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Seljuk Turks

One branch of the Turks, called the Seljukian, from their traditionary patriarch Seljuk Khan, acquired and consolidated a mighty empire more than two centuries before the name of the Othmans was heard. The Seljuk Turks were once masters of nearly all Asia Minor, of Syria, of Mesopotamia, Armenia, part of Persia, the Western Turkestan ; and their great sultans, Toghrul Reg, Alp Arselan, and Malik Shah, are among the most renowned conquerors that stand forth in oriental and in Ryzantine history.

The Turks living between the Oxus and the Jaxartes were converted to Mohammedanism in the year 710, the wonderful year of Saracen history. After the establishment of the caliphate at Bagdad the Turks appear under the caliphs as slaves, as subjects, as mercenaries, as practical masters, as avowed sovereigns, and lastly, in the case of the Ottomans, as themselves claiming the powers of the caliphate. The dominions of the caliphs gradually broke up into various states, which were ruled for the most part by Turkish princes who left a merely nominal superiority to the caliph.

The advent of the Seljukian Turks forms a notable epoch in Mohammadan history. At the time of their appearance the Empire of the Caliphate had vanished. What had once been a realm united under a sole Mohammadan ruler was now a collection of scattered dynasties, not one of which, save perhaps the Fatimids of Egypt (and they were schismatics) was capable of imperial sway. Spain and Africa, including the important province of Egypt, had long been lost to the Caliphs of Baghdad; northern Syria and Mesopotamia were in the hands of turbulent Arab chiefs, some of whom had founded dynasties; Persia was split up into the numerous governments of the Buwayhid princes (whose Shi'ite opinions left little respect for the puppet Caliphs of their time), or was held by sundry insignificant dynasts, each ready to attack the other and thus contribute to the general weakness. The prevalence of schism increased the disunion of the various provinces of the vanished Empire.

A drastic remedy was needed, and it was found in the invasion of the Turks. These rude nomads, unspoilt by town life and civilised indifference to religion, embraced Islam with all the fervour of their uncouth souls. They came to the rescue of a dying State, and revived it. They swarmed over Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Asia Minor, devastating the country, and exterminating every dynasty that existed there; and, as the result, they once more reunited Mohammadan Asia, from the western frontier of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, under one sovereign; they put a new life into the expiring zeal of the Muslims, drove back the re-encroaching Byzantines, and bred up a generation of fanatical Mohammadan warriors, to whom, more than to anything else, the Crusaders owed their repeated failure. It is this that gives the Seljuks so important a place in Mohammadan history.

The Seljuks, or Saljukids, were the descendants of Seljuk b. Yakak, a Turkoman chieftain in the service of one of the Khans of Turkistan. Seljuk, by one account, was the thirty-fourth in lineal descent from the great Afrasiab, Emperor of Turan. Uniting with this the Tartar history, the Seljukides descended from Mankavah, the virgin mother. For entering the harem of his prince, Seljuk was banished from East Turkestan. Seljuk migrated from the Kirghiz steppes with a numerous tribe of his friends and vassals he crossed the Jaxartes, encamped in the neighborhood of Samarkand, embraced the religion of Mohammed, and acquired a crown of martyrdom in a war against the infidels.

He and his sons and grandsons took part in the wars between the Samanids, the Ilak Khans, and Mahmud of Ghazna, and the brothers Tughril Beg and Chagar Beg eventually became strong enough to venture upon the invasion of Khurasan at the head of their wild Turkoman tribes, and after several victories over the Ghaznawid armies succeeded in taking the chief cities. His age (107 years) surpassed the life of his son Michael, whose two sons, Togrul and Jaafar, he adopted.

In 1037 the public prayer was said in the name of Chagar Beg Dawud, 'King of Kings,' in the mosques of Merv, while his brother Tughril Beg was similarly proclaimed in Nayshapur. Balkh, Jurjan, Tabaristan, and Khwarizm were speedily annexed; the Jibal, Hamadhan, Dlnawar, Hulwan, Rayy, and Ispahan followed (433-7), and in 1055 Tughril Beg entered Baghdad itself, and had his name proclaimed as Sultan in the city of the Caliph. Other Turkish tribes came to swell their armies, and the whole of western Asia, from the borders of Afghanistan to the frontier of the Greek Empire in Asia Minor and of the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt, became united under the rule of the Seljuks before 1077 (470).

Tughril Beg, Alp-Arslan, and Malik Shah held supreme sway over the whole of this vast Empire, but after the death of the last, civil war sprang up between the brothers Bargiyaruk and Mohammad, and separate branches of the Seljuk family attained virtual independence in different parts of the widely scattered dominions, although the main line still preserved a nominal suzerainty down to the death of Sinjar, the last ' Great Seljuk' (whose rule was almost confined to Khurasan) in 1157 (552). The Seljuks of Kirman, of -'Irak, of Syria, and of -Bum or Asia Minor, were the chief sub-divisions of the family, but individual members of it ruled in Adharbljan, Tukharistan, and other provinces. In the East, the Seljuk empire succumbed before the attack of- the Khwarizm Shah; in Adharbljan, Fars, Mesopotamia, and Diyar-Bakr it was supplanted by dynasties founded by Seljuk officers, or Atabegs, but in -Bum it survived until the beginning of the power of the 'Othmanli Turks in 1300.

Togrul, at the age of forty-five, succeeded his grandfather, Seljuk, as Sultan at Nishapur, the royal city. The Seljuk-Turks were an offshoot of the Hoei-Hu, a collection of Turkish tribes, who, being driven south-westward from the Chinese wall, had, in AD 744, overwhelmed that Turkish empire of Kipjhak (a territory extending north of the Caspian Sea, and stretching east and west from Turkestan to the Don). Seljuk was the chief of a small tribe which had gained possession of Bokhara and the surrounding country. His sons, attracted by the beauty and fertility of Khorassan, began, about AD 1027, to emigrate to that country, and, after some struggles with the Gaznevide Sultans, established themselves in northern Khorassan, with Togrul Beg, the eldest grandson of Seljuk, as their chief, and Nishapur as their Capital.

Nishapur began to assume major influence from the mid-ninth century AD, becoming in the tenth through twelfth centuries one of the great political, commercial, and cultural centers in medieval Iran and the Islamic world. The richest oasis and chief city of the eastern Iranian province of Khorasan, Nishapur was well situated along the Silk Road across which goods were exchanged between the Far and Near East.

Togrul Beg, the grandson of Seljuk, may be called the first Sultan of the second Turkish empire. The Persian sceptre soon passed over to the Turkish nation. The province of Aderbijan (Media) was conquered. Approaching the confines of the Greek empire, the eastern division of the Roman empire, Togrul sent a herald to demand the tribute and obedience of the Emperor of Constantinople. Togrul was the father of his people; and in Persia he put an end to anarchy, and became the guardian of peace and public justice. Under Togrul Beg the Turkmans were divided into two classes: those who continued to dwell in tents and were herdsmen and shepherds, like their ancestors, who, under their native princes, extended their military colonies from the Oxus to the Euphrates; and those who dwelt in villages, towns and cities, officers and members of court, and were intelligent, refined by business, and made effeminate by pleasure.

The higher and more refined class imitated the dress, language and manners of Persia; and the royal palaces of Nishapur and Rei displayed the order and magnificance of a powerful empire. The most worthy of the Arabians and Persians were made officers of state, and the whole body of the Turkish people embraced with zeal the religion of Mohammed. The triumph of the Koran was great among these northern Scythian Turks. The religion of Mohammed was deficient in Pagan show, but superior in the power of the sword. The Sultans of the Seljukian Turks were, at first, noted for their faith and zeal. Each day Togrul repeated the five prayers which are required of the true believers; of each week, the first two days were consecrated by an extraordinary fast; and in every city a mosque was completed before he presumed to lay the foundations of a palace.

Being a believer in the Koran, Togrul held the Caliph, his successor, in great reverence. He made two visits to Cayem the Caliph, residing at Bagdad. Togrul was declared to be the temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet. He was successively invested with seven robes of honor and presented with seven slaves, the natives of the seven climates of the Arabian empire. The Caliph took a Turkish virgin into his harem, but proudly refused his daughter, not allowing the blood of the Hashermites to mingle with the blood of a Scythian shepherd.



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