You Gotta Know These Medieval Battles
- Tours (732): The Franks’ victory at the Battle of Tours was a major turning point in the history of Europe. After conquering Iberia, the Umayyads advanced into France as far as Poitiers. The Franks were led by Charles Martel, while the Umayyads were led by Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi. The battle was preceded by a pact between the Berber governor Munuza and Odo, Duke of Aquitaine, though Odo was present at Tours. The best contemporary source for the battle is the Mozarabic Chronicle of 754.
- Hastings (1066): A little more than two weeks after Stamford Bridge, Harold Godwinson was defeated by another claimant to the throne of England at Hastings. That claimant was Duke William of Normandy, who is now known as William the Conqueror. The battle and Harold’s death are depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. The battle took place two weeks after William’s landing at Pevensey.
- Manzikert (1071): The Byzantine defeat at Manzikert (Malazgirt in Turkish) by the Seljuk Turks was a severe blow to the Byzantine empire’s control of Anatolia. The Seljuks were led by Alp Arslan, while Emperor Romanus IV led the Byzantines. The Byzantines split their forces in half before the battle by sending general Joseph Tarchaneiotes to Khliat, and were further weakened by the desertion of Andronicus Dukas. The Byzantine emperor was captured in the battle, but released by Alp Arslan after signing a peace treaty. Romanus IV was later deposed and blinded.
- Las Navas de Tolosa (1212): Las Navas de Tolosa was a major turning point in the Reconquista of the Iberian peninsula. A Christian alliance of Alfonso VIII of Castile, Sancho VII of Navarre, Afonso II of Portugal, and Peter II of Aragon defeated Muhammad al-Nasir and the Almohads.
- Lake Peipus (1242): The Russian victory at this battle ended territorial claims of the Teutonic Knights on Russian soil. The Russians were led by Alexander Nevsky and Andrey Yaroslavich, while the Livonian Order (a branch of the Teutonic Order) was led by Hermann of Dorpat. It is also known as the Battle on the Ice because it was fought on frozen Lake Peipus.
- Bannockburn (1314): The Battle of Bannockburn was a decisive victory for Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, over King Edward II of England. The English attempted to lift the siege of Stirling Castle. The battle began with single combat between Robert the Bruce and Sir Henry de Bohun. The Earl of Moray commanded the Scottish vanguard near the Church of St. Ninian.
- Kosovo (1389): This battle between Serbians and Ottomans eventually led to the subjugation of Serbia. Both Prince Lazar of Serbia and Sultan Murad I died during the battle. Bayezid I, who was present at the battle, became the Ottoman Sultan once his father died.
- Grunwald/Tannenberg (1410): The Battle of Grunwald marked a major turning point in Eastern European history as it led to the decline of the Teutonic Knights and the rise of Poland-Lithuania. Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen led the Teutonic Knights, and King Władysław II Jagiello led Polish forces and Grand Duke Vytautas led the Lithuanians. After their defeat, the Teutonic Knights held out in Marienburg Castle until the Peace of Thorn in 1411.
- Agincourt (1415): The outnumbered army of King Henry V of England defeated the army of King Charles VI of France under Charles d’Albret. French commanders Jean le Maingre and Charles d’Orleans were captured. The battle occurred about one month after the English victory at the Siege of Harfleur. Five years after Agincourt, Henry was recognized as the heir to the French throne through the Treaty of Troyes.
- Constantinople (1453): Constantinople fell to the Ottomans on May 29, 1453 after a seven-week siege. The Byzantine defenders were led by Emperor Constantine XI and a Genoese captain named Giovanni Giustiniani, and the Ottomans were led by Sultan Mehmed II and Zaganos Pasha. Preparations for the siege included the building of Rumeli Hisar across from Anadolu Hisar on the Bosphorus. The defenders stretched a chain across the Golden Horn, but the Ottomans rolled their ships over Galata Hill on greased logs to encircle the city.
Honorable mentions: Ain Jalut, Bouvines, Clontarf, Covadonga, Crecy, Horns of Hattin, Lechfeld, Legnano, Najera, Neva, Poitiers, Roncevaux Pass, Sempach, Stamford Bridge, Stirling Bridge, Sluys, Varna
This article was contributed by former NAQT writer George Stevens.