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Sultan Alp Arsalan | A heroic Seljuk leader | Biography in English

Sultan Alp Arsalan - Turgut Alp

Sultan Alp Arsalan son of Abu Suleiman Dawud Chaghri Beg ibn Mikail, widely known simply as Chaghri Beg (989-1060 AD) was born on 20 January 1029 and died on 24 November 1072, just 1 year after winning the battleof Manzikert in 1071 against the Byzantine Empire.  Description According to Turkish accounts, he had an exceedingly turbulent youth. When he was a teenager, his father left him in charge of the main part of his armies while he went off to pursue other ambitions. At this point, he also abandoned his children, without telling them why. His brother Togril (also spelt Togrul) then became their guardian, though not for long.

On hearing that the Turks had come under attack from a new enemy, they looked for him, only to find that he had been leading his army off to chase some runaway merchants who had offended him. They fought back with success and won a great victory. They killed most of the fleeing Turks, took all their money and returned home with their wives and tribe.

The real name of Sultan Alp Arsalan was Muhammad bin Dawud Chaghri. Alp Arsalan means heroic OR great lion. He earned this title because of his fighting skills and bravery. Alp Arsalan was a nephew of Abu Talib Muhammad Tughril ibn Mika'il, the founder of the Seljuk Empire. He ruled from 1037 to 1064 AD. Tughril united many Turk tribes (Turkmen) and brought them under the one tribe titled 'Seljuk' and lead them in the conquest of eastern Iran against Fatimids.

Early career of Sultan Alp Arsalan

When Sultan Alp Arsalan succeeded his uncle Abu Talib Muhammad Tughril as Sultan of Seljukid Turkey, he inherited a very difficult situation. Tughril had gained control of eastern Iran with its large Islamic cities of Ctesiphon and Isfahan, Baghdad, Iraq, Basra, Yemen, parts of Syria, Lebanon, northern Jordan, Mesopotamia, Khorasan. However, these were conquered at a high cost in lives and gold.

Now he wanted to return home to secure his empire from rebellion and enemies. The last few months had been difficult for him because he had faced internal problems in his government and lost several provinces to the Turko-Mongol invasion. Now he felt that it was time to end the threat from Turkoman tribesmen who were out for loot and personal gain.

Battle of Manzikert and Sultan Alp Arsalan's Byzantine struggle

Alp Arsalan while out for a campaign to Syria against the Fatimids, and meanwhile, he had to face an inevitable war against Byzantine Empire ruled by Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes. Sultan Alp Arsalan knew that this war would have been inevitable sooner or later. His cousin brother Yahya bin Ahmad (II) was slain by the Roman army. Romanus unexpectedly lost the battle of Manzikert (Also spelt battle of Malazgirt) in 1071 AD. Romanus was also imprisoned at the end of this historic war.

A very famous conversation happened between Romanus and Sultan Alp Arsalan while arrogant Romanus was brought as a prisoner before Sultan Alp Arsalan:

Alp Arslan: "What would you do if I was brought before you as a prisoner?"
Romanus: "Perhaps I'd kill you, or exhibit you in the streets of Constantinople."
Alp Arslan: "My punishment is far heavier. I forgive you, and set you free."

Sultan Alp Arsalan's victories led Turkmen to open the gates of Anatolia near Constantinople (Current Istanbul) in Turkey. Romanus II Diogenes surrendered himself to Sultan Alp Arsalan after his defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 AD. Romanus asked for forgiveness for his sins against Sultan Alp Arsalan and received a pardon from Sultan Alp Arsalan for his betrayal against him and many other family members of Sultan Alp Arsalan's dynasty.

In a pursuit to retain the lands of his ancestors, Sultan Alp Arsalan started a campaign to extend the march towards western Asia just after the famous victory of the Battle of Malazgirt.

While his campaign, he had to subdue a fort that was defended for several days by Kurdish rebel Yusuf al-Kharezmi or Yusuf al-Harani. Harani was captured and brought before Sultan Alp Arsalan. Alp commanded his archers that Harani be shot. But, before they could raise their bows, Harani with his knife threw himself to Sultan and put three blows in his chest before he was shot dead with arrows in his body. Sultan Alp Arsalan though survived not longer than four days. And the lionheart soul was dead and buried at Merve Oasis.

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