Battle of Kapetron

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Battle of Kapetron
Part of the Byzantine-Seljuq wars
Date18 September 1048 or 1049
39°58′47″N 41°40′32″E / 39.97972°N 41.67556°E / 39.97972; 41.67556Coordinates: 39°58′47″N 41°40′32″E / 39.97972°N 41.67556°E / 39.97972; 41.67556
Result Byzantine tactical victory, Seljuk strategic success
Byzantine Empire
Duchy of Kldekari
Seljuq Empire
Commanders and leaders
Katakalon Kekaumenos
Liparit IV of Kldekari (POW)
Ibrahim Inal

The Battle of Kapetron or Kapetrou was fought between the Byzantine-Georgian armies and the Seljuq Turks in 1048 or 1049. The event was the culmination of a major raid led by the Seljuq prince Ibrahim Inal into Byzantine-ruled Armenia. Due to the disbandment of the local thematic armies and the diversion of troops to face the revolt of Leo Tornikios, the regular Byzantine forces, under Aaron and Katakalon Kekaumenos, were insufficient to confront the Turkish invasion, and instead, on the orders of Emperor Constantine IX, adopted a passive stance, awaiting reinforcement from the Georgian ruler Liparit IV; this allowed the Turks to ravage at will, notably leading to the sack and destruction of the great commercial centre of Artze.

After the Georgians arrived, the combined Byzantine–Georgian force gave battle at Kapetron (modern Hasankale). In a fierce nocturnal battle, the Christian allies managed to repel the Turks, and Aaron and Kekaumenos, in command of the two flanks, pursued the Turks "till cock's crow". In the centre, however, Inal managed to capture Liparit, a fact of which the two Byzantine commanders were not informed until after they gave thanks to God for their victory. Inal was able to return unmolested to the Seljuq capital at Rayy, carrying enormous plunder. Liparit was released soon after, and Emperor Constantine IX took steps to strengthen his eastern frontier. However, Turkish invasions recommenced in 1054, and experienced increasing success, aided by the diversion of Byzantine troops to fight the Pechenegs and disputes between the various ethnic groups of the eastern Byzantine provinces.


With the conquest of Iran by the Seljuq Empire, a large number of Oghuz Turks arrived on the Byzantine borderlands in Armenia in the late 1040s. Eager for plunder and distinction in the path of jihad, they began raiding the Byzantine provinces in Armenia.[1] at the same time, the eastern defences of the Byzantine Empire had been weakened by Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (r. 1042–1055), who allowed the thematic troops of Iberia and Mesopotamia to lapse their military obligations in favour of tax payments.[2]

A first large-scale invasion, under a certain "Hasan the Deaf" was launched from Tabriz into the Byzantine province of Vaspurakan, but destroyed by the local Byzantine commanders, the katepano of Vaspurakan, Aaron, and the katepano of Ani and Iberia, Katakalon Kekaumenos, who managed to ambush the invaders and rout them east of Lake Van;[3][2] this first raid is variously dated either to 1045/46[4] or 1048.[2]

Soon after, however, a second invasion was launched, under Ibrahim Inal, the brother of the Seljuq ruler Tughril Beg;[3] the events of this campaign are well attested through the histories of the Armenian historians Aristakes Lastivertsi and Matthew of Edessa, and the Byzantine official John Skylitzes.[3] Ibrahim Inal's invasion is dated by modern sources either to 1048[4][5][6] or 1049.[2][a]

Seljuq invasion and Byzantine reaction[edit]

Emperor Constantine IX, mosaic from the Hagia Sophia

Skylitzes reports, with obvious exaggeration, that the invaders numbered 100,000 men, or five times as many as Hasan's force,[3] he also adds the detail that alongside the Turks, the Seljuq army also counted many "Dilimnites" (Daylamites) and "Kabeiroi" (probably Khurasani Iranians). Indeed, Skylitzes mentions that Ibrahim Inal had two lieutenants, one "Chorosantes" (Khurasani), who likely commanded the Khurasani contingent, and "Aspan Salarios", clearly a hellenization of the Persian military rank ispahsalar.[8]

Like the previous raid, the Seljuq force most likely set out from Tabriz and, following the course of the Araxes River, entered Vasurakan. Once they crossed into Byzantine lands, multiple raiding detachments were sent out, which reached as far as Chaldia and the Akampsis river in the north, and the districts of Taron and Chorzianene in the south;[3][4] the main force however raided the district of Basean, and the area between Theodosiopolis, Artze, and the district of Mananalis.[3]

