The Seljuk Empire derived its name from Seljuk Beg, the grandparent of the creator of the Seljuk Empire and of the Seljuk dynasty – Tughril Beg. The Seljuk Empire at its height controlled territories ranging from the Caucasus Indicus to western Anatolia and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf.
Beginning and Rapid Growth
The empire is noted for uniting what was at that time a crisis in the eastern Islamic world politically and to be of Turko-Persian origins, noted for adopting heavily from the Persian culture, language and traditions. Tughril alongside his brother Chagri struggled to gain power over the Persian Ghaznavid dynasty at the time led by Mahmud, who repeatedly repelled them and forced them to remain in Kwarezm. Yet, it would not deter the determined brothers away, for they eventually wrested control from their successors and acquired large portions of Ghaznavid territories by the year 1040 A.D. Of note is that the brothers were tasked by the Abbasid Caliphate to capture Baghdad from the Shi’a Persian Buyid dynasty in 1055 A.D.
Chagri’s son, Arp Arslan, meaning heroic lion in Turkic, expanded the Seljuk Empires territories by acquiring Armenia and Georgia in 1064 A.D as well as starting to encroach and invade the Byzantine Empire territories in Anatolia, so much so that in 1068 A.D, Anatolia was fully under Seljuk rule and cemented his rule by repelling Byzantine resistance by acquiring victory in the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 A.D. Reward to his loyal Turkmen generals came in the form of allowing them to acquire territories, which they could govern all around Anatolia. They were called beyliks, (later becaming atabegs) while the beyliks became known as Saltukids, Shah-Armens, Mengujekids, Artuqids, Danishmendis, Rum Seljuks and the beylik of Tzachas of Smyrna. Alp Arslan was succeeded by two Persian viziers. They went by the names of Nizam al-Mulk and Taj al-Mulk, which expanded the empires territories so much that at one point it bordered China and the Byzantine Empire. Under Malikshah, son of Alp Arslan the Seljuk Empire reached its zenith, and Malikshah received praise as well as the title Sultan of the West and East by the Abbasid Caliphate. Under his rule he found many prominent figures from his administration including Nizam al-Mulk to be assassinated by the Hashshashins, who were ruled by their creator – the Nizari Hassan-e Sabbah.
Decline of the Empire
With the death of Malikshah, his brother alongside his four sons became entangled in a civil war between the beyliks, as each one saw himself as successor by right. With the eventual coming of the Crusades, they only managed to defeat the People’s Crusade in 1096 A.D, yet were trampled over by the Prince’s Crusade that carved out their formed empires’ territories and created the crusaders territories of the Holy Land by the year 1099 A.D.
In 1121 A.D what was left of the united Seljuk Empire under Ilghazi amassed an impressive army numbering somewhere between 100.000 to 250.000 people per modern estimates, or by both Islamic and Christian chronicles somewhere between 400.000 to 800.000 people, and marched forth to conquer Christian Georgia, then under rule of David the Builder. In the Battle of Didgori, the Georgian army numbering 55.600 people among who were Georgians, French Crusaders, Cuman-Kypchaks, Alans and Armenias, scored a decisive victory over the Seljuk Empire’s army, thus driving back the Islamic control over Georgia. Still, in 1202 the Suleiman II Shah amassed an army numbering 100.000 to 400.000 soldiers to reconquer Georgia, but was met head on by the second husband of Queen Tamar and David Soslan who gathered around 65.000 people, and with a pyrrhic victory by effective flanking maneuvers won the Battle of Basian. With constant infighting, invasions, incursions, rebellions and what not else, what was once the Great Seljuk Empire crumbled and split between the beyliks, thus ending one of the great prominent powers of the Middle Ages.