Seljuk dynasty

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Seljuk dynasty
Seljuk Empire.png
Double-headed eagle, used as a symbol by several Seljuk rulers including Kayqubad I
CountrySeljuk Empire
Sultanate of Rum
Founded10th century – Seljuk
TraditionsSunni Islam (Maturidi Hanafi)
1104 – Baktāsh (Ertaş), dethroned by Toghtekin

Great Seljuk:
1194 – Toghrul III was killed in battle with Tekish

1308 – Mesud II died

The Seljuk dynasty, or Seljukids[1][2] (/ˈsɛlʊk/ SEL-chuuk; Persian: سلجوقیان Saljuqian,[3] alternatively spelled as Seljuqs or Saljuqs), also known as Seljuk Turks,[4] Seljuk Turkomans[5] or the Saljuqids,[6] was an Oghuz Turkic, Sunni Muslim dynasty that gradually became Persianate and contributed to the Turco-Persian tradition[7][8] in the medieval Middle East and Central Asia. The Seljuks established the Seljuk Empire (1037–1194), the Sultanate of Kermân (1041–1186) and the Sultanate of Rum (1074–1308), which at their heights stretched from Iran to Anatolia and were the prime targets of the First Crusade.

Early history[edit]

The Seljuks originated from the Kinik branch of the Oghuz Turks,[9][10][11][12][13] who in the 8th century lived on the periphery of the Muslim world, north of the Caspian Sea and Aral Sea in their Oghuz Yabgu State,[14] in the Kazakh Steppe of Turkestan.[15] During the 10th century, Oghuz had come into close contact with Muslim cities.[16]

When Seljuk, the leader of the Seljuk clan, had a falling out with Yabghu, the supreme chieftain of the Oghuz, he split his clan off from the bulk of the Oghuz Turks and set up camp on the west bank of the lower Syr Darya. Around 985, Seljuk converted to Islam.[16] In the 11th century the Seljuks migrated from their ancestral homelands into mainland Persia, in the province of Khurasan, where they encountered the Ghaznavids. The Seljuks defeated the Ghaznavids at the Battle of Nasa Plains in 1035. Seljuk's grandsons, Tughril and Chaghri, received the insignias of governor, grants of land, and were given the title of dehqan.[17] At the Battle of Dandanaqan they defeated a Ghaznavid army, and after a successful siege of Isfahan by Tughril in 1050/51,[18] established the Great Seljuk Empire. The Seljuks mixed with the local population and adopted the Persian culture and Persian language in the following decades.[19][20][21][22][23]

Later period[edit]

After arriving in Persia, the Seljuks adopted the Persian culture and used the Persian language as the official language of the government,[19][20][24][25][26][27][28][29][30] and played an important role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition which features "Persian culture patronized by Turkic rulers".[31] Today, they are remembered as great patrons of Persian culture, art, literature, and language.[19][20][21]

Seljuk rulers[edit]

Head of Seljuk male royal figure, 12–13th century, from Iran. Carved and drilled stone with Iranian craftsmanship. Kept at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Toghrol Tower, a 12th-century monument south of Tehran commemorating Toğrül
The Kharāghān twin towers, built in Iran in 1053 to house the remains of Seljuk princes

Rulers of the Seljuk Dynasty[edit]

The "Great Seljuks" were heads of the family; in theory their authority extended over all the other Seljuk lines, although in practice this often was not the case. Turkic custom called for the senior member of the family to be the Great Seljuk, although usually the position was associated with the ruler of western Persia.

Titular name(s) Personal name Reign
Tughril I
سلیمان شاہ
Alp Arslan (Arslan I)
الپ ارسلان
Jalāl al-Dawlah
جلال الدولہ
Malik Shah I
ملک شاہ یکم
Nasir al-Duniya wa al-Din
ناصر الدنیا والدین
Mahmud I
محمود یکم
Abul Muzaffar Rukn al-Duniya wa al-Din
أبو المظفر رکن الدنیا والدین
Muizz al-Din
معز الدین
Malik Shah II
ملک شاہ دوم
Ghiyath al-Duniya wa al-Din
غیاث الدنیا والدین
Muhammad I Tapar
محمد تاپار
Muizz al-Din
معز الدین
*Ahmad Sanjar
احمد سنجر
Khwarazmian dynasty replaces the Seljuk dynasty. From 1157, the Oghuz took control of much of Khurasan, with the remainder in the hands of former Seljuk emirs.
  • Muhammad's son Mahmud II succeeded him in western Persia, but Ahmad Sanjar, who was the governor of Khurasan at the time being the senior member of the family, became the Great Seljuk Sultan.

