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Blessing’s book is a welcome addition to the growing body of recent scholarship about Seljuq Anatolia after the Mongol conquest, when Ilkhanid rule extended from the Iranian plateau into Asia Minor. By not isolating events in Anatolia from the rest of the Ilkhanate, the author successfully unifies the two usually separately treated Mongol and Seljuq architectural spheres within a cohesive framework, rightfully transcending modern borders. Such a viewpoint reflects the contemporary vision of the Mongol world as well, since the Ilkhanid vizier Rashīd al-Dīn’s (d. 1318) understanding of Anatolia, or Rūm as it was known, was also as an extension of Greater Iran: The Successors of Genghis Khan (transl. J. A. Boyle; New York, 1971), 218. Using her chosen group of monuments, Blessing shows that architectural expressions in Anatolia integrate the region into the political framework of the Mongol Empire. Her research reveals major shifts in patronage, in three subsequent periods. From the Mongol conquest of 1243 until the 1270s, powerful Seljuq emirs aligned themselves with the Ilkhanids’ political patronage while navigating between them and Seljuq rulers. The second period begins with the temporary Mamluk invasion of Anatolia in 1277, when the Ilkhanids increasingly established their presence in the region and became active patrons. During the late 1280s, patronage shifted yet again, this time as a result of the Ilkhanid decision to exercise a tightened hold over Anatolia through the direct appointment of governors from Iran. Blessing argues that since these governors rarely founded monuments, local patrons, benefiting from the absence of an imperially imposed unified style, built on a small scale while relying on local resources and expertise. The book groups the material both chronologically and geographically in four chapters, with each slightly extending the period under consideration. Utilizing the available sources and reviewing earlier scholarly debates, Blessing concentrates on groups of buildings from Anatolian cities constructed between 1240 and 1330. She mainly focuses on madrasas, reconstructing the history of their foundation as well as analysing their aesthetics. Her multi-layered interpretation of the architectural inscriptions, together with her holistic approach, reveal the changing dynamics of urbanism and patronage in Anatolia during the Mongol rule. By highlighting the dynastic, political, and personal affiliations of the power brokers within the area, she connects them not only to the Turco-Persian world of Greater Iran but also to the Byzantine west, and to the local Caucasus republics of Armenia and Georgia. The first chapter focuses on the patronage of powerful Seljuq viziers within the capital Konya from the 1240s to the 1270s. Although all of these major figures had come from the ranks of the Seljuq elite, the author contends that they aligned themselves with the Ilkhanid commanders in Iran to compensate for the Seljuq loss of military power. She proposes that they were able to build in their own names only after the Mongol conquest, since they were no longer bound to contribute to royal Seljuq construction projects. The second chapter discusses three madrasas all built within the year 1271–2 in Sivas, analysing them both stylistically and from the point of view of patronage. While the former shows a mixture of local and imported elements, the latter reflects the atmosphere of competition between Seljuq and Ilkhanid officials in the city. She maintains that the stylistic elements were, for the most part, the result of the choices of the craftsmen or architects, while the epigraphic inscriptions were revealing of their patrons’ political aims and affiliations. The third chapter reviews the effects of the Ilkhanid ruler Ghāzān Khān’s (1295–1304) conversion to Islam on his patronage in Iran. Blessing then analyses three madrasas built within a decade at the beginning of the fourteenth century in Erzurum, an Anatolian city on the Ilkhanid frontier, and draws particular attention to the foundation inscription of one, the Yakutiye Madrasa of 1310. It reveals that the structure was sponsored by an Ilkhanid patron directly connected to the Mongol rulers, whom Blessing surmises to have been the Mongol governor of the city. She argues that the more prominent stylistic connections, which all three of these monuments share with the region’s earlier buildings, indicate that a local style in architecture clearly emerged in 1300, when an Ilkhanid governor resided there. The fourth chapter considers the building activity in the smaller Anatolian centres of Tokat, Amasya, and Ankara in connection with the Ilkhanid standardization of the monetary system. The author suggests that in this period the caravanserai network was developed further, and patronage shifted from powerful notables to either Mongol officials, who were appointed to Anatolia, or to local figures, who are rarely mentioned in sources other than foundation inscriptions and waqf documents. Blessing’s focus on different groups of patrons reveals the changing nature of architectural patronage in Anatolia, while documenting how the integration of Anatolia into the Ilkhanid empire transformed the region’s architecture and patronage. Her presentation of the material goes a long way to accomplishing what she sets out to do in her introduction, and thus allows her to discredit the standard narrative of a unified dynastic architectural style in Anatolia during this period. On the other hand, she informs the reader that she does not discuss palaces ‘for lack of evidence’, since all the evidence from the Seljuk palaces and especially Kubad Abad date to the pre-1220s with ‘nothing remain[ing] of the mansions that the powerful patrons of the 1240s to 1280 presumably had… .’ (p. 5). However, in a recent publication Rüçhan and Oluş Arık emphasize the continuous occupation of Kubad Abad after the 1220s, on the basis of coin finds in the area, that clearly show activity during the Ghāzān Khān period, until at least the early fourteenth century.1 Blessing’s compete disregard for the Seljuk palaces together with her methodological decision not to provide a catalogue of the monuments in spite of her self-declared intention of shifting ‘attention to the monuments themselves…’ (p. 3) thus leaves considerable gaps in her argument. Footnotes 1 Rüçhan Arık and Oluş Arık (eds.), Tiles, Treasures of Anatolian Soil: Tiles of the Seljuk and Beylik Periods (Istanbul, 2008), 359–98. Rüçhan Arık, ‘New Information and Perspectives on Seljuk Art Obtained throughout the Kubad Abad Palace excavations’ in Neslihan Asutay-Effenberger and Falko Daim (eds.), Der Doppeladler: Byzanz und die Seldschuken in Anatolien vom späten 11. bis zum 13. Jahrhundert (Mainz: Verlag des Rőmisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, 2014), 139–51, esp. 147–8. Also see Ömür Bakırer, ‘The Palace of ʿAlāʾ ad-Dīn Kay-Qubād I at Alanya and its Glass Finds’ in ibid, 129–38. For the latest bibliography on Seljuk palaces, see Deniz Beyazıt, ‘Architectural decoration from the Konya Köşk’ in Sheila R. Canby et al. (eds.), Court and Cosmos; The Great Age of the Seljuqs (New York, 2016), cat. no. 20a-g, 81–7 and 315–16. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. 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Journal of Islamic Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Sep 1, 2018
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