The emirate of Chaka

According to one account, Chaka (Chakan, Tzachas) was a member of the Chavuldur clan of the Oghuz who was taken prisoner by the Greeks while fighting independently of the Seljuk army in the early Turkish conquests of Anatolia. During his service to Emperor Nicephorus Botaniates, he learned Greek and eventually he attained both his freedom and a noble rank.

When Alexius became emperor in 1081 however, Chaka was stripped of his rank and privileges. He fled to the Izmir region where he began engaging in political activity, gathering together the Turkish groups that had begun to settle in the vicinity of Izmir and laying the foundations for an independent state.

Chaka devoted his first attentions to building a fleet. Taking advantage of Byzantine preoccupation with the Pechenegs, he captured Urla and Foca. From there he extended out into the Aegean, capturing Mytilene (save for the town of Mathymana) and Chios. According to another account he also gained control of Cos, Rhodes, and Samos. Although a Byzantine naval expedition in 1190 managed to recover Chios, it was unable to win a decisive victory over the Turkish fleet.

Chaka corresponded with the Pechenegs during their attempt to capture Istanbul. He encouraged them to attack from overland and promised to come to their assistance with forces that he recruited from Anatolia. The Byzantines foiled this attempt by making an alliance with the Cumans, another Turkish tribe. They fell upon the Pechenegs as they approached Istanbul and on 29 April 1091 utterly routed them. Chaka had managed to advance only as far as Gelibolu.

Undaunted, Chaka continued to build up both his navy and his army. When he adopted the title basileus for himself however Alexius was stirred into action. In 1092 the Byzantines recaptured Mytilene. Pursuing his campaign overland this time, Chaka besieged Abydos at the lower entrance to the Canakkale straits. This act brought him into confrontation with Sultan Kilij Aslan I, who regarded Canakkale and its environs as being his own and who had only a year before dispatched a commander named (or having the title of) Ilhan. Although Kilij Aslan was in a position of being Chaka's son-in-law, the relationship was not enough to ward off Alexius' machinations. Spurred by the emperor, the sultan invited Chaka to a banquet and murdered him (1094). There is a possibility that Chaka may have survived this plot because his name is mentioned in association with events taking place in 1097 but according to some historians this Chaka was the other's son.

The capture of Iznik by the armies of the First Crusade on 26 June 1097 encouraged the Byzantines to renew action in the Aegean and one by one they began retaking the cities and islands there that they had lost. The defense of Izmir was undertaken by Chaka–whether the father or the son is unclear. Recognizing the untenability of the position, an agreement was reached with the Byzantine naval commander Dukas and Izmir was surrendered to him. Chaka, the first Turkish naval commander in Anatolia, and his maritime emirate–another first–thus passed into history.


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