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The Seljuq (also Seljuq Turks, Seldjuks, Seldjuqs, Seljuks; in Turkish Selçuklular; in Ṣaljūqīyān; in Arabic سلجوق Saljūq, or السلاجقة al-Salājiqa) were a Turco-Persian Sunni Muslim dynasty that ruled parts of Central Asia and the Middle East from the 11th to 14th centuries. They set up an empire, the Great Seljuq Empire, which at its height stretched from Anatoliamarker through Persiamarker and which was the target of the First Crusade. The dynasty had its origins in the Turcoman tribal confederations of Central Asia and marked the beginning of Turkic power in the Middle East. After arriving in Persia, the Seljuqs adopted the Persian culture and language, and played an important role in the development of the Turko-Persian tradition which features "Persian culture patronized by Turkic rulers." Today, they are remembered as great patrons of Persian culture, art, literature, and language and are regarded by some as the cultural ancestors of the Western Turks – the present-day inhabitants of Azerbaijanmarker, Turkeymarker, and Turkmenistanmarker.

Early history


Prior to the ninth century, hordes of Turks had crossed the Volga River into the Black Seamarker steppes. Originally, the House of Seljuq was a branch of the Qinik Oghuz Turks who in the 9th century lived on the periphery of the Muslim world, north of the Caspianmarker and Aralmarker seas in their Yabghu Khaganate of the Oghuz confederacy, in the Kazakh Steppe of Turkestan. In the 10th century the Seljuqs migrated from their ancestral homelands into mainland Persiamarker, in the province of Khurasan, where they mixed with the local population and adopted the Persian culture and language in the following decades.

Seljuq leaders

Rulers of the Seljuq Dynasty (1037–1157)

The "Great Seljuqs" were heads of the family; in theory their authority extended over all the other Seljuq lines, although in practice this often was not the case. Turkish custom called for the senior member of the family to be the Great Seljuq, although usually the position was associated with the ruler of western Persia. Muhammad's son Mahmud II succeeded him in western Persia, but Sanjar, the governor of Khurasan from 1097 and the senior member of the family, became the Great Seljuq sultan From 1157, the Oghuz took control of much of Khurasan, with the remainder in the hands of former Seljuq emirs.

Seljuq sultans of Hamadan (1118–1194)

The rulers of western Persia, who maintained a very loose grip on the Abbasids of Baghdadmarker. Several Turkish emirs gained a strong level of influence in the region, such as the Eldiduzids. In 1194, Tugrul III was killed in battle with the Khwarezm Shah, who annexed Hamadan.

Seljuq rulers of Kerman (1041–1187)

Kermanmarker was a province in southern Persia. Between 1053 and 1154, the territory also included Ummanmarker. Muhammad abandoned Kerman, which fell into the hands of the Oghuz chief Malik Dinar. Kerman was eventually annexed by the Khwarezmid Empire in 1196.

Seljuq rulers in Syria 1076–1117

To the Artuqids

Sultans/Emirs of Damascusmarker: Damascus seized by the Burid Toghtekin

Seljuq sultans of Rûm (Anatolia) 1077–1307

See Sultanate of Rûm

The Seljuq line, already having been deprived of any significant power, effectively ends in the early fourteenth century


File:Borj-toghrul.jpg|Toghrol Towermarker, a 12th century monument south of Tehranmarker commemorating Toğrül.File:Seljuq Ewer.jpg|Seljuq era art: Ewer from Iranmarker, dated 1180–1210. Brass worked in repousse and inlaid with silver and bitumen. NY Metropolitan Museum.File:Male_royal_figure,_12-13th_century,_from_Iran.jpg|Head of Seljuq male royal figure, 12–13th century, from Iranmarker. Carved and drilled stone with Iranian craftsmanship. Kept at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker.File:Shatranj.jpg|Shatranj chess set, glazed fritware, 12th century, from Iranmarker. New York Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker.

