Sunday, June 26, 2011

From The Battle of Dandanaqan to The Battle of Rey, The effects of Seljuks in the Middle East, 1040-1194

1.     Introduction

The Seljuks were Kınık tribe of Oghuz Turks, mostly Sunni Muslim dynasty that ruled parts of Central Asia and the Middle East from the 11th to 14th centuries. Actually, Turcoman tribal confederations of Central Asia formed the Great Seljuk Empire. Today, the inhabitants of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan were the main components of the Great Seljuk Empire. Seljuk Beg was the founder and the leader of the Seljuk tribe and dynasty. Under lidership of Toghrul and Chaghri begs, the Seljuks migrated into Khorasan. Ghaznavid Empire attempts to stop Seljuks in the Battle of Dandanaqan in 1040. Victorious Seljuks became masters of Khorasan, expanding their power into Transoxiana (Maveraunnehir) and across Iran. By 1055 Toghrul had expanded his control all the way to Baghdad. And, The Seljuks became a Middle Eastern power.

Hence, this article will focus on the questions of why Seljuks expand and move to the Middle East and what were the effects of Seljuks in the region between 1040 and 1194.  Then, there will be the analyses of the role of the Seljuks in the Crusades, the relations between Seljuks and other states in the region and the effects of Seljuks on the other states in the Middle East. Finally, it concludes by the narrative of how a non-Arab state became a Middle Eastern power first, then how she became influential in the region. In the conclusion, it will ensure overview of the analysis, briefly and it will try to mention about current situation in the relations.

2.     From The Battle of Dandanaqan to The Battle of Rey, The effects of Seljuks in the Middle East, 1040-1194

One hundred years is not long time when we look the history of humanity. However, there are some states, empires or leaders that they do many important things in one hundred years and the things that they did may influence today`s world. Seljuks was one of them. They were nomad warriors and moved to the Middle East and they did many important things in the region which affected the Middle Eastern history and the world history. Actually, the Seljuk dominion was established over the Sassanid domains. The leaders of Seljuk Empire were soldiers in the armies of Arabs and other Turkic nomad states. The name of the Seljuk Dynasty comes from Seljuk Beg.
`Great Seljuk Empire, which was founded in 1040, played an important role in the domination process of Middle East by the Turks. Today there are more than twenty states over the territories, which were once belonged to Great Seljuks. To keep such wide areas under control and to rule those for many years required a powerful army and a well performing organization` (Kuşçu, 2001: 114).

Seljuks had very talented warriors and leaders. `After the foundation of state under Tugrul and Cagri Begs, Seljuks became the paramount military power in the region. This gave them the self-confidence they needed to apply the distinctive policies of Turkish states. Seljuks’ policies were mainly devoted to the west` (ibid, 2). Hence, Seljuk had moved from the Central Asia to the Middle East. And they faced with Byzantium and the Fatimids in this region. Why Seljuks expanded and moved to the Middle East and what were the effects of Seljuks in the region between 1040 and 1194? 

2.1  Why Did the Battle of Dandanaqan Erupt? And What was the importance of Seljuk Migration to Khorasan?
The Battle of Dandanaqan was fought in 1040 between the army of the Seljuks and the Ghaznavid Empire. The battle ended with a Seljuk victory and brought down the Ghaznavid domination in the Khorasan. But, what was the reason behind the war between Ghaznevids and Seljuks? There were always struggle for power between Turkic tribes in the Central Asia for centuries. In the 11th century, there is a big struggle between Kara-Khanids in the east, Ghaznavids in the south and Kuman-Kypchaks in the north of the Central Asia for power. They were pressuring on the Oguz tribes, including Seljuk at the eastern coastline of the Caspian Sea to the Lake of Aral. So, Seljuks cannot move to the east, because there were Kara-Khanids in the East. If they fight against Kara-Khanids and they win this war, they will face with the threat of the powerful Chinese Dynasties such as Khitans (Liao) and Song Dynasty. Moreover, Seljuks cannot move to the north, because, in the north, there were Kuman Kypchak tribes and Tatar tribes. Seljuks did move neither to the east nor to the north. The only way to escape from the pressure for Seljuks was moving to the south. However, there is a problem for moving to the south also, because there was the Ghaznavid Empire in the south. In addition to this, Ghaznavid Empire was not powerful as in the period of Mahmud Ghaznawi. So, this was an opportunity for Seljuk to attack Ghaznavids. In 1040, Seljuks fought against the Ghaznavid Empire in the Battle of Dandanaqan. Seljuks won the war and moved to the south around the Khorasan. Nomadic tribes of Seljuks started to migrate in Khorasan. This was the geostrategic dimension behind the war between Seljuks and Ghaznavid Empire.  In addition to this, there is an economic dimension of the war. This is not about the cost of declaring a war. This is about the obtaining some important economic benefits after the war. Ghaznavid Empire has the control of some important regions and cities along the Silk Road such as Ray, Tehran, Nishapur, Yazd, Merv, Bukhara, Samarkand, Herat, Kabul, and Peshawar.  So, they have the region of Transoxiana and Khorasan.  These cities in these regions were rich cities because of the Silk Road. If Seljuks achieve to capture these cities from Ghaznavids, they will have economic power. With the controlling of the cities along Silk Road, Seljuks would control the one of the most important trade routes in the world. 
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Silk Road