Seljuk sultans of Hamadan[edit]

The Great Seljuk Empire in 1092, upon the death of Malik Shah I[34]

The rulers of western Persia, who maintained a very loose grip on the Abbasids of Baghdad. Several Turkic emirs gained a strong level of influence in the region, such as the Eldiduzids.

In 1194, Toghrul III was killed in battle with the Khwarezm Shah, who annexed Hamadan.

Seljuk rulers of Kerman[edit]

Seljuk-era art: Ewer from Herat, Afghanistan, dated 1180–1210. Brass worked in repousse and inlaid with silver and bitumen. British Museum.

Kerman was a province in southern Persia. Between 1053 and 1154, the territory also included Umman.

or 1074 (before Sultan Shah)

Muhammad abandoned Kerman, which fell into the hands of the Oghuz chief Malik Dinar. Kerman was eventually annexed by the Khwarezmid Empire in 1196.

Seljuk rulers in Syria[edit]

To the Artuqids

Sultans/Emirs of Damascus:

Damascus seized by the Burid Toghtekin

Seljuk sultans of Rum (Anatolia)[edit]

The Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm in 1190, before the Third Crusade

The Seljuk line, already having been deprived of any significant power, effectively ended in the early 14th century.


Family tree[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Neiberg, Michael S. (2002). Warfare in World History. Routledge. pp. 19–20. ISBN 9781134583423.
  2. ^ Harris, Jonathan (2014). Byzantium and the Crusades. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 39–45. ISBN 9781780937366.
  3. ^ Rāvandī, Muḥammad (1385). Rāḥat al-ṣudūr va āyat al-surūr dar tārīkh-i āl-i saljūq. Tihrān: Intishārāt-i Asāṭīr. ISBN 9643313662.
  4. ^ Tetley, G.E (2009). Hillenbrand, Carole (ed.). The Ghaznavid and Seljuk Turks: Poetry as a Source for Iranian History. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 1–16. ISBN 978-0-415-43119-4.
  5. ^ Fleet, Kate (2009). The Cambridge History of Turkey: Byzantium to Turkey, 1071–1453: Volume 1 (PDF). Cambridge University Press. p. 1."The defeat in August 1071 of the Byzantine emperor Romanos Diogenes by the Turkomans at the battle of Malazgirt (Manzikert) is taken as a turning point in the history of Anatolia and the Byzantine Empire.
  6. ^ "The Saljuqids". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  7. ^ 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."
  8. ^ Nishapuri, Zahir al-Din Nishapuri (2001), "The History of the Seljuq Turks from the Jami’ al-Tawarikh: An Ilkhanid Adaptation of the Saljuq-nama of Zahir al-Din Nishapuri," Partial tr. K.A. Luther, ed. C.E. Bosworth, Richmond, UK. K.A. Luther, p. 9: "[T]he Turks were illiterate and uncultivated when they arrived in Khurasan and had to depend on Iranian scribes, poets, jurists and theologians to man the institution of the Empire")
  9. ^ Concise Britannica Online Seljuq Dynasty Archived 2007-01-14 at the Wayback Machine article
  10. ^ Merriam-Webster Online – Definition of Seljuk Archived 2007-10-15 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ The History of the Seljuq Turks: From the Jami Al-Tawarikh (LINK Archived 2022-12-26 at the Wayback Machine)
  12. ^ Shaw, Stanford. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (LINK Archived 2022-12-26 at the Wayback Machine)
  13. ^ Golden, Peter B. (1992). An Introduction to the History of the Turkic People. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden. p. 209
  14. ^ Wink, Andre, Al Hind: the Making of the Indo-Islamic World Brill Academic Publishers, 1996, ISBN 90-04-09249-8 p. 9
  15. ^ Islam: An Illustrated History, p. 51
  16. ^ a b Michael Adas, Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History, (Temple University Press, 2001), 99.
  17. ^ Bosworth, C.E. The Ghaznavids: 994–1040, Edinburgh University Press, 1963, 242.
  18. ^ Tony Jaques, Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: F–O, (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007), 476.
  19. ^ a b c O. Özgündenli, "Persian Manuscripts in Ottoman and Modern Turkish Libraries", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition, (LINK Archived 2012-01-22 at the Wayback Machine)
  20. ^ a b c Encyclopædia Britannica, "Seljuq", Online Edition, (LINK Archived 2007-12-19 at the Wayback Machine): "... Because the Turkish Seljuqs had no Islamic tradition or strong literary heritage of their own, they adopted the cultural language of their Persian instructors in Islam. Literary Persian thus spread to the whole of Iran, and the Arabic language disappeared in that country except in works of religious scholarship ..."
  21. ^ a b M. Ravandi, "The Seljuq court at Konya and the Persianisation of Anatolian Cities", in Mesogeios (Mediterranean Studies), vol. 25–26 (2005), pp. 157–169
