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Battle of Ankara
Part of the Ottoman-Timurid wars
Date July 20, 1402
Location Çubuk field, near Ankara
Result Decisive Timurid victory
Timurid.svg Timurid Empire Flag of the Ottoman Sultanate (1299-1453).svg Ottoman Empire
Grb Lazarevic.jpg Moravian Serbia
Shah Rukh (Left Wing)
Khalil Sultan (Left Wing)
Miran Shah (Right Wing)
Abu Bakr (Vanguard)
Sultan Huseyn (Advance Guard)
Mohammed Sultan (Main Body)
Beyazid I #
Stefan Lazarevic (Right Wing)[1][2][3][4]
Suleiman Çelebi (Left Wing)
Disputed Disputed
Casualties and losses
15,000-25,000 killed and wounded[citation needed] 15,000-40,000 killed and wounded[citation needed]

The Battle of Ankara or Battle of Angora, fought on July 20, 1402, took place at the field of Çubuk (near Ankara) between the forces of the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I and the Turko-Mongol forces of 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 the most powerful Central Asian ruler since Genghis Khan. By long and relentless fighting, he sought to rebuild the Mongol Empire of his ancestors.[8][9]

Timur had conquered Georgia and Azerbaijan in 1390, 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 Turkish emirates who had pledged loyalty to Timur and threatened to invade. Timur interpreted this action as an insult to himself and in 1400 sacked the Ottoman city of Sebaste (modern Sivas). Beyazid was stung into furious action and when Timur invaded Anatolia from the east, Bayezid summoned his forces and confronted Timur's forces near Ankara. The conflict, overall, was the culmination of years of insulting letters exchanged between Timur and Bayezid.


The exact size of the conflicting armies is not known. When Timur invaded Turkey, his army of horsemen with no infantry allowed him to move fast through the Turkish 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.[10] Peter Fredet claims that Timur and Bayezid's armies consisted of 800,000 and 400,000 men, respectively.[11] Robert Henlopen Labberton argues that Timur's army had 600,000 men, while Bayezid's army was only 120,000 strong. [12]

In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, historian Edward Gibbon explained in detail the discrepancies over the strength of both forces:[13]

"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, 1300-1774, David Nicolle & Angus McBride remarked that "[t]he size of the two armies are reliably estimated at 140,000 on Timur's side and no more than 85,000 under Sultan Bayezid I".[14] Medieval historian J. B. Bury stated that both armies were of equal size, with Bayezid's army mainly composed of infantry and 5,000 to 10,000 Serbian heavy knights led by Despot Stefan Lazarevic.[6]

The battle

Painting by Stanisław Chlebowski, Sultan Bayezid prisoned by Timur, 1878, depicting the capture of Bayezid by Timur.

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. 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. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Ottoman army was further weakened by the desertion of the Tatars and the Sipahis from the Anatolian Beyliks, who left Bayezid alone and joined Timur's forces.


European nations had, at first, encouraged the Timurid invasion and the Genoese were said to be flying the Mongol standard from the walls of Galata in support of Timur. However, after a few months following his destruction of the Ottoman power in Anatolia, fear of being the next target had gripped the European people.[citation needed] Fearing the devil they knew to one they did not, Italian ships ferried the beaten Ottoman soldiers into Thrace to safety. At least one Muslim writer complained that, despite being Muslims, Timur's soldiers ravaged in Asia Minor like barbarians.

The Battle of Ankara had a temporary effect on the political ground of the Balkans, where at the time the Ottomans had the initiative. Because of the Timurid invasion, the siege of Constantinople was lifted and Ottoman troops were withdrawn from the Balkans to counter the new threat.

This event had split the Ottomans into factions since Bayezid's sons were still alive and free after he himself was captured. Most of the Ottoman Turks had fled into Europe. The result was a civil war among Bayezid's four sons. This temporary weakening of the Ottomans resulted in delaying the end of the Byzantine Empire and the eventual Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.

The battle is significant in Ottoman history as being the only time a Sultan has been captured in person.[15]


  1. ^ Fine, John Van Antwerp, The Late Medieval Balkans, (University of Michigan, 1994), 499.
  2. ^ Hildinger, Erik, Warriors of the Steppe, (Da Capo Press, 2001), 189.
  3. ^ Kinross, John Patrick Douglas Balfour, The Ottoman Centuries, (William Morrow and Company Inc., 1977), 75.
  4. ^ Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, (Rutgers University Press, 1991), 451.
  5. ^ Anzulović, Branimir (1999). Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide. New York: New York University Press. p. 40. ISBN 0-8147-0671-1.,M1. 
  6. ^ a b 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. 
  7. ^ Prawdin, Michael, and Gérard Chaliand, The Mongol empire, (Transaction Publishers, 2006), 495.
  8. ^ Spencer, Lauren, Iran: a primary source cultural guide, (The Rosen Publishing Group, 2004), 25.
  9. ^ Vauchez, André, Richard Barrie Dobson, and Michael Lapidge, Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Volume 1, (James Clarke and Co., 2000), 1442.
  10. ^ Turkey, old and new: historical, geographical and statistical by Sutherland Menzies, WH Allen and Co London 1880 page 65
  11. ^ Modern History: From the Coming of Christ and Change of the Roman Republic Into an Empire, to the Year of Our Lord 1888 by Peter Fredet, published by J. Murphy & co., 1893 page 373-374
  12. ^ New historical atlas and general history by Robert Henlopen Labberton, published by T. MacCoun, 1888
  13. ^ The history of the decline and fall of the Roman empire by Edward Gibbon, Henry Hart Milman, Vol. 6, Peter Fenelon Collier NY 1899, page 263
  14. ^ David Nicolle & Angus McBride, Armies of the Ottoman Turks, 1300-1774, Osprey Publishing, p. 29
  15. ^ 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


  • Anzulović, Branimir, Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide, New York: New York University Press, 1999.
  • Bury, J. B., The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 4. Tanner, J. R., Previté-Orton, C.W., Brooke, Z. N. (eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923.
  • Fine, John Van Antwerp, The Late Medieval Balkans, University of Michigan, 1994.
  • Finkel, Caroline, Osman's Dream, Basic Books, 2006.
  • Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, Rutgers University Press, 1991.
  • Hildinger, Erik, Warriors of the Steppe, Da Capo Press, 2001.
  • Kinross, John Patrick Douglas Balfour, The Ottoman Centuries, William Morrow and Company Inc., 1977.
  • Marozzi, Justin, Tamerlane, HarperCollins, 2006.
  • Nicolle, David, & Angus McBride, Armies of the Ottoman Turks, 1300-1774, Osprey Publishing.
  • Prawdin, Michael, and Gérard Chaliand, The Mongol empire, Transaction Publishers, 2006.
  • Runciman, Steven, The fall of Constantinople, 1453, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Spencer, Lauren, Iran: a primary source cultural guide, The Rosen Publishing Group, 2004.
  • Vauchez, André, Richard Barrie Dobson, and Michael Lapidge, Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Volume 1, James Clarke and Co., 2000.
  • Marozzi, J., "Tamerlane", The Art of War: Great Commanders of the Ancient and Medieval World, Andrew R. (editor), Quercus Military History, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84724-259-4

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