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Kilij Arslan I

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Kilij Arslan I
Sultan of Rum
PredecessorSuleyman I
SuccessorMalik Shah
Died1107 (aged 27–28)
Khabur River, near Mosul
ConsortAisha Khatun
IssueMesud I
HouseHouse of Seljuq
FatherSuleyman I of Rûm
ReligionSunni Islam

Kilij Arslan ibn Suleiman (Old Anatolian Turkish: قِلِیچ اَرسلان; Persian: قلیچ ارسلان, romanizedQilij Arslān; Turkish: I. Kılıç Arslan or Kılıcarslan, lit. "Sword Lion") (‎1079–1107) was the Seljuq Sultan of Rum from 1092 until his death in 1107. He ruled the Sultanate during the time of the First Crusade and thus faced the earliest attacks from Christian forces. He also re-established the Sultanate of Rum after the death of Malik Shah I of the Seljuk Empire and defeated the Crusaders in three battles during the Crusade of 1101.[2] Kilij Arslan was the first Muslim and Turkish commander to fight against the Crusaders, commanding his horse archers as a teenager.[3]

Rise to power


After the death of his father, Suleiman ibn Qutalmish, in 1086, he became a hostage of Sultan Malik Shah I of Great Seljuq in Isfahan, but was released when Malik Shah died in 1092 in the wake of a quarrel among his jailers.[4] Kilij Arslan then marched at the head of the Turkish Oghuz Yiva tribe army and set up his capital at Nicaea, replacing Amin 'l Ghazni, the governor appointed by Malik Shah I.

Following the death of Malik Shah I the individual tribes, the Danishmends, Mangujekids, Saltuqids, Tengribirmish begs, Artuqids (Ortoqids) and Akhlat-Shahs, had started vying with each other to establish their own independent states. Alexius Comnenus's Byzantine intrigues further complicated the situation. He married Ayşe Hatun, the daughter of the Emir Tzachas to attempt to ally himself against the Byzantines, who commanded a strong naval fleet. They had four sons: Malik Shah, Mesud I, Arab and Toghrul. In 1094, Kilij Arslan received a letter from Alexius suggesting that the Tzachas sought to target him to move onto the Byzantines, thereupon Kilij Arslan marched with an army to Smyrna, Tzachas's capital, and invited his father-in-law to a banquet in his tent where he slew him while he was intoxicated.[5]

The Crusades


People's Crusade


The People's Crusade (also called the Peasants' Crusade) army of Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless arrived at Nicaea in 1096. A German contingent of the crusade overran the castle Xerigordon and held it until Kilij sent a force to starve them out. Those that renounced Christianity were spared and sent into captivity to the east, the rest were put to death.[6] Kilij Arslan also cunningly sent spies to trick the Crusaders into thinking Xerigordon was ripe for the taking, and the ill-disciplined Crusaders rushed to Xerigordon despite orders against this. They were consequently ambushed, forcing Peter the Hermit eventually to give up the crusade.

The remainder of Peter's crusade composed almost entirely of unarmed civilians was surprised near the village of Civetot by Kilij Arslan's army.[6] They were easily overwhelmed and around 17,000 out of the 20,000 remaining Christians died.[7] He then invaded the Danishmend Emirate of Malik Ghazi in eastern Anatolia.

The First Crusade would start a few months later.

First Crusade


Because of this easy first victory he did not consider the main crusader army, led by various nobles of western Europe, to be a serious threat. He resumed his war with the Danishmends, and was away from Nicaea when these new Crusaders besieged Nicaea in May 1097. He hurried back to his capital to find it surrounded by the Crusaders, and was defeated in battle with them on 21 May. The city then surrendered to the Byzantines and his wife and children were captured. When the crusaders sent the Sultan's wife to Constantinople, to their dismay she was later returned without ransom in 1097 because of the relationship between Kilij Arslan and Alexios I Komnenos.

