Advice for the sultans of Rum: the "mirrors for princes" of early thirteenth-century Anatolia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Some of the most famous extant mirrors had been produced under the Great Seljuk Empire in Iran and Iraq in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, including Niẓām al-Mulk’s Siyāsatnāma and Ghazzālī’s Naṣīḥat al-Mulūk. There is no trace of any such compositions for the first century of Seljuk rule in Anatolia, however, in keeping with the comparatively slow and late development of Islamic institutions there.12 The earliest mirror for princes associated with Anatolia is not, like most of the genre, a prose treatise, but a poem-Niẓāmī’s Makhzan al-Asrār, dedicated to the Mengücekid ruler of Erzincan, Bahrāmshāh, somewhere around 570/1174 and 576/1181.13 Mirrors start appearing in the Seljuk territories some two decades later, in the form of two works by Muḥammad b. Ghāzī of Malatya, the Rawḍat al-ʿUqūl and the Barīd al-Saʿāda, and Rāwandī’s Rāḥat al-Ṣudūr. The emergence of this mirrors for princes tradition in early thirteenth-century Anatolia paralleled other developments in culture and literature. For most of the twelfth century, Anatolia had little tradition of Arabic and Persian literature, and none of Turkish. Towards the end of the twelfth century, the picture began to change. The Mengücekid court in Erzincan played host to the famous Persian poet Niẓāmī, while lesser known figures such as the physician and scientist Ḥubaysh Tiflīsī received patronage from the Seljuks in Konya.14 As the Rum Seljuks expanded to encompass most of Anatolia, the remnants of the Seljuk state in Iran and Iraq collapsed with the killing of Ṭughrul III in 1194. Previously a peripheral dynasty isolated from broader developments in the Muslim world, the Anatolian Seljuks were now able not merely to claim but to assert convincingly legitimacy as successors to the Great Seljuk sultan. The Rum Seljuks’ attempts to associate themselves with the political culture of Iran are symbolized by their adoption of Arabic laqabs, as with Rukn al-Dīn Sulaymanshāh, and, starting with Ghiyāth al-Dīn I, of the names of legendary Iranian kings-Kaykhusraw, Kayqubād, and Kaykāʾūs-all redolent of the values of the Shāhnāma. This has no precedent in twelfth-century practice when Anatolian Seljuk rulers used either common Arabic names such as Masʿūd or Turkish ones such as Qılıj Arslan.15
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTurkish language, literature and history
Subtitle of host publicationtravelers’ tales, Sultans, and scholars since the eighth century
EditorsBill Hickman , Gary Leiser
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9781315750705
ISBN (Print)9781138808188, 9780815358039
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2015

Publication series

NameRoutledge studies in the history of Iran and Turkey


Dive into the research topics of 'Advice for the sultans of Rum: the "mirrors for princes" of early thirteenth-century Anatolia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this