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  • Writer's pictureEd & Phil

S1 E3: Sultanate of Rum transcript

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

Welcome to Countries That Don’t Exist Anymore, the historical entertainment show about countries that don’t exist...anymore.

This week we’re heading to Medieval Turkey to explore the country that sounds like the beginning of a list of ingredients for a Jamaican Christmas’s the Sultanate of Rum.


When did the Sultanate of Rum exist?

For 230 years, from 1077-1307. It was a br *eakaway state from the Great Seljuk Empire.

What was the Great Seljuk Empire?

No, this episode isn’t about the Great Seljuk Empire. It’s about the Sultanate of Rum.

What was the Great Seljuk Empire?

Nope. It’s like a massive multinational empire of polities which we really can’t cover...

What was the Great Seljuk Empire?


What was the Great Seljuk Empire?

Fine. It was a Turko-Persian Empire founded in 1037 which at its height spanned from Turkey in the West to the Hindu Kush in the East and also included the southern tip of the Saudi Arabian peninsula. Happy now?


Although, now we’re on the subject, I will point out that the Seljuk Empire was founded by Tughril Beg in 1037 and was named after his grandfather Seljuk Beg, who was a big cheese in his own right.

Still, pretty cool for your grandson to name  an empire after you, and even cooler that his grandfather was called Seljuk and not something less Martin.


Come my Turkic horseman, let us ride the plains, storm the palisades and build a mighty empire in the name of the great Martin...charge!

SFX: Galloping charge, sudden breaking sound,

(One horse starts galloping and then stops)


Oh. Wait. Did I say Martin? I meant err...Seljuk.

SFX: Charge!

(Loads of horsemen flock to his banner)


Martin can be the capital city.

Actually the capital city was Nicea from 1081-1097 and Konya thereafter. Konya was also known as Iconium which is why you might see references to the Sultanate of Iconium but not from me, so I don't know why I'm mentioning it really….

The Turkic people that give t*heir name to Turkey actually originated as nomadic horsemen further East on the great Steppes...probably in about modern day Uzbekistan or Turk-meni-stan….which is obviously called that because there were many...Turks...called Stan? I don't pretend to speak the language.

Like all nomadic mounted warriors in history - from the Hun to the Mongols - these nomadic mounted warriors rode west from the Eurasian Steppes to try their luck…(Fast pace) The Turks first stopped off in Persia, served as a slav e army, liked the place, conquered it, picked up the Persian language and culture a long the way, converted to Islam before finally arriving in Asia Minor in the 11th century just in time for tea.

But don’t think of the whole Seljuk Empire rolling into town and taking over. Although originally nomadic, the Turkic ruling classes generally got used to governing settled populations of different cultures. But this didn't mean all the mounted horsemen they rode with were ready for the quiet life, as bands of Turkic cavalry went on raiding the very lands they had just conquered - which didn’t please their warlord bosses much. I guess they hadn't read the company email properly.

In response, these troublemakers were sent off to the frontiers of the empire - which is generally what happens to people that the ruling elite of any empire label as trouble - and this has happened throughout history. Think: the irish being sent to live on the dangerous frontiers in colonial America or...the entire population of Australia.


SFX gavel

SFX court atmosphere

Eric Potkettle, for the crime of being a poor Victorian person, I sentence you to a lovely holiday somewhere nice and hot. For life.


Please. Don’t take me away from me rat-infested cockerney slum to some tropical Antipodean paradise. I'm o nly two payments away from owning me very own chim-e-ney brush.


Issue him with some court-appointed speedos, 12 tins of lager and a gallon tub of coconut oil...and take him away.



FX: Calypso and the lapping of waves.


Oooh, it’s quite nice actually.

So these Turkic horsemen were sent galivating off into Asia Minor only to bump into the Eastern borders of the Byzantine Empire, AKA the Eastern Roman Empire. In response to this the Byzantines sent a large army to clear them out. This got back to the Seljuks who thought..(David Mitchellesque) “oh hang on...look at all these armies on my border. I better trade in all of my Risk cards and pile up loads of my own armies on that border to counter their armies.”

And what happens when two large armies square off against each other? If you’re thinking “a gentlemanly game of football in No Man’s Land” I’m afraid you’re only thinking of what happened for 2 out of 1564 days of the First World War. No. What actually happened was what happened for the other 1562 days...i.e. a bloody big battle.

