WHEN the Abbasids wrested from the Umayyads in 750 the headship of the Muslim world, they entered into possession of an empire stretching from the Indus to the Atlantic and from the southern shore of the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean. It had absorbed the whole of the Persian Empire of the Sasanians, and the rich provinces of the Roman Empire on the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean; but though Constantinople itself had been threatened more than once, and raids into Asia Minor were so frequent as at certain periods to have become almost a yearly occurrence, the ranges of the Taurus and the Anti-Taurus still served as the eastern barrier of Byzantine territory against the spread of Arab domination. In Africa, however, all opposition to the westward progress of the Arab arms had been broken down, and the whole of the peninsula of Spain, with the exception of Asturia, had passed under Muslim rule. For ninety years Damascus had been the capital of the Arab Empire, and the mainstay of the Umayyad forces in the time of their greatest power had been the Arab tribes domiciled in Syria from the days when that province still formed part of the Roman Empire; but the Abbasids had come into power mainly through support from Persia, and their removal of the capital to Baghdad (founded by Mansur, the second Caliph of the new dynasty, in 762) on a site only thirty miles from Ctesiphon, the capital of the Sasanian Shahanshah, marks their recognition of the shifting of the center of power.

From this period Persian influence became predominant and the chief offices of state came to be held by men of Persian origin; the most noteworthy example is that of the family of the Barmecides (Barmakids), which for half a century exercised the predominant influence in the government until Haran destroyed them in 803. It was probably due to the influence of the old Persian ideal of kingship that under the Abbasids the person of the Caliph came to be surrounded with greater pomp and ceremony. The court of the Umayyads had retained something of the patriarchal simplicity of early Arab society, and they had been readily accessible to their subjects; but as the methods of government became more centralized and the court of the Caliph more splendid and awe-striking, the ruler himself tended to be more difficult of access, and the presence of the executioner by the side of the throne became under the Abbasids a terrible symbol of the autocratic character of their rule.

A further feature of the new dynasty was the emphasis it attached to the religious character of the dignity of the Caliph. In their revolt against the Umayyads, the Abbasids had come forward in defence of the purity of Islam as against those survivals of the old Arab heathenism which were so striking a feature of the Umayyad court. The converts and descendants of converts, whose support had been most effective in the destruction of the Umayyads, were animated with a more zealous religious spirit than had ever found expression among large sections of the Arabs, who, in consequence of the superficial character of their conversion to Islam, and their aristocratic pride and tribal exclusiveness, so contrary to the spirit of Islamic brotherhood, had been reluctant to accord to the converts from other races the privileges of the new faith. The Abbasids raised the standard of revolt in the name of the family of the Prophet, and by taking advantage of the widespread sympathy felt for the descendants of Ali, they obtained the support of the various Shi'ah factions. Though they took all the fruits of victory for themselves, they continued to lay emphasis on the religious character of their rule, and theologians and men of learning received a welcome at their court such as they had never enjoyed under the Umayyads. On ceremonial occasions the Abbasid Caliph appeared clad in the sacred mantle of the Prophet, and titles such as that of Khalifah of Allah (vicegerent of God) and shadow of God upon earth came to be frequently applied to him. As the power of the central authority grew weaker, so the etiquette of the court tended to become more elaborate and servile, and the Caliph made his subjects kiss the ground before him or would allow the higher officials either to kiss his hand or foot or the edge of his robe.

The vast empire into the possession of which they had entered was too enormous and made up of elements too heterogeneous to be long held together under a system, the sole unifying principle of which was payment of tribute to the Caliph. A prince of the Umayyad family, Abd-ar­Rahman, who had succeeded in escaping to Spain when practically all his relatives had been massacred, took advantage of tribal jealousies among the Arab chiefs in Spain to seize this country for himself, and to detach it from the empire, in 756. North Africa, which had been placed by Haran under the government of Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab, became practically independent under this energetic governor, who established a dynasty that lasted for more than a century (800-909); though his successors contented themselves with the title of emir, the Caliph in Baghdad appears to have been powerless to interfere with their administration. Harlan himself seems to have realized that the break-up of the Arab empire was inevitable, since in 802 he made arrangements for dividing the administration of it between his sons Amin and Mamun. But on the death of their father in 809 civil war broke out between the two brothers.

The Arabs lent their support to Amin, and under his leadership made a last effort to regain for themselves the control of the Caliphate; but in 813 Tahir, Mamun’s brilliant Persian general; defeated him, and as a reward for his successful siege of Baghdad was appointed by Mamun to the government of Khurasan, where he and his descendants for half a century were practically independent. Egypt broke away from the empire when a son of one of Mamun’s Turkish slaves, Ahmad ibn having been appointed deputy-governor of Egypt in 868, succeeded in making himself independent not only in Egypt but also in Syria, which he added to his dominions, and ceased sending money contributions to Baghdad. This breaking away of the outlying provinces of the empire was rendered the more possible by the weakness of the central government. Mamun’s brother and successor, Mutasim (833-842), made the fatal mistake of creating an army composed almost entirely of Turkish mercenaries. Their excesses made life in Baghdad so intolerable that the Caliph, in order to be safe from the vengeance of the inhabitants of his own capital, moved to a site three days’ journey up the Tigris to the north of Baghdad, and from 836 to 892 Samarra was the Abbasid capital where nine successive Caliphs lived, practically as prisoners of their own Turkish bodyguard. While the Turkish officers made and unmade Caliphs as they pleased, the country was ruined by constantly recurring disorders and insurrection. In 865, while rival claimants were fighting for the crown, Baghdad was besieged for nearly a year, and the slave revolt for fourteen years (869-883) left the delta of the Euphrates at the mercy of undisciplined bands of marauders who terrorized the inhabitants and even sacked great cities, such as Basrah, Ahwaz, and Wasit, showing the weakness of the central power even in territories so close to the capital. A further disaster was soon to follow in the great Carmathian revolt, which takes its name from one of the propagandists of the Ismaili Shi'ah doctrine in Iraq during the latter part of the ninth century. His followers for nearly a century (890-990) spread terror throughout Mesopotamia, and even threatened Baghdad. They extended their ravages as far as Syria, murdering and pillaging wherever they went. In 930 they plundered the city of Mecca, put to death 30,000 Muslims there, and carried off the Black Stone together with immense booty.

These movements represent only a part of the risings and revolts that brought anarchy into the Caliph's dominions and cut off the sources of his revenue. In the midst of this period of disorder the Caliph Mutamid, shortly before his death in 892, transferred the capital once more to Baghdad, but the change did not bring the Caliphs deliverance from the tutelage of their Turkish troops, and they were as much at their mercy as before.

Ascendancy of the Buwaihids

Deliverance came from Persia where the Buwaihids, who claimed descent from one of the Sassanian kings, had been extending their power from the Caspian Sea southward through Persia, until in 945 they entered Baghdad, nominally as deliverers of the Caliph from his rebellious Turkish troops. For nearly a century from this date the Caliphs were mere puppets in the hands of successive Buwaihid emirs, who set them upon the throne and deposed them as they pleased. The Caliph Mustakfi, whose deliverance from his mutinous Turkish soldiery had been the pretext for the Buwaihid occupation of Baghdad, was in the same year dragged from his throne and cruelly blinded. So low had the office of Caliph sunk by this period that there were still living two other Abbasid princes who like Mustakfi had sat upon the Abbasid throne, but blinded and robbed of all their wealth were now dependent upon charity or such meager allowance as the new rulers cared to dole out to them. His cousin Muti was set up to succeed him, but though he held the office of Caliph for twenty-eight years (946-974) he had no voice in the administration, and could not even nominate any of the ministers who carried on the business of the state in his name; helpless in the hands of his Buwaihid master, he lived upon a scanty allowance. He was compelled to abdicate in favor of his son Tai, after a riotous outburst of religious intolerance in Baghdad, and Tai for seventeen years (974-991) suffered similar humiliations. He was deposed at last in favor of his cousin Qadir (991-1031), of whose reign of forty years hardly any incident is recorded, because political events pursued their course without any regard to him.

