In the last section, you read about the growth of Russia.
In this section, you will learn about the Turks in Anatolia.
As You Read
Use a chart to show important events and features of the various occupations of Baghdad.
The Rise of the Turks
Who were the Seljuk Turks?
The Turks were nomads from central Asia. They lived by herding sheep and goats. They traded with the settled peoples of the Abbasid Empire.
Beginning in the 900s, they moved into the lands of that empire and began converting to Islam.
The Turks were fierce and highly skilled fighters. The rulers of the empire began to buy them as children to train them for their armies. These Turkish military slaves were known as mamelukes. The Turks became an important political factor in the empire. Turkish soldiers many times removed caliphs from the throne in Baghdad and put new rulers in their place.
While the Turkish influence was growing, the empire itself was shrinking. Local leaders in several areas split off to establish their own states. In 945, a Persian army seized control of the empire. Members of the Abbasid family continued to hold the position of caliph and act as religious leaders. The new rulers of the government were from outside the dynasty. They were called sultans.
Large numbers of Turks settled in the empire as these changes took place. They were called Seljuks after the name of the family that led them. In 1055, the Seljuks captured Baghdad and took control of the government. The Seljuks used their force to take land from another empire—the Byzantine Empire. They won almost all of Anatolia. Anatolia was the name for the peninsula where modern Turkey is located. In this position, the Seljuks stood almost at the gates of Constantinople.
The Seljuks relied on the government experience of Persians in ruling their empire. They chose the Persian city of Isfahan as the capital of their kingdom. They gave Persians important positions in the government. For example, Nizam al-Mulk was a Persian who served as vizier, or prime minister. In return, Persians became loyal supporters of Turkish rule.
The Turks also adopted Persian culture. The nomadic Seljuk Turks had arrived in Southwest Asia as basically illiterate. They were not familiar with the traditions of Islam, which they had just adopted. They looked to Persian scholars to teach them the proper way to follow Islam. They began to use the Persian language for art and education. Turkish rulers even took the Persian word for “king”—shah—as their title.
One of the greatest Seljuk rulers, Malik Shah, became a patron of the arts. He made the capital city more beautiful by building many mosques, or Muslim houses of worship. Persian became so important that Arabic—the language of the Qur’an—almost died out in Seljuk lands.
1. What influence did Persians and Persian culture have on the Seljuks?
Seljuks Confront Crusaders and Mongols (Pages 316–317)
Why did the Seljuk Empire collapse?
After Malik Shah died unexpectedly in 1092, the Seljuk Empire collapsed quickly. Weak rulers could not maintain it. Collapse was also due to the Crusades. Rulers in western Europe sent armies to capture the holy lands of the Middle East. These were places sacred to Christians.
The First Crusade began in 1095, and the Christian armies captured Jerusalem. They established a Latin Kingdom that lasted about a century. Eventually, the Turks gathered enough strength to fight back. They retook the city in 1187.
Just when the Crusades became less of a threat to the Muslim world, the Mongols moved in from the east. They were led by a brutal leader, Genghis Khan. They killed tens of thousands of people and overran huge stretches of territory. Baghdad was captured in 1258. The Mongols killed the last caliph and took control of the government from the Seljuk Turks.