See also


  1. This map varies from other maps which are slightly different in scope, especially along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
  2. "Seljuq Turks" in various scholastic sources
  3. Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, (New Brunswick:Rutgers University Press, 1988), 147.
  4. Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, (Rutgers University Press, 1991), 161,164; "..renewed the Seljuk attempt to found a great Turko-Persian empire in eastern Iran..", "It is to be noted that the Seljuks, those Turkomans who became sultans of Persia, did not Turkify Persia-no doubt because they did not wish to do so. On the contrary, it was they who voluntarily became Persians and who, in the manner of the great old Sassanid kings, strove to protect the Iranian populations from the plundering of Ghuzz bands and save Iranian culture from the Turkoman menace."
  5. *Jackson, P. (2002). Review: The History of the Seljuq Turks: The History of the Seljuq Turks.Journal of Islamic Studies 2002 13(1):75–76; doi:10.1093/jis/13.1.75.Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. *Bosworth, C. E. (2001). Notes on Some Turkish Names in Abu 'l-Fadl Bayhaqi's Tarikh-i Mas'udi. Oriens, Vol. 36, 2001 (2001), pp. 299–313. *Dani, A. H., Masson, V. M. (Eds), Asimova, M. S. (Eds), Litvinsky, B. A. (Eds), Boaworth, C. E. (Eds). (1999). History of Civilizations of Central Asia. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers (Pvt. Ltd). * Hancock, I. (2006). ON ROMANI ORIGINS AND IDENTITY. The Romani Archives and Documentation Center. The University of Texas at Austin. * Asimov, M. S., Bosworth, C. E. (eds.). (1998). History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Vol. IV: The Age of Achievement: AD 750 to the End of the Fifteenth Century, Part One: The Historical, Social and Economic Setting. Multiple History Series. Paris: UNESCO Publishing.
  6. * Josef W. Meri, "Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia", Routledge, 2005, p. 399 * Michael Mandelbaum, "Central Asia and the World", Council on Foreign Relations (May 1994), p. 79 * Jonathan Dewald, "Europe 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World", Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004, p. 24: "Turcoman armies coming from the East had driven the Byzantines out of much of Asia Minor and established the Persianized sultanate of the Seljuks." *Ram Rahul. "March of Central Asia", Indus Publishing, page 124. *C.E. Bosworth, "Turkish expansion towards the west", in UNESCO HISTORY OF HUMANITY, Volume IV, 2000. *Mehmed Fuad Koprulu, "Early Mystics in Turkish Literature", Translated by Gary Leiser and Robert Dankoff, Routledge, 2006, pg 149. *O.Özgündenli, "Persian Manuscripts in Ottoman and Modern Turkish Libraries", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition, ( LINK) *Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Seljuq", Online Edition, ( LINK)
  7. John Perry, THE HISTORICAL ROLE OF TURKISH IN RELATION TO PERSIAN OF IRAN in Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 5, (2001), pp. 193-200. excerpt: " First, since the Turkish-speaking rulers of most Iranian polities from the Ghaznavids and Seljuks onward were already iranized and patronized Persian literature in their domains, the expansion of Turk-ruled empires served to expand the territorial domain of written Persian into the conquered areas, notably Anatolia and Central and South Asia."
  8. Ram Rahul. "March of Central Asia", Indus Publishing, pg 124:"The Seljuk conquest of Persia marked the triumph of the Sunni over Shii but without a decline in Persian culture. The Seljuks eventually adopted the Persian culture.
  9. Ehsan Yarshater, “Iran” in Encyclopedia Iranica:"The ascent of the Saljuqids also put an end to a period which Minorsky has called “the Persian intermezzo”(see Minorsky, 1932, p. 21), when Iranian dynasties, consisting mainly of the Saffarids, the Samanids, the Ziyarids, the Buyids, the Kakuyids, and the Bavandids of Tabarestan and Gilan, ruled most of Iran. By all accounts, weary of the miseries and devastations of never-ending conflicts and wars, Persians seemed to have sighed with relief and to have welcomed the stability of the Saljuqid rule, all the more so since the Saljuqids mitigated the effect of their foreignness, quickly adopting the Persian culture and court customs and procedures and leaving the civil administration in the hand of Persian personnel, headed by such capable and learned viziers as ‘Amid-al-Molk Kondori and Nezam-al-Molk."
