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1075-1299 - Rum Seljuk Empire

With Malek Shah expired the unity and grandeur of this second Turkish empire. Of the many independent sultanies that sprang out of its roots, four may be regarded the principal: (1) Persia, (2) Kerman, (3) Syria, (4) Roum ; some times called "New Rome." This last sultany continued for 224 years - from AD 1075 to 1299; and during that period it was engaged in numerous wars with the Byzantines, and with the crusaders, both of whom learned to dread its power. This was the great Seljukian empire of Asia Minor, and was founded by Soliman, a great-grandson of Seljuk.

In a general way, there were three leading branches of one family of the Seljuk name, whose original home was Turkestan, N. of Afghanistan. One, the Irak branch, in Mesopotamia and Syria; another, the Rum branch, in Asia Minor; and a third in Persia.

Suleiman (1071-84), founded the Seljuk branch of Rum Sultans in Asia Minor. Antioch was surrendered to him in 1084. For a time Nicaea (22) (the birth-place of the Nicene Creed) was their capital. This line lasted till about 1315 when, weakened by Mongol invasions, it yielded to the Ottoman Turks. Kilij Arslan I (d. 1107) made much trouble for the first Crusaders but suffered defeats from them at Nicaea (22) and Dorylreum (23). The year of his death he took Mosul and declared himself independent of the Irak Sultans. The Sultan Masud (d. 1155), who made Konia his capital, worked havoc with the forces of the Emperor Conrad III near Nicaea (22), and those of Louis VII, near Laodicea (13), on their way to the second Crusade. The great Emperor, Frederick I (Barbarossa), on his way to the third Crusade, besieged Kilij Arslan II (d. 1192) in Konia (p. 70), and brought^him to terms. This Kilij annexed large tracts of country E. of Kaisarieh. The ' atabeg,' Nur ed Din fought with Kilij and took from him Marash. The most famous Seljuk Sultan was Ala Kaikobad (d. 1234), who beautified Konia and other cities with " magnificent structures, which belong to the best specimens of Saracenic architecture " (Enc. Brit.), and waged successful wars far E. of Diarbekr.

The Seljuk Empire was organized according to a feudal system; local rulers accepted the often nominal suzerainty of the emperor (sultan). In 1092 a dynastic quarrel led to a split of the empire: Kilij Arslan, one of the pretenders proclaimed the independence of the Sultanate of Rum which included central and eastern Anatolia. It was called Rum (i.e. Rome) because its territory had been part of the Roman Empire; in Europe it was called Sultanate of Iconium, after the Latin name of Konya, its capital.

Anatolia (Asia Minor) was overrun and fully subjugated by Soliman, the valiant, and eldest son of Malek Shah. He accepted the royal standard, which gave him the free conquests and hereditary command of the provinces of the Boman empire, from Erzeroom to Constantinople, and the unknown regions of the West. Passing the Euphrates with his four brothers, he soon pitched the Turkish camp in Phrygia; and his fleet cavalry laid waste the country as far as the Hellespont and the Black Sea.

The empire founded by Suleyman is known as the Rum Seljuk Empire, to distinguish it from the Great Seljuk Empire. 'Rum' was the Turkish form of the name Rome, so the Rum Seljuks were the Seljuks who ruled what had been part of the Roman (i.e. the Byzantine) Empire. The Rum Seljuks made their capital first at Iznik, later at Konya in Central Anatolia. Contrary to what might be expected of conquerors from outside the Caliphal empire, the Seljuks seem to have been welcomed by the Islamic establishment of the Empire. They were seen as the best hope for a revival of the Caliphal Empire of old, a centralized orthodox Islamic empire, ruling from Baghdad. More importantly to the Islamic establishment, the Seljuks were champions of Sunni Islam against its enemies. The administrative and religious structures created by the Seljuks facilitated the integration of Turks into the Middle East.

The Rum Seljuk Empire is listed in the chronologies of Islamic kingdoms as have lasted for 230 years, from 1077 to perhaps 1307 or 1308. This is deceptive, because it gives the idea of a long-lasting centralized empire such as the Ottoman and Roman Empires. In fact, for much of its history, the Rum Seljuk Stare was an image of an empire, rather than a reality.

The Rum Seljuks never were able to create in Anatolia the type of centralized government expected from an empire. Part of the reason was the nature of the Turkish forces themselves, most often acting in small bands and tribes. They were the nomads who had come from the Great Seljuk Empire. When the Mongols began their conquests, more Turkish nomads went to Anatolia, rather than come under direct Mongol rule. Their motives were a combination of self-interest and religions. They were known as ghazis (fighters for Islam), fighting as their name suggests, to extend the power of their religion.