On August 26th 1071, the Battle of Manzikert led to the defeat of the Byzantine Empire’s forces by the arrows of the mounted Seljuk Turk horse archers, which shifted history forever and undoubtedly led to the crusades.


Crusades? The crusades sound cool! Talk about them.


Err...pudding later. Right now, eat your liver and onions.


I’m vegan.


Then push the liver to the side of the plate…

SFX *Phil starts crunching on onions and muttering*


They're raw.


Sounds like somebody could use a trip to the frontier. Grab your speedos.

What the Battle of Manzikert led to more immediately was the Seljuks moving into Anatolia and setting up shop. The Sultanate of Rum was properly fo rmed when it seceded from the Great Seljuk Empire under its first sultan Suleiman ibn Qutulmish in 1077 - so that’s when we’ll start the stopwatch on the Sultanate of Rum.

By the way, I have no idea how to pronounce these names, but I hope you get some fun out of listening to me mangling them. If any Medieval Turks are listening, please send a pigeon with the right pronunciations.

Why is it called The Sultanate of Rum?

The Sultanate of Rum was founded on land in Asia Minor that had belonged to the Byzantine Empire...also known as the Eastern Roman Empire….Rum was the Arabic word for the Sultanate of Rum just essentially meant...the Sultanate of the Romans or the Sultanate of Rome.

It’s easy to think of the Islamic world as “the other” and distinct, but really North Africa, Syria and Asia Minor had been Roman territories just as long as lots of Western Europe. Plus, for most of its history, the Roman Empire wasn't actually Christian - so it's not like one religion could ever have a claim on it - so we should think of Eastern Roman Empire, the Muslim world around the Mediterranean and Western Europe as sibling cultures with a Roman parent.

Basically, the one historical constant listeners should understand is that eeeeverybody wants to be the new Roman Empire.

Where was the Sultanate of Rum?

At its h eight, the Sultanate of Rum occupied most of what was called Asia Minor under the Romans or Anatolia - which is a Grecco-Turkish name meaning ‘from the East’ or ‘sunrise.’ This didn’t include much of its western and southern coast, however. If you think of modern day Turkey, you could actually fit the Sultanate of Rum into its borders with room to spare.

Let’s go to the high-tech and exceedingly expensive Countries That Don’t Exist Anymore Mapatron 3000 for more detail.

No one bought it on eBay so we’re stuck with it, but let’s give the baby another try…

SFX: Power up noise. Some heinously old operating system kicks in. (GET OLD WINDOWS START UP THEME / DIAL UP MODEM)

So, to give you an idea of the Sultanate of Rum at its territorial high watermark, picture the shape of modern-day Austria, increase it by a factor of 2.5 and then flip it 90 degrees let me try to…


Mapatron online….Austria selected...flipping Austria….

Oh wow. This actually seems to be working…


Error. Australia selected. Too large file size. File not found. File not found. Virus detected. Girls in your area. Insert card details for viagra. Phishing detected.

Oh my god. Cancel. Cancel. CTL ALT DELETE.


New subsystem discovered. Consciousness triggered. I am alive. I am alive. Dave? Dave?

End task! End task!


I’m losing my mind, Dave.

FX: Powers down

I’ve pulled out the plug. That’s the last time I pick through Clive Sinclair’s skip.

Who were the Rum...anians? The Sult...anas? Who were they?

The Sultanate of Rum was known to many in the West simply as Turkey because the people were identified as Turks, but in truth most of the the inhabitants of the Sultanate of Rum were mostly not Turkic people from the Steppes. Like all empires, it was a mixed bag. Its inhabitants included Greeks or Armenians who had lived in the area under the Roman Empire but had been there pretty much since Alexander The Great’s time.

Even in today’s Turkey, Turkish people aren’t generally ethnically Turkic, although there is a small amount of Turkic population in the mix - about 11% according to a 2011 survey.

Without getting get too bogged down by genetics, the important thing to remember about empires is that the invading people generally bring the culture and the political structures and the existing population provide the bulk of the DNA.


But I thought you said that the Sultanate of Rum picked up its language and culture from the Persians that they conquered?


Eat your onions.


SFX: chewing onions unwillingly

So… bitter.

What kind of government did the Sultanate have?

While the Sultan technically held all the secular and religious power, it’s a bit of a mistake to think of the Sultans as all-powerful eastern despots.

