Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Battle of Mersivan

The Crusade of 1101 had high hopes: the First Crusade had already been successful, establishing the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Germans, French, and Lombards (joined by Byzantines from Constantinople) who set out as reinforcements at the request of Pope Paschal II thought they would be avoiding any serious battles. They were mistaken, however, when different groups of Turks banded together and met them at the Battle of Mersivan. The Turkish leader, Kilij Arslan I, had his forces push the invaders where he wanted them to go.

The westerners were then at a disadvantage in the Mersivan area, dealing with dry open land bereft of supplies that was more suited to the cavalry regiments of the Seljuk and Danishmend Turks. Over the several days of the battle, the Turks outmaneuvered the Crusaders at every turn, surrounding them on the very first day.

On day two, a raid by the German division failed, and they were cut off from the main army with no supplies or communication. After a relatively inactive third day, the next day saw Turkish reinforcements. The Crusaders tried to break out of their position, inflicting some damage to the Turks, but they failed to achieve their goal. The fifth day saw the Crusaders' camp captured. Shockingly, the knights fled, leaving behind families and priests to be killed or enslaved. The Lombards, mostly peasant class who did not have horses, could not flee and were largely wiped out, although some were captured and made slaves.

This defeat, and the rounding up and destruction of those who fled, taking place just a few years after the First Crusade, taught the Muslim world that the Crusaders were not invincible. The leader of the Turks, Kilij Arslan I, had redeemed himself after the losses brought by the First Crusade, and established a capital at Iconium. I'll tell you more about Kilij Arslan next time.

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