  10. C.E. Bosworth, "Turkish expansion towards the west", in UNESCO HISTORY OF HUMANITY, Volume IV: From the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century, UNESCO Publishing / Routledge,2000. p. 391: "While the Arabic language retained its primacy in such spheres as law, theology and science, the culture of the Seljuk court and secular literature within the sultanate became largely Persianized; this is seen in the early adoption of Persian epic names by the Seljuk rulers (Qubād, Kay Khusraw and so on) and in the use of Persian as a literary language (Turkish must have been essentially a vehicle for everyday speech at this time). The process of Persianization accelerated in the thirteenth century with the presence in Konya of two of the most distinguished refugees fleeing before the Mongols, Bahā' al-Dīn Walad and his son Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, whose Mathnawī, composed in Konya, constitutes one of the crowning glories of classical Persian literature."
  11. Stephen P. Blake, "Shahjahanabad: The Sovereign City in Mughal India, 1639-1739". Cambridge University Press, 1991. pg 123: "For the Seljuks and Il-Khanids in Iran it was the rulers rather than the conquered who were "Persianized and Islamicized".
  12. Mehmed Fuad Koprulu, "Early Mystics in Turkish Literature", Translated by Gary Leiser and Robert Dankoff, Routledge, 2006, pg 149: "If we wish to sketch, in broad outline, the civilization created by the Seljuks of Anatolia, we must recognize that the local, i.e. non-Muslim, element was fairly insignificant compared to the Turkish and Arab-Persian elements, and that the Persian element was paramount/The Seljuk rulers, to be sure, who were in contact with not only Muslim Persian civilization, but also with the Arab civilizations in al-jazīra and Syria – indeed, with all Muslim peoples as far as India – also had connections with {various} Byzantine courts. Some of these rulers, like the great 'Ala' al-Dīn Kai-Qubād I himself, who married Byzantine princesses and thus strengthened relations with their neighbors to the west, lived for many years in Byzantium and became very familiar with the customs and ceremonial at the Byzantine court. Still, this close contact with the ancient Greco-Roman and Christian traditions only resulted in their adoption of a policy of tolerance toward art, aesthetic life, painting, music, independent thought – in short, toward those things that were frowned upon by the narrow and piously ascetic views {of their subjects}. The contact of the common people with the Greeks and Armenians had basically the same result. {Before coming to Anatolia}, the Turks had been in contact with many nations and had long shown their ability to synthesize the artistic elements that they had adopted from these nations. When they settled in Anatolia, they encountered peoples with whom they had not yet been in contact and immediately established relations with them as well. 'Ala' al-Dīn Kai-Qubād I established ties with the Genoese and, especially, the Venetians at the ports of Sinop and Antalya, which belonged to him, and granted them commercial and legal concessions. Meanwhile, the Mongol invasion, which caused a great number of scholars and artisans to flee from Turkistan, Iran, and Khwārazm and settle within the Empire of the Seljuks of Anatolia, resulted in a reinforcing of Persian influence on the Anatolian Turks. Indeed, despite all claims to the contrary, there is no question that Persian influence was paramount among the Seljuks of Anatolia. This is clearly revealed by the fact that the sultans who ascended the throne after Ghiyāth al-Dīn Kai-Khusraw I assumed titles taken from ancient Persian mythology, like Kai-Khusraw, Kai-Kā'ūs, and Kai-Qubād; and that 'Ala' al-Dīn Kai-Qubād I had some passages from the Shāhnāme inscribed on the walls of Konya and Sivas. When we take into consideration domestic life in the Konya courts and the sincerity of the favor and attachment of the rulers to Persian poets and Persian literature, then this fact {i.e. the importance of Persian influence} is undeniable. With regard to the private lives of the rulers, their amusements, and palace ceremonial, the most definite influence was also that of Iran, mixed with the early Turkish traditions, and not that of Byzantium."
