Turkic Magic in Thebes?

Since the Theban Tribunal seems to be a hot topic, I thought I'd ask a question of my own - why is there so little mention of the Turkic influence on the area? A powerful state just across the border hosting a vibrant intellectual culture part way between the Greek and Islamic worlds not being a huge draw for magi seems a bit weird to me. Is it more just chauvinism on the part of primarily Byzantine magi? And what would Turkic magic look like - would it be closer to the magic of the Mongol shamans or the sahirs?

3 Likes

E4 Blood&Sand The Levant Tribunal (2002) has a big, generic cp.5 Islam in Ars Magica (p.45-61), which covers Turkic people and can well be used in ArM5 still.

Considering that most of the old Turkic Mythology is primarily Tengriist and Shamanist in nature, more than likely it would resemble Mongol Shamans. However they did have a tendency to pick up the practices of the people they were around and incorporate them, which would allow you to insert practitioners of a wide variety.

So they would be a variant of Mongol Shamans, incorporating traits from varies other traditions such as the Sahirs, Sufi, and others listed on TC&TC, p. 184.

An interesting question - and I'm not just saying that because Muslim Anatolia is my whole deal.

There's an argument to be made that the Sultanate of Rum is more firmly within the Byzantine cultural sphere than the Latin Empire. Dr. Rustam Shukurov has written a lot of work exploring this. From his paper Harem Christianity: The Byzantine Identity of Seljuk Princes:

Muslim Anatolia´╗┐ was the usual destination for Byzantine political fugitives, often Byzantine aristocrats who had fallen out of favour with the authorities. Conversely, Seljuk sultans and princes frequently fled from their´╗┐ political enemies to Constantinople...Byzantine and Muslim Anatolian spaces represented a sort ´╗┐of continuum wherein the cultural boundaries between the Christian ´╗┐ Byzantine and Seljuk Muslim elements were blurred and permeable, such as has been postulated, for instance, by Michel Balivet and the late Keith Hopwood. The persistence of these blurred boundaries appears to be confirmed both by contemporary Byzantine and ´╗┐Muslim sources.

This is more dramatic on the Seljuk side - where several sultans were baptized as children by their Orthodox Greek mothers, mothers who had entire churches staffed by priests from Constantinople built in the palaces of Konya for them. Seljuk princesses often kept the Christian faith of their mothers, some princes were given Byzantine educations, and occasionally even princes were made to convert to Orthodoxy to shore up alliances with a marriage; the latter happens most famously with Ghiyath al-Din/Dmitri Turki and his wife, the Georgian Queen Rusudan I. All this and more leads Dr. Shukurov to a perhaps surprising conclusion:

I suggest that at least three Anatolian Seljuk sultans - Ghiyath ´╗┐al-Din Kaykhusraw I, his grandson 'Izz aI-Din Kayka'us II and the´╗┐ latter's son Mas'ud II - had dual Christian and Muslim identity, ´╗┐an identity which was further complicated by dual Turko-Persian ´╗┐and Greek ethnic identity. It is very much possible that 'Ala aI-Din ´╗┐ Kayqubad I and 'Izz aI-Din Kayka'us I, who spent much time with ´╗┐their father Ghiyath aI-Din Kaykhusraw I in Byzantium, had the ´╗┐ same type of dual identity. Furthermore, it seems likely that Ghiyath al-Din Kaykhusraw II, the son of 'Ala aI-Din Kayqubad I and a ´╗┐Greek wife, and himself another sultan who expressed great interest ´╗┐in Greek culture, bore a dual confessional and ethnic identity. The same may be said of Kaykhusraw II's son Rukn aI-Din Qilich Arslan IV, as well as 'Ala' aI-Din Kayqubad II, identity included ´╗┐Turkish/Persian Muslim and Christian Georgian elements.

Considering how many Byzantine elites fled to Seljuk lands during and after the Sack, including the leading members of the Gabras and Maurozomes families, as well as the obvious Romanophile tendencies of Seljuk culture - you could def make the claim that they're a more natural fit in the tribunal than the Latins. The Seljuks themselves certainly seemed to be OK with that kinship:

...the flight of the Seljuk sultans to Constantinople was understandable: there they found themselves in a comfortable cultural environment which was familiar to them from their childhood experience in the harem. In Constantinople the Seljuk refugees found themselves in their childhood world, dominated by the Christian faith and the Greek language and customs.

