For four days next week, some 250,000 people will descend on Malazgirt and Ahlat, two small towns in eastern Turkey that were pivotal in the Seljuk conquest more than nine centuries ago.
The Seljuks' Malazgirt victory against the Byzantine army in 1071 will be marked with a series of events on Aug. 23-26. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is among the dignitaries to attend.
The Presidency is among the sponsors of the celebrations, which will be organized by the Archers' Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting ancient Turkic sport and culture.
The event's highlights include a series of tournaments of kökbörü, mounted archery, mounted javelin throwing, oil wrestling, aba wrestling, şalvar wrestling and karakucak wrestling, the traditional sports played by Turkic communities for centuries.
Traditional yurts will also be set up in two towns to demonstrate the rituals of ancient Turkic communities, from wedding parties to events to celebrate births, while the Ottoman military band, Mehter, and popular singers will perform in concerts.
Bilal Erdoğan, a board member of the Archers' Foundation, says they wanted to celebrate the Malazgirt victory "the way it deserved." "We owe much to personalities, from Alparslan to Fatih Sultan Mehmet [Mehmed The Conqueror - the Ottoman sultan who conquered Istanbul]. They are people who changed the course of history and brought peace and tolerance to places they conquered," he said.
The Battle of Manzikert [or Malazgirt in Turkish] on Aug. 26, 1071, saw Seljuk Turks led by Sultan Alparslan defeat a Byzantine army and open up Anatolia for Turkish domination. The battle was fought in Malazgirt but Ahlat served as a key place for Seljuks' attack on the Byzantine forces.
Alparslan died a year after the battle while his battlefield rival Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV was overthrown and killed by his political enemies upon his return to the empire's capital following the defeat.
Nevertheless, the victory had a profound impact in shaping Turkey's history, as Turkic tribes encouraged by the victory sped up their advance to Anatolia while Seljuks expanded further west. The Byzantine Empire, on the other hand, rallied Europe for the First Crusade to stop Muslims after the decisive defeat.
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