Road to Manzikert – Carey, Allfree, Cairns

Byzantine and Islamic Warfare, 527-1071

Since I didn’t have the space to give the authors’ names in full, I’ll start with that. Brian Todd Carey is the author, Joshua B. Allfree is the tactical map illustrator, and John Cairns is the regional map illustrator.  From that, I guess you can infer that there are a lot of maps in this book.  This is true.

The book consists of a series of chapters giving a short history of the wars of eiher Byzantium or Islam.  In the early chapters they don’t intersect much, but the final set on the Manzikert campaign brings both together.  In each chapter major battles are illustrated by a series of tactical maps showing the phases of the battle – a half dozen or more.  This gives a lot more insight into the progress of the battle than most books.

The text is not long but it does give a lot of information on the current campaign and the political and military developments between the wars.

A fact that is new to me that they emphasize is that the Battle of Manzikert, a Byzantine disaster in 1071 that led to the loss of a good part of Asia Minor, probably wasn’t that big of a disaster in military terms.  Rather than the common representation that the army was destroyed, it probably only suffered moderate losses.  The real disaster was the capture of the Emperor, and the civil war that followed the battle that negated any recovery for years and gave the Seljuk Turks a free hand in Anatolia.

Byzantium had always been able to play off its two “hearllands’ of Thrace and Anatolia and use the resources of one to eventually drive off invaders of the other.  Now it hand threats to both and few resources to recover either.  The Crusades helped a little, but were not an unmixed blessing as “Crusaders” would eventually sack Constantinople in a few hundred years and weaken the state to the point of death.  Only the fortunate rise of Tamurlane and his subjection of the Turks for a short space gave them some relief.  After that, the Turks rose again and sliced part after part away until the final fall of the city of Constantinople in 1453.

This is a nice little volume and I like the style of detailing the battles as much as can be done.

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