Historians of the Seljuk Era

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As compared to the profusion of historical texts describing the Arab and Iranian spheres of the 13th century, there were very few chroniclers of the Anatolian Seljuk era. There are no biographical dictionaries, panegyric poetry collections, or epics relating the exploits of the era. Even the numismatic evidence is scarce. Anatolia features rarely in histories and geographies produced in Iraq, Syria or Egypt. This paucity of material has proven to be a challenge for those seeking information on the era.

 There are 4 main sources for historical information on the Seljuks:


Most of our knowledge of the Seljuk period comes from:


Sources of note:

Anadolu Selçukî Devlet Tarihi. Translated by M. Nuri Genc Osman, notes by F.N. Uzluk. Ankara, 1941. The texts of the three historians above have been translated into modern Turkish and published in one volume.

 Köprülü, Mehmed Fuad. The Seljuks of Anatolia: Their history and culture according to local Muslim sources. Translated and edited by Gary Leiser.  Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992. A compact volume which enumerates the Turkish sources of information on the Seljuks.

 Crane, H. “Notes on Saldjuq Architectural Patronage in Thirteenth Century Anatolia” in the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, v. 36i (1993), p. 1-57. This outstanding piece of research by Prof. H. Crane furnishes references to dated inscription plaques on Seljuk monuments.


The table below provides general information on some of the Muslim and Christian historians and writers providing information on the Seljuk period:

Abu Shama


The Book of the Two Gardens (Kitab ar-Raudatain)

A Damascene teacher, philologist and chronicler who transcribed many official documents of Saladin. His work cites the works of previous Islamic sources for the Crusades, including Imad al Din and Ibn al Qalanisi, and provides valuable information on the dynasties of Nur-ad Din and Saladin. The text is available in the Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, Historiens Orientaux, Vol. IV. Paris, 1898.


Aflaki, Shams-al-din Ahmad


Feats of the Knowers of God (Manaqib al-arifin)

This document is a biography of the famous Persian mystic, poet and ‘Knower of God’, Jalal al-Din-e Rumi, in the form of a large compendium of Sufi-style teaching stories. Although this Mevlevi document was written some 50 years after Rumi’s death and thus after the Seljuk period, it is important as it gives information on the Aydindid Beylik and the Bektashis. It is an untapped, unrivaled important source for religious and social history (daily life, cities and villages, etc.), as Aflaki gives his first-hand impressions. It provides one of the few windows onto social and political life during the late Seljuk and Mongol period in Asia Minor.


Ahmed of Niğde

14th c

Al-Walad al-shafiq

This is a large work in Persian written in 1332 for Il-Khanid ruler Abu Said Bahadur Khan. The writer is from a noble family.

It comprises 4 sections; the second one has a separate part on the Seljuks of Anatolia. This text remains virtually unknown; and should be studied as it provides valuable detail. In addition to providing interesting details about his hometown of Niğde, Ahmed recorded his own personal information and observations on religious and social history for the beginning of 14th c. In this work he also states that he wrote an earlier work on the Saljuks called the Saljuqname; however this chronicle has been lost.

The original is held in the Istanbul Fatih Camii Library (n. 4519).


Akropolites, George


The Annals

This Byzantine Greek historian from Constantinople was an important civil servant of the Byzantine emperors in Nicaea. His historical work, the Annals, covers the period of the capture of Constantinople in 1204 to its recovery by Michael Palaeologos in 1261, and is one of the main sources for the Byzantine world of the 13th c. This work forms a continuation of the work of Nicetas Choniates. He relates serveral incidents from the reign of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II.




Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Ali b. Muhammad was the Arabic historian of the Khwarazmians. He completed the biography of the Sultan Jelaleddin Menguberti in 1241-42. He relates that Alaeddin Keykubad captured and imprisoned Rukn al-Din Jahanshah after the Battle of Yassicimen, tied him to a mule and later killed him.




important chronicler of the Seljuks


Masalik al-absar

This Syrian official wrote two works which throw valuable light on the history and the workings of the Mamluk Empire and its relations with Ilkhanid Persia.  The Masalik is a comprehensive study of the principles of the Mamluk administration and contains a very important section on Anatolia. He relates the occupation of Kayseri by Baybars in 1277. Another major work by Al-Umari, the al-Ta’rif bi-al-muştalah al-sharifi, is an encyclopaedic compendium also relating to administrative practices.


Amir Ahmad al-Qani'i

13th c

Saljuq Shahname    (a lost chronicle)

He is the author of a famous Kalila wa Dimna volume of stories prepared for Sultan Izzeddin Kaykavus II (now held in the British Museum). He was a distinguished poet who came to Anatolia from Khorassan during the Mongol invasions and joined the service of Alaeddin Keykubad in 1221, and then Giyaseddin Keykavus II and Izzeddin Keykavus II (for whom he wrote the Kalila wa Dimna stories in 1260). His Saljuq Shahname, a major book, has regrettably been lost.




There are many anonymous chroniclers of the Crusades on both sides, providing much information on the era.


