FROM THE BOSPHORUS TO KHURASAN: THE TURKISH DOMINATION OF ASIA IN THE PERCEPTION OF THE CHRONICLERS OF THE FIRST CRUSADE

Alan V. MURRAY

Özet


Recent writing on the crusades has emphasised how much the military success of the First Crusade (1096-1099) owed to political and religious divisions within the Islamic world, which prevented any united Muslim response. Yet given the implacable rivalries between the Great Seljuk sultanate and its claim to leadership of the Sunnī world, and the Shī‘ite caliphate of Egypt, one might well question whether any co-operation between them could have been reasonably expected. Much more significant was the lack of significant co-operation between the different Turkish powers. The Seljuks of Rūm, Danishmendids and Artuqids had become independent powers, while the Seljuk sub-kingdoms and emirates of Aleppo, Damascus and Antioch had a high degree of autonomy from their nominal masters in Persia. Yet apart from the Seljuk heartlands of western Persia, and areas of significant Türkmen immigration such as the Anatolian highlands and the Jazira, the Turks constituted a small military elite ruling over majority populations of Arabs, Greeks, and Armenians.

Whereas some modern writing on the crusades claims that Westerners made few real distinctions between different Muslim groups, key sources show that the crusader leadership had a clear perception of the Turks as a distinct ethnic group separate from their subject populations. Drawing on the evidence of the Gesta Francorum, Fulcher of Chartres, Raymond of Aguilers, and Albert of Aachen, this paper will argue that, in contrast to the historical reality of political fragmentation, Western narrative sources present a picture of a powerful and unified Turkish world which extended from the Rūm-Byzantine borderlands to the original Seljuk homelands in Central Asia. In particular, the mysterious land of Corrozana (the Latin name for the historical Khūrasan) figures in chronicles as the epicentre of this empire, a constant source of military reinforcements and a place to which Christian captives are sent. It is argued that the crusaders’ perception of a vast, united Turkish world derived from an awareness of the Turks as a conquering military elite, whose organisation and training ensured an effectiveness out of all proportion to their numbers. By the second half of the twelfth century the Franks even produced a history of the Turks which recorded their conquests from Khūrasan to the Levant. Written in the style of Western origin myths, this history thus gives the Turks a similar status to historic Western peoples such as Trojans, Goths, Normans and Scandinavians. It is a further indication of the mixture of fear and admiration with which the early crusaders viewed their Turkish opponents.


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