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Battle of Ankara, 1402

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Bayezid I versus Tamerlane: An exhausted Ottoman army under Bayezid is forced to attack a Timurid army under Tamerlane before it perishes from thirst. Can Bayezid use the traditionally defensive Ottoman army to not only defeat the great Tamerlane but quickly? Also known as the Battle of Angora. Click on images below to view PowerPoint presentation. | Legend |
 
 
This battle was fought between two bitter rivals. Bayezid and Tamerlane were known to write each other crude, insulting letters to each other for years leading up the battle. Any sort of victory therefore meant infinitely more to the victor than typical battles. That Tamerlane won such a battle in decisive fashion is a testament to his abilities as a commander
 
This battle was decided more by the strategic maneuvering than the tactical engagements. Tamerlane’s engineering feat of diverting the Cubuk Creek was timed perfectly so that Bayezid raised no suspicions until his water sources suddenly disappeared. The fact that the Ottomans were exhausted and thirsty increased the Timurid chances of victory but it should be remembered that the battle still had to be won by tactical engagement. The Ottoman attacks on the Timurid wings still had to be repelled and the Janissaries still had to be overcome. Pavio Giovio stated in the sixteenth century issued a warning that the Ottomans always won if attacked and always lost if forced to attack themselves. While no modern survey has been undertaken to confirm this, Ankara certainly supports this thesis.
 

This is yet another battle where determining the strength of each side was the greatest challenge. Sources even disagree in which side was superior in numbers. As usual, I decided which numbers were most credible based on what happened in the battle, not by the authors’ wide-ranging estimates. The Ottomans advanced in a crescent formation, a huge indication that their front extended beyond the Timurid front. The Ottomans attacked, suggesting numerical superiority but not in the context of running out of water. What suggests numerical superiority is that Bayezid waited until 10am to launch the attack, indication of a confident attacking force, not a completely desperate attempt to reach water.

I am particularly proud of the final product because of the scanty accounts of the battle are and scarcity of related maps. The deployment I have shown reflects accounts’ descriptions but is also based on typical deployments of Ottoman and Timurid armies during the time period.

 
- Jonathan Webb
 
Works Consulted
 
Black, Jeremy. The Seventy Great Battles in History. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
 
Dincer, Turgut. “The Battle of Ankara (1402).” http://members.core.com/~turgut/ankara.htm (accessed August 7, 2009).
 
Heath, Ian. Armies of the Middle Ages Vol. 2: The Ottoman Empire, Eastern Europe and the Near East, 1300-1500. Sussex: Flexprint, 1984.
 
Lamb, Harold. Tamerlane the Earth Shaker. New York: Garden City, 1928.
 
Marozzi, Justin. Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World. Suffolk: Da Capo, 2006.

Images

Bayezid I: http://lexicorient.com/e.o/s04-bayezid1.htm
 
Ottoman soldiers: http://chinahistoryforum.com/lofiversion/index.php/t18570.html
 
Tamerlane: http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/india/history/delhi.htm
 
Timurid soldiers: http://wabforum.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1938&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=0
 

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  1. 16 Comments to “Battle of Ankara, 1402”

  2. this animation was great. i suggest doing more ottoman battles. :-)

    By Firuz on Aug 21, 2009 at 4:05 pm

  3. I agree. Each of the next three seasons is slated to have one or more Ottoman battles. Enjoy!

    By Jonathan Webb on Aug 23, 2009 at 4:39 pm

  4. cant wait to see the kosovo 1448 one. i sure hope skanderbeg is mentioned. :P

    By Firuz on Sep 2, 2009 at 9:08 pm

  5. i saw your site today. and i can’t give it up. it’s simply excellent.
    this battle and defeat resulted a great chaos in turkish empire for a decade.

    i want more battles of ottomans. especially yavuz selim. he conquered egypt, west iran and syria against irans and egyptians.

    these are campaigns of yavuz sultan selim
    caldiran 1514
    merc-i dab?k 1516
    ridaniye 1517

    i will follow your site everyday :)

    By Burak on Jan 3, 2010 at 4:45 am

  6. Thank you Burak, you’re very kind and appreciative for my efforts.

    Do not worry as many Ottoman battles are slated for the next few seasons. Right now the list (although it may change) includes:
    Lepanto 1571
    Kosovo 1448
    Valea Alba 1476
    Gallipoli 1915
    Manzikert 1071 (not Ottoman but takes place in Turkey)

    By Jonathan Webb on Jan 9, 2010 at 10:16 pm

  7. thanks a lot. when will the next season begin ?

    i know those battles. 4 of them are turning points in turkish history..

    lepanto. turkish navy was annihilated by united european army. and ottoman superiority in mediterranean finished.

    kosovo: turks defeated crusaders led by hungary and ottoman settled the balcans decisively

    gallipoli: it’s very long to explain. i simply say. gallipoli victory and spirit of galliply caused turkish nationalism. this battle is the most important thing in modern turkish history.

    manzikert. a very important battle also contoversial. many historians say ” when seljuk turks defeated byzantines in 1071 manzikert, then anatoli begun a turkish land.” yes turkish invasion stardes after this victory. they were semi nomadic seljuk turks.

    By Burak on Jan 12, 2010 at 1:20 pm

  8. the ottoman interregnum period is important too.

    By lycy on Jan 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm

  9. battle by skanderbeg must be created!

    By Albnori on Feb 15, 2010 at 6:43 pm

  10. When mentioning the 1402 battle of Angora, the Serbs under Stephan Lazarevitch should be mentioned for their many heroic deeds and attempts to save the day for his brother Bayezid.

    By blundunt on Feb 8, 2011 at 7:58 pm

  11. yes…Stefan Lazarevic receved title of despot for bravery in this battle…title gived him patriarch in Constantinopol
    And it should be mentioned that the big number of turks betrayed bayezid in this battle

    By crazySerb on Feb 9, 2011 at 10:43 am

  12. Aykut Tolunay June 10, 2011

    Battle of Carrhae From Wikipedia,
    Fought in 53 BC near the town of Carrhae (Modern Turkey Harran) was a major battle between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic. A Roman invasion force led by Marcus Licinius Crassus was decisively crushed by the Parthian Spahbod Surena. It was the first of many battles between the Roman and Persian empires, and one of the most crushing defeats in Roman history.

    By Aykut Tolunay on Jun 10, 2011 at 1:04 pm

  13. i must say a great thank you to this site and to mr webb,
    thank you so much for your efforts

    By emre on Nov 29, 2011 at 11:42 am

  14. thanks alot for all this material, i really admire your work. Greetings from Bosnia and cant wait to see more Ottoman battles. Suleiman magnificent siege of Vienna and other.

    By bane on Sep 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm

  15. it would be good if u could make animation for battle of maritza,it was one of decisive battles of fall of serbian and for rise of ottoman empire

    By crazyserb on Sep 2, 2013 at 10:22 pm

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    By ottomare on Apr 14, 2014 at 11:33 pm

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  2. Jul 20, 2011: Turkish Week: Battle of Ankara @ Arcane Scenery

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