ABŪ SAʿĪD BAHĀDOR KHAN, ʿALĀʾ-AL-DONYĀ-WA’L-DĪN, ninth Il-khan of Iran, the son and successor of Öljeitü (Ūlǰāytū). The more correct form of his name is Bū Saʿīd, as stated by Ṣafadī (al-Wāfī, p. 322) and confirmed by documents (see V. Minorsky, “A Mongol Decree of 720/1320 to the Family of Shaykh Zāhid, ” BSOAS 16, 1954: Busayid), but Abū Saʿīd is the name by which he is generally is known in history. He was born of Ḥāǰǰī Ḵātūn at Ūǰān on 8 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 704/2 June 1305 and subsequently became his father’s sole heir through the deaths of his elder brothers. In 715/1315 , under the guardianship of the amir Sevīṇč, he was sent east, in accordance with a custom that had lapsed, as a nominal viceroy of Khorasan and Māzandarān. On Öljeitü’s death in Ramażān, 716/December, 1316 he was brought back by Sevīṇč to Solṭānīya and was formally enthroned at a date given by Mostawfī (p. 601) as Ṣafar, 717/April-May, 1317, by Šabānkāraʾī (Maǰmaʿ, fol. 259r) as 5 Jomādā I 717/16 August 1317, and by the encyclopedist Maḥmūd Āmolī (Nafāʾes al-fonūn, ed. A. Šaʿrānī and E. Mīānǰī, Tehran, 1377-79/1958-60, II, p. 262) as 23 Rabīʿ II 717/5 July 1317.
The delay appears to have been due in part to the ambitions of Sevīṇč, who wanted to displace the amīr-e olūs, Čoban (Čūbān), and whom rumor linked with the disturbances that broke out in Khorasan following the new Il-khan’s departure. In Moḥarram, 717/March, 1317 the amir Yasāʾūl, whom Abū Saʿīd had left in charge of the province, was killed at the instigation of a subordinate, Begtüt, and of the Chaghatayid prince Yasāʾūr, who had arrived as a fugitive from Turkestan towards the end of Öljeitü’s reign and had been granted pasturelands south of Oxus. Initially the murderers camouflaged their designs with protestations of loyalty to the Il-khan, but in 718/1318 they rose in open revolt and invaded Māzandarān. The resistance of local dynasts to their rear, notably Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn, the Kartid ruler of Herat (see Āl-e Kart), obliged them soon to restrict their operations to Khorasan, however, and the insurrection had virtually collapsed by the time Abū Saʿīd’s forces under Amir Ḥosayn, the ancestor of the Jalayerid dynasty, arrived in the spring of 719/1319. Yasāʾūr was slain by his Chaghatayid relatives in the following year.
More dangerous was the simultaneous rising that occurred nearer to the Il-khan’s seasonal residences. In the first shock of an invasion of Azerbaijan by Özbeg, khan of the Golden Horde, early in 719/1319, some of Abū Saʿīd’s commanders had failed to act with sufficient vigor. Following the enemy’s withdrawal, therefore, Čoban, who since the timely death of Sevīṇč in Ḏu’l-qaʿda, 717/January, 1318 had enjoyed an undisputed position, severely disciplined one of these generals, the amir Qorūmšī, for dereliction of duty. Qorūmšī thereupon rose in rebellion, supported by another disgruntled amir, Īreṇčīn, and advanced on Solṭānīya. But in a fierce engagement not far from Mīāna on 1 Jomādā I 719/20 June 1319 they were routed, thanks to the personal intervention of the Il-khan, whose troops had been on the point of flight, and the two rebel leaders were captured and cruelly executed in Solṭānīya. From this episode dates Abū Saʿīd’s assumption of the style of Bahādor (“hero”).
The early years of Abū Saʿīd’s reign witnessed the downfall of the great historian and statesman Rašīd-al-dīn Fażlallāh, who had been joint vizier with Tāǰ-al-dīn ʿAlīšāh since Öljeitü’s time but had finally succumbed to the tireless intrigues of his colleague and rival. After a temporary disgrace and retirement, from which he had been recalled through the efforts of Čoban, Rašīd-al-dīn was tried by the amīr-e olūs for having allegedly poisoned the Il-khan’s father and was put to death in Jomādā I, 718/July, 1318. Thereafter ʿAlīšāh enjoyed sole authority until his own death in 724/1324, the only chief minister under the Il-khans to die of natural causes. Following a brief interlude in which his two sons disputed the office, it passed to Rokn-al-dīn Ṣāʾen, a client of Čoban’s, though given the power of the Chobanids his authority was purely nominal.
