Georgian–Seljuk wars

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Georgian–Seljuk wars
Date 1064 to 1204
Location Caucasus, eastern Anatolia
Liberation of Tbilisi and most of Transcaucasia
Sakartvelo - drosha.svg Kingdom of Georgia

Seljuq Turks

45,000–90,000 250,000–450,000

A number of wars between the Kingdom of Georgia and the Seljuk Empire were fought from c. 1075 until 1203 when the last Seljuk invasion of Georgian territory was defeated.

The Seljuqs made their first appearances in Georgia in the 1060s, when the sultan Alp Arslan laid waste to the south-western provinces of the Georgian kingdom and reduced Kakheti, these intruders were part of the same wave of the Turkish movement which inflicted a crushing defeat on the Byzantine army at Manzikert in 1071. Although the Georgians were able to recover from Alp Arslan's invasion by securing the Tao (theme of Iberia), by the help of Byzantine governor, Gregory Pakourianos, who began to evacuate the region shortly after the disaster inflicted by the Seljuks on the Byzantine army at Manzikert. On this occasion, George II of Georgia was bestowed with the Byzantine title of Caesar, granted the fortress of Kars and put in charge of the Imperial Eastern limits.

This did not help to stem the Seljuk advance, however, the Byzantine withdrawal from Anatolia brought Georgia in more direct contact with the Seljuqs. Following the 1073 devastation of Kartli by the Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan, George II successfully repelled an invasion. In 1076, the Seljuk sultan Malik Shah I surged into Georgia and reduced many settlements to ruins. Harassed by the massive Turkic influx, known in Georgian history as the Great Turkish Invasion, from 1079/80 onward, George was pressured into submitting to Malik-Shah to ensure a precious degree of peace at the price of an annual tribute.

However, in the 1090s, the energetic Georgian king David IV of Georgia was able to exploit internal unrest in the Seljuk Empire and the success of the First Crusade against Muslim control of the Holy Land, and established a strong monarchy. David IV suppressed dissent of feudal lords and centralized the power in his hands to effectively deal with foreign threats, his reforms turned the Georgian army into a well organized and structured military force which saw little analogue in that period. King David IV’s decisive victory over a Seljuk army under Ilghazi and the subsequent reconquest of a Muslim-held Tbilisi, inaugurated the Georgian Golden Age — period of military, political, economical and cultural progress.

The successes of his predecessors were built upon by Queen Tamar, daughter of George III, who became the first female ruler of Georgia in her own right and under whose leadership the Georgian state reached the zenith of power and prestige in the Middle Ages. Tamar was successful in neutralizing this opposition and embarked on an energetic foreign policy aided by the decline of the hostile Seljuq Turks. Relying on a powerful military élite, Tamar was able to build an empire which dominated the Caucasus until its collapse under the Mongol attacks within two decades after Tamar's death.

Armed clashes[edit]

Battle of Partskhisi[edit]

Seljuk Empire at its greatest extent in 1092, upon the death of Malik Shah I

Giorgi II of Georgia, with military support of Aghsartan I of Kakheti, met the invaders near the castle of Partskhisi. Although the details of the battle remain largely unstudied, it is known that one of the most powerful Georgian nobles, Ivane Baghuashi of Kldekari, allied to the Seljuks, handing them his son, Liparit, as a political prisoner as a pledge of loyalty. The battle raged on for an entire day, finally ending with a decisive victory for Giorgi II of Georgia.

Battle of Ertsukhi[edit]

The Kingdom of Georgia had been a tributary to the Great Seljuq Empire since the 1080s. However, in the 1104, the energetic Georgian king David IV (c. 1089-1125) was able to exploit internal unrest in the Seljuq state and successfully campaigned against Seljuk vassal state Kakheti-Hereti, finally turning it into one of his Saeristavo. The king of Kakheti-Hereti, Agsartan II, was captured by the Georgian nobles Baramisdze and Arshiani and was imprisoned in Kutaisi.

The Seljuk Sultan Barkiyaruq (c.1092-1105) sent a large army to Georgia to retake Kakheti and Hereti. the battle was fought in southeastern part of the Kingdom, near the Ertsukhi. King David of Georgia personally took part in the battle, where the Seljuks were decisively defeated.

