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Empires of the Greater, Rum and Kerman Seljuks. The lighter color shows the empire of the Qarakhanids. The dates show the battles of Dandanqan (1040) and Manzikert (1071)

The Seljuks , also Seljuk Turks , Seldschuk Turks or Seldschuqen ( Turkish Selçuklular , Persian سلجوقيان Saldschughiyan , DMG Salǧūqiyān , Arabic سلجوق Saldschuq , DMG Salǧūq , pl.السلاجقة as-Saladschiqa , DMG as-Salāǧiqa ) were a Turkish princely dynasty ruling from 1040 to 1194, which founded the empire of the Great Seljuks , which extended over Central Asia , Iran , Iraq , Syria , Anatolia and parts of the Arabian Peninsula and its heyday around 1047 and 1157 had.

Some Seljuk princes ruled the entire Greater Seljuq Empire , other areas such as Kerman and Syria (until the beginning of the 12th century) or Anatolia ( Sultanate of Rum until the beginning of the 14th century).

The Seljuks were Sunni Muslims and initiated the Turkish conquest of Anatolia with their victory in the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.

Tombs of Seljuk princes, Iran , erected in 1053



The Seljuks were a branch of the Turkish tribal association of the Oghusen , who immigrated to Transoxania in the 8th century , those nomads who still wandered for the most part in today's Kazakh steppe in the 10th century . The dynasty was named after Seljuk (around 1000), Khan of the Kınık Oghuz tribe . At the end of the 10th century, Seljuk and his people converted to Islam . He had four sons, Mîkâ'îl, Isrâ'îl (or Arslan), Mûsâ, and Yûnus. In the clashes between the Turkish Qarakhanids and the Persian Samanids , the Oghuz played an important role, which led to political tensions among the Oghuz tribes. The nomads belonging to Seljuk and his warriors broke away from the tribal union of the Oghusen and migrated on. In 1025 Mahmud of Ghazni captured Seljuk's son Arslan and took him hostage; he did not survive captivity.

Among the sons Mîka'îls, Tughril ( the falcon ) and Tschaghri Beg the Seljuk Turks took 1,034 Khurasan under their rule and repressed in 1040 with the victorious battle of dandanaqan the Ghaznavids . In 1055 Tughrul moved into Baghdad and ended the more than hundred-year patronage of the Bujids . The Seljuks thus became the new protecting power over the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. Under Tughrul Beg, the Seljuks subjugated large parts of Persia and, in 1055, Iraq . He received the title of sultan from the caliph in Baghdad . Tughrul moved the capital of the Seljuk Empire to Rey near what is now Tehran .

The establishment of the Great Seljuq Empire and Turkish dominance in the Islamic world mark a turning point in the history of Islamic civilization and the Muslim peoples. At a time when the world of Islam was suffering from internal and external crises, the Seljuks restored the political unity of the Islamic world.


Alp Arslan (1063-1072) led the kingdom of the Great Seljuks to the height of its power. In 1071 he defeated the Byzantine Empire in the Battle of Manzikert and thus initiated the Turkish colonization of Anatolia . Between 1071 (Battle of Manzikert) and 1243 ( Battle of Köse Dağ ) up to a million Turks immigrated to Anatolia. They did not make up the ethnic majority in Anatolia, but they were the only group that was spread across the entire area. The conquest of Anatolia by the Seljuks from the 11th century onwards was the peak of the massive migrations of the Turkish peoples that took place from the 8th century onwards. Anatolia became "Turkey" (or "Turchia") in European sources (for the first time in Latin) from the 12th century onwards. Under Alp Arslan, his successor Malik Şâh (1072-1092) and the Persian vizier Nezâm al-Molk , the sultanate reached its political and cultural climax.


