Kilij Arslan I

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Kilij Arslan I
Sultan of Rum
PredecessorSuleyman I
Died1107 (aged 27–28)
Khabur River, near Mosul
HouseHouse of Seljuq
FatherSuleyman I of Rûm

Kilij Arslan (Old Anatolian Turkish: قِلِج اَرسلان; Persian: قلج ارسلانQilij Arslān; Modern Turkish: Kılıç Arslan, meaning "Sword Lion") (‎1079–1107) was the Seljuq Sultan of Rûm from 1092 until his death in 1107. He ruled the Sultanate during the time of the First Crusade and thus faced the attack. He also re-established the Sultanate of Rum after the death of Malik Shah I of Great Seljuq and defeated the Crusaders in three battles during the Crusade of 1101.

Kilij Arslan was the first Muslim commander to fight against the Crusaders, commanding his horse archers while a teenager.[1]

Rise to power[edit]

After the death of his father, Suleyman, in 1086, he became a hostage of Sultan Malik Shah I of Great Seljuq in Isfahan, but was released when Malik Shah died in 1092 in the wake of a quarrel among his jailers.[2] Kilij Arslan then marched at the head of the Turkish Oghuz Yiva tribe army and set up his capital at Nicaea, replacing Amin 'l Ghazni, the governor appointed by Malik Shah I.

Following the death of Malik Shah I 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. Alexius Comnenus's Byzantine intrigues further complicated the situation. He married Ayşe Hatun, the daughter of the Emir Tzachas to attempt to ally himself against the Byzantines, who commanded a strong naval fleet. They had four sons: Malik Shah, Mesud I, Arab and Toghrul. In 1094, Kilij Arslan received a letter from Alexius suggesting that the Tzachas sought to target him to move onto the Byzantines, thereupon Kilij Arslan marched with an army to Smyrna, Tzachas's capital, and invited his father-in-law to a banquet in his tent where he slew him while he was intoxicated.[3]

The Crusades[edit]

People's Crusade[edit]

The People's Crusade (also called the Peasants' Crusade) army of Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless arrived at Nicaea in 1096. A German contingent of the crusade overran the castle Xerigordon and held it until Kilij sent a force to starve them out. Those that renounced Christianity were spared and sent into captivity to the east, the rest were slaughtered.[4] Kilij Arslan also cunningly sent spies to trick the Crusaders into thinking Xerigordon was ripe for the taking, and the ill-disciplined Crusaders rushed to Xerigordon despite orders against this. They were consequently ambushed, forcing Peter the Hermit to eventually give up the crusade.

The remainder of Peter's crusade was surprised near the village of Civetot by Kilij Arslan's army. [4] They were easily defeated and around 17,000 out of the 20,000 remaining Christian's died. [5] He then invaded the Danishmend Emirate of Malik Ghazi in eastern Anatolia.

The First Crusade would start a few months later.

First Crusade[edit]

Because of this easy first victory he did not consider the main crusader army, led by various nobles of western Europe, to be a serious threat. He resumed his war with the Danishmends, and was away from Nicaea when these new Crusaders besieged Nicaea in May 1097. He hurried back to his capital to find it surrounded by the Crusaders, and was defeated in battle with them on May 21. The city then surrendered to the Byzantines and his wife and children were captured. When the crusaders sent the Sultana to Constantinople, to their dismay she was later returned without ransom in 1097 because of the relationship between Kilij Arslan and Alexius Comnenus.

As result of the stronger invasion, Rüm and the Danismends allied in their attempt to turn back the crusaders. The Crusaders continued to split their forces as they marched across Anatolia. The combined Danishmend and Rüm forces planned to ambush the Crusaders near Dorylaeum on June 29. However, Kilij Arslan's horse archers could not penetrate the line of defense set up by the Crusader knights, and the main body under Bohemond arrived to capture the Turkish camp on July 1. Kilij Arslan retreated and inflicted losses on the Crusader Army with guerilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics. He also destroyed crops and water supplies along their route in order to damage logistical supplying of the Crusader Army.

See also: Siege of Nicaea, Battle of Dorylaeum

Crusade of 1101[edit]

Crusade of 1101

Gazi Gümüshtigin captured Bohemond resulting in a new force of Lombards attempting to rescue him. In their march they took Ankara from Arslan upon the Danishmends. In alliance with Radwan the Atabeg of Aleppo he ambushed this force at the Battle of Mersivan. In 1101 he defeated another Crusader army at Heraclea Cybistra, which had come to assist the fledgling Crusader States in Syria. This was an important victory for the Turks, as it proved that an army of Crusader knights was not invincible. After this victory he moved his capital to Konya and defeated a force led by William II of Nevers who attempted to march upon it as well as the subsequent force a week later.

In 1104 he resumed once more his war with the Danishmends who were now weakened after the death of Malik Ghazi, demanding half the ransom gained for Bohemond. As a result, Bohemond allied with the Danishmends against Rüm and the Byzantines.

War and death in Syria[edit]

After the crusades he moved towards the east taking Harran, and Diyarbakr. In 1107 he conquered Mosul, but he was defeated by Mehmed I of Great Seljuq supported by Ilghazi of the Ortoqids and Fakhr al-Mulk Radwan of Aleppo at the battle of Khabur river.[6] Having lost the battle, Kilij Arslan died trying to escape across the river.[7]


  1. ^ "The first Turkish leader against the Crusaders: Sultan Kilij Arslan I". DergiPark. 2015. p. 67.
  2. ^ Maalouf 2012, p. 10.
  3. ^ Brand 1989, p. 3.
  4. ^ a b Runciman 1969, p. 283.
  5. ^ Claster 2009, p. 45.
  6. ^ Turan 1970, p. 239.
  7. ^ Runciman 1952, p. 110.


  • Brand, Charles M. (1989). "The Turkish Element in Byzantium, Eleventh-Twelfth Centuries". Dumbarton Oaks Papers. 43: 1. doi:10.2307/1291603. JSTOR 1291603.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Claster, Jill N. (2009). Sacred violence: The European crusades to the Middle East, 1095-1396. University of Toronto Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Maalouf, Amin (2012). Crusades Through Arab Eyes. Saqi Books.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Runciman, Steven (1952). A History of the Crusades, Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Runciman, Steven (1969) [1955]. "The First Crusade: Constantinople to Antioch". In Setton, Kenneth M.; Baldwin, Marshall W. (eds.). A History of the Crusades, Volume I: The First Hundred Years (Second ed.). Madison, Milwaukee, and London: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-04834-9.
  • Turan, Osman (1970). "Anatolia in the Period of the Seljuks and the Beyliks". In Holt, Peter Malcolm; Lambton, Ann K. S.; Lewis, Bernard (eds.). The Cambridge History of Islam. Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Preceded by
Suleyman I
Sultan of Rûm
Succeeded by