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Anatolian Civilizations  :: The Seljuk Civilization 

The Turks of the Oguz tribes first converted to Islam during the 10th century, when they conquered Iran and defeated the Gaznavids. Tugrul Bey’s conquest of Isfahan and Baghdad between 1050 and 1055 ensured their dominance in the Islamic world.

On the death of Tugrul Bey, his place as chieftain of the Seljuks was taken by his nephew Alpaslan, who was responsible for the defeat of the Byzantine army at the battle of Malazgirt in 1071. This decisive battle, at which the Byzantine commander Romen Diogenes was taken by the Turks, was the turning point for the Seljuks as it marked the beginning of migration by the Turks to Anatolia.

On Alpaslan’s death, the succession passed to Melik Sah, but this was the commencement of a battle for the throne. Suleyman Sah led an army of Turkmens gathered from the Anatolian regions towards Konya, to seat the Seljuks, in 1075, capturing the city and region. He also took Iznik, taking advantage of the Byzantine weakness in the area, and declared it his capital. It was here that the Great Seljuk (Iranian Seljuk) gave Suleyman the sultanate of Anatolia. 1077 was the date of the foundation of this new state.

Soon after his death, the Iranian Seljuk Meliksah captured Suleyman’s sons during the battle of Aleppo in 1086 and held them in Iran until his death in 1092. The Anatolian throne remained vacant during those years, but was claimed by Kilicarslan I, one of Suleyman Sah’s sons on his release, when he ensconced himself in his father’s capital of Iznik. Later, the capital was transferred to Konya when the Byzantines recaptured Iznik, at a time when the sultan was engaged in enlarging his territories to the east. After defeating the Crusaders at Konya Ereglisi in 1102, the Seljuk sultan declared a truce.

The Seljuk commanders responsible for the major part of their success against Byzantium and the crusaders during the reign of Kilicarslan I subsequently established themselves in the various Anatolian regions and staked out their own emirates - the Turkmen principalities such as the Saltukids, the Mengujeks, the Danishmendids and Artukids. These emirates later amalgamated with the Seljuk state. After Kilicarslan I, Meliksah came to rule (1107-1116) and the Sultan to reign after him was Mesud I (1116-1156), who defeated both the Byzantine and Crusader armies and reduced the Danishmendid chieftain Yagcibasan to the state of vassal.

The sultan who took his place in 1156 was Kilicarslan II (1156-1192), after a struggle for the throne, resulting in the death of Kilicarslan’s brother and the defection of his younger brother to the Danishmendids near Ankara. During the subsequent confrontation between the Seljuks and Danishmendids, the Byzantines made an alliance with the Atabek of Mosul and marched on the Seljuk territories, only to be rebuffed by Kilicarslan himself.

The subsequent treaty between Byzantium and the Seljuks in 1159 allowed Kilicarslan to concentrate on the conquest of Anatolia with his western borders secured. He also absorbed his brother’s territory around Ankara and Cankiri, and finally dissolved the Danishmendid state with the annexation of Sivas, Niksar and Tokat in 1178.

Following this, Giyaseddin Keyhusrev I who ruled from 1192-1196, managed to secure partial solidarity for the Seljuk state. He was succeeded by Suleyman II who brought the Saltukid rule over Erzurum to an end in 1201. Suleyman Sah died in 1204, leaving the throne to his son Kilicarslan III, who was still a child. Upon the invasion of Byzantium by the Franks, Giyaseddin Keyhusrev I advanced on Konya and dethroned his nephew with the help of Turkmen coastal tribes, re-establishing himself as Seljuk sultan for the second time in 1204.

He was to die during a battle with Laskaris, the king of Iznik in 1211, to be succeeded by his son Izzeddin Keykavus (1210-1220). Izzeddin Keykavus I died in 1220 during a campaign against the Ayyubids, to be succeeded by Alaeddin Keykubad (1220-1237).

After establishing the security of the Seljuk state on its southern borders with a number of treaties, Alaeddin Keykubad then turned his attention towards the advancing threat of the Mongols, re-building and reinforcing the defenses of towns and cities while adding a string of conquests to his achievements.

During his reign, the empire became the world’s most powerful, richest and built up state. Alaeddin Keykubad, who was poisoned at a banquet in 1237, was succeeded by the unimposing figure of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II, a weak figure who left the administration of the state to his vizier, Sadeddin Kopek. It was then that the decline of the Seljuk state began. At this time, the Mongols became a great threat. After the Battle of Kosedag, which was held in 1243, they took all of Anatolia under their dominance for half a century.

