Seljuk Empire

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Seljuk Empire
Seljuk Empire circa 1090, during the reign of Malik Shah I. To the west, Anatolia was under the independent rule of Suleiman ibn Qutalmish as the Sultanate of Rum, and disputed with the Byzantine Empire. To the east, the Kara-Khanid Khanate became a vassal state in 1089, for half a century, before falling to the Qara Khitai.[1][2]
Common languages
Sunni Islam (Hanafi)
GovernmentVassal under caliphate (de jure)[8]
Independent sultanate (de facto)
• 1031–1075
• 1180–1225
• 1037–1063
Tughril (first)
• 1174–1194
Tughril III (last)[9]
• Formation under Tughril
• Supplantation by the Khwarazmian Empire[10]
1080 est.[11][12]3,900,000 km2 (1,500,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Oghuz Yabgu State
Buyid dynasty
Byzantine Empire
Fatimid Caliphate
Kara-Khanid Khanate
Sultanate of Rûm
Anatolian beyliks
Ghurid dynasty
Khwarezmian Empire
Atabegs of Azerbaijan
Ayyubid dynasty
Burid dynasty
Zengid dynasty
Artuqid dynasty
Kerman Seljuk Sultanate
Kingdom of Cyprus
Byzantine Empire

The Seljuk Empire,[13][a] or the Great Seljuk Empire, was a high medieval empire, culturally Turco-Persian,[16] founded and ruled by the Qïnïq branch of Oghuz Turks.[17] It spanned a total area of 3.9 million square kilometres (1.5 million square miles) from Anatolia and the Levant in the west to the Hindu Kush in the east, and from Central Asia in the north to the Persian Gulf in the south.

The Seljuk Empire was founded in 1037 by Tughril (990–1063) and his brother Chaghri (989–1060), both of whom co-ruled over its territories; there are indications that the Seljuk leadership otherwise functioned as a triumvirate and thus included Musa Yabghu, the uncle of the aforementioned two.[18] From their homelands near the Aral Sea, the Seljuks advanced first into Khorasan and into the Iranian mainland, where they would become largely based as a Persianate society. They then moved west to conquer Baghdad, filling up the power vacuum that had been caused by struggles between the Arab Abbasid Caliphate and the Iranian Buyid Empire. The subsequent Seljuk expansion into eastern Anatolia triggered the Byzantine–Seljuk wars, with the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 marking a decisive turning point in the conflict in favour of the Seljuks, undermining the authority of the Byzantine Empire in the remaining parts of Anatolia and gradually enabling the region's Turkification. The Seljuk Empire united the fractured political landscape in the non-Arab eastern parts of the Muslim world and played a key role in both the First Crusade and Second Crusade; it also played an important part in the creation and expansion of multiple art forms during the period in which they had influence.[19]

By the 1140s, the Seljuk Empire began to decline in power and influence, and was eventually supplanted by the Khwarazmian Empire in 1194.


Founder of the dynasty

The founder of the Seljuq dynasty was an Oghuz Turkic warlord 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.[20] Khwarezm, administered by the Ma'munids, was under the nominal control of the Samanid Empire.[21] By 999 the Samanids fell to the Kara-Khanids in Transoxiana, but the Ghaznavids occupied the lands south of the Oxus.[22] The Seljuks became involved, having supported the last Samanid emir against the Kara-Khanids, in this power struggle in the region before establishing their own independent base.[23]

Expansion of the empire

Tughril and Chaghri

Oghuz Turks (also known as Turkmens at the time), led by Seljuq's son, Musa and his two nephews, Tughril and Chaghri, were one of several groups of the Oghuz who made their way to Iran between about 1020 and 1040, first moving south to Transoxiana, and then to Khorasan, initially at the invitation of the local rulers, then under alliances and conflicts. However, prior to the arrival of the Seljuks to Khorasan, other Oghuz Turks were already present in the area: that is, the northern slopes of Kopet Dag mountains, which is principally the region stretching from the Caspian Sea to Merv; what is today – Turkmenistan. Contemporary sources mention places such as Dahistan, Farawa and Nasa, as well as Sarakhs, all in present-day Turkmenistan.[24][25]

Mina'i bowls with enthroned figure (fragment) and prince on horseback. Seljuk period, 12th-early 13th century. Iran.[26]

Around 1034, Tughril and Chaghri were soundly defeated by the Oghuz Yabghu Ali Tegin and his allies, forcing them to escape from Transoxiana. Initially, Turkmens took refuge in Khwarazm, which served as one of their traditional pastures, but they were also encouraged by the local Ghaznavid governor, Harun, who hoped to utilise Seljuqs for his efforts to seize Khorasan from his sovereign. When Harun was assassinated by Ghaznavid agents in 1035, they again had to flee, this time heading south across the Karakum Desert. First, Turkmens made their way to the important city of Merv, but perhaps due to its strong fortification, they then changed their route westwards to take refuge in Nasa. Finally, they arrived on the edges of Khorasan, the province considered a jewel in the Ghaznavid crown.[27]

After moving into Khorasan, Seljuks under Tughril wrested an empire from the Ghaznavids. Initially the Seljuks were repulsed by Mahmud and retired to Khwarezm, but Tughril and Chaghri led them to capture Merv and Nishapur (1037–1038).[28] Later they repeatedly raided and traded territory with his successor, Mas'ud, across Khorasan and Balkh.[29]

In 1040, at the Battle of Dandanaqan, Seljuqs decisively defeated Mas'ud I of Ghazni, forcing him to abandon most of his western territories.[30] Afterwards, Turkmens employed Khorasanians and set up a Persian bureaucracy to administer their new polity with Toghrul as its nominal overlord.[31] By 1046, Abbasid caliph al-Qa'im had sent Tughril a diploma recognizing Seljuk rule over Khurasan.[32] In 1048–1049, the Seljuk Turks, commanded by Ibrahim Yinal, uterine brother of Tughril, made their first incursion into the Byzantine frontier region of Iberia and clashed with a combined Byzantine-Georgian army of 50,000 at the Battle of Kapetrou on 10 September 1048. The devastation left behind by the Seljuk raid was so fearful that the Byzantine magnate Eustathios Boilas described, in 1051–1052, those lands as "foul and unmanageable... inhabited by snakes, scorpions, and wild beasts." The Arab chronicler Ibn al-Athir reports that Ibrahim brought back 100,000 captives and a vast booty loaded on the backs of ten thousand camels.[33] In 1055, Tughril entered Baghdad and removed the influence of the Buyid dynasty, under a commission from the Abbasid caliph.[32]

Alp Arslan

Contemporary Turkic and local dignitaries
A dignitary in Turkic dress: long braids, fur hat, boots, close-fitting coat. He may be an amir.[34]
A local dignitary in loose-fitting dress and turban, possibly Al-Hariri of Basra himself.[34]
Illustrations from the Maqamat, authored by Al-Hariri of Basra (1054–1122), a high government official of the Seljuks. Published in Baghdad (1237 edition).[34]

Alp Arslan, the son of Chaghri Beg, expanded significantly upon Tughril's holdings by adding Armenia and Georgia in 1064 and invading the Byzantine Empire in 1068, from which he annexed almost all of Anatolia. Arslan's decisive victory at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 effectively neutralized the Byzantine resistance to the Turkish invasion of Anatolia,[35] although the Georgians were able to recover from Alp Arslan's invasion by securing the theme of Iberia. The Byzantine withdrawal from Anatolia brought Georgia in more direct contact with the Seljuks. In 1073 the Seljuk Amirs of Ganja, Dvin and Dmanisi invaded Georgia and were defeated by George II of Georgia, who successfully took the fortress of Kars.[36] A retaliatory strike by the Seljuk Amir Ahmad defeated the Georgians at Kvelistsikhe.[37]

Alp Arslan authorized his Turkoman generals to carve their own principalities out of formerly Byzantine Anatolia, as atabegs loyal to him. Within two years the Turkmens had established control as far as the Aegean Sea under numerous beghliks (modern Turkish beyliks): the Saltukids in Northeastern Anatolia, the Shah-Armens and the Mengujekids in Eastern Anatolia, Artuqids in Southeastern Anatolia, Danishmendis in Central Anatolia, Rum Seljuks (Beghlik of Suleyman, which later moved to Central Anatolia) in Western Anatolia, and the Beylik of Tzachas of Smyrna in İzmir (Smyrna).[citation needed]

Malik Shah I

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. Malikshāh was the one who moved the capital from Ray to Isfahan.[38] The Iqta military system and the Nizāmīyyah University at Baghdad were established by Nizām al-Mulk, and the reign of Malikshāh was reckoned the golden age of "Great Seljuk". The Abbasid Caliph titled him "The Sultan of the East and West" in 1087. The Assassins (Hashshashin) of Hassan-i Sabāh started to become a force during his era, however, and they assassinated many leading figures in his administration; according to many sources these victims included Nizām al-Mulk.[citation needed]

Internally, the most prominent development of Malik Shah's rule was the continuous increase in the power of the Nizām al-Mulk. Some contemporary chroniclers refer to the period as "al-dawla al-Nizamiyya", the Nizam's state, while modern scholars have mentioned him as "the real ruler of the Seljuq empire". The 14-century biographer Subki claimed that Nizām al-Mulk's vizierate was "not just a vizierate, it was above the sultanate".[39]

Ahmad Sanjar

Ahmad Sanjar seated on his throne

Ahmad was the son of Malik Shah I and initially took part in wars of succession against his three brothers and a nephew: Mahmud I, Barkiyaruq, Malik Shah II and Muhammad I Tapar. In 1096, he was tasked to govern the province of Khorasan by his brother Muhammad I.[40]: 159  Over the next several years, Ahmad Sanjar became the ruler of most of Iran (Persia), and eventually in 1118, the sole ruler of the Great Seljuk Empire.[41]

In 1141, Ahmad 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.[42][43]

Sanjar's as well as the Seljuks' rule collapsed as a consequence of yet another unexpected defeat, this time at the hands of the Seljuks' own tribe, in 1153.[41] Sanjar was captured during the battle and held in captivity until 1156.[44] It brought chaos to the Empire - a situation later exploited by the victorious Turkmens, whose hordes would overrun Khorasan unopposed, wreaking colossal damage on the province and prestige of Sanjar.[44] Sanjar eventually escaped from captivity in the fall of 1156, but soon died in Merv in 1157. After his death, Turkic rulers, Turkmen tribal forces, and other secondary powers competed for Khorasan, and after a long period of confrontations, the province was finally conquered by Khwarazmians in the early 1200s.[45]

The Tomb of Ahmed Sanjar was destroyed by the Mongols led by Tolui, who sacked the city of Merv in 1221, killing 700,000 people according to contemporary sources during their catastrophic invasion of Khwarazm;[46] however, modern scholarship holds such figures to be exaggerated.[47][48]

Division of empire

When Malikshāh I died in 1092, the empire split as his brother and four sons quarrelled over the apportioning of the empire among themselves. Malikshāh 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. When Tutush I died, his sons Radwan and Duqaq inherited Aleppo and Damascus respectively and contested with each other as well, further dividing Syria amongst emirs antagonistic towards each other.[citation needed]

In 1118, the third son Ahmad Sanjar took over the empire. His nephew, the son of Muhammad I, did not recognize his claim to the throne, and Mahmud II proclaimed himself Sultan and established a capital in Baghdad, until 1131 when he was finally officially deposed by Ahmad Sanjar.[citation needed]

Elsewhere in nominal Seljuk territory were the Artuqids in northeastern Syria and northern Mesopotamia; they controlled Jerusalem until 1098. The Dānišmand dynasty founded a state in eastern Anatolia and northern Syria and contested land with the Sultanate of Rum, and Kerbogha exercised independence as the atabeg of Mosul.[citation needed]

First Crusade (1095–1099)

Sultan Barkiaruq, the Seljuk ruler during the First Crusade, from the Persian manuscript of Hafiz-i Abru's Majma' al-Tawarikh, Yale University Art Gallery

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. The Seljuks easily defeated the People's Crusade arriving in 1096, but they could not stop the progress of the army of the subsequent Princes' Crusade (First Crusade), which took important cities such as Nicaea (İznik), Iconium (Konya), Caesarea Mazaca (Kayseri), and Antioch (Antakya) on its march to Jerusalem (Al-Quds). In 1099 the crusaders finally captured the Holy Land and set up the first Crusader states. The Seljuks had already lost Jerusalem to the Fatimids, who had recaptured it in 1098 just before its capture by the crusaders.[49]

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.[50][51] David IV of Georgia gathered 40,000 Georgian warriors, including 5,000 monaspa guards, 15,000 Kipchaks, 300 Alans and 100 French Crusaders to fight against Ilghazi's vast army. At the Battle of Didgori on August 12, 1121, the Seljuks were routed, being run down by pursuing Georgian cavalry for several days afterward. The battle helped the Crusader states, which had been under pressure from Ilghazi's armies. The weakening of the main enemy of the Latin principalities also benefitted the Kingdom of Jerusalem under King Baldwin II.[citation needed]

Second Crusade (1147–1149)

During this time conflict with the Crusader states was also intermittent, and after the First Crusade increasingly independent atabegs would frequently ally with the Crusader states against other atabegs as they vied with each other for territory. At Mosul, Zengi succeeded Kerbogha as atabeg and successfully began the process of consolidating the atabegs of Syria. In 1144 Zengi captured Edessa, as the County of Edessa had allied itself with the Artuqids against him. This event triggered the launch of the Second Crusade. Nur ad-Din, one of Zengi's sons who succeeded him as atabeg of Aleppo, created an alliance in the region to oppose the Second Crusade, which landed in 1147.[citation needed]


Map depicting military actions during the Battle of Qatwan, 1141

Ahmad Sanjar fought to contain the revolts by the Kara-Khanids in Transoxiana, Ghurids in Afghanistan and Qarluks in modern Kyrghyzstan, as well as the nomadic invasion of the Kara-Khitais in the east. The advancing Kara-Khitais first defeated the Eastern Kara-Khanids, then followed up by crushing the Western Kara-Khanids, who were vassals of the Seljuks at Khujand. The Kara-Khanids turned to their Seljuk overlords for assistance, to which Sanjar responded by personally leading an army against the Kara-Khitai. However, Sanjar's army was decisively defeated by the host of Yelu Dashi at the Battle of Qatwan on September 9, 1141. While Sanjar managed to escape with his life, many of his close kin including his wife were taken captive in the battle's aftermath. As a result of Sanjar's failure to deal with the encroaching threat from the east, the Seljuk Empire lost all its eastern provinces up to the river Syr Darya, and vassalage of the Western Kara-Khanids was usurped by the Kara-Khitai, otherwise known as the Western Liao in Chinese historiography.[52]

Conquest by Khwarezm and the Ayyubids

In 1153, the Ghuzz (Oghuz Turks) rebelled and captured Sanjar. He managed to escape after three years but died a year later. The atabegs, such as the Zengids and Artuqids, were only nominally under the Seljuk Sultan, and generally controlled Syria independently. When Ahmad Sanjar died in 1157, this fractured the empire even further and rendered the atabegs effectively independent.[citation needed]

Seljuk stucco figurine (12th century)
  1. Khorasani Seljuks in Khorasan and Transoxiana. Capital: Merv
  2. Kerman Seljuk Sultanate
  3. Sultanate of Rum (or Seljuks of Turkey). Capital: Iznik (Nicaea), later Konya (Iconium)
  4. Atabeghlik of the Salghurids in Fars
  5. Atabeghlik of Eldiguzids (Atabeg of Azerbaijan[53]) in Iraq and Azerbaijan.[54] Capital: Nakhchivan[55] (1136–1175), Hamadan (1176–1186), Tabriz[56] (1187–1225)
  6. Atabeghlik of Bori in Syria. Capital: Damascus
  7. Atabeghlik of Zangi in Al Jazira (Northern Mesopotamia). Capital: Mosul
  8. Turcoman Beghliks: Danishmendis, Artuqids, Saltuqids and Mengujekids in Asia Minor

After the Second Crusade, Nur ad-Din's general Shirkuh, who had established himself in Egypt on Fatimid land, was succeeded by Saladin. In time, Saladin rebelled against Nur ad-Din, and, upon his death, Saladin married his widow and captured most of Syria and created the Ayyubid dynasty.[citation needed]

On other fronts, the Kingdom of Georgia began to become a regional power and extended its borders at the expense of Great Seljuk. The same was true during the revival of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia under Leo II of Armenia in Anatolia. The Abbasid caliph An-Nasir also began to reassert the authority of the caliph and allied himself with the Khwarezmshah Takash.[citation needed]

For a brief period, Toghrul III was the Sultan of all Seljuk except for Anatolia. However, Toghrul was defeated by Ala al-Din Tekish, the Shah of Khwarezmid Empire, and the Seljuk Empire finally collapsed in 1194. Of the former Seljuk Empire, only the Sultanate of Rûm in Anatolia remained.[citation needed]

The Khwarazmian Empire took over as the dominant power in the region, but the Mongol invasion of the Khwarazmian Empire in 1219-1220 finally destroyed it.

The Sultanate of Rûm, the last remnants of the Seljuks in Anatolia, ended too with the Mongol invasions of Anatolia in the 1260s, and it was divided it into small emirates called the Anatolian beyliks. Eventually one of these, the Ottoman, would rise to power and conquer the rest.[citation needed]


Seljuk Dinar (gold), 12th century

Seljuk power was indeed at its zenith under Malikshāh I, and both the Qarakhanids and Ghaznavids had to acknowledge the overlordship of the Seljuks.[57] The Seljuk dominion was established over the ancient Sasanian domains, in Iran and Iraq, and included Anatolia, Syria, as well as parts of Central Asia and modern Afghanistan.[57] Seljuk rule was modelled after the tribal organization common among Turkic and Mongol nomads and resembled a 'family federation' or 'appanage state'.[57] Under this organization, the leading member of the paramount family assigned family members portions of his domains as autonomous appanages.[57]

Various emblems and banners have been recorded as having been used by the Seljuks in different periods. Early Seljuks used their traditional emblems, but gradually adopted local Muslim signs and banners. The official flag of the empire was most probably a black flag, similar to that of the Abbasid Caliphate. The flag was decorated with signs, which were either superimposed over it, or placed above the flag.[58]

Capital cities

Ruins of ancient Marv, one of the capitals of the Great Seljuk Empire

Seljuks exercised full control over Islamic Central Asia and the Middle East between 1040 and 1157. For most of its history, the empire was split into western and eastern half and did not have a single capital or political center. In the east, the chief seat of Seljuk rule was Marv in present-day Turkmenistan. In the west, various cities, where the Seljuk rulers lived periodically, served as capitals: Rayy, Isfahan, Baghdad, and later Hamadan. These western lands were known as the Sultanate of Iraq.[note 1] Since 1118, the Seljuk rulers of Iraq recognized the suzerainty of the great Seljuk sultan Sanjar, who mostly ruled from Marv, and was known by the title of al-sultān al-a'zam, "the Greatest Sultan". The Seljuk rulers of Iraq were often mentioned as the "Lesser Seljuks".[59]

Culture and language

Much of the ideological character of the Seljuq Empire was derived from the earlier Samanid and Ghaznavid kingdoms, which had in turn emerged from the Perso-Islamic imperial system of the Abbasid caliphate.[60] This Perso-Islamic tradition was based on pre-Islamic Iranian ideas of kingship molded into an Islamic framework. Little of the public symbolism used by the Seljuks was Turkic, namely the tughra.[61] The populace of the Seljuk Empire would have considered this Perso-Islamic tradition more significant than that of steppe customs.[62]

Mina'i bowl signed by Abu Zayd al-Kashani, dated 1187 CE, Iran[63]

Highly Persianized[64] in culture[65] and language,[66] the Seljuks also played an important role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition,[67] even exporting Persian culture to Anatolia.[68][69] Under the Seljuks, Persian was also used for books lecturing about politics in the Mirrors for princes genre, such as the prominent Siyasatnama (Book of Politics) composed by Nizam al-Mulk.[70] During this period, these type of books consciously made use of Islamic and Iranian traditions, such as an ideal government based on the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his successors, or the Sasanian King of Kings Khosrow I (r. 531–579).[60]

Head of male royal figure, 12–13th century, found in Iran

In most of their coins, the Seljuk sultans used the Sasanian title of shahanshah (King of Kings), and even used the old Buyid title of "Shahanshah of Islam."[71] The title of malik was used by lesser princes of the Seljuk family.[72] Like the caliphate, the Seljuks relied on a refined Persian bureaucracy.[73] The settlement of Turkic tribes in the northwestern peripheral parts of the empire, for the strategic military purpose of fending off invasions from neighboring states, led to the progressive Turkicization of those areas.[74] According to the 12th-century poet Nizami Aruzi, all of the Seljuk sultans had a liking for poetry, which is also demonstrated by the large compilation of Persian verses written under their patronage. This had already started under Tughril, who was praised in Arabic and Persian by poets such as Fakhruddin As'ad Gurgani and Bakharzi, albeit he could not understand the verses. The last Seljuk sultan Tughril III was well known for his Persian poetry.[75] The Saljuq-nama of Zahir al-Din Nishapuri, which was most likely dedicated to Tughril III, indicates that the Seljuk family now used Persian to communicate, and even were taught about the achievements of their forefathers in that language.[76]

Tughril relied on his vizier to translate from Arabic and Persian into Turkic for him,[77] and Oghuz songs were sung at the wedding of Tughril to the caliph's daughter. Later sultans, like Mahmud, could speak Arabic alongside Persian, however, they still used Turkic among themselves. The most significant evidence of the importance of Turkic language is the extensive Turkic–Arabic dictionary, or the Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk, assembled in Baghdad for Caliph al-Muqtadi by Mahmud al-Kashgari. However, besides the Diwan, no works written in Turkic language survive from the Seljuk Empire. While the Maliknama was compiled from Turkic oral accounts, it was written in Persian and Arabic languages.[76]