Bust of a Seljuk ruler, 12./13. Century, found in Iran , New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

With the assassination of the vizier Nezâm al-Molk by the assassins and the death of Sultan Malik-Shah (1092), battles for the throne within the Seljuks soon broke out. In 1118 this led to the division of the empire into Khorasan / Transoxanien and the two Iraq (located on the territory of western Iran and Iraq ). In the 11th century originated in Anatolia - the capital Konya - the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate .

Under Sultan Sandschar (1118–1157), son of Malik-Shah II, who ruled in Khorasan , the Seljuk rule had its last bloom. However, he suffered a defeat against the Kara Kitai at Samarkand in 1141 , was overthrown a little later and tried in vain to rebuild the Seljuk Empire until his death. The Khorezm Shahs took over his legacy with mercenaries from the Kyptschaks and Oghusen , and conquered Central Asia and Iran by the end of the 12th century . In 1194 they eliminated the last Seljuk ruler of Rey. In Anatolia, the Rum Seljuks came under the rule of the Ilkhan after 1243 ; their sultanate of Konya dissolved by 1307. The up-and-coming Ottomans took over the inheritance of the Seljuks in Anatolia at the beginning of the 14th century.


Gradation of power:

  • Sultān (independent ruler under the authority of the caliph)
  • Wazīr
  • Amīr (military leader)
  • local nobles

The Seljuk Turks who came from Central Asia knew how to make the most of the existing administrative structures. The establishment of the Seljuk Empire brought, among other things, the dethroning of the Arabic language as the sole lingua franca in the Middle East, since the Seljuks, who did not bring their own highly developed Turkish cultural or literary heritage, took over the cultural and literary heritage of Persia, so that the Persian language became their administrative and cultural language. The Persian culture of the Rum Seljuks in Anatolia is considered particularly splendid. It was only after the collapse of the Seljuk central power in the 14th century that the Turkish language gradually developed as a parallel language in government circles and in literature. The Persian character of the Ottoman civilization was to remain strong into the 19th century.

The policy of the Seljuks was largely determined by two factors:

  1. the wishes and needs of the Sultan and those of his advisors and administrators on the one hand,
  2. the needs of the Turkmen nomads, who continued to make up an important part of the Seljuk armed forces, on the other.

The laborious balance between Persian-Islamic and Turkish-nomadic elements could not prevent conflicts. Especially in the east of the Persian world, and especially in Transoxania, there was , at least initially, a clear decentralization of power and a relapse towards feudal structures after the collapse of the Samanids and Ghaznavids. The Seljuks ruled over an empire without fixed borders, and so it could happen that certain areas were returned or sold to the indigenous tribes at certain times. As a rule, the local princes and princes were allowed to continue to rule as feudal lords in the periphery of the empire. But they were tribute to the Seljuk Sultan.


Toghrul Tower: Erected in memory and as a burial place of Toghrul Beg in the 12th century south of today's Tehran


The Seljuks cultivated the nomadic traditions of their Oghuz ancestors, especially in the early days, which they largely gave up after their conversion to Islam. Although the Turkish Seljuks became increasingly Iranian as a rising great power due to the established Persian written language in the Islamic world, however, especially among the nomadic population outside the cities, Turkish traditions and dialects were able to develop due to their Oghuz (Turkish) past long received. After the establishment of the dynasty, the court language of the Seljuks was Persian, which they had already adopted at the beginning.


The Persian literature and poetry has been generously supported by the rulers of the Seljuks.


The importance of Seljuk art in the larger context of Islamic art lies primarily in the fact that it established the dominant role of Persia, which is comparable to the role of Italy in European art , and thus also shaped the development of Persian art in later centuries.