Anonymous Historian of Konya, The




Ca. 1363


Tarikh-I al-I Saljuq (Saljukname)

This is one of the most important of the known chronicles. It is a small work written in Persian after 1363. It records events that happened in Konya and Syria up to 1339. It provides a very short history of the Anatolian Seljuks from their beginning and the reign of each sultan is described by a brief paragraph.

There is only one copy known (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Schefer Coll 1553).


Anonymous Soldier

Ca. 1100

Deeds of the Franks (Gesta Francorum)

Circa 1100-1101, an anonymous soldier/writer connected with Bohemond of Antioch wrote the Gesta francorum et aliorum Hierosolymytanorum (The Deeds of the Franks). This Latin text was used by the later writers as a source. It is the most dynamic chronicle of the 1st crusade.



(Kerimuddin Mahmud Aksarayi)





Musamarat al-ahbar (Chroniques): Tadhkira-I Aqsarayi

This is one of the most important of the known chronicles of the Seljuk era. The work dates from 1323 and was written in Persian in an ornate style. Aqsarayi was an administrator and high official, so was directly involved with the events he describes. He discusses essentially the Il-Khanid rulers and the last Seljuk sultans. It provides social history and not just political facts.

Part 1 is a general history of the Persians and Arabs; Part 2 contains discussions on the Prophet and his sayings and stories related to him; Part 3 covers up to the death of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II; and Part 4, the most important, covers the reign of the sons of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II through Alaeddin Keykubad III.

There is very little information in this text on the Anatolian Seljuks before Giyaseddin Keyhusrev I (+1211), and it is thus of limited and piecemeal use for the early Seljuk period. However, it is the most important source for the period of Mongol rule in Anatolia and, as such, completes Ibn Bibi's work. There are 2 known copies: one copy in Ayasofya Library (no. 3143) and another in the Yeni Cami Library (no. 827).


Arabi, Muhyiddin ibn


Muhyiddin ibn Arabi was a mystic, philosopher, teacher, poet and sage who is considered one the world's great spiritual teachers. Born in Andalusian Spain, he grew up in a milieu that witnessed an extraordinary flourishing and cross-fertilization of Jewish, Christian and Islamic thought, through which the major scientific and philosophical works of antiquity were transmitted to Northern Europe. He traveled extensively in the Islamic world and wrote over 350 works of poetry and philosophy.

On a trip to Mecca he met Majduddin Ishaq al-Rumi, the vizier to the Seljuk sultan. He persuaded ibn-Arabi to travel with him to Anatolia in 1204. Ibn Arabi visited Konya in 1207, and befriended the Seljuk sultan and his sons, and later settled in Malatya in south-eastern Turkey. He took responsibility for Majduddin’s son after his death, and this adopted son, Sadruddin Konevi, became one of his most fervent disciples. Ibn-Arabi moved to Saladin’s Ayyubid Damascus in 1223, where it is said that he taught none other than Shams-i Tabrizi, the spiritual initiator of Celaleddin Rumi.

Ibn-Arabi wrote many manuscripts and letters to Seljuk officials which give much insight into the daily life in Seljuk 13th c. world. Unfortunately, these letters were stolen from the Yusuf Aga Library in Konya in 2000.


Aziz b. Ardashir-i Astarabadi

Important chronicler of the Seljuks

Late 14th – early 15th

Bazm o razm

The Bazm o razm is a biography of Burhan al-din Ahmet, the Sultan from Sivas (active 1391). This work appears to have been written after the first 5 chronicles.

Badr al-din al Rumi


al Tarassul ila'l-tawassul

This work contains 2 letters sent to Alaeddin Keykubad I by Jalal-al-din and his replies, and a royal patent given to Kamal al-din Kamyar.  It was recopied in Antalya in 1382.


Baha al-Din Ibn Shaddad


The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin (al-Nawādir al-Sultaniyya wa'l-Ma'āsin al-Yūsufiyya)

The spin-doctor, spiritual advisor, intimate friend and trusted confidant of Saladin, Baha al-Din Ibn Shaddad wrote a famous biography of Saladin. He was an eyewitness at the Siege of Acre and the Battle of Arsuf, and provided a vivid chronicle of the Third Crusade.


Bar Hebraeus (Abu'l Faraj Ibn al-Ibri)


Universal history

Bar Hebraeus, the Jacobite metropolitan of Aleppo, was also known as Gregory Ebul Ferec. Bar-Hebraeus (b. 1226 near Malatya – d. 30 July 1286 in Maraga, Persia) was apparently one of the most learned and versatile men that the Syriac Orthodox Church ever produced. He collected in his numerous and elaborate treatises the results of his research in theology, philosophy, science and history. Most of his works were written in Syriac, but some were composed in Arabic, which had long before his time supplanted Syriac as a spoken language.

