Battle of Ankara
|Battle of Ankara|
|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)
|Beyazid 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 the Turko-Mongol forces of 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, 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. Beyazid 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 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.
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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. The Serbian troops wore heavy black armour which reflected the Timurid arrows. Stefan had tried to bring out Bayezid to break through. Timur was admired by 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 nations had, at first, encouraged the Timurid invasion and the Genoese were said to be flying 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.
The Battle of Ankara had a temporary effect on the political ground of the Balkans, where at the time the Ottomans had the initiative. Because of the Timurid invasion, the siege of Constantinople was lifted with Ottoman troops being withdrawn from the Balkans to counter the new threat.
This event had split the Ottomans into factions since Bayezid's sons were still alive and free after he himself was captured. Most of the Ottoman Turks had fled into Europe. The result was a civil war among Bayezid's four sons. This temporary weakening of the Ottomans resulted in delaying the end of the Byzantine Empire and the eventual Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.
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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