  13. Bosworth, C.E.; Hillenbrand, R.; Rogers, J.M.; Blois, F.C. de; Bosworth, C.E.; Darley-Doran, R.E., Saldjukids, Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2009. Brill Online: “Culturally, the constituting of the Seljuq Empire marked a further step in the dethronement of Arabic from being the sole lingua franca of educated and polite society in the Middle East. Coming as they did through a Transoxania which was still substantially Iranian and into Persia proper, the Seljuqs with no high-level Turkish cultural or literary heritage of their own – took over that of Persia, so that the Persian language became the administration and culture in their land of Persia and Anatolia. The Persian culture of the Rum Seljuqs was particularly splendid, and it was only gradually that Turkish emerged there as a parallel language in the field of government and adab; the Persian imprint in Ottoman civilization was to remain strong until the 19th century.
  14. Daniel Pipes: "The Event of Our Era: Former Soviet Muslim Republics Change the Middle East" in Michael Mandelbaum,"Central Asia and the World: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkemenistan and the World", Council on Foreign Relations, pg 79. Exact statement: "In Short, the Turko-Persian tradition featured Persian culture patronized by Turcophone rulers."
  15. O.Özgündenli, "Persian Manuscripts in Ottoman and Modern Turkish Libraries", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition, ( LINK)
  16. Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Seljuq", Online Edition, ( LINK): "... Because the Turkish Seljuqs had no Islamic tradition or strong literary heritage of their own, they adopted the cultural language of their Persian instructors in Islam. Literary Persian thus spread to the whole of Iran, and the Arabic language disappeared in that country except in works of religious scholarship ..."
  17. M. Ravandi, "The Seljuq court at Konya and the Persianisation of Anatolian Cities", in Mesogeios (Mediterranean Studies), vol. 25–6 (2005), pp. 157–69
  18. Previte-Orton (1971), vol. 1, pg.278
  19. Concise Britannica Online Seljuq Dynasty article
  20. Merriam-Webster Online – Definition of Seljuk
  21. The History of the Seljuq Turks: From the Jami Al-Tawarikh ( LINK)
  22. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey – Stanford Shaw ( LINK)
  23. Wink, Andre, Al Hind the Making of the Indo Islamic World, Brill Academic Publishers, Jan 1, 1996, ISBN 90-04-09249-8 pg.9
  24. Islam: An Illustrated History, p. 51
  25. M.A. Amir-Moezzi, "Shahrbanu", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition, ( LINK): "... here one might bear in mind that turco-Persian dynasties such as the Ghaznavids, Saljuqs and Ilkhanids were rapidly to adopt the Persian language and have their origins traced back to the ancient kings of Persia rather than to Turkish heroes or Muslim saints ..."
  26. F. Daftary, Sectarian and National Movements in Iran, Khorasan, and Trasoxania during Umayyad and Early Abbasid Times, in History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Vol 4, pt. 1; edited by M.S. Asimov and C.E. Bosworth; UNESCO Publishing, Institute of Ismaili Studies: "... Not only did the inhabitants of Khurasan not succumb to the language of the nomadic invaders, but they imposed their own tongue on them. The region could even assimilate the Turkic Ghaznavids and Seljuks (eleventh and twelfth centuries), the Timurids (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries), and the Qajars (nineteenth–twentieth centuries) ..."
21 Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, (New Brunswick:Rutgers University Press, 1988),147.


  • Previte-Orton, C. W (1971). The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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