`These two Oguz tribes could not share the land and fought first in 1038 near Täkgala and later in 1040 near Sarahs on the Daňdanakan Plain. This resulted in Soltan Mesut withdrawing with great losses and Khorasan, Iran, Köneürgenç and Maveraunnehir passing to the control of the Seljuks. After this, the Gaznaly State faced great turmoil and finally became subject to the Seljuk State` (Niyazov, 2001: 224).
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Ghaznavi-Seljuk fight in Dandanaqan
However, The Seljuks moved west into Iraq and Syria and conquered Baghdad in 1055. Actually, we do not know that Seljuks have certain plan to capture Baghdad. When we look at the political and social situation in the Middle East in 1050s, there was rising domination of Shi`ism on the Sunni Islam.  The Buyid dynasty and The Fatimid Islamic Caliphate were two big Shia state in the Middle East at that time and they had started to dominate Abbasid caliphate. So, Abbasid Caliph Al-Qa`im called Seljuk Turks to help and defend Sunni Islam against Fatimids and Buyid Dynasties.
`Seljuk warriors appeared in Armenia and Syria and the Seljuk ruler, Togrul, was on his way to Baghdad. There he was welcomed in 1055 by the caliphate, al-Qa'im, who sought their support against his rival, the Fatimid caliphate in Egypt, against whom he had been warring. The Fatimid caliphate ruled Jerusalem. Togrul defended Qa'im against Fatimid forces who had imprisoned al-Qa'im in 1058. Togrul defeated the Fatimids and freed al-Qa'im` (Macrohistory, 2011).
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Ancient Khorasan
The Battle of Dandanaqan is very important in the Seljuk`s history. We can understand how a nomad community became an empire though analyzing the before and after periods of the Battle of Dandanaqan. Getting the lands of Khorasan was also important for Seljuks, because Khorasan has strategic and economic importance in that period. Why was Khorasan important in that period? This place is important, because the Silk Road passes from Khorasan. So, it has a big economic importance. In addition to this, `Khorasan is historical region and realm comprising a vast territory now lying in northeastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Afghanistan. The historical region extended, along the north, from the Amu Darya (Oxus River) westward to the Caspian Sea and, along the south, from the fringes of the central Iranian deserts eastward to the mountains of central Afghanistan` (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, 2010). So, it has very strategic importance, because it is a gate between the Inner Asia and the Middle East. If Seljuk became an empire, the place of Battle of Dandanaqan is very important within this process. The sole aim of the two brothers trained by Seljuk Beg was to make Khorasan their homeland. To attain their goal, Çagry Beg together with his brave men crossed over Khorasan to reach the Roman Land (Anatolia) (Ibid: 225).

2.2  How did Seljuks become the protector of Islam? And What was the role of Seljuks in Crusades?

After the Battle of Dandanaqan and capturing of Khorasan, Seljuks faced with new rival and other civilizations in the Middle East, such as Abbasid Caliphate, Fatimid Caliphate, Buyid Dynasty, and Byzantine Empire. 

The Seljuks, Toghrul Beg`s warriors moved to South Caucasus and the Eastern Black Sea` coastlines to fight against the Byzantine-Georgian armies. Actually, there were some land and power conflicts between Armenians and Byzantines. `In an attempt to destabilise the Armenians, Constantine IX secretly encouraged the Seljuks to attack Ani in 1044AD`(Markham, 2005). Ani was the capital of Armenians and Seljuk Turks captured Ani. Actually, Byzantines lost a secure buffer zone on the Byzantine Empire’s eastern border. So, Byzantines and Armenians agreed to cooperate together against Seljuk Turks. `The Seljuk Turks launched their first massive ghazwa or raid into Byzantine Armenia (1048) and the Byzantine frontier in the East was forever breached` (Blaum, 2004: 1). This was the Battle of Kapetron (Pasinler Savaşı) that was occurred between Seljuks and Byzantine-Georgian-Armenian armies. In addition to this, `In 1067 the Seljuq Turks invaded Asia Minor attacking Caesarea and in 1069 Iconium (Sherrard, 1966: 164)`.
After all these wars, Byzantine Empire lost political and economic power and prestige. Seljuks continued to capture Anatolian cities. So, Byzantines wanted to stop Seljuk expansion and hegemony over Asia Minor.

