Post-classical history

Alp Arslān (d. 1072)

Second Great Saljûq sultan (1063-1072). Abû Shujā‘ ‘Adud al-Dawla Diyā‘ al-Dīn Muhammad Alp Arslān was the son of the Saljûq leader Chaghri Beg Dāwūd.

Alp Arslān was proclaimed sultan on the death of his uncle Tughril Beg in preference to his younger brother Sulaymān, whose mentor al-Kunduri, the vizier of Tughril Beg, he executed. In his place Alp Arslān promoted his own vizier, the great Nizām al-Mulk, on whom he relied to manage the empire. Alp Arslān’s position as ruler of Islam on behalf of the ‘Abbāsid caliphate was confirmed by the Caliph al-Qā’im in 1064. It was reinforced in 1066 when his son Malik Shāh I was recognized as his heir, and again in 1071-1072, when his daughter married the caliph’s son. As ruler of a family empire, however, he was immediately obliged to defeat the challenge of an uncle, Qutlumush, at the head of the Turcomans in northern Persia. In 1064 he had to deal with the rebellion of his uncle Mūsā Yabghu at Herat and in 1067 with the secession of his elder brother Qāwurd in Kirman. Eastern Persia was nevertheless distributed among his brothers and other relatives on the occasion of the designation of Malik Shāh as heir in 1066. Iraq was left in the hands of local Arab dynasties, notably the ‘Uqaylids of Mosul. In the east, the sultan imposed a dynastic alliance upon theQarakhānids in Transoxania, but his imperial ambitions were in the west.

Between 1064 and 1068, Alp Arslān campaigned through Armenia as far as Georgia to bring the Caucasus region under control. He was then drawn into conflict with Byzantium by the nomadic Turcoman tribesmen, whose raids into Anatolia as far as Ikonion (mod. Konya, Turkey) in 1069 provoked a Byzantine invasion of northern Syria. This conflict ended in 1070 in a truce with Alp Arslān, but the Turcomans were unaffected, and hostilities were bound to resume. In 1071 the emperor Romanos IV Diogenes moved into the disputed territory of Armenia, a casus belli that drew the sultan away from the conquest of Syria to meet him at Mantzikert. The great Saljūq victory, with a smaller but more compact army, was followed by yet another truce, but unchecked Turcoman inroads into Anatolia. In 1072, instead of pursuing the dynastic ambition to conquer Syria and Egypt from the Fātimids, Alp Arslān himself went east to settle with the Qarakhānids of Transoxania, but never returned, murdered by a captive in mid-career.

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