Great Seljuk Empire
|Religion||Sunni Islam (Hanafi)|
|Government||De facto: Independent Sultanate|
De jure: Under Caliphate
|Toghrul I (first)|
|Toghrul III (last)|
o Tughril formed the state system
|1080 est.||3,900,000 km2 (1,500,000 sq mi)|
The Great Seljuk Empire[a] or the Seljuk Empire, was a high medieval Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim empire, originating from the Qiniq branch of Oghuz Turks. At the time of its greatest extent, the Seljuk Empire controlled a vast area, stretching from western 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). From their homelands near the Aral Sea, the Seljuks advanced first into Khorasan and then into mainland Persia, before eventually conquering Baghdad and eastern Anatolia. The Seljuks won the battle of Manzikert in 1071, and then conquered most of the rest of Anatolia, wresting it from the Byzantine Empire. This was one of the impetuses for the First Crusade (1095-1099). The Seljuk empire began to decline in the 1140s, and by 1194 had been supplanted by the Khwarazmian Empire.
Seljuk gave his name to both the empire and the Seljuk dynasty. The Seljuk empire united the fractured political landscape of the eastern Islamic world and played a key role in both the First Crusade and Second Crusade. The Seljuks also played an important part in the creation and expansion of multiple art forms during the period in which they had influence.
Highly Persianized in culture and language, the Seljuks also played an important role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition, even exporting Persian culture to Anatolia. 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.
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. Khwarezm, administered by the Ma'munids, was under the nominal control of the Samanid Empire. By 999 the Samanids fell to the Kara-Khanids in Transoxania, but the Ghaznavids occupied the lands south of the Oxus. 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.
Oghuz Turks, led by the grandson of Seljuk, Tughril, 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 Marv; what is today - Turkmenistan. Contemporary sources mention places such as Dekhistan (Atrek etrap), Farawa (corresponding to Kizyl-Arvat) and Nasa (still known by this name), as well as Sarahs and Marv.
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). Later they repeatedly raided and traded territory with his successor, Mas'ud, across Khorasan and Balkh.
In 1040, at the Battle of Dandanaqan, they decisively defeated Mas'ud I of Ghazni, forcing him to abandon most of his western territories. By 1046, Abbasid caliph al-Qa'im had sent Tughril a diploma recognizing Seljuk rule over Khurasan. 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. In 1055, Tughril entered Baghdad and removed the influence of the Buyid dynasty, under a commission from the Abbasid caliph.
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, 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. A retaliatory strike by the Seljuk Amir Ahmad defeated the Georgians at Kvelistsikhe.
Alp Arslan authorized his Turkmen 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 ?zmir (Smyrna).
Under Alp Arslan's successor, Malik Shah, and his two Persian viziers, Niz?m al-Mulk and T?j 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. Maliksh?h was the one who moved the capital from Ray to Isfahan. The Iqta military system and the Niz?m?yyah University at Baghdad were established by Niz?m al-Mulk, and the reign of Maliksh?h 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 Sab?h 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 Niz?m al-Mulk.
In 1076 Malik Shah I surged into Georgia and reduced many settlements to ruins. From 1079/80 onward, Georgia was pressured into submitting to Malik-Shah to ensure a precious degree of peace at the price of an annual tribute.
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. 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.
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.
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. Sanjar was captured during the battle and held in captivity until 1156. 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. Sanjar eventually escaped from captivity in the fall of 1156, but soon died in Merv (present-day Turkmenistan), 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.
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; however, modern scholarship holds such figures to be exaggerated.
Seljuk power was indeed at its zenith under Maliksh?h I, and both the Qarakhanids and Ghaznavids had to acknowledge the overlordship of the Seljuks. 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. Seljuk rule was modelled after the tribal organization common among Turkic and Mongol nomads and resembled a 'family federation' or 'appanage state'. Under this organization, the leading member of the paramount family assigned family members portions of his domains as autonomous appanages.
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.
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-sult?n al-a'zam, "the Greatest Sultan". The Seljuk rulers of Iraq were often mentioned as the "Lesser Seljuks".
