Battle of Ankara

Battle of Ankara

Battle of Ankara (Mughal illustration)[1]
Date20 July 1402
LocationÇubuk field, near Ankara
Result Decisive Timurid victory[2][3]
Timurid Empire Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire
Lordship of Sati and Dagnum
Jonima Estate
Principality of Dukagjini
Principality of Kastrioti[4] Moravian Serbia
Wallachia Wallachian contingents
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)
Taj al-Din Shah-i Shahan Abu'l Fath

Bayezid I (POW)
Stefan Lazarevic[5][6][7][8]

Bayezid's sons:
Süleyman (left wing)
Mehmed I[9][10][11]


Casualties and losses
up to 40,000 killed[14] 40,000[14]-50,000[15] killed

The Battle of Ankara or Battle of Angora, fought on 20 July 1402,[16] took place at the field of Çubuk (near Ankara) between the forces of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I and 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 was one of the most powerful Central Asian rulers since Genghis Khan. Through long and relentless fighting, he sought to rebuild the Mongol Empire of his predecessors.[17][18]

Timur had conquered Georgia and Azerbaijan in 1390 and Syria in 1399 after defeating the Mamluks, 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.[14] Timur interpreted this action as an insult to himself and in 1400 sacked the Ottoman city of Sebaste (modern Sivas).[14] In 1402, the Ottomans campaigned in Europe, trying to conquer Hungary. Timur found it as a proper moment to attack and destroy the Ottoman Empire. Bayezid 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 a u-turn moving fast through Anatolia, slaughtering Ottoman conscripts, taking away horses, destroying Ottoman cities and towns in his path.[19] The conflict, overall, was the culmination of years of insulting letters exchanged between Timur and Bayezid.[14]


The exact size of the opposing 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.[20] Peter Fredet claims that Timur and Bayezid's armies consisted of 800,000 and 400,000 men, respectively.[21] Robert Henlopen Labberton argues that Timur's army had 600,000 men, while Bayezid's army was only 120,000 strong.[22]

The first-hand observer Johann Schiltberger, who had been taken captive by Bayezid during the Battle of Nicopolis and remained with him until the latter's own captivity whereupon he was transferred to Timur, gives the figures at "sixteen hundred thousand" for Timur and "fourteen hundred thousand" under Bayezid.[23]

In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, historian Edward Gibbon explained in detail the discrepancies over the strengths of the forces:[24]

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, 13001774, 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".[25] 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 the Ottoman side.[26]

Battle positioning

Bayezid reluctantly withdrew his forces from the blockade of Constantinople and marched them through the midsummer heat. When they arrived, they were tired and thirsty, but were allowed no time to rest or recuperate. Bayezid was advised by his generals to take up defensive positions and, when Timur's forces pushed back the Ottomans, to withdraw into the mountains and force Timur to break ranks and attempt to hunt the Ottomans in their own terrain during the midsummer heat. Bayezid instead chose to take an offensive stance and marched eastward. Advancing Ottoman scouts found no traces of the Timurids, who secretly marched southwest, rested, and were situated to the rear of the Ottomans. The Timurids encamped in the same locations that the Ottomans had previously occupied, making use of abandoned tents and water sources.[27]


Army positions at the beginning of the Battle.

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 cut through the Mongol ranks three times. Each time Stefan advised Bayezid to break out with him, Bayezid declined to do so. But the Serbians managed to save one of Bayezid's sons and the treasury from the Mongols and made their way to Constantinople. The Serbian troops wore heavy black plate armour which was very effective against the Timurid arrows. Timur admired the Serbian troops who according to him "fight like lions".[28][29] 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. He died in captivity three months later.[15] Already heavily outnumbered, the Ottoman army was further weakened by the desertion of the Black Tatars and the Sipahis from the Anatolian beyliks, who left Bayezid's side and joined Timur's forces.[30]


Bayezid I at the hands of Timur. After defeating Bayezid I during the Battle of Ankara, Emir Timur had become the preeminent ruler in the Muslim world.

The battle was catastrophic for the Ottoman state, fracturing what remained and bringing almost total collapse of the empire. This resulted in a civil war among Bayezid's sons. The Ottoman civil war continued for another 11 years (1413) following the Battle of Ankara.