...and Shukurov indicates that this similarity of worlds also made it easy for Byzantine political refugees to hop on over and get a job with the sultan in Iconium. The paper Defection across the Border of´╗┐ Islam and Christianity: Apostasy and´╗┐ Cross-Cultural Interaction in´╗┐ Byzantine-Seljuk Relations´╗┐ by Dr. Alexander Beihammer makes the same argument, listing no less than 23 different Byzantine elites who sought political asylum in Seljuk lands from Alp Arslan's day to the Mongol conquest. These elites included everything from Sebastokrator Isaac, brother of Emperor John II, taking up a post at the court of Sultan Mas'ud (Isaac's son John would convert to Islam and stay permanently, marrying a Seljuk princess and leading the sultan's army to crush a T├╝rkmen uprising) to ex-emperor Alexios III who could not only find shelter but used his family ties with Sultan Ghiyath al-Din to raise a Turkish army for his bid at the purple. A lot of this respect was returned by the Byzantines, as Dr. Beihammer notes:

Ibn B├»b├» and Pachymeres agree as to the highly´╗┐ honorable treatment the Seljuk guest enjoyed at Michael VIII's court. While Ibn´╗┐ Bibi somewhat elusively notes that "the lord of the Romans made extraordinary´╗┐ efforts in honoring him [the sultan], and they were all day long occupied with´╗┐ festivities," the Byzantine historian, most likely referring to a prokypsis ceremony, relates that the sultan was sitting beside the emperor on an imperial podium, surrounded by terrifying bodyguards and making use of the symbols of´╗┐ imperial lordship by wearing red sandals...the much-elevated status that the Seljuk sultan had been granted in the´╗┐ hierarchical thinking of Byzantine court ceremonial becomes obvious. Instead of´╗┐ being placed below, he sat on the same level with the emperor, and, even more´╗┐ significant, he was entitled to present himself with one of the most distinctive´╗┐ insignia of imperial authority. The sultan's privilege to appear publicly in red shoes´╗┐ is all the more remarkable in that the court of Nicaea unmistakably rebuked similar acts of its rival claimants for the imperial office in Epirus and Thessalonica...according to the treatise of Pseudo-Kodinos, even´╗┐ the despotes, who were mostly sons of the senior emperor and second in rank to´╗┐ the baselius, wore two-tone shoes. This distinction, therefore, cannot be explained as an extraordinary sign of courtesy or as recourse to´╗┐ the old bonds of spiritual kinship. Rather, it expresses a sort of recognition on´╗┐ the part of the Byzantine court of the general tendency of Konya to incorporate´╗┐ imperial elements into the sultan's symbolism of authority, a trend that after 1204´╗┐ had significantly intensified, as the formulaic patterns of the sultans' official correspondence with Christian potentates reveal.

All of this...is getting at the point you already made. :sweat_smile:

As much as I adore the Thebes Tribunal as it appears in The Sundered Eagle, there's a huge disservice being done by locking away Islamicate interactions with the eastern Order to the Levant Tribunal. There's a whole world of Seljuko-Roman culture to explore - in a tribunal both deeply tied to ideas of egalitarianism and home to tons of Jerbiton (who, as written, literally have an organization devoted to this sort of Muslim-Christian exchange in the form of The Single Ocean), it's crazy to think magi wouldn't leap at it.

I half agree. This isn't really true for what we could call Seljukid culture, as in the culture of the educated Turks that make up the Seljuk elite. They are heavily Persianized and are much more closely tied to Iran and the Islamicate in general than their Oghuz steppe heritage. Many can't even speak Oghuz Turkish any more, having Persian as a first language.

It's certainly true for the T├╝rkmen nomads away from the major cities, however. They, of course, are also thoroughly Islamized by this point but there is a lot more cultural continuity there. A quick look at the Book of Dede Korkut or the Saltukname shows just how lasting the Central Asian influence on semi-nomadic/nomadic T├╝rkmen were. I imagine Seljuk magicians proper from cities like Konya or Tokat are going to be closer to folks from TC&TC, while magicians travelling with T├╝rkmen bands are more shamanic. It should be remembered, though, that the most important "supernatural practitioners" to the T├╝rkmen tribes are Sufi dedes who would far more likely be using powers from The Divine.

Edit: sources and books of interest for y'all

Defection across the Border of´╗┐ Islam and Christianity: Apostasy and´╗┐ Cross-Cultural Interaction in´╗┐ Byzantine-Seljuk Relations´╗┐ by Dr. Alexander Beihammer

Harem Christianity: The Byzantine Identity of Seljuk Princes (inside the book The Seljuks of Anatolia) and The Byzantine Turks, 1204-1461 by Rustam Shukurov

Warriors, Martyrs, and Dervishes: Moving Frontiers, Shifting Identities in the Land of Rome (13th-15th Centuries) by Buket Kitap├ž─▒ Bayr─▒

10 Likes

I have a strong suspicion that the reason there is so little mention of the Turks and Muslim Anatolia in TSE is a very mundane one: Not enough space in the book.

