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10 - The Turks in Anatolia before the Ottomans


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2011

Maribel Fierro
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Madrid
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Byzantium and the Turks before the Turkish invasion

From Constantinople the Byzantine emperors looked across the Bosphorus to Anatolé, Greek for ‘the land of the rising sun’. Anatolé, or Anatolia, roughly the present area of Asiatic Turkey, was the heartland of the Byzantine empire in the eleventh century CE. Favoured with a wealth of natural resources, several natural harbours on the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean, and many well-watered fertile valleys, Anatolia gave rise to countless villages and small towns as well as numerous large cities, most of which were connected with the major trade routes of the Middle East. All this ensured that it was the richest and most populous part of the empire. Indeed, for Muslims the word for Byzantium, ‘al-Rūm’ (Rome), was virtually synonymous with Anatolia.

Byzantium had long been familiar with Arabs and Islam, but distance had precluded much knowledge of the Turks. Byzantium had made diplomatic contact with Central Asian Turks as early as the sixth century CE and later the movement of Turkic peoples across the steppes north of the Black Sea brought them to the empire’s borders in eastern Europe. The first major encounter with Muslim Turks occurred in the third/ninth century. When the caliph al-Muʿtaṣim (r. 218–27/833–42) made an attempt to capture Constantinople in 223/838, he amassed several armies consisting mostly of Turks and directed them towards Ankara, which he conquered along with Amorium. Al-Muʿtaṣim had recruited them from Central Asia.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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