Seljuk (warlord)

Seljuk Beg (Turkish: Selçuk bey) Persian: سلجوق ﺑﯿﮓ Saljūq; also romanized Seldjuk, Seldjuq, Seljuq; Turkmen: Seljuk beg Dukag;[2] Azerbaijani: Səlcuq bəy[3] died c. 1007 or 1009) was an Oghuz Turkic warlord, eponymous founder of the Seljuk dynasty.

Diedc. 1007[1] or 1009 (age 100/107)
Unknown, possibly near Jand, Kazakhstan[1]
HouseSeljuk dynasty
  • Previously: unknown
  • Later: Sunni Islam


The personal name Seljuk appears as "Selcük" in Mahmud al-Kashgari's Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk and the Book of Dede Korkut.[4]

There are different theories about the etymology of Seljuk:[4]

  • selçük, meaning "small flood"
  • salçuk, meaning "small float"
  • salçığ, meaning "disputant"

According to Caferoğlu (1993), the name was derived from the root sil- in Old Uyghur, meaning "clean". Although, the root of sil- was transformed as i > e, and that the name was created by adding the diminutive of -çük. Which could be "small clean man".[4]

According to Hungarian Turkologist László Rásonyi, his name should be read as Selcik.[5] Josef Markwart proposed that the name should be read as Salçuk.[6] Peter Benjamin Golden suggested the vocalization Salçuq ~ Saljuq, based on Islamic and Syriac transcriptions 'sljwq, and saw a connection with root sal- "to move (something), to put into motion with some implication of violent motion", an etymology consistent with contemporary Turkic anthroponymy.[7]

Seljuk's name was written in various ways as "سلجوك" ,"سلجك" ,"سلچوق" ,"سلجوق" ,"سلجق" in Arabic and Persian sources.[1]


Seljuk was the son of Tuqaq[8] or Tuqaq Beg (دوقاق دمور یالیق Dûqâq Demur Yalığ), known as Temür Yalığ (meaning "iron bow") because of his skills in his works. In Oghuz culture, arrow and bow are considered as a sign of sovereignty and considering Duqaq's nickname, he wasn't an ordinary soldier, but a sü-başı (commander-in-chief). According to various sources, Duqaq was a powerful statesman and possessed great power and influence in the Oghuz Yabgu State and passed away around 924.[9]

Immigration to JandEdit

Oghuz Yabgu (750-1055 AD)

Seljuk had great power and influence among the people of his tribe who lived within the territory of the Oghuz Yabgu State. The relationship between Seljuk and Oghuz Yabgu was overshadowed by an incident that is not well known because of lack of reliable sources. Nonetheless, Seljuk left the Oghuz Yabgu State and immigrated, along with his tribe, to the town of Jand,[10] located on the left bank of the Syr Darya. It is rumored[by whom?] that there were 100 horseman, 1.500 camels and 50.000 sheep with Seljuk Beg during this migration. If each horseman equates to a family, the Seljuks who migrated to Jand were likely a small nomadic community of about 500 people.[11]

Jand was an important border town in the steppes during the X to XIII centuries. This town, inhabited by both nomadic and sedentary people, served as gateway to the steppes. Jand was a relatively popular destination for Muslims and religious propagandists from Transoxiana as well as merchants from various places. There, Seljuk accepted Islam together with his Oghuz tribe. This event took place between 985-986, after when Seljuk had migrated to Jand, and before 992, when Seljuk would leave for Transoxiana to help the Samanians.[11]

After accepting Islam, Seljuk expelled the officials sent by the Oghuz Yabgu to Jand to collect the annual tax, saying "Muslims will not pay tribute to the unbelievers" and set up a war against the non-Muslim Turks. This may well be proved by Al-Bayhaqi who calls Seljuk Beg as al-Malik al-Ghâzî Seljuk (meaning "ruler and religious fighter Seljuk").[12]

The most important event that took place during this period was the death of Seljuk's elder son Mikâ'îl, who was the father of Tughrul Beg and Chaghri Beg, founders of the Great Seljuk Empire. After this incident, the wife of Mikâ'îl (Tughril and Chaghri's mother) married Yusuf, the other son of Seljuk. According to the old Turkic traditions (the reason for such a tradition was that someone could use a widowed noblewoman to gain strength among the tribe/country), while two of his sons, Tughrul and Chaghri, were raised by their grandfather Seljuk Beg.[12]

Relations with SamanidsEdit

Map of Khorasan and Transoxiana.

Seljuk, who gained power with his war activities in Jand and its vicinity, gradually began to enter into political events in Transoxiana. After Kara-khanid Hasan b. Sulayman Bughra Khan captured Samanid city Bukhara, Samanid's requested Seljuk to help against Bughra Khan. Upon this, Seljuk sent his son Arslân (Isrâ'il) to Transoxiana.[13]

Since Seljuk was getting old in this period, the administration was now actually in the hands of his eldest son Arslân (Isrâ'il). In the meantime, the Samani state, which thoroughly lost her power, was subjected to frequent renewed attacks by Kara-khanids, which gave Arslan the opportunity to prove his military prowess. In a period when the Samani state was shaken by the internal turmoil caused by Fâ'ik, Abû 'Alî Simcûr and Bek-tüzün, and the Kara-khanids who entered Transoxiana and seized Bukhara for the second time (999), Seljuks under Arslân provided military assistance to Abû İbrâhîm İsma'îl al-Muntasir (1000–1005), the last member of the Samani dynasty (1003). Although al-Muntasir gained some success against the Kara-khanid army under the command of Ilig Khan Nasr with the support he received from the Seljuks, he couldn't prevent the collapse of the Samani state.[12] Arslân himself was taken prisoner in 1025 by Mahmud the Ghaznavid. After this incident, the entire Transoxiana came under the Kara-khanid administration and the Seljuks had to recognize the administration of Kara-khanids.[13]

Relationship with KhazarsEdit

It is speculated that according to some sources, Seljuk began his career as an officer in the Khazar army.[14] These sources provide information about the ancestors of the Seljuks, records that Duqaq is connected to Khazar Melik. The fact that these records, which appear ambiguous in Melik-nâme, was repeated by Ibn Hassûl who wrote his work during the time of Tughrul Beg, does not leave any doubt about the Seljuk's relationship with the Khazars. Due to a lack of resources, it is not possible to reveal the nature of this relationship nor to fully define its framework, yet it is difficult to say whether this relationship was done via Oghuz Yabgu state or independent. However, if political contact has been established between the ancestors of the Seljuks and the Khazars, the most appropriate date for this must be the middle of the second quarter of the X. century, when the Khazar Khaganate needed military help. As a result, it is possible that Duqaq had political and military relations with the Khazars during their collapse either directly or through the Oghuz Yabgu State, and that these memories could only be spoken verbally in the family reflect only the vague records of the Seljuk histories written about one hundred and fifty years later.[15]

Founding of the Seljuk dynastyEdit

Under Mikâîl's sons Tughrul and Chaghri, the Seljuks migrated into Khurasan. Ghaznavid attempts to stop Seljuks raiding the local Muslim populace led to the Battle of Dandanaqan on 23 May 1040. Victorious Seljuks became masters of Khurasan, expanding their power into Transoxiana and across Iran. By 1055, Tuğrul had expanded his control all the way to Baghdad, setting himself up as the champion of the Abbasid caliph, who honored him with the title sultan. Earlier rulers may have used this title but the Seljuks seem to have been the first to inscribe it on their coins.[16]


Seljuk Beg died in Jand at the age of about a hundred towards the year 1009. After his death, Arslân, one of his three surviving sons, took over the administration under the old Oghuz traditions. His son Arslân, who had the title of yabgu, was assisted by Yusuf, who had the title of inal and Mûsâ, who had the title of inanç from his brothers. Meanwhile, Mikâ'îl's sons Tughrul and Chaghri took their place in the administration as "beg" at the age of 14-15. Although Arslan Yabgu was the head of the family, the sons and grandchildren of Seljuk ruled the Turkoman Begs and other forces affiliated to them in a semi-connected manner in the line with the old Oghuz traditions.[17]


According to various sources, Seljuk had four or five sons: Isrâ'îl (Israel, Arslân), Mikâ'îl (Michael), Mûsâ (Moses), Yusuf (Joseph) and/or Yûnus (Jonah). All five names mentioned are related to Judaism. Some researchers who pointed out the religious status of the names have concluded that the Seljuk family was either Khazar Judaic or Nestorian Christianity before accepting Islam.[18] However, given that the names of these individuals are widely used in the Islamic world, Turkish historians state that such an interpretation cannot be solely based on names.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c ÖZAYDIN, ABDÜLKERİM (2009). "SELÇUK BEY". TDV Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. 36 (Sakal – Sevm) (in Turkish). Istanbul: Turkiye Diyanet Foundation, Centre for Islamic Studies. ISBN 9789753895668.
  2. ^ Gajarov, Nury (2010). The history of Turkey (in Turkmen). State University of Turkmenistan named after Makhtumkuli. p. 9. "Çagry beg bilen Togrul beg Mykaýylyň ogullary, nesilbaşy Seljuk beg Dukagyň agtyklarydyr."
  3. ^ "MÜNDƏRİCAT BÖYÜK SƏLCUQ İMPERATORLUĞU MONQOL İŞĞALLARI" (PDF). Tarix. "Səlcuq bəy Oğuz dövlətində hərbi dəstə başçısı - subaşı vəzifəsi daşıyırdı."
  4. ^ a b c Gedikli Yusuf (2015). ""Selçuk" kişi adının köken ve anlamı (etimolojisi)". Dil Bilimi, Dil Bilgisi ve Dil Eğitimi / Linguıstics Grammar And Language Teaching / Языкознание Грамматика И Обучение Языку. Vol. 2. p. 650.
  5. ^ Bahaeddin Ögel (1971). Türk Mitolojisi (Kaynakları ve Açıklamaları ile Destanlar) (in Turkish). p. 589.
  6. ^ Ibrahim Kafesoglu (1988). A History of the Seljuks: İbrahim Kafesoğlu's Interpretation and the Resulting Controversy. p. 21.
  7. ^ Golden, Peter B. (1992). An Introduction to the History of the Turkic People. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden. p. 217
  8. ^ Golden 2007, p. 159.
  9. ^ Turan & Özgüdenli 2018, p. 27.
  10. ^ Turan & Özgüdenli 2018, p. 29.
  11. ^ a b c Turan & Özgüdenli 2018, p. 31.
  12. ^ a b c Turan & Özgüdenli 2018, p. 32.
  13. ^ a b Grousset, René (1970). The empire of the steppes : a history of central Asia. Naomi Walford. New Brunswick, N.J. pp. 149–150. ISBN 0-8135-0627-1. OCLC 90972.
  14. ^ Rice 1961, p. 18-19.
  15. ^ Turan & Özgüdenli 2018, p. 26.
  16. ^ Findley 2005, p. 68.
  17. ^ Turan & Özgüdenli 2018, p. 33.
  18. ^ Brook 2006, p. 74.


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