Steppe traditions influenced Seljuk marriages,[78] with Tughril marrying his brother Chaghri's widow, a practice despised in Islam.[78] Seljuk ceremonies were based on the Abbasid model, but sometimes ancient Iranian ceremonies were observed. During a night in 1091, all of Baghdad was lit with candles under the orders of Malik-Shah I, which resembled the Zoroastrian ritual of sadhak.[79]


Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar in Merv, Turkmenistan

In 985, the Seljuks migrated to the city of Jend where they converted to Islam.[20] The arrival of the Seljuq Turks into Persia, and their patronage of constructing madrassas, allowed for Sunni Islam to become the dominant sect of Islam.[80]

In 1046, Tughril built the madrasa, al-Sultaniya in Nishapur,[81] while Chaghri Beg founded a madrasa in Merv.[82] Tughril and Alp Arslan chose Hanafi qadis and preachers for these madrassas. By 1063, there were twenty-five madrassas scattered throughout Persia and Khorasan,[83] founded by Seljuq princes.[84] In the 12th century there were over thirty madrassas in Baghdad.[85]

In 1056, Tughril built a Friday mosque with a newly constructed quarter in Baghdad which was surrounded by a wall.[86][87] The new quarter separated the Shia community from the Sunnis, since there had been frequent outbreaks of violence.[87] Through the influence of Tughril's vizier, al-Kunduri, a Hanafi Sunni,[88] the Ash'ari and Ismaili Shi'ites were exiled from Khurasan and cursed at Friday sermons in Seljuq mosques.[89][90] Al-Kunduri's vizierate persecuted Ash'aris and Sharifis, although this ended with the vizierate of Nizam al-Mulk.[88] It was under the vizierate of al-Kunduri that the Islamic scholar, Al-Juwayni was forced to flee to Mecca and Medina.[88] In 1065, Alp Arslan campaigned against the Kingdom of Georgia, subjugated Tbilisi, and built a mosque in the city.[91]

In 1092, Malik-shah built the Jami al-Sultan Mosque in Baghdad.[86] At the capital, Isfahan, Malik-shah had constructed a madrasa, a citadel and a castle near Dizkuh.[92] Following Malik-Shah's death, the familial civil war drew attention away from religious patronage, slowing the building of madrassas and mosques.[93] Although, in 1130, the Seljuk sultan Sanjar ordered the construction of the Quthamiyya madrasa in Samarkand.[94]

While the Seljuk sultans were prodigious builders of religious houses, Seljuk viziers were no different. The Seljuk vizier, Nazim al-Mulk, founded the first madrasa in Baghdad, in 1063, called the Nizamiya.[83] In the madrassas he built, he patronized Shafi'is.[95] The vizier Taj al-Mulk and Malik-shah's widow, Terken Khatun, patronized the building of a madrasa to compete with Nazim's Nizamiya.[96]

Until the death of Sultan Sanjar, the Seljuks were pious Sunnis, and represented a re-establishment of Sunni Islam in Iraq and western Persia since the 10th century.[97]


General overview

Princely figures related to the Seljuq sultan or one of his local vassals or successors, Seljuk period, Iran, late 12th–13th century[98][99]

The army of the earliest Seljuks was not similar to the renowned Turkic military of the classical 'Abbasid era. Their first invasions were more of a great nomadic migration accompanied by their families and livestock rather than planned military conquests. They were not a professional army; however, warfare was a way of life for nearly all of adult male Turkmens.[100]

According to a Seljuk vizier, Nizam al-Mulk, by the reign of Malik-Shah I, the sovereign had a large army at his disposal. There were Turkmens, mamluks, a standing army, infantry and the sultan's personal guard. Nizam al-Mulk also estimated Malik-Shah's forces at 400,000 men, and often opposed cost-cutting plans (instituted by Taj al-Mulk) to bring these to 70,000.[101]


Vizier Nizam al-Mulk, the greatest advocate of Iranian orientation for the Seljuk empire, admitted the debt dynasty owed to the Turkmens. After the establishment of the Seljuk state, Turkmens continued to be the driving force behind the Seljuk expansion in Anatolia. After the rule of Malik-Shah I, however, there are very few mentions of Turkmens in the Jibali region of the state, especially in their traditional axis of Rayy, Hamadhan and Hulwan.[102]

Turkmens were difficult to manage, and they were susceptible to undisciplined pillaging. The greatest issue, however, was their dependence on pasturelands for their livestock. A great number of regions that constituted the Seljuk state were ecologically ill-suited for supporting a nomadic army. Turkmens' limitations are adeptly described by Arab scholar Sibt ibn al-Jawzi:[103]

Dignitary of the Seljuk period, in Turkic military dress: long braids, fur hat, boots, close-fitting coat. He may be an amir. From Maqamat by Al-Hariri of Basra (1054–1122 AD), Baghdad, 1237 CE edition (detail).[34]

The sultan (Tughril I) ordered his soldiers to prepare [themselves] and to send to bring their tents, children and families to Iraq and to head to Syria with him. They said, "This land is ruined, there is neither food nor fodder here and we have no funds left. We cannot stay [indefinitely] on the backs of horses. What if our families, horses and beasts come, but our absence becomes drawn out? We must visit our families, so we are asking for permission to return to them and to go back to the place which is assigned to us."

Long campaigns had to be discontinued due to Turkmens' insistence on returning home, and conquests had to be scheduled to satisfy the demands of Turkmens. The short-term needs of Turkmens made a longer term military plans unachievable.[104]


The alternative to nomadic Turkmen troops was mamluks. While also of Turkic and often nomadic origin, dependence on pasturelands was non-existent for mamluks as they did not live a nomadic life. Previously, mamluks had constituted the later 'Abbasid, the Samanid and the Ghaznavid armies. In fact, the Ghaznavid dynasty was itself of mamluk origin.[105]

The process of mamluk recruitment are well known from other periods in Islamic history, but there is almost no information directly relating to the Seljuks. The chief source of mamluks was most probably forays to the steppe. The alternative to raids was buying them from slave traders and various dealers as evidenced from a slave dispute between a merchant and Muhammad I Tapar.[106]


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.[107]

Sultans of the Seljuk Empire

Art of the Great Seljuk Empire

Architecture and ceramics

A Mina'i bowl, dated 1187 CE (Muharram 583 A.H.), a few years before the end of the Seljuk Empire in 1194. Scene of poetic recitation, with poetic verses inscribed on the rim: "If the beloved leaves me, what am I to do? If s/he does not see the wisdom of our union, what am I to do?". Kashan, Iran. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[150]

Various art forms were popularized during the Seljuk period, as evidenced by the vast amount of surviving artifacts.[19] Most Seljuk arts are known to have been produced in what is modern-day Iran.[151] However, the Seljuk sultans also encouraged artists to settle in Anatolia as part of a recolonization and reconstruction process of several cities.[152] Many works of Seljuk art continued to be produced following the decline of the empire in the late 12th century.[151] In this regard, the timeline associated with the production of Seljuk art does not entirely match the political events pertaining to the empire and its eventual fall.[19] Nonetheless, relatively little art can be correctly dated and ascribed to a Great Seljuq context. Much of the material deemed to be Seljuq in world museums in fact belongs to the period A.D. 1150–1250, after the fall of the Great Seljuq Empire, when there seems to have been a sudden burst in artistic production, apparently to a great extent unrelated to court patronage.[153]

Seljuk ceramic tile, dated 1160-1170[154]

