Seljuk Dynasty Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The creation of the Seljuk Dynasty in Asia Minor led to the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire, the European Crusades into the Middle East, and the permanent settlement of the Turkish people in Asia Minor.

Summary of Event

The Seljuk Turks were one in a line of invaders who swept across the Central Asian plains and into the Middle East during medieval times—creating an empire in 1077 after they defeated the Byzantines in 1071—and who occupied the Anatolia region (Asia Minor) that is now known as Turkey. [kw]Seljuk Dynasty Is Founded (1077) Seljuk Turks Turkey;1077: Seljuk Dynasty Is Founded[1680] Expansion and land acquisition;1077: Seljuk Dynasty Is Founded[1680] Government and politics;1077: Seljuk Dynasty Is Founded[1680] Süleyman Alp Arslan Romanus IV Diogenes Malik Shāh Niẓām al-Mulk

The Seljuks were part of the Turkmen tribes that ranged across Central Asia near the Aral Sea. The Seljuks acquired their name from a Turkmen prince named Seljuk Seljuk (d. 970) who lived near the city of Bukhara. As they moved south and west, they conquered Persia and established a capital in the city of Eşfahān. After Seljuk’s death, the empire was ruled by his four sons. Yet it was the descendants of these four, Toghrïl Toghrïl Beg (Seljuk Turk sultan) (c. 990-1063) and his nephew Alp Arslan Alp Arslan (Seljuk sultant) , who led the empire to greater glory.

Toghrïl captured Baghdad and ended the caliph’s rule and the ՙAbbāsid Empire in 1055. On Toghrïl’s death in 1063, Alp Arslan won a civil war and assumed command of the army. Alp Arslan proved to be a great military leader, building Seljuk strength and using it to hand the Byzantine Empire one of its greatest defeats.

By the eleventh century, the Byzantines, who were heirs to the Roman Empire of the east, were in military, economic, and political decline. Overwhelming bureaucracy had made reform or change impossible and the unending political battles led to a series of leaders who allowed the empire to decay. By the time of the Seljuk’s invasion, the Byzantine Empire Byzantine Empire;Seljuk Turks and was limited to the territory of modern Turkey.

Alp Arslan was seeking to capture Syria, Arabia, and what is now called Israel. Before this, however, he moved to shore up his western boundary with the Byzantines. The Turks pushed into Armenia, a kingdom allied with the Byzantines, and camped there. Initially, the Byzantines did not respond. After the death of the Byzantine emperor Constantine X Ducas Constantine X Ducas (r. 1059-1067), his wife, Eudocia Macrembolitissa, married Byzantine general Romanus IV Diogenes Romanus IV Diogenes , who attempted to reconstruct the army and protect the empire from the Turks. He marched his army from Constantinople to Armenia. Near Lake Van, he directed his army from his headquarters at the city of Manzikert Manzikert, Battle of (1071) and met Alp Arslan’s army of Turkmen in 1071.

Alp Arslan showed his military genius when attacked by the Byzantines. He allowed them to advance, leaving his troops to attack the Byzantines on three sides. The Battle of Manzikert was a military disaster for the Byzantines. The army, made up of mercenaries, fled at the first sign of trouble. The general was unable to rally his troops and was captured. The rest of the army was either killed or disintegrated.

Belying their fierce reputation, the Turks neither killed nor tortured the captured general. Instead, Diogenes was allowed to go free after paying a ransom and agreeing to pay annual tribute. He ceded control over portions of Armenia, then was allowed to return to Byzantine territory. Once there, he was not treated as well. Stripped of his throne, his wife imprisoned, Diogenes had his eyes burned out with hot pokers, then was forced to ride a mule over long stretches of road.

The Battle of Manzikert led to more than the loss of a general; it also destroyed the empire’s military power in the east. The entire Anatolia plain, also known as Asia Minor, lay open to the Turks. It was at this point that events turned from bad to worse for the Byzantines.

A few months after the battle, Alp Arslan was assassinated. When the Byzantines refused to pay tribute as required by the treaty with Diogenes, Alp Arslan’s son and successor, Malik Shāh Malik Shāh , decided to invade. While Malik took his own army into Central Asia to push the empire eastward, he designated his general Süleyman Süleyman (founder of Seljuk Rum) to attack the Byzantines in Anatolia. The Byzantines, under the bumbling leadership of the emperor Michael VII Ducas Michael VII Ducas (r. 1067-1078), proved unable to halt the Turks’s advance. Only the desolate Anatolia plains slowed Süleyman’s advance, as he swept aside the weak Byzantine forces sent to defeat him.

As Süleyman advanced westward toward Constantinople, Michael VII and the Byzantine government panicked and sought help from European nations, but no help was forthcoming. The Turks’s advance included capturing such famous Byzantine cities as Antioch, Tarsus, and Nicaea. Süleyman eventually halted his drive within sight of Constantinople. At that point, Süleyman declared the creation of the sultanate of Rum—derived from the word Rome—with its capital in Konya, previously known as Iconium and a city visited by Paul.

