The 613 H. inscription on the city walls of Antalya is by far and away the longest inscription from Seljuk Anatolia. It was partially read by Ahmed Tevhid and published in 1926: his reading was basically reproduced in Volume 10 of the RCEA, published in 1939. Since then it has not been the subject of scholarly study. The inscription as published has many incomplete and mistaken readings and cæsuras. Part of this incompleteness was due to the difficulty in reading the inscription, which was carved on 43 cross sections of marble and granite columns and inserted high into the towers and curtain walls of the fortification that separates the citadel from the rest of the city. Parts of the inscription are on columns that lay under the roofs of Ottoman houses that had been built against the fortification wall. But, in addition to this difficulty of access, the nature of the text and the writing also contributed to its illegibility. Most medieval Islamic building inscriptions are formulaic. Despite long sections containing the names, titles, and genealogy of Rum Seljuk Sultan 'Izz al-Din Kayka'us in a standard format, the text is unique.

Despite the inadequate publication of the text, it is understandable as a fathnama (Turkish fetihname), a screed heavy in rhetoric sent out to neighboring Islamic rulers after a signal victory, in this case the re-taking of the city of Antalya after a revolt. The interest of the text, then, is high: it provides an Arabic language, 13th century official document that concerns the suppression of the only known revolt of an Anatolian city against the Seljuks. In addition, the medium provides part of the message: the inscription is carved on reused architectural members. The Seljuks used spolia on many of their city walls as a way of proclaiming sovereignty, but also of relating themselves to the past of a city. This inscription constitutes the sole instance of spolia being used for a proclamation of victory. It was placed along the exterior of the citadel wall next to its main gate and facing the rest of the city, whose population at that time must have been largely Christian.

For this reason, I initiated a project that would not only study the inscription, resulting in a vastly improved text, but also place text in context by documenting the location of spolia on the two towers and stretches of curtain wall where the inscription is located. A harsh winter storm in 2003, which caused the roof of one house abutting a tower to collapse, revealing two columns with unread portions of the inscription on them, provided me impetus to apply to the van Berchem Foundation for funding for this project. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the grant, and began planning for a late summer 2004 campaign. My collaborator in this project was the architectural preservation firm of Ka-Ba, located in Ankara. Owner Cengiz Kabaoglu assembled a photogrammetry team headed by architect Zehra Tulunoglu that recorded the walls and the inscriptions. In addition, we worked in the Antalya Museum, where 7 column shafts with lines of this inscription had been housed after parts of the city walls containing the inscription were torn down in 1935. After the fieldwork, we worked together at intervals over several months to complete the measured drawings of each element of the inscription carved on the 27 individual sections of column still in situ, and the 7 ones in the Antalya Museum. (9 columns with inscription recorded by Tevhid are missing, presumably destroyed during the 1935 tearing down of the section of the wall where the inscription began). Figure 1 is a drawing that shows the in situ pieces of the inscription all together by "unfolding" the side facades of the towers and placing them all on the same plane.


Figure 1

Figure 1. Unfolded elevation of the part of walls and towers of Antalya's citadel containing the in situ elements of the inscription.
(Drawing by Zehra Tulunoglu.)


Two factors conspired to delay this project. The first was the growth of vines over the 6 drums near the end of the inscription, which necessitated negotiations with several departments of the Municipality of Antalya, property owners, and other organizations. The vines and other vegetation were finally removed by members of the Antalya Fire Department lowered on ropes from the tops of the towers. The second factor was the lengthy process in getting research permission. Most of the fieldwork was finally undertaken in January of 2005, with 2 additional trips necessary to check readings and take new photographs and measurements.

The documentation of this inscription has provided revised readings of many parts of the previously published inscription. In addition to these revisions, inscriptions on 6 columns have been read for the first time. Perhaps the most interesting historical information from this re-reading of the inscription concerns details of the siege and reconstruction. From the published text we already knew that Rum Seljuk Sultan 'Izz al-Din Kayka'us arrived in Antalya on the first day of Ramadan, 612 H (December 24, 1215) and that the Seljuk siege of the city involved assault by sea as well as by land and the employment of mangonels. A newly read part of the inscription tells us that the city was conquered on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, but no details of the conquest are furnished. The descent into pious generalities at this point raises questions about the nature of the fall of the city.