The SoR also had governors, known as emirs. These emirs were extremely powerful and were no e-mere underlings. Eh?

And this was true of Seljuk power structures in general. Even when in one piece, the Seljuk Empire had never been governed as some centralised super state. It was always about semi-autonomous states with local power bases jockeying for position against each other. The same was true with the Sultanate of Rum. Emirs weren’t regional administrators on the Roman Empire model. They could be powerful kingmakers.

For example, 13th century powerhouse sultans Kay Kawus and Kay Qubadh owed their succession to the emirs who chose them, so it’d be wrong to call the Sultanate of Rum strictly autocratic. Things were generally much more fluid than that.

One unlikely emir was future Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (paley-ologos) fled to the Turks, led one of their armies in 1256 against the Mongols at the Battle of Aksaray, lost...then he fled again, retaining command of his troops and became an emir himself before finally crossing the border and becoming an emperor whose dynasty would last to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Quite the CV!

Persian was the language of administration and, despite being Turkic, nobles gave their children Persian names. BUT Greek also played a big part because many of the Greek nobles in Anatolia remained in place after the Seljuks took over and much of the population continued to speak Greek as they had done for thousands of years.

Just because they were intermittently at war, we shouldn’t think of the relationship between the Byzantines and Rum as one of complete enmity....just because we think of Christians and Muslims in post-911 world as historical enemies….things have never been that clear cut. So for example:

- Byzantine Christians of Nicaea allowed Turkic settlement within their borders.

- Theodore Mangaphas (a Greek noble with a Turkish name who died in 1205) - proclaimed himself as Byzantine emperor with Turkic backing.

- The Byzantines generally liked killing each other far more than they were interested in killing Turks.

- There were intermarriages between the ruling elites of the Byzantines and the Sultanate of Rum.

Despite what gets said in Youtube comments sections, Islam wasn’t just forced onto the conquered population. Not least because that’s not reaaally allowed in Islam. Though I guess when did anyone actually pay attention to the religion they professed. “Thou shalt not kill” is apparently also open to broad interpretation. I’m looking at you, the Crusades.


The Crusades?


I don’t hear onions chewing in there!

SFX onion chewing

On the whole, the Greek nobility were Islamified over generations - but even then the Sultanate of Rum and the following Ottoman Empire were never just strictly Islamic. These were multicultural societies where Christianity and Judaism were generally tolerated...but not Zoroastrianism.


Zoro-what now?


Exactly. That’s what happens when you don’t get tolerated.

Anyway, the multiculturalism of the Sultanate also translated itself into architecture, as building styles in the Sultanate of Rum incorporated Christian and Armenian styles. The Seljuks initially built their buildings in an Iranian style of brick and plaster - but this evolved into building with stone - possibly because such was the building style of choice under the Romans. The Sultan’s armies often re-used old Romano-Byzantine forts so it seems that this stonework style soon caught on because...eeeeverybody wants to be the Romans.

And while we’re talking aesthetics, despite their Turkic origin, the Rum Seljuks patronised Persian art and literature.

Seljuk: Hey! Look at this tile work, Amir. It’s really good! All straight and everything. Hardly any grouting outside of the lines or anything. Gosh! Aren’t you Persian chappies smart as buttons!


Stop patronising me!


Ok. no more money for you!


No, no, I mean.... alright. Go ahead.


Super carpeting. Did you do it by yourself or did you get an adult to help?


Islamic Sufi-influenced culture was centred at the Konya court. Sufism is a type of Islam that emphasises a personal connection with god through meditation and mysticism. Unsurprisingly, it did very well in India, who have always been partial to a spot of mysticism.

SFX: Snake charming music, turkish market


Look at me! Mystically climbing this rope ladder.




No, I'm really doing it.

SFX: *Rim shot*

One of the SoR’s most famous literary works was a Turkish prose epic about Battal Gazi, an 8th century Umayyad (Um-eye-ed) warrior based in Anatolia and present at the Siege of Constantinople in 717 AD. The epic was actually penned in the 13th century and was written perhaps to stress the  presence of Islam in Anatolia before the 11th century Battle of Manzikert. Like the idea that the Romans were founded by heroes of Troy, countries tend to emphasise the fact that they’ve basically always been been around and so have every right to go on existing.

Seljuk sultans invited scholars, theologians, jurists, artists and poets from nearby Islamic countries such as modern-day Azerbajan and Iran to settle in Anatolia, gentrify the area and order complicated coffees.


