|Battle of Maragha|
|Empire of Videssos||Khaganate of Yezd|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Mavrikios Gavras†||Avshar|
The Battle of Maragha was a major engagement in the Empire of Videssos waged between the Videssians and their Yezd foes under the command of Avshar. Fought some 1200 years after the empire's founding, the battle marked a major turning point in Videssian history.
Avshar had invaded the western region of the Videssos empire, ravaging the area touching Vaspurakan and leaving the survivors to starve in the inevitable famine. In Videssos the city, Avtokrator Mavrikios Gavras and his brother, Thorisin led the imperial army across the Cattle Crossing to the west, taking several weeks to get there and stopping at various locations on the journey. Among the soldiers of the imperial army were a contingent of mercenaries known as the Ronams, led by Marcus Scaurus.
After taking the town of Khliat, Mavrikios used it as a base of operations. He set a force of about one quarter of the army west under the command of Baanes Onomagoulos to take the town of Maragha. About a day's march from it, Onomagoulos was ambushed and pinned down by a large Yezd force commanded by Avshar. Mavrikios brought the rest of the army west, leaving dependants and the baggage train behind in Khliat, to rescue the trapped force. Ultimately, the two opposing armies met near the town of Maragha, which gave its name to the battle.
The Videssian left
The left wing of Gavras' army was led in de jure by Ortaias Sphrantzes, nephew of Gavras' political foe and rival for the throne. Several of Gavras' subordinates questioned their commander's choice for the wing, but political considerations had to be met as well as military matters, and Sphrantzes' placement was a cost of such considerations. Sphrantzes had no practical military experience (he was in his early twenties) and had only read a military manual to guide him in his command.
As a sop to his subordinates as well as to his own common sense, Gavras had Nephon Khoumnos take actual de facto charge of the left; this was not disclosed to Sphrantzes.
The job of the left (as well as the right) were to funnel the Yezda attack into the center of the Videssian line, where the strongest component of the army was located. This job was supposed to be helped by the light cavalry attached to both wings. Then the left was supposed to swing to the right and hit the Yezda on the flank, possibly even surround them.
The Videssian center
The center was commanded by the Avtokrator himself, and this was where his imperial bodyguard as well as the bulk of the army was placed. The mercenaries, such as the Namdalen and the Ronams, were placed in the center as well. The center was to bear the brunt of the nomads' attack and as such contained the troops with the heaviest gear.
The Videssian right
The right wing was commanded by Thorisin Gavras.
The job of the right (as well as the left) were to funnel the Yezda attack into the center of the Videssian line, where the strongest component of the army was located. This job was supposed to be helped by the light cavalry attached to both wings. Then the right was supposed to swing to the left and hit the Yezda on the flank, possibly even surround them.
The Yezd line
The Yezd matched up the Videssian line with a similar line; the Yezda drew up by clan and tribe rather than in any coherent system of organization into units. Avshar kept a large force in reserve under his personal command, and spent the battle on the right flank, opposite the Videssian left, to exploit Ortaias Sphrantzes' inexperience.
The battle opened with both sides softening each other with skirmishing fire. Then the nomads smashed into the Videssian line, being funnelled into the center as the Gavrai had planned. In the center the Videssian heavy troops took a hard toll on the more lightly-equipped Yezda horsemen. Avshar attempted to slay Marcus Scaurus, commander of the Romans, with a powerful spell of freezing but it was deflected by the spells in Scaurus' sword. Avshar then reverted to his original plan, slaying Nephon Khoumnos with the magic so that the young and inexperienced Ortaias Sphrantzes would be left in command.
Reasoning what had happened from the sudden confusion on his left flank, Mavrikios sent Zeprin the Red to take command but the Haloga was caught up in fighting in the center and was delayed. Then Avshar, gathering his reserve, charged straight for Ortaias, holding his sword aloft. Ortaias fled, and the left wing routed from the field, turning a drawn battle into a defeat.
Outnumbered but still fighting hard, Mavrikios Gavras and his Haloga bodyguards met Avshar's second charge and fought to the death; the rest of the center fought their way out of the Yezda crush and withdrew from the field.
Thorisin Gavras had repelled the Yezd attack on the right; he had taken his force and attempted to break through the Yezd hold on the center, but was flung back. As the center fell apart, Thorisin's men covered them before falling back themselves.
The remnant of the Videssian army fell back to their campsite in disarray. Much of their army was destroyed; their emperor was dead, and Avshar's army was still intact. There was a grisly footnote to the carnage of the day - Avshar personally threw the severed head of Mavrikios Gavras into the Videssian camp.
Ironically, Onomagoulos, although seriously wounded, survived the battle. He and the survivors of his force wintered in the southern mountains after the end of the campaign season. The Romans along with a squadron of Khatrisher horsemen also survived; being at the joint between the center and the left wing, they were bypassed and managed to remain in a defensive formation while the Yezd concentrated on Mavrikios. Thorisin kept his right wing intact and though they were rigorously pursued, managed to disengage and survive as a diminished fighting force, enabling Thorisin to challenge the Sphrantzes for mastery of the Empire the following spring. The Namdaleners were also able to escape, lending Thorisin much-needed manpower.
The death of the emperor in such a politically-charged time allowed the Sphrantzes family to take over Videssos, placing Ortaias into the position of Emperor while his uncle Vardanes ruled as the power behind the throne. The resulting civil wars would consume much of the Empire's time, energy, and resources which as many observers noted would have been better spent fighting the Yezda. The Yezda, meanwhile, having been brought together in a large group only by Avshar's authority and the necessity of fighting the Imperial forces, scattered back into their smaller clans and began moving into the westlands, while Avshar himself seemingly disappeared from sight (but would later resurface as the bandit Rhavas, helping to uphold the Sphrantzes' rule in Videssos).