Among other ceramics, the manufacture of polychrome ceramic tiles, often used as decor in architecture, were popularized during the Seljuk dynasty.[155][156] The Seljuks pioneered the use of the Minai technique, a painted and enameled polychrome overglaze for ceramics.[156] The glazes on the Seljuk ceramics produced often ranged from a brilliant turquoise to a very dark blue.[155] The art of Seljuk mosaic tile decorating would continue to dominate the interior of many Anatolian mosques following the period of Seljuk rule.[155] The Seljuks also created ceramic house models, while other ceramic forms in the Seljuk period included pottery figurines, some of them children's toys.[157]

In the realm of architecture, mosques and madrasas were created and embellished during the period of Seljuk control. Congregational mosques were either repaired, re-built, or constructed in their entirety. The Seljuk sultan also commissioned numerous madrasas to promote the teaching of orthodox Islamic sciences.[151] These developments in architectural practice are coherent with the Seljuk dynasty's focus on Islam and the promotion of Muslim orthodoxy, the combining of Sufism and Sunnism.[151][19]

Muqarnas in a mosque

One architectural form that flourished during the Seljuk dynasty was the muqarnas.[158] Some interpretations maintain that the earliest known examples of muqarnas were constructed during the period of Seljuk hegemony, though it also remains possible that they were being developed at the same time in North Africa.[158] The layering of multiple embellished cells with divergent profiles in muqarnas creates a dome that has a seemingly-insubstantial interior.[158] The play of light on the surface enhances this visual effect.[158] Art historian Oleg Grabar argues that the effect of muqarnas domes embodies Qur'anic water symbolism.[158] Examples of muqarnas also appear in the niches of mosques built during the Seljuk empire.[159] Overall, the architecture attributed to the Seljuk period is characterized by elaborate decoration, much like the other arts produced under Seljuk rule.[160]

Book arts

Both secular and non-secular manuscripts were produced during the Seljuk period.[161][162] These pieces are now limited in availability, considering their ultimate susceptibility to damage overtime.[163] But those manuscripts that have survived over the centuries provide insight into the Seljuk's involvement in the arts of the book.[163] Calligraphers and illuminators were responsible for the creation of these manuscripts, though sometimes calligraphers mastered the art of both writing and illustration.[164] By the end of the 10th century, both illuminators and calligraphers were beginning to employ various colors, styles, and writing techniques in the realm of the book arts.[164]

The Qur'an's produced during the period of Seljuk rule evidence developments in calligraphy and other changes in how the holy text was divided.[164] Uniquely, calligraphers during this period frequently combined several scripts on one page of the Qur'an, such as Kufic and New Style.[164] In addition to these changes in the text, the dawn of the Seljuk empire coincided with a newfound increase in the popularity of paper as a replacement for parchment in the Islamic world.[165] The use of durable paper increased the production of compact, single-volume Qur'an's, whereas parchment codexes often contained multiple volumes of Qur'anic text.[166] Despite this development, parchment would remain popular for the production of some Qur'an's, and multi-volume pieces continued to be produced.[165][164] Illuminated borders continued to distinguish the Qur'ans produced during the Seljuk period and relative consistency was maintained with regard to their structure.[166]

One example of a manuscript created during Seljuk rule is a thirty-volume (juz) Qur'an created c.1050, produced by only one calligrapher and illuminator (Freer Gallery of Art, District of Columbia, F2001.16a-b).[164] As paper had just been introduced to the Islamic world, this piece is an early Islamic paper manuscript.[165] This Qur'an is bound in brown leather, dyed in pink, decorated with gold, and offers an intricate frontispiece.[164] These elements imply the care that went into the production of this text and indications of frequent usage confirm that it was appreciated.[164] It is primarily written in the vertical "New-Style" Arabic script, a sharp, vertical script.[165] The dominant use of New Style in this folio, also referred to as "new Abbasid Script," attests to the shift from the geometric Kufic script to a more legible calligraphic style, which occurred in the 10th century.[165] Scattered remnants of Kufic, used primarily to indicate volume and page number, also appear in the text.[165] The verticality of the paper in this manuscript speaks to the historic shift away from the horizontal use of paper in many Qur'ans, also a 10th-century development.[165]

A folio from Qarmathian Qur'an, c. 1180

Another example of a religious manuscript produced closer to the end of the period of Seljuk Rule is the Qarmathian Qur'an (dispersed folio, Arthur M. Stackler Gallery of Art, District of Columbia, S1986.65a-b).[164] This manuscript's folios are illuminated with a gold border and thin, spiraled illustration, featuring vegetal motifs.[164] Despite the generous illumination, the four lines of Qur'anic text on the folio are exceptionally legible.[164] Created between the years 1170–1200, this particular folio demonstrates the evolution of New Style, as both vocalized cursive and diacritical dots appear in this later version of the script.[164] Only during the 13th century would New Style be replaced by the curvier proportional scripts for regular use.[165]

A final example of a Seljuk Qur'an that has entered into scholarship is a manuscript studied in-depth by the late art historian Richard Ettinghausen.[162] This piece was written in 1164 by Mahmud Ibn Al-Husayn and contains the entirety of the Qur'an (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, NEP27).[162] Unlike the two Seljuk Qur'ans discussed prior, this manuscript primarily contains Naskh script, another early Arabic script that replaced Kufic.[167] However, some Kufic calligraphy is embedded in the chapter headings.[162] This aspect speaks to how the inclusion of Kufic in Qur'ans became more of a decorative element overtime, often included in headings as opposed to the main body of text.[165][164] The manuscript is large, with seventeen lines of text per two-hundred and fifteen sheets of paper.[162] Though not all of the Qur'an is illuminated, both the beginning and the end boast elaborate illustration, with blue, gold, and white hues.[162] Ettinghausen describes the subsequent visual effect as "brilliant."[162] The inscriptions feature detailed rosettes, vines, medallions, and arabesques, some exclusively as decoration and others to indicate the end of particular lines of Qur'anic text.[162]

Manuscript production during the Seljuk period was not limited to religious texts. Beyond these religious manuscripts, scientific, literary, and historical pieces were created.[160] One example of a secular manuscript is the Nusrat al-fatrah, a historiographical and literary account of the Seljuk period written in 1200 by Imād al-Dīn (Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London).[168] Meanwhile, the scientific manuscripts produced during the Seljuk period oftentimes pertained to geography, physics, mechanics, mathematics, and astronomy.[160] The former Seljuk city of Isfahan not only boasted twelve libraries that contained a total of twelve thousand volumes, but also had an observatory where scholars could record their astrological findings.[160][161] Secular manuscripts from the Seljuk empire bear illuminations that often relate to the alignment of planets and the zodiac, a couple examples of common themes.[166]

The angel Metatron from the Daqa'iq al Haqa'iq, an occult manuscript (c. 1272–73)

Whether secular or non-secular, Seljuk illuminated manuscripts had enough influence as to inspire other relevant art forms, such as brass or bronze metal objects.[164] For example, the large Qarmathian Qur'an influenced some of the inscriptions on Seljuk ceramic wares.[164] Even mirrors, candlesticks, coins, and jugs manufactured in Anatolia during the Seljuk period would often bear occult astrological images inspired by manuscripts.[161] Occult knowledge persisted in manuscripts produced after the decline in the Seljuk's political power in the late 12th century, as the Seljuk sultanate's influence on the book arts continued in Anatolia.[161]

