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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.The Surprise attack. Folio 41.


Rogers 1986 p.58v of the Warqa wa Gulshãh manuscript.50).73. Melikian-Chirvani 1970 pp. Istanbul.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 . The artist's signature is fol. Turkey. (Grube 1966 p . From the Topkapi Saray Museum.The artist's name 'Abd al-Mu'min b. Azerbaijan. The nisbah alKliuyi shows that he was from Khuy. 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.

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