Seljuks managed to preserve elements of steppe culture even at the peak of their empire. Oghuz Turkic language was used as the every-day language of the court, and was widely used alongside Persian by the population of the empire. Tughril relied on his vizier to translate from Arabic and Persian into Turkic for him, 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 signifact evidence of the importance of Turkic language is the big Turkic-Arabic dictionary, or the D?w?n Lugh?t 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
When Maliksh?h I died in 1092, the empire split as his brother and four sons quarrelled over the apportioning of the empire among themselves. Maliksh?h 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.
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.
Elsewhere in nominal Seljuk territory were the Artuqids in northeastern Syria and northern Mesopotamia; they controlled Jerusalem until 1098. The D?ni?mand 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.
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, which took important cities such as Nicaea (?znik), 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 Palestine to the Fatimids, who had recaptured it just before its capture by the crusaders.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For a brief period, Togrul III was the Sultan of all Seljuk except for Anatolia. In 1194, however, Togrul was defeated by Takash, the Shah of Khwarezmid Empire, and the Seljuk Empire finally collapsed. Of the former Seljuk Empire, only the Sultanate of Rûm in Anatolia remained.
As the dynasty declined in the middle of the thirteenth century, the Mongols invaded Anatolia in the 1260s and divided it into small emirates called the Anatolian beyliks. Eventually one of these, the Ottoman, would rise to power and conquer the rest.
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.
|#||Laqab||Throne name||Reign||Marriages||Succession right|
|1||Rukn ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
|Toghrul-Beg||1037-1063||1) Altun Jan Khatun
(2) Aka Khatun
(3) Fulana Khatun
(daughter of Abu Kalijar)
(4) Seyyidah Khatun
(daughter of Al-Qa'im, Abbasid caliph)
(5) Fulana Khatun
(widow of Chaghri Beg)
|son of Mikail |
(grandson of Seljuk)
|2||Diya ad-Dunya wa ad-Din Adud ad-Dawlah
|Alp Arslan||1063-1072||1) Aka Khatun
(widow of Toghrul I)
(2) Safariyya Khatun
(daughter of Yusuf Qadir Khan, Khagan of Kara-Khanid)
(3) Fulana Khatun
(daughter of Smbat Lorhi)
(4) Fulana Khatun
(daughter of Kurtchu bin Yunus bin Seljuk)
|son of Chaghri|
|3||Muizz ad-Dunya wa ad-Din Jalal ad-Dawlah
|Malik-Shah I||1072-1092||1) Turkan Khatun
(daughter of Ibrahim Tamghach Khan, Khagan of Western Kara-Khanid)
(2) Zubeida Khatun
(daughter of Yaquti ibn Chaghri)
(3) Safariyya Khatun
(daughter of Isa Khan, Sultan of Samarkand)
(4) Fulana Khatun
(daughter of Romanos IV Diogenes)
|son of Alp Arslan|
|4||Nasir ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
|Mahmud I||1092-1094||son of Malik-Shah I|
|5||Rukn ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
||Barkiyaruq||1094-1105||son of Malik-Shah I|
|6||Rukn ad-Dunya wa ad-Din Jalal ad-Dawlah
|Malik-Shah II||1105||son of Barkiyaruq|
|7||Ghiyath ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
|Tapar||1105-1118||1) Nisandar Jihan Khatun
(2) Gouhar Khatun
(daughter of Isma'il bin Yaquti)
(3) Fulana Khatun
(daughter of Aksungur Beg)
|son of Malik-Shah I|
|8||Mughith ad-Dunya wa ad-Din Jalal ad-Dawlah
|Mahmud II||1118-1131||1) Mah-i Mulk Khatun (died 1130)
(daughter of Sanjar)
(2) Amir Siti Khatun
(daughter of Sanjar)
(3) Ata Khatun
(daughter of Ali bin Faramarz)
|son of Muhammad I|
|9||Muizz ad-Dunya wa ad-Din Adud ad-Dawlah
? ? ?