The battle is also significant in Ottoman history as being the only time a Sultan has been captured in person.[31]

It has been claimed that over 50,000 Turks were killed within just a few hours.[15]

See also


  1. Unknown. "Battle of Ankara". A Mughal book illustration.
  2. Rafis Abazov, Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of Central Asia, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 56.
  3. Europe in the Late Middle Ages, ed. John Rigby Hale, John Roger Loxdale Highfield, Beryl Smalley, (Northwestern University Press, 1965), 150;"Timur, after defeating the Mamluks in 1400, won a decisive victory over the Ottomans near Ankara in 1402".
  4. Fine, Jon Van Antwerp (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. University of Michigan Press. p. 422. ISBN 978-0-472-08260-5.
  5. John Van Antwerp Fine (1994) The Late Medieval Balkans. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press; p. 499.
  6. Erik Hildinger (2001) Warriors of the Steppe. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press ISBN 0-306-81065-4; p. 189.
  7. John Patrick Douglas Balfour Kinross (1977) The Ottoman Centuries. New York: William Morrow and Company; p. 75.
  8. René Grousset (1970) The Empire of the Steppes, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press ISBN 0-8135-0627-1; p. 451.
  9. A History of Greece: The Byzantine and Greek empires, pt. 2, A.D. 1057–1453 by George Finlay, Henry Fanshawe Tozer; Clarendon Press, 1877,
    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
  10. Encyclopaedia Britannica: Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, Enlarged and Improved, Volume 27 A. Constable, 1911 page 444
  11. The Papacy and the Levant, 1204–1571: The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries by Kenneth Meyer Setton; American Philosophical Society, 1976 page 376
  12. Bury, J. B. (1923). The Cambridge Medieval History. vol. 4. Tanner, J. R., Previté-Orton, C. W., Brooke Z. N. (eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 562.
  13. Prawdin, Michael, and Gérard Chaliand, The Mongol Empire, (Transaction Publishers, 2006), 495.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Tucker, Spencer C. (2010) Battles That Changed History: An Encyclopedia of World Conflict. ABC-ClIO; p. 140
  15. 1 2 3 Prof. Dr. Nazeer Ahmed, PhD
  16. "Ankara, Battle of" in The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 15th edn., 1992, Vol. 1, p. 423.
  17. Beatrice Forbes Manz, "Temür and the Problem of a Conqueror's Legacy," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Apr., 1998), 25; "In his formal correspondance [sic?] Temur continued throughout his life as the restorer of Chinggisid rights. He even justified his Iranian, Mamluk and Ottoman campaigns as a reimposition of legitimate Mongol control over lands taken by usurpers ...".
  18. Michal Biran, "The Chaghadaids and Islam: The Conversion of Tarmashirin Khan (1331–34)," Journal of American Oriental Society, Vol. 122, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 2002), 751; "Temur, a non-Chinggisid, tried to build a double legitimacy based on his role as both guardian and restorer of the Mongol Empire.".
  19. The age of Tamerlane : Warfare in the Middle East c.1350-1500 by David Nicolle; Angus McBride London : Osprey, 1990.
  20. Sutherland Menzies (1880) Turkey, Old and New: historical, geographical and statistical. London: W. H. Allen and Co.; p. 65
  21. Peter Fredet (1893) Modern History: from the coming of Christ and change of the Roman Republic into an Empire, to the year of Our Lord 1888. Baltimore: J. Murphy & Co.; pp. 373–374
  22. Robert Henlopen Labberton (1888) New Historical Atlas and General History (MacCoun's Historical Series). London: Macmillan
  23. Schiltberger, Johann (1879). Bruun, ed. Bondage and Travels of Johann Schiltberger. London: Hakluyt Society. p. 21.
  24. Edward Gibbon; Henry Hart Milman (1899) The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol. 6, Peter Fenelon New York: Collier; p. 263
  25. David Nicolle (1983) Armies of the Ottoman Turks, 13001774. London: Osprey Publishing, p. 29
  26. The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest Author John Van Antwerp Fine Edition reprint, illustrated Publisher University of Michigan Press, 1994 ISBN 0-472-08260-4, ISBN 978-0-472-08260-5 p. 422 "In 1402, when many Albanian vassals of the Ottomans — Koja Zakarija, Demetrius Jonima, John Castriot, and probably Tanush Major Dukagjin — led their retainers personally to support Bayezid against Timur at Ankara."
  27. Lord Kinross (1979), Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire. London: Harper Perennial, p 74.
  28. The Cambridge Medieval History volumes 1-5, p. 1806
  29. William Stearns Davis (1931), A short history of the near East from the founding of Constantinople (330 A.D. to 1922), The Macmillan Co., p. 201
  30. Tucker, Spencer C. (2010) Battles That Changed History: An Encyclopedia of World Conflict. ABC-ClIO; p. 141
  31. Marozzi, Justin, The Art of War: Great Commanders of the Ancient and Medieval World, Roberts, Andrew (ed.). Quercus Military History, 2008. p. 337. ISBN 978-1-84724-259-4


External links

Coordinates: 39°52′00″N 32°52′00″E / 39.8667°N 32.8667°E / 39.8667; 32.8667

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