Also, most of the magi of the Theban Tribunal consider themselves Greek to some extent and feel most at home inside the Byzantine empire - or what remains of it.

2 Likes

You're making me want a tribunal book for Anatolia, young ottoman! Very interesting stuff.

4 Likes

Depending on when the book was written, possibly not enough readily available information either. Ars Magica was set in Mythic Europe for a simple reason- the target audience (and initial game designers) were roughly familiar with the culture. No need to learn the gods of different cultures like early D&D, just plug and play the typical medieval stereotypes.
The game has become far more academic since its inception, but as the realms it moves into become more esoteric the harder it is to find knowledgeable people to write the material. There is also a perception that the more esoteric the material the less marketable it will be.

3 Likes

While all of that is true, I wouldn't consider central Anatolia to be more of an esoteric setting than those in The Cradle & the Crescent, or Between Sand & Sea. Rather less esoteric in fact.

3 Likes

Yes and no, you are talking about the blending of multiple cultures and their interaction, neither of which is western European, so it certainly adds complexity and eschews the easy classification of stereotypes that can be re-labeled as mythic elements.

Yeah, this is probably likely, although a detailed exploration honestly isn't required to simply point out the presence and basic features of say Konya akin to the minor mention of Trebizond in the book.

That's the thing, though, as explained above many contemporary Greeks considered the Sultanate of Rum part of that oecumene - even the Nicaean state did. Most of the Rumi population was Greek and the Greek presence at court was massive, while Dr. Shukurov speaks of several sultans as having dual Turko-Persian and Roman identities thanks to acculturation and their mothers. The reason why Rum was so attractive to noble refugees, on a level similar to the rival claimants for the Byzantine throne, was that cultural familiarity. There's also a lot more Turkic people inside the old Byzantine Empire than you would think at this point, everyone from Muslim T├╝rkmen to Christianized nobility of Seljuk origin (the Soultanoi family being the most striking example.)

Upon looking at my academic sources, a good deal of them post-date the publication of the tribunal book, yeah. Not to say there was nothing, Dr. Cahen is cited in the book's bibliography and his thick Pre-Ottoman Turkey contains a good deal of this info in a more rough form, but it was definitely a limit on what could be done.

Which is probably why it should be attached to the Theban Tribunal more than anything else, it's relatively easy to think of Rum as being on that continuum when the whole is being presented together. It might dampen some investigation of the unique elements of Rumi culture but you are likely going to emphasize one element or another to begin with - Trebizond is not really dealt with as a Black Sea state with deep Georgian political and cultural ties, frex - and presenting the similarities is a pretty fresh way to approach it compared to the typical "Oriental Turk menace" lurking over the border.

We can certainly dream...

6 Likes

I always found it odd that in canon, there are stories of formerly relatively isolated covenants in Anatolia being abandoned after the retreat of the Empire in front of the turks, as if the local population was a great concern for non-Jerbiton magi. This just reinforces the feeling that the Tribunal should, in fact, still be in Anatolia.

4 Likes

What makes it even weirder is that in 1220 really all we would be seeing in a lot of those cases is a change of hats. Many local institutions, like say churches, would be entirely the same with the exception of who comes to collect taxes. More often than not, even the tax collector is the same - the Seljuks, like other conquerors, regularly found it easier to just keep the existing administrative structures in place. There could theoretically be situations where covenants have already made arrangements with now vanished governments, but the new management was typically open to renegotiating. A few examples from the Seljuk period can be found with their willingness to cut new deals with monasteries (Dr. Cahen discusses this very topic in Pre-Ottoman Turkey and Molly Greene goes into a great amount of detail on an - admittedly later - example of this with Ottomans making contracts with monasteries that were even more favorable to the monks than existing Byzantine or Bulgarian arrangements in her Edinburgh History of the Greeks, Vol 3) - they would probably be more likely than not to uphold or create political relationships with covenants.

3 Likes

In this post and the ones above you raise very many solid points. Though here I think your logic break a little bit.

Specifically you assume that covenants behave similarly to monasteries. This sounds reasonable on the face of it, since a covenant is essentially a monastery when viewed from the outside, especially if the outside viewer is not christian. It is just a bunch of weirdos dedicated to some esoteric pursuit. However monasteries are different from covenants in one key way. They can acknowledge the overlordship of mundane authorities without problem.

Covenants are specifically prohibited from doing so, and have likely gone to significant lengths to avoid it. Assuming that we are talking only about covenants that are not hidden, since a covenant that hides from the byzantine empire will likely be able to hide from the seljuks too.