In his Universal history he talks at length about the Seljuks. He mentions Baybars; and states that Alanya was captured by the Seljuks in 1223. He discusses the capitivity of Mahperi Hatun and the episode of Yassicimen and that Rukh al-Din Jahanshah was opposed to his sister Ismat marrying Alaeddin Keykubad


Burhan al-din al-Anawi


Anis al-qulub

One of the known chronicles. This chronicle by a Turkish scholar from Ani was presented to Izzeddin Keykavus I.

Choniates, Nicetas



Choniates was a Byzantine Greek historian from Constantinople who wrote about life of the Byzantine empire in the Anatolian provinces. His chief work is his History, in twenty-one books, covering the period from 1118 to 1207 (which picks up where Anna Comnena ended). He provides the sole major Byzantine account of the sack of Constantinople by western Christian armies during the Fourth Crusade. Other sources on the sack include the minor account of the Byzantine eyewitness Nicolas Mesarites, as well as the Crusader sources of Geoffroy de Villehardouin, Robert of Clari, and Gunther von Pairis.

His work details both the Third and Fourth Crusades, but is especially valuable as an eyewitness account of the Fourth Crusade, especially as concerns details on the looted relics.


Clari, Robert de

Ca. 1204

La Conquête de Constantinople

Robert de Clari was a minor knight of the diocese of Amiens. He participated in the 4th Crusade and left a chronicle of the events in Old French. Robert's account of the crusade is especially valuable because of his status as a lower vassal; most other eyewitness accounts are from the leadership of the Crusade, such as nobles like Villehardouin. Robert's descriptions often shed light on some of the Crusader activities that are otherwise ingnored by the nobler sources ; cf. Villehardouin.


Comnena, Anna


The Alexiad

Anna Comnena is considered the world's first female historian and a major source of information about the reign of her father, Alexius I. Her works are full of details about daily life at court, the deeds of her family, the exchanges between the Byzantines, the western Crusaders during the First Crusade, as well as details on the reign of Suleyman ibn Kutulmuş and Kılıç Arslan I.


Harawī, Ali ibn Abi Bakr

late 12th-1215

An Ascetic Wayfarer's guide to Pilgrimage (Kitab al-Isharata ila Ma'rifat al-Ziyarat)

A Persian from Herat, Ali ibn Abi Bakr al-Harawi (Abu al-Hasan) was a wide-traveling medieval Baedeker of sorts.  He wrote a guide book for pilgrimage sites and holy places of the Islamic world and the Mediterranean, "An Ascetic Wayfarer's guide to Pilgrimage" and was greatly honored by the son of Saladin.


Ibn Abd-al-Zahir


Life of Baybars (Al-Rawd al-Zahir fi sirat Al-Malik Al-Zahir)

Secretary of the sultans Baybars and Qalawun, he wrote a contemporary biography of Baybars.


Ibn Al-Athir


The Perfect History (al-Kamil fi'l-Tarikh)

Ibn al-Athir was a 12th century Arab chronicler who traveled wide and far to gather the stories of Arabs who resisted the Crusaders. His history of the Arab world from its beginnings to 1231 is one of the most authoritative known (in 13 vols.) He speaks in detail about the episode of Rukh al-Din Jahanshah’s joining of forces with the Khwarazmshahs, which provoked the Ayyubid-Seljuk battle of Yassicimen. He highlights the enmity between Jahanshah and Alaeddin Keykubad.


Ibn al-Qalanisi


The Damascus Chronicle (Dhayl Tarikh Dimashq)

Damascene scholar, historian and administrator, Ibn al-Qalanisi wrote a chronicle of the Crusades, Dhayl Tarikh Dimashq, which ranks among the most important of all Muslim accounts of the Crusades. His work, widely known as the Damascus Chronicle, begins with an account of the Crusades starting in 1097 and ends in 1159. Although he does not appear to have taken part in any combat with the Crusaders, his Chronicle is especially interesting because it presents a contemporary account of the Crusaders as they were understood in Damascus, from the beginning of the Crusades until his death on March 18, 1160. The importance of the Damascus Chronicle comes from the fact that it is one of the primary sources of nearly all following Arab historians of the Crusades. The work is especially unique in the way it traces the hardening of Muslim feeling against the Crusaders and the eventual unification of Muslim peoples up to Nur-Ad Din. The work also includes a well-known and often quoted description of the destruction of Jews by the Crusaders upon conquering Jerusalem in 1099.


Ibn Battuta




The Moroccan Ibn Battuta traveled in Turkey in the years 1330-1331 (or perhaps 1332-3) as part as his lifelong tour of the Islamic world in 1325-1354. Although his visit came after the Seljuk period, his "Rihla" (Voyage) gives a fascinating glimpse into the Muslim world of the time. It is a comprehensive survey of the personalities, places, governments, customs and curiosities of the Muslim world in the second quarter of the 14th century. His exact itinerary in Anatolia is difficult to parse, but the tales of his visits to Alanya and Sinop, as well as his admiring description of the bazaar of Erzincan, make for fascinating reading.


