History of Seljuk Turks


The Seljuk Turks were a tribe moving westward out of the steppes of Central Asia. ‘By the tenth century, what had started out as a small group of tribesmen on the move, became a large force of fighting men that had grown powerful enough to plunge down into Persia. There they learned about Islam and took up the sword for that faith. These people took their name from a prince from the Aral Sea region, Seljuk.

The Seljuks were soon organized into a strong fighting unit that picked up converts to join the fight for Islam as they moved further into Anatolia. The Seljuks won their first decisive victory over the Byzantines in 1071. This was at the Battle of Manzikert, where the Seljuk leader crushed the Byzantine army led by Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes. The emperor was captured by Alp Arslan, the Seliuk chieftain, then released unharmed. He was put to death when he reached Constantinople, however, by the usurper Michael.

The Seljuks had occupied much of Anatolia by the end of the eleventh century. They were in Kayseri, Konya, Erzurum, Nicaea, pushing right up against the shores of the Bosphorus. They tried for years to take Constantinople, but the city walls were impregnable, The Byzantines took advantage of the victory of the First Crusaders over the Seljuks in 1097, to reclaim much of their territory.

The second and third Crusades were repelled by the Seljuks. The Turks made the central Anatolian city of Konya their capital, and Kilic Arslan was the first Seljuk to take the title of Sultan. Under Kilic Arslan’s leadership, the Byzantine emperor Manuel Comnenus was defeated in 1176. The Seljuks had had earlier difficulties with the Danismendids, then with the Armenians. The empire of the Seljuks was built up and strengthened by Kaykobat in the beginning of the 13th century. The Mongols came into Anatolia toward the middle of the same century, putting an effective end to the Seljuk Empire.


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