is located on the high plains of north-east Anatolia at an elevation close to
two thousand meters. It lies immediately north of the Palandöken Mountains at
the southeastern end of the plain known as Aşkale. The sources for the
tributaries of the Euphrates, Aras, and Çoruh rivers are all located in the
high hills of this area. This region has been inhabited for thousands of years
by settled populations, the earliest going back to 4000 BCE. However, the city
as such was founded as a trade colony in the fifth century CE and named
Theodosiopolis in honor of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II (r. 408-450). It
was known in Armenian as Karnoi Kalghak, from which came its medieval Arabic
name "Qaliqala," used in geographical texts. Its modern Turkish name
Erzerum either comes from the Arabic/Persian toponym Arzan
al-Rum/Arzan-i Rum, meaning "Arzan of the Byzantines" (after
the ancient city of Arzen nearby that was sacked by the Seljuqs) or Ard
al-Rum/Arz-i Rum ("Land of Rum," i.e. Byzantium).1
central city of Theodosiopolis was protected by double walls enclosing a
vaguely rectangular area. The citadel had additional fortifications along the
inside of the eastern wall. Given the city's importance for local trade and
manufacture, the Byzantine reign was interrupted by periods of Umayyad, Abbasid, and Armenian occupation. Almost nothing survives from
the Byzantine period and the early Islamic periods.
1080/473 AH, a Turkmen military commander named Abu al-Qasim Saltuk (Saltuq) took Theodosiopolis
from the Byzantines. Under his descendants, the Saltukids, Erzurum became the
capital of a larger political principality that included the Aşkale plain and
neighboring basins of the Aras and Çoruh rivers. The city flourished under
Saltuqid rule and it is from this phase that its earliest Islamic monuments
survive. The Ulu Camii (Great Mosque) was reconstructed circa 1179, as were the
citadel walls. Saltuqkd patrons are also responsible for constructing the clock
tower known as Tepsi Minare and
the Kale Camii (Citadel Mosque).2
prince Mughith al-Din Tughrul and his brother Rukn al-Din Sulayman conquered
the city in 1200-1201/597 AH and ruled there until 1230/627 AH, after which
Erzurum was incorporated to the Empire
the Seljuks of Rum based in Konya and ruled by ‘Ala al-Din Kayqubad I.
Following the Seljuk capture, work began on the Çifte Minareli
The Ilkhanids took the city from the Seljuks in 1242/639
AH. Among the Ilkhanid contributions to the cityscape are the Yakuytiye Medrese
and various tombs (kümbets) such as the Cimcime Sultan Kümbet, Karanlik
Kümbet, and the Üç Kümbetler.
AH and the dissolution of the Ilkhanid Empire to its conquest by the Ottomans
in 1514/920 AH, various Mongol and Turkmen tribes (beylik) ruled Erzurum
intermittently, including the Togayli, Çobanli, Eretna, and Karakoyunlu families.
the Ottoman conquest in 1514, Erzurum's commercial and
military stature increased, as did the size of the city. The population grew
extensively into suburbs beyond the city walls, which were taken down in the
late 18th century.
1829 the Russians damaged the city and built a new citadel in the center.
During the Crimean War, Erzurum and its suburbs were defended by a number of
forts built by the British who were fighting alongside the Ottomans. During
World War I, Russians occupied the city for two years (1916-1918). The city
hosted a revolutionary congress led by Mustafa Kemal in 1919, four years prior
to the formation of the Turkish Republic.
Erzurum is a city of about 600,000 people and a major throughway for the truck
traffic to Iran, as well as an important military and commercial center.
Leiser, "Saltuḳ Og̲h̲ullari."
Bozworth, C.E. The New Islamic Dynasties. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
Sinclair, T. A. Eastern Turkey: An Architectural and Archaeological Survey, 2:185-193. London: The Pindar Press, 1989.
M. Roaf, T. Sinclair, S.E. Kroll, St J. Simpson, R. Talbert, Johan Åhlfeldt, Jeffrey Becker, W. Röllig, Tom Elliott, H. Kopp, DARMC, Sean Gillies, B. Siewert-Mayer, Eric Kansa, Francis Deblauwe, and Phoebe Acheson. "Autisparate/Theodosiopolis: a Pleiades place resource." Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Past Places,2015. https://pleiades.stoa.org/places/874373 (accessed 22 September 2017).