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[Anatolian Civilizations] [Seljuks]


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State Structure

Seljuk Turks State was founded and ruled by Seljuks from Kinik tribe of Uc Oklar (Three Arrows) branch of Oghuz people. State organization had a robust structure. Seljuk (also Seljuq) Turks largely benefited from state organizations of other Turkish and Islam states besides Karahans, Great Seljuks and Abbasid Dynasty. They successfully adapted respective dynastic organizations for their structures. Sultans expanded state organization in line with the new requirements and renovated the organization from time to time. Considering the State as common asset of the members of the dynasty generally resulted with the disintegration, separation and bloody sultanate fights. Therefore, centralism approach slowly and gradually began to develop especially after Kilic Arslan II.

The State was under the shared responsibility of the dynasty as it was same for former Turkic states. The sultan ruling the state had to be a member of the dynasty. The names were Turkish and Islamic. In addition, titles and epithets were given by the caliphate and scholars. Sultans taking the throne would ask the caliphate conforming his sultanate; khutbah used to be read on mosque and new coins would be released to inform the public about taking throne of the state. As an indication of the sovereignty, an umbrella made of atlas or velvet ornamented with the gold would be held over sultans' head during the wars or excursions and the instrumentalist would play timpani at the door of the sultan for five times a day. The rulers in cities were allowed to play timpani three times a day. The Sultans used to meet with high State officials and governors in particular days of the week and would learn their opinions and views. Sultan would determine allocation of the budget, assign the judges, ratifies nomination of the rules of the principalities and sultanates and would chair the Supreme Court for the crimes committed against the State Even if the sultan was primary ruler of the State, he would himself have to comply with the existing laws. The Sultan used to hear problems of the people two days in a week in order to establish a fair justice mechanism.

The Sultans used to reside in the palace. The neighbours of the Sultan would be Hacibu'l-Huccab, Ustaduddar, Silahdar, Emir-i Alem, Camedar, Tastar or Abdar, Emir-i Çasnigir, Emir-i Ahur, Emir-i Sikar, Emir-i Devat, Emir-i Mahfil, Serheng-i Nedîm and Musahip. Respective people would be elected among the most reliable and trustworthy men of the sultan and each would have their military troops.


Seljuks Army used to comprise palace soldiers (gulaman-I saray), imperial guards, troops of the clans in the dynasty, Turkmen forces, affiliated forces, paid soldiers and the navy. Turkish soldiers financed by the tax paid by the farmers in their local areas sued to constitute the base of the army and the management. There used to be scholars, dervishes and Sufis to perform religious ceremonies and to revitalize the spirit of holy war. The weapons of the army used to be arrow, arch, swords, pikes, sticks, maces, spears, war clubs, hatchets, catapults, ladders and mobile towers. The troops in the army would carry various flags, horsetails and signs.

Judicial Organization

In Seljuk Turks, the legal cases would be under the jurisdiction of the qadi located in each city. The qadi residing in Konya would be called chief qadi. These qadis (judges) would deal with heritage, charities and management of the funds. In Seljuk Turks, there were also courts having jurisdiction for the customary cases. These courts would have jurisdiction for the crimes such as order, disobedience to the State officials and political crimes. These customary cases would be managed by Emir-i Dad. Nobody could oppose against the verdict of the qadis. However, in case of a faulty verdict, the verdict would be initialled by other qadis and submitted to the Sultan. The qadis had to be ethical people who graduated from high madrasahs and equipped with profound knowledge about Islamic rules. The muftis would generally give formal legal opinion (fatwa) according to Hanefi sect.


Social Life

Anatolia was collapsed and ruined due to the wars, civil wars, disorders, bad management, heavy tax burden, pressure and oppression, external pressures during the centuries before conquest by Seljuk Turks and many inhabiting areas were almost all emptied. The peace and security was established after organizing a stable management via Seljuk State and old inhabiting areas were revitalized and new and large cities were created undertaking large scaled housing and settlement activities.