|Sanjar||1118-1153||1) Turkan Khatun
(daughter of Muhammad Arslan Khan, Khagan of Western Kara-Khanid)
(2) Rusudan Khatun
(daughter of Demetrius I of Georgia)
(3) Gouhar Khatun
(daughter of Isma'il bin Yaquti, widow of Tapar)
(4) Fulana Khatun
(daughter of Arslan Khan, a Qara Khitai prisoner)
|son of Malik-Shah I|
|10||Ghiyath ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
(daughter of Masud)
|son of Mahmud II|
|11||Rukn ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
||Toghrul II||1132-1135||1) Mumine Khatun
(mother of Arslan-Shah)
(2) Zubeida Khatun
(daughter of Barkiyaruq)
|son of Muhammad I|
|12||Ghiyath ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
|Masud||1135-1152||1) Gouhar Nasab Khatun
(daughter of Sanjar)
(2) Zubeida Khatun
(daughter of Barkiyaruq, widow of Toghrul II)
(3) Mustazhiriyya Khatun
(daughter of Qawurd)
(4) Sufra Khatun
(daughter of Dubais)
(5) Arab Khatun
(daughter of Al-Muqtafi)
(6) Ummiha Khatun
(daughter of Amid ud-Deula bin Juhair)
(7) Abkhaziyya Khatun
(daughter of David IV of Georgia)
(8) Sultan Khatun
(mother of Malik-Shah III)
|son of Muhammad I|
|13||Muin ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
|Malik-Shah III||1152-1153||son of Mahmud II|
|14||Rukn ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
||Muhammad||1153-1159||1) Mahd Rafi Khatun
(daughter of Kirman-Shah)
(2) Gouhar Khatun
(daughter of Masud, widow of Dawud)
(3) Kerman Khatun
(daughter of Al-Muqtafi)
(4) Kirmaniyya Khatun
(daughter of Tughrul Shah, ruler of Kerman)
|son of Mahmud II|
|15||Ghiyath ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
|Suleiman-Shah||1159-1160||1) Khwarazmi Khatun
(daughter of Muhammad Khwarazm Shah)
(2) Abkhaziyya Khatun
(daughter of David IV of Georgia, widow of Masud)
|son of Muhammad I|
|16||Muizz ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
||Arslan-Shah||1160-1176||1) Kerman Khatun
(daughter of Al-Muqtafi, widow of Muhammad)
(2) Sitti Fatima Khatun
(daughter of Ala ad-Daulah)
(3) Kirmaniyya Khatun
(daughter of Tughrul Shah, ruler of Kerman, widow of Muhammad)
(4) Fulana Khatun
(sister of Izz al-Din Hasan Qipchaq)
|son of Toghrul II|
|17||Rukn ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
(daughter of Sunqur-Inanj, ruler of Ray, widow of Toghrul III)
|son of Arslan-Shah|
|18||Muzaffar ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
|Qizil Arslan||1191||Inanj Khatun
(daughter of Sunqur-Inanj, ruler of Ray, widow of Muhammad ibn Ildeniz)
|son of Ildeniz |
(stepbrother of Arslan-Shah)
|--||Rukn ad-Dunya wa ad-Din
|son of Arslan-Shah|
Various art forms were popularized during the Seljuk period, as evidenced by the vast amount of surviving artifacts. Most Seljuk arts are known to have been produced in what is modern-day Iran. However, the Seljuk sultans also encouraged artists to settle in Anatolia as part of a recolonization and reconstruction process of several cities. Many works of Seljuk art continued to be produced following the decline of the empire in the late 12th century. 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.
Among other ceramics, the manufacture of polychrome ceramic tiles, often used as decor in architecture, were popularized during the Seljuk dynasty. The Seljuks pioneered the use of the Minai technique, a painted and enameled polychrome overglaze for ceramics. The glazes on the Seljuk ceramics produced often ranged from a brilliant turquoise to a very dark blue. The art of Seljuk mosaic tile decorating would continue to dominate the interior of many Anatolian mosques following the period of Seljuk rule. The Seljuks also created ceramic house models, while other ceramic forms in the Seljuk period included pottery figurines, some of them children's toys.
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. 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.
