Seljuk Turkish

By Tony De Lyall

DBA Seljuk Turkish Army

Seljuk Turkish - DBA Army # 124 - The Options

  • 1 x 3Cv
  • 3 x 3Cv or 2LH
  • 5 x 2LH
  • 2 x 3Aux or 2LH
  • 1 x 2Ps


The Seljuks were a tribe of mercenary Ghuzz who revolted against their Ghaznavid employers in 1037. Under Sultan Arp Arslan and his son Malik they conquered from Anatolia in the west to Afghanistan in the east, from the Caucasus in the north to Syria and the Persian Gulf in the south. This period saw Arp Arslan's destruction of the Byzantines at Manzikert (1071) - often seen as one of the decisive battles of history - which resulted in the removal of the Anatolian heartland from the Byzantine empire forever. After the death of Malik in 1092 the Seljuk empire broke up into short lived smaller sultanates (Nicaea, Hamadan and Merv) and into independent emirates.

The tactics of the Seljuks resembled those of most asiatic bow armed light horse armies. They tried to destroy the enemy through archery followed by close combat once the enemy were sufficiently disordered and disheartened. Seljuks would attempt to encircle the enemy, falling upon stragglers or attacking the camp. Feint retreats would be used to draw the enemy into precipitous attacks who could then be cut off and defeated in detail. Similarly they would fall back from determined attacks only to follow up once the enemy began to fall back.

The 1st Crusaders encountered these tactics initially at the battle of Dorylaeum in 1097. Prince Bohemond's army discover that the western knightly charge was ineffective against an enemy who would rather fall back than stand. The Crusaders disintegrated into a confused struggling mass under the Seljuk's 3 hour rain of arrows unable to attack or retreat. They were only saved when Count Raymond's relief force unexpected appeared catching the Seljuks in the flank. The Crusader's long term response was to substantially increase the crossbow armed infantry in their armies so they could keep the horse archers at bay.


Enemies are -

Ghanavid (115), Nikephorian Byzantine (117), Fatimid Egyptian (118), Georgian (121), Cuman (130), Cilcian Armenian (132), Comnenan Byzantine (133), Early Crusader (138), Medieval Syrian (139), Later Crusader (141), Ayyubid Egyptian (143), Khwarizmian (146), Late Byzantine (153), (154), Mamluk Egyptian (158), Ilkhanid (159a)

Notes on the Figures

The army is made up from -
  • Italeri Saracen Warriors.
    • This pack provides a nice mixture of both mounted and foot figures. The figures most closely resemble Medieval Syrians. However the figures have a wide currency for use as Middle Eastern medieval types including Seljuks (Medieval Syrians being Turkish emirates after all). With little conversion they can also be used for Dark Ages asiatic hordes. There are only a few real problems with the set.

      Firstly the set includes camels as mounts. While camels were used for transport they were not used in battle.

      Also a number of the horses in the set have poses that make them difficult for use in wargames armies. This means that you will have to find alternative horses for most of the mounted figures.

      Finally there are only two light cavalry figures in the box. Given that Middle Eastern and steppes armies tended to have a preponderance of light cavalry this is a pity.

  • HAT Prussian Uhlans.
    • The riders have been used to provide additional light cavalry. The horses also helped provide the much needed additional mounts. These HAT horses are made from a harder plastic which provides a very stable and non-paint shedding platform for cavalry figures.

      Some conversion with a sharp knife is required to remove the Napoleonic look. I cut one set of reins off. I also cut most, but not all, of the rear blanket off leaving the impression of a high back saddle.

  • Italeri Prussian Cuirassiers (Napoleonic).
    • This set provides another source of horses. Most of the horse in the set have a generic look that allow them to be used in many historical settings.

  • ESCI Islamic Warriors.
    • These are 19th century figures many armed with guns. I don't think they are produced any more. They aren't really necessary for building the army but some of the non-gun armed figures can be used to increase variety.