Due to another newly read part of the inscription, we now know that the refortification of Antalya was completed several months after the reconquest of the city, in the month of Muharram 613 (April 20-May 20, 1216). This section of the inscription also refers to the "'imarat...al-qal'atayn al-mahrusatayn," the building of the two protected fortifications, presumably a reference to the citadel and to the rest of the city walls. With the construction of citadels such a prominent feature of Seljuk city-building, it is exciting to have this importance acknowledged by the inscription (as well, of course, as its placement). The construction is recorded as having taken only 2 months (shahrayn), which means that it must have started within a month of reconquest. The text specifies that the Sultan himself ordered the initiation of (re)building of the fortification walls. We know from the historian Ibn Bibi that the Sultan ordered fathnamas and expensive gifts to be sent to neighboring monarchs after this victory. Due to this personal involvement, is possible to envisage the sultan's direct ordering of the composition, writing, carving, and insertion of this fathnama into the walls of Antalya. Certainly the inscription is not persuasive as a piece of public propaganda: it is too small in scale and difficult to read to have had import for any but a handful of educated upper-level officials of the state. Just 3 years later, his brother and successor Sultan Ala' al-Din Kaykubadh would also become personally involved in a more comprehensive and ambitious program involving inscriptions and spolia on the walls of Konya. The 1216 rebuilding of the walls of Antalya, itself of prime interest, may be viewed as a precursor of that extraordinary later program, helping explain its genesis.

Another, monolithic, inscription, now lost, was once located on this stretch of the walls. It was recorded by Ahmet Tevhid, whose reading was augmented by Fikri Erten. Curiously, this inscription, which also mentioned the conquest of the city and the rebuilding of its walls, and which also recorded the date of 613 H., was not included by Tevhid, Erten, or the RCEA as part of the larger fathnama inscription. It seems originally to have been located at or near the beginning of the long inscription. If so, its placement may have paralleled the positioning of a large separate inscription in the middle of the tower which is still in situ near the end of the text and next to the gate to the citadel. This last inscription (line 29 in the RCEA publication) gives the names, titles, and genealogy of Sultan 'Izz al-Din Kayka'us. In previous publications, it has been included as part of the larger fathnama text. However, a close reading of the text reveals that it should be considered as an ancillary but discrete inscription, since, if taken together with the text on the columns placed above it, it interrupts both the scheme of the rhyming prose as well as its meaning. I believe that these two inscriptions, separate but allied, would have served as sort of visual brackets for the longer text.

As mentioned above, the text is heavily rhetorical, repeatedly invoking the Islamic god in pious formulæ. The completed text will provide scholars of medieval Islamic diplomatics with a complete, dated "document," supplementing and augmenting the brief information provided in contemporaneous Arabic and Persian sources about the siege of Antalya, as well as a partial Persian version of this fathnama published by Osman Turan. It will also aid students of chancellery practice, because the text carved on these stones was surely written by scribes of the Rum Seljuk diwan al-insha'. To my knowledge, Seljuk epigraphy has not been the subject of study since D.S. Rice made cursory comments on the subject in his publication of the inscriptions of Alanya and environs. There he mentioned the difference between a properly proportioned Ayyubid hand and a ruder Rum Seljuk one. The difference in quality of the thuluth script employed can certainly be noticed in the Antalya inscriptions, with a striking variation between some of the individual elements. Some column drums contain lines that are boldly and judiciously written, spaced, and proportioned (see Figure 2); others meander, with the ends of words dribbling out at the end of lines(see Figure 3). In addition, the uncanonical elision between letters and the stacking of words at the end of lines, features of scribal practice, can also be remarked here. Continued detailed study of the inscription will yield more information about scribal hands.


Figure 2

Figure 2. Measured drawing of in situ inscription #2. May God extend his dominion and elevate his word and perpetuate his sultanate.


Figure 3

Figure 3. Measured drawing of inscription #9 in Antalya Museum. The great Sultan Ghiyath al-Din Kaykhusraw, son of Qilij Arslan, may God shelter him with the abundance of mercy and favor, had conquered it.


The text of this inscription and the drawings of both the individual elements and their architectural setting are the object of continuing study by the author. Dr. Gary Leiser, an expert on the history of the Rum Seljuks, is pursuing a complementary study of the role of the fathnama in Rum Seljuk and medieval Islamic history. We plan to publish our work together, presenting this valuable text in its historic, social, and architectural context.

Scott Redford
Georgetown and Koç Universities


Étienne Combe, Jean Sauvaget, and Gaston Wiet, eds., Répertoire chronologique d'épigraphie arabe (RCEA) Vol. 10 Cairo: IFAO, 1939, pp. 109-112.

S. Fikri Erten, Antalya Tarihi Istanbul: Tan Matbaasi, 1940, pp. 49-55.

Seton Lloyd and D.S. Rice, Alanya (Ala'iyya) London: British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, 1958.

Scott Redford, "The Seljuks of Rum and the Antique," Muqarnas 10 (1993), pp. 148-156.

Ahmed Tevhid, "Antalya Surlari Kitabeleri," Tarih-i Osmani Encümeni Mecmuasi 16 (1926), pp. 166-171.

Osman Turan, Türkiye Selçuklulari Hakkinda Resmi Vesikalar, reprint ed. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1988, pp. 101-108