  • Claude Cahen : La Campagne de Mantzikert d'apres les sources musulmanes . In: Byzantion 9, 1934, ISSN  0378-2506 , pp. 613-642.
  • Claude Cahen: Le Malik-Nameh et l'histoire des origines Seldjukides . In: Oriens 2, 1949, ISSN  0078-6527 , pp. 31-65.
  • Claude Cahen: Pre-Ottoman Turkey . Translated by J. Jones-Williams. Taplinger, New York NY 1968.
  • Claude Cahen: The Turkish Invasion: The Selchükids . In: Kenneth M. Setton (Ed.): A History of the Crusades . Volume 1. University of Wisconsin Press et al. Madison WI 1969, pp. 135-176 (on- line ).
  • Carter Vaughn Findley: The Turks in World History . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005, ISBN 0-19-517726-6 , Chapter 2 " Islam and Empire from the Seljuks through the Mongols ", pp. 56-92.
  • Gillies E. Tetley: The Ghaznavid and Seljuk Turks. Poetry as a Source for Iranian History . Routledge, New York 2009, ISBN 978-0-415-43119-4 .
  • Osman Turan : Anatolia in the Period of the Seljuks and the Beyliks . In: Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann Katharine Swynford Lambton, Bernard Lewis : The Cambridge History of Islam . Volume 1, A: The central Islamic lands from pre-Islamic times to the first World War . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1977, ISBN 0-521-29135-6 , pp. 231-262.
  • Martin Strohmeier: Seljuk history and Turkish history. The Seljuks in the judgment of modern Turkish historians. Klaus Schwarz Verlag, Berlin 1984, ISBN 392296897X .

Web links

Commons : Seljuks  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Seljuke  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Tamara Talbot Rice : The Seljuks. Cologne 1963, p. 10
  2. a b c d e f Josef Matuz: The Ottoman Empire. Baselines of its history. Darmstadt 1985, p. 14
  3. Monika Gronke : History of Iran. Munich 2003, p. 41
  4. Tamara Talbot Rice: The Seljuks. Cologne 1963, p. 22
  5. Encyclopaedia of Islam , digital edition, article Saldjukids - Introduction
  6. Steinbach (1996), p. 22
  7. a b Matuz (1985), p. 16
  8. Gronke (2003), p. 41
  9. Johann August Vullers: Mirchond's history of the Seljuks. Heyer, 1837, p. 6 f.
  10. Tamara Talbot Rice: The Seljuks. Cologne 1963, p. 12
  11. Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann Katharine Swynford Lambton, Bernard Lewis: The Cambridge History of Islam. Vol 1A, 1977, p. 231 [1]
  12. Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann Katharine Swynford Lambton, Bernard Lewis: The Cambridge History of Islam. Vol 1A, 1977, Turkish Migration and First Raids on Anatolia and The Settlement of the Turks in Anatolia , pp. 231f. [2]
  13. Carter V. Findley: Dünya Tarihinde Türkler. Turkish translation of The Turks in World History , 2006, p. 91
  14. ^ Peter B. Golden: An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples. Ethnogenesis and State-Formation in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East. 1992, pp. 224-225
  15. Harald Haarmann: World history of languages. Munich 2006, p. 271
  16. Carter V. Findley: Dünya Tarihinde Türkler. Turkish translation of The Turks in World History , p. 72
  17. Kreiser (2003), p. 44
  18. At that time the Turkish language was not yet written down. -See. Thorsten Roelcke: Variation Typology. A language typological handbook of European languages ​​in the past and present. Walter de Gruyter, 2003, ISBN 3110160838 , p. 919
  19. a b Thorsten Roelcke: Variation Typology. A language typological handbook of European languages ​​in the past and present. Walter de Gruyter, 2003, ISBN 3110160838 , p. 919
  20. ^ Encyclopaedia of Islam , digital edition, article Saldjukids , section The historical significance of the Saldjuks
  21. ^ CE Bosworth: Barbarian Incursions. The Coming of the Turks into the Islamic World. In: DS Richards: Islamic Civilization. Oxford 1973, p. 10 ff.
  22. Tamara Talbot Rice: The Seljuks. Cologne 1963, p. 92
  23. Cahen (1968), p. 292
  24. a b Gronke (2003), p. 46
  25. ^ Encyclopaedia of Islam , New Edition; Brill, Leiden; CD version; Article "Sal dj ūkids"