Ibn Bibi




real name: Al-Husain al-Jafari

???-1282 or 1284-85



Al-Awamir al'ala'iyya fi'l-umur al-Ala'iyya

This is one of the known chronicles. Ibn Bibi, a Persian chronicler of the 13th century, was born in Nishapur and served as a secretary at the court of Khwarazm Jalal al-din. When Jalal al-din was defeated by the Mongols in 1231, his family fled to Damascus and was then invited by Alaeddin Keykubad I to come settle in Konya (@1232). He lived in Konya from 1232 until his death in 1284. His History, written in Persian prose, chronicles events up to 1282, and thus covers the major events of Asia Minor and Cilicia from 1192-1282. Although he wrote about the period from 1192-1232, he was not eyewitness to the events. He focuses mainly on the reign of Alaeddin Keykubad I, which he observed directly, then continues on with Giyeseddin Keyhusrev II and up to the year 1280, marked by the expeditions of Izzeddin Keykubad II in eastern Anatolia.

His brother wrote an abridgement of his text which was published by Houtsma. Ibn Bibi’s work is the almost unique source for the history of the Seljuks. A Turkish translation was prepared for Murad II. There is an original copy in Ayasofya Library (no. 2985)


Ibn Jubayr


The Travels of Ibn Jubayr

Ibn Jubayr was a geographer, poet and traveler from al-Andalus. He documented his trip from Granada in Muslim Spain to the Orient between 1182-85. He traveled from Granada to Alexandria, where he lavished praise for the new Sunni ruler Saladin. He viewed there the famed lighthouse, at that time still standing. He then travelled to Cairo, where he described in great detail all he saw, from the Citadel, medreses, the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Nilometer. From Egypt he continued on to Jerusalem, Medina, Mecca, Damascus, Mosul, Acre and Baghdad.  He returned in 1185 by way of Sicily.

His highly-detailed and graphic descriptions of sites and monuments make riveting reading, as well as his comments on cultural, religious and political matters.  He provides as well a rich description of the Arabo-Norman civilization of Sicily under William II.


Ibn Natif

Ca. 1235

A Syrian historian contemporary of the period of Alaeddin Keykubad I.


Ibn Sa’id


Moroccan historian. Ali ibn Musa ibn Said al-Maghribi (1213–1286), also known as Ibn Said al-Andalusi, was a geographer, historian and the most important collector of poetry from al-Andalus in the 12th and 13th centuries. Ibn Said was born at Alcalá la Real near Granada, and grew up in Marrakesh. He subsequently studied in Seville and stayed in Tunis, Alexandria, Cairo, Jerusalem and Aleppo. Ibn Said al-Maghribi was an indefatigable traveller, profoundly interested in geography. In 1250 he wrote his Kitab bast al- ard fi 't -t ul wa-'l-'ard (The Book of the Extension of the Land on Longitudes and Latitudes). His Kitab al-Jughrafiya (Geography) embodies the experience of his extensive travels through the Muslim world and on the shores of the Indian Ocean. He also gives an account of parts of northern Europe, including Ireland and Iceland. He visited Armenia and was at the Court of Hulagu Khan from 1256 to 1265.He also wrote a history of the Maghreb, which at that time included Islamic Iberia, called Al-Mugrib fī ḥulā al-Magrib (Book of the Maghrib). This book is midway between an anthology of poetry and a geography, collecting information on the poets of Maghreb organized by geographical origin.

Writing about Anatolia, he mentions silver and iron mines, and notes the huge number of nomadic Turkmen in the area: 200,000 households near Denizi, 30,000 near Ankara and 100,000 near Kastamonu. He states that there were only 24 towns in the empire. He mentions the existence of a Turkmen carpet-making industry, and the abundance of fruit produced in over 400,000 agricultural estates. He relates that the houses of Konya were all made of mudbrick, except for the royal palace. 

Ibn Said al-Maghribi


Book of Geography (Kitab al-Jag-Ara fiya)

Ali ibn Musa ibn Said was a famous geographer, historian and the most important collector of poetry from Andalusia in the 12th and 13th centuries. Ibn Said was born near Granada, grew up in Marrakesh, and lived in Tunis, Alexandria, Cairo, Jerusalem and Aleppo. He was an indefatigable traveller, and profoundly interested in geography. His Kitab al-Jag-Ara fiya embodies the experience of his extensive travels in the Muslim world and the shores of the Indian Ocean. Ibn Said also visited Armenia and was at the Court of Hulagu from 1256 to 1265. His Rayat al-mubarrizin waghayat al-mumayyizin (Banners of the Champions, also translated as Pennants of the Champions), published in 1243, is his best known anthology of poetry.


Ibn Wasil


Ibn Wasil (Gamal ad-Din Muhammad ibn Wasil) was an Arab statesman, politician and historian. A Shafi'i Syrian scholar, who held teaching posts and judgeships in Egypt and his hometown Hama, his most famous chronicle is the Arabic Mufarrij al-kurub fi akhbar bani Ayyub (The Dissipater of Anxieties on the Reports of the Ayyubids). He relates that Alaeddin Keykubad captured and imprisoned Rukn al-Din Jahanshah after the Battle of Yassicimen, and later killed him.