Seljuk Light Horse

Seljuk Light Horse The majority of Seljuk tribal cavalry were light cavalry armed with a composite bow. Up to 100 arrows might be carried in quivers, bow case and even in boots. Typical garb was a topcoat with a right over left flap. A variety of caps and turbans were worn.

The light cavalry figures come from the Italeri Saracens set and have been mounted on Italeri Prussian Cuirassier horses.

Turkoman Light Horse

Turkoman Light Horse Turkoman auxiliaries made up the bulk of Seljuk armies. Turkomans were a Turkish nomadic group originating from Central Asia who, while hard to discipline, and who generally fought for plunder, were well regarded for their fierceness. They were armed with bow and javelins. They wore topcoats and black fur or felt caps.

Turkomans are a quite versatile troop type to have. Turkomans light cavalry appear in Medieval Syrian, Fatimid, Ayyibid, Mamluk, Khwarizmain, Ikhanid, Timurid, Islamic Persian armies among others. So some Turkoman DBA/DBM elements can go along way!

The figure is a conversion from a HAT Prussian Uhlan. The shako has been cut down with a sharp knife to form a cap. (Hint: A blob of white PVA glue over the cap smooths out the nicks.) The spear/javelin is some 0.8mm brass rod. The bow case has been shaped from 6mm length of .100"/2.5mm styrene channel (manufactured by Evergreen, USA). The bow is a small bent section of a pin and the bow string a piece of sewing cotton. The bow and case were assembled with glue. A pin was inserted into the left side of the figure and cut off close leaving a small stud. The completed bow case was then glued to the stud. The figures have been mounted on the horse with a shield from the Italeri Saracen set.

Incidentally Turkoman women are known to have fought with the men which should make an interesting conversion in itself!

Seljuk Cavalry

Seljuk Cavalry The cavalry were the personal troops, known as Askaris, of the Seljuk Sultan and/or the major emirs. Askaris were a full time force paid in cash or with use of land (the iqta'at). They wore armour of various eastern styles and were armed with light lance, bow, sword and shield.

The figures are Italeri Saracens with a lance made from 0.8mm brass rod. The figures are painted wearing a waist length lamellar corset called a Djawshan. They are mounted on converted HAT Prussian Uhlan horses.


Auxilia Although Seljuks are thought of as cavalry armies on occasions they fielded sizeable infantry forces such as at Heraclea (1097) and Myriokephalon (1176).

The figures are from the Italeri Saracens. The plastic javelins have been replaced with metal ones made from pins. These figures have the "shaved" head look characteristic of the more uncivilised border region Turks or of the Turkomans.


Psiloi Typically Seljuk infantry were armed with javelins or bows. These bow armed figures come straight from the Italeri Saracens.

Camp Followers

Camp Followers Some ESCI Islamic Warriors to drum up psychological support. The camp, in this case a baggage train, is made from two of the otherwise difficult to use camels from the Italeri Saracens.

Notes on Painting

Seljuks were rather colourful, dressing in brocade or bright silks. Coats can be dark or light blue, turquoise, brown, tan, and to a lesser extent red, green or black or indeed nearly any colour. Coats could also be highly decorated with geometric, floral or arabesque patterns. This is too difficult for me to attempt so I have just painted my figures single colours.

Shields are also colourful in white, yellow, red, blue, green, brown or black. Shields could be decorated in geometric designs or devices eg, swords, cups, rosettes, crescents, and occasionally with animals - lions, eagles. Again a bit to hard and fiddly for me to attempt.


Barker, Phil. and Scott, Richard Bodley. DBM Army Lists, Book 3 & Book 4, 1994. Duckworth, P. "Wargaming the Crusades", Miniature Wargames, Nos 3 - 4. Heath, Ian. Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096 - 1291, WRG, 1978. Heath, Ian. A Wargamers' Guide to the Crusades, Patrick Stephens, 1980.

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