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Turkish Week: Battle of Ankara

Timur the lame, and Bayezid could practically be considered penpals. However, unlike my many penfriends and I, the letters contained no chatty discussions in half English-half German about Rick Astley, but years of acrimony, insults and threats which finally culminated in the Battle of Ankara.

Timur facial reconstruction by M.Gerasimov. 1941, photograph by Shakko on Wikipedia.

Bayezid I-Cristofano dell’Altissimo

The Timurid Empire had extended to the borders of the Ottoman Empire by 1390 when it conquered Georgia and Azerbaijan. But it wasn’t until Bayezid made demands of one of the Anatolian Beyliks (the Turkish Muslim emirates that themselves had grown to reach the borders of the Ottoman Empire) which was under the protection of the Timurid Empire that everything blew up.

Timur defeats the Sultan of Dehli

The Ottoman army
commanded by Bayezid-who had his younger brother strangled to prevent power challenges
supported by Stefan Lazarevic– aka Stevan the Tall, Serbian despot, introducer of firearms and knightly tournaments to Serbia and of his sister Olivera Despina to Bayezid
Süleyman Çelebi -son of Bayezid and co-sultan
5-10,000 Serbs and disputed strength overall (estimates 85,000-400,000)

The Timurid army
Commanded by Timur– aka Timur the Lame, as in Timbalane/Tamerlane he of all those plays, man who would be Gengis Khan part 2
Supported by
Pir Muhammed– Timur’s grandson, later named as Timur’s successor but unsupportive relatives resulted in death by Vizier
Shāhrukh Mīrzā-son of Timur and controller of many of the Silk Road trade routes.
Khalil Sultan-another grandson of Timur, and unlike Pir was successful in his attempts to take control of Samarkand
Miran Shah-son of Timur and controller of Azerbaijan until his inability to control tax evaders frustrated Timur enough to remove him from his post
Strength disputed (estimates 140,000-800,000)

The Battle
The Ottomans launched an attack, which the Timurid army responded to with their mounted archers.
Timur divirted the supply from the Çubuk Creek to a reservoir in Çubuk itself and thus the Ottoman army were left waterless. The Ottomans, suffering from dehydration and fatigue were unable to successfully battle and were defeated. Bayezid himself escaped but was later captured by Timur’s men. Bayezid was held as a prisoner of war but died in custody, most likely by suicide. The Kit Marlowe dramatised version is that he smashed his head against the bars of his cage, but other suggestions have been that he had poison concealed about his person.

Sultan Bayezid prisoned by Timur-Stanisław Chlebowski, oil on canvas, Gallery of Art in Lviv

Layouts of how the battle progressed can be found at:

 Turgut Dincer’s assessment of the military engineering strategy 
Jonathan Webb’s animated model of the battle at The Art of Battle 






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