Imad al-din al-Isfahani


Biography of Saladin (al-Fath al-Qussi fi-l-Fath al-Qudsi)

Born in Isfahan, Imad al-din al-Isfanai was a historian, scholar and associate of Nur al-Din and Saladin. He produced many works of history and literature, in particular an invaluable anthology of poetry. He worked as a man of letters and bureaucrat at the court of the Zengid ruler Nur ad-Din. After his death he was banished from the court and went to live in Mosul where he entered the service of Saladin.  He became one of the sultan’s preferred chancellors, and accompanied him on all his campaigns, witnessing the battles of Marj Uyun and Hattin, and the Siege of Jerusalem in 1187, for which he wrote the terms of surrender.  He wrote in an overblown style, and was often critical of the generosity of Saladin to his enemies. After Saladin's death in 1193, he began writing his biographies of the sultan. He wrote the Kitab al-Barq al-Shami, which has been lost. He also wrote al-Fath al-Qussi fi-l-Fath al-Qudsi, which survives.


Innocent III, Pope

1160-1216; pope from 1198-1216

Reprimand of Papal Legate

Pope Innocent III was one of the most influential popes in papal history, and exerted much influence over the Crusade movement, as he called for 3 major crusades. When he became pope in 1198, he demonstrated an immediate desire to regain the Holy Land and called for the 4th Crusade. The misguided 4th Crusaders, leaving from Venice, never battled against Muslims, but only with other Christians in the conquest of the Catholic cities of Zara and Constantinople in 1204. Furious at the conquest of Constantinople, Innocent III wrote a famous reprimand to the papal legate. Despite his bitter words and excommunication of the looting Crusaders, there was little that could be done to alter the sack of Constantinople, and Innocent III wisely chose to make the best of the situation to strengthen Latin rule in Constantinople. Innocent III was also responsible for the launching of the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heretics in the Languedoc region of France in 1209.


Jamal al-Din ibn Wasil


The Dissipator of Anxieties Concerning the History of the Ayyubids

A diplomat and lawyer, Jamal al-din ibn Wasil wrote a chronicle of the Ayyubid period and the beginning of the Mamluk era.  His work is one of the most important Muslim sources for the 5th and 6th Crusades and the Crusades of Louis IX. Although he wrote about Saladin and the 3rd Crusade, he did not witness the events, as he lived some 100 years later. His account is one of the rare Muslim accounts of the later Crusades. He also served as an ambassador under Sultan Baybars and had various interactions with the Christians.


Joinville, Jean de


Histoire de Saint-Louis (Memoir of St. Louis)

Jean de Joinville, Seneschal of Champagne, lived in the entourage of Saint Louis, and participated with him in the 7th Crusade to Egypt where he was then taken prisoner by Muslims along with Louis IX. During their experiences together, the King and Jean formed a bond which led to Louis appointing Jean to command over fifty of his knights. After returning to France in 1254, Jean settled into a life of participation in the royal court and estate management. When Louis IX encouraged Jean to take part in the Eighth Crusade, Jean refused and expressed his disapproval of the effort. Jean was concerned for Louis IX, who was physically very weak at the time of the planning of the Eighth Crusade.

He wrote l’Histoire de Saint-Louis some fifty years after the events, after the canonization of Louis in 1297. The book, destined as an instruction for Louis X, is as much a hagiography as the memoirs of a former soldier. The source provides especially valuable information on the life of Louis IX, the Seventh Crusade, as well as France in the thirteenth-century. It is the most valuable record known for the Crusades of Louis IX.


Kamal al-Din Ibn al-Adim


The Cream of the History of Aleppo (Zubdat al-Halab fi ta'arikh Halab)

A historian from Ayyubid Aleppo, Kamal al-Din Ibn al-Adim wrote a history of the city (ending date 1223). He also wrote Bughyat al-Talab (The Student’s Desire) which contained a collection of biographies of famous men of the city. He also published a guide for the making of perfumes. He became a diplomat later in his life.


Khwaja Hoca Dehhani

13th c

Saljuq Shahname

This is a lost chronicle written in Persian. He was the first great master of Turkish classical poetry. According to several sources, he was ordered by Alaeddin Keykubad III to write a story of the Seljuks based on model of Firdawsi's Shahname. It was was last seen in the 14th c.


Khwaja Salman (Umur Bey)


He is an important chronicler of the Seljuks

14th c

The Chronicle of Umur Bey: Dusturname

This was one of the known chronicles, but is now lost. It was probably written around 1348 in Turkish, making it the earliest historical work written in Turkish by Anatolian Turks. It was a group of stories meant for Turkish sailors and as such is more popular than historical.  It is a very important source for the Aydinids and the first century of the Ottomans.


