The Seljuqs of Rum

by Steven Lowe and Martin Baker
(From Varangian Voice No. 21, Feb 1992) The Seljuqs were among 24 Turkish tribes known as the Oghuz or Ghuzz, originally from Western Siberia. They are thought to have been descended from the Hung-Nu (a Turkish tribe from the region west of China). They originally worshipped the elements, but were converted to Islam in the mid-tenth century AD. Their founder, Seljuq, was the son of a Turkish commander in the Khazar army. In the late 900’s, Seljuq’s branch of the Ghuzz took service with the Sama’nid Arabs in present-day Turkestan. Shortly afterwards, Turkish commanders of the Sama’nid army rebelled, and allied with the Qara Khans, invaded the region across the Oxus River. They expanded westward from 1025 to 1029, but Mahmood of Ghazna repulsed them, capturing Seljuq’s son Arslan ibn Seljuq. The Ghuzz scattered to Western Persia and north to Azerbaijan, and Arslan’s nephews Tughril Beg and Daood assumed the leadership. In 1039 Tughril Beg defeated Mahmood’s son Masood, capturing the western territories of the Ghaznavid Kingdom, and leaving Persia open to conquest. Between 1040 and 1042 the Ghuzz under Tughril Beg expanded south and west, but the same year the Arabs defeated a Ghuzz army in northern Iraq, temporarily checking their advance. Tughril Beg’s half-brother, Ibraham Inal, attacked the Muslim lands north-east of the Tigris, and invaded Armenia. In 1050 Ispahan came under their control, followed by Azerbaijan in 1054.

A Seljuq hunting scene, from Kitab al Diryaq (the Book of Antidotes) by Pseudo-Gallen, probably from Iraq, mid 13th century. National Bibliothek, Vienna. The Khalif Qaim (who was held virtual prisoner by Malik al Raheem), had inserted Tughril Beg’s name in public prayers, and in 1055 invited Tughril Beg to Baghdad. Soon after Tughril’s arrival trouble started and the Ghuzz ended up taking control of the city. In March 1056 the Khalif married the daughter of Daood, who was now ruler of Khurasan. The following year Qaim named Tughril Beg Sovereign of the East and West.

When in December Tughril left for Hamadan. northeast of Aleppo. After Alp Arslan’s death the Seljuq of Rum (their name for Asia Minor. but his son Alp Arslan arrived with an army. which he commanded in person. If accounts are to be believed. strong. Alp Arslan was named as Tughril Beg’s successor. on August 19th 1071. Tughril Beg’s army had already gone home with the spoils looted from Iraq. Basaseeri fled upon hearing of the Sultan’s approach. the Byzantine army was routed and Romanos captured. But like his uncle he could neither read nor write. In 1068 Romanos marched to Cappadocia and took Menbij. In January 1063 he came to Baghdad to see his bride. but could only raise a hotchpotch mercenary army. Alp Arslan imposed peace terms and set Romanos free to return to Byzantium. He had no children. unspoilt. he was forced to fight a battle with Tughril’s half brother Ibrahim Inal. by proxy. He then returned to Rei. stabbed to death by a captive brought before him for questioning. but was defeated and killed in December 1063. and his name was inserted in public prayers. the Emperor Michael Ducas VII. chivalrous. He decided to evict the Seljuqs from Armenia. and was killed in an engagement on the Euphrates. brave. Before he could deal with Basaseeri. Romanos died within days. and he appealed to his brother Daood for help. On the Byzantine Emperor Constantine’s death in 1067. entering the city in early January 1060. Alp Arslan was also dead within a year. where he died in August. cultured. . Early in the next year Alp Arslan was inaugurated as Sultan by Khalif Qaim in Baghdad. noble. Basaseeri captured Baghdad in the name of the Fatamid Khalif Mustansir. he was tall. At the battle of Manzikert. his widow married the distinguished general Romanos Diogenes. who ousted Constantine’s young son Michael VII to become Emperor Romanos IV. Tughril then marched on Baghdad. courteous and a magnificent archer. Daood died before the message arrived. a corruption of “Rome”) became effectively independent of the “Great Seljuq” of Persia. But Romanos was captured and blinded by his stepson. In August 1062 Tughril married the daughter of Khalif Qaim. His brother Qutlumish refused to swear allegiance and marched on Rei.