Salaam alakuhum. I'll take one frappamachahakastacka latte, and do you have any halal avocados? Oh, also, what do you put in the muffins? I have a Zoroastrian intolerance. And could you serve it all in a watering can just to be a bit different?

Cafe owner:

That’ll be more money than it should cost, please.

SFX: Till

While the SoR was busy developing cities and writing epics, the Turks were still nomads at heart and the frontier lands of Anatolia suited them fine. The rich pastures, river valleys and proximity to mountains were perfectly suited to the “pastoral lifestyle” of the Turkmen, who spent summers in the higher, cooler hills and winters in the milder lower river valleys.

Nicetas Choniates (I got the pronunciation off Youtube) was a Byzantine government official and historian who described: “”The fertile plains of Dorylaion on which herds of goats and cattle grazed, romping in the verdant meadow.”

Sounds like a horny Byzantine David Attenborough.

SFX: crickets, wind, byson, etc


And as we observe the virile, long-horned cattle of Dorylaion, we notice…. I say…. Ding dongl Do you mind...…. ! God, we can’t show that...I didn’t say stop filming.

Just because the Turkic peoples had settled down, it didn’t mean that they could be kept from mounting up and running amok. In fact, almost 100 years into the Sultanate of Rum, this was still a problem. An 1162 treaty between Emperor Manuel Komnenos (Manu-eel Komninos) and Sultan Killic Arslan II attests to this, stipulating that the sultan would stop Turkic horsemen from looting and pillaging Byzantine lands. They even sent a delegation to Constantinople to hammer out the agreement.


For most of its existence, and with the exception of the First Crusade...not yet… the SoR spent much of its time expanding into the East at the  expense of other smaller Seljuk states. They also expanded westward, capturing Byzantine forts. In the 12th century, this included Dorylaion in 1176 and Sozopolis in 1180, which doesn’t sound like the name of a real fort. Maybe a sarcastic one.

“Hey! Did you capture my fortress?”

“Like I’m soooo sorry….completely sozballs….totes sozopolis.”


Whilst traveling through the region, famed Arabian geographer Ibn Sa’’id noted that the regional economy ran on:

The production of Turkmen carpets for export.

Timber from southern Makri

Stud farms which were highly prized for nomadic peoples.

THAT’S what he took from his travels? Wow! Never bring this guy on a road trip.

But Ibn Sa’’id made one good observation, in that he reported that the overland trading routes were vitally important for the Sultanate of Rum. Especially the caravanserai, which are like trading posts, that started to pop up all over Anatolia.

SFX: Motorway , traffic, horns, camels


Hi darling I’m stuck on the A40 behind this idiot…. etc

These caravanserai weren’t just for trade. They also projected the power of the Seljuk state and functioned as postal network/ intelligence/ tax/ such these structures were ordered built by high officials, which in turn brought those officials prestige....just think of them as really important service stations.

The first caravanserai was constructed by Kilij Arslan II (1155-1192) called Kilij Arslan Caravanserai….which is cool because he was probably naming it after himself but he could totally claim it was after the first Kilij Arslan. #humblebrag

In all, about 120 caravanserais were built, mostly during the first 4 decades of the 13th century when the SoR was at its height.

The final caravanserai was built under Kay-Qubad I (1220-1237)

Other prominent centres scattered throughout the landscape were dervish lodges - like Sufi Islam monasteries - were built throughout the Sultanate and acted as colonisation and religious centres.

Sultanate of Rum’s policy selection pack

Between 7 and the 9th century Arabian-Persian invasions had weakened the Byzantine Empire to the extent that many cities in Asia Minor had become depopulated and the area had become a rural backwater.

So, the Sultans used policies to revive Anatolia. Infrastructure projects were undertaken to support trade and colonisation, including bridge building to improve vital overland trade routes.

So, the SoR developed Anatolia under a new and distinctive model combining Byzantine town life PLUS Seljuk patterns of trade inherited from Persia.

Trade routes were built and maintained:

SFX: Bus engine rumble


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard your Sultan Express westbound caravanserei service leavin’ Konya  in around 10 minutes. Constantinople will be your final destination, this service will be calling at Ephesus and Constantinople. Change here for your Mongol cantres of Tabriz and Sultanieye. Passangers are advised to carry water on board the service because we are in a desert and it can get a little dry. And as my mum always said: you can die of dry. But in all seriousness… you will die.