Kirakos of Gandzak

c. 1200-1271

History of the Armenians

Kirakos of Gandzak (present day Azerbaijan) was an Armenian historian who wrote a lengthy history of the events of Armenia from the 4-12th centuries, as well as furnishing a detailed description of the events of his lifetime. He was captured by the Mongols in 1236, and served as a secretary to them, learning their language. His work serves as a primary source for the study of the Mongol invasions, and even contains the first recorded vocabulary list (55 words) of the Mongolian language, a priceless resource. He describes the situation in Anatolia in the aftermath of the Battle of Kösedağ.


Matthew of Edessa

End 11th-1144


Matthew was an Armenian historian of the 12th century from the town of Edessa, author of a precious work describing the events in Lesser Armenia from 952 to 1136. He wrote about the Bagratuni Kingdom of Armenia, the early Crusades, and the battles between the Byzantines and Arabs for the possession of northern Syria and eastern Anatolia. His Chronicle contains unique information on the history of relations of the Armenian rulers with the leaders of the Crusades and is a rare source for the events of the pole city of Edessa. He particularly condemned the Frankish settlers for their avaricious and imperious rule of the region.


Mesarites, Nicolas



Nicolas Mesarites was a Byzantine theologian and chronicler who wrote a minor account of the sack of Constantinople during the 4th Crusade.  It is not as informative as the other major accounts, but as an eyewitness account of those three infamous days, it cannot be ignored.


Michael the Syrian



Michael, born in present-day Malatya, was a patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church from 1166-1199 in Antioch during the time of the Seljuks.  His Chronicle, written in Syriac, ran from the Creation up until his own times and is a source of many documents not otherwise preserved. It is known to us today through a French translation made by J.B Chabot in 1899. He was a contemporary source for the Latin Crusader states, and gives information on the Templars and the Hospitallers. He talked about the Danishmendids, and was a friend of Kiliç Arslan II.


Pairis, Gunther von


Historia constantinopolitana

A German Cistercian monk from the Alsatian monastery of Pairis, Gunther provided one of the major eyewitness accounts of the events of the Fourth Crusade, which he wrote in 1205. His account, written in Latin in prose and in verse, is not sympathetic to the conquered Byzantines, and relates how his own abbot, Martin of Pairis, looted and sacked the city for relics. His account is valuable as it provides detailed accounts of the relic thefts.


Polo, Marco


The Travels of Marco Polo

Marco Polo traveled through Turkey in 1272 on his journey to China (1271-1295) during the Mongol-early Beylik period. Although he does not speak directly of the Seljuks, his travelogue is interesting for the discussion of the daily life and occurrences of the period immediately following their reign. His comments on the "beautiful rugs seen in Konya" have proven invaluable for oriental carpet scholars.

Sa’d al-Din



Arab chronicler; witness of the 13th c.


Sembad the Constable


Chronicle of the Kingdom of Little Armenia

Sembad was the older brother of King Hethoum I of Armenian Cilicia. He was an important personage who served as diplomat, judge and supreme commander of the Armenian army. In 1243, Sembad was part of the embassy to Caesarea (Kayseri), where he negotiated with the Mongol leader Baiju. In 1246 and again in 1259, Sembad was in charge of organizing the defense of Cilicia against the invasion of the Sultanate of Rum. In 1247 Sembad was sent to the Mongol court in Karakorum to negotiate with them on behalf of the Armenians. In addition, he was a writer and translator, noted for his translations of legal codes and the creation of an extensive account of the history of Cilicia. This Chronicle is important as it provides eyewitness written accounts of the area. His Chronicle begins in 951 and ends in 1274, two years before his death.  His writings often had a political agenda and are thus not always considered historically reliable.




History of the Karamanids

Shikari wrote a Turkish history of the Karamanids.


Sibt ibn al-Jawzi


The Universal history (Mirat al-Zaman)

Orator, scholar and chronicler of Damascus, Sibt ibn al-Jawzi (sometimes known as Abu-Muzaffar) was born a Sunni in Badhdad. He studied Hanafi law in Iraq and wrote an important treatise in praise of this branch of law, the Defense and Advocacy of the True School of Law (Arabic: al-Intisar wa al-Tarjih li al-Madhhab al-Sahih). He also published a Universal History (Mirat al-Zaman), in 40 volumes written in his own hand. In this text, he describes the death of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II.


Simon de Saint Quentin, Friar

Active 1250

Histoire des Tartares

Simon was a Dominican friar and diplomat who took part in the embassy sent by Pope Innocent IV in 1245 to the Mongol court. His account of the mission has been for the most part lost, but a large section of the original text has been preserved in Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum Historiale. This is an important source, as it relates the meeting of the embassy with the court of Baiju in Armenia, and gives details on one of the earliest Catholic embassies to have reached a Mongol court. The Frankish visitors were poorly received by Baiju, who considered them impertinent and disrespectful, and the mission ended in failure. Before the mission of 1245, Simon was a missionary Friar in Anatolia at the time of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II, and relates that he was well-received by him and praises his power and richness.