The sultanate, which was the Seljuk Turk nation, lasted a century and half until defeated by the Mongols and broken into smaller kingdoms. Süleyman’s declaration also began the golden age of the Seljuk Empire. This was the result of his and Malik Shāh’s conquests but also the rule of one of his ministers, Niẓām al-Mulk Niẓām al-Mulk . A political philosopher, Niẓām wrote Siyāsat-nāma (wr. 1091-1092; The Book of Government: Or, Rules for Kings, 1978), Book of Government, The (Niẓām al-Mulk) in which he stated that every state was to be based on religion and that each ruler ruled on the basis of divine right. This was advice the Seljuk rulers and their successors in the Ottoman Empire would take and use.

Niẓām’s three decades of rule saw the development of literature and Islamic culture and an efficient administration of a large geographic territory containing many different peoples, religions, and cultures. A series of mosques were built, including several in the capital of Konya. Burial mosques were scattered across the territory and contained the bodies of Alp Arslan and, later, Malik Shāh. Many of these mosques still stand, testifying to the architectural and building skills of the Seljuks. In addition to the construction efforts, Niẓām’s administrative abilities allowed Malik Shāh to campaign at the frontiers without fear of chaos or coup. This led to the great expansion of Seljuk territory. Architecture;Seljuk Turks

Upon capturing Asia Minor, the Seljuks began to eliminate Greek and Roman influences from the area. One tactic was to change the names of the cities; hence, Iconium became Konya. Another was to spread Islam throughout the region, forcing many Christians to convert or in some cases face death. Islamic culture and literature spread throughout the region with the use of the Turkish language. A century and a half of rule—brief when compared with other empires and dynasties—Islamicized the empire and helped settle the Turks at the borders of Europe. Islam;Seljuk Turks

With the capture of much of Byzantium’s Asian territory, Malik Shāh turned his attention to the south. Syria and Jerusalem had been captured, allowing the Turks to advance against the Egyptians and then the Arabs, taking both Mecca and Medina. It was the capture of Jerusalem and the threat posed to Constantinople by Turkish armies that led to the eventual collapse of the Seljuk Empire. The Turks soon found themselves at conflict with most of Europe. Malik Shāh’s death also weakened the empire as his successors fought for control.


The creation of the Turkish Muslim state in Asia Minor had profound consequences in Europe. The loss of land held by the west for more than one thousand years and the possible defeat of a Christian empire by an Islamic one led to Pope Urban II Urban II calling for the First Crusade Crusades;First[01] . The major European nations took up the call. Tens of thousands of European soldiers moved east to defeat the Turks. The Crusades proved to be an exhausting fight for the Seljuk Turks, who initially shouldered much of the burden. The constant battles weakened the Seljuk empires. After the death of their last great emperor, Sinjar, the Turks split up into smaller kingdoms, which were smashed by the invading Mongols in the thirteenth century. One of the kingdoms later became the Ottoman Turks, who developed their own empire in Asia Minor after capturing Constantinople in 1453.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Armstrong, Karen. Holy War. New York: Doubleday, 1991. Describes the Crusades from the perspective of modern times and how the battles of medieval years still resonate.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bryer, Anthony, and Michael Ursinus, eds. Manzikert to Lepanto: The Byzantine World and the Turks, 1071-1571. Amsterdam: A. M. Hakkert, 1991. A detailed source on Byzantine-Turkish relations in the wake of the Battle of Manzikert.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cahen, Claude. Pre-Ottoman Turkey: A General Survey of the Material and Spiritual Culture and History, c. 1071-1330. New York: Taplinger, 1968. This definitive study of the Seljuk period of Turkish history gives a straightforward, scholarly account of the rise of the Seljuks and their involvement in Anatolia prior to 1071.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Irwin, Robert. “Muslim Responses to the Crusades.” History Today 47, no. 4 (April, 1997). Presents a rich overview of the Muslim perspective on the Crusades, including the responses of the Seljuks before the First Crusade in the late eleventh century. Provides photographs and a short list of further readings.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Niẓām al-Mulk. The Book of Government: Or, Rules for Kings. Translated by Hubert Darke. Richmond, Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 2002. This polished translation of the Siyāsat-nāma is essential reading for an understanding of both Niẓām al-Mulk and the workings of government during the Seljuk period. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Norwich, John Julius. A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. A concise version of a three-volume work on Byzantium, describing the political, military, religious, and cultural decline of the empire.
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    xlink:type="simple">Richards, D. S., ed. The Annals of the Seljuk Turks. New York: Routledge, 2002. A description of the Seljuk Turks, their leaders, goals, accomplishments, and defeat by the Mongols.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Treadgold, Warren. A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997. A brief discussion of the Eastern Roman Empire with an emphasis on the causes leading to its destruction.

Categories: History