Ars Bellica

Battles In Brief

Battle of Iconium

May 18, 1190

The opponents

Emperor Frederick I, called Barbarossa ( b. 1125 - d. in the Saleph river, 1190 )

Frederick I was crowned King of Germany on March 4, 1152. Related by his father with the house of Ghibelline and on mother's side with the Guelph, his accession to the throne pacified the feudal Germany. This allowed him to oppose the papacy in a matter of much controversy, the right of appointing Germans bishops. Frederick himself took up a position by electing the archbishop of Magdeburg. The pope adversed that choice, but was later forced to form an alliance with Frederick himself, which promised the imperial appointment, because it descended into Italy to help in subdue Rome and who had decided to fight the Norman power. To call Frederick were also some cities in Lombardy, as Como and Lodi, who wanted to escape the influence of the powerful City of Milan. Frederick came to Italy and June 18, 1155 he was crowned emperor in Rome. A revolt pushed him right away but to abandon the city, leaving the protection for the pope who was forced to come to terms with the Normans. The inglorious retreat does not die out, and indeed strengthened the ambition of Frederick I in order to impose his universal dominion, the legitimized imperial coronation. So he worked very quickly to prepare a new invasion of Italy. On September 7, 1158 Milan fell in front of his attack. In November, in the diet of Roncaglia, Frederick claimed the fullness of his power as answer at the demands for autonomy of the northern italian towns. This attitude soon pushed those communes to rebellion: the Pope sympathized with the insurgents and Frederick responded by electing an anti-pope, with the name of Victor IV, and summoned a council at Pavia.

In 1160 Frederick destroyed Crema, folded again Milan in 1162, went to Rome in 1167 and set up his anti-pope on the throne of Peter, while Pope Alexander III took refuge among the Normans. This was the moment of its greatest success. But in that same year the Italian forces adverse to him swore an anti-imperial League pact (Lombard League) in the monastery of Pontida. It was the war, although the decisive battles took place only a few years later. In 1174 Frederick I tried in vain to conquer the city of Alexandria, named in honor of the Pope, then , May 29, 1176, the Imperial forces clashed with those of the municipalities in Legnano. Frederick was defeated and with difficulty could refuge in Pavia. Papacy and the empire reached an agreement in Venice in 1177. The agreement also established a truce period of six years with the Italian municipalities, with whom, in 1183, he had signed peace in Konstanz. The municipalities would retain their autonomy and were obliged only to a formal oath of allegiance and to pay tribute. Frederick I seemed finally weakened, then, in 1184, took a dramatic turn of events, namely the marriage of his son Henry with Constance of Hauteville: the empire acquired such rights in the succession to the Kingdom of Sicily (Frederick II). as consequence of this union, relations between empire and papacy seemed destined to fail again, but now all energies were absorbed by the crusade, in which Christian forces were engaged after the fall of Jerusalem, in 1187, into Muslim hands. Frederick I also participated and died, in 1190, not in combat, but drowning in a river where he was immersed. If Frederick was defeated in the battle against the papacy and the municipalities, he also reinforced the German kingdom, which he held for centuries trim confederation of principles he assured. Its policy initiatives and his military exploits created around him an aura of legend.

Quilij Arslan II (? - August 26, 1192 )

Qilij Arslan II was the second son of Sultan Mas'ud I (1116-1156), belonging to the Seljuk dynasty. When his father died February 10, 1156, fightings broke out among his sons, to decide who had take over the throne. Of the seven children who had Mas'ud, five were male, the firstborn had already predeceased his father. This fight was won by Arslan Qilij II (1156-1190). But his reign was immediately threatened by war on all fronts: he had to fight the Crusaders, the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus (1143-1180), the malik danishmendide of Sebastea, Nizam al-Din Yaghi Basan (1142-1164) and also against the fourth child brother of Massoud the Shahanshah, who had allied with Nizam al-Din Yaghi Bashan. In 1161 the grandson of Manuel, the Byzantine general John Contostefano defeated Qilij Arslan who had to go to Constantinople to sign a peace treaty with Byzantium and Nur ad-Din. In the treaty stipulated that Qilij Arslan would have returned to the Byzantine Empire Greek population of any city he conquered previously, the end of the incursions of bands of Turkmen in the Byzantine Empire and the commitment to provide a quota of soldiers whenever Byzantium had requested. The agreement was sealed in Constantinople, where Qilij Arslan remained for over eighty days at the court of Manuel. Qilij Arslan had signed a peace that gave back to Byzantium enormous power over Asia Minor. Thus, also in anti-Byzantine sight, in 1173 Qilij Arslan allied with Nur ad-Din, groped to conquer Mosul.

But already in 1174 Nur ad-Din died, and this allowed Qilij Arslan to attack the Danishmends Turks, who remained without their powerful protector. Qilij Arslan defeated the malik danishmendida Zünnun (1172-1174), who had been absorbed their capital, Sebastea. The two principles Danishmends went to Constantinople to seek the protection of Manuel. In the summer of 1176 they took the road to reach Iconium, but was almost immediately reached by the envoys of the Sultan Arslan Qilij, with proposals of peace favorable to Byzantium. Despite the favorable opinion of his officers, Manuel was convinced by a small minority of young officers eager to cover themselves with glory and commanded that the campaign to go on. After the fortress of Miriocefalo the trail went into a long, narrow gorge in the mountains, from whose top, the Seljuk led by Qilij Arslan massacred the Byzantine forces. The sultan offered, however, to Manuel the peace at very favorable conditions, asking for the destruction of fortifications of Dorileo and Subleo (whose reinforcement were completed in 1174). The emperor obviously agreed, but lost so any hope of regaining control of Asia Minor. Meanwhile Qilij Arslan had saved the Sultanate of Rum, Manuel was sadly returned to Constantinople, bringing with him the miserable remnants of his army. In 1178 Qilij Arslan defeated the last danishmendide emir Nasir al-Din Muhammad, conquering the capital of Malatya and putting to an end the danishmendide presence. In 1180 Manuel I Komnenos died, who succeeded the yet underage son Alexius II Comnenus (1180-1183). In the Byzantine Empire thus began a period of instability, which took advantage of Qilij Arslan who took possession of the Byzantine territories in southern Anatolia. In 1185 Qilij Arslan managed to make peace with Byzantium, but a few years after the German invasion of the Crusader armies under the command of Frederick Barbarossa put in jeopardy his kingdom: but in spite of the fall of Iconium, the subsequent death of the German emperor on the banks the Saleph saved the Sultanate of Rum. On August 26, 1192 Qilij Arslan II died, after having reigned for 36 years. He was succeeded by his son Kaykhusraw I.