Meanwhile in Upper Mesopotamia an Arab family, the Hamdanids, at first governors of Mosul, extended their authority over the surrounding country, and one member of the family, Saif-ad-Daulah, made himself master of Aleppo and brought the whole of Northern Syria under his rule in 944. In North Africa a rival Caliphate had arisen under the Shi‘ah Fatimids, who annexed Egypt in 969, and after more than one attempt occupied Syria in 988. By the beginning of the eleventh century the power of the Buwaihids was on the decline and they had to give way before the Ghaznavids and the Seljuqs, the latter a Turkish tribe which made its first appearance in history about the middle of the tenth century. In 1055 the Seljuq chief, Tughril Beg, after having conquered the greater part of Persia, entered Baghdad and delivered the Caliph from subservience to the Buwaihids. From Baghdad Tughril Beg marched to the conquest of Mosul and Upper Mesopotamia, and when he died in 1063 he left to his successor, Alp Arslan, an empire which eight years later stretched from the Hindu Kush to the shores of the Mediterranean.

Alp Arslan died in 1072 and his son, Malik Shah, still further extended the empire by the conquest of Transoxiana. One of the Seljuq generals, Atsiz, drove the Fatimids out of Syria and Palestine, and occupied Jerusalem in 1071 and Damascus in 1075. Under the protection of the Seljuqs, the Caliph in Baghdad enjoyed at the hand of these orthodox Sunnis a certain amount of respect such as he had failed to receive at the hand of the Shi'ah Buwaihids, but his political authority hardly extended beyond the walls of the city.

The Seljuq empire

The death of Malik Shah in 1092 was followed by a period of confusion, during which his four sons fought one another for the succession, but in 1117 the supreme authority passed to his third son, Sanjar, the last of the Great Seljuqs to exercise a nominal sovereignty over the whole empire; before his death in 1155 it had split up into a number of separate principalities, some of them ruled over by Seljuq princes, others by officers who, acting first as guardians (or Atabegs) to minors, later assumed the reins of power and founded dynasties of their own.

One permanent result of the rise of the Seljuq empire was that the way had been opened for Muslim domination in Asia Minor. During the whole of the Abbasid period the ranges of the Taurus and Anti-Taurus had formed the frontier line between the Roman and the Arab Empires, and though incursions had frequently, and during certain periods annually, been made by the Muslim troops into Anatolia, no permanent result of these military expeditions into the great plateau of Asia Minor had been achieved beyond the temporary occupation of some fortresses. But the Seljuqs made their way into Asia Minor from Northern Persia through Armenia, and before the end of the eleventh century had occupied all the centre of Asia Minor, leaving only the kingdom of Lesser Armenia and the coast-line which was held by Byzantine troops. This western movement of the Seljuqs and the consequent alarm of the Emperor of Constantinople who appealed for help to the Christian powers of Europe, were among the causes of the Crusades.

When the crusaders entered Syria in 1098, the Seljuq empire had already begun to break up; the greater part of Mesopotamia and Syria had been parcelled out into military fiefs in which the military officers of the Seljuqs had made themselves independent. The political situation of the Muslim world was but little affected by the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, and the most important effect of the Crusades upon Muslim history was the rise of the Ayyubid dynasty, established by Saladin in his long conflict with the crusaders culminating in the battle of Hittin and the conquest of Jerusalem in 1187.

The Mongol conquests

Farther east, the fratricidal struggle still went on between rival Muslim houses fighting one another for the possession of the fragments of the Seljuq empire. For a brief period the Caliph in Baghdad succeeded in exerting some authority in the neighbourhood of his capital, and Nasir (1180-1225), freed from the tutelage of the Seljuqs, restored to the Caliphate some of its old independence, though the narrow territory over which he ruled extended only from Takrit to the head of the Persian Gulf. His most formidable rival was the Khwarazm Shah, whose kingdom, founded by a descendant of one of the Turkish slaves of the Seljuq Sultan Malik Shah, had been gradually extended until it included the greater part of Persia. Under Ala-ud-Din (1199—1220) the kingdom of Khwarazm embraced also Bukhara and Samarqand, and in 1214 Afghanistan; but his career of conquest was short-lived, for on his eastern border appeared the Mongol army of Jenghiz Khan which soon involved in a common devastation and ruin the greater part of the various Muslim kingdoms of the East. Muslim civilization has never recovered from the destruction which the Mongols inflicted upon it. Great centers of culture, such as Herat and Bukhara, were reduced to ashes and the Muslim population was ruthlessly massacred. With the Mongol conquest of southern Russia and of China we are not concerned here, but their armies after sweeping across Persia appeared in 1256 under the command of Hulagu before the walls of Baghdad, and after a brief siege of one month the last Caliph of the Abbasid House, Mustasim, had to surrender, and was put to death together with most of the members of his family; 800,000 of the inhabitants were brought out in batches from the city to be massacred, and the greater part of the city itself was destroyed by fire. The Mongol armies then moved on into Syria, where first Aleppo and then Damascus fell into their hands, but when they advanced to the conquest of Egypt they met with the first check in their westward movement. Egypt since 1254 had been under the rule of the Mamluk sultans, and the Egyptian army in 1260 defeated the Mongols at Ain Jalut in Palestine, and following up this victory drove them out of Syria altogether. After the death of Jenghiz Khan in 1227, the vast Mongol empire had been divided among his four sons; of Muslim territories, Transoxiana fell to the lot of his second son Jagatai; one of his grandsons, the conqueror of Baghdad, founded the Il-khan dynasty of Persia and included in his kingdom the whole of Persia, Mesopotamia, and part of Asia Minor. The Seljuqs of Asia Minor had managed to maintain a precarious existence as vassals of the Mongols by making a timely submission; and, under the rule of the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt, Syria kept the Mongols out. Such remained the general condition of the eastern provinces of what had once been the empire of the Abbasid Caliphs, during the remainder of the thirteenth century.





By Herbert M.J. Loewe.



THE rise of the Seljuq power and the history of the various dynasties which were established by princes of that family deserve attention for more than one reason. Not only were the Seljuqs largely responsible for the consolidation of Islam during the later days of the Abbasid Caliphate, but it is from this revival of power, which was, in no small degree, due to their efforts, that the failure of the Crusaders to make any lasting impression on the East may be traced. Further, it is not alone in politics and warfare that the Seljuqs achieved success: they have laid mankind under a debt in other spheres. Their influence may be observed in religion, art, and learning. Their love of culture was shown by the universities which sprang up in their cities and in the crowds of learned men fostered at their courts. Under them appeared some of the shining lights of Islam. The philosopher and statesman Nizam-al-Mulk, the mathematician-poet Omar Khayyam, warriors like Zangi, sultans like Malik Shah, Nur-ad-Din, and it is right to include Saladin himself, were the product of the Seljuq renaissance. To the Seljuq princes there can be ascribed, to a great extent, not only the comparative failure of the Crusades, but an unconscious influence of East upon West, springing from the intercourse between Frank and Saracen in the holy wars. The rise of the Seljuq power imparted fresh life to the Orthodox Caliphate, with which these princes were in communion, ultimately reunited the scattered states of Islam, and laid the foundations of the Ottoman Turkish Empire at Constantinople. It is impossible to give more than an outline of the important events and characters. The object of the present pages is merely to sketch the rise of the Seljuq power and to mention the states and dynasties by which the territories under Seljuq sway were ultimately absorbed. So numerous were the various Atabegs who supplanted them that sufficient space could not be allotted to their enumeration, which would in most cases prove both wearisome and superfluous.

The period covered by these dynasties lies between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries; the territory in which their rule was exercised extends over large districts of Asia, chiefly Syria, Persia, and Transoxiana. The name by which they are known is that of their first leader, from whose sons the different rulers were descended. This leader, Seljuq ibn Yakak, is said to have sprung in direct line from Afrasiyab, King of Turkestan, the legendary foe of the first Persian dynasty, but this descent is not historical. Seljuq was one of the chiefs under the Khan of Turkestan, and with his emigration from Turkestan to Transoxiana and the subsequent adoption of Islam by himself and his tribe, his importance in history may be said to begin.

