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the history of the race, but ignorance is its condition. By employing these Turkish people in the manufacturing of arms, the masters were achieving their own downfall, for the former became so skillful in their use that they soon severed their bonds and established an empire under their spirited leader, Bertezema.
Much more than the allotted limits of this book would be required to portray in its true glory the grandeur of this earthly empire. We will simply state that this was an age of luxury and barbaric splendor, golden in fact and in figure.
It has been claimed by Turkish historians that their career as a people dazzles the mind of the reader, like gazing at the sun. The critical observer of history, however, will find in the weak and demoralized social and political condition of Asia Minor and the Byzantine provinces of Europe, a more potent cause of the success of Turkish arms than in the bravery and discipline of the Turks themselves.
From the accounts of that early period, in which legend and history are mingled, we can obtain but a faint conception of their early condition and manners.
It is obvious, however, that they had no fixed habitation, but, as it has been indicated, preferred a nomadic life in valleys and mountains, hunting and warlike exercises being their cherished occupations. This wandering life was so strongly developed into a national character, that even to-day we find the Turks chiefly engaged in pastoral and agricultural pursuits, while their neighbors, the Armenians, are largely devoted to commerce. Their tact and shrewdness in business have rightly won them the proverbial reputation, “It takes two Jews to cheat a Greek, and two Greeks to cheat an Armenian.”
The early home of the Turks, Turkistan or Central Asia, was known among the Persians as Turan-the "country of darkness,” and the inhabitants as Turanian "sons,” or “people of darkness.” Their religion, prior to Mohammedanism, was made up of their ancestral traditions and the doctrines of Zoroaster; they had their priests and worshiped fire, earth and water. The laws and regulations were communicated to the masses by the chiefs of the tribes.
The Seljukians were the first Turkish tribe to gain a place in history. They emigrated to Khorassan under the leadership of Seljuk, from whom they take their name. Here, in a Persian province, they founded an independent sovereignty. The able princes, Togral Beg, Alp Arslan and Malek Shah, extended the empire. Nowhere in Asia was such a succession of able leaders ever known. This heroic age of the Seljukian Turks corresponds with the Norman age in England; Persia, Armenia, Syria, the greater part of Asia Minor, and the region from the Oxus to the Jaxartes were conquered by them. Their greatest prosperity was under Malek Shah; agriculture was fostered, public works, such as canals, constructed. Learning was patronized. Their astronomers approximated closely the accuracy of the Gregorian calen
dar in reckoning time. In religious zeal they were the most intolerant of all Turks, and provoked the crusades. Upon the death of Malek Shah, his realın was divided into several small kingdoms, which made easy the advance of the Mongul hordes under Genghis Khan. This invasion resulted in the founding of the Ottoman dynasty. First these Seljukians, then the Ottomans, have ruled western Asia to this day.
We now come to notice the propagation of a force that was to have much to do in moulding the destiny of more than one nation. The religion of Mohammed, coming out from the Arabian deserts about the middle of the seventh century, spread with lightning rapidity through the zeal of his followers, north, south, east and west. until many tribes of Turks converted from Zoroastrianism and kindred religions, accepted the Mussulman faith. This occurred about the tenth century, although some historians claim the date much earlier. In following the fortunes of the people we are considering, it will be well to notice the influence of this great movement upon their national ideas and policy. One of its immediate effects was that instead of becoming peaceful, as might have been expected, the Turks coupled zeal for conquest with religious fanaticism. We find that at the end of the tenth century dynasties of Turkish princes in Palestine, Syria and Egypt, a sultan, Mahmoud by name, a powerful ruler, reigned in Eastern Persia and later as far as Hindoostan. Neither Mahmoud nor his son, however, enjoyed peaceful reigns, for in the regions of Bokhara dwelt a kindred race of warlike disposition, with whom the Sultan quarreled.
The political career of the Ottoman Turks commences in the thirteenth century, when a band of 50,000, driven out from central Asia by the Mongols, under the hereditary leadership of Suleyman Shah, penetrated via Persia into our country, Armenia. The sanguinary quarrel gave prestige to the present line of sovereigns of the Turkish empire in western Asia, and serves as the connecting link between the legendary and verified history of this notable Turanian family.
The next chief, Er-Toghrul, while advancing upon the frontiers of the Seljukians of Roum, aided Ala-ud-Din, the Seljukide Sultan, in his war against the Mongols. At the end of a successful contest, Er-Toghrul was rewarded by the grateful Sultan with vast lands of Byzantine provinces as the future home of his people. Er-Toghrul was yet alive when his son Osman, the founder of the present dynasty, comes forth in the annals of Turkish history in fanciful vision, surrounded with miraculous revelations and marvelous circumstances of birth. The sword of Osman is still worn by sovereigns at their coronation, and from him the native surname Osman and the European corruption Ottoman have been derived. Modern Turks prefer and take pride in the terms Osmanli and Ottoman, while the name "Turk" they consider a disparagement and insult.
During the famous administration of Osman, his followers spread themselves on the Byzantine frontier, occupying the cities of Eski-Shehr and Karaja-Hisar. In his various wars, many possessions of the eastern Roman Empire passed into his growing states.