Battle of Didgori

Battle of Didgori

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Didgori

caption=Monument at the Didgori field, Georgia
partof=Georgia-Seljuq wars
date=August 12, 1121
place=Didgori, Georgia
result=Decisive Georgian victory
combatant1=Seljuq Turks coalition
combatant2=Kingdom of Georgia
commander2=David IV

The battle of Didgori was fought between the armies of the Kingdom of Georgia and the crumbling Great Seljuq Empire at the place of Didgori, 40 km southwest of Tbilisi, the modern-day capital of Georgia, on August 12 1121. The battle resulted in King David IV of Georgia’s decisive victory over a Seljuk invasion army under Ilghazi and the subsequent reconquest of a Muslim-held Tbilisi, which became the royal capital. The victory at Didgori inaugurated medieval Georgia’s "Golden Age" and is celebrated in the Georgian chronicles as a "miraculous victory" (ძლევაჲ საკვირველი, "dzlevay sakvirveli"), while modern Georgians continue to remember the event as an annual September festival known as Didgoroba (" [the day] of Didgori").Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994), "The Making of the Georgian Nation", p. 36. Indiana University Press, ISBN 0253209153]


The Kingdom of Georgia had been a tributary to the Great Seljuq Empire since the 1080s. However, in the 1090s, the energetic Georgian king David IV was able to exploit an internal unrest in the Seljuq state and the success of the Western European First Crusade against the Muslim control of the Holy Land, and established a relatively strong monarchy, reorganizing his military and recruiting Kipchak, Alan, and even "Frankish" mercenaries to lead them to the reconquest of lost lands and the expulsion of Turkish raiders. David renounced the tribute to the Seljuqs in 1096/7, put an end to the seasonal migrations of the Turks into Georgia, and recovered several key fortresses in a series of campaigns from 1103 to 1118. His major goal being the reconquest of Tbilisi, an ancient Georgian city which had been under the Muslim rule for over four centuries, David launched his military activities outside Georgia, penetrating as far as the Araxes basin and the Caspian littoral, and terrorizing Muslim trade throughout the South Caucasus. By June 1121, Tbilisi had actually been under a Georgian siege, with its Muslim élite being forced into paying a heavy tribute to David IV.Minorsky, Vladimir, "Tiflis", in: M. Th. Houtsma, E. van Donzel (1993), "E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936", p. 755. Brill, ISBN 9004082654.]

The battle

The resurgence of Georgians’ military energies brought about a coordinated Muslim response. Both Georgian and Islamic sources testify that, on the complaints of the Muslims of Tbilisi, Sultan Mahmud II b. Muhammad (r. 118-1131) sent an expedition into Georgia in which the Artuqid Ilghazi of Mardin, the Mazyadid Dubays II b. Sadaqa of Al Hillah and the sultan’s brother Tughrul, lord of Arran and Nakhichevan, with his atabeg Kun-toghdi all took part. This combined army under the overall command of Ilghazi entered the valley of Trialeti in eastern Georgia and encamped in the vicinities of Didgori and Manglisi in mid-August 1121.

The number of combatants as well as the course of the battle is differently related in the contemporaneous historical records. The strength of the Seljuq army is variously put, with an obvious exaggeration, by the medieval Islamic, Georgian, Armenian and European sources from 200,000 to 600,000. King David’s army has traditionally been estimated at 40,000 Georgians, 15,000 Kipchaks, 500 Alans and 100 "Frankish" Crusaders. According to the Arab chronicler Ibn al-Asir, David sent 200 soldiers to the Seljuq camp prior to the battle. They pretended to be renegades and suddenly attacked as they reached the enemy’s lines. Meanwhile, the main Georgian forces under David and his son, Demetre, stroke against the Seljuq flanks. In a pitched three-hour action, the Seljuq troops were overrun and forced into flight, leaving a large amount of booty to the victors.ka icon Javakhishvili, Ivane (1982), "k'art'veli eris istoria" (The History of the Georgian Nation), vol. 2, pp. 184-187. Tbilisi State University Press.]

Capture of Tbilisi

Following the victory, David moved relentlessly against the remaining pockets of Muslim resistance and next year, in 1122, he stormed Tbilisi, so that the city might become, according to a Georgian chronicler, "for ever an arsenal and capital for his sons." The medieval sources emphasize David’s acts of revenge against the Muslims of Tbilisi. However, the Arab historian al-'Ayni (1360-1451), who utilizes sources, some of which have not survived, admits that the city was pillaged but says that the Georgian king eventually showed patience and "respected the feelings of the Muslims more than Muslim rulers had done."

Notes and References

Further reading

de icon Fähnrich, Heinz (1994). "Die Schlacht am Didgori". "Georgica" 17, 33-39.

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