In the 11th century, the Seljuk Turks established an enlightened, tolerant government in Central Anatolia that fostered a great culture.
The Seljuks (Selçuklular) were a Turkish tribe from Central Asia. They poured into Persia(1037) and established their first powerful state, called by historians the Empire of the Great Seljuks.
The mathematician and poet Omar Khayyamflourished under the Great Seljuks.
They captured Baghdad in 1055 and a relatively small contingent of warriors—about 5000 by some estimates—moved into eastern Anatolia.
In 1071 this Seljuk force engaged the armies of the Byzantine emperor at Manzikert(Malazgirt) north of Lake Van, defeated them decisively, and captured Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes.
With no Byzantine force to stop them, the Seljuk Turks flooded into Anatolia, taking control of most of Eastern and Central Anatolia. They established their capital at Konya around 1150 and ruled what would be known as the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum [ROOM, Rome]. Alanya, Erzurum and Sivas were other important Seljuk cities.
The small Seljuk ruling class governed a population that was mostly Greek-speaking Anatolian Christian, with a significant Jewishminority.
Seljuk rule was tolerant of race, religion and gender. Churches and synagogues flourished, and some of the finest examples of Seljuk architecture, including huge mosques, theological seminaries, hospitals and caravanserais, were built on the orders of empresses and princesses.
Muslim mystic, theologian and poet Jelaleddin Rumi (1207-1273) is the sultanate’s most famous and enduring figure. Son of a noted theologian, Rumi‘s preaching and spiritual leadership soon earned him a large following.
His followers called Rumi Mevlana (“Our Guide”).
After his death his son Sultan Veled organized his followers into the Sufi order of Mevlevi(“Whirling”) Dervishes.
The borders of the Seljuk Sultanate were always in flux, with the remnants of the Byzantine Empire to the west, the Arabs to the south and the Mongols encroaching from the east.
Few of the many capable sultans died natural deaths; most died in battle or by treachery.
Seljuk culture in Rum was at its height in the mid-1200s, just as the Mongols overran West Asia and ravaged Anatolia. Most of the finest examples of Seljuk architecture, such as the fine caravanserais and the wonderfulmosques and medreses in Konya, date from the mid-1200s.
The art of the successor Mongol Ilkanids and of the Beyliks (principalities) that sprang up in Anatolia after the collapse of Mongol rule owe much to Seljuk inspiration.
Among the upstart warlord principalities of the 1300s was one based near Nicaea (Iznik) on the Byzantine frontier and led by a chieftain named Osman. It grew rapidly in size and strength and was soon on its way to becoming the vast Ottoman Empire.