The Military Strategies used by Turks in History

millitary strategies used by turks

It is known that Turks have a warrior character throughout history. Accepting the religion of Islam didn’t change their character. The studies about Turks show that they used the elements of nature in their battles. In this study, I examine the Turks’ Military Strategies related to nature in history.

Using “Yada Stone” for Rain or Snow

The Turks having lived in past believed that the Tengri (God) gave to Turks a magical stone called the “Yada Stone”. When the shaman wanted to rain, snow, and storm using the Yada Stone, it occurred. Turkish shaman and the Turkish commanders had Yada stone, all the time. In Islamic sources, this magical stone called “Rain stone” and “Cada stone”.1  Abdulkadir İnan claims that this stone was used in wars. The events that will be based on these claims are mentioned in the Evliya Celebi’s travel book and Ibni Fadlan’s travel book. Mahmud al-Kashgari who described this stone as magic claimed that it is possible to get rain or snow by using this magic.2

Mahmud al-Kashgari cited his observation about the Yada Stone in his book of Compendium of the Turkic Dialects ( Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk).

Mahmud al-Kashgari:

“Yada stone is a well-known thing in Turks. I saw it with my eyes in the Yagma Country. There was a fire there. It was summer. They used the Yada Stone and put out the fire by snow by God’s permission.”3

According to many witnesses (authors or travelers), Turks used this stone in wars. Nowadays, there are some traditions related to Yada Stone in some parts of Turkey where people need rain for agriculture.4

Wolf Trap Tactic

Wolf Trap Tactic
The Wolf Trap Tactic

This tactic is also referred to as the Crescent Tactic and the Turan Tactic. It is called the wolf trap tactic because it was similar to the hunting tactic of wolves. In the wolf trap tactic, the army is divided into three parts. Firstly, central forces attack the enemy. After a while, the center troops withdraw from the enemy as if they are running away so that enemy comes to trap and are surrounded by troops who are located left and right. The most important battles in which the tactic is used successfully are the Battle of Manzikert and Battle of Mohács.5

Using Elephants as a Weapon in Wars

For the first time in the Turks’ history, Emir Timur used elephants as a weapon in the battle against Indians.

Timur used the elephants as a weapon after he saw them in Indian troops during the war in 1397-1398. Even using the elephants in war belongs to originally the Indians, Timur used them more successfully than the Indians. When Timur’s troops faced the elephants in the Indian Army, it was withdrawn as soldiers and horses were afraid of them. Timur made iron forks shaped triangular and threw them on the way of elephants at night. After that, in the morning, he orders his troops to retreat. The enemy soldiers pursued them until the area where iron forks are thrown. The elephants retreated when iron forks pricked their feet and while they were retreating, they trampled down Indian troops. Timur won the battle against the Indians by using their elephants.6

Another battle in India, Timur got a lot of reeds to beat the elephants. After Timur’s troops burn the reeds, they threw them to elephants when the elephants came near them. Thanks to retreated elephants, Timur won the war.7

Emir Timur used 32 armored elephants in the Battle of Ankara against the Ottoman after he learned how to use elephants in battle. The elephants roled a major in Timur’s victory. Thus, Timur added a new strategy to the Turks’ military strategies.

As a result, the study shows that Turks used the elements of nature in their battles throughout history and they won many battles thanks to the strategies.


[1] Abdulkadir Inan, Eski Turk Dini Tarihi, p. 161-163
[2] Jean-Paul Roux, Eski Turk Mitolojisi, p. 136
[3] Bayram Erdogan, Sorularla Türk Mitolojisi, Istanbul, 2007, p.174
[4] Sadettin Gomec, Shamanism And Old Turkish Religion, Pamukkale University Journal of Education, v.4, p.47
[5] Milliyet, Online Link:, Accessed Date: 22.05.2017
[6] Musa Samil Yuksel, Tamerlane’s Description According to Arab Historians, Bilig, v.31, p.93
[7] Musa Samil Yuksel, p.93.
[8] J. Darby, The History of Timur-Bec: Known by the Name of Tamerlane the Great, Emperor of the Moguls and Tartars: Being a Historical Journal of His Conquests in Asia and Europe, V 2, p.251, 1723
[9] Image 2, Timurid war elephant armor, located in Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds, UK (Photography courtesy of