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The Seljuk Turk Empire

Around 900 AD, Seljuk Turks began their migration westward from the Mongolian plateau through Persia, reaching the Byzantine Empire in Anatolia around the year 1000 AD.

The Byzantine Empire, whose capital was Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), resisted the invaders on the plains of Anatolia, but were defeated at the Battle Manzikert in 1071 AD. This was a decisive battle, a turning point in history that allowed the rise of the Seljuk Empire within the Anatolian peninsula and expansion into an area known as the Levant (see the pink area in Map 3). One significant consequence of the Seljuk Turks’ victory over the Byzantines at Manzikert was the severing of European Christians’ access to Jerusalem in the Levant.

As a background, the Levant, which is a Latin-based word (“lev”) referring to the rising sun in the east, describes the large eastern Mediterranean region that today includes Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, the Palestine Authority, and portions of Iraq and Turkey. The Levant has been witness to an immeasurable amount of history, especially for that of three major religions. Since 622 AD, Islamic Caliphates (Islamic sovereignties) had been rapidly spreading Islam from Arabia westwards across Africa and into Spain, eastwards into Persia, and northwards, capturing Jerusalem in 638 AD.

After the Seljuk Turks cut the trade and pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem in 1071 AD, they took control of the city from the Egyptian Fatimid Caliphate (an Islamic sovereignty) in 1077 AD. In response, Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade in 1095 AD, launching the first of many Christian attempts to regain the Holy Land, the Levant, and trade routes to the east.

Map 3. The Seljuk Turk Empire, 1095 AD

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