  22. ^ M.A. Amir-Moezzi, "Shahrbanu", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition, (LINK Archived 2007-03-11 at the Wayback Machine): "... here one might bear in mind that Turco-Persian dynasties such as the Ghaznavids, Seljuqs 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 ..."
  23. ^ 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) ..."
  24. ^ Bosworth, C.E.; Hillenbrand, R.; Rogers, J.M.; Blois, F.C. de; Bosworth, C.E.; Darley-Doran, R.E., "Saldjukids," Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2009: "Culturally, the consisting of the Seljuq Empire marked a further step in the dethronement of Arabic from being the sole lingua franca of educated and polite society in the Middle East. Coming as they did through a Transoxania which was still substantially Iranian and into Persia proper, the Seljuqs with no high-level Turkish cultural or literary heritage of their own – took over that of Persia, so that the Persian language became the administration and culture in their land of Persia and Anatolia. The Persian culture of the Rum Seljuqs was particularly splendid, and it was only gradually that Turkish emerged there as a parallel language in the field of government and adab; the Persian imprint in Ottoman civilization was to remain strong until the 19th century.
  25. ^ John Perry, THE HISTORICAL ROLE OF TURKISH IN RELATION TO PERSIAN OF IRAN in Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 5, (2001), pp. 193–200. excerpt: "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."
  26. ^ Ram Rahul. "March of Central Asia", Indus Publishing, p. 124: "The Seljuk conquest of Persia marked the triumph of the Sunni over Shii but without a decline in Persian culture. The Seljuks eventually adopted the Persian culture.
  27. ^ Ehsan Yarshater, "Iran" in Encyclopedia Iranica: "The ascent of the Saljuqids also put an end to a period which Minorsky has called "the Persian intermezzo" (see Minorsky, 1932, p. 21), when Iranian dynasties, consisting mainly of the Saffarids, the Samanids, the Ziyarids, the Buyids, the Kakuyids, and the Bavandids of Tabarestan and Gilan, ruled most of Iran. By all accounts, weary of the miseries and devastations of never-ending conflicts and wars, Persians seemed to have sighed with relief and to have welcomed the stability of the Saljuqid rule, all the more so since the Saljuqids mitigated the effect of their foreignness, quickly adopting the Persian culture and court customs and procedures and leaving the civil administration in the hand of Persian personnel, headed by such capable and learned viziers as ‘Amid-al-Molk Kondori and Nezam-al-Molk."
  28. ^ C.E. Bosworth, "Turkish expansion towards the west", in UNESCO History of Humanity, Volume IV: From the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century, UNESCO Publishing / Routledge, 2000. 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 (Turkish 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."
  29. ^ Stephen P. Blake, Shahjahanabad: The Sovereign City in Mughal India, 1639–1739. Cambridge University Press, 1991. p. 123: "For the Seljuks and Il-Khanids in Iran, it was the rulers rather than the conquered who were 'Persianized and Islamicized'".
  30. ^ Mehmed Fuad Koprulu, 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-jazīra 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-Dīn Kai-Qubād 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 Turks 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-Dīn Kai-Qubād 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 Turkistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Khwārazm 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 Ghiyāth al-Dīn Kai-Khusraw I assumed titles taken from ancient Persian mythology, like Kai-Khusraw, Kai-Kā'ūs, and Kai-Qubād; and that 'Ala' al-Dīn Kai-Qubād I had some passages from the Shāhnāme 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."
  31. ^ 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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Further reading[edit]

  • Dietrich, Richard (2018). "The Names of Seljuk's Sons as Evidence for the Pre-Islamic Religion of the Seljuks". Turkish Historical Review. 9 (1): 54–70. doi:10.1163/18775462-00901002.
  • Grousset, Rene (1988). The Empire of the Steppes: a History of Central Asia. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p. 147. ISBN 0813506271.
  • Peacock, A.C.S., Early Seljuq History: A New Interpretation; New York, NY; Routledge; 2010
  • Previté-Orton, C. W. (1971). The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.