On the death of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev in 1246, the fight for succession between his children, still very young, was exacerbated by the Mongolian involvement in this struggle, a further blow to the independence of the Seljuk state. At this time, the Ilhanid ruler, Abaka Han entered Anatolia and assassinated a number of Seljuk statesmen suppressing the Seljuks to such a degree that the sultans retained little authority and Anatolia little independence. Subsequent to this, the Seljuks were ruled by Keykavus II (1246-1257), Kilicarslan IV (1248-1265) Keykubad IV (1249-1257) and Keyhusrev III (1265-1282) respectively.

The Seljuk state, practically a nonentity by then, was finally destroyed upon the death in Konya of the Seljuk sultan Mesud II in 1308.

Artwork of the Seljuk Period

The first Turkish mosque in Anatolia was the Diyarbakir Ulu Mosque. This mosque is still in use today, having been restored on several occasions. It was followed by the Siirt Ulu Mosque, which was repaired in 1129 and is notable for its thick cylinder shaped minaret.

The gate knockers of the Silvan Ulu Mosque, which was constructed by the Artukids, are preserved in the Turkish Museum of Islamic Art, and are a shining example of their metal workmanship. Among other Artukid works of art are the Mardin Ulu Mosque, the Harput Ulu Mosque and the Kiziltepe Ulu Mosque.

Erected by the Danishmendids in 1197, the Sivas Ulu Mosque is thought provoking with its written inscriptions and porcelain tiles found at the base of its minaret. The Saltuks erected a brick tower next to a small mosque in Ickale, Erzurum, and called it the Tepsi Minare (Tray Minaret). The Mengujek’s greatest surviving artwork is the incredible stone masonry work found on the crown gates of the Divrigi Ulu Mosque, which was built in 1228-1229. The first Anatolian Seljuk mosque was that of the Konya Alaeddin Mosque, which was erected in the year 1219. Several carpets which reflected the Seljuk art of carpetmaking were found in this mosque as well as on the Beysehir Esrefoglu Mosque and are currently on display at the Turkish Museum of Islamic Arts.

Other prominent Seljuk mosques include the Nigde Ulu Mosque, the Malatya Ulu Mosque (1224), the Burmali Minaret in Amasya, which was constructed entirely from cut stone (1237-47), the Sinop Ulu Mosque (1267) and the Gok Medrese Mosque, which is also in Amasya.

After the fall of the Seljuks, mosques were built to reflect the characteristics of the period as well as those found in the principalities. Two examples of this are the Adana Ulu Mosque, which is a remnant of the Dulkadirogullari and the Antalya Yivli (Grooved) Minaret Mosque, which is a remnant of the Hamitogullari.

Besides mosques, the religious theology schools also played an important role. As the mosques first appeared in the Danishmendid and Artukid regions, so did the theological schools. They gradually developed from the middle of the twelfth century until the end of the fifteenth century, 15 examples of which have managed to survive in part or in whole to the present. These schools developed into two styles, domed and antechambered and were based on a certain preplanned diagram.

The activities in these schools were not completely based on religion, but had various teaching facilities such as an observatory, a health clinic, etc. The surviving examples of the domed-type theology schools are as follows; The Gumustekin Bursa School (1136), the Ertokus School in Atabey Isparta (1224), the Turan Melik Health Clinic built by the Mengujeks (1228), the Konya Karatay School, which holds the finest examples of Seljuk porcelain tiles (1251), the Ince Minaret School in Konya, which was built by the Seljuk Vizier, Sahip Ata (1260), the Cay School (1270) and the Cacabey School in Kirsehir (1272).

The finest existing examples of the antechambered schools are the Hatuniye in Mardin (1185), the Zinciriye School in Diyarbakir (1198), and the Mesudiye School in Mardin (1198).

The earliest surviving Seljuk work is the Kayseri Cifte School, constructed in 1205. This school was combined with the Nesibe Health Clinic to become a structure with four antechambers. The other Seljuk theology schools were the Sircali School in Konya (1217), the Tas (Stone) School that Sahip Ata had constructed in Aksehir (1250), the Huand School in Kayseri, the Seracettin School and the Sahibiye School.

The most advanced structure to have emerged from the Anatolian Seljuk school of architecture was the Gok School in Sivas (1271), with its stone ornamentation, entry, facade, porcelain tiles and plan. Examples of existing structures that conveyed characteristics of the period are the Buruciye School in Sivas (1271), the Cifte Minaret School in Erzurum, of which only the facade remains, and the Gok School in Tokat (1270). The final works from the Seljuk Period are the Health Clinic in Amasya that was constructed in honor of Sultan Olcayto and his wife, Yildiz Hatun (1308), and the Yakutiye School in Erzurum that was constructed in honor of Sultan Olcayto and Bulgan Hatun (1310).

Caravanserai, which took the name Sultanhan or Han in Anatolia, were constructed entirely of cut stone and were placed one day’s distance apart along the roads in which caravans passed. These structures which reached tremendous sizes, resembled palaces and reflected the great power that the Seljuk Sultans embodied over Anatolia.

The first of the Seljuk caravanserai was the Alay Han, which was constructed along the Aksaray-Kayseri road by Kilicarslan II in 1192. The Altinapa Han, which was constructed along the Konya Beysehir road in 1201 and the Angit Han, which was constructed along the Konya-Aksehir road in the same year were both built on orders of a Seljuk statesman, Semsettin Altinapa. Between the years 1214-18, Izzeddin Keykavus I had built the Evdir Han on the Antalya-Isparta road (the modern day Korkuteli Highway), the Tas Han on the Sivas-Malatya road (1218), and the Kadinhan along the Konya-Aksehir road (1223). The Sultan Han, which was constructed along the Konya-Aksaray road, was rather advanced for its day and proved to be a fine example for later caravanserai that were yet to be built. According to two existing inscriptions, it was built by Alaeddin Keykubad I in 1229. Alaeddin Keykubad was responsible for two other caravanserai, one of which had practically the same layout but on a smaller scale, and was constructed between 1232-36 along the Kayseri-Sivas road at the 50 km point. The other was constructed in 1232 along the Alara Stream near Alanya and was called the Alara Han.

The Seljuk Vizier Sadeddin Kopek started construction of the Zazadin Han, which is located along the Konya-Aksaray road at the 25 km point. Construction of this han was completed in 1237. One caravanserai that has survived completely intact to this day is the Agzikara Han, located on the Aksaray-Nevsehir road. Construction of this caravanserai began towards the end of Alaeddin Keykubad’s rule in 1231 by Hoca Mesud bin Abdullah and was completed in 1237 during the reign of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II.

In 1240, Emir Celaleddin Karatay had the Karatay Han built at the 50 km. point along the Kayseri-Malatya road. Like his father, Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II had three caravanserai built. The first one was built three km. outside the town of Egirdir (1237-38). The second, called the Incir Han, was constructed along the Isparta-Antalya road in 1238. The third and final one was named the Kirkgoz Han and was also built on the Isparta-Antalya road, 32 km outside Antalya. The Sarapsa Han along the Alanya-Antalya road was also constructed during the reign of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev. Construction of the Susuz Han, which can be found in a well-preserved state in the village of Susuz, was begun in the final year of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev’s rule.

The Horozlu Han was constructed during the rule of Izzeddin Keykavus II, who was the son of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II in 1248. It is located along the Konya-Aksaray road and functions as a restaurant. Constructed in 1240 along the Nevsehir-Avanos road, the Sari Han was the last of the sultan caravanserai and has been restored to its former appearance.

As a sign of respect for the dead, the tombs and cupolas found throughout Anatolia show development in a unique architectural richness and creativity. These works, which had a square layout and were either domed, polygon or cylindrical shaped. At first, they were constructed from either brick or stone, whereas later they were built entirely from stone.

There are no known tombs that date back to the Artukid. However, there do exist a few cupolas dating back to the 12th century. Today, there are six cupolas that are known to have been constructed by the Danishmendids.

Of the 12th century Seljuk cupolas, only that of Kilicarslan II remains to this day, and can be found next to the Alaeddin Mosque in Konya. According to inscriptions found on the Doner Cupola, in Kayseri, it was constructed in 1276 for Sah Cihan Hatun. Kayseri was known to be a major center regarding cupola architecture.

There are a total of eleven cupolas in the town of Ahlat, which is known to have the most cupolas and the greatest variety of tombstones after Kayseri.

 



Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Ancient Civilizations and Treasures of Turkey".

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