`The Battle of Manzikert in which the Byzantines under the emperor Romanus IV Diogenes were defeated by the Seljuk Turks led by the sultan Alp-Arslan. It was followed by Seljuk conquest of most of Anatolia and marked the beginning of the end for the Byzantine Empire as a militarily viable state and allowed Turks to gradually populate Anatolia` (ibid, 2011). After a big victory in the Battle of Mazikert, Seljuk expansion continued in the Middle East and Asia Minor. In 1077 the Seljuks took control of Jerusalem and this situation disturbed the Christian World, because, the Jerusalem is very important and holy city for Christians. Also, it is an economicly rich city in the Middle East.

`The Seljuks moved against Byzantine forces at the Battle of Manzikertin in Armenia in 1071 on a decades-long advance to the gates of Constantinople. In 1077 the Seljuks took control of Jerusalem. Constantinople's emperor, Alexius, was eager for an ally in the form of mercenary soldiers against the Seljuks, and for this in 1095 he appealed to Rome's pope, Urban II. The Pope saw the Holy Land as having been profaned, and he organized what became known as the First Crusade -- more than Alexius had wanted` (ibid. 2).
Between the years of 1040 and 1094, Seljuks conquered Persia, Armenia, Iraq, Syria, Asia Minor and Jerusalem. As this situation affected the Byzantine Empire very deeply, it also affected the Christian world, because Seljuks unified the Islamic World through the conquest of Bagdad and providing Sunni domination over Shiasm. Then, they captured important cities where the population mostly Christian such as Ani, Antioch (Antakya), Sebastea (Sivas), Iconium (Konya), Caesarea (Kayseri). However, this cannot be only the reason for the first Crusade. These cities were rich cities and big trade centers in the medieval. So, there is an economic side of the Crusades. If the Christian world loses these cities, they would lose also their economic source of income. Jerusalem is a sacred city and the fall of Jerusalem became the last point for the Christians and they responded these attacks through the Crusades. So, there were economic, political and ideological dimensions of Crusades. Ideological dimension was rescuing Christians from Islamic rule and rescuing the holy lands from Muslims.  Recapturing the rich cities such as Antioch from Seljuks and recapturing the control of trade routes from Muslims were the two major economic reasons for crusades. Political dimension can be the stopping the Seljuk expansion.

The Crusades between the years of 1096 and 1192`s results cannot clear, because we cannot say that one side won and other side lost in these wars. However, we can see the big effect of Seljuks` existence in these wars. Seljuks became a buffer zone between the Christian World and Islamic World. And they tried to prevent the recapturing of Jerusalem and other big trade centers in the Middle East by Christian armies. If we mention about the importance of Crusades in the history of the Middle East, we cannot condone the effects and role of the Seljuks in these wars. As their existence affected the Middle East, it also affected the World History.  If they were not there, maybe the Crusades would not happen or there would be a different world system today, because Europeans gained new ideas, inventions though the military expeditions in the Crusades.
2.3  How were the Relations between Seljuks, Fatimids and Abbasids?
The real relations between Turkic people and Middle East start with the existence of Turks as soldiers in the Middle Eastern States such as in the Ikhshidid dynasty, the Tulunids and Abbasid Caliphate`s armies. Then the rivalry between Fatimids and Abbasids became useful for Seljuks. Actually, this was a religious rivalry between Shi`as and Sunni Muslims. Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad called Seljuk Turks to help and defend Sunni Islam against Shi`a Fatimids and Buyid Dynasties. Then, Seljuks captured Baghdad and unified the Islam. With capturing Baghdad, Seljuks had gained an important role in the Middle East and Islamic World. `In 1055, Togrul Beg went to Baghdad and was declared Soltan in the city, which was under the control of the Caliphate. He was named “Soltan of the seven climates” by the Caliphate` (ibid: 113).

