History of Seljuk Empire

Who Was Sultan Muhammed Alparslan?

Who Was Sultan Alparslan?

Alp Arslan, born Muhammad bin Dawud Chaghri, was the second sultan of the Seljuk Empire and great-grandson of Seljuk, the eponymous founder of the dynasty. He greatly expanded the Seljuk territory and consolidated his power, defeating rivals to the south and northwest, and his victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert, in 1071, ushered in the Turkmen settlement of Anatolia.

History Of Sultan Alparslan:

Historical sources differ about his actual birth date. His birth year, which some early sources of medieval period mentioned 1032 and 1033 while later sources gave 1030. However, the most authentic considered as TDV Encyclopedia of Islam mentions, is that recorded by Ibn al-Athir, a medieval historian, as 1 Muharram 420 AH equivalent to 20 January 1029 CE. He was the son of Chaghri and nephew of Tughril, the founding sultans of the Seljuk Empire. His grandfather was Mikail, who in turn was the son of the warlord Seljuk.

He was the father of numerous children, including Malik-Shah I and Tutush I. It is unclear who the mother or mothers of his children were. He was known to have been married at least twice. His wives included the widow of his uncle Tughril, a Kara-Khanid princess known as Aka or Seferiye Khatun, and the daughter or niece of Bagrat IV of Georgia (who would later marry his vizier, Nizam al-Mulk).

One of Seljuk’s other sons was the Turkic chieftain Arslan Isra’il, whose son, Kutalmish, contested his nephew’s succession to the sultanate. Alp Arslan’s younger brothers Suleiman ibn Chaghri and Qavurt were his rivals. Kilij Arslan, the son and successor of Suleiman ibn Kutalmish (Kutalmish’s son, who would later become Sultan of Rûm), was a major opponent of the Franks during the First Crusade and the Crusade of 1101.

After the death of his father, Alp Arslan succeeded him as governor of Khorasan in 1059. His uncle Tughril died in 1063 and designated his successor as Suleiman, Arslan’s infant brother. Arslan and his uncle Kutalmish both contested this succession which was resolved at the battle of Damghan in 1063. Arslan defeated Kutalmish for the throne and succeeded on 27 April 1064 as sultan of the Seljuk Empire, thus becoming the sole monarch of Persia from the river Oxus to the Tigris.

In 1064 he led a campaign in Georgia during which he captured the regions between Tbilisi and the Çoruh river, Akhalkalaki and Alaverdi. Bagrat IV submitted to paying jizya to the Seljuks but the Georgians broke the agreement in 1065. Alp Arslan invaded Georgia again in 1068. He captured Tbilisi after a short battle and obtained the submission of Bagrat IV; however, the Georgians freed themselves from Seljuk rule around 1073–1074.

In 1071, Romanos again took the field and advanced into Armenia with possibly 30,000 men, including a contingent of Cuman Turks as well as contingents of Franks and Normans, under Ursel de Baieul. Alp Arslan, who had moved his troops south to fight the Fatimids, quickly reversed to meet the Byzantines. Alp Arslan handed control of his army to his eunuch slave general, Taranges, and commanded him to “Win or be beheaded.” 

Taranges prepared for the battle by setting traps and organizing ambushes. The Seljuk and Byzantine armies met on Friday, 26 August 1071 at Manzikert on the Murat River, north of Lake Van, beginning the Battle of Manzikert. The Cuman mercenaries among the Byzantine forces immediately defected to the Turkic side. Seeing this, the Western mercenaries subsequently abandoned the battlefield as well. To be exact, Romanos was betrayed by general Andronikos Doukas, son of the Caesar (Romanos’s stepson), who pronounced him dead and rode off with a large part of the Byzantine forces at a critical moment. The Byzantines were wholly routed.

After hearing of the death of Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes, Sultan Alp Arslan pledged: “The Byzantine nation has no God, so this day the oath of peace and friendship taken by both the Persians and Byzantines is nullified; henceforth I shall consume with the sword all those people who venerate the cross, and all the lands of the Christians shall be enslaved.

Alp Arslan’s strength lay in the military realm. Domestic affairs were handled by his able vizier, Nizam al-Mulk, the founder of the administrative organization that characterized and strengthened the sultanate during the reigns of Alp Arslan and his son, Malik Shah. Military Iqtas, governed by Seljuq princes, were established to provide support for the soldiery and to accommodate the nomadic Turks to the established Anatolian agricultural scene.

This type of military fiefdom enabled the nomadic Turks to draw on the resources of the sedentary Persians, Turks, and other established cultures within the Seljuq realm, and allowed Alp Arslan to field a huge standing army without depending on tribute from conquest to pay his soldiers. He not only had enough food from his subjects to maintain his military, but the taxes collected from traders and merchants added to his coffers sufficiently to fund his continuous wars.

Death Of Sultan Alparslan:

After Manzikert, the dominion of Alp Arslan extended over much of western Asia. He soon prepared to march for the conquest of Turkestan, the original seat of his ancestors. With a powerful army, he advanced to the banks of the Oxus. Before he could pass the river safely, however, it was necessary to subdue certain fortresses, one of which was for several days vigorously defended by the rebel, Yusuf al-Kharezmi or Yusuf al-Harani.

Perhaps over-eager to press on against his Qarakhanid enemy, Alp Arslan gained the governor’s submission by promising the rebel ‘perpetual ownership of his lands’. When Yusuf al-Harani was brought before him, the Sultan ordered that he be shot, but before the archers could raise their bows Yusuf seized a knife and threw himself at Alp Arslan, striking three blows before being slain. Four days later on 24 November 1072, Alp Arslan died and was buried at Merv, having designated his 18-year-old son Malik Shah as his successor.

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