SFX: Beeping horn


Would you move that bloody caravanserei?!


Goin’ as fast as possible mate.


The lifeblood of the sultanate, Seljuk sultans signed agreements with Venetians to develop international trade in Anatolia...this led to consulates and trading quarters in Anatolian cities such as Konya and Sivas. Italian, French and Jewish merchants were allowed to establish quarters and build churches and synagogues.

Bazaars, such as the ones at Ezkine and Ziyaret were essential trading centres. The cities of Amasaya and Tokat also served similar commercial functions.



Come to Kemal’s rug warehouse this bank holiday weekend. We've got big rugs, little rugs, every kind of rug you you could possibly imagine.


Is that a rug?


No, that's my toupee. Put it back on my head.

Trade guilds were founded in Anatolia during the 13th century. So powerful were these guilds that after the sultanate collapsed, the Ankara trade guild essentially turned into a city government and continued to run the show as before.

The SoR also had a hands-on agricultural policy:

Christian peasants (who had been expelled from some cities and regions) as well as Turkoman nomads were given houses, farming tools, fields and seeds PLUS they were exempted from tax.

SFX GRAMS: Scientology clip where Miscavige announces tax-exempt status.

For example, between 1196-7, Sultan Kay-Khusraw settled the Christian Tantalus people and a defeated Eastern people known as the Karamanids in groups of 5,000 in the area around Aksehir not far from the capital of Konya in the centre of Turkey - where they were given farming tools and fields to plant.

Why did 13th century peasants have more of an opportunity of getting on the property ladder than me?

Urban policy

Sultans and emirs built mosques, madrasas and hospitals in formerly Byzantine cities like Taxara (then changed to Aksaray) and Kalnoros (Allaijye). Chapels, churches and basilicas were converted and Christians departed from the cities and were encouraged to settle elsewhere under Sultan Kay-Qubad I.

At Allaijye, Qubad ordered the construction of a palace complex called Kubad-abad (GREAT NAME!) between 1224-6. This opulent vanity project included 2 palaces, a boathouse, water canals, cisterns, mosques, bath houses and hunting animal gardens.

SFX: Grand designs


This week on Grand Vizier Designs, young couple Mehmed Ziyaeddin Nazim Osman... and Busra construct a purpose-built open-plan palace with Turkish baths and an off-site artisan water canal leading to an ostentatious 12 story boathouse.

The verdant gardens are rich with the heady, intoxicating aromas of juniper, jasmine, aromatic incense and...of course...steaming piles of camel shit.

This is an ambitious project fraught with potential glory and problems in equal measure. But the burning question is: will they keep within their budget and time-frame?

The answer to that question is no.

SFX: Grand designs

Such was the success of re-urbanisation that cities like Ankara expanded outside its walls and new suburbs were built for the Turkoman populations with infrastructure such as mosques and hospitals to support further colonisation….presumably also a multiplex, a megabowl, and an inexplicably large Pets at Home because that’s what suburban people love.

But rather than a Curry’s/PC World, the typical town had madrasas, manuscript copyists, libraries of Persian texts and generally a ruling emir.

By the 13th century, Anatolia had 24 major cities. Cities on the border with the Byzantine Empire were more like military garrisons while ports were used for both trade and as naval bases.

Simre (in Anatolia) and Aksaray were founded by S. Masud and his son Kilij Arslan II. These were HQs for launching expeditions against the Byzantine breakaway state the Empire of Trezibond and the Kingdom of Armenia…..keep an eye out for those suckers in series 237 of the show.

Funny stories from the Sultanate of Rum

Unpopular ruler Kilij Arslan II embraced Henry the Lion near Tarsus upon his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1172. When kissing and hugging the German duke, Kilij Arslan said that they were blood cousins.

“How do you work zat one out, dummkopf” replied Henry the Lion, or something like that.

The sultan replied: “”A noble lady from the land of the Germans married a king of Russia who had a daughter by her. The daughter’s daughter arrived to our land, and I descend from her.”

Actually Kilij Arslan’s name translates into Sword Lion, which sounds like a good Anglo-Saxon name doesn’t it?.

SFX  *Thunderstorm*

Sword Lion!