Seljuk cities such as Ahlat, Erzurum, Sivas, Konya and Malatya were large settlement centres where people of different religions and sects used to live together in peace and harmony. In addition, there were villages where only Muslims or non-Muslims used to live or where Muslims and non-Muslims used to live together.

A deep tolerance, understand and respect used to prevail in interrelations among people belonging to different beliefs and cultures and between the people and administration. Seljuk Turks did their best to prevent harming to local people during the conquest of respective cities and other wars. The wars never targeted local people, instead, the wars directed to Byzantine administration and their soldiers with whom the local people were not pleased. Seljuk Turks treated local people well after conquest and regarded them as “people entrusted to them by God".

The harmony and relations between people from different religious and ethnical roots living under rule of Seljuk Turks was so strong that people would generally share each other’s happiness and sorrows. They would celebrate their festivals and victories together, would attend each other’s weddings and funerals and they would feel almost same sorrow in case of death of a Muslim scholar or sheikh, Sultan or in case of death of a Christian religious leader or scholar. Kutalmisoglu Suleyman Shah, founder of Seljuk Turks rescued Christian Antakya people from the pressure and tyranny of son of Flaritos upon call of people living in the city and similarly, Kilic Arslan I rescued Christian people of Malatya from the tyranny of Gabriel. People in both cities liked Seljuk Turks due to their merciful and tolerant policies. Both Turks and Christians were in mourning upon deaths of two rescuers. The situation was also same for some other Sultans and governors.

The superiority of "law and order" prevailed just after foundation of Seljuk Turks' State in Anatolia and the common plundering, loots and irregularity replaced with the freedom, justice and security. In addition, it is known that Christian communities living in Anatolia suffered and complained from the cruelty before conquest of Anatolia by Seljuk Turks. Western historians also clearly indicate that Anatolian Christian communities used to live happier and had wider religious freedom during rule of Seljuk Turks compared to Byzantine time. The Christian history sources also confirm that Syrian and Armenians helped Turks during Mongolian invasion and Greeks during Byzantine rule and they left the war venues in groups refusing to fight against Turks.

The local people accepts many Turkmen sheikh coming to Slejuqs country as guarding and they would visit sheiks tombs and graves. In addition, the visiting places of the prophets, saints visited by Christians (Tarsus, Ephesus, Afsin, Seven Sleepers, Virgin Mary, tombs of Prophet Ibrahim and Eyyub in Urfa, Habib’un Neccar in Antakya) were common visiting places. The people visiting respective areas had opportunities to see each other and establish sincere relations and seeing existence of common values and joint sacred places helped approximation and creating a common culture between people of different religious and ethnical origins.

Both Muslim and non-Muslim communities liked Seljuk Turks Dynasty during their ruling period which exceeds two centuries and people from any class supported the management and dynasty thanks to their ruling nationalization, policy generation methods, fair and tolerant administration. The Dynasty followed the paths of the former Muslim and Turk states in regard to peace and solidarity environment thanks to state approach it developed in respective century and showed the world one of the best examples of living in harmony.


Seljuk Turks made Anatolia a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. They opened their doors to the world and took measures to develop the trade. They eliminated the obstacles before trade and constructed caravansaries in different parts of the country. The requirements of the foreigners visiting the caravansaries used to met for three days long including dining and accommodation free of charge including their animals. Muslims and non-Muslims, rich and poor and freeman and slave guests used to be served same meal and treated equal when they visited respective caravansaries. The caravansaries and hospices used to be constructed in a way to form a complex and would maintain their services through fund revenues. Besides the libraries, food, dressing units and travelling requirements, there were also temples for the religious requirements. Building mosques and churches side by side in these caravansaries shows the level and intensiveness of the relations between Muslim and Non-Muslim communities in respective periods.

As the Sultans of Anatolia Seljuk Turks were aware of the trade’s importance for the economic life of the country, they prepared environment for developing domestic and foreign trade and they established order and peace in trade roads, provinces and bazaars. Establishing a state insurance system by Seljuk Sultans undertaking to compensate and redress traders whose goods were stolen, lost or plundered played an important factor in developing trade activities in Anatolia. Muslims and Non-Muslims had opportunities to know each other better and they also showed good examples for friendly relations sharing same time and place besides fulfilling their interests by meeting each other's needs in a comfortable and peaceful trading environment.