After, capturing Baghdad, the leader of the Seljuks who is Toghrul Beg married the daughter of the Abbasid Caliph. `The Abbasid caliphate was founded by the descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad's youngest uncle, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, in Harran in 750 CE and shifted its capital in 762 to Baghdad` (Princeton, 2011). With marrying the daughter of Abbasid Caliph, Togrul gained political and religious power and prestige in the Islamic world. In addition to this, Seljuks guarantee their presence in the Middle East with this marriage.  Seljuk started to fight against the non-Muslim communities in the Anatolia and Caucasus such as Georgians, Armenians, and Byzantine under the name of Islamic holy wars. 
            On the other hand, the relations with Seljuks and Fatimids were not good, because Seljuks were mostly Sunni and Fatimids were Shi`a. Seljuk expansion affected Fatimids, deeply. In 1955 Baghdad, in 1072 Jerusalem, in 1076 Damascus is captured by Seljuks from Shi`a Fatimids and Buyids. The existence of Seljuks weakened the dominance and influence of Fatimids in the Middle East. Even in the Crusades, the bad relations between Fatimids and Seljuks continued.
`While the Saljuks were busy against the Crusaders, the Fatimid caliphate sent a force to the coastal city of Tyre, a little more than 145 miles north of Jerusalem. The Fatamids took control of Jerusalem in February 1098, three months before the Crusaders had their success at Antioch. The Fatimids, who were Shia, offered the Crusaders an alliance against their old enemy the Seljuks, who were Sunni. They offered the Crusaders control of Syria, and Jerusalem was to remain theirs. It did not work out. The crusaders were not going to be deterred from taking Jerusalem` (ibid: 3).
The Enemy of my enemy is my friend policy became very influence in Fatimid, Crusaders and Seljuks` triangle relations in the Middle East.
2.4  Why Did the Great Seljuk Empire Collapse?
After the first and second crusades, Seljuks wear out and lose power. In addition to this, Oghuz Turks rebelled against Seljuk rulers. Moreover, the Kara-Khitan Khanate attacked Seljuks at the same time. All these events caused the loss of the power and influence of Seljuk Empire. When Sultan Sanjar died in 1156, Turcoman beghliks started to become independent from the Great Seljuk Empire. `Khorasani Seljuks in Khorasan, Kermani Seljuks, Sultanate of Rum, Atabeghlik of Salgur in Iran, Atabeghlik of Ildeniz in Iraq and Azerbaijan, Atabeghlik of Bori in Syria, Atabeghlik of Zangi in Northern Mesopotamia, Turcoman Beghliks: Danishmendis, Artuqids, Saltuqids and Mengücek in Asia Minor, Khwarezmshahs in Transoxiana` (Turan, 1980: 243).
In 1194, however, Seljuks were defeated in the Battle of Ray by Khwarezmshah Empire, and the Great Seljuk Empire finally collapsed. Only the Sultanate of Rûm in Anatolia remained from the Great Seljuk Empire. However, with the rise of Genghis Khan, Mongols invaded Anatolia and divided it into small beyliks in the thirteenth century. Eventually one of these, the Ottoman, would rise to power and conquer the rest. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey took over the flag in the Anatolia and the Middle East.
     In the history of the domination of Middle East by Turks, the Seljuk Empire has very important place.  When we look at the existence of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey in the Middle East, they must be grateful to Seljuks. The domination process of Middle East starts with conquest of Khorasan by Seljuks after the Battle of Dandanaqan in 1040.  After this war, Seljuks became an empire, because they were not only the military power after this war, but also they reached the economic power through the getting the control of Silk Road. Seljuk expansion moved from Transoxiana to the Middle East through the capturing Baghdad from Buyid Dynasty.  When we look at the political and social situation in the Middle East in 1050s, there was rising domination of Shi`ism on the Sunni Islam.  The Buyid dynasty and The Fatimid Islamic Caliphate were two big Shia state in the Middle East at that time and they had started to dominate Abbasid caliphate. So, Abbasid Caliph Al-Qa`im called Seljuk Turks to help and defend Sunni Islam against Fatimids and Buyid Dynasties.

`The Great Seljuk State promoted Islam along with the Oguz culture, and in this way they enlarged their frontiers from Istanbul to China. Furthermore, being a great state, the Seljuks were honored as being the guard of the entire Islamic World. In addition, intending to dominate the world, they treated the people under their rule equally and justly and made great progress in the realms of culture and civilization. They improved the whole country, building roads, bridges, caravanserai, small mosques, madrassas (schools, universities) and hospitals` (ibid: 225).
The questions of why Seljuks expand and move to the Middle East and what were the effects of Seljuks in the region between 1040 and 1194 are analyzed.  Then the role of the Seljuks in the Crusades and the relations between Seljuks and other states in the region and the effects of Seljuks on the other states in the Middle East is examined. The narrative of how a non-Arab state became a Middle Eastern power first, then how she became influential in the region is showed with real examples and details.
İsa Burak GONCA

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