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14 min
Seljuk Turks
1037 - 1194

Seljuk Turks

Words: nono umasy


The Great Seljuk Empire or the Seljuk Empire was a high medieval Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim empire, originating from the Qiniq branch of Oghuz Turks. At its greatest extent, the Seljuk Empire controlled a vast area stretching from western Anatolia and the Levant to the Hindu Kush in the east, and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf in the south.






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1037 Jan 1

Prologue

Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan


Prologue


The Seljuks united the fractured political landscape of the eastern Islamic world and played a key role in the first and second crusades. Highly Persianized in culture and language, the Seljuks also played an important role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition,even exporting Persian culture to Anatolia. The apical ancestor of the Seljuks was their bey Seljuk. He was reputed to have served in the Khazar army, under whom, the Seljuks migrated to Khwarezm, near the city of Jend, where they converted to Islam in 985.


1038 Jan 1

Beginning of the Great Seljuk Empire

Merv and Nishapur


| © Kings and Generals


The grandson of Seljuk, Tughriul Bey, under whom the Seljuks wrested an empire from the Ghaznavids. Initially the Seljuks were repulsed by Mahmud and retired to Khwarezm, but Tughrul and Chaghri led them to capture Merv and Nishapur (1037/38). Later they repeatedly raided and traded territory with his successor, Mas'ud, across Khorasan and Balkh. They begin to settle in eastern Persia.


1040 May 23

Battle of Dandanaqan

near Merv


Battle of Dandanaqan
Battle of Dandanaqan


When the Seljuq leader Tughrul and his brother Chaghri began raising an army, they were seen as a threat to the Ghaznavid territories. Following the looting of border cities by Seljuq raids, Sultan Mas'ud I (son of Mahmud of Ghazni) decided to expel Seljuqs from his territories. During the march of Sultan Mas'ud's army to Sarakhs, the Seljuq raiders harassed the Ghaznavid army with hit-and-run tactics. Seljuq raiders also destroyed the supply lines of Ghaznavids, cutting them off from the nearby water wells. The discipline and morale of the Ghaznavid army dropped seriously. Finally, on May 23, 1040, around 16,000 Seljuk soldiers engaged in battle against a large Ghaznavid army in Dandanaqan and defeated them near Merv.

1055 Jan 1

Baghdad retaken: Tughrul Bey is declared Sultan

Baghdad, Iraq


Baghdad retaken: Tughrul Bey is declared Sultan
Tuğrul Bey avlanırken


After a series of victories from the Buyids, Tughrul enters Baghad (the capital of Sunni Islam) and is declared sultan (of Great Seljuk Sultanate) by the caliph Al-Qa'im.


1063 Jan 1

Battle of Damghan

Iran


Battle of Damghan


The founder of the Seljuk empire, Tughril, died childless and willed the throne to Alp Arslan, son of his brother Chaghri Beg. After Tughril's death however, the Seljuk prince Qutalmish hoped to become the new sultan, because Tughril was childless and he was the eldest living member of the dynasty.


Alp Arslan's main army was about 15 km east of Qutalmısh. Qutalmısh tried to change the course of a creek to block Alp Arslan's way. However Alp Arslan was able to pass his army through the newly created marsh land. Once the two Seljuk armies met, Qutalmısh's forces fled from the battle. Resul as well as Qutalmısh's son Suleyman (later founder of the Sultanate of Rum) were taken prisoner. Qutalmısh escaped, but while gathering his forces for an orderly retreat to his fort Girdkuh, he fell from his horse in a hilly terrain and died on 7 December 1063.


Although Qutalmısh's son Suleyman was taken prisoner, Alp Arslan pardoned him and sent him into exile. But later this proved to be an opportunity for him; for he founded the Sultanate of Rum, which outlasted the Great Seljuk Empire.


1064 Apr 27

Alp Arslan becomes sultan of the Seljuk Empire

Damghan, Iran


Alp Arslan becomes sultan of the Seljuk Empire


Tughril Bey died in 1063 and had designated his successor as Suleiman, Arslan's infant brother. Arslan and his uncle Kutalmish both contested this succession which was resolved at the battle of Damghan in 1063. Arslan defeated Kutalmish for the throne and succeeded on 27 April 1064 as sultan of the Seljuk Empire, thus becoming sole monarch of Persia from the river Oxus to the Tigris.