On the Byzantine side, Skylitzes records a difference of opinion on how to counter the Seljuq invasion: Kekaumenos—who was probably one of the historian's main sources and is generally lionized by Skylitzes[9]—reportedly argued that they should confront them as soon as possible, while they were still weary from their march and the Byzantines in high spirits after their recent victory. Aaron, on the other hand, argued in favour of a defensive strategy against such a large army, withdrawing behind their fortifications and conserving their forces until Emperor Constantine IX sent clear instructions.[8][10]

It is clear that the Byzantines were considerably outnumbered, likely as an effect not only of the reduction of the eastern troops under Constantine IX, but also due to the diversion of much of the eastern forces to deal with a revolt of the western armies under Leo Tornikios in 1047;[2] as a result, Aaron's view prevailed; messages were sent to Constantinople to inform the Emperor, and in the meantime the Byzantine troops made camp on the plain of Outrou in Basean, while the civilian population was ordered to find refuge in the local fortresses. Indeed, Emperor Constantine IX quickly sent orders that they should avoid action until the arrival of reinforcements, namely the Georgians of Liparit IV, Duke of Kldekari, to whom the Emperor wrote requesting his aid.[8][11]

Sack of Artze[edit]

The Byzantine army's inactivity had tragic consequences, as the Seljuqs were able to move about freely, and attack the fortress town of Artze, which had become wealthy due to its market, attracting merchants from Syria and Armenia; the inhabitants resisted for a while successfully, as the Seljuqs could not overcome the hast barricades they had erected; but Kekaumenos' urgings to come to the town's aid were rebuffed, according to Skylitzes, by his fellow generals on account of the Emperor's order. Finally, the Seljuqs dropped flammable material and torches into the town, so that the defenders, caught between a raging fire and the Turkish archers, broke and fled; the town was captured and plundered, and its inhabitants massacred; Skylitzes writes that "around 150,000 souls reportedly perished" by sword or by fire, although this number is clearly exaggerated.[8][12][13]


Battle between Byzantines and Muslims in Armenia, miniature from the Madrid Skylitzes manuscript

Once Liparit IV arrived with his army, the combined Byzantine–Georgian army moved from Ourtrou to the plain before the fortress of Kapetron (modern Hasankale).[14] Again, according to Skylitzes, Kekaumenos' advice to attack the isolated Turkish detachments atrriving to fight was not heeded, because it was a Saturday (18 September) and Liparit considered it an unlucky day and refused to fight;[15] this gave time to the Turks to bring their entire army and form battle lines, before advancing on the Byzantine–Georgian army, which now was forced "to prepare to give battle, willy-nilly".[16] Kekaumenos commanded the right wing, faced on the Turkish side by Ibrahim Inal himself. Liparit held the centre, faced by "Aspan Salarios", while the Byzantine left was commanded by Aaron, who faced by "Chorosantes".[16]

The battle began in the late in the evening, and lasted through the night. Aaron and Kekaumenos, in command of their respective flanks, pursued the Turks "till cock's crow". In the centre, however, Ibrahim Inal managed to capture Liparit, who was thrown off his horse when it was wounded; this was not known to the two Byzantine commanders, who thought the Georgian prince was pursuing the enemy as they had done; they were not informed of the true events until after they had stopped their pursuit to give thanks to God for their victory.[16][6] While Inal managed to escape with his men and captives to the fortress of Lastrokome (Okomi), some 40 km east of Theodosiopolis, the Byzantine commanders held conference and decided to split up their forces and return to their respective bases: Aaron with his men returned to Vaspurakan, and Kekaumenos with his forces to Ani.[16][6]


According to Skylitzes, Inal returned to Rayy in only five days, presenting himself before his brother;[17] the Arab chronicler Ibn al-Athir reports—with obvious exaggeration for propaganda purposes—that Ibrahim brought back 100,000 captives and a vast booty, including large numbers of horses, flocks, and goods, as well as 19,000 coats of mail loaded on the backs of ten thousand carts.[18] The devastation left behind by the Seljuq raid was so fearful that the Byzantine magnate Eustathios Boilas described, in 1051/52, those lands as "foul and unmanageable... inhabited by snakes, scorpions, and wild beasts".[19] The Muslim sources on the other hand, follow the conventions of jihad narratives in stressing the success of the campaign in reaching deep into Byzantine territory, allegedly only 15 days' march from Constantinople, and in the amount of plunder and captives seized; this and other raids against the age-old enemy of Islam served to legitimize the Seljuqs as champions of Islam in the spirit of jihad, to solidify their new position as the pre-eminent power in the Muslim world, and bolster their credentials in their championing of Sunni orthodoxy against the Shi'a Fatimid Caliphate.[20]