Anatolia (Asia Minor) was overrun and fully subjugated by Soliman, the valiant, and eldest son of Malek Shah. He accepted the royal standard, which gave him the free conquests and hereditary command of the provinces of the Boman empire, from Erzeroom to Constantinople, and the unknown regions of the West. Passing the Euphrates with his four brothers, he soon pitched the Turkish camp in Phrygia; and his fleet cavalry laid waste the country as far as the Hellespont and the Black Sea. At this time the Byzantine throne was in dispute between two rival claimants, Bryennius the European, and Botoniates the Asiatic candidates. Soliman espousing the cause of the Asiatic claimant, moved forward from Antioch to Nice, joining the banners of the Crescent and of the Cross.

After his ally Botoniates was seated upon the throne at Constantinople, Soliman was honrably entertained in the Grecian capital; and two thousand Turks were transported into Europe. The European capital was saved at the sacrifice of the Asiatic provinces. Thus the Turks gradually advanced ; and, by their numerous fortifications, gave satisfactory evidence that they intended to remain. River passes and mountains were secured, and Asia Minor had become the conquered and adopted land of Soliman, the Seljukian Sultan. Soliman was a devoted champion of the Moslem faith, and his empire spread over Anatolia, extending to a point within sixty miles of the Byzantine capital. The Christians were made tributary, paying for the privilege of worshiping God through His only begotten Son. Turkman camps were seen on the mountains, on the plains and in the valleys. Many thousand Christian children were circumcised, and thousands of beautiful females became inmates of Turkish harems. The cities of the seven churches of Asia fell under the dominion of the Turk.

One of the most interesting conquests of the Seljukian Turks was that of the holy city Jerusalem, which soon became (by the Crusades) the theatre of nations. With Omar the people had stipulated the assurance of their religion and property; but the articles were interpreted by a master against whom it was dangerous to dispute; and in the four hundred years of the reign of the caliphs, the political climate of Jerusalem was exposed to the vicissitudes of storm and sunshine. Three-fourths of the city the Mohammedans claimed for their population and proselytes. A peculiar district was set apart for the Greek patriarch and his clergy, with their congregations. Two pieces of gold were required as the price of the protection. The sepulchre of Christ, and the church of the Resurrection were left under the control of the Christian residents and pilgrims.

The occupancy of the city by the Mohammedan votaries, increased the number of Christian pilgrims. They poured into Jerusalem from all the various Christian countries, Greeks, Latins, Nestorians, Jacobites, the Copts and Abyssinians, Armenians and Georgians, had churches in Jerusalem; each sect maintaining its own poor, and its peculiar modes of worship. The Franks (French) held the first rank in numbers, and in the zeal of its worshipers. Charlemagne, and Harun Alrashid (Caliph), the greatest of the Abbassides, were on terms of intimacy, and presented the emperor with the keys of the holy sepulchre. After some years the Mohammedan unitarians were highly insulted at the worship which represents the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ as God. The Turkmans insulted the clergy, and dragged the patriarch by the hair along the pavement, and cast him into a dungeon, to extort a ransom from the sympathy of his flock. Indignities grew apace until, in the space of about 18 years, they culminated in the first crusade.

In 1258 the caliphate at Bagdad was extinguished. It had before its extinction become a mere shadow. The Seljuk Turks were now dominant in western Asia ; on the ruins of their dominion the Ottoman power grew up. In the second half of the thirteenth century the Seljuks of -Rum, or Hither Asia, became the vassals of the Mongols of Persia, who directed affairs in Anatolia through a governor. But the hold of the Mongols upon this distant province was slight and brief. The decayed Seljuks might submit, but the young dynasties which sprang up among their ruins paid little heed to the remote despots of Persia, who made few efforts to restrain them. Ten States soon divided the Seljuk kingdom of -Rum amongst themselves. The Karun dynasty occupied Mysia; the families of Saru Khun and Aydin, Lydia; the Mantasha princes, Caria; those of Takka, Lycia and Pamphylia; JTamid, Pisidia and Isauria; Karaman, Lycaonia; Karmiyan, Phrygia; Kisil-Ahmadll, Paphlagonia; whilst the house of ' Othman held Phrygia Epictetus. All these dynasties were gradually absorbed by the rising power of the 'Othmanlls.

Out of the ruins of this sultany sprang the Ottoman empire. The tale runs that in a battle between the Turks and the Moguls, the Turks, as the weaker side, were being worsted, when an unknown company of men came to their help. These proved to be a wandering band of Turks from the far East, who in the confusions of the times were seeking a settlement under their leader, Ertoghrul. The strangers were rewarded with a grant of lands, and those lands, step by step, grew into the Ottoman empire. Othman, the son of Ertoghrul, whose name gave the title Ottoman, or Osmanli, to his followers, fixed his capital at Brusa in 1326; allegiance to the Seljuk sultan was thrown off by his son. The Ottoman Turks obtained their first footing in Europe at Gallipolis in 1356, Hadrianople became their capital in 1361, and finally Constantinople was captured by them in 1458. In the following century the Ottoman sultan became caliph or pope during the reign of Selim the Inflexible (1512-1520).

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:06:51 ZULU