Face Music - History: Horsemen – Nomads
      • History of the Horsemen

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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 03-2016

  • Seljuq people
    - 8 th to 14 th century after Christ
- map sketch:
The Seljuqs were part of the Turk tribe of the Oghuz who had migrated to Transoxianian in the 8th century; they were nomads who still wandered the steppe areas, which are today Kazakhstan, as late as the 10th century. They were involved in conflicts between the Turkish Karakhanids (leaders of the Karluks) and the Persian Samanides. These established a Muslim dynasty with Iranian aristocracy ruling from 819 to 1005 AD in Transoxianian and Khorasan; its capital was Buchara. The leaders were called Emirs, but were, however, under control of the Abbaside Caliphate, the successors of the Umayyads, with their capital being Baghdad.

The Oghuz did play an important role which led to the development of political tensions among the tribes: The nomads under Seljuq and his warriors seceded from the tribal union of the Oghuz and moved on towards the west. The apical ancestor of the new dynasty was their chief Seljuq of the tribe of the Qynyk about 1000 AD. In 1034 AD they conquered Khorasan (comprising the Iran, Afghanistan, Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan), and in 1040 AD they expelled the Ghaznavids in the successful battle of Dananakan (a Muslim dynasty). In 1055 AD they conquered Baghdad under Tughril and put more than hundred years of Bujid leadership to an end. In this way, the Seljuqs themselves became the protective power of the Abbaside Caliphate. They suppressed huge parts of Persia and the Iraq. Tughril Beg was awarded the title of a sultan by the Caliph of Baghdad, and he transferred the capital to Ray near today’s Tehran. At the end of the 10th century, they converted to the Islam and succeeded, by means of their “fresh power”, in reconstructing the political unity of the Islamic world. They were Sunnite Muslims. The Seljuqs ruled from 1040 to 1194 AD; they were a Turk royal dynasty who founded the Great Seljuq Empire covering the areas of the Iran, Iraq, Syria and Anatolia and some parts of the Arab peninsula. Alp Arslan (1063-1072 AD) led the Great Seljuq Empire to the climax of its power, and in 1071 AD he defeated the Byzantine Empire in the battle of Manzikert, in this way making way to the Turkish conquest of Anatolia. When the Seljuq conquered Anatolia in the 11th century, this constituted the peak of the massive migrations of the Turk people taking place from the 8th century on. Anatolia, for the very first time, became “Turkey” in European chronicles. Under the leadership of Alp Arslan and his successor Malik Schah (1072–1092 AD) and the Persian vizier Nezam al-Molk, the sultanate reached its political and cultural heydays.

In the early times the Seljuqs cultivated their Turk traditions and the literary culture of their ancestors, the Oghuz; when they had converted to the Islam, however, they discontinued to cultivate these customs. The Arab language diminished in the Middle East, and the Persian language became the official language of the Seljuqs at court. They also adopted Persian culture (literature) and administration systems. Various pieces of art, such as for example the miniature paintings or ornaments dating back to the times of the Seljuqs, have survived and display the Islamic influenced Central-Asian art typical for that time. The Seljuqs were responsible for the export of Central-Asian clothes and music – artifacts of pre-Islam in Sogdiana and Transoxianian – to Anatolia and the Iran, where they have been influencing the cultures of these regions ever since.

The murder of vizier Nezam al-Molk by the Hashashin (a militant Ismailite sect of the Middle Ages in the Orient) and the death of Sultane Malik-Schah (1092 AD) broke the waves for fights for the throne. This led in 1118 AD to the country being divided into Khorasan/Transoxianian and the Iran being split into Iran/Iraq. In the 11th century, the Sultanate Rum of the Anatolian Seljuqs was being founded in Anatolia.

Under the Sultan Sanjar ruling in Khorasan (1118–1157 AD) and Malik-Schah’s II son the leadership of the Seljuqs came to a final bloom. They suffered, however, a defeat against the Khara Khitai in 1141 AD at Samarkand and, only little later, they were overthrown. Until his death, Malik-Schah II tried in vain to re-establish the Seljuq Empire. The Khoresm shahs assumed his heritage together with soldiers of the Kipchak people and the Oghuz, having conquered Central Asia and the Iran by the end of the 12th century. In 1194 AD they disposed of the last Seljuq leader of Ray. In Anatolia, the Rum Seljuqs were suppressed by the Ilkhans after 1243 AD; their Sultanate of Konya had disintegrated by 1307 AD. The striving Ottoman stepped up to the succession of the Seljuqs in Anataolia at the beginning of the 14th century.

Members of the Seljuq family dynasty ruled in regions like the Keman (until the end of the 12th century), Syria (until the beginning of the 12th century) and Anatolia (until the beginning of the 14th century as the Sultanate of Rum) as part of the Great Seljuq Empire.  

September 2010 – Albi – translated by Hermelinde Steiner - December 2010