At the time of the appearance of the Seljuqs, Islam had completely lost its earlier homogeneity. The Umayyad Caliphate had been succeeded in 750 by the Abbasid, a change of power marked by the transference of the capital from Damascus to Baghdad. The latter Caliphate actually survived until the Mongol invasion under Hulagu in 1258, but at a very early period schism and decay had set in. Already in 750, when the Abbasids ousted the Umayyads, Spain became lost to the Caliphate, for Abd-ar-Rahman, escaping thither from the general slaughter of his kins­folk in Syria, made himself independent, and his successors never acknowledged the Abbasid rule. The establishment of the Idrisid dynasty in Morocco (788) by Idris ibn Abdallah, of the Aghlabids in Tunis (800) by Ibrahim ibn Aghlab at Qairawan, the supremacy of the Tulunids (868-905) and Ikhshidids (935-969) in Egypt, were severe losses to the Caliphate in its Western dominions. Nor was the East more stable. In Persia and Transoxiana, as a consequence of the policy pursued by the Caliph Mamun (813-833), there arose a great national revival, resulting in the formation of several quasi-vassal dynasties, such as the Saffarid (867-903) and the Samanid (874-999); from the latter the Ghaznawids developed, for Alptigin, who founded the last-named line, was a Turkish slave at the Samanid court. Many of these dynasties became extremely powerful, and the ascendancy of the heterodox Buwaihids cramped and fettered the Caliphs in their own palaces. All these kingdoms nominally acknowledged the spiritual sovereignty of the Caliph, but in temporal matters they were their own masters. The chief visible token of the Caliph was the retention of his name in the Khutbah, a “bidding praye” recited on Fridays in the mosques throughout Islam, and on the coins. It is extremely probable that even this fragment of authority was only allowed to survive for reasons of state, principally to invest with a show of legitimacy the claims of the various rulers who were, theoretically at least, vassals of God's vicegerent on earth, the Caliph at Baghdad.

The Shiites

It was not alone in politics that the decay of the Caliphate was manifest; in religion also its supremacy was assailed. The unity of Islam had been rent by the schism of “Sunnah” (“Way” or “Law”) and “Shi’ah” (“Sect”). The former was the name adopted by the orthodox party, the latter the title which they applied to their opponents. The Shiites believed in the divine Imamship of Ali, the son-in-law of Mahomet and the fourth Caliph after him. In consequence they rejected all the other Caliphs and declared their succession illegitimate. But they did not, on this account, support the Abbasids, although at first they sided with them. The Abbasids made skillful use of the Shiite Alids in undermining the Umayyad throne; indeed, by themselves the Abbasids could scarcely have hoped to succeed. Once in power, the allies fell apart. The Shiite doctrine contained numerous elements repugnant to a Sunni, elements which may be regarded as gnostic survivals perhaps, but certainly borrowed from non-Semitic sources. Many held the Mutazilite opinion, which denied the fundamental proposition that the Koran is eternal and untreated. They were noted for the number of their feasts and pilgrimages and for the veneration with which they practically worshipped Ali, since they added to the profession of Faith “There is no God but God and Mahomet is his apostle” the words” and Ali is his vicegerent (wali)”. In course of time numerous sects grew out of the Shi’ah, perhaps the most famous being the Ismailiyah, the Fatimids, the Druses of the Lebanon, and, in modern times, the Babi sect in Persia. The kingdom of the Safavids (1502-1736), known to English literature as “the Sophy”, was Shiite in faith, and Shiite doctrines found a fertile soil in India and the more eastern provinces of Islam. On the whole it may be said roughly that the Turks were Sunnis and the Persians Shiites.

At the time of the Seljuqs,when the political authority of the Caliphate was so much impaired, two of the most important Muslim kingdoms subscribed to the Shiite tenets. Of these kingdoms, one was that of the Buwaihids, who ruled in Southern Persia and Iraq. The dynasty had been founded in 932 by Buwaih, the head of a tribe of mountaineers in Dailam. The Buwaihids rose in power until the Caliphate was obliged to recognize them. In 945 the sons of Buwaih entered Baghdad and extracted many concessions from the Caliph Mustakfi. In spite of their heterodoxy they soon gained control over the Caliph, who became absolutely subject to their authority.

The other Shiite kingdom, to which reference has been made, was that of the Fatimids in Egypt (909-1171). As their name implies, these rulers claimed descent from Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet, who married Ali. It is therefore easy to understand their leanings towards the Shi’ah. The dynasty arose in North Africa where Ubaid-Allah, who claimed to be the Mahdi, conquered the Aghlabid rulers and gradually made himself supreme along the coast as far as Morocco. Finally, in 969 the Fatimids wrested Egypt from the Ikhshidids and founded Cairo. By 991 they had occupied Syria as far as and including Aleppo. Their predominance in politics and commerce continued to extend, but it is unnecessary to trace their development at present. It is sufficient to recall their Shiite tendencies and to appreciate the extent to which the Caliphate suffered in consequence of their prosperity.

It will thus be seen that at the end of the tenth century the position of the Caliphate was apparently hopeless. The unity of Islam both in politics and in religion was broken; the Caliph was a puppet at the mercy of the Buwaihids and Fatimids. The various Muslim states, it is true, acknowledged his sway, but the acknowledgment was formal and unreal. It seemed as though the mighty religion framed by the Prophet would be disintegrated by sectarianism, as though the brotherhood of Islam were a shattered ideal, and the great conquests of Khalid and Omar were destined to slip away from the weakening grasp of the helpless ruler at Baghdad.

In such a crisis it would seem that Islam was doomed. It is useful also to recollect that within a very few years the Muslim world was to encounter the might of Europe; the pomp and chivalry of Christendom were to be hurled against the Crescent with, one would imagine, every prospect of success. At this juncture Islam was re-animated by one of those periodical revivals that fill the historian with amazement. The Semitic races have proved to be endowed with extraordinary vitality. Frequently, when subdued, they have imposed their religion and civilization on their conquerors, imbued them with fanaticism, and converted them into keen propagators of the faith.

Islam was saved from destruction at the hands of the Crusaders by one of these timely ebullitions. The approach of the Seljuqs towards the West produced a new element in Islam which enabled the Muslims successfully to withstand the European invaders; their intervention changed the subsequent history of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. The Seljuqs crushed every dynasty in Persia, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and Syria, and united, for certain periods, under one head the vast territory reaching from the Mediterranean littoral almost to the borders of India. They beat back successfully both Crusader and Byzantine, gave a new lease of life to the Abbasid Caliphate which endured till its extinction by the Mongols in 1258, and to their influence the establishment of the Ayytabid dynasty in Egypt by Saladin may be directly traced.

The dynasty of Seljuq 

It has already been stated that the Seljuqs derived their name from a chieftain of that name, who came from Turkestan. They were Turkish in origin, being a branch of the Ghuzz Turks, whom the Byzantine writers style Uzes. An interesting reference is made to the Ghuzz in the famous itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, whose extensive travels in the Orient took place about 1165. Benjamin speaks of the “Ghuz, the Sons of the Kofar-al-Turak”, by which description he means the Mongolian or infidel Turks, as the title Kuffar (plural of Kafir, heretic), implies. He says: “They worship the wind and live in the Wilderness. They do not eat bread nor drink wine but live on uncooked meat. They have no noses. And in lieu thereof they have two small holes, through which they breathe. They eat animals both clean and unclean and are very friendly towards the Israelites. Fifteen years ago they overran the country of Persia with a large army and took the city of Rayy [Rai]: they smote it with the edge of the sword, took all the spoil thereof and returned by way of the Wilderness”. Benjamin goes on to describe the campaign of Sanjar ibn Malik Shah against the Ghuzz in 1153, and his defeat.

Seljuq had four sons, Mikall, Musa (Moses), and Yanus; the names are recorded with certain variants by different writers. They came from the Kirghiz Steppes of Turkestan to Transoxiana, and made their winter quarters near Bukhara and their summer quarters near Sughd and Samarqand. They thus came under the suzerainty of Mabmad of Ghaznah (998-1030), and they embraced Islam with great fervor. The Ghaznavid dynasty was then at the zenith of its power, chiefly through the genius and success of the great Mahmud. He was the son of Sabak­tagin, who ruled under the sovereignty of the Samanid dynasty. Mahmud asserted his independence and established himself in undisputed supremacy over Khuräsan and Ghaznah, being recognized by the Caliph. A zealous follower of Islam, he made twelve campaigns into India and gained the title of the “breaker of idols”. But it is as a patron of learning that he is best known. He established a university at Ghaznah and fostered literature and the arts with a liberal hand. Under him Ghaznah became a center to which the learned flocked; the poet Firdausi wrote his Shahnama under the auspices of Mahmud.

The migration of the Seljuqs took place at a somewhat earlier period. It is clear that they were already employed in military service by Sabak­tagin (976-997), the father of Mahmud, and before the accession of the latter (about 998) they had begun to play an important part in the political life of the neighboring Muslim states. Finally, they entered into negotiations with Mahmud in order to receive his permission to settle near the frontier of his kingdom, on the eastern bank of the Oxus. According to Rawandi, Mahmud unwisely gave the required permission and allowed the Seljuqs to increase their power within his dominions. The emigrants were then under the leadership of the sons of Seljuq. Ultimately Mahmud became alarmed at their growing strength, and seizing Israil the son of Seljuq, caused him to be imprisoned in the castle of Kalanjar in India, where he died in captivity. Qutalmish, the son of Israil, escaped to Bukhara, and instigated his relatives to avenge his father's death. Accordingly they demanded leave from Mahmud to cross the Oxus and settle in Khurasan. Against the advice of the governor of Tus this was accorded, and during the lifetime of Mahmud there was peace with the Seljuqs. Before the death of the Sultan, Chaghri Beg and Tughril Beg were born to Mikail, the brother of Israil. Mahmud was succeeded by his son Masud, who was very different from his father in character. The conduct of the Seljuqs caused him serious alarm. Presuming on their strength they made but slight pretence to acknowledge his sovereignty, their independence was thinly veiled, and many complaints against them poured in on the Sultan from his subjects and neighbors.

Tughril Beg

They defeated the governor of Nishapar and forced the Sultan, then engaged in an expedition to India, to accept their terms. Afterwards Masud decreed the expulsion of the tribe, and the governor of Khurasan was instructed to enforce the command. He set out with a large force but met with a crushing defeat, and the victorious Seljuqs, entering Nishapar in June 1038, established themselves in complete independence and proclaimed Tughril Beg their king. In the previous year, the name of his brother Chaghri Beg had been inserted in the Khutbah or bidding prayer, with the title of “King of Kings”. From this time forward the tide of Seljuq conquests spread westward. The Ghaznavids expanded eastward in proportion as their western dominions were lost. The Seljuq brothers conquered Balkh, Jurjan, Tabaristan, and Khwarazm, and gained possession of many cities, including Rai, Hamadan, and Ispahan. Finally in 1055 Tughril Beg entered Baghdad and was proclaimed Sultan by the Caliph.

Shortly after the defeat of Masud near Mery (1040), dissension broke out among the Seljuq princes. While Tughril Beg and Chaghri Beg remained in the East, Ibrahim ibn Inal (or Niyal) went to Hamadan and Iraq Ajami. Ibrahim became too powerful for Tughril Beg’s liking, and his relations with the Caliph and with the Fatimids in Egypt boded no good to Tughril Beg. Tughril Beg overcame Ibrahim, but the latter was incapable of living at peace with his kinsmen. The affairs of the Caliphate were controlled by the Isfahsalar Basasiri, who was appointed by the Buwaihid ruler Khusrau Firaz ar-Rahim. The Caliph Qa’im was forced to countenance the unorthodox Shiah, and when Tughril Beg came to Baghdad in 1055 his arrival was doubly welcome to the Caliph. Before the approach of Tughril Beg, Basasiri fled. He managed to prevail on Ibrahim ibn Inal to rebel, and receiving support from the Fatimids marched to Baghdad, which he reoccupied in 1058. Tughril Beg overcame his foes and freed the Caliphate; Ibrahim was strangled and Basasiri beheaded. The grateful Caliph showered rewards on Tughril Beg and finally gave him his daughter in marriage; but before the nuptials could take place Tughril Beg died (1063). He had received from the Caliph, besides substantial gifts, the privilege of having his name inserted in the Khutbah, the title Yaminu Amiril-Muminin (Right hand of the Commander of the Faithful), which was used by Mahmud of Ghaznah himself, and finally the titles Rukn-ad-Daulah and Rukn-ad-Din. These decorations from the Caliph were of the greatest value. They added legitimacy to his claim and stability to his throne. From being the chief of a tribe Tughril Beg became the founder of a dynasty.

Alp Arslan. The Vizier Nizam-al-Mulk

Tughril Beg, having left no children, was succeeded by Alp Arslan, the son of his brother Chaghri Beg. For nearly two years before the death of Tughril, Alp Arslan had held important posts, almost tantamount to co-regency. He was born in 1029, and died at the early age of forty-three in the height of his power. The greatness that he achieved, though in some degree due to his personal qualities and the persistent good fortune that attended him in his career, was in the main to be ascribed to his famous Vizier Nizam-al-Mulk. As soon as he was seated on the throne, Alp Arslan dismissed the Vizier of Tughril Beg, Abu-Nasr al-Kunduri, the Amid-al-Mull, who was accused of peculation and other malpractices. The Amid had exercised great influence in the previous reign; both the Sultan and the Caliph held him in high esteem. He was extremely capable, and the sudden change in his fortunes is difficult to explain. Alp Arslan was not given to caprice or cruelty, at all events in the beginning of his reign, and whatever may be urged against the Sultan there is little likelihood that Nizam-al-Mulk would have acquiesced without reasonable grounds. According to Rawandi, Nizam-al-Mulk was the real author of the overthrow of the Amid, having instigated Alp Arslan. He states that Alp Arslan carried the Amid about with him from place to place, and finally had him executed. Before his death he sent defiant messages to the Sultan and to his successor in the Vizierate, Nizam-al-Mulk.

Nizam-al-Mulk was one of a triad of famous contemporaries who were pupils of the great Imam Muwaffaq of Nishapur. His companions were Omar Khayyam, the poet and astronomer, and Hasan ibn Sabbah, the founder of the sect of the Assassins, one of whom ultimately slew Nizam­al-Mulk. The Vizier was noted for his learning and his statesmanship. A work on geomancy and science has been attributed to him, but his most famous literary achievement was his Treatise on Politics in which he embodied his wisdom in the form of counsels to princes. Nizam-al­Mulk gathered round him a large number of savants and distinguished men. Under his influence literature was fostered and the sciences and arts encouraged. In 1066 he founded the well-known Nizamiyah University at Baghdad. To this foundation students came from all parts, and many great names of Islam are associated with this college as students or teachers. Ibn al-Habbariyah the satirist (ob. 1110), whose biting sarcasm neither decency could restrain nor gratitude overcome, was tolerated here on account of his wit and genius by Nizam-al-Mulk, who even overlooked most generously a satire directed against himself. Among the students were: the famous philosopher Ghazal (1049-1111) and his brother Abal-Futuh (ob. 1126) the mystic and ascetic, author of several important works; the great poet Sa‘di, author of the Gulistan and of the Bustan (1184-1291); the two biographers of Saladin, Imad­ad-Din (1125-1201), in whose honor a special chair was created, and Baha-ad-Din (1145-1234), who also held a professorial post at his old university; the Spaniard Abdallah ibn Tamart (1092-1130), who proclaimed himself Mahdi and was responsible for the foundation of the Almohad dynasty. Mention must also be made of Abu-Ishaq ash Shirazi (1003-1083), author of a treatise on Shafiite law called Muhadhdhab, of a Kitab at-Tanbih, and of other works. He was the first principal of the Nizamiyah, an office which he at first refused to accept. Another noted lecturer was Yahya ibn Ali at-Tabrizi (1030-1109).


