11 The Persian Quatrains of Sultan Toghrïl b. Arslan (d. 590/1194): Reflections on the Literacy and Culture of the Saljuqs

In: Rulers as Authors in the Islamic World
Author:
David Durand-Guédy
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Abstract

The Saljuqs are not as well-remembered for their literary production as later rulers of Turko-Mongol origin, yet many sources mention their taste for poetry. From several first-hand accounts, we can study 32 verses composed by the last ruling Saljuq in Iran, Toghrïl b. Arslan (d. 590/1194). Other poems attributed to the Saljuq rulers can be identified, but their authenticity is more dubious. Toghrïl composed almost exclusively quatrains, the majority of which can be dated and linked to his eventful life, from his rebellion against the Atabegs of Azarbayjan to his captivity and his final successes against the Khwārazmians. These verses do not make Toghrïl a “poet” as the term was understood during that period (a professional, remunerated for his work), but they show that he was perfectly representative of a world in which ‘speaking with a quatrain’ was the norm. This inquiry into the culture of the Saljuqs allows us to reflect on the issues of education, emulation, and acculturation.

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