One architectural form that flourished during the Seljuk dynasty was the muqarnas. 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. The layering of multiple embellished cells with divergent profiles in muqarnas creates a dome that has a seemingly-insubstantial interior. The play of light on the surface enhances this visual effect. Art historian Oleg Grabar argues that the effect of muqarnas domes embodies Qur'anic water symbolism. Examples of muqarnas also appear in the niches of mosques built during the Seljuk empire. Overall, the architecture attributed to the Seljuk period is characterized by elaborate decoration, much like the other arts produced under Seljuk rule.
Both secular and non-secular manuscripts were produced during the Seljuk period. These pieces are now limited in availability, considering their ultimate susceptibility to damage overtime. But those manuscripts that have survived over the centuries provide insight into the Seljuk's involvement in the arts of the book. Calligraphers and illuminators were responsible for the creation of these manuscripts, though sometimes calligraphers mastered the art of both writing and illustration. 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.
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. Uniquely, calligraphers during this period frequently combined several scripts on one page of the Qur'an, such as Kufic and New Style. 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. 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. Despite this development, parchment would remain popular for the production of some Qur'an's, and multi-volume pieces continued to be produced. Illuminated borders continued to distinguish the Qur'ans produced during the Seljuk period and relative consistency was maintained with regard to their structure.
One example of a manuscript created during Seljuk rule is a thirty-volume Qur'an (juz) created c.1050, produced by only one calligrapher and illuminator (Freer Gallery of Art, District of Columbia, F2001.16a-b). As paper had just been introduced to the Islamic world, this piece is an early Islamic paper manuscript. This Qur'an is bound in brown leather, dyed in pink, decorated with gold, and offers an intricate frontispiece. These elements imply the care that went into the production of this text and indications of frequent usage confirm that it was appreciated. It is primarily written in the vertical "New-Style" Arabic script, a sharp, vertical script. 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. Scattered remnants of Kufic, used primarily to indicate volume and page number, also appear in the text. 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.
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). This manuscript's folios are illuminated with a gold border and thin, spiraled illustration, featuring vegetal motifs. Despite the generous illumination, the four lines of Qur'anic text on the folio are exceptionally legible. 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. Only during the 13th century would New Style be replaced by the curvier proportional scripts for regular use.
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. 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). Unlike the two Seljuk Qur'ans discussed prior, this manuscript primarily contains Naskh script, another early Arabic script that replaced Kufic. However, some Kufic calligraphy is embedded in the chapter headings. 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. The manuscript is large, with seventeen lines of text per two-hundred and fifteen sheets of paper. Though not all of the Qur'an is illuminated, both the beginning and the end boast elaborate illustration, with blue, gold, and white hues. Ettinghausen describes the subsequent visual effect as "brilliant." 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.
Manuscript production during the Seljuk period was not limited to religious texts. Beyond these religious manuscripts, scientific, literary, and historical pieces were created. One example of a secular manuscript is the Nusrat al-fatrah, a historiographical and literary account of the Seljuk period written in 1200 by Im?d al-D?n (Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London). Meanwhile, the scientific manuscripts produced during the Seljuk period oftentimes pertained to geography, physics, mechanics, mathematics, and astronomy. 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. 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.
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. For example, the large Qarmathian Qur'an influenced some of the inscriptions on Seljuk ceramic wares. Even mirrors, candlesticks, coins, and jugs manufactured in Anatolia during the Seljuk period would often bear occult astrological images inspired by manuscripts. 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.
Historian Andrew Peacock demonstrates an interest in the Seljuks of Anatolia's focus on occult themes and its manifestation in the book arts. 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. 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." 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). The text was written by a man who wrote under a pen name, "Nasiri." Interestingly, Nasiri's Daqa'iq al-Haqa'iq challenges prevailing Islamic understandings of God while encouraging piety and invoking both Sufi terms and themes. 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.
Head of male royal figure, 12-13th century, found in Iran.
Section of a Water Jug, Habb, 12th-13th century, Brooklyn Museum
Bowl with an Enthronement Scene,12th-13th century, Brooklyn Museum
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.
The name 'Seljuk is a political rather than ethnic name. It derives from Sel?iik, born Toqaq Temir Yally, a war-lord (sil-ba?i), from the Qiniq tribal grouping of the Oghuz. Seljuk, in the rough and tumble of internal Oghuz politics, fled to Jand, c.985, after falling out with his overlord.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
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".