Historian Andrew Peacock demonstrates an interest in the Seljuks of Anatolia's focus on occult themes and its manifestation in the book arts.[161] Peacock describes this finding as something that challenges the reigning view that the Seljuks were exclusively the "pious defenders of Islam" when it came to larger systems of belief.[161] Some of the occult sciences that the Seljuks took special interest in included geomancy, astrology, alchemy. A relevant occult manuscript from a period of Seljuk influence is the Dustur al-Munajjimin, otherwise known as the "Rules of Astrologers," while another is the Daqa'iq al-Haqa'iq, or the "Fine Points of Eternal Truths."[161] The latter text captures an interest in magic and spells, with a particular focus on calling upon spiritual beings, such as angels, through ritualistic acts (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, Persan 174).[161] The text was written by a man who wrote under a pen name, "Nasiri."[161] Interestingly, Nasiri's Daqa'iq al-Haqa'iq challenges prevailing Islamic understandings of God while encouraging piety and invoking both Sufi terms and themes.[161] For example, while incorporating a Sufi poem, the occult text speaks of supernatural bodies and disputes what Islam considers to be the accepted number of names for God.[161]


Similar to architecture, Seljuk fabrics depict inscriptions and decorative forms. These fabrics represent what could be called a "Sasanian renaissance" marking a new dominance of Persian culture. Textiles, along with literary works, are evidence of this.[169] Contrast is the main feature of different techniques and fabric qualities. Stories of the period are told through a variety of inscriptions. At the same time, higher contrasts generate a more abstract approach to the ornaments and figures within the fabric patterns. Seljuk fabrics that were excavated in 1931 are distinguished by the representation of nature, by minimal ornamental details, and by the combination of colorful linens giving an interchangeable color effect to the fabric. Many realistic natural elements characterize the composition of the fabrics, such as animals and plants, forming patterns consisting of arabesque elements.[169]

Examples of Seljuk art

See also


  1. ^ In order to distinguish it from the Anatolian branch of the Seljuk dynasty, the Sultanate of Rum.[14][15]
  1. ^ Here, Iraq is meant in its medieval sense, which incorporated western Iran (historic 'Iraq al-'Ajam or Persian Iraq, also known as Jibal) as well as 'Iraq al-Arab (Arab Iraq), roughly the central and southern parts of present-day Iraq


  1. ^ Grand Vizier Sāhīp Shams ad-Dīn Īsfahānī ruled the country on behalf of ʿIzz ad-Dīn Kay Kāwus II between 1246 and 1249
  2. ^ Grand Vizier Parwāna Mu'in al-Din Suleyman ruled the country on behalf of Ghiyāth ad-Dīn Kay Khusraw III between 1266 and 2 August 1277 (1 Rabi' al-awwal 676)
  3. ^ Between 1246 and 1249 ʿIzz ad-Dīn Kay Kāwus II reigned alone
  4. ^ ʿIzz ad-Dīn Kay Kāwus II was defeated on October 14, 1256 in Sultanhanı (Sultan Han, Aksaray) and he acceded to the throne on May 1, 1257 again after the departure of Baiju Noyan from Anatolia
  5. ^ Between 1262 and 1266 Rukn ad-Dīn Kilij Arslan IV reigned alone
  6. ^ Between 1249 and 1254 triple reign of three brothers
  7. ^ According to İbn Bîbî, el-Evâmirü'l-ʿAlâʾiyye, p. 727. (10 Dhu al-Hijjah 675 – 17 Muharram 676)
  8. ^ According to Yazıcıoğlu Ali, Tevârih-i Âl-i Selçuk, p. 62. (10 Dhu al-Hijjah 677 – 17 Muharram 678)