Such are a few of the names that rendered illustrious not only the Nizamiyah University at Baghdad but its founder also. At Nishapur Nizam-al-Mulk instituted another foundation similar to that at Baghdad, and also called Nizamiyah, after the Vizier. It will be easily under­stood that, with such a minister, the empire of the Seljuqs was well governed. Not only in the conduct of foreign affairs and military expeditions but in internal administration was his guiding hand manifest.

Alp Arslan, on embracing Islam, adopted the name of Muhammad, instead of Israil by which he had formerly been known. Alp Arslan signifies in Turkish “courageous lion”; the title Izz-ad-Din was conferred on him by the Caliph Qaim. Alp Arslan ruled over vast territory. His dominions stretched from the Oxus to the Tigris. Not content to rule over the lands acquired by his predecessors, he added to his empire many conquests, the fruits of his military prowess and good fortune. As overlord his commands were accepted without hesitation, for he united under his sway all the possessions of the Seljuq princes and exacted strict obedience from every vassal. The first of his military exploits was the campaign in Persia. In 1064 he subdued an incipient but formidable rebellion in Khwarazm, and left his son Malik Shah to rule over the province. Shortly after, he summoned all his provincial governors to a general assembly, at which he caused his son Malik Shah to be adopted as his successor and to receive an oath of allegiance from all present.

The next exploit of the Sultan was his victory over the Emperor Romanus Diogenes (1071). The Byzantines had gradually been encroaching on the Muslim frontiers. Alp Arslan marched westwards to meet the enemy and fought with Romanus, who had a great numerical preponderance, at Manzikert. The Byzantines sustained a crushing defeat and the Emperor was taken captive. Alp Arslan treated his royal prisoner with kindness, though at first he ordered rings to be placed in his ears as a token of servitude. After a short period Romanus was released on promising to pay tribute and to give his daughter in marriage to the Sultan. To this victory is due the establishment of the Seljuq dynasty of Rum; while, in the loss of provinces which provided the best recruits for its armies, the Byzantine Empire experienced a calamity from which it never recovered.

Finally, in 1072 Alp Arslan undertook a campaign against the Turkomans in Turkestan, the ancient seat of the Seljuqs, in order to establish his rule there. It was in this campaign that he met his end. An angry dispute took place between the Sultan and Yasuf Barzami, the chieftain of a fortress captured by the Seljuqs. Stung by the taunts of the Sultan, Yusuf threw himself forward and slew him in the presence of all the guards and bystanders, whose intervention came too late to save Alp Arslan.

Malik Shah 

Malik Shah succeeded his murdered father. He was known by the titles Jalal-ad-Din and Muizz-ad-Dunya-wa’d-Din. He ascended the throne, which he occupied for twenty years, when he was eighteen, being born in 1053 and dying in 1091. The great Vizier Nizam-al-Mulk remained in power and for long maintained his influence. As soon as Alp Arslan died Malik Shah was recognized by the Caliph as his successor, and invested with the title of Amir-al-Muminin (Commander of the Faithful), hitherto jealously preserved by the Caliphs for themselves.

Malik Shah had left Khurasan on his way to Iraq when he was met by the tidings that his uncle Qawurd had raised a revolt against him and was on his way from Kirman. Malik Shah promptly set out to meet him, routed his army, and took Qawurd captive. As his own troops showed signs of disaffection and preference for Qawurd, Malik Shah, on the advice of his Vizier, had him put to death in prison, either by poison or by strangling. The execution was announced to the populace as a suicide, and the troops returned to their loyalty. Soon after this Malik Shah sent his cousin Sulaiman ibn Qutalmish on an expedition into Syria, and Antioch was captured. Subsequently (1078) the Sultan himself captured Samargand. This expedition was marked by an incident which shows how greatly Nizam-al-Mulk was imbued with the imperial idea. After Malik Shah had been ferried over the Oxus, the native ferrymen received drafts on Antioch in payment of their services. When they complained to the Sultan, who asked the Vizier why this had been done, the latter explained that he had taken this course in order to afford an object-lesson in the greatness and unity of the Sultan's realms. At this time Malik Shah espoused Turkan Khatun, daughter of Tamghaj Khan. She became, later on, an implacable foe to the Vizier.

Thus Malik Shah extended his dominions to the north and west. He rode his horse into the sea at Laodicea in Syria, and gave thanks to God for his wide domain. It is related that, during one of his progresses in the north, he was, while hunting, taken prisoner by the Byzantine Emperor, by whom however he remained unrecognised. Malik Shah contrived to send word to Nizam-al-Mulk, who adroitly managed to rescue the Sultan without revealing his master's rank. Soon afterwards the tide turned and the Byzantine Emperor was a captive in the Muslim camp. When brought into the presence of Malik Shah he remembered his late encounter and made a memorable reply, when the Sultan asked him how he wished to be treated. “If you are the King of the Turks”, returned the Emperor, “send me back; if you are a merchant, sell me; if you are a butcher, slay me”. The Sultan generously set him at liberty. Peace was made and, lasted until the death of the Byzantine Emperor, when, after hostilities, Malik Shah made Sulaiman ibn Qutalmish ruler over the newly conquered territory.

Malik Shah appointed a commission of eight astronomers, among whom was Omar Khayyam, to regulate the calendar, and a new era was introduced and named Tarikh Jalali, or Era of Jalal, after the title of Malik Shah. Similarly the astronomical tables drawn up by Omar were called Ziji-Malikshahi in honor of the Sultan. Malik Shah was noted for the excellent administration of justice that prevailed in his reign, for his internal reforms, for his public works such as canals and hostels and buildings, for the efficiency in which he maintained his army, and for his piety and philanthropy. To his nobles he made liberal grants of estates. He undertook the pilgrimage to Mecca, and his wells and caravanserais for pilgrims are abiding memorials of his good works. He made even his pleasures productive of charity, for whenever he engaged in the chase, to which he was passionately addicted, he made it a rule to give a dinner to a poor man for every head of game that fell to him.

Intrigues of the Turkan Khatun

Towards the end of his reign Nizam-al-Mulk began to decline in favor. This was due to the intrigues of the Turkan Khatun, who desired to secure the succession for her son Mahmud, while the Vizier favored the eldest son Barkiyaruq, who was not only entitled to be recognized as heir apparent on the ground of birth but, moreover, was far better fitted to rule. The constant efforts of the Khatun, coupled with the fact that Nizam-al-Mulk had placed all his twelve sons in high offices in the State, for which indeed they were well qualified, had their effect on the Sultan. He dismissed the aged Vizier who had served both him and his father before him, and installed in his stead a creature of the Khatun, Tajal-Mulk Abul-Ghanaim. Shortly afterwards Malik Shah went on a visit to the Caliph, and Nizam-al-Mulk followed his court at a distance. At Nihawand, Nizam-al-Mulk was set upon and murdered by one of the Assassins, instigated by Tajal-Mulk. The late Vizier lingered long enough to send a message to the Sultan, urging his own loyalty in the past and offering that of his son for the future. He was buried at Ispahan. He may probably be considered as the most brilliant man of his age.

Shortly afterwards the Sultan himself died, at Baghdad. He was one of the greatest of the Seljuqs, and the policy by which he placed his kinsmen over conquered territories is in keeping with his private liberality. He was succeeded, after a civil war, by his son Barkiyaruq.

Barkiyaruq: Civil wars

This Sultan received the name of Qasim at circumcision, and the title of Rukn-ad-Daulah-wad-Din (Column of the State and the Faith) from the Caliph Muqtadi. He was born in 1081, succeeded to the throne at the age of thirteen in 1094, and died in 1106. During his reign he experienced a series of vicissitudes of fortune, being sometimes at the height of power and once at least in imminent danger of execution, when a captive in his rival's hands. The unexpected death of his father at Baghdad and the presence of his enemies at the Caliph's court were serious obstacles to his accession. His chief partisan, Nizam-al-Mulk, had been murdered; his stepmother the Khatan was importuning the Caliph to alter the succession in favor of her son Mahmud; the newly-appointed Vizier was a supporter of the Khatun; Barkiyaruq himself was away in Ispahan, and the Caliph was wavering in his decision. Finally, Muqtadi was won over by the Khatfin and declared Mahmud, then aged four, successor to Malik Shah. At the same time Barkiyaruq proclaimed himself at Ispahan. Within a week, the envoys of the Khathun arrived in order to seize Barkiyaruq, who was, however, saved by the sons of Nizam-al-Mulk. The sons of the late Vizier were, like their father, pledged to Barkiyaruq’s cause, and their own safety was bound up with his. They escaped with the lad to Gumushtagin, one of the Atabegs appointed by Malik Shah, who offered generous protection and help. At Rai he was crowned by the governor, Abu-Muslim, and 20,000 troops were enrolled to protect him. Turkan Khatan had by this time seized Ispahan and she, with Mahmud, was besieged by Barkiyaruq. After some time peace was made. The Khatan and her son were to be left in possession of Ispahan on giving up half of the treasure (one million dinars) left by Malik Shah. Barkiyaruq retired to Hamadan. Within a few months, however, war again broke out. Hamadan was then ruled by Ismail, the maternal uncle of Barkiyaruq, and the Khathun opened negotiations with him, proposing to marry him if he would overcome her stepson. The governor agreed and marched against Barkiyaruq, by whom, however, he was defeated and slain. Nevertheless the Sultan had no respite from his enemies, for another uncle, Tutush, the son of Alp Arslan, rose against him and pressed him hard (1094). Barkiyaruq had the Turkan Khatan executed, but eventually was forced to surrender to his uncle and to Mahmud his step-brother. At this stage his life was in great peril. Mahmud, who had received Barkiyaruq with every appearance of friendship, soon had him imprisoned. His life hung by a thread. Finally, Mahmud gave orders to put out his eyes, in order to render him permanently incapable of ruling. This command would have been carried out but for the sudden illness of Mahmud, who caught the smallpox. Thereupon the sentence was suspended while the issue of the illness was in doubt. In point of fact Mahmud died and Barkiyaruq was restored to the throne, only to be attacked by the same malady. The Sultan, however, recovered and at once proceeded to restore his authority. He made Muayyid-al-Mulk, a son of Nizam-al-Mulk, Vizier, and led an army against his uncle Tutush, who was beaten and slain (1095). Barkiyaruq was attacked by one of the Assassins, but the wound was not fatal, and the Sultan led an expedition to Khurasan, where his uncle Arslan Arghun was in revolt. The latter was murdered by a slave, and the Sultan, victorious over the enemy, placed his brother Sanjar in authority over Khurasan.


The next struggle that awaited Barkiyaruq arose from the intrigues of Muayyid-al-Mulk. The latter, who had been replaced in office by his brother Fakhr-al-Mulk, prevailed on one of the late Turkan Khatan’s most powerful supporters, the Isfahsalar Unru Bulka, to rebel. The plot came to nothing as Unru Bulka met his death at the hands of an Assassin emissary. Muayyid-al-Mulk fled to Barkiyaruq’s brother Muhammad, and renewed his intrigues there. Finally, in 1098 war broke out between the two brothers. Barkiyaruq was weakened by a serious outbreak among his troops and had to flee to Rai with a small retinue, while Muhammad and Muayyid-al-Mulk reached Hamadan, where Muhammad was acknowledged as king. Barkiyaruq was driven into exile, but at length succeeded in raising a force and captured Muhammad and Muayyid-al-Mulk. The latter actually proposed that Barkiyaruq should accept a fine and reinstate him in his office, and at first the Sultan consented; but, when he heard that this leniency was the subject of ridicule among his domestics, he slew the traitor with his own hand. Peace was made with Muhammad and the empire divided. Muhammad received Syria, Babylonia, Media, Armenia, and Georgia, while Barkiyaruq retained the remaining territories.

In 1104 Barkiyaruq was travelling to Baghdad in order to confer with Ayaz, whom Malik Shah had previously appointed governor of Khuzistan. Ayaz had helped Barkiyaruq during his misfortunes and he was now supreme at Baghdad, the Caliph having lost all power. On the way Barkiyaruq was taken ill and died. He declared his son Malik Shah as his successor and left him under the guardianship of Ayaz and Sadagah. As soon as the death of Barkiyaruq became known, Muhammad, who now became the chief among the Seljuq princes, seized Malik Shah and deprived him of his dominions.

Muhammad, son of Malik Shah, was born in 1082 and died in 1119. His undisputed reign really began with the death of Barkiyaruq in 1104 and with the seizure of his nephew Malik Shah at Baghdad. Ayaz and Sadaqah, the adherents of Barkiyaruq and his successor, met their death and their armies surrendered to the new Sultan. Muhammad received the support of the Caliph Mustazhir, who granted him the titles of Ghiyath­ad-Dunya-wad-Din and Amir-al-Muminin. The Sultan was noted for his orthodoxy. He reduced the castle of Dizkah near Ispahan. The Malabidah (Assassins) had seized this fortress, which had been built in order to overawe Ispahan, and having established themselves in safety began to make extensive propaganda for their heretical doctrines, gaining many adherents to their cause. The outrages of the Assassins were fearful; Sacd-al-Mulk, the minister, was among the disaffected, and so deeply had their intrigues permeated the government that it took Muhammad seven years to reduce the sect. During this period he was in great danger of death, as the Vizier conspired with the Sultan’s surgeon and prevailed on him to use a poisoned lancet. The plot was discovered and the guilty persons punished. It is said that Muhammad sent an expedition into India to destroy idols. His religious zeal was great. He is also accused of having been unduly economical, even to the point of avarice, but on the whole he was a prudent and beneficent prince. Before his death he designated his son Mahmud as his successor, but the power passed to his brother Sanjar.

Sanjar, the last Great Sefjuq

Sanjar was the last Sultan of a united Seljuq Empire; after his death the various provincial kings and rulers ceased to acknowledge a central authority. His reign was marked by brilliant conquests and ignominious defeats. Although he extended the boundaries of his dominions, his administration was ill-adapted to conserve their solidarity. Yet the break up of the imperial power must not be entirely attributed to him; for this result other causes also are responsible.

Sanjar’s other titles were Muizz-ad-Dunya-wad-Din and Amir-al­Muminin. He was born in 1086 (according to Bundari in 1079) and he died in 1156. For twenty years previous to his accession he had been king in Khurasan, to which office he had been appointed by Barkiyaruq, and he ruled the whole of the Seljuq Empire for forty years. He was the last of the sons of Malik Shah, son of Alp Arslan. His conquests were numerous. He waged a successful war with his nephew Mahmud, the son of the late Sultan, in Iraq Ajami, and wrested the succession from him. Mahmud was overcome and offered submission. Sanjar received him with kindness and invested him with the government of the province, on the condition that Mahmud should recognize his suzerainty. The visible signs of submission were the insertion of Sanjar’s name in the Khutbah before that of Mahmud, the maintenance of Sanjar’s officials in the posts to which they had been appointed, and the abolition of the trumpets that heralded the entry and departure of Mahmud from his palace. Mahmud accepted the terms eagerly and thenceforward devoted his life to the chase, of which he was passionately fond.

In 1130 Ahmad Khan, the governor of Samarqand, refused tribute. Sanjar crossed the Oxus, invaded Mawara-an-Nahr (Transoxiana), and besieged Samarqand. Ahmad submitted and was removed from his post. Sanjar also made himself supreme in Grhaznah, where he seated Bahram Shah on the throne, as a tributary, in Sistan, and in Khwarazm. His nominal empire was much wider. It is said that “his name was recited in the Khutbah in the Mosque from Kashgar to Yaman, Mecca and Taif, and from Mukrán and Ummán to Adharbayjan and the frontiers of Rum and continued to be so recited until a year after his death: yet he was simple and unostentatious in his dress and habits....He was, moreover, virtuous and pious, and in his day Khurasim was the goal of the learned and the focus of culture and science”.