He paints a flattering picture of the Sultan, the Seljuks and of Anatolia. He praises the natural resources of mines and extensive pastureland for animals, and that their products were exported to Europe, which allowed the Sultan to the money to support his vast army. He is one of the first writers to use the tern “Turkey” (Turquie regnum), which indicates that the Seljuks were by then more powerfully implanted than the Byzantines.




He is an important chronicler of the Seljuks


Saljuq Shaikname

This is one of the known chronicles; written in Persian.


Usamah ibn-Munqidh


An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades: The Memoirs of Usamah ibn-Munqidh (Kitab al i'tibar).

Usamah ibn Munqidh was a writer, historian, diplomat and politician. Due to his activity as a diplomat, he knew personally the most important people both on the Arab and the Christian sides, notably Nur al-Din and Saladin. His autobiography, Kitab al-I'tibar, gives a good idea of the lifestyle of the time and of the relationship between the Christians and Muslims. He adroitly contrasted viewpoints among the actors of both sides, and could recognize the strongpoints of each one. For example, the bravery and careful discipline of the Christian warriors impressed him. As a whole, he is not overly hostile toward the Franks, naming several of them friends. It is just this open-mindedness that distinguishes this text, and it holds a particular place among the Arab historians of the Crusades.


Villehardouin, Geoffroy de


Memoirs or Chronicle of The Fourth Crusade and The Conquest of Constantinople

A baron from the region of Champagne, France, Geoffroy contributed one of the major eyewitness accounts of the Fourth Crusade and the events leading to the sack of Constantinople in 1204. His account, started in 1207, joins those of Robert de Clari, Nicetas Choniates and Gunther von Pairis for this event. For Villehardouin, the Crusade had a purely religious origin and was begun with only the best of intentions. His account provides important insights into the thinking of the Crusaders as they dealt with the unusual and unexpected events they encountered during the Crusade.


William of Rubruck


Itinerarium fratris Willielmi de Rubruquis de ordine fratrum Minorum, Galli, Anno gratia 1253 ad partes Orientales.

William of Rubruck was Franciscan monk sent by Louis IX in 1254 to meet the Mongol Khan and make an alliance against the Muslims.  He was the first European (way before Marco Polo) to visit Karakorum, the capital built by Genghis.

William accompanied Louis IX on the Seventh Crusade in 1248. In May, 1253, on Louis' orders, he set out from Constantinople on a missionary journey to convert the Tartars, the fourth European mission to the Mongols. Before him went Giovanni da Pian del Carpine in 1245, Ascelin in 1247 and André de Longjumeau in 1248. William passed through Konya in 1255.

On his return, William presented to the king a very clear and precise report, entitled Itinerarium fratris Willielmi de Rubruquis de ordine fratrum Minorum, Galli, Anno gratia 1253 ad partes Orientales. In this report, he described the peculiarities of Mongolia as well as many geographical observations, making it the first scientific description of Central Asia. There were also anthropological observations, such as his surprise at the presence of Islam in Inner Asia. William also answered a long-standing question, demonstrating by his passage north of the Caspian, that it was an inland sea and did not flow into the Arctic Ocean; although earlier Scandinavian explorers had doubtless already known this, he was the first to report it.

His account is one of the masterpieces of medieval geographical literature, comparable to that of Marco Polo, although they are very different. William was a good observer, and an excellent writer. He asked many questions along the way and did not take folk tale and fable as truth. Because he wrote in Latin, his report was not as widely read or known as that of Marco Polo, whose text was ghost-written in vernacular Provencal.


William of Tyre, Archbishop

(Guillaume de Tyr)



Prelate, ambassador and chronicler of the 1st crusade, William of Tyre was one of the most learned men of his time. He is author of a chronicle which is deemed the "Official" version of the Crusades of the 12th c. A native of Jerusalem, he grew up there at the height of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which had been established in 1099 after the First Crusade. He spent over twenty years studying liberal arts and law in the major universities of Europe, notably in Paris and Bologna. Following his return to Jerusalem in 1165, King Amalric I named him tutor to his son, the future King Baldwin IV. It was William who discovered that Baldwin was a leper, and later praises his heroic courage in his chronicle. He later became chancellor and archbishop of Tyre, two of the highest offices in the kingdom.

William wrote an account of the Lateran Council and a history of the Islamic states from the time of Mohammed. Neither work survives. He is famous today as the author of a history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Latin chronicle, written between 1170 and 1184 and comprising twenty-three books, is sometimes given the title Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum ("History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea") or Historia Ierosolimitana ("History of Jerusalem"), or the Historia for short. It was translated into French soon after his death, and thereafter into numerous other languages.

From the end of Fulcher of Chartres’ chronicle in 1127, William is the only source of information from an author living in Jerusalem. Because it is the only source for the history of twelfth-century Jerusalem written by a native, historians have assumed that William's statements could be taken at face value. However, more recent historians have shown that William's involvement in the kingdom's political disputes resulted in obvious biases in his account. Despite these historical biases and errors in reporting dates, he is considered the greatest chronicler of the Crusades, and one of the best authors of the Middle Ages.


