Battle of Ankara, 1402

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Bayezid I versus Tamerlane: An exhausted Ottoman army under Bayezid is forced to attack a Timurid army under Tamerlane before it perishes from thirst. Can Bayezid use the traditionally defensive Ottoman army to not only defeat the great Tamerlane but quickly?

ankara preview 1


This battle was fought between two bitter rivals. Bayezid and Tamerlane were known to write each other crude, insulting letters to each other for years leading up the battle. Any sort of victory therefore meant infinitely more to the victor than typical battles. That Tamerlane won such a battle in decisive fashion is a testament to his abilities as a commander.


This battle was decided more by the strategic maneuvering than the tactical engagements. Tamerlane’s engineering feat of diverting the Cubuk Creek was timed perfectly so that Bayezid raised no suspicions until his water sources suddenly disappeared. Although not decisive, Tamerlane’s actions reduced the Ottoman soldier’s effectiveness and forced Bayezid to attack if he had not already chosen to do so. In the sixteenth century, Pavio Giovio warned that the Ottomans always won if attacked and always lost if forced to attack themselves. While no modern survey has been undertaken to confirm this, Ankara certainly supports this statement.

Famed general and Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk took a special interest in the Battle of Ankara. According to Turhal, it is because of his interest and field research in 1934 along with fellow independence war General Omerhalis that we know so much about the battle (2009: 45). After assessing the battle’s terrain, Ataturk is reported to have said, “Look how Thunderbolt [Bayezid] trapped Iron [Tamerlane]. Only a commander like [Tamerlane] could break this trap, no other can break such a trap” (Turhal, 2009: 13). When one looks at the corner Tamerlane had placed himself in, it is truly remarkable that regardless of the water situation, he was able to defeat the great Ottoman army tactically.

ankara preview 2Notes

This is yet another battle where determining the strength of each side was the greatest challenge. Sources even disagree in which side was superior in numbers. As usual, I decided which numbers were most credible based on what happened in the battle, not by the authors’ wide-ranging estimates. The Ottomans advanced in a crescent formation, a huge indication that their front extended beyond the Timurid front. The Ottomans attacked, suggesting numerical superiority but not in the context of running out of water. What suggests numerical superiority is that Bayezid waited until 10am to launch the attack, indication of a confident attacking force, not a completely desperate attempt to reach water.

I am particularly proud of the final product because of the scanty accounts of the battle are and scarcity of related maps. The deployment I have shown reflects accounts’ descriptions but is also based on typical deployments of Ottoman and Timurid armies during the time period.

I strongly recommend you take a look at Turhal’s excellent product on this battle. Its imagery and maps are amazing, and make me eager to visit the battlefield. You will notice that its maps differ from my own as I did not have access to this product when I first animated the battle (seven years since upgrading the animation and writing this!), and instead relied on a different, engineering study of the battlefield terrain.

– Jonathan Webb

Works Consulted

Black, Jeremy. The Seventy Great Battles in History. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Dincer, Turgut. “The Battle of Ankara (1402).” (accessed August 7, 2009).

Heath, Ian. Armies of the Middle Ages Vol. 2: The Ottoman Empire, Eastern Europe and the Near East, 1300-1500. Sussex: Flexprint, 1984.

Lamb, Harold. Tamerlane the Earth Shaker. New York: Garden City, 1928.

Marozzi, Justin. Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World. Suffolk: Da Capo, 2006.

Turhal, Abdullah. “Battle of Ankara 28 July 1402: Research on the battle and notes from the field trip performed for the examination of the battlefield today.” Altar Modelling. 2009. (accessed January 8, 2016).


Bayezid I:

Map of Northeastern Europe:

Map of the world:

Ottoman soldiers:


Timurid soldiers:


If you enjoyed the Battle of Ankara 1402 battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:

Battle of Kosovo 1389, another battle involving the Ottomans and Serbians in the Medieval Era:

kosovo preview 1

Battle of Grunwald 1410, the next battle chronologically on the site:

grunwald preview 1

Battle of Sekigahara 1600, another battle featuring a battlefield betrayal:

sekigahara preview 1Thank you for visiting The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps.

Readers Comments (15)

  1. this animation was great. i suggest doing more ottoman battles. 🙂

  2. I agree. Each of the next three seasons is slated to have one or more Ottoman battles. Enjoy!

  3. cant wait to see the kosovo 1448 one. i sure hope skanderbeg is mentioned. 😛

  4. i saw your site today. and i can’t give it up. it’s simply excellent.
    this battle and defeat resulted a great chaos in turkish empire for a decade.

    i want more battles of ottomans. especially yavuz selim. he conquered egypt, west iran and syria against irans and egyptians.

    these are campaigns of yavuz sultan selim
    caldiran 1514
    merc-i dab?k 1516
    ridaniye 1517

    i will follow your site everyday 🙂

  5. Thank you Burak, you’re very kind and appreciative for my efforts.

    Do not worry as many Ottoman battles are slated for the next few seasons. Right now the list (although it may change) includes:
    Lepanto 1571
    Kosovo 1448
    Valea Alba 1476
    Gallipoli 1915
    Manzikert 1071 (not Ottoman but takes place in Turkey)

  6. thanks a lot. when will the next season begin ?

    i know those battles. 4 of them are turning points in turkish history..

    lepanto. turkish navy was annihilated by united european army. and ottoman superiority in mediterranean finished.

    kosovo: turks defeated crusaders led by hungary and ottoman settled the balcans decisively

    gallipoli: it’s very long to explain. i simply say. gallipoli victory and spirit of galliply caused turkish nationalism. this battle is the most important thing in modern turkish history.

    manzikert. a very important battle also contoversial. many historians say ” when seljuk turks defeated byzantines in 1071 manzikert, then anatoli begun a turkish land.” yes turkish invasion stardes after this victory. they were semi nomadic seljuk turks.

  7. the ottoman interregnum period is important too.

  8. battle by skanderbeg must be created!

  9. When mentioning the 1402 battle of Angora, the Serbs under Stephan Lazarevitch should be mentioned for their many heroic deeds and attempts to save the day for his brother Bayezid.

  10. yes…Stefan Lazarevic receved title of despot for bravery in this battle…title gived him patriarch in Constantinopol
    And it should be mentioned that the big number of turks betrayed bayezid in this battle

  11. Aykut Tolunay June 10, 2011

    Battle of Carrhae From Wikipedia,
    Fought in 53 BC near the town of Carrhae (Modern Turkey Harran) was a major battle between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic. A Roman invasion force led by Marcus Licinius Crassus was decisively crushed by the Parthian Spahbod Surena. It was the first of many battles between the Roman and Persian empires, and one of the most crushing defeats in Roman history.

  12. i must say a great thank you to this site and to mr webb,
    thank you so much for your efforts

  13. thanks alot for all this material, i really admire your work. Greetings from Bosnia and cant wait to see more Ottoman battles. Suleiman magnificent siege of Vienna and other.

  14. it would be good if u could make animation for battle of maritza,it was one of decisive battles of fall of serbian and for rise of ottoman empire

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