Osprey’s Campaign book on the Battle of Manzikert continues their proud tradition of featuring just about every military disaster Rome had. (Well, yes, we are just a bit ‘post-Rome’ here, though it’s still the Roman Empire.) As usual, it’s a well-produced book with plenty of maps and pictures (including of a fair number of buildings that survive from the period, though some may not have made it through the four years since it was published).

The maps are the main weak point in this one. They are very well done, and informative, but three of them in particular try to convey too much information at once. They’re maps of the region, showing movements of armies over a few years, keyed to entries describing what’s going on. However, when there’s 30-50 entries per map, it gets difficult to pull out what’s going on. Worse, the maps are rotated sideways (the area that needs covering fits much better that way), leaving the keying on the opposite page hard to look at at the same time as the map.

The main description of the campaign is interesting. With help from the maps, it gives the general background, including just where the Seljuks had come from, and what other groups they were dealing with at the time. Very interesting is the idea that neither side was in any way anticipating a climatic battle in the region around Lake Van. The Byzantines were busy in the region trying to strengthen their border and stop Türkmen raids (which were often blamed on the Seljuks, but were generally independent), while Alp Arslan was concentrating on fighting the Fatimid Caliphate.

With everything else, the course of the battle itself doesn’t take too long to tell, and the Byzantine defeat mostly comes from poor coordination in the army after a hard day of advancing without being able to force a setpiece battle. More of the problems come from disastrously bad intelligence leading up to the confrontation. The maps are not a great help here, being done in something of a muddy ‘natural’ style that doesn’t point up any features of the terrain.

The defeat of Byzantium still shouldn’t have been nearly the history-changing even it was, but Emperor Romanos IV was captured, and before he was released eight days later, a new emperor had been crowned in Constantinople, leading to a civil war that, combined to concessions to the Seljuks, allowed the border region to collapse and Türkmen tribes to gain control of most of central Anatolia. Sadly, these afterproducts of Manzikert aren’t treated in any detail, even though they’re usually blamed on the battle itself.

With all of that, this Osprey book feels a bit more limited than some others, and seems like it was struggling with the demands of format and the fixed page count. That said, it’s still a good look at the battle itself, and provides (often contrary) details from several first-hand accounts.