Yaqut al-Hamawi


Dictionary of Countries (Kitab mu'jam al-buldan)

Born a Greek in Anatolia, Yaqut al-Hamawi was a geographer and biographer known for his encyclopedia and various writings concerning the Muslim world. Yaqut was captured in war and sold as a slave to Baghdad merchant. When his owner recognized his abilities, he freed Yaqut and provided him with a solid education. Fascinated by geography, Yaqut traveled widely as a merchant dealing in rare books and manuscripts. He traveled to Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Syria, and noted all of his ethnographical, historical and scientific impressions and gave precise coordinates for all the cities he visited. He compiled them in the Kitab mu'jam al-buldan, a vast geographical encyclopedia that includes much biographical, historical, and cultural data, is a primary source in Arabic scholarship. He discusses the episode of Yassicimen and that Rukh al-Din Jahanshah was opposed to his sister Ismat marrying Alaeddin Keykubad. He also wrote two biographical dictionaries, the Dictionary of Men of Letters and the Dictionary of Learned Men. These books offer precise information about the geographical world, personalities, history and sciences of the period of the Seljuks.



14th c

Author of Qaraman shahname, a lost chronicle, originally written in Persian. It was commissioned by Aladdin Bey, one of the most powerful rulers of the Karamanids.  Some parts of a translated text have come down to us and have not proven particularly interesting.





Besides the listings on the above chart, there are several other types of texts that can be consulted for gleaning diverse types of historical information.  These include the diplomatic and other literary sources of the 12-14th centuries:



These provide all aspects of historical information: historical, legal, social, political, genealogical. They include: 

All original chancellery documents have been lost, yet we know they exist from copies in secretarial handbooks or mentions in secretarial handbooks and the chronicles





Badr al-Din al Rumi : al Tarassul ila'l-tawassul.

Contains 2 letters sent to Alaeddin Keykubad I by Jalal-al-din and his replies, a royal patent given to Kamal al-din Kamyar.  It was recopied in Antalya in 1382 

Abu Bakr Zaki al-din al Qunawi : Rawdat al-kuttub

Mevlana: Maktubat-I Mevlana, 13th c. : contains his private letters, which reveal the intellectual and spiritual history of the time, as well as relations between Mevlana and Seljuk officials.  As such, it complements the people mentioned in Ibn Bibi 

Sakk manuals

These were simple documents or "formulaires" for use in other chancelleries.  Contains names, titles and protocol used.  Very practical in nature, standard form letters

Muhammed b. Hindushah: Dastur al-katib fi ta'yin al-maratih.  Composed in the Il-Khanid period






Mevlevi order



These are the legends of the heroes, the Muslim warriors of the faith (mucahitler) and the tales of their victories over infidels.

They are in the tradition of the Hamzaname, the Battalname (and even the Epic of Dede Korkut)

 The most famous one:

The Danishmendname by Arif Ali 15th c. Its official title is Qissa-i Malik Danishmend Ghazi. Several copies exist: Istanbul City Library, Istanbul Millet Library, Leningrad Public Library, Bibliothèque nationale de France. Malik Danishmend Ahmad Ghazi: already in the 12th c, folktales about his personality and military exploits existed; the book was written about the same time as his turbe as Seyyid Ghazi was built. Izzeddin Keykavus II (son of Giyaseddin Keykhavus II) commissioned a certain Ibn Ala in 1244 to write down the best and the truest of these stories into Turkish. Later under Murat II (1421-51), a certain Arif Ali, keeper of the fortress at Tokat, was instructed to rewrite it.  He embellished it and put it into a 17-part recital form. We learn from reading it that the soldiers carried "ghazi" banners with golden embroidered crests and calligraphy.


Saltukname by Abu'l-Khayr al-Rumi 15th c. Sari Saltuk was a great hero and saint who spread Islam in Anatolia; he was the grandson of Seyyid Battali. Manaqibs started to appear in the 13th c. and grew in the 14-15th; a particular cult emerged among the Balkan Christians.  Cem Sultan, left in charge of Edirne when his brother Mehmet Fatih went off to battle Uzun Hasan, heard many stories about Sari Saltuk and wanted to compile a book of them.  He commissioned a certain Abu'l Khayr to travel around to gather them; says he took 7 years to collect them.  Cem loved to have these tales read to him. Jinns play an important role in the stories.It is historically the richest of the other 2 (Battal and Danishmendnames) ; gives many details on 13th century Anatolians, Mongols, Beyliks, the Babai insurrection and the establishment of the Ottoman State.It is better written and livelier than the other 2, but still is unpolished.



All religious and literary works written in Anatolia from 12-14th century are to be considered supplementary sources for the dark history of this period:

 Religious works:

Literary works: Anthologies of poetry (Diwans) and Sufi ethical works (Mathnawis)

these can also be used as historical subjects, especially for information on family trees, dress, customs, proper pronunciation of names, official titles.

 Some important ones: