In the 8th century, the Oghuz Turks established the Oghuz Yabgu State in what is now Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It was a multiethnic state home to various Turkic groups; tribal assemblies elected the yabgu. The History Of The Seljuks Its people practiced Tengrism, the sky-worshiping religion of early Turks and Mongols.
By the late 900s, there were frequent uprisings against the Oghuz State, which also suffered defeat at the hands of other Turkic states like the Karakhanids and Cumania. In 985, Seljuk Beg of the Oghuz Qiniq tribe led his followers to the city of Jand. There, Seljuk converted to Sunni Islam. In 1025,
The History Of The Seljuks
a group of Seljuks migrated south to Nisa, just west of the modern city limits of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. At the time, this area was controlled by the Turkic Ghaznavid dynasty, who was the dominant power in Iran and Pakistan. The first group of Seljuks were forced out of Jand by Oghuz forces ten years later.
Led by Seljuk’s grandson Tughril, these Seljuks joined their brethren down south in Nisa. Just two years later, the Seljuks went to war with the Ghaznavids, capturing the important cities of Nishapur and Merv. Ruling from Nishapur, Tughril established the Seljuk Empire. Like his grandfather,
Tughril ruled with the title of beg, meaning “leader.” It is preserved as bey in Modern Turkish, an Oghuz language. The Seljuks swiftly conquered Iran then took Baghdad in 1055. In response, the Abbasid Caliph, who by this time held little secular power but significant religious influence, bestowed the title of sultan on the Sel-juk leader. The Persian title of shahanshah, or “king of kings,” was also adopted.
After defeating the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, many Turkoman, or Oghuz Turkic, groups began to settle Anatolia, which now forms the Asian portion of Turkey. The modern descendants of the Turkomans include Turks, Azerbaijanis, and, of course, Turkmens. The empire briefly held onto the Hejaz region of Arabia,
but it was soon recovered by Egypt’s Fatimids, who also retook Jerusalem in 1098. However, both the Fatimids and the Selj-uks lost their possessions in the Levant to the Christian Crusaders, who successfully invaded from Europe for the Holy Land. Soon, the Turkoman Zengid dynasty reconquered Syria on behalf of the Sel-juks, but there was no such luck in the east. In 1141,
the Seljuks were decisively defeated by the para-Mongolic Khitans at the Battle of Qatwan, costing them their influence in Uzbekistan. This loss signaled the beginning of the end. New enemies, like the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and the Khwarazmians, pressured the Seljuks from all sides until they finally collapsed in 1194. Although relatively short-lived,
the Seljuk Empire left a lasting impact on the arts, education, and culture of the areas it ruled, contributing to the Turco-Persian tradition. However, the story of the Seljuks did not end with the collapse of their original empire, as a separate branch of them survived in Anatolia.
Their state was called the Sultanate of Rum; Rûm, a rendering of “Rome,” referred to the Byzantine Greek “Romans” who continued to inhabit the peninsula. While the Turkomans firmly remained the ruling class, the Rûm Greeks occupied a significant role as aristocrats, peasants, and especially architects. Meanwhile, the Turks spoke an Oghuz Turkic variety called Old Anatolian Turkish;
this language would later develop into Ottoman Turkish, then Modern Turkish. Sultan Kayqubad I, who reigned from 1220 to 1237, brought Rum into its golden age through eastward conquests and the sponsoring of architecture and infrastructure projects.
The golden age of Rum came to an abrupt end, however, with the Mongol invasions of the 1240s. Rum became a Mongol vassal, first under the Mongol Empire then the Ilkhanate from 1256. As Rum authority waned, countless Turkoman beyliks, or minor states ruled by beys, seceded.
One of these beyliks would go on to become the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey. By the end of the 13th century, Rum had little power outside of its capital, Iconium (Konya). Internal dynastic conflict plagued the sultanate until its demise in 1308.
A distant relative of the Seljuks then led a rump state in Konya, but the Beylik of Karaman defeated it in 1328, ending the Seljuk line.