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  3. ^ a b Savory, R. M., ed. (1976). Introduction to Islamic Civilisation. Cambridge University Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-521-20777-5.
  4. ^ Black, Edwin (2004). Banking on Baghdad: Inside Iraq's 7,000-year History of War, Profit and Conflict. John Wiley and Sons. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-471-67186-2.
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  6. ^ Stokes 2008, p. 615.
  7. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World, Ed. Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie, (Elsevier Ltd., 2009), 1110; "Oghuz Turkic is first represented by Old Anatolian Turkish which was a subordinate written medium until the end of the Seljuk rule."
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  10. ^ Grousset, Rene (1988). The Empire of the Steppes. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. pp. 159, 161. ISBN 978-0-8135-0627-2. In 1194, Togrul III would succumb to the onslaught of the Khwarizmian Turks, who were destined at last to succeed the Seljuks to the empire of the Middle East.
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  13. ^ * Peacock 2015
    • Christian Lange; Songül Mecit, eds., Seljuqs: Politics, Society and Culture (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), 1–328
    • P.M. Holt; Ann K.S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis, The Cambridge History of Islam (Volume IA): The Central Islamic Lands from Pre-Islamic Times to the First World War, (Cambridge University Press, 1977), 151, 231–234.
  14. ^ Mecit 2014, p. 128.
  15. ^ Peacock & Yıldız 2013, p. 6.
  16. ^ * "Aḥmad of Niǧde's al-Walad al-Shafīq and the Seljuk Past", A. C. S. Peacock, Anatolian Studies, Vol. 54, (2004), 97; "With the growth of Seljuk power in Rum, a more highly developed Muslim cultural life, based on the Persianate culture of the Seljuk court, was able to take root in Anatolia."
    • Meisami, Julie Scott, Persian Historiography to the End of the Twelfth Century, (Edinburgh University Press, 1999), 143; "Nizam al-Mulk also attempted to organise the Saljuq administration according to the Persianate Ghaznavid model k..."
    • Encyclopaedia Iranica, "Šahrbānu", Online Edition: "here one might bear in mind that non-Persian dynasties such as the Ghaznavids, Saljuqs and Ilkhanids were rapidly to adopt the Persian language and have their origins traced back to the ancient kings of Persia rather than to Turkish heroes or Muslim saints ..."
    • Meri, Josef W. (2006). Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia. Psychology Press. p. 399. ISBN 978-0-415-96690-0. (Isfahan) has served as the political and cultural center of the Persianate world: during the reign of the Seljuks (1038–1194) and that of the Safavids (1501–1722).
    • Mandelbaum, Michael (1994). Central Asia and the World: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. Council on Foreign Relations. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-87609-167-8. Persianate zone (...) The rise of Persianized Turks to administrative control (...) The Turko-Persian tradition developed during the Seljuk period (1040–1118) (...) In the Persianate zone, Turkophones ruled and Iranians administered
    • Jonathan Dewald, Europe 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004, p. 24: "Turcoman armies coming from the East had driven the Byzantines out of much of Asia Minor and established the Persianized sultanate of the Seljuks."
    • Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, (Rutgers University Press, 1991), 161, 164; "renewed the Seljuk attempt to found a great Turko-Persian empire in eastern Iran …", "It is to be noted that the Seljuks, those Turkomans who became sultans of Persia, did not Turkify Persia-no doubt because they did not wish to do so. On the contrary, it was they who voluntarily became Persians and who, in the manner of the great old Sassanid kings, strove to protect the Iranian populations from the plundering of Ghuzz bands and save Iranian culture from the Turkoman menace."
    • Shaw, Wendy (2003). Possessors and Possessed: Museums, Archaeology, and the Visualization of History in the Late Ottoman Empire. University of California Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-520-92856-5. In the tenth century, these and other nomadic tribes, often collectively referred to as Turkomans, migrated out of Central Asia and into Iran. Turkish tribes initially served as mercenary soldiers for local rulers but soon set up their own kingdoms in Iran, some of which grew into Empires – most notably the Great Seljuk Empire. In the meantime, many Turkic rulers and tribespeople eventually converted to Islam.
    • Gencer, A. Yunus (2017). Thomas, David; Chesworth, John A. (eds.). Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History. Volume 10 Ottoman and Safavid Empires (1600–1700). Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-34565-2. Turkish music completed its transformation into completely makam-based music in the early 11th-century, in the period of the Turko-Persian Seljuk Empire.
    • Calmard, Jean (2003). Newman, Andrew J. (ed.). Society and Culture in the Early Modern Middle East: Studies on Iran in the Safavid Period. Brill. p. 318. ISBN 978-90-47-40171-1. A particularly interesting text, which reveals the socio-religious mood of the Turco-Persian world from Seljuk times, is the Abù Muslim romance.
    • Pfeifer, Helen (2022). Empire of Salons: Conquest and Community in Early Modern Ottoman Lands. Princeton University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-691-22495-4. The cultural influence of the Turco-Persian Seljuks long outlasted their political control of Anatolia, and the Turkish principalities that succeeded them starting in the late thirteenth cetury continued to look to that tradition for models of refinement and sociability.
    • Khazonov, Anatoly M. (2015). "Pastoral nomadic migrations and conquests". In Kedar, Benjamin Z.; Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E. (eds.). The Cambridge World History, Volume 5. Cambridge University Press. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-521-19074-9. The Seljuk Empire was another Turco-Iranian state, and its creation was unexpected even by the Seljuks themselves.
    • Partridge, Christopher (2018). High Culture: Drugs, Mysticism, and the Pursuit of Transcendence in the Modern World. Oxford University Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-19-045911-6. Under his leadership, the Nezāris mounted a decentralized revolutionary effort against the militarily superior Turko-Persian Saljuq empire.
    • Neumann, Iver B.; Wigen, Einar (2018). The Steppe Tradition in International Relations. Cambridge University Press. p. 135. ISBN 978-1-108-35530-8. The Seljuq Empire is nevertheless the foremost example of a Turko-Persian Islamic empire.
    • Hathaway, Jane (2003). A Tale of Two Factions: Myth, Memory, and Identity in Ottoman Egypt and Yemen. State University of New York Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-7914-5884-6. Farther east, medieval Turco-Iranian military patronage states, such as those of the Ghaznavids, Seljuks, Timurids, and early Ottomans, appear to have been more directly affected by the banner traditions of the nomadic Turkic and Mongol populations of the Central Asian steppes, who in turn were influenced by the traditions of the various empires and kingdoms that ruled China, Japan, and Korea.
    • Cupane, Carolina; Krönung, Bettina (2016). Fictional Storytelling in the Medieval Eastern Mediterranean and Beyond. Brill. p. 532. ISBN 978-90-04-30772-8. Seljuk(s) medieval Turko-Persian dynasty
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  54. ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1996). The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual. Columbia University Press. pp. 199–200. ISBN 978-0-231-10714-3. pp 199-200(Eldiguizds or Ildegizds): "The Elgiguzids or Ildegizds were a Turkish Atabeg dynasty who controlled most of Azerbaijan(apart from the region of Maragha held by another Atabeg line, the Ahamadilis), Arran and northern Jibal during the second half the twelfth century when the Great Seljuq Sultane of Western Persia and Iraq was in full decay and unable to prevent the growth of virtually independent powers in the province", pp 199–200: "Eldiguz (Arabic-Persian sources write 'y.l.d.k.z) was originally a Qipchaq military slave", pp199-200: "The historical significance of these Atabegs thus lies in their firm control over most of north-western Persia during the later Seljuq periodand also their role in Transcaucasia as champions of Islamagainst the resurgent Bagtarid Kings". pp 199: "In their last phase, the Eldiguzids were once more local rulers in Azerbaijan and eastern Transcaucasia, hard pressed by the aggressive Georgians, and they did not survive the troubled decades of the thirteenth century".
  55. ^ Encyclopaedia Iranica. K. A. Luther "Atabakan-e Adarbayjan": Sources such as Ḥosaynī's Aḵbār (p. 181 and passim) make it clear that members of the family always considered Naḵǰavān their home base.
  56. ^ Houtsma, M. T. E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936, BRILL, 1987, ISBN 90-04-08265-4, p. 1053
  57. ^ a b c d Wink, Andre, Al Hind the Making of the Indo Islamic World, Brill Academic Publishers, Jan 1, 1996, ISBN 90-04-09249-8 pg 9–10
  58. ^ کوپریلی، فؤاد (۱۳۷۹). «پرچم٫ ۱:تاریخچه پرچم در جهان اسلام». در حداد عادل، غلامعلی. دانشنامه جهان اسلام. ۵. تهران: بنیاد دایرةالمعارف اسلامی. بایگانی‌شده از اصلی در ۱ آوریل ۲۰۲۰.
  59. ^ Peacock 2015, pp. 6–8.
  60. ^ a b Herzig & Stewart 2014, p. 3.
  61. ^ Peacock 2015, p. 134.
  62. ^ Peacock 2015, p. 135.
  63. ^ "Metropolitan Museum of Art".
  64. ^  • Encyclopaedia Iranica, "Šahrbānu", Online Edition: "here one might bear in mind that non-Persian dynasties such as the Ghaznavids, Saljuqs and Ilkhanids were rapidly to adopt the Persian language and have their origins traced back to the ancient kings of Persia rather than to Turkish heroes or Muslim saints ..."  • Josef W. Meri, "Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia", Routledge, 2005, p. 399  • Michael Mandelbaum, "Central Asia and the World", Council on Foreign Relations (May 1994), p. 79  • Jonathan Dewald, "Europe 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World", Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004, p. 24: "Turcoman armies coming from the East had driven the Byzantines out of much of Asia Minor and established the Persianized sultanate of the Seljuks."
