a way, because they clearly presented Myriokephalon as a failed Crusade.6

At the same time an important contribution to the development of the studies on the topic was made by A. Kazhdan, who introduced a new approach towards the Byzantine historical writing of the twelfth century.7 Another Russian Byzantinist, J. Lyubarskij on the basis of this approach argued that some parts of Nicetas description of the battle of Myriokephalon are not to be believed.8 The article was published just before Ljubarskij’s death so, unfortunately, he did not have enough time to formulate his argument more precisely.

In this work I will be something of a dwarf on the shoulders of a giant. My primary idea is to reconstruct the battle from both sides, paying close attention to the details which have not been thoroughly studied yet. Such are the plans and aims of the Seljuks and the Byzantines before the battle, their behavior during the event, and the negotiations after it. My second idea is, in a way, a borrowing from Lyubarskij, who used new approaches and new topics in his study of traditional sources. For my part I will study “images and representations” in the narratives devoted to the battlefield. By the word “image” I understand the depiction of the enemy as offered by different authors and sources. Conversely, the term “representation ” implies something more specific. It refers to the language of symbols and metaphors, which allows the author to assign extra connotations to the text. It is one thing when one writes “he was a mean person” and totally different when he/she writes “he was a mean person He bertrayed his teacher in the same way as Judas ”. The former is just a description, while the latter seems to me as a kind of representation. . For me, the main criterion to make the distinction between the two is simplicity and elaboration: if a description is simply a description and obviously do not imply any further connotations – it is an image rather than a representation.

This topic is interesting because for the battle at Myriokephalon there is one piece of evidence from a contemporary who seems to have received the information about it from Seljuk side. His work may have saved some elements of the Seljuk image or even representation of the enemy .

The methodology here, as always, depends on the research question and the character of the available sources. The latter will be analyzed in chapter 1, which, will be rather traditional in a methodological sense. The second chapter will be based on a comparison of the data from different authors and sources. The third chapter will be the most interdisciplinary among them all, because it will address the images/representations of the enemy” and thus deal partly with “the image of the Other.”9 The methodology here is to search for the different epithets and metaphors by which the representation of the enemy was created and to find out the connections between them. At the end of this part I will make a short summary of the “image of the enemy” in Byzantine sources and compare it with the one built into the only narrative of “the other side,” namely that of Michael the Syrian.

I hope that this study will add a small but valuable quantity of knowledge that will enrich the military history of Byzantium and the history of the “the Other” in Byzantine literature at the same time. This apparent duality is a danger; in Russian one says: “Whoever follows two hares at the same time will lose both.” But here this is not the case – the image of the enemy cannot be reconstructed without a reconstruction of the battle and the battle cannot be reconstructed without an elementary knowledge of the image of the enemy from both sides. Speaking in the terms of this proverb, here one hare will be caught. The hunting has just started.

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