Kilic Arslan. and in 1086 he marched on Aleppo. Sulaiman stabbing himself with his own dagger. The Norman mercenary Roussel de Bailleul had rebelled and set up an independent principality in Byzantine territory. He then broke with the rest of the family. Kilic Arslan. probably from Iraq. Roussel was defeated outside the walls of Constantinople by the combined armies. which had been held by the Byzantines since 969 AD. regained most of his father’s kingdom by the time he was seventeen and finally declared himself “Sultan of the Rum”. National Bibliothek. mid 13th century. Byzantium allowed internal disputes to override the safety of the realm. In 1072. the Byzantine Emperor appealed for help from Sulaiman ibn Qutlumish (the son of Qutlumish who had rebelled against Alp Arslan). where they firmly established themselves. and lost Asia Minor by default.A Seljuq court. In a battle outside Aleppo Tutush was victorious. escaped. Vienna. aged 13. Later Byzantine rebels Nikephoros Botaniates and Nikephoros Melissenos raised Turcoman forces and led them to the Bosphoros. only sixty miles from Constantinople. from Kitab al Diryaq (the Book of Antidotes) by Pseudo-Gallen. but the Turks had now achieved a foothold in Asia Minor. The Arab prince of Aleppo asked King Tutush of Damascus for help. Sulaiman ibn Qutlumish established his capital in Nicea. his son. In 1084 he seized Antioch. . was taken prisoner and held in Ispahan. By using Turkish armies to decide dynastic squabbles. During a civil war in 1092.

the combined Byzantine and Crusader army took his capital of Nicea and captured the Sultana. A stone carving depicting Seljuq cavalry. the First Crusade arrived in Constantinople. After a brilliant military career. In September 1101 he completely destroyed three Crusader armies marching south to reinforce Outremer. He went on to set up a stable economy with elaborate social services. and their children were sold into slavery. the Pope preached a Crusade to capture Jerusalem. Byzantine Emperor Alexios Komnenos took advantage of the instability in the Seljuq realm and sent to Pope Urban II appealing for mercenaries to help him regain Asia Minor. In December the same year. enabling the Crusaders to continue southward and conquer the Holy Land.000 Crusaders dead. and Christians throughout Europe flocked to the banner. (The Emperor later restored her to him). The resulting ambush left possibly as many as 20. and brought renewed prosperity to Asia Minor. at the Council of Clermont. Instead. Only 3000 survivors were picked up by Byzantine ships. Both the Byzantines and the Seljuqs of Persia breathed a sigh of relief. . In 1096 a mainly peasant army under Peter the Hermit and the French knight Walter Sans-avoir (without worldly goods). arrived in Constantinople. But they were crushingly defeated.In 1095 a civil war was raging between two of Malik Shah’s sons. Kilic Arslan returned to Asia Minor and made himself master of all Anatolia. While he was away. Kilic Arslan was drowned at the battle of Mosul in 1107. They were transported across the Bosphoros and accommodated at Cibotus opposite the City. After some raiding on both sides the People’s Crusade moved out of camp on the 21st of October 1096 to attack the heathen Turks. There was little interest among the Seljuq of Persia in what was happening in Asia Minor. and Kilic Arslan was busy attacking his eastern neighbour Danismend “the Wise”. Kilic Arslan immediately repaired relations with the Danismend and together on 1 July 1097 they attacked the Crusaders at Dorylaeum.

By the time of his death (poisoned by his son Kai-Khusrau II in 1235/6) he controlled almost all of Asia Minor. In the same year Byzantium fell to the Fourth Crusade. Kilic Arslan II died in 1189. In 1204 Giyas-al-Din Kai-Khusrau. and in 1175 he exterminated their dynasty. turned much of Anatolia into a market garden. a noble who had been exiled in Byzantium and had taken a Greek wife. invaded and annexed their principality. Mesud.Armoured Seljuq infantry . the greatest ruler of his dynasty. giving Seljuq trade a new outlet and greatly boosting the economy.Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. but the Turks turned to looting. in reprisal for devastating attacks by the Danismend. overcame early invasions to strengthen the realm and increase its stability and prosperity. In 1210 he attacked Nicea. Kai-Khusrau’s son. He was succeeded in 1219 by his brother Kai-Qubad I. In 1207 KaiKhusrau captured the Mediterranean port of Antalya. and civil war ensued over the succession. further strengthened his kingdom and destroyed Crusader armies under Conrad II in 1147 and Louis VII of France in 1148. became Sultan. Istanbul. the capital of the Byzantine Emperor-in-exile Theodore Lascaris. developed industry (including sugar refineries) and built an enormous naval base at Kalonoros. developed bonds with Byzantium. Kai-Qavus. During the battle the Greeks were worsted. . His son. In September the following year he wiped out an invading Byzantine army at the battle of Myriokephalon. Mesud’s son Kilic Arslan II. enabling a Christian to kill Kai-Khusrau and turning the victory into defeat. He promoted trade.

