ABSTRACT

The Turks who have given their name to present-day Turkey are one branch of a group of peoples who, under this name or others, have spread extensively over a large part of central and western Asia, as well as eastern Europe. Those who are to be studied here originated from the Oghuz complex, nomadic pastoralists and horsemen, who in the tenth century c e were occupying the steppes extending from the western slopes of the Altai to the lower Volga south of the Siberian forests. In contrast to some of their kinsmen further east or further west, who had been in contact with RomanoByzantine and Chinese civilization respectively, the Oghuz remained relatively apart from these, but for two or three centuries they had been in touch to the south with soldiers, merchants or men of religion coming from the world of Islam. Towards the end of the tenth century the principal groups of these Oghuz underwent at least superficial conversion to Islam. Known henceforward as Turcomans, they extended by degrees to the borders of Iran, which was under the Samanids, then the Ghaznavids. In 1040 under the leadership of the Seljukids, they inflicted on the Ghaznavids the decisive defeat of Dandanqan, which at a stroke opened up all the steppes of the Iranian plateau to the victors. In Iran religious conflicts had been raging for several generations between Sunni and Shfl Muslims, and some Sunni aristocratic groups complained of the laxity of the regime under which they were living. It was probably under the influence of religious scholars from these circles that the Seljukids, if not all the Turks, embraced Islam. No doubt these circles thought that it was to their interest to reach an understanding with the newcomers, and this might also help them to escape pillage. It is also certain that the nomadic Turkish horsemen had throughout their history shown themselves superior to the regular armies opposing them. Arriving at the gates of Iraq, the Turks were in a country

which had not less been torn by religious conflicts. The Sunnis around the Caliphate ‘protected5 by the Shl'l Buyids thought of calling in the Turks, who were also Sunnis. In 1055 the Seljukid chief, Tughril Beg, entered Baghdad without striking a blow. There he officially received the title of ‘sultan’, and was commissioned to regain Arab western Asia and beyond it Egypt, where the Ismaclll Fatimid caliph was reigning.