Contributions of Seljuks to Turkish History

The Seljuk Turks were an enlightened lot under whom a great culture flourished. They formed a tolerant government and contrary to popular belief, were not instigated to persecute Christians by their Islamic policies. The Seljuks were tolerant of race, religion and gender and ruled over a population comprising of Greek speaking Christians and a few Jews.

The Seljuk period in Turkish history also saw great progress in literature, architecture and religion. Poets and scholars found patronage and flourished under them. You will find a blend of Central Asian, Islamic Middle East and Anatolian influence in Seljuk art and culture.

Arabic was the language of the scholars; Persian was the official state language while the common man in the street spoke Turkish. The great mathematician and poet Omar Khayyam belonged to this period. Another prominent figure of this time was Jelaleddin Rumi - the Muslim mystic, theologian and poet. His spiritual leadership was noteworthy and he had a large following. He was known as the Rumi Mevlana. He graced the court of Alaadin Keykubat I, the Sultan of Rum from 1220-1237, and initiated the Sufi order of "whirling dervishes".

Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Seljuks to Turkish history has been towards Turkish architecture. Because of a tolerant government and their inclination towards religious and cultural development, huge mosques, theological seminaries, hospitals and caravanserais were built during this period.

The Central Asian tradition of mummifying the dead and keeping them in a tent for six months gave rise to the construction of domed tombs and turbe, which you find scattered in Anatolia. Seljuk architecture is characterized by its use of brickwork. The buildings were decorated with relief work, which created a beautiful interplay of light and shade in the sunlight. So beautiful was the effect that Seljuk architecture is often described as 'poetry in stone'. The famous Seljuk tiles were the most significant product of the times. When the Seljuks inter-married they made small Christian states their vassals and small Muslim states thrived allover east and central Anatolia. That is why you will find plenty of Seljuk architecture in Turkey even today - especially in Erzurum, Divrigi, Sivas and Konya.

The common motifs in Seljuk artwork were lions, bulls, double-headed eagles, dragons and astrological motifs like planets or the tree of life.

During the Seljuk period, cities prospered in wealth and population. The Seljuks had a well-organized system of international trade and for the first time introduced insurances for the losses of traders. Realizing the importance of transit trade, they developed caravanserais for the needs of the tradesmen on the account of the state.
History of Seljuk Turks  |  Beginning of the Seljuks  |  Contributions of Seljuks to Turkish History  |  Decline of the Seljuks