Sunday, February 27, 2011

Great Byzantine defeats - Part VI - Battle of Pelekanon

Battle of Pelekanon (1329)

After the civil war in Byzantium that occurred between 1321 - 1328, a younger generation of nobles came to power, led by Emperor Andronicus III Palaeologus (Ruled from 1328-1341) and his best friend and collaborator, and later emperor, John Cantacuzenus. 

The new emperor, and his close associates, have properly assessed that the Ottomans are the greatest threat and that the territory of Asia Minor will determine the fate of the Empire.

In the late spring of 1329, that is, the first war season after the takeover, they led a not so large army to Nicaea, the glorious Byzantine city in which two ecumenical councils were held, and which was then under the Turkish siege.

This was the first time that some Byzantine emperor goes into direct conflict with the Ottoman ruler, and in this case, it was Orhan I (ruled from 1324-1361). This heroic endeavor, worthy of all praise, ended unsuccessfully for the Romans.

First, in the skirmish near Pelekanon, one arrow hit Andronicus III in the leg. He was immediately dispatched to Constantinople, and thus, he did not participate in the decisive battle, which took place the next day.

On June 11, 1329, the Turkish troops, situated near Pelekanon, a city on the east coast of the Marmara Sea, encouraged by the confusion among the Byzantines caused by emperor injury, inflicted a heavy defeat to Byzantine troops. John Cantacuzenus remarkable composure didn’t help at all, and he barely saved the rest of the army. He scarcely saved his own head.

However, comparing this defeat with the Byzantine disaster at Manzikert in 1071, that is often done in the scientific writings, in spite of certain similarities that are very appealing, is somewhat unjustified. The collapse of Romanos IV Diogenes and Byzantine troops, like it was said, was an event of global and historic significance, while the failure of Andronicus III Palaeologus and John Cantacuzenus is just one of the final forms of long-weaned historical flows, and as such, it doesn’t have nearly the weight of Manzikert collapse.

It turned out that the campaign from 1329 was, in fact, the last serious effort of the Byzantines on the eastern front. The remaining Byzantine cities in Asia Minor where left to their own fate and temperament the Islamic invaders.

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