THE SELJUK PERIOD
Seljuk Turks Period (1071-1243 AD)
The Oguz Turks, under the leadership of Tugrul Bey and Cagri Bey, (the grandsons
of Seljuk), subdued Horasan and defeated the Ghaznavids in the Dandanakan Battle
and established the Great Seljuk Empire in 1040 AD. In 1071 Alparslan defeated
the Byzantine emperor in the Battle of Manzikert which marked the beginning
of the period of Turks and that of Islam in Anatolia. It was following this
date that the Turks fully conquered the whole of Anatolia and established the
Anatolian Seljuk State as part of the Great Seljuk Empire.
The Turks were the first people who invaded Anatolia completely. The previous
invading peoples captured only parts of Anatolia. Although Persians and Romans
invaded completely, they kept it under their political control rather than settling.
Turks came to Anatolia in migrations. Before coming they were Moslems and mixed
with those of the local people who accepted being Moslem.
It is wrong to believe, as many have, that the pursuance of an Islamic policy
and of conquest in Anatolia led the Seljuks to persecute the Christians. Inside
the Seljuk Empire, as soon as order was restored, the lot of Christians was
much the same as it had been before: the crusaders, who thought it must be otherwise,
were judging conditions in Jerusalem by those prevailing in Anatolia.
After 1150 AD Seljuk weakness enabled various Turkoman leaders to establish
their own principalities along the fringes of the Empire. They acted as gazis,
or fighters for the faith of Islam against the infidels. The Great Seljuks defended
Syria and Palestine against incursions during the Crusades, limiting the domination
of the Crusaders to the coastal areas. Contact between Islam and the crusading
representatives of Christianity was largely limited to military matters and
The Seljuks understood the importance of transit trade and adjusted their military
and economic policies accordingly. It was very interesting that, for the first
time in history, Seljuks created state insurance for the losses of tradesmen.
For the caravans, they developed the kervansaray (caravansary) which
was designed to meet the needs of any trader on the account of the state.
Parallel to well-organized international trade, cities in this period developed
in wealth and population. That period also recorded universal teachings of enlightened
sages like Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi or Yunus Emre. They taught about unity with
God through devotion.
The Arabic language was used by scholars, Persian was the state language and
Turkish was the daily or business language. Seljuk art blended those of Central
Asia, Islamic Middle East and Anatolia.
The shamanistic Gokturks, before burying their dead, mummified and kept them
in a tent for six months. This Central Asian tradition gave way to the rise
of domed tombs, turbe, in Anatolia.
Lions and bulls, double-headed eagles, dragons, astrological motifs like planets
and the Tree of Life were common in Seljuk decorative arts. These symbols come
from Anatolian culture or perhaps from pre-Islamic shamanism.
Another innovation and artistic achievement was the production of tiles.
The Crusades were Christian military expeditions undertaken between
the 11C and 14C to recapture the Holy Land from the Moslems. The word crusade,
which is derived from the Latin crux "cross", is a reference to the biblical
injunction that Christians carry their crosses. Crusaders wore a red cloth cross
sewn on their tunics to indicate that they had assumed the cross and were soldiers
The Crusaders continued the older tradition of Pilgrimage to the Holy
Land, which was often imposed as a penance; however, they also assumed a dual
role as pilgrims and warriors. Such an armed pilgrimage was regarded as a justifiable
war, because it was fought to recapture the places sacred to Christians.
For Christians, the very name of Jerusalem evoked visions of the end of time
and of the heavenly city. To help rescue the Holy Land would fulfill the ideal
of the Christian knight. Papal encouragement, the hope of eternal merit and
the offer of indulgences motivated thousands to enroll in the cause.
Political considerations were also important. The Crusades were a response to
appeals for help from the Byzantine Empire, threatened by the advance of the
Seljuk Turks. The year 1071 AD had seen both the capture of Jerusalem and the
decisive defeat of the Byzantine army at Manzikert, creating fear of further
Turkish victories. In addition, the hopes of the Papacy for the reunification
of East and West, the nobility's hunger for land at a time of insufficient crop,
population pressure in the West and an alternative to warfare at home were major
Equally, the Crusades were a result of economic circumstances. Many participants
were lured by the fabulous riches of the East; a campaign abroad appealed as
a means of escaping from the pressures of feudal society, in which the younger
sons in a family often lacked economic opportunities. On a larger scale, the
major European powers and the rising Italian cities (Genoa, Pisa and Venice)
saw the Crusades as a means of establishing and extending trade routes.
Out of all of the Crusades the first and the forth are the most important
from an Anatolian point of view. In general, the others were not as successful
as these two. Some of them came out to be the Children's Crusade (1212 AD),
in which thousands of children perished from hunger and disease or were sold
into slavery on their way to the Mediterranean.
The First Crusade
(1096-99 AD) The main army, mostly French and Norman knights assembled
at Constantinople and proceeded on a long, arduous march through Anatolia. They
captured Antioch (June 3, 1098) and finally Jerusalem (July 15, 1099) in savage
The Fourth Crusade
(1202-04 AD) The Crusaders first attacked the Christian city of Zara
in Dalmatia. Then, they sailed on to lay siege to Constantinople. The Byzantine
capital fell on April 13, 1204; it was looted, particularly for its treasures
and relics and made the residence of a Latin emperor, with Baldwin, Count of
Flanders, as the first incumbent. A Greek army, almost casually, recaptured
the city in 1261 AD.
The sacking of the wealthy city of Constantinople in three days by this fourth
crusade was so tragic that a Christian high official declared, "it would be
better to see the royal turban of the Turks in the midst of the city than the
The results of the Crusades are difficult to assess. In religious terms,
they hardened Moslem attitudes toward Christians. At the same time, doubts were
raised among Christians about God's will, the church's authority and the role
of the papacy. Religious fervor yielded to disinterest, skepticism and a growing
legalism although the Crusades did stimulate religious enthusiasm on a broad
scale. Knowledge, through contact with the Moslem world, replaced ignorance
about other cultures and religions, and earned them a certain respect. The idea
of religious conversion by force gave way to a new emphasis on apologetics and
mission. The Koran was translated into Latin in 1143 AD.
Politically, the Crusades did not effect much change. The Crusader states and
the Latin Empire of Constantinople were short-lived. The almost endless quarrels
among rival lords in the Levant exposed a fatal weakness of the West and strengthened
the Moslem conviction that the war could be carried farther west. In this sense,
the Crusades led directly to the Turkish wars of later centuries, in which the
Ottoman Empire expanded into the Balkans and threatened the very heart of Europe.
Today, only the ruins of Crusader castles remain as evidence of the knights'
presence in the East during which more than 100 castles and fortresses were
Through the Crusades, Islamic science, philosophy and medicine deeply influenced
intellectual life in the West.