The tradesmen and craftsmen united around an organization called "akhism" (trade guilds) since XIII Century. This organization set economic, political and ethical rules in the provinces and provided important services in elimination of the political crises troubles.

Ahi Evran (Sheikh Nasiruddin Mahmud, D. 1262), accepted as founder of trade guild organization in Anatolia, organized sheik- disciple, master- apprentice relations depending on Islamic mystic ideas via supports and helps of Alaeddin Keykubad I. The members of this organization which expanded very rapidly and they gained influence not only in provinces but also in villages and in clans close to the borders of the country. Especially in XIII century when the state’s political and military authority weakened, trade guild (akhism) organization provided important services using their power. The members of brotherhood of trade guilds used to solve various occupational problems and regulate their relationships with the state during Anatolian Seljuk Turks. The trade guild organization (akhism) was primarily responsible for controlling the goods on the markets and bazaars in terms of quality and pricing. Trade guilds that used to operate in a very wide environment including many statesmen, sect members and scholars and their activities dominated in economic area changing into an organized artisan unit in XIV century.

Turkmen people who migrated to Anatolia after XII century had trade relationships each other and with Greeks and Armenians. The trade activities that started in form of exchange of goods (bartering) continued using money together with introduction of Seljuk’s currency in trade. The sources mentioning about the situation in Anatolia in XII century describe the country in a ruined situation; however, the travellers visiting Anatolia in XIII century describe the country as a place of welfare and richness. The bazaars that used to be organized at outskirts of the provinces at the beginning were sufficient to meet requirements of the villagers and migrant Turkmen people. The hospices and caravansaries were constructed and the number of bazaars and markets increased in line with the growth of the provinces. The trade among provinces also started in XIII century.

Seljuk sultans attached great importance to development of the foreign trade. Antalya became an important import and export port after Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhusrev I conquered the province in 1207. Similarly, Alaeddin Keykubad conquered Kalonoros in 1221 and changed its name as “Alaiyye”. After setting peace and stability environment in Anatolia, European traders began to procure oriental commercial goods from Anatolia instead of Egypt. Then, Anatolia had a very remarkable commercial potential for Europe and especially for Islamic countries in the east. Turks got a big share in Mediterranean trade together with conquest of Antalya. They signed commercial agreements with Cyprus and Venice. Cyprus King Hugues I and Izzeddin Keykavus I concluded commercial agreements. According to the agreements, Seljuk traders could able to perform their trade activities freely in Cyprus island and similarly, Cyprus traders would have trade freedom in Anatolia by means of paying the customs fees mutually. The export goods were alum, silk, silky clothes, cotton, rugs, carpets, leather, soap and spices and other commercial goods brought from the east. European traders used to use Cyprus as a commercial base. Some part of the goods they brought would be imported by Turkish traders.

Concluding a confirmation agreement with Venice in 1220 shows how much Alaeddin Keykubad cared for trade activities during his ruling period. According to the agreement between the parties, Venice traders and other traders living other places under their ruling would be able to perform commercial activities freely on Seljukian territorySimilarly, Seljukian subject were allowed to have commercial activities freely in regions under the rule of Venice.

Commercial relations started between Seljuk Turks and Memluks in XIII century. Especially, trade of timbers used for shipbuilding was popular. Transportation activities between two countries used to performed by Genoese and Venice people. It is known that Genoese vessels voyaged from Iskenderiye to Alaiyye in 1289 with their cargo of sugar, linen and pepper.

The trade in Black Sea also gained importance especially after conquest of Sinop by Izzeddin Keykavus in 1214. Sinop was an important port city in terms of both trade in north-south direction and east-west direction. Sultan Izzeddin Keykavus I started intensive improvement activities in the province. Rich and famous people from different regions settled in Sinop. All opportunities and capacities used to increase the trade volume and Sinop became an important trade base in Black Sea region.

