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1081 Battle of Dyrrhachium  (Durazzo) ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Outcome: Norman victory which led to the conquest of most of North Greece 18 October 1081
War  &  Enemy: Enemy:
Byzantine-Norman War
Battle Type:
Pitched Battle
The Battlefield Dyrrhachium Location:
Modern Durres in Albania
Modern Country:
  The Byzantines(emperor:  Alexios I Komnenos) The Enemies
Commander: Emperor Alexios I Komnenos Robert Guiscard
Forces: 20-25,000 20,000 + 150 ships
Losses: 5,000 killed, 7,000 deserted More than 10,000 dead
Background story: After the capture of Bari (1071) and the ousting of Byzantines from Italy, Robert Guiscard attacked Byzantium in the Balkans. He contemplated seizing the throne of Constantinople and took up the cause of Michael VII, who had been deposed in 1078 and to whose son his daughter had been betrothed.
The Norman fleet of 150 ships including 60 horse transports set off towards the Byzantine Empire at the end of May 1081. The army numbered 30,000 men, including 1,300 Norman knights. After taking the island of Corfu, he advanced on the city of Dyrrhachium and laid siege to it, but his inexperienced fleet was defeated by the Venetians, who were invited to assist the Byzantines and were already alarmed by Norman control of the Strait of Otranto.
Guiscard was not discouraged by this defeat but his camp was struck by disease and up to 10,000 men died, including 500 knights. Even so, the situation of the Dyrrhachium garrison grew desperate because of the effects of Norman siege weapons. Emperor Alexius I was informed of the situation while he was in Salonica and he advanced in full force against the Normans.
The Battle:
Norman warrior
On October 18, the Normans engaged the Byzantine army outside Dyrrhachium. The battle began with the Byzantine right wing routing the Norman left wing, which broke and fled. Varangian mercenaries joined in the pursuit of the fleeing Normans, but became separated from the main force and were massacred. Moreover, the Serb allies and the Seljuk auxiliaries of the Byzantine army deserted. The center of the Byzantines weakened and the Norman heavy cavalry attacked there. The cavalry broke into small detachments and smashed into various points of the Byzantine army. This charge broke the Byzantine lines and caused them to rout.
Aftermath: It was a heavy defeat for Alexius. The city fell by treason a few moths later. The Normans proceeded to take most of northern Greece without much resistance. Guiscard however had to leave to Italy to deal with a revolt.