Ghaznavid Dynasty (962-1186)
|Ghaznavid Empire at its greatest extent|
The Ghaznavid dynasty was of Turkish origin. It was founded by Saboktekin, a former Turkish slave who was recognized by the Samanids as governor of Ghazna (modern Ghazni, in Afghanistan). As the Samanid dynasty weakened, Saboktekjn consolidated his position and expanded his domains as far as the Indian border. His son Mahmud continued the expansionist policy, and during his reign, Ghaznavid power reached its zenith. Mahmud created an empire that stretched from the Oxus to the Indian Ocean. In the west he captured (from the Buyids) the Iranian cities of Rey, Esfahan, and Hamadan. Mahmud went to great pains to spread Islam in India, tille Muslims were found all over this country. Although the Ghaznavids were proud of their Turkic descent, Mahmud encou raged the use of Persian, and the greatest Persian epic, Shah, Nameh, was completed by Ferdowsi at his Court. Among the other great Persians at Mahmud's court were Biruni, an outstanding scholar of encyclopedic knowledge, and Abolfazl Beyhaqi, the writer of a remarkable history of the Ghaznavids, the first major prose work in New Persian. Mahmud's son, Masud I, could not keep the integrity of the empire. Challenged by Seljuk Turks, he lost most of his territories, but retained possession of eastern Afghanistan and northern India, where the Ghaznavids continued to rule until 1186.
Iran under Seljuk Rulers (1037-1200) The Seljuks were a clan of the Oghuz Turks, who traced their ancestry to a chieftain named Seljuk. Seljuk's two grandsons, Chaghri Beik and Toghrol Beik, enlisted Persian support to win realms from the Buyid and Ghaznavid rulers. After "petitioning" the Abbasid caliph for permission, Toghrol Beik was also able to occupy Baghdad. At his death in 1063, Toghrol Beik headed an empire that included Iran and Mesopotamia and held the title King of the East. In 1071, a Seljuk army led by Alp Arslan defeated the Byzantines. The way was open for Turk tribesmen to settle in Asia Minor. Under Alp Arslan and his successor, Malek Shah, the Seljuk Empire included all of Iran, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine. The Seljuks were great architectural patrons and in addition to constructing numerous mosques, madresehs, orphanages, caravanserais, and bridges, they were particularly known for their tomb-towers. Their buildings are notable for their decorative masonry, elaborately ornamented portals, and the use of Kufic script as an architectural decorative device. The Seljuks also attained a high standard in decorative arts, especially in metalwork, wood carving, and pottery. Because the Turkish Seljuks had no Islamic tradition or strong literary heritage of their own, they adopted the cultural language of their Persian instructors in Islam. Literary Persian thus spread throughout Iran, and Arabic was reduced from the status of official language to the l language of religious scholarship. Under Malek Shah, Iran enjoyed a cultural and scientific renaissance, largely attributed to his brilliant Iranian vizier, Nezam al-Molk. The Seljuk Empire was greatly threatened by the Ismailites, who finally murdered Nezam al-Molk and Malek Shah. The state was also undermined by the Seljuk practice of dividing provinces among a deceased ruler's sons. thus creating numerous independent and unstable principalities. A war that was instigated in. 1230 by Sultan Ala al-Din Key-Qobad I of the Kharazm-Shahs dynasty led to the elimination of Seljuk power. The last Iranian Seljuk king was killed on the battlefield in 1194, and by 1200 Seljuk power was at an end everywhere except in Anatolia. The Kharazm-Shahs created an imposing but very fragile empire, which was a victim of Mongol invasion.