The most eventful wars that occupied Sanjar were those against the Khata (heathen from Cathay) and the Ghuzz. In 1140 Sanjar set out from Merv to Samarqand, and was met by the news that the Khata had invaded Transoxiana and defeated his army. Sanjar himself was routed and his forces nearly annihilated. The Sultan fled to Balkh and rallied his troops at Tirmidh, a strong fortress. Meanwhile Taj-ad-Din, King of Nimruz, after a protracted resistance had been overcome and captured by the Khata. Sanjar was beset with other troubles also, chiefly due to the rising of Atsiz, the third of the Khwarazm Shahs. His grandfather Anushtigin, from Ghaznah, had been a Turkish slave, and finally was advanced by Sultan Malik Shah to be governor of Khwarazm. Anashtigin was succeeded in 1097 by his son Qutb-ad-Din Muhammad, who was known by the title of the Khwarazm Shah and who was followed in 1127 by his son Atsiz. This Shah greatly extended his dominions, partly at the expense of Sanjar. The dynasty came to an end about a century later when Shah Muhammad and his son Jalal-ad-Din were overthrown by the Mongols. At the time of Sanjar, Atsiz was sparing no effort to obtain independence. He stood high in Sanjar’s favor on account of the services that he and his father had rendered. When Sanjar made his expedition against Ahmad Khan, Atsiz rescued him from a band of conspirators who had seized his person while hunting. As a reward Sanjar attached Atsiz to his person and loaded him with honors and marks of distinction, till he roused the jealousy of the court. So strong did the opposition of his enemies become that Atsiz had to ask leave to retire to his governorship at Khwarazm, professing that disorders there required his presence. Sanjar allowed him to depart most unwillingly, for he feared that Atsiz would fall a victim to the hatred of his enemies. But the subsequent conduct of Atsiz was quite unexpected. Instead of quelling the disorders, he joined the malcontents and rebelled against Sanjar. In 1138 the Sultan took the field against Atsiz and his son Ilkilig, who were routed, the latter being slain. Sanjar restored order and, having appointed Suleiman his nephew to govern the province, returned to Merv. Atsiz was roused to fresh endeavors in spite of the defeat which he had sustained. Rallying his army and collecting fresh forces, he attacked Sulaiman and forced him to abandon his post and flee to Sanjar, leaving Khwarazm open to the mercy of Atsiz. Finally, in 1142 Sanjar led a second expedition against this rebellious vassal and besieged him. Atsiz, reduced to despair, sent envoys to Sanjar with presents and promises of fidelity if spared. The Sultan, who was of a benevolent disposition, and, in addition, was sensible of the debt of gratitude which he owed Atsiz, again accepted his submission and left him in possession of his office. But again was his generosity ill requited. On all sides reports reached Sanjar that Atsiz was fomenting disloyalty and preparing trouble. In order to find out the truth he sent a notable poet, Adib Sabir of Tirmidh, to make enquiries in Khwarazm. He found that Atsiz was despatching a band of assassins to kill Sanjar. He succeeded in sending warning, for which act he paid with his life, and the plot was detected at Merv; the traitors were executed. So, in the end, Sanjar had to march against Atsiz for the third time (1147), and again exercised his forbearance and generosity when Atsiz was nearly in his power. Hereafter Atsiz remained loyal, though practically independent. He extended his empire as far as Jand on the Jaxartes, and died in 1156.

In 1149 Sanjar recovered the credit which his defeat by the Khata had lost him. He gained a great victory over Husain ibn Hasan Jahainsaz, Sultan of Ghar, who had invaded Khurasan. Husain was joined by Falak­ad-Din All Chatri, Sanjar’s chamberlain; both were taken captive and the latter executed. Ultimately, Husain was sent back to his post by Sanjar as a vassal.

In 1153 came the invasion of the Ghuzz Turkomans. An interesting account, to which allusion has been made above, is that of Benjamin of Tudela, almost a contemporary visitor to the East. These tribes were goaded into rebellion by the exactions of one of Sanjar’s officers. When the Sultan marched against them, they were seized with fear and offered to submit. Unfortunately Sanjar was persuaded to refuse terms and give battle, in which he was utterly defeated and captured. The Ghuzz came to Merv, plundered it, and killed many of the inhabitants. Then they marched to Nishdpar, where they massacred a large number of persons in the mosque. The chief mosque was burned and the learned men put to death. All over Khurasan the Ghuzz ranged, killing and burning wherever they went. Herat alone was able to repulse their attack. Famine and plague followed them to add to the misery of the land. For two years Sanjar was a prisoner, and was then rescued by some friends. He reached the Oxus, where boats had been prepared, and returned to Merv, but he died soon after reaching his capital, of horror and grief (1156).

The Atabegs and local Sejuq dynasties

Sanjar was the last of the Seljuqs to enjoy supreme imperial power. For a considerable time previously the various provincial governors had acquired practical independence, and if, after the time of Sanjar, the reins of central authority were loosened, this change was effected by no violent rupture. It was the outcome, first of the steady rise on the part of the vassals and viceroys to autonomy, and, secondly, the necessary consequence of the Atabeg system. A certain ambiguity in the method of succession frequently caused strife between uncle and nephew for the right of inheritance. Often, as for example in the case of Nizam-al-Mulk, the office of Vizier was practically hereditary. Hence the Vizier developed into the position of tutor or guardian to the royal heir, thereby acquiring much influence and consolidating his position for the next reign. The name Atabeg or Atabey ("Father Bey") denotes this office. In many cases the Atabeg forcibly secured the succession and displaced the prince. The reason for their employment and power—which is comparable to that of the Egyptian Mamluks—was the desire of the kings to possess, as their ministers, such officials as could be trusted implicitly, for reasons not only of loyalty, a quality not invariably present, but also of self-interest. So slaves and subordinates were raised to high positions, in lieu of the nobility. The Seljuq public life was a carrière ouverte aux talents. A Vizier chosen from the grandees might have so much influence through descent, wealth, or family as to make his allegiance to the king a matter of choice. In the case of a slave or subordinate, loyalty was a matter of necessity, for such an official could not possibly stand on his own merits. If, on the other hand, the subordinate supplanted his master, as was often the case, this was due to the lack of discrimination displayed by the latter in the choice of his instruments. Frequently also an official who had been kept in check by a strong Sultan succeeded, if the Sultan's successor were weak, in becoming more powerful than his master and ultimately in displacing him. The Atabeg system was only possible when the head of the State was a strong man. By the end of Sanjar’s reign the weakness of this policy became manifest. From this time onward the history of the Seljuqs becomes that of the groups into which the empire was now split: four of these groups need attention.

 (I) In Kirman a line of twelve rulers (including contemporary rivals) held sway from 1041 to 1187. This province, which lies on the eastern side of the Persian Gulf, was one of the first occupied by the Seluqs. Imad­ad Din Qawurd who was the son of Chaghri Beg and thus great-grandson to Seljuq, was the first ruler, and from him the dynasty descended. Qawurd carried on war with Malik Shah, at whose hands he met his death (1073). For a century the province was tolerably peaceful until the death of Tughril Shah in 1167, when his three sons, Bahram, Arslan, and Turan brought havoc to the land by their disputes and warfare. Muhammad II was the last of his line; the invading hosts of Ghuzz Turkomans and the Khwarazm Shahs displaced the Seljuq rulers in Kirman.