More than likely when an area changes hands from byzantine to seljuk overlordship there is, as you suggest, going to be some renegotiation of the relationship. I also wholeheartedly believe what you say, that the seljuks are most likely to treat the previous relationship as the baseline for what the new one is going to be. However like most mundane authorities they are likely to demand some form of fealty or service out of whatever new agreement is reached. Just as any mundane lord in christian lands would do. A mundane lord would be right to perceive the requirements that covenants have to any deal as outlandish.

I am not saying that no possible agreement can be reached between covenants and seljuk lords. Rather what I am saying is that any time the mundane overlordship of the lands in which a covenant resides changes, then the covenant finds itself in a tricky situation specifically because of the ban on engaging in normal political relationships. Each time this happens it likely exacts a significant toll on the resources of a covenant, especially on the time of the magi as they have to spend ages negotiating, weaseling and trying to find a suitable workaround.

5 Likes

The major difference as I see it is that Islam at the time was much more tolerant of magicians than Christianity of either stripe. On the other hand they would also be more likely to expect the service of court wizards. The order might even find themselves in the position of recruiting (and thereby screening) hedge wizards for court service.

Yeah, you're definitely right here. Covenants, even Jerbiton only covenants, are likely avoiding these entanglements regardless of the current boss - and when it does happen, the arrangement is unique every time. There's probably reason to believe those few that already did have some formal connection in place might not try to go through it all again and pack up, but ofc, they're the minority to start with.

The Rumelian Seljuks definitely sponsored what could be called court wizards in history, perhaps not as much as they did other figures like artists or philosophers, but enough that the chronicler Ibn Bibi (whose own mother was an astrologer and alchemist serving Sultan Ala' al-Din Kayqubad I) lists "wonder-worker" as a specific position in the employ of the Sultan at Iconium/Konya during his own day.

3 Likes

Then again, packing up and leaving to avoid having to make arrangements with the new mundane authority doesn't make much sense. They'll have to make those arrangements anyway with the mundane authorities of the place they move to, so it makes more sense to do it without the annoyance of having to move.

If we take Ars Magica canon into account, this nicely correlates with how the Order of Suleyman is said to work in The Cradle and the Crescent. So it seems very reasonable to think that the Seljuk authorities would expect the hermetic magi to act as court wizards. It still doesn't seem reason enough to leave a covenant, specially since this might be a problem as well in Greek Christian lands.

The main reason I see for leaving is that the Order of Suleyman would move in the area with the Seljuk mundane authorities, which might be a source of conflict given the strained relations of the two Orders in the Levant. But while I see this as a way to rationalize why magi would leave an Anatolian covenant when the land was taken over by the Rum Sultanate, it seems way more interesting from a story point of view that they stayed, and some kind of agreement or working arrangement between hermetic magi and sahirs in Rum was created, which IMHO the mundane Rum culture would certainly encourage.

4 Likes

There's a strong likelihood that they aren't even going to have to make new arrangements, now that you've mentioned it - if a covenant keeps to itself there's not much reason for the new government to get involved, they typically left local concerns to existing local authorities who probably didn't change during the transfer of power - so there may be little point in leaving, yeah. I suppose a covenant deeply involved in shadow politics might still be inclined to leave but they'd have to be very invested in a specific higher level mundane authority (probably to the point where Quaesitors will start poking around for Code breaches) for that to be an option.

Full agreement, especially because those suhhar (leaving aside their own internal diversity) would already be forced to coexist with other local traditions of magicians from both Asia Minor and the Balkans - many of the magicians (not including practice that fits better in Art and Academe like astrology or natural philosophy) in the service of the court at Konya were Greeks. In Mythic Europe, the obvious assumption is that the imperial court and other sub-imperial courts in Rum are attracting members of the hedge traditions described in The Sundered Eagle. By 1220, the start of Kayqubad the Great's reign, I'd imagine this sort of working interaction between the suhhar and Greek hedge wizards would be at least partially routinized alongside the mundane Turko-Roman cultural synthesis even with the standard effects of the Gift. If so, there's already a Rumi framework for cross-tradition coexistence and even cooperation (in the sense that suhhar and Greek hedge magicians have to serve the same ruler). In Rum, the suhhar have to - and probably already have - come to terms with the fact that they aren't the only or even the majority tradition in town when it comes to influence. I don't believe that the coming of the Mongols would interrupt this either - while Rum's intellectual life is significantly impacted by the flow of scholars up from Iran to Anatolia in the wake of the conquests, if anything the Rumi synthesis culture is broadened during Ilkhanate - just expanded eastward as well as west. Shared vassalage tied Trebizond, the Seljuks, the Georgian kingdoms, and the Armenians of Cilicia even more deeply together and it's no coincidence that some of the most famous Seljuk intellectuals come from this period. Peacock's Islam, Society, and Literature in Mongol Anatolia makes this point:

It was under Mongol rule that figures such as the major Sufi writers Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 672/1273), his son Sultan Walad (d. 712/1312) and the leading interpreter of Ibn ÔÇśArabi, Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi (d. 672/1273), were active, as well as some of the earliest Turkish poets in Anatolia, such as G├╝l┼čehri (d. after 718/1318) and A┼č─▒k Pa┼ča (d. 732/1332). Mongol domination thus facilitated the integration of Anatolia into the broader Muslim world on top of its existing westward integration, through the activities of migrant scholars, Sufis and litterateurs, all of whose presence becomes increasingly marked from the second half of the thirteenth century.

The Code prevents Hermetic magi from just being slotted into existing systems set up between suhhar and Greek hedge traditions but the book Antagonists presents what I think one could reasonably expect to see as an agreement between Seljuk politicos and Anatolian covenants in "Negotiated Settlements" (pg. 35) - if anything, the Seljuk authorities are almost certain to be far less suspicious of magi than the Baron presented in that section and might prove to be more lenient with what they'll accept as a successful deal. Both political cultures involved, Rumi mundane and Theban Hermetic, are more prone to accomodation than many of their counterparts further west.

The most important argument is one you've already made, though:

It does seem way more fun! Particularly when compared to the other major Islamic/Christian "frontier" tribunals over the 13th century - where Reconquista ideology and Almohad pietism dominate in Iberia and a similar crystalization of a legitimizing politics of reconquest from Crusaders occurs in the Levant (usually traced back incorrectly to Zengi but certainly in place by Mamluk sultan Qalawun) - Rum is all the more attractive as a place to do something different. I think warmer relations between the Suhhar Suleyman and the Order fits well the broader vibe of the Theban Tribunal in The Sundered Eagle as a place where ideas around the importance of community and less aggressive conflict resolution are important and Hermetic law has gone down a unique road.

2 Likes

For what it's worth, when I wrote Blood and Sand, Cahen's work was my principal source for Asia Minor, and the scholarship at the time was pretty sparse. As has been noted, there has been a burgeoning of scholarship on this region since then, for example:

Mecit, Song├╝l. (2014) The Rum Seljuqs: Evolution of a Dynasty. Routledge Studies in the History of Iran and Turkey. Abingdon: Routledge.

Yildiz, Sara Nur. (2019) The Seljuk Empire of Anatolia. The Edinburgh History of the Islamic Empires. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

For a more general take on the Muslim perspectives (Turkic and other) on the events in the Levant in the classic Ars Magica period (if I may be allowed a little shameless self-promotion), you might be interested in:

Christie, Niall. (2020) Muslims and Crusaders: ChristianityÔÇÖs Wars in the Middle East, 1095-1382, from the Islamic Sources. 2nd Ed. Seminar Studies in History. Abingdon: Routledge.

:grin:

7 Likes

Yeah, that's definitely true. There was more in French, TBF, thanks to the work of Drs. Ducellier and Balivet but even for a French language reader, things weren't great. I think the best illustration of how thin the available scholarship was is the fact that it took until the publication of Peacock's The Great Seljuqs in 2015 to even get a modern academic survey history of the Seljuks of Iran. Now we're drowning in them! Besides the ones you and I mentioned, which is quite a few already and all bangers (I really like the Yildiz and Peacock edited book just for its variety), there's fantastic work like Beihammer's Byzantium and the Emergence of Muslim-Turkish Anatolia, ca. 1040ÔÇô1130 in 2016, Seljuqs and their Successors in 2020, and even some specialist work like McClary's Rum Seljuq Architecture, 1170-1220: The Patronage of Sultans in 2017.

It's a shame that these all came out too late to go into the tribunal books but at least talking about them here can help folks incorporate that new research into their own games if they like.

Self-promotion in the name of scholarship always gets a pass :sunglasses:

Blood and Sand is still my favorite tribunal book of any edition. I kinda feel like a dork talking about legitimization, jihad, and Zengi earlier when I got most of that from work you did, lol - particularly your section Zangi: the first great mujahid? in the book listed above.

4 Likes

One thing I'm sure of thanks to the replies - I'm adding an Anatolian covenant affiliated with Thebes devoted to integrating Solomonic magic into Hermetic theory with the help of Konya's suhhar to my game

3 Likes