Ancestors of Western Turks: Great Seljuk Empire

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Ancestors of Western Turks: Great Seljuk Empire

Turcoman tribes which immigrated from Central Asia to the West in 11th Century founded a militarily strong, culturally developed and religiously tolerant state in Iran’s Isfahan city.

Known as Great Seljuk Empire, this state was declared the protector of Islam by Abbasid Caliphate who was living in Baghdad and it ruled over the holy lands. As the ancestors of the western Turks, they had blended the cultures and created the hybrid ethos that you can still observe in modern Turkey.

The march of Seljuk Turks from Asia to the eastern borders of Byzantine Empire. Batlle of Manzikent also marked in the map. That battle opened the gates of Anatolia (Asia Minor) to the Turks.

Seljuks marches to Byzantine frontiers

The Abbasid Caliph in Baghdat, granted Seljuk’s leader Tuğrul (Tughril), the impressive title of King of the East and West designating the Seljuk warlord as his temporal deputy.

Alp Arslan (Successor) expanded significantly upon Tughril’s holdings by adding Armenia and Georgia (1064). Invaded eastern fringes of the Byzantine Empire (1068) The war between Seljuks and Byzantine was inevitable then.

Clash of the Empires: Battle of Manzikent

In 1071 this Seljuk force faced the armies of the Byzantine emperor Romanos IV Diogenes at Manzikert (Malazgirt) north of Lake Van.  Byzantine legions outnumbered the Seljuk forces. However Seljuk Ruler Alp Arslan used extremely effective tactics. Seljuk cavalry surrounded the shaking Byzantine army and defeated decisively. They also taken Emperor Romanos war prisoner. Surprisingly, Seljuk Sultan did not drag the emperor after himself to his capital. He treated Romanos well and released him for a ransom and huge tracts of Byzantine land.

Victorious Seljuk army at the battle field with their blue flags with double headed eagles.

Rise and Fall of Seljuk Empire

The fact that Alp Arslan won the Battle of Manzikert cracked the Byzantine defense completely. Before Byzantine Empire found time to get on their feet, Seljuks had already captured Eastern and Central Anatolia.

The reigns of Alp Arslan and his successor Malik Shah, were the prosperous years of the Seljuk Empire. The death of the Malik Shah marked the decline of Great Seljuks and by 1192 the dynasty ended. The pressures from the Crusaders and new Turcoman clans caused the Great Seljuk Empire to collapse.

New Seljuk State: Sultanate of Rum in Anatolia

The remaining Seljuk clans established their new capital at Konya (Iconium) around 1150 and ruled what would be known as the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. Rum means Roman in Turkish lenguage. So literally the name of the state means Seljuks of Rome.

The Byzantine Empire was defined as (Eastern) Roman Empire in the past, Byzantine term made up by the historians of the modern ages. Seljuks used this name as they considered theirselves the new rulers of the Roman territories. Centuries later, Mehmed II, the Ottoman Sultan who conquered the Constantinople, used the same title besides his other titles like Khan, Sultan, Shah: Roman Emperor.

The small Seljuk ruling class governed a population that was mostly Greek-speaking Anatolian Christians, as well as a significant Jewish minority.

Greatest extent of Seljuk Sultanate of Rum at the heart of Anatolia.

Seljuk rule was tolerant of race and religion. Churches and synagogues flourished, most of the finest examples of Seljuk architecture, such as the fine caravanserais and the mosques, medreses were built at Anatolia. Some of the best examples of these can be seen in Erzurum (Theodosiopolis), Sivas (Caesarea) and Konya (Iconium).

Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi

At the heart of the Empire, in Konya; sufi mystic, poet and theologian Jelaleddin Rumi lived. (1207-1273) He was the most famous and enduring figure of the Seljuk period.

Rumi’s preaching and spiritual leadership soon earned him a large following. His followers defined Rumi as their master. He organized his followers into the Sufi order of Mevlevi Dervishes. (Whirling Dervishes)

Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi lived in Konya. Capital of Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.

From Seljuk Turks to Ottoman Empire

Seljuks had occupied Byzantine lands two centuries ago and beaten them. A strange turn of fate brought them to the same outcome. Worn off as a result of the pressure by the tribes coming from the East, Seljuk Turks could not resist the mighty attacks of the Mongols and they were heavily beaten at the Battle of Kose Dag (1243)

Ottomans (Osmanoğulları) as vassal state of Seljuk Turks, was located at eastern frontier of Byzantine Empire (Bizans) First Sultan of Ottoman Empire known as Osman (Othman)

After the fall of Seljuks, many Turkish principalities (princedoms) appeared. Among those, there was one principality that came on top of others with its dynamism and belligerence. Based near Nicaea (iznik) on the Byzantine frontier. Ottoman Principality and its founder Osman Bey (Othman) paved the way for the foundations of one of the biggest empires ever in the history of humankind: Ottoman Empire


Further Reading:


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Ancestors of Western Turks: Great Seljuk Empire was last modified: May 29th, 2017 by Serhat Engül
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