Medieval Syriac Historians’ Perceptions of the Turks

Medieval Syriac Historians’ Perceptions of the Turks

By Mark Dickens

MPhil Dissertation, University of Cambridge, 2004

Introduction: The eleventh through thirteenth centuries were eventful times in the Middle East, marking the end of exclusive Arab dominance in the heartland of Islam and the beginning of Turkish rule, which continued until the demise of the Ottoman Empire in 1922. The period was characterized by a series of major invasions: the Seljük Turks in the mid-eleventh century, the Crusaders from the late eleventh to late thirteenth centuries, and the Mongols in the midthirteenth century. These incursions from the East and the West significantly affected the religious, political, and cultural climate of the Middle East during the medieval period.

Numerous chroniclers recorded the events of these tumultuous times. Arab and Persian writers prepared Muslim histories of the Seljüks and later the Mongols. Christian histories were composed in Greek, Latin, Armenian, Georgian, and Syriac. Many of these chronicles, as official dynastic histories, understandably presented their patrons much more favourably than their opponents. The Syriac-speaking Christians, both West and East Syrians, were in many ways an exception to this trend, possibly because they had limited political power.

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