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TURKEY   >  HISTORY   >> Turkish Period
Seljuk Period Beyliks (Principalities) Period Ottoman Period

Seljuk Turks Period (1071-1243 AD)

The Oguz Turks, under the leadership of Tugrul Bey and Cagri Bey, (the grandsons of Seljuk), subdued Horasan and defeated the Ghaznavids in the Dandanakan Battle and established the Great Seljuk Empire in 1040 AD. In 1071 Alparslan defeated the Byzantine emperor in the Battle of Manzikert which marked the beginning of the period of Turks and that of Islam in Anatolia. It was following this date that the Turks fully conquered the whole of Anatolia and established the Anatolian Seljuk State as part of the Great Seljuk Empire.

The Turks were the first people who invaded Anatolia completely. The previous invading peoples captured only parts of Anatolia. Although Persians and Romans invaded completely, they kept it under their political control rather than settling.

Turks came to Anatolia in migrations. Before coming they were Moslems and mixed with those of the local people who accepted being Moslem.

It is wrong to believe, as many have, that the pursuance of an Islamic policy and of conquest in Anatolia led the Seljuks to persecute the Christians. Inside the Seljuk Empire, as soon as order was restored, the lot of Christians was much the same as it had been before: the crusaders, who thought it must be otherwise, were judging conditions in Jerusalem by those prevailing in Anatolia.

After 1150 AD Seljuk weakness enabled various Turkoman leaders to establish their own principalities along the fringes of the Empire. They acted as gazis, or fighters for the faith of Islam against the infidels. The Great Seljuks defended Syria and Palestine against incursions during the Crusades, limiting the domination of the Crusaders to the coastal areas. Contact between Islam and the crusading representatives of Christianity was largely limited to military matters and trade.

The Seljuks understood the importance of transit trade and adjusted their military and economic policies accordingly. It was very interesting that, for the first time in history, Seljuks created state insurance for the losses of tradesmen. For the caravans, they developed the kervansaray (caravansary) which was designed to meet the needs of any trader on the account of the state.

Parallel to well-organized international trade, cities in this period developed in wealth and population. That period also recorded universal teachings of enlightened sages like Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi or Yunus Emre. They taught about unity with God through devotion.

The Arabic language was used by scholars, Persian was the state language and Turkish was the daily or business language. Seljuk art blended those of Central Asia, Islamic Middle East and Anatolia.

The shamanistic Gokturks, before burying their dead, mummified and kept them in a tent for six months. This Central Asian tradition gave way to the rise of domed tombs, turbe, in Anatolia.

Lions and bulls, double-headed eagles, dragons, astrological motifs like planets and the Tree of Life were common in Seljuk decorative arts. These symbols come from Anatolian culture or perhaps from pre-Islamic shamanism.

Another innovation and artistic achievement was the production of tiles.


The Crusades were Christian military expeditions undertaken between the 11C and 14C to recapture the Holy Land from the Moslems. The word crusade, which is derived from the Latin crux "cross", is a reference to the biblical injunction that Christians carry their crosses. Crusaders wore a red cloth cross sewn on their tunics to indicate that they had assumed the cross and were soldiers of Christ.


The Crusaders continued the older tradition of Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which was often imposed as a penance; however, they also assumed a dual role as pilgrims and warriors. Such an armed pilgrimage was regarded as a justifiable war, because it was fought to recapture the places sacred to Christians.

For Christians, the very name of Jerusalem evoked visions of the end of time and of the heavenly city. To help rescue the Holy Land would fulfill the ideal of the Christian knight. Papal encouragement, the hope of eternal merit and the offer of indulgences motivated thousands to enroll in the cause.

Political considerations were also important. The Crusades were a response to appeals for help from the Byzantine Empire, threatened by the advance of the Seljuk Turks. The year 1071 AD had seen both the capture of Jerusalem and the decisive defeat of the Byzantine army at Manzikert, creating fear of further Turkish victories. In addition, the hopes of the Papacy for the reunification of East and West, the nobility's hunger for land at a time of insufficient crop, population pressure in the West and an alternative to warfare at home were major factors.

Equally, the Crusades were a result of economic circumstances. Many participants were lured by the fabulous riches of the East; a campaign abroad appealed as a means of escaping from the pressures of feudal society, in which the younger sons in a family often lacked economic opportunities. On a larger scale, the major European powers and the rising Italian cities (Genoa, Pisa and Venice) saw the Crusades as a means of establishing and extending trade routes.


Out of all of the Crusades the first and the forth are the most important from an Anatolian point of view. In general, the others were not as successful as these two. Some of them came out to be the Children's Crusade (1212 AD), in which thousands of children perished from hunger and disease or were sold into slavery on their way to the Mediterranean.

The First Crusade

(1096-99 AD) The main army, mostly French and Norman knights assembled at Constantinople and proceeded on a long, arduous march through Anatolia. They captured Antioch (June 3, 1098) and finally Jerusalem (July 15, 1099) in savage battles.

The Fourth Crusade

(1202-04 AD) The Crusaders first attacked the Christian city of Zara in Dalmatia. Then, they sailed on to lay siege to Constantinople. The Byzantine capital fell on April 13, 1204; it was looted, particularly for its treasures and relics and made the residence of a Latin emperor, with Baldwin, Count of Flanders, as the first incumbent. A Greek army, almost casually, recaptured the city in 1261 AD.

The sacking of the wealthy city of Constantinople in three days by this fourth crusade was so tragic that a Christian high official declared, "it would be better to see the royal turban of the Turks in the midst of the city than the Latin miter".


The results of the Crusades are difficult to assess. In religious terms, they hardened Moslem attitudes toward Christians. At the same time, doubts were raised among Christians about God's will, the church's authority and the role of the papacy. Religious fervor yielded to disinterest, skepticism and a growing legalism although the Crusades did stimulate religious enthusiasm on a broad scale. Knowledge, through contact with the Moslem world, replaced ignorance about other cultures and religions, and earned them a certain respect. The idea of religious conversion by force gave way to a new emphasis on apologetics and mission. The Koran was translated into Latin in 1143 AD.

Politically, the Crusades did not effect much change. The Crusader states and the Latin Empire of Constantinople were short-lived. The almost endless quarrels among rival lords in the Levant exposed a fatal weakness of the West and strengthened the Moslem conviction that the war could be carried farther west. In this sense, the Crusades led directly to the Turkish wars of later centuries, in which the Ottoman Empire expanded into the Balkans and threatened the very heart of Europe. Today, only the ruins of Crusader castles remain as evidence of the knights' presence in the East during which more than 100 castles and fortresses were built.

Through the Crusades, Islamic science, philosophy and medicine deeply influenced intellectual life in the West.

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