Battle of Didgori[edit]

After pillaging the County of Edessa, Ilghazi made peace with the crusaders. In 1121 he went north towards Armeniaand with supposedly up to 250 000 - 350 000 troops, including men led by his son-in-law Sadaqah and Sultan Malik of Ganja, he invaded Georgia.

The Battle of Didgori was fought between the armies of the Kingdom of Georgia and the crumbling Great Seljuq Empire at Didgori, 40 km west of Tbilisi, on August 12, 1121. The battle resulted in King David's decisive victory over a Seljuk invasion army under Ilghazi and the subsequent reconquest of a Muslim-held Tbilisi, which became the royal capital, the victory at Didgori inaugurated the medieval Georgian Golden Age and is celebrated in the Georgian chronicles as a "miraculous victory".

In 1121 the Great Seljuq Empire, under command of Ilghazi, invaded Georgia with an army of 100,000-250,000 (modern estimate) or 400,000-800,000 (various Muslim, Christian chronicles).[1][2]

David gathered 40,000 Georgian warriors, 15,000 South Caucasian Kipchaks, 300 Alans and 100 French Crusaders to fight against Ilghazi's vast army.

Battle of Shamkor[edit]

The battle was preceded by a dynastic war (1191–1195) in the Eldiguzid possessions. Victorious in power struggle, Abu Bakr "Jahan-pahlavan" (c.1195-1210) had his elder brother Qutluq Inandj assassinated and forced the younger brother, Amir Mihran, to take refuge at the court of the latter’s brother-in-law, Shirvanshah Akhsitan I b. Manuchehr (c.1160-1196). The Shirvanshah together with Amir Mihran headed for Tbilisi, the capital of Kingdom of Georgia, and appealed for help to Queen Tamar of Georgia, an official protector of Shirvan. Received with great honors at the Georgian court, they were given desired support, and the Georgian army led by Consort David Soslan marched to Shirvan.

Kingdom of Georgia in 1184-1230 at the peak of its might

Abu-Bakr, reinforced by his client Muslim emirs, met the enemy at the well-fortified city of Shamkor on June 1, 1195. David Soslan sent a relatively small force to break through the gates of the city, while he led the main Georgian troops to raid deep in the enemy’s rear. However, poor roads and difficult landscape were setback for the Georgians, and the Atabeg defended the city for a while. Nevertheless, David Soslan’s maneuver proved to be decisive and Abu Bakr’s army was severely defeated. Shamkor was eventually captured by the Georgians who then chased the enemy’s soldiers up to the city of Ganja which in its turn fell to the victors.

Battle of Basian[edit]

The sultan of Rüm, Rukn ad-Din Süleymanshah II (c. 1196–1204), fought hard, with considerable success, to reassemble a once vast state fragmentized under his late father Kilij Arslan II. Initially, his relations with the neighboring kingdom of Georgia were ostensibly peaceful, including the exchange of embassies and precious gifts. However, Süleymanshah’s 1201 takeover of Erzurum whose last Saltukid ruler (malik) Alaeddin Muhammed was, at that time, a tributary to the Georgian crown, brought Süleymanshah II into an inevitable confrontation with the Georgians. The sultan further resented a tribute levied by the Georgian rulers upon the neighboring Muslim beyliks and requested its withdrawal in an ultimatum presented to the Georgian Queen regnant Tamar. According to the Georgian chronicle, Süleymanshah’s emissary delivered a highly offending letter to Tamar in which the sultan threatened to take her as a concubine upon his conquest of Georgia.

Süleymanshah, joined by his vassal beys, crossed into the Georgian marchlands and encamped in the Basiani valley. Tamar quickly marshaled an army throughout her possessions and put it under command of her consort, David Soslan, from their base in Javakheti, the Georgian troops under Soslan and amirspasalar Zacharia Mkhargrdzeli made a sudden advance into Basiani and assailed the enemy’s camp. In a pitched battle, the Seljuqid forces managed to roll back several attacks of the Georgians but were eventually overwhelmed and defeated. Loss of the sultan's banner to the Georgians resulted in a panic within the Seljuq ranks. Süleymanshah himself was wounded and withdrew to Erzurum.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander. "'Miraculous Victory:' Battle of Didgori, 1121". Armchair General. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  2. ^ Anatol Khazanov. Nomads in the Sedentary World. Retrieved 2012-10-20.