A Turkish dynasty (Turk. Daniflmendliler) ruled an emirate in central and northeastern Anatolia in the period from 1071/1085 to 1177/1178. Several among its rulers were involved in conflicts with Byzantines, crusaders, and Franks, as well as the rival dynasty of the Saljûqs of Rûm, who eventually annexed the Dānishmendid territories shortly before the mid-twelfth century.
The Dānishmendids were the first pre-Ottoman Turks to employ on their coinage (with Greek and Arabic inscriptions) the terms Romania and Rum—shortly before the Saljûqs of Rûm, with whom they struggled for domination over Anatolia in the twelfth century. Their first two leaders, Malik Dānishmend Ghāzī (c. 1071/1085-1104/1106) and Amir Ghāzī Gümüshtegin (1104/1106-1134), distinguished themselves in protracted wars against Byzantium, the Franks, and the Rupenids of Cilician Armenia, as well as interfering successfully in Saljûq internal affairs.
Cappadocia and north-central Anatolia as far west as Ankara constituted the intitial Dānishmendid center of power. Their first emir, Malik Dānishmend Ghāzī (from Persian danishmand, “wise, learned man,” “scholar”), prevailed in central Anatolia in the period of confusion that followed the death of the founder of the Saljûq sultanate of Rûm, Sulaymān I ibn Qutlumush (1085/1086). In 10971105, Malik Ghāzī formed an alliance of necessity with Qilij Arslān I of Rûm against the various crusading armies that were arriving from the West, and the two allies defeated the crusaders in 1101 at Mersivan and Herakleia (mod. Eregli). Malik Ghāzī had previously captured Bohemund I, prince of Antioch, imprisoning him at Neocaesarea until he was ransomed, following negotiations with King Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1103. In that year Malik Ghāzī took Melitene (mod. Malatya) from its Armenian ruler, Gabriel, although it was captured by QilijArslān I following Malik Ghāzī’s demise (c. 1106).
A period of further conquests ensued under Amīr Ghāzī Gümüshtegin (1104/1106-1134). Intervening in the Saljûq struggle for succession, he helped Mas‘ûd I seize power in Ikonion (1116); he defeated and held for ransom the Byzantine duke of Pontic Chaldia, Constantine Gabras (c. 1120), and captured Melitene from Mas‘ûd’s rivals (1124-1125). The conquest of Caesarea in Cappadocia (mod. Kayseri), Ankara, and Kastamoni (mod. Kasta- monu) in the Pontos (1126-1127) alarmed the Byzantine emperor, John II Komnenos, who prepared for war. In 1129/1130, Amīr Ghāzī invaded Cilician Armenia, taking several strongholds and defeating Bohemund II of Antioch, who had come to assist the Rupenid prince Leon I. John II Komnenos conducted repeated campaigns against the Dānishmendidsin 1130-1135. The Greeks seized Kasta- moni (1131-1132), which, however, was lost again in 1133. Amīr Ghāzī was honored by the ‘Abbāsid caliph al-Mus- tarshid and the Great Saljûq sultan, Sanjar, with the title of malik (prince) for his struggles against the infidels, although his premature death bestowed that title on his successor, emir Muhammad (1134-1142). Muhammad refortified Caesarea and continued the war against Byzantium, raiding Cilicia and the Sangarios River regions as far as Neocaesarea (mod. Niksar, Turkey) in 1138/1139. John II eventually managed to repel theDānishmendids from eastern Bithynia and Paphlagonia in 1139-1140, although a section of his army was defeated by Muhammad’s forces in 1141.
Upon Muhammad’s death (1142), the dynasty split into two branches descending from his brothers: one under Yaghibasan at Sebasteia (mod. Sivas) and another under Ayn al-Dawla at Melitene and Elbistan; the latter’s son Dhu’l-Nun established himself at Caesarea. Yaghibasan (1142-1164) became an ally of the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos against the Saljûqs of Rûm, and even issued seals with Greek inscriptions designating him as the latter’s servant (Gr. doulos). Following Yaghibasan’s death and the ensuing decline of his emirate, Qilij Arslān II of Rûm invaded Dānishmendidterritory, but he was temporarily halted by the fact that Dhu’l-Nun, ruling at Caesarea, was son-in-law of the powerful Nûr al-Dīn of Damascus, who threatened to attack the Rûm sultanate. It was only after Nûr al-Dīn’s death (1174) that Qilij Arslān II had a free hand to launch his decisive attack on the Dānishmendids, annexing the territories of both branches of the dynasty: first that of Sebasteia in 1174, and then that of Melitene and Elbistan in 1177/1178.
A thirteenth-century Persian chronicler at the court of Ikonion (mod. Konya, Turkey), Ibn al-Bibī, recorded that the surviving Dānishmendids entered Saljûq service.