Emperor Constantine sent an embassy to Tughril Beg to ransom Liparit, headed by Aaron's secretary, George Drosos; the Seljuq ruler instead set Liparit free and gave him the ransom, after extracting a pledge not to fight against the Turks ever again.[17][21] According to Skylitzes, Turghril—perhaps swayed by his brother's claims that the campaign had been an unalloyed success[22]—also sent a sharif to Constantinople to demand tribute of Constantine IX, but the envoy was sent back empty-handed.[17][21] Indeed, the Emperor sent agents to fortify his eastern border,[17] while Toghril was occupied for a time with the revolt of Ibrahim Inal, instigated, according to Skylitzes, by the Seljuq ruler's jealousy for the achievements of his brother;[17][22] this is likely also the moment[b] when an offensive under the rhaiktor Nikephoros was launched against their old adversary, Abu'l-Aswar Shavur ibn Fadl, the Shaddadid emir of Dvin.[5][24]

Nevertheless, the Byzantine defences in the east were weakened again as troops were transferred to the Balkans to face the invasions of the Pechenegs, which started at that time;[25] the Seljuq raids recommenced on a large scale in 1054, with Toghril himself leading them: the cities of Paipert and Perkri were sacked, and Manzikert was besieged.[2] The Turkish incursions continued, with increasing success, as the native Byzantine troops were run down by neglect from the central government, increasingly replaced by unreliable mercenaries, and misguided policies exacerbated the rivalries and disputes between Byzantine Greeks, Armenians, and Syriacs in the Empire's eastern provinces;[26] this set the stage for the calamitous Battle of Manzikert in 1071, which opened the way for the Turkish invasion and conquest of Asia Minor in the following decade.[27]


  1. ^ Skylitzes places the battle on 18 September in the "second year of the indiction". That would mean 1049, but in most sources, including the recent translation of Skylitzes' history,[7] the date of the battle is given as 18 September 1048. Furthermore, 18 September 1048 fell on a Sunday, and on a Monday in 1049.
  2. ^ Some authors have suggested a later date, c. 1050 (A.F. Gfrörer and M.H. Yinanç) or even c. 1055/56 (E. Honigmann)[23]


  1. ^ Beihammer 2017, pp. 74–77.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Vryonis 1971, p. 86.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Beihammer 2017, p. 77.
  4. ^ a b c Cahen 1968, p. 68.
  5. ^ a b Ter-Ghewondyan 1976, p. 123.
  6. ^ a b c Beihammer 2017, p. 79.
  7. ^ Wortley 2010, p. 425 (note 136).
  8. ^ a b c d Beihammer 2017, p. 78.
  9. ^ ODB, "Katakalon Kekaumenos" (C. M. Brand, A. Kazhdan), p. 1113.
  10. ^ Wortley 2010, pp. 422–423.
  11. ^ Wortley 2010, p. 423.
  12. ^ Wortley 2010, pp. 423–424.
  13. ^ ODB, "Artze" (A. Kazhdan), p. 202.
  14. ^ Beihammer 2017, pp. 78–79.
  15. ^ Wortley 2010, pp. 424–425.
  16. ^ a b c d Wortley 2010, p. 425.
  17. ^ a b c d e Wortley 2010, p. 426.
  18. ^ Beihammer 2017, p. 80.
  19. ^ Blaum 2004, p. 1.
  20. ^ Beihammer 2017, pp. 79–80.
  21. ^ a b Minorsky 1977, p. 63.
  22. ^ a b Blaum 2004, p. 10.
  23. ^ Minorsky 1977, pp. 55, 60–61.
  24. ^ Minorsky 1977, pp. 48–49, 54–56, 59–64.
  25. ^ Vryonis 1971, p. 87.
  26. ^ Vryonis 1971, pp. 86–96.
  27. ^ Vryonis 1971, pp. 96–103.


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