 (II) The Seljuqs of Syria are chiefly important for their relations with the Crusaders, on which subject more will be said later. The period of their independence was from 1094 to 1117. Tutush, the first of this branch, was the son of Alp Arslan, the second Great Seljuq. He died in 1094 at Rai, being defeated by his nephew Barkiyaruq. His two sons Ridwan and Duqaq ruled at Aleppo and Damascus respectively. They were succeeded by Ridwan’s sons Alp Arslan Akhras (1113) and Sultan Shah (1114). After this the dynasty was broken up and the rule passed into the hands of the Burids and the Urtuqids. The former dynasty were Atabegs of Damascus and were descended from Tughtigin, a slave of Tutush, who rose to power and was appointed Atabeg of Duqaq. From Buri, the eldest son and successor of Tughtigin, the line takes its name. Eventually the Bilrids were supplanted by the Zangids. Of the Urtuqids more will be said hereafter.

 (III) The Seljuqs of Iraq and Kurdistan consisted of a dynasty of nine rulers, and were descended from Muhammad ibn Malik Shah. Four of Muhammad's five sons, four of his grandsons, and one great-grandson, formed this line of rulers, beginning with Mahmud in 1117, and ending with Tughril II in 1194, after which the Khwarazm Shahs became supreme.

 (IV) The Seljuqs of Rum or Asia Minor are perhaps the most important to the Western historian, on account of their relations with the Crusaders and the Eastern Emperors, and their influence on the Ottoman Empire. The first of these rulers was Suleiman ibn Qutalmish, a son of Arslan ibn Seljuq. This branch of the Seljuq family is thus distinct from the Great Seljuqs, the Seljuqs of Iraq, Syria, and Kirman. From the time of Suleiman I (1077) until the period of the Ottoman Turks (1300) seventeen monarchs ruled, subject at certain periods to the dominion of the Mongols. The second of this line, Qilij Arslan ibn Suleiman (1092-- 1106), made Nicaea his capital, and defeated the earliest crusaders under Walter the Penniless (1096). In the next year he was twice defeated by Godfrey of Bouillon, and Nicaea was captured. Iconium then became the Seljuq capital. In 1107 he marched to the help of Mosul, which was besieged by a rebel; after raising the siege he met with an accident while crossing the Khabur and was drowned. But the dynasty was consolidated by his successors and played an important part in the Crusades, for, in addition to the bravery of their forces, the Seljuqs possessed sufficient political skill to take advantage of the mutual animosity existing between the Greeks and the Crusaders and to utilize it for their own purposes. They also succeeded in supplanting the Danishmand, a minor Seljuq dynasty of obscure origin. It is said that the founder, Mahomet ibn Gumishtigin, was a schoolmaster, as the title Danishmand denotes, but everything connected with this line, which ruled from about 1105-1165, is doubtful. Their territory lay in Cappadocia and included the cities of Siwas (Sebastea), Qaisariyah (Caesarea), and Malatiyah (Melitene). Mahomet defeated and captured Bohemond in 1099, as the latter was marching to help Gabriel of Melitene against him. When Bohemond ransomed himself and became tributary to Mahomet, the two rulers formed an alliance against Qilij Arslan and Alexius, the Emperor of Constantinople, one of the instances which show that political considerations were more important than religious differences, not only among the Crusaders but also among the Muslims.

Coming of the Crusaders

Besides the Seljuqs proper, mention must be made of their officers, the Atabegs, whose functions have been described. The power wielded by these vassals was very great, and in the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries many established themselves in virtual independence. The most powerful of these were the Zangids or descendants of Zangi, and the Khwarazm Shahs. They deserve attention for their relations with the Crusaders, but details of their history, apart from this connection, cannot be given here.

It now remains to deal with the relations between the Seljuqs and the Crusaders. In no small degree the origin of the Holy Wars was due to the expansion of the Seljuq Empire, for as long as the Arabs held Jerusalem the Christian pilgrims from Europe could pass unmolested. The Christians were, to all intents, left undisturbed and the pilgrimages continued as before. The outbreak of persecution (1010) under the insane Egyptian Caliph, Hakim, was temporary and transitory, and but for the coming of the Seljuqs popular indignation in Europe would have slumbered and the Crusades might never have taken place.

The first of the Syrian Seljuqs, Tutush the son of Alp Arslam, who ruled at Damascus, captured Jerusalem and appointed as its governor Urtuq ibn Aksab, who had been one of his subordinate officers. Urtuq was the founder of the Urtuqid dynasty. His sons Sukman and Il-Ghazi succeeded him. The Seluq power, which had been growing rapidly until the Caliph was completely in their hands, was somewhat weakened. After the death of Malik Shah the Great Seljuq in 1092, in the dissension which ensued, Afdal, the Vizier of the Egyptian Fatimid Caliph, was enabled to capture Jerusalem from Sukman (1096), who retired to Edessa while his brother returned to Iraq. During the Seljuq domination, the Christians, both native and foreign, had suffered greatly, and the reports of their ill-treatment and of the difficulties placed in the way of pilgrimages, kindled the zeal which so largely stimulated the Crusades. When however the first band of Christian warriors reached Asia Minor after leaving Constantinople, they were completely routed by Qilij Arslan on the road to Nicaea (1096). It has already been described how the Seljuqs pushed forward, step by step, until their expansion brought them into conflict with the Byzantine Empire. It was only the enmity between East and West and the scandalous behavior of the Crusaders that hindered a combined attack on the Seljuqs. Although the Seljuqs and the Emperor were mutually hostile, and for the best of reasons, there was less ill-feeling between them than between the Christian hosts, which, nominally allies, in reality regarded each other with scarcely concealed suspicion. When Godfrey of Bouillon reached Constantinople in 1096, he found a cold welcome at the court; no sooner had he crossed the Bosphorus than the feuds developed into open antagonism. When Nicaea was invested (1097) and it was found that no hope remained for the city, the garrison succeeded in surrendering to Alexius rather than to the Crusaders, and thus avoided a massacre. Qilij Arslan retired to rouse the Seljuq princes to their danger.

At the capture of Antioch, interest is centered on Qawwam-ad-Daulah Karbucia or Kerbogha, Prince of Mosul, who, in 1096, had wrested Mosul from the Uqailids and founded a Seljuq principate there. He and Qilij Arslan were the most noteworthy of the earlier opponents of the Crusaders. The line of Urtuq ibn Aksab produced many heroes beginning with his sons Sukman and Il-Ghazi; the former, who founded the Kaifa branch of the Urtuqids (1101-1231), was famous for his wars with Baldwin and Joscelin. This branch became subject to Saladin and was ultimately merged in the Ayyubid Empire. Il-Ghazi was made governor of Baghdad by the Great Seljuq Muhammad in 1101, and captured Aleppo in 1117. His descendants were the Urtuqids of Maridin (1108-1312).

Several of the officers of the Great Seljuq Malik Shah rose to fame during the Crusades. Of these the most important were Tutush and Imad-ad Din Zangi. The latter was made governor of Iraq, and after conquering his Muslim neighbor’s became a dreaded foe to the Christians. He found the Muslims dispirited and completely prostrate. At his death he had changed their despair to triumph. He took Aleppo in 1128, Hamah in 1129, and then began his wars against the Franks. In 1130 he took the important fortress of Atharib, and in 1144 achieved his greatest glory by capturing Edessa. He followed this up by taking many important towns in Northern Mesopotamia, but in 1146 he was murdered. He had turned the tide of victory against the Franks, and his capture of Edessa called forth the Second Crusade. His son Nur-ad­Din succeeded to his Syrian dominions and was also prominent in the battles against the Crusaders. Among his officers was Ayyub (Job), whose son Salah-ad-Din (Saladin) became the great protagonist of the Crescent against the Cross.

The Seljuq power began and ended gradually. Seven Great Seljuqs are usually reckoned as constituting the dynasty, ruling over a united empire in Persia, Transoxiana, Mesopotamia, and Syria; after Sanjar disintegration set in, but although the empire was split into small parts the separate kingdoms preserved in many cases their power and authority. The empire of the Khwarazm Shahs encroached on the east and gradually absorbed the Seljuq territory. The center was divided among the Atabegs, whose various destinies cannot be treated here, and in the west the Seljuqs of Rum remained in power until the rise of the Ottomans.



THE EARLIER COMNENI. ISAAC I (1057-4059). ALEXIUS I (1081-1118)