As result of the stronger invasion, Rum and the Danishmends allied in their attempt to turn back the crusaders. The Crusaders continued to split their forces as they marched across Anatolia. The combined Danishmend and Rum forces planned to ambush the Crusaders near Dorylaeum on 29 June. However, Kilij Arslan's horse archers could not penetrate the line of defense set up by the Crusader knights, and the main body under Bohemond arrived to capture the Turkish camp on 1 July. In this battle, the Kilij Arslan and his troops won the respect of his enemy, as the Gesta Francorum states: "had the Turks been Christian, they would be the finest of all races."[8]

Kilij Arslan was defeated and settled for harassing the Crusader army with guerilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics. He also destroyed crops and water sources along their route in order to hinder the Crusader Army from collecting supplies, ultimately with little success.

Crusade of 1101

Crusade of 1101

Gazi Gümüshtigin captured Bohemond resulting in a new force of Lombards attempting to rescue him. In their march they took Ankara from Arslan upon the Danishmends. In alliance with Radwan the Atabeg of Aleppo he ambushed this force at the Battle of Mersivan. In 1101 he defeated another Crusader army at Heraclea Cybistra, which had come to assist the fledgling Crusader states in Syria. This was an important victory for the Turks, as it proved that an army of Crusader knights was not invincible. After this victory he moved his capital to Konya and defeated a force led by William II of Nevers who attempted to march upon it as well as the subsequent force a week later.

In 1104 he resumed his war with the Danishmends who were now weakened after the death of Malik Ghazi, demanding half the ransom gained for Bohemond. As a result, Bohemond allied with the Danishmends against Rum and the Byzantines.

War and drowning in river


After the crusades he moved towards the east, taking Harran and Diyarbakr. In 1107 he conquered Mosul, but he was defeated by Muhammad I Tapar supported by Ilghazi of the Artuqids and Fakhr al-Mulk Radwan of Aleppo at the battle of Khabur River.[9] Having lost the battle, Kilij Arslan drowned trying to escape across the river.[10]

Discovery of his burial


In January 2021, archaeologists led by professor Ahmet Tanyıldız from the Dicle University claimed to discover his and his daughter Saide Hatun's grave in Silvan, Diyarbakır.[11] Researchers dug two metres deep across a 35-square-metre area and focused their works on two gravesites in Orta Çeşme Park.[12]


  1. ^ "2nd Anatolian Seljuk sultan's grave found in SE Turkey".
  2. ^ Savvides, Alexios G. C. (2006). "Qilij Arslān of Rûm (d. 1107)". In The Crusades - An Encyclopedia. p. 998.
  3. ^ "The first Turkish leader against the Crusaders: Sultan Kilij Arslan I". DergiPark. 2015. p. 67.
  4. ^ Maalouf 2012, p. 10.
  5. ^ Brand 1989, p. 3.
  6. ^ a b Runciman 1969, p. 283.
  7. ^ Claster 2009, p. 45.
  8. ^ Runciman, Steven (2005). The First Crusade. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 95
  9. ^ Turan 1970, p. 239.
  10. ^ Runciman 1952, p. 110.
  11. ^ Gershon, Livia. "Turkish Archaeologists Discover Grave of Sultan Who Defeated Crusaders". 14 January 2021.
  12. ^ AA, DAILY SABAH WITH (13 January 2021). "Anatolian Seljuk Sultan Kılıç Arslan I's grave found in SE Turkey". Daily Sabah. Retrieved 20 January 2021.


  • Brand, Charles M. (1989). "The Turkish Element in Byzantium, Eleventh-Twelfth Centuries". Dumbarton Oaks Papers. 43: 1–25. doi:10.2307/1291603. JSTOR 1291603.
  • Claster, Jill N. (2009). Sacred violence: The European crusades to the Middle East, 1095-1396. University of Toronto Press.
  • Maalouf, Amin (2012). Crusades Through Arab Eyes. Saqi Books.
  • Runciman, Steven (1952). A History of the Crusades, Volume II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Runciman, Steven (1969) [1955]. "The First Crusade: Constantinople to Antioch". In Setton, Kenneth M.; Baldwin, Marshall W. (eds.). A History of the Crusades, Volume I: The First Hundred Years (Second ed.). Madison, Milwaukee, and London: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-04834-9.
  • Turan, Osman (1970). "Anatolia in the period of the Seljuks and the Beyliks". In Holt, Peter Malcolm; Lambton, Ann K. S.; Lewis, Bernard (eds.). The Cambridge History of Islam. Vol. 1A. Cambridge University Press.
Preceded by Sultan of Rûm
Succeeded by