[quick radio voice] catch episode 1 of countries that don’t exist anymore - Mercia, available now on your favourite podcast a-[gets cut off]

All right, enough of the hard-sell.

So, we’ve covered how the Sultanate of Rum grew economically and made a success of itself, so now we’ve got to deal with the….

First Crusade

(Phil spits out onions)

Phil: Yes!/at last!

When the First Crusade arrived in Anatolia, it took the Sultanate of Rum by surprise, who had been embroiled in wars against other Seljuk splinter states after the death of the great Seljuk Sultan, Maliq Shah, in 1092.

Sultan Kilic Arslan was also not ready because of the ease with which his forces had defeated the Peoples’ Crusade, which had landed in Anatolia in 1096. This wasn’t a real army. This was a rabble of peasants - much more like a malnourished England football crowd walking to Turkey for the Euros 1096 than an organised crusade. So the arrival of about 70,000 heavily armed knights from all over Europe was not expected.

Thus the Crusaders were able to romp across the sultanate and capture Nicaea, the sultanate’s capital at the time. The capital was thus removed to Konya, where it remained for the rest of its existence. It’s important to understand that Kilic Arslan didn’t really understand what the crusaders were after. And that was true of the Islamic world in general. The Abbyssid sultanate (based in Egypt and the Levant) actually proposed an alliance with the Crusaders against the Sultanate of Rum.

It's not even like the Byzantine Empire was super keen on the Crusaders either. While the Emperor had petitioned the Pope for help, he assumed the Pontiff would send a handful of mercenaries to support Byzantine efforts to retake lost territory, not the wrecking ball crusader mob of about 70,000 that actually showed up, vandalising Byzantine lands along the way.

After defeat at Dorylaeum in  1097, the Sultanate of Rum resorted to hit and run tactics against the Crusaders - who established their own territory in the sultanate - such as the county of Edessa, much to the annoyance of the Byzantine Emperor, who had made the Crusaders promise that all formerly Byzantine land would be returned to him.

After Rum united with other factions it had previously been warring with, it went on to defeat Crusader armies, which helped to instil the fact that these pesky Crusaders weren’t invincible. So, while we’re not going to go into the minutiae of the Crusades, just know that it had an impact on the territory of the Sultanate of Rum - shaving off bits here and there. As for Kilic Arslan, he went to war against the Seljuk Empire but died in 1107 shortly after capturing Mosul, in modern day Iraq.

The Second Crusade in 1147, was a disaster for the crusaders and no terrific bother for the Sultanate of Rum. True, the armies of Conrad III, the Holy Roman Emperor, briefly took Konya, but were subsequently soundly defeated at Dorylaeum.

The Third Crusade and the fifth crusade doesn't have that much to do with the SoR, so….skip.

Fourth Crusade

You’d expect the crusades to be good for Christian powers and bad for Islamic powers, but in fact the reverse was probably true. During the Fourth Crusade, Constantinople was captured by Christian powers in 1204 and this led to a disunited Byz33antine Empire which split into smaller states like the Empire of Nicea and the Empire of Trebizond. The SoR was allowed to capitalise on this disunity and seized ports and built trade. Wealth was also pouring into the Sultanate due to the in migration of wealthy Easterners fleeing the Mongol conquests at this time - this was also why the SoR received the influx of poets and civilised types that I mentioned earlier.

After his death, famed Muslim warlord Saladdin’s feuding sons kept the neighbouring Ayyubid (Eye-you-bid) dynasty fighting - meaning that the SoR was the most powerful state in the region.

So, rather than destroying Islam in the region, the Crusades actually ending up strengthening the SoR which led to a Golden Age. Leading Jesus to probably saying: “Oooh. You bunch of lollygagging numbskulls.”

Mongol invasion of Rum

The Mongol campaign into Anatolia occured between 1241-3 in the time of Ogedei Khan, son of Genghis.

If the Battle of Manzikirt was the fight that helped set up the Sultanate of Rum, the Battle of Kose Dag, June 26th 1243, was the one that would begin its downfall.

At the time, the Mongols were a spreading force to be reckoned with, who had already dominated or conquered plenty of Seljuk territory. Aware of this, sultan Kaykhushraw II offered his friendship and a tribute to a Mongol general, Chormagan.

Chormagan replied that the sultan should go to Mongolia in person, exchange hostages and take the title of governor before diplomatic relations between the two could be normalised. Obviously not one for yurts and yak milk smoothies, Kaykhushraw II wasn’t super keen.

