In 750 the ՙAbbāsid Dynasty had succeeded the Umayyad Dynasty as rulers of the Muslim world.
In 750 the
The Ghaznavid Empire, c. 1030
Close to a century earlier, a tribal leader named
In 1055 the Seljuk Turks seized Baghdad in a bloodless coup. An ՙAbbāsid caliph was left to rule as titular ruler, but the Seljuks were the true political force for the next three generations. In 1067 they were raiding lands claimed by their Christian rivals, the
Alp Arslan was killed the following year in a bizarre duel with an enemy commander, often called an assassination. His son
Religious differences between sects brewed dissent among the nations of Islam. These theological disputes sparked the creation of the
Seljuk Turks, c. 1090
Political infighting also hastened the dissolution of the empire. It was common practice to carve up a deceased ruler’s property and dole out separate kingdoms to the surviving sons in grants called iqtāՙ. This ever-increasing collection of disparate emirs and lesser sultans continuously undermined Seljuk central authority. The weakness in this system was especially apparent upon Malik Shāh’s death in 1092, when his brother and four sons began to squabble over the inheritance.
In 1095 the
The most significant military achievement for the Seljuk Turks was victory over the Byzantium army just over two decades later, in 1071, at
The Seljuk Turk fighters could accurately be called steppe light
These riders bore composite
The Seljuks appear to have employed no signature uniforms. The chieftains reportedly wore wide-skirted topcoats, cut diagonally with a flap called a muqaylab. Normal tribal clothing, frequently dyed in a bright shade, was worn by other Seljuk forces. Belts, made of leather or overlapping plates, were a key component of these warriors’ battle clothing, used for keeping close at hand such equipment as replacement strings and bows and secondary weapons. In the Seljuk culture, belts were common gifts to mark favor.
The Seljuks relied mainly on the military organization of their predecessors, with a few notable differences. Under their rule a more
At the heart of the Seljuk military manifesto was the bow. One outside observer remarked, “The Turks, indeed, who themselves continually seek to develop their skills with bows and arrow, pressed without ceasing.” Hunting and intertribal warfare provided ample opportunity for the Seljuks to hone their skills in the use of this vital weapon from a very young age. These large composite missile weapons, when partnered with men on swift horses, gave the Seljuks a decided advantage against the slower, more heavily armored Byzantine and Crusader foes.
The Seljuk Turks were expert light
It was like an earthquake with howling, sweat, a swift rush of fear, clouds of dust and not least hordes of Turks riding all around us. Depending on his speed, resolution and strength, each man sought safety in flight. The enemy chased them, killing some, capturing some and trampling others under the horses’ hooves. It was a terribly sad sight, beyond any lamenting or mourning.
If their opponents held together, the Seljuks would continue to pepper them with arrows from distances that astonished their enemies. One stated, “After we had set ourselves in order the Turks came upon us as from all sides, skirmishing, throwing darts and javelins and shooting arrows from an astonishing range.” When the Seljuk archers were pressed, or when they were attempting to execute a more complex plan, they would break and feign retreat. If their unwary foes tried to pursue, they would find it just as dangerous as standing their ground, as the Seljuks would turn and, from their mounts, fire a hail of arrows.
While the bow was the cornerstone of their offensive, the Seljuks recognized the need to close for melee, as this contemporary account shows:
[The Turks] surrounded our men and shot such a great number of arrows and quarrels that rain or hail never darkened the sky so much and many of our men and horses were injured. When the first bands of Turks had emptied their quivers and shot all their arrows, they withdrew, but a second band immediately came from behind where there were but more Turks. These fired even more thickly than the others had done. . . . The Turk, seeing that our men and horses were severely wounded and in great difficulties, hung their bows instantly on their left arms under their armpits and immediately fell upon them in a very cruel fashion with maces and swords.
Asbridge, Thomas. The First Crusade. New York: Free Press, 2005. Contamine, Philippe. War in the Middle Ages. Translated by M. Jones. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Blackwell, 1991. Jones, Archer. The Art of War in the Western World. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2000. Turnbull, Stephen. The Ottoman Empire, 1326-1699. New York: Osprey, 2003. Wise, Terrance, and Gerry A. Embleton. Armies of the Crusades. New York: Osprey, 1978. Byzantine Era. Documentary. CreateSpace, 2009. Byzantium: The Lost Empire. Documentary. Koch Vision, 2007. Crusades: Crescent and the Cross. Documentary. History Channel, 2005. Kingdom of Heaven. Feature film. Twentieth Century Fox, 2006.
Armies and Infantry: Ancient and Medieval
Armies of Muṛammad and the Caliphate
The Ottoman Armies
West African Empires