but he was loyally supported by one of his nobles named Osman. Tamara. and vanished shortly after 1308. Talbot-Rice. Hallam. who added Byzantine territory to the empire. and was succeeded by his two-year-old son Kai-Khusrau III. The Seljuks. References Glubb. John Bagot. probably from Iraq. Kai-Khusrau gave Osman the title Uc Beg (Protector of the Border). the Osmanli or Ottomans. The Course of Empire (The Arabs and their Successors). National Bibliothek. it was the descendants of Osman. Kai-Khusrau II has been described as a light-hearted lover of wine and poetry. The three sons conspired against each other and against the Mongols. Elizabeth. Kai-Khusrau was strangled by his own nobles. Local rulers splintered off what little power the Sultan had. Izz-Al-Din. died in 1264. and the Mongol ruler Hulagu placed Kai-Khusrau’s three sons jointly on the throne. Vol. The Cambridge History of Iran. From Kai-Khusrau’s death in 1283 the Sultanate was wracked by civil war. Vienna. Chronicles of the Crusades. who led a resurgent Turkish race to the domination of the Middle East. When the Mongol Empire crumbled. The last brother. The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. In 1242 a Mongol invasion caused the collapse of the Seljuq empire. Constantinople and Eastern Europe.A Seljuq caravan. mid 13th century. Platt. Maalouf. overrunning Persia and capturing Baghdad. Amin. from Kitab al Diryaq (the Book of Antidotes) by Pseudo-Gallen. The Atlas of Mediaeval Man. 5: The Saljuq and Mongol Periods. . It was in his reign that the Mongols first invaded the region. Colin.

c1250. Warqa wa Gulshah. The seventy-one paintings constitute a fascinating corpus of images which indicate a particularly rich realm of artistic process and audience expectation. Varka ve Gülşah' The early thirteenth-century manuscript of Varqa and Gulshah in the Topkapi Palace Library (Hazine 841) is the unique copy of the Persian poet Ayyuqi's 11th-century romantic poem about a pair of unfortunate lovers. also the earliest surviving example of an illustrated book containing a literary Persian text. Click on the pictures for a larger image.generally held to be a product of early 13thcentury Seljuk Anatolia . The manuscript .au Illustrations from the manuscript of the Romance of Varqa and Gulshah.For a really outstanding page on the steppe tribes. Varqa u Gulshah. . Le Roman de "Varqe et Golsah. Varqa o Golšãh. This page was last updated on the 3 May 2002 Copyright © Steven Lowe 2001 . by Urwa b Huzam al-'Udhri. Based on a story "told by Arabs. with paintings by Abd al Mu'min al Khuwayyi." Scenes from the only known illustrated manuscript of the poem. see Qilich's page.10/12a Battle between the Banu Zabba and the Banu Shayba.2002 stevenlo@bigpond. the Romance of Varqa and Gulshah." the poem was (re-)composed by Ayyuqi in the eastern Iranian world during the Ghaznavid period.

f.11/13a Rabi ibn Adnan in combat with Banu Shayba. .

Gulshah kills Rabi. folio 24/23b.Hazine 841. .

folio 41/39b. Army of Yemen defeats troops of Aden and Bahrayn. .Hazine 841.

Folio 41.The Surprise attack. .


The nisbah alKliuyi shows that he was from Khuy.50). From the Topkapi Saray Museum. (Grube 1966 p .73.58v of the Warqa wa Gulshãh manuscript.The artist's name 'Abd al-Mu'min b. Azerbaijan. Turkey. Melikian-Chirvani 1970 pp. The artist's signature is fol.79-80. Page 1 Page 2 Page 4 Page 5 Seljuk Illustrations and Articles Ottoman Illustrations & Articles Persia Illustrations & Articles Index Two Turkish Warriors on a Seljuk Bas Relief . Istanbul. Rogers 1986 p. Muhammad al-Naqqash al-Khuyi occurs as a witness to the endowment deed of the madrasa founded by the Seljuk amir Jalãl al-Din Karatay in 1253-54AD at Konya.

12th century Seljuk Bas Relief .Source: p40 Historical Atlas Of The Crusades by Angus Konstam.

Held by the Museum of Art. Though the majority of Seljuks in Byzantine service were horse-archers some are known to have been armoured.Seljuk horsemen of the 12th century in light armour comprising helmet and lamellar Source: p3 Men-at-Arms series 287 Byzantine Armies 1118-1461 by Ian Heath. Seatle. http://greatestbattles. Note that the lance is wielded two-handed.htm .