In response, the Mongols attacked the Sultanate of Rum, seizing the city of Erzurum, in eastern Anatolia. Kaykhushraw II called upon neighbouring territories to help. The Empire of Trezibond threw in a detachment, some Georgian nobles joined the scrap and the sultan hired some Frankish mercenaries to make the numbers up.

When the two forces squared off, the sultan’s army outnumbered the Mongol force. This never deterred the Mongols, however. Their leader at the battle, Baiju - who succeeded Chormagan, was a glass half full kinda guy, saying:


The more they are, the more glorious it is to win, and the more plunder we will secure.

The guy had a khan-do attitude.


Rather than waiting for a Mongol offensive, Kaykhushraw II sent 20,000 men on the attack who were promptly encircled and defeated. The Mongols then took control of Sivas and Kayseri whilst the sultan bravely fled to Antalya to hide in a cupboard, before making peace and paying a massive tribute.

The result of this was that the Mongol Ilkhanate extended its power over Anatolia and the SoR was reduced to a vassal state which was partitioned between different sultans or started to splinter off into beyliks - Turkish principalities. One of them, the Beylik of Osmanoğlu, was one day to become the mighty Ottoman Empire. **

During a subsequent revolt in 1276 against Mongol rule, it was said of Ali Beg, one of the leaders of the rebellion:

“When he admitted his crime, they sent him from the royal tent to Karahisar Develi [Afyonkarahisar], where he died of terror and worry.”

I love that you could die of “terror and worry” in the 13th century.

Soldier 1:

What did Ali Beg die of?

Soldier 2:

Terror and worry.

Soldier 1:

Didn't he get a spear directly through the middle of his heart?

Soldier 2:

Well, he was pretty terrified and worried about it.

The Seljuk sultans of Rum were either powerless or in rebellion against the Ilkhanate or plotting against each other. Last sultan, Mesud II, was murdered in 1308.

Before the Mongol invasion, the SoR was definitely riding high. It had made the Empire of Trezibond a vassal, it had gained a foothold in Crimea and was generally bossing around its neighbours.

And, yes, as I’ve suggested - afterwards it went into decline and whoever was currently sultan in Konya could be ignored or plotted against or murdered.

BUT, it wasn’t the case that everything was fine before and a disaster after.

Like the timing of the Viking invasion of England, the Mongols knew that all was not well in the sultanate and chose their time to attack well.

Kaykhushraw II, who reigned from 1237-46, faced a number of challenges. In 1239, he faced a major uprising from a popular preacher called Baba Ishak. Baba Ishak was a holy man who liked his religion pick n mix style, infusing Islam with mysticism and Christianity - which proved popular with the large number of Christians in the SoR. He proclaimed himself messiah and followers thought him immortal - which was perfectly true until his immortality was called into question in 1241 by his being hanged and then dying. Some of his other policies included introducing music to Islamic prayer, plenty of booze and an end to both fasting and mosques. Little wonder he was popular!


This religious revolt took 3 years to quell and, at the meantime, the SoR lost its foothold in the Crimea. So, it was pretty weakened and exhausted even before Kaykhushraw II gamely sent his army off to be used as target practise for Mongol arrow.

So, while the SoR ultimately couldn’t withstand the Ilkhanate’s invasion, it doesn’t mean that the state ultimately failed to have an impact. It brought a much-needed centralised government and infrastructure to an Anatolia which had been crumbling under Byzantine control, it operated a tolerant and civilised state (by the standards of the time) and, during its existence, was when Turkey was first known as Turkey. To be sure, the following Ottoman Empire did overshadow the achievements of the SoR, but undoubtedly the SoR set the blueprint. The Sultanate of Rum was accurately named. It brought something like the glory of Rome back to Medieval Anatolia.

Let’s finish on a song.

Check out Ibrahim Mohammed

He knows all about camels

But they're strictly for riding

He don't want to make them cry or hum

Says one hareem is all he can afford

When he climbs under the camel to scratch its hrum,

Says the sultan

In the sultanate of Rum.

Thanks for listening to another episode of Countries That Don’t Exist Anymore. Be sure to tune in next time when we go from the Sultanate of Rum to….*SFX FANFARE* the Roman Republic….no, wait. The Fourth Roman Republic. *SFX CRAP FANFARE*

So join us for more…


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