The same could be said of the Il-khan himself during the era of Čoban’s ascendancy, which was to last until the eleventh year of the reign; and the Egyptian chronicler Mofażżal reports that Abū Saʿīd himself, in an effort to shake off this tutelage, had been originally behind Qorūmšī’s revolt (Nahī, text, p. 7; tr., p. 61). Soon after its suppression, Čoban was given the Il-khan’s sister Sātī Beg in marriage, and the provinces were effectively divided up among him and his family. Of his sons, Temürtāš was viceroy in Anatolia (Rūm); Shaikh Maḥmūd in Georgia; Ḥasan, after Amir Ḥosayn’s death in 722/1322, in Khorasan; and Demašq Ḵᵛāǰa in Azerbaijan and the two Iraqs, exercising also the functions of vizier in place of Rokn-al-dīn Ṣāʾen; Tāleš b. Ḥasan governed Fārs and Kermān. Not even the revolt of Temürtāš in 721/1321-22 reduced the family’s power, since Čoban simply obtained Abū Saʿīd’s permission to march in person against his son, who was brought to court only to be pardoned and reinstated by the Il-khan. In the event, it was not so much the curtailment of his political authority as a slight to his conjugal pride which stung Abū Saʿīd into ridding himself of his masters. Already thwarted in his designs on Čoban’s daughter Baḡdād Ḵātūn, the wife of Shaikh Ḥasan b. Amīr Ḥosayn, the Il-khan soon had cause to contrast his fortunes with those of Demašq Ḵᵛāǰa, who was making inroads into the royal harem. On 5 Jomādā I 727/24 August 1327 Abū Saʿīd had Demašq Ḵᵛāǰa put to death in Solṭānīya and then issued orders for the extermination of the entire family. Čoban, who was at this time campaigning in Khorasan, at first advanced west, but following an unsuccessful attempt to secure mediation between himself and his sovereign he was deserted by the majority of his forces on the eve of battle and resolved on flight. Taking refuge in Herat, he was treacherously killed by its ruler Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn in response to an order from Abū Saʿīd in Moḥarram, 728/November-December, 1327. On learning of his father’s death, Temürtāš fled from Rūm to Egypt, where he was initially received with honor but was subsequently executed in Šawwāl, 728/August, 1328, his head being sent to Il-khan. The other members of the family either fled or were captured and put to death.
Abū Saʿīd now personally assumed the reigns of government, ably assisted for the remainder of his lifetime by the new vizier, Rašīd-al-dīn’s son Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn Moḥammad. The office of amīr-e olūs was given to Shaikh Ḥasan, possibly in compensation for the loss of Baḡdād Ḵātūn, whom he was compelled to relinquish to the Il-khan. In 732/1331-32 he was accused of plotting with his former wife against Abū Saʿīd and was banished to the fortress of Komāḵ on the Euphrates, but he was pardoned in the following year and appointed to the governorship of Rūm. Three years earlier the Il-khan had been forced to suppress a rebellion by the viceroy of Khorasan, Nārīn Tagāi, who was executed on 1 Šawwāl 729/29 July 1329. These appear to have been the only instances of disaffection to trouble Abū Saʿīd’s last years.
Foreign relations during Abū Saʿīd’s reign wear, in certain respects, a markedly different appearance from those of his predecessors. Diplomatic contacts with Muslim India, which had been hostile as recently as Öljeitü’s reign (Waṣṣāf, p. 528), grew both more frequent and more amicable under his son, who exchanged costly gifts with the Delhi Sultan Moḥammad b. Toḡloq from at least 728/1328 down to his death (Šabānkāraʾī, Maǰmaʿ, fols. 189r, 264v-65r). Attempts by the Delhi court to draw the Il-khan into a joint operations against their mutual enemies, the Chaghatayid rulers of Central Asia, however, bore no fruit (correspondence in Bayāż-e Tāǰ-al-dīn Aḥmad Wazīr, ed. Ī. Afšār and M. Teymūrī, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974, pp. 404ff.), even though Abū Saʿīd’s relations with the Chaghatayids had steadily worsened. Cooperation against Yasāʾūr following his rebellion, in 720/1320, had been succeeded by Chaghatayid attacks on Khorasan in 722/1322 (ʿAynī, in V. G. von Tiesenbaum, Sbornik materialov otnosyashchikhsya k istorii Zolotoĭ Ordy I, St. Petersburg, 1884, p. 494) and possibly in 728/1328 (Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrü, Ḏayl, p. 185). In 726/1326 the Il-khan’s forces under Ḥasan b. Čoban had gone over to the offensive, expelling the Chaghatayid prince Tarmašīrīn from the Ḡazna region, though only temporarily, it seems, since Ebn Baṭṭūṭa found Ḡazna occupied by Tarmašīrīn’s representatives seven years later (tr. H. A. R. Gibb, Travels, Cambridge, 1958-71, III, pp. 561, 589).
Of the far greater significance was the rapprochement with the Mamluk sultans of Egypt. In 720/1320 a merchant named Maǰd-al-dīn Sallāmī was responsible for beginning negotiations between the two powers which resulted in the treaty of Aleppo two years later, thus bringing to a close the six decades of intermittent hostilities that dated from Hülegü’s invasion of Syria in 658/1260 and the Mongol defeat at ʿAyn Jālūt. The political advantages of the treaty were to be displayed in the Mamluk sultan’s execution of Temürtāš, referred to above, and in his cool response to future overtures from the Golden Horde for military cooperation against Iran. Nevertheless, the economic benefits resulting from this new found harmony on the Syrian frontier doubtless loomed still larger in the minds of both the sultan and the Mongols (see S. Y. Labib, Handelsgeschichte Ägyptens im Spätmittelalter, Wiesbaden, 1965, pp. 71ff.).
With the Il-khans’ other traditional enemy, the Golden Horde, however, relations remained as hostile as before. After his invasion of 719/1319 and his defeat by Abū Saʿīd and Čoban on the river Kor, Özbeg continued to stir up trouble whenever possible. If later Mamluk writers are to be believed, he was in correspondence with Yasāʾūr and made an abortive attempt to send aid to Qorūmšī and Īreṇčīn (Ebn Doqmāