The Role of the Seljuk Turks in Triggering the First Crusade

Episode 22: The Turks in Anatolia and India

Barbarian Empires of the Steppes (2014)

Dr Kenneth Harl

Film Review

This lecture covers the conquest of the Anatolia peninsula by Seljuk Turks and the conquest of northern India by the Ghaznavid Turks.

After the Seljuk Turks took control of Baghdad (see 9th Century AD: Mass Migration of Uighur Turks to China Lead to Rise of Seljuk Turks on the Steppes), their biggest political/military challenge was the Shi’a caliphs operating out Cairo. Following the withdrawal of the Seljuk army from Baghdad in 1057, opponents to Seljuk rule sought support from the Fatimid (Shi’ar)my in Cairo. The latter occupied Baghdad for 40 days before being expelled by the Seljuk army. To suppress the Fatimid regime, the Seljuks subsequently invaded Cairo, the Byzantine Empire (allied with the Fatimid regime), Syria, Medina and Mecca.

This ongoing conflict caused major disruption in the Christian pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem (agreed between the Byzantines and the Abassid Caliphate), inspiring Pope Urban II to launch the first Crusade in 1095, nominally to restore Christian access to Jerusalem.

This is the time line Harl presents:

1071 Seljuks open up the eastern Anatolia peninsula to Turkish settlers, cutting the area controlled by the Byzantine Empire in half.

1081 Byzantine Emperor calls on western Europe to send mercenaries to help liberate eastern Anatolia. Pope Urban II “mistakenly” interprets this as a call to “liberate” Jerusalem and mobilizes 50,000 European mercenaries to join the first Crusade. Totally unprepared to confront European cavalry, the Turks suffer initially suffer stunning defeat. Nevertheless the Crusaders are ultimately unsuccessful in driving the Turks, who created a Turkish homeland in eastern Anatolia, from the Anatolian plateau. Christian farmers Initially pay tribute to Seljuk Turk rulers, but ultimately most of eastern Anatolia reverts to grasslands and nomadic pastoralism.

1204 Europeans Crusaders respond by sacking Constantinople. This backfires, shifting the balance of power in Anatolia to the Seljuk Turks.

On the southeaster steppes, Ghaznavad Turks repeatedly invade India during the 12th century. Beginning in 1101, they gradually brring first Lahore, Peshawar and other Indian cities under Turkish (Muslim) control. By 1192, the Turks have conquered Dehli.

Unlike the Seljuk conquest of eastern Anatolia, the Turkish occupation of India is purely military. With no grasslands to support pastoral nomadic tribes, northern India never attracted Turkish settlers.

The film can be viewed free with a library card on Kanopy.

https://www.kanopy.com/en/pukeariki/video/5694984/5695032

1 thought on “The Role of the Seljuk Turks in Triggering the First Crusade

  1. Pingback: The Role of the Seljuk Turks in Triggering the First Crusade — The Most Revolutionary Act | Vermont Folk Troth

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