1064 Jun 1

Alp Arslan conquers Armenia and Georgia

Ani, Armenia


Alp Arslan conquers Armenia and Georgia


With the hope of capturing Caesarea Mazaca, the capital of Cappadocia, Alp Arslan placed himself at the head of the Turkoman" cavalry, crossed the Euphrates, and entered and invaded the city. Along with Nizam al-Mulk, he then marched into Armenia and Georgia, which he conquered in 1064. After a siege of 25 days, the Seljuks captured Ani, the capital city of Armenia, and slaughtered its population.


1068 Jan 1

Byzantine struggle

Cilicia, Turkey


Byzantine struggle


En route to fight the Fatimids in Syria in 1068, Alp Arslan invaded the Byzantine Empire. The Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes, assuming command in person, met the invaders in Cilicia. In three arduous campaigns, the Turks were defeated in detail and driven across the Euphrates in 1070. The first two campaigns were conducted by the emperor himself, while the third was directed by Manuel Comnenos, great-uncle of Emperor Manuel Comnenos.


1071 Aug 26

Battle of Manzikert

Manzikert


Battle of Manzikert | ©Kings and Generals


The Battle of Manzikert was fought between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Empire (led by Alp Arslan). The decisive defeat of the Byzantine army and the capture of the Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes played an important role in undermining Byzantine authority in Anatolia and Armenia, and allowed for the gradual Turkification of Anatolia. Many of the Turks, who had been travelling westward during the 11th century, saw the victory at Manzikert as an entrance to Asia Minor.


1072 Jan 1

Malik Shah becomes the sultan

Isfahan, Iran


Malik Shah becomes the sultan
Malik-Shah I seated on his throne


Under Alp Arslan's successor, Malik Shah, and his two Persian viziers, Nizām al-Mulk and Tāj al-Mulk, the Seljuk state expanded in various directions, to the former Iranian border of the days before the Arab invasion, so that it soon bordered China in the east and the Byzantines in the west. Malik Shāh was the one who moved the capital from Rey to Isfahan. It was under his rule and leadership that the Saljūq Empire had reached the height of its successes.


1073 Jan 1

Battle of Kerj Abu Dulaf

Hamadan, Hamadan Province, Ira


Battle of Kerj Abu Dulaf


Battle of Kerj Abu Dulaf was fought in 1073 between the Seljuk Army of Malik-Shah I and Kerman Seljuk army of Qavurt and his son, Sultan-shah. It took place approximately near Kerj Abu Dulaf, the present-day between Hamadan and Arak, and was a decisive Malik-Shah I victory.


After the death of Alp-Arslan, Malik-Shah was declared as the new sultan of the empire. However, right after Malik-Shah accession, his uncle Qavurt claimed the throne for himself and sent Malik-Shah a message which said: "I am the eldest brother, and you are a youthful son; I have the greater right to my brother Alp-Arslan's inheritance." Malik-Shah then replied by sending the following message: "A brother does not inherit when there is a son.". This message enraged Qavurt, who thereafter occupied Isfahan.


In 1073 a battle took place near Hamadan, which lasted three days. Qavurt was accompanied by his seven sons, and his army consisted of Turkmens, while the army of Malik-Shah consisted of ghulams ("military slaves") and contingents of Kurdish and Arab troops.During the battle, the Turks of Malik-Shah's army mutinied against him, but he nevertheless managed to defeat and capture Qavurt. Qavurt then begged for mercy and in return promised to retire to Oman. However, Nizam al-Mulk declined the offer, claiming that sparing him was an indication of weakness. After some time, Qavurt was strangled to death with a bowstring, while two of his sons were blinded.