Then, Sultan began preparation for conquering Sugdak in Crimea which used to serve a destination for Turkish, Arabic and Russian traders and conquest the city with the fleet commanded by Emir Husameddin Coban (1227). The trade activities of Anatolia Seljuk Turks increased in Black Sea. It is known that Russian and Kipchak traders expanded down to Sivas in XIII century. When Trabzon recognised rule of Seljuk in 1230, they also had a trade centre that connected Black Sea to East Anatolia, Iran and Far East.

Constituting peace and solidarity in Anatolia in XII century and conquest of Alaiyye and Sinop created environment for reviving of transit trade in Anatolia. Goods shipped from Egypt to Antalya and Alaiyye used to be delivered to Samsun and Sinop ports over Konya, Ankara, Sinop or Baghdad- Halep- Malatya-Sivas-Amasya. In addition, Ayas-Samsun route was also important in transit trade. Kosedag War, started with Babai Revolt in 1240 and ended with defeat in 1243, was a big stroke for commercial life in Anatolia. Many traders residing in Kayseri and Malatya fled to Syria due to respect disorder and crises.

The economic welfare level of the provinces locating east of Sinop-Antalya line was better than the west provinces in first half of XIII century. The tax paid by the provinces in XIV century was Erzurum 222.000 Dinar, Erzincan 332.000 Dinar, Harput 215.000 Dinar, Niksar 187.000 Dinar, Kayseri 140.000 Dinar, Nigde 141.000 Dinar, Aksaray 51.000 Dinar, Akşehir 135.000 Dinar, Ankara 72.000 Dinar, Mardin 236.000 Dinar, Meyyafarikin (Silvan) 224.000 Dinar, Sivas and Konya 1.384.886 Dinar in total. The population exceeded one hundred thousand at the end of XIII century especially in Konya, Kayseri, Sivas, Sinop, Erzurum, Erzincan, Malatya, Ahlat, Diyarbakır and Mardin.

Yabanlu Bazaar which used to be one of the important occasions in international trade, organized in Pazaroren Village of Pinarbasi sub-province of Kayseri province. The fair would stay open for 40 days long and any kind of clothes, furs and living animals even slaves would be marketed. Yabanlu Bazaar gradually lost its significance after 1277 and turned into be a summer pasture of Mongolian mayors.

Again, another bazaar regarded important in international trade was Duneysir (Kochisar) Bazaar of Mardin province. The hospices and bazaar places founded in the region resulted with changing into a province for the region. In addition, Ziyaret Bazaar on Kirsehir- Kayseri road, Yilgin Bazaar in Ilgin, Azine Bazaar organized on Sundays between Amasya and Tokat and Alemuddin Bazaar organized in Germiyan were other remarkable places in trade activities.


Fabric, carpets and rugs were leading industrial products in Anatolia. The best and most popular carpets in the world used to be woven in Anatolia. Marco Polo and Ibni Batuta praise the carpets and rugs woven here. Konya, Aksaray, Sivas, Erzurum and Usak were provinces where carpet weaving workbenches dominated.
The clothes made of cotton, wool and mohair used to be exported to various countries.Erzincan, Mus, Mardin, Maras, Karaman, Ankara, Sivas, Diyarbakir, Kastamonu, Konya, Kirsehir and Malatya were centres where various types of fabrics manufactured. Leather manufacturing was also an important industrial activity in Anatolia where livestock breeding is a common activity.

Erzurum, Sivas and Antalya used to manufacture weapons and various war machineries.

Erzincan led in manufacturing especially copper ware and household materials. Golden and silver jewellery used to be manufactured in Konya and Alaiyye.


The metals mined and processed during Anatolian Seljuk Turks were iron, copper, silver, alum, rock salt, azure stone and borax. The iron would be extracted in Ergani, Kastamonu and Erzincan, iron in Divrigi and Toros mountains, and silver in Ulukisla,Gumushacikoy in Amasya and Gumussar in Kutahya. These mine beds continued operating after Mongolian invasion. Rock salt which used to be an export item manufactured in eight salt facilities in various parts of Anatolia. Azure stone used to be extracted in Konya.