Reading Inscriptions on Seljuk Caravanserais
This essay concerns the foundation inscriptions of caravanserais built during the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the territories of the Anatolian Seljuk sultanate. It starts by examining their content and relates that to the hierarchy of the Seljuk sultanate in terms of building size and siting. It then addresses the idea of these inscriptions not as markers of patron, date, and other synchronic data, but as symbols of the power of the dynasty in a land where the language in which they were written, Arabic, was not widely read. Finally, this essay entertains the idea that there were circumstances for certain caravanserai inscriptions being read (and understood), proposing some instances in which Seljuk caravanserai inscriptions can be thought of as having had a readership beyond that of those who commissioned or wrote them. In conclusion, it reexamines one caravanserai inscription, proposing a new reading and date.