1073 Jan 1

Seljuks defeat Qarakhanids

Bukhara, Uzbekistan


Seljuks defeat Qarakhanids
Ghaznavid or Kara-Khanid Warrior


In 1040, the Seljuk Turks defeated the Ghaznavids at the Battle of Dandanaqan and entered Iran. Conflict with the Karakhanids broke out, but the Karakhanids were able to withstand attacks by the Seljuks initially, even briefly taking control of Seljuk towns in Greater Khorasan. The Karakhanids, however, developed serious conflicts with the religious classes (the ulama), and the ulama of Transoxiana then requested the intervention of the Seljuks. In 1089, during the reign of Ibrahim's grandson Ahmad b. Khidr, the Seljuks entered and took control of Samarkand, together with the domains belonging to the Western Khanate. The Western Karakhanids Khanate became a vassal of the Seljuks for half a century, and the rulers of the Western Khanate were largely whomever the Seljuks chose to place on the throne. Ahmad b. Khidr was returned to power by the Seljuks, but in 1095, the ulama accused Ahmad of heresy and managed to secure his execution. The Karakhanids of Kashgar also declared their submission following a Seljuk campaign into Talas and Zhetysu, but the Eastern Khanate was a Seljuk vassal for only a short time. At the beginning of the 12th century they invaded Transoxiana and briefly occupied the Seljuk town of Termez

1075 Jan 1

Beylik of Danishmends

Sivas, Turkey


Beylik of Danishmends
Danişmend Gazi


The defeat of the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert allowed the Turks, including forces loyal to Danishmend Gazi, to occupy nearly all of Anatolia. Danishmend Gazi and his forces took as their lands central Anatolia, conquering the cities of Neocaesarea, Tokat, Sivas, and Euchaita. This state controls a major route from Syria to the Byzantine Empire and this becomes a strategically important during the First Crusades.


1076 Jan 1

Malik Shah I invades into Georgia

Georgia


Malik Shah I invades into Georgia


Malik Shah I surged into Georgia and reduced many settlements to ruins. from 1079/80 onward, Georgia was pressured into submitting to Malik-Shah to ensure a precious degree of peace at the price of an annual tribute.


1077 Jan 1

Seljuk Sultanate of Rum

Asia Minor


Seljuk Sultanate of Rum


Suleiman ibn Qutulmish (a cousin of Melik Shah) founds Konya state in what is now west Turkey. Although a vassal of Great Seljuk Empire it soon becomes totally independent. The Sultanate of Rum seceded from the Great Seljuk Empire under Suleiman ibn Qutulmish in 1077, just six years after the Byzantine provinces of central Anatolia were conquered at the Battle of Manzikert (1071). It had its capital first at İznik and then at Konya. These Turkish groups start to disrupt the pilgrimage route going into Asia Minor.


1078 Jan 1

Seljuk Turks take Damascus

Damascus


Seljuk Turks take Damascus


Sultan Malik-Shah I sent his brother Tutush to Damascus to help Atsiz ibn Uvaq al-Khwarazmi, who was besieged. After the siege had ended, Tutush had Atsiz executed and installed himself in Damascus. He took over the war against the Fatimids. He may have begun to disrupt the pilgrimage trade.


1081 Jan 1

Principality of Smyrna founded

Smyrna


Principality of Smyrna founded


Originally in Byzantine service, he rebelled and seized Smyrna, much of the Aegean coastlands of Asia Minor and the islands lying off shore. He founded a principality in Smyrna, giving the Seljuks access to Aegean Sea.


1085 Jan 1

Seljuks take Antioch and Aleppo

Antioch, Turkey


Seljuks take Antioch and Aleppo
The Seljuks take Antioch


In 1080, Tutush determined to capture Aleppo by force, in which he wanted to strip it from its nearby defenses; hence, he seized Manbij, Hisn al-Faya (at modern-day al-Bira), Biza'a and Azaz. He later influenced Sabiq to cede the emirate to the Uqaylid emir Muslim ibn Quraysh "Sharaf al-Dawla".


The headman in Aleppo, Sharif Hassan ibn Hibat Allah Al-Hutayti, currently under siege by Suleiman ibn Qutalmish, promised to surrender the city to Tutush. Suleiman was a distant member of the Seljuk dynasty who had established himself in Anatolia and was trying to expand his rule to Aleppo, having captured Antioch in 1084. Tutush and his army met Suleiman's forces near Aleppo in 1086. In the ensuing battle Suleiman's forces fled, Suleiman was killed and his son Kilic Arslan captured. Tutush attacked and occupied Aleppo except for the citadel in May 1086, he stayed until October and left for Damascus due to the advance of Malik-Shah's armies. The Sultan himself arrived in December 1086, then he appointed Aq Sunqur al-Hajib as the governor of Aleppo.


1092 Nov 19

Division of Empire

Isfahan, Iran


| © History Time


Malik-Shah died on 19 November 1092 while he was hunting. Upon his death, the Seljuk Empire fell into chaos, as rival successors and regional governors carved up their empire and waged war against each other. The individual tribes, the Danishmends, Mangujekids, Saltuqids, Tengribirmish begs, Artuqids (Ortoqids) and Akhlat-Shahs, had started vying with each other to establish their own independent states. Malik Shāh I was succeeded in Anatolia by Kilij Arslan I, who founded the Sultanate of Rum, and in Syria by his brother Tutush I. In Persia he was succeeded by his son Mahmud I, whose reign was contested by his other three brothers Barkiyaruq in Iraq, Muhammad I in Baghdad, and Ahmad Sanjar in Khorasan. The situation within the Seljuk lands was further complicated by the beginning of the First Crusade, which detached large portions of Syria and Palestine from Muslim control in 1098 and 1099. The success of the First Crusade is at least in part attributable to the political confusion which resulted from Malik-Shah's death


1095 Jan 1

Fragmentation of Seljuk Empire

Syria


Fragmentation of Seljuk Empire


The armies of Tutush (along with his general the Kakuyid Ali ibn Faramurz) and Berk-Yaruq met outside Ray on 17 Safar 488 (26 February 1095 CE), but most of Tutush's allies deserted him before battle commenced, and he was killed by a ghulam (soldier-slave) of a former ally, Aq-Sonqur. Tutush was decapitated and his head was displayed in Baghdad. Tutush's younger son Duqaq then inherited Damascus, whilst Radwan received Aleppo, splitting their father's realm. Turkish power fragments just before the First Crusades.


1096 Aug 15

First Crusade

Levant


First Crusade


During the First Crusade, the fractured states of the Seljuks were generally more concerned with consolidating their own territories and gaining control of their neighbours than with cooperating against the crusaders.


1096 Sep 29

Siege of Xerigordos

Xerigordos


Siege of Xerigordos


The Siege of Xerigordos in 1096, Germans of the People's Crusade under Reinald against the Turks commanded by Elchanes, general of Kilij Arslan I, the Seljuk Sultan of Rûm. The crusader raiding party captured the Turkish fort of Xerigordos, about four days' march from Nicaea, in an attempt to set up a pillaging outpost. Elchanes arrived three days later and besieged the crusaders. The defenders had no water supply, and after eight days of siege, they surrendered on September 29. Some of the crusaders converted to Islam, while others who refused were killed.


1098 Jun 28

Battle of Antioch

Edessa & Antioch


Battle of Antioch


In 1098, when Kerbogha heard that the Crusaders had besieged Antioch, he gathered his troops and marched to relieve the city. On his way, he attempted to regain Edessa following its recent conquest by Baldwin I, so as not to leave any Frankish garrisons behind him on his way to Antioch. For three weeks he pointlessly besieged the city before deciding to continue on to Antioch. His reinforcements could have perhaps ended the Crusade before the walls of Antioch, and, indeed, the whole Crusade was perhaps saved by his time wasted at Edessa. By the time he arrived, around June 7, the Crusaders had already won the siege, and had held the city since 3 June. They were not able to restock the city before Kerbogha, in turn, began besieging the city.


On 28 June, when Bohemond, the leader of the Christian army, decided to attack, the Emirs decided to humble Kerbogha by abandoning him at the critical moment. Kerbogha was taken by surprise by the organization and discipline of the Christian army. This motivated, unified Christian army was in fact so large that Kerbogha's strategy of dividing his own forces was ineffective. He was quickly routed by the Crusaders. He was forced to retreat, and returned to Mosul a broken man.


1104 Jan 1

Battle of Ertsukhi

Tbilisi, Georgia


Battle of Ertsukhi


The Kingdom of Kakheti-Hereti had been a tributary to the Great Seljuq Empire since the 1080s. However, in the 1104, the energetic Georgian king David IV was able to exploit internal unrest in the Seljuq state and successfully campaigned against Seljuk vassal state Kakheti-Hereti, finally turning it into one of his Saeristavo. The king of Kakheti-Hereti, Agsartan II, was captured by the Georgian nobles Baramisdze and Arshiani and was imprisoned in Kutaisi.


The Seljuk Sultan Barkiyaruq sent a large army to Georgia to retake Kakheti and Hereti. The battle was fought in southeastern part of the Kingdom, near the Ertsukhi. King David of Georgia personally took part in the battle, where the Seljuks were decisively defeated.


1117 Jan 1

Battle of Ghazni

Ghazni, Afghanistan


Battle of Ghazni


The death of Mas'ud III of Ghazni in 1115 began a heated contest for the throne. Shirzad took the throne that year but the next year he was assassinated by his younger brother Arslan. Arslan had to face the rebellion of his other brother, Bahram, who received support from the Seljuk Sultan Ahmad Sanjar. Ahmad Sanjar invading from Khorasan took his army into Afghanistan and inflicted a crushing defeat to Arslan near Ghazni at Shahrabad. Arslan managed to escape and Bahram succeeded to the throne as the Seljuk's vassal.


1121 Aug 12

Battle of Didgori

Didgori, Georgia


Battle of Didgori


After pillaging the County of Edessa, Seljukid commander Ilghazi made peace with the Crusaders. In 1121 he went north towards Georgia and with supposedly up to 250 000 – 350 000 troops, including men led by his son-in-law Sadaqah and Sultan Malik of Ganja, he invaded the Kingdom of Georgia.


The Battle of Didgori was fought between the armies of the Kingdom of Georgia and the Great Seljuq Empire at the narrow place of Didgori, 40 km west of Tbilisi, on August 12, 1121. The large Muslim army, under the command of Ilghazi, was unable to maneuver, and suffered a devastating defeat due to King David IV of Georgia’s effective military tactics. The battle at Didgori was the culmination of the entire Georgian-Seljuk wars, and led to the Georgians’ reconquest of Tbilisi in 1122.


1141 Sep 9

Battle of Qatwan

North of Samarkand, Uzbekistan


Battle of Qatwan


Ahmad, son of Malik Shah I, marched to eliminate the threat posed by Kara Khitans and faced them in the vicinity of Samarkand at the Battle of Qatwan. He suffered his first defeat in his long career, and as a result lost all Seljuk territory east of the Syr Darya.

1144 Nov 28

Siege of Edessa

Edessa


Siege of Edessa


The siege of Edessa took place from November 28 to December 24, 1144, resulting in the fall of the capital of the crusader County of Edessa to Zengi, the atabeg of Mosul and Aleppo. This event was the catalyst for the Second Crusade.


1194 Jan 1

Seljuk Empire collapses

Anatolia, Turkey


Seljuk Empire collapses
| ©Angus McBride


For a brief period, Togrul III was the Sultan of all Seljuk except for Anatolia. In 1194, however, Togrul was defeated by Takash, the Shah of Khwarezmid Empire, and the Seljuk Empire finally collapsed. Of the former Seljuk Empire, only the Sultanate of Rûm in Anatolia remained


1194 Jan 2

Epilogue

Anatolia, Turkey


Epilogue


The Seljuks were educated in the service of Muslim courts as slaves or mercenaries. The dynasty brought revival, energy, and reunion to the Islamic civilization hitherto dominated by Arabs and Persians.


The Seljuks founded universities and were also patrons of art and literature. Their reign is characterized by Persian astronomers such as Omar Khayyám, and the Persian philosopher al-Ghazali. Under the Seljuks, New Persian became the language for historical recording, while the center of Arabic language culture shifted from Baghdad to Cairo.


As the dynasty declined in the middle of the thirteenth century, the Mongols invaded Anatolia in the 1260s and divided it into small emirates called the Anatolian beyliks. Eventually one of these, the Ottoman, would rise to power and conquer the rest.





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References



  • Basan, Osman Aziz (2010). The Great Seljuqs: A History. Taylor & Francis.
  • Korobeinikov, Dimitri (2015). "The Kings of the East and the West: The Seljuk Dynastic Concept and Titles in the Muslim and Christian sources". In Peacock, A.C.S.; Yildiz, Sara Nur (eds.). The Seljuks of Anatolia. I.B. Tauris.
  • Mecit, Songül (2014). The Rum Seljuqs: Evolution of a Dynasty. Routledge. ISBN 978-1134508990.
  • Peacock, A.C.S. (2015). The Great Seljuk Empire. Edinburgh University Press.
  • Peacock, A.C.S.; Yıldız, Sara Nur, eds. (2013). The Seljuks of Anatolia: Court and Society in the Medieval Middle East. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1848858879.
  • Peacock, Andrew C. S. (2010). Early Seljūq History: A New Interpretation.


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