The Seljuk Turks were the descendants of the Oguz (Uz ) Turks. They had to leave their ancestral lands in Central Asia between Ural and Altay Mountains due to the cyclical changes in climate and desertification of their arable lands. So they migrated to Anatolia and other western lands in the 11th century. When the Seljuks had become a military and political power, they conquered the lands of Turkistan, Harezm, Horasan, Afganistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Azerbaycan and Anatolia between 11th and 14the century.

seljuks1.jpg (10801 bytes)
Relief with Tree of Life, double headed eagle and pair of lions on the portal of the Yakutiye Medresseh

In 1071 after Alp Arslan overcame the Byzantines in Malazgirt, the doors were opened for the Seljuk Turks more than ever. Suleyman Sah, the founder, established the Anatolian Seljuk State and conquered Iznik which was to become the capital of the Anatolian Seljuk State and then Antioch. After Suleyman Sah’s death Kilic Arslan I took Izmir but as a result of the First Crusade, Eskisehir and Iznik was lost in 1097. In 1101 Kilic Arslan I succeeded to defeat the Christians.

seljuks13.jpg (6135 bytes)
Cizre Ulu Mosque-door knocker in the form of a dragon (Seljuk Mardin Museum)

In Anatolia there were always battles and conflicts between the Christians, Byzantines and Seljuk Turks after that time. In 1143 Mesud I regained Ankara, Cankiri and Elbistan and defeated the Second Crusade. Musul, Halep and Cilicia were taken under control, too. The Byzantines who were becoming uneasy about the expansionist policy of the Turks boosted their army with the Christians of the west and attacked Anatolia but Kilic Arslan II defeated them at Myrikephalon Battle in 1176.

seljuks6.jpg (6921 bytes)

Twin Minarets in Erzurum

Afterwards the Seljuk Turks continuously expanded their territories in Anatolia. The successor of Kilic Arslan II, his son Giyaseddin Keyhusrev I renewed the state administration and brought the order of central government (1192-1196). Under the reign of Alaeddin Keykubat I The Seljuk State became the holder of important sea ports in both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Northern Syria was conquered and the state reached its height by the establishment of new cities and markets, the opening of Anatolia for international trade and the patronage of scientists and philosophers. Islam also spread throughout Anatolia in this period (1220-1237). Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi also known as The Mevlana is one of the most important philosophers, he founded the Mevlevi Dervish Sect with grand humanistic ideas.

seljuks12.jpg (6469 bytes)
Head of a dragon on tiles in the Kubadabad Palace

In 1243 The Mongols attacked Anatolia and The Kosedag Battle resulted in the decline and division of the Seljuk State. In 1277 they were under the rule of the Ilhanli Band and in 1318 they entirely collapsed.

seljuks14.jpg (10498 bytes)
Figure of a dragon on a gravestone in the Ahlat Cemetary

Art in era of the Seljuk Turks:

The Seljuk Turk’s art was a combination of Arabian, Persian and central Asian tradition brought by the Seljuks in the course of the migration. The unique architectural works can be seen in caravanserais, medreses and turbes. Tile utilization, miniatures, wood and metal works in which the central Asian influence is clear deserve special attention. Konya, Kayseri, Sivas, Divrigi, Nigde, Amasya, Urfa and Malatya are veritable cornucopias of art inherited by the Seljuk Turks.

seljuks11.jpg (6604 bytes)
Dragom figures on tiles in the Kubadabad Palace

seljuks4.jpg (6338 bytes)

A view from the Silver Kumbet

Leave a Reply