  65. ^ *C.E. Bosworth, "Turkmen Expansion towards the west" in UNESCO History of Humanity, Volume IV, titled "From the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century", UNESCO Publishing / Routledge, p. 391: "While the Arabic language retained its primacy in such spheres as law, theology and science, the culture of the Seljuk court and secular literature within the sultanate became largely Persianized; this is seen in the early adoption of Persian epic names by the Seljuk rulers (Qubād, Kay Khusraw and so on) and in the use of Persian as a literary language (Turkmen must have been essentially a vehicle for everyday speech at this time). The process of Persianization accelerated in the thirteenth century with the presence in Konya of two of the most distinguished refugees fleeing before the Mongols, Bahā' al-Dīn Walad and his son Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, whose Mathnawī, composed in Konya, constitutes one of the crowning glories of classical Persian literature."  • Mehmed Fuad Köprülü, "Early Mystics in Turkish Literature", Translated by Gary Leiser and Robert Dankoff, Routledge, 2006, p. 149: "If we wish to sketch, in broad outline, the civilization created by the Seljuks of Anatolia, we must recognize that the local—i.e., non-Muslim, element was fairly insignificant compared to the Turkish and Arab-Persian elements, and that the Persian element was paramount. The Seljuk rulers, to be sure, who were in contact with not only Muslim Persian civilization, but also with the Arab civilizations in al-jazlra and Syria—indeed, with all Muslim peoples as far as India—also had connections with {various} Byzantine courts. Some of these rulers, like the great 'Ala' al-Dln Kai-Qubad I himself, who married Byzantine princesses and thus strengthened relations with their neighbors to the west, lived for many years in Byzantium and became very familiar with the customs and ceremonial at the Byzantine court. Still, this close contact with the ancient Greco-Roman and Christian traditions only resulted in their adoption of a policy of tolerance toward art, aesthetic life, painting, music, independent thought—in short, toward those things that were frowned upon by the narrow and piously ascetic views {of their subjects}. The contact of the common people with the Greeks and Armenians had basically the same result. [Before coming to Anatolia,] the Turkmens had been in contact with many nations and had long shown their ability to synthesize the artistic elements that they had adopted from these nations. When they settled in Anatolia, they encountered peoples with whom they had not yet been in contact and immediately established relations with them as well. Ala al-Din Kai-Qubad I established ties with the Genoese and, especially, the Venetians at the ports of Sinop and Antalya, which belonged to him, and granted them commercial and legal concessions. Meanwhile, the Mongol invasion, which caused a great number of scholars and artisans to flee from Turkmenistan, Iran, and Khwarazm and settle within the Empire of the Seljuks of Anatolia, resulted in a reinforcing of Persian influence on the Anatolian Turks. Indeed, despite all claims to the contrary, there is no question that Persian influence was paramount among the Seljuks of Anatolia. This is clearly revealed by the fact that the sultans who ascended the throne after Ghiyath al-Din Kai-Khusraw I assumed titles taken from ancient Persian mythology, like Kai-Khusraw, Kai-Ka us, and Kai-Qubad; and that. Ala' al-Din Kai-Qubad I had some passages from the Shahname inscribed on the walls of Konya and Sivas. When we take into consideration domestic life in the Konya courts and the sincerity of the favor and attachment of the rulers to Persian poets and Persian literature, then this fact [i.e., the importance of Persian influence] is undeniable. With regard to the private lives of the rulers, their amusements, and palace ceremonial, the most definite influence was also that of Iran, mixed with the early Turkish traditions, and not that of Byzantium."
    • Stephen P. Blake, Shahjahanabad: The Sovereign City in Mughal India, 1639–1739. Cambridge University Press, 1991. pg 123: "For the Seljuks and Il-Khanids in Iran it was the rulers rather than the conquered who were "Persianized and Islamicized"
  66. ^ *Encyclopaedia Iranica, "Šahrbānu", Online Edition: "here one might bear in mind that non-Persian dynasties such as the Ghaznavids, Saljuqs and Ilkhanids were rapidly to adopt the Persian language and have their origins traced back to the ancient kings of Persia rather than to Turkish heroes or Muslim saints ..."
    • O.Özgündenli, "Persian Manuscripts in Ottoman and Modern Turkish Libraries Archived 2012-01-22 at the Wayback Machine", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition
    • M. Ravandi, "The Seljuq court at Konya and the Persianisation of Anatolian Cities", in Mesogeios (Mediterranean Studies), vol. 25-6 (2005), pp. 157–69
    • F. Daftary, "Sectarian and National Movements in Iran, Khorasan, and Trasoxania during Umayyad and Early Abbasid Times", in History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Vol 4, pt. 1; edited by M.S. Asimov and C.E. Bosworth; UNESCO Publishing, Institute of Ismaili Studies: "Not only did the inhabitants of Khurasan not succumb to the language of the nomadic invaders, but they imposed their own tongue on them. The region could even assimilate the Turkic Ghaznavids and Seljuks (eleventh and twelfth centuries), the Timurids (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries), and the Qajars (nineteenth–twentieth centuries) ..."
  67. ^ "The Turko-Persian tradition features Persian culture patronized by Turkic rulers." See Daniel Pipes: "The Event of Our Era: Former Soviet Muslim Republics Change the Middle East" in Michael Mandelbaum, "Central Asia and the World: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkemenistan and the World", Council on Foreign Relations, p. 79. Exact statement: "In Short, the Turko-Persian tradition featured Persian culture patronized by Turcophone rulers."
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  74. ^ *An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples (Peter B. Golden. Otto Harrasowitz, 1992). pg 386: "Turkic penetration probably began in the Hunnic era and its aftermath. Steady pressure from Turkic nomads was typical of the Khazar era, although there are no unambiguous references to permanent settlements. These most certainly occurred with the arrival of the Oguz in the 11th century. The Turkicization of much of Azarbayjan, according to Soviet scholars, was completed largely during the Ilxanid period if not by late Seljuk times. Sumer, placing a slightly different emphasis on the data (more correct in my view), posts three periods which Turkicization took place: Seljuk, Mongol and Post-Mongol (Qara Qoyunlu, Aq Qoyunlu and Safavid). In the first two, Oguz Turkic tribes advanced or were driven to the western frontiers (Anatolia) and Northern Azarbaijan (Arran, the Mugan steppe). In the last period, the Turkic elements in Iran (derived from Oguz, with lesser admixture of Uygur, Qipchaq, Qaluq and other Turks brought to Iran during the Chinggisid era, as well as Turkicized Mongols) were joined now by Anatolian Turks migrating back to Iran. This marked the final stage of Turkicization. Although there is some evidence for the presence of Qipchaqs among the Turkic tribes coming to this region, there is little doubt that the critical mass which brought about this linguistic shift was provided by the same Oguz-Turkmen tribes that had come to Anatolia. The Azeris of today are an overwhelmingly sedentary, detribalized people. Anthropologically, they are little distinguished from the Iranian neighbors."
    • John Perry: "We should distinguish two complementary ways in which the advent of the Turks affected the language map of Iran. First, since the Turkish-speaking rulers of most Iranian polities from the Ghaznavids and Seljuks onward were already Iranized and patronized Persian literature in their domains, the expansion of Turk-ruled empires served to expand the territorial domain of written Persian into the conquered areas, notably Anatolia and Central and South Asia. Secondly, the influx of massive Turkish-speaking populations (culminating with the rank and file of the Mongol armies) and their settlement in large areas of Iran (particularly in Azerbaijan and the northwest), progressively turkicized local speakers of Persian, Kurdish and other Iranian languages"
    (John Perry. "The Historical Role of Turkish in Relation to Persian of Iran". Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 5, (2001), pp. 193–200.)
    • According to C.E. Bosworth:
    "The eastern Caucasus came under Saljuq control in the middle years of the 5th/11th century, and in c. 468/1075-56 Sultan Alp Arslān sent his slave commander ʿEmād-al-dīn Savtigin as governor of Azerbaijan and Arrān, displacing the last Shaddadids. From this period begins the increasing Turkicization of Arrān, under the Saljuqs and then under the line of Eldigüzid or Ildeñizid Atabegs, who had to defend eastern Transcaucasia against the attacks of the resurgent Georgian kings. The influx of Oghuz and other Türkmens was accentuated by the Mongol invasions. Bardaʿa had never revived fully after the Rūs sacking, and is little mentioned in the sources." (C.E. Bsowrth, Arran in Encyclopædia Iranica)
    • According to Fridrik Thordarson:
    "Iranian influence on Caucasian languages. There is general agreement that Iranian languages predominated in Azerbaijan from the 1st millennium b.c. until the advent of the Turks in a.d. the 11th century (see Menges, pp. 41–42; Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 226–228, and VI, pp. 950–952). The process of Turkicization was essentially complete by the beginning of the 16th century, and today Iranian languages are spoken in only a few scattered settlements in the area."
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Further reading

  • Previté-Orton, C. W. (1971). The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Tetley, G. E. (2008). The Ghaznavid and Seljuk Turks: Poetry as a Source for Iranian History. Abingdon. ISBN 978-0-415-43119-4.

External links