The genesis

After the disastrous Battle of Hattin, and the following siege of Jerusalem, most of the crusader states had been reconquered by the forces of Saladin. Pope Gregory VIII called the good-willing of Europe to a new crusade to restore the Christian power in Jerusalem and help the remaining strongholds of the Crusades. The German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa responded to the call papal almost immediately. He "took the cross" at the Cathedral of Mainz March 27, 1188 and was among the firt rulers of Europe to leave for the Holy Land in May 1189 with an army of about 100,000 men, including 20,000 cavalry (some historians think that this number is exaggerated, suggesting an estimated 15,000 men, including 3,000 cavalry). At his initial forces, Barbarossa could also add a contingent of about 2,000 men under the command of the Hungarian prince Géza, the younger brother of King Béla III of Hungary.

After passing through Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and territories not always friendly, as Byzantine Empire, the Crusader forces under the command of Emperor arrived in Anatolia, at that time under the control of the Seljuk Sultan of Rum Qijili Arslan. The Turks, continually harassed the German forces penetrated into their territory with a series of ambushes and small ambushes, using the classic tactics of attack-style "hit and run". These actions were undermining the morale of the crusaders but not only. The constant attacks and the need to advance with extreme caution in hostile territory and difficult from the topography point of view, was doing lengthen the time of shipment and then finish the food. But despite this, the Crusaders continued their march fearlessly up to the city of Iconium. This city, once Roman and Byzantine, was located on the road that connected Constantinople to Antioch, and already during the First Crusade had been conquered by the leader Godfrey of Bouillon because of its strategic importance. With the shipment almost finished and the desire, proved by his fighters, to compete on a large scale with the enemy, Barbarossa decided it was time for Christians to take back Iconium, as required pause before plunging over the enemies directly in the Holy Land. So it was that on May 17 that the German army encamped in the so-called "pleasure garden of the sultan", just outside the city.

The battle

On the morning of May 18, 1190 Barbarossa divided the army into two groups: one part under the Duke Frederick VI of Swabia, his son, with the task of attacking the city, while the other part remained under the orders of the Emperor outside the same Iconium. But soon after he have moved to attack the city, Duke Frederick met a German ambassador, Geoffrey of Wiesbach, who had previously attempted to negotiate with the Sultan, and told him that the Muslim commander, with much of his army, just after spotted the crusading army, had taken refuge in the fortified citadel in Iconium, as well as almost all the inhabitants of the city, together with relished treasures and abundant food supplies so coveted by the Germans. The duke then immediately took the city with his troops, and on the first attempt, he managed to shoot down one of the city gates, beating the Seljuk resistance and penetrating just in front of the walls of the citadel. The Muslim residents who were still in the city were almost all killed immediately place.

Meanwhile, Barbarossa, not knowing that his son was getting the city (Citadel included), was surrounded, just outside of Iconium, by the Seljuk troops under the command of Qutb al-Din, strong, probably, of about 65,000 warriors. The situation seemed to leave no hope to the Germans, not just for the number or the quality of Turkish warriors, but for the surprise of their attack. So at first, soldiers were taken by surprise and the clergy, in the wake of the expedition, crouched next to his emperor waiting for an imminent and apparently certain end. Was in that time that Barbarossa did not accept this seemingly inevitable fate, so, calling his men, he used this sentence: "But why dwell, what are we afraid of ? Christ reigns. Christ wins. Christ decide." Just uttered these words, he hurled in the first person aat the cost of his own life against the enemy, an example that galvanized his warriors who rushed furiously against the enemy. Thus, the courage of their emperor inspired the crusaders who were able to break trough firmly in the enemy formation that surrounded them, and then join with the troops of Duke Frederick, who were in town.

According to some sources, the Seljuks that day lost 40,000 men, plus another 5,000 died as a result of their wounds. The losses of the Crusaders reported were approximately 20,000 men.

The aftermath

After the victory, the Crusaders rested in the city for five days. Then they resumed their march on May 23, taking some Turkish hostages to safeguard themselves. The success of the imperial army greatly alarmed Saladin, who decided to dismantle the walls of some Syrian ports so that they are not used by the crusaders against him. But all of these operations proved to be totally useless because, on June 16, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa drowned while crossing the river Saleph.

With the death of its emperor, most of his army disbanded. The son of Barbarossa, Frederick VI of Swabia, try to go on with the remnants of the German army, together with the Hungarian forces, under the command of Prince Géza, with the aim to bury his father in Jerusalem, but all efforts to conserve his body in vinegar failed, so, the flesh of Barabarossa were buried in the church of St. Peter at Antioch, the bones in the cathedral of Tyre and his heart, as his internal organs in Tarsus.