The Islamic World to 1600
Just as the western lands of the Abbasid caliphate split from Baghdad - as we have seen with Spain and the Maghrib, Egypt, and West Africa - so did the eastern lands of Central Asia. The first significant empire in the region began in 994 under the Ghaznavids, a Turkic people who derived the name of their empire from the city of Ghazna, which eventually became their capital. The Ghaznavid empire grew to cover much of present-day Iran, Afghanistan, and northwest India and Pakistan, and the Ghaznavids are generally credited with launching Islam into Hindu-dominated India. The invasion of India was undertaken in 1000 by the Ghaznavid ruler, Mahmud, and continued for several years. In addition to the wealth accumulated through raiding Indian cities, the Ghaznavids also benefited from their position as an intermediary for trade between China and the Mediterranean. They were unable to hold power for long, however, particularly after the death of the strong ruler, Mahmud, in 1030. By 1040 the Seljuks, another Turkic group, had taken over the Ghaznavid lands.
Figure of a Seljuk court official, early 13th century
Courtesy of The Detroit Institute of Arts
As the immediate forebears of the Ottomans, who would later come to dominate Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, the Seljuks established the Turks as a unified military force. Until the Seljuk empire provided cohesion to the Turks of Central Asia, the Turks had existed only in separate, nomadic groups. The Ghaznavids had provided a degree of unity, but their empire had been further east than the Seljuk empire, and the Turks of Asia Minor had not been a part of it. For much of the previous centuries of Islam's presence in Central Asia, Turks had been recruited as slaves for all regions of the Islamic empire. We have already seen the results that importing Turkish slave soldiers into Egypt had on the Ayyubids - the slaves, or mamluks in Arabic, conducted a coup and took power for themselves. Turks were widely considered within the Islamic world to be superior soldiers, and their slavery was therefore usually in a military capacity. When the Seljuks unified the Turks of Central Asia, they became a formidable military force, first under the Seljuks themselves, and later under the Ottomans.
Despite their independence, the Seljuks, like many other regional Islamic dynasties, retained their allegiance to the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad. In 1050, the Seljuk leader, Tughril Beg, was awarded the title of Sultan from the Abbasid caliph, and he became the first Muslim ruler to use that title. It later became a common title for a Muslim ruler.
In the mid-11th century the Seljuks also began their assault on Byzantine-ruled Asia Minor. Initially, raids into Byzantine territory were intended only to deter the Byzantines from concluding an alliance with the Shi'ite Fatimids in Egypt and Syria, who were the Seljuks' enemies, but the raids soon acquired an expansionist zeal. In 1071, the Seljuks achieved a decisive victory against the Byzantines in the Battle of Manzikert, in Armenia. They captured the Byzantine emperor, Romanos Diogenes, and forced him to accept a peace treaty that in effect opened the door for Seljuk expansion into Asia Minor. In 1078, the Seljuks had reached Nicaea, near Constantinople, and the Seljuk sultan, Suleyman, moved his capital there. It was the first permanent Turkish settlement in Asia Minor, and the Turkish presence in the region has continued ever since. The rise of the Islamic Turks at the expense of the Greek Byzantines in Asia Minor is indeed one of the most significant demographic shifts of the medieval period. Numerous battles with the Christians ensued over the next few centuries, with each side trading small parcels of territory after each battle. The Seljuks were also involved in several Crusades, sometimes in allegiance with Western European countries against the Greek Byzantines, and they also faced the wrath of the invading Mongols in the 13th century, as we will see in Chapter 4.