In the 11th century,
the Seljuk Turks established
an enlightened, tolerant government
Anatolia that fostered a great culture.
The Seljuks (Selçuklular) were
a Turkish tribe from Central Asia.
They poured into Persia (1037)
and established their first powerful
state, called by historians the Empire
of the Great Seljuks.
The mathematician and poet Omar
Khayyam flourished under the
They captured Baghdad in 1055
and a relatively small contingent of
warriors—about 5000 by some estimates—moved
In 1071 this Seljuk force engaged
the armies of the Byzantine emperor
at Manzikert (Malazgirt) north
Van, defeated them decisively,
and captured Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes.
With no Byzantine force to stop them,
the Seljuk Turks flooded into Anatolia,
taking control of most of Eastern and Central
Anatolia. They established their
capital at Konya around
1150 and ruled what would be known
as the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum [ROOM, Rome]. Alanya, Erzurum and Sivas were
other important Seljuk cities.
The small Seljuk ruling class governed
a population that was mostly Greek-speaking Anatolian
Christian, with a significant Jewish minority.
Seljuk rule was tolerant of race,
religion and gender. Churches and synagogues
flourished, and some of the finest
examples of Seljuk
architecture, including huge
mosques, theological seminaries,
hospitals and caravanserais,
were built on the orders of empresses
Muslim mystic, theologian and poet Jelaleddin
Rumi (1207-1273) is the sultanate's
most famous and enduring figure.
Son of a noted theologian, Rumi's
preaching and spiritual leadership
soon earned him a large following.
His followers called Rumi Mevlana ("Our
After his death his
son Sultan Veled organized his followers
into the Sufi order of Mevlevi ("Whirling") Dervishes.
The borders of the Seljuk Sultanate
were always in flux, with the
remnants of the Byzantine
the west, the Arabs to the south
and the Mongols encroaching
from the east.
Few of the many capable
sultans died natural deaths; most
died in battle or by treachery.
Seljuk culture in
Rum was at its height in the mid-1200s,
just as the Mongols overran
West Asia and ravaged Anatolia. Most
of the finest examples of Seljuk
such as the fine caravanserais and
the wonderful mosques
and medreses in Konya, date
from the mid-1200s.
of the successor Mongol Ilkanids and of
the Beyliks (principalities) that
sprang up in Anatolia after the collapse
Mongol rule owe much to Seljuk inspiration.
Among the upstart warlord principalities of
the 1300s was one based near Nicaea
(Iznik) on the Byzantine frontier and
led by a chieftain named Osman.
It grew rapidly in size and strength
and was soon on its way to becoming
the vast Ottoman