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Saturday, 20 April 2013

More on Tamerlane

The siege of Smyrna (December 1402) saw the armies of Tamerlane capture the last Christian stronghold on the mainland of Anatolia. Tamerlane's campaign in Anatolia was actually directed against the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid, who he defeated and captured at Ankarain July 1402. With the Ottoman army eliminated, Tamerlane's men then ravaged Anatolia, reaching Smyrna towards the end of the year.

Smyrna had been captured from the Turks by the Knights of St. John (the Hospitallers) in 1344, and since then had resisted a number of Ottoman assaults, so when Tamerlane offered to leave them alone in return for a heavy tribute the Knights refused. In July Smyrna had been garrisoned by 200 knights under the command of Inigo of Alfaro. Since then Buffilo Panizzatti had been sent to strengthen the defences, but the Hospitallers had underestimated Tamerlane's abilities as a besieger.

The siege only lasted for fifteen days. During that time Tamerlane's men blocked the harbour entrance with stones, preventing any more reinforcements from arriving, while the walls were pounded by siege engines and undermined. Finally, in December 1402 the city fell to an assault. As was almost always the case when he took a city by storm, Tamerlane ordered a massacre of the population and destroyed the fortifications.
Tamerlane soon disappeared from Anatolia, and died only three years later. Smyrna was soon reoccupied by the Ottomans, who recovered from the disaster at Ankara with remarkable speed.