Seljuk Turks

Rise of the Seljuk Empire

The Seljuk Turks were a nomadic group who got their name from Sejuk ibn Yakak. Their rise in power was a follow up to the collapse Abbasid dynasty when other powerful families began to establish separate dynasties.The Seljuks were the first to use the title “sultan” who was an important political ruler who complied with the Caliph, the supreme spiritual leader.The Seljuks conquered the ancient city of Baghdad in 1055 and with this they altered the paths for the political situation in the Middle East by enforcing a “power-sharing arrangement” between the Sunni Caliph and the Sultan (the political and military head).Unknowing of the knowledge and power obtained by the Suljuks, the Byzantine empire attacked them. Though with retreating mercenaries and no surprise the Seljuks were able to defeat the Byzantines and capture their emperor as one of their prisoners. In the end, the Seljuks strong “everlasting” empire only lasted about 60 years before it began to fall apart.

Seljuk Culture

The Seljuk Turks adopted some of the traditions of other cultures, but they developed their own ideas which were used by the occupants of Anatolia for centuries to come. Their official language was Oghuz Turkic. They had a nomadic lifestyle that involved herding of large flocks of animals such as: sheep, horses, goats and camels. Seljuks were supposedly uninterested in commerce, medicine, geometry and technology in general. They were Sunnis that worshipped Allah and served as a big threat to Christians. They harassed Christian pilgrims and forced some of them to be their slaves. Mosaic tiles were popular with the Seljuk Turks which were borrowed from the Byzantine Empire. They developed use of stucco, which were tiny fragments of tile, naked-brick architecture, polychrome, and geometrical forms in decoration. Architects wanted to lessen the domical mass of monuments both physically and visually. Their most important achievement in architecture was a prototype of the plans of a mosque. It was called the four-iwan plan. Seljuks were good builders of walls and bridges. They influenced the development of the pulpit, and they introduced carpet-making into Anatolia. The Arabic and Persian languages were used very often in Seljuk literature. Poets wrote book-length poetry about personal accounts, and others wrote about praising their ruler.

Decline of the Seljuk Turks
In 1060, Chagri Beg died, and his son, Alp Arslan, took control of the eastern half of the Seljuk Empire. In 1063, Chagril’s brother, Tugril, so died, leaving the western and eastern halves of the empire under the rule of Alp Arlsan. He expanded the empire, and defeated the Byzantine armies for control of Anatolia. After he died in 1072, his son Jalal al-Dawlah Malikshah took the throne and continued to expand on what his father had already added to the Seljuk territory. Both Malikshah and his father received beneficial council from Nizam al-Mulk, who established the madrasas in Iraq and Iran, which are Islamic colleges that teach Muslim law and theology. In 1092, members from the Shii Ismaili Nizari sect, who were known in the west as the Assassins, killed both Malikshah and Nizam al-Mulk. Following Malikshah’s death, the empire broke into small sections, and eventually phased out completely.

Stokes, Jamie, ed. "Seljuk Turks."Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and the Middle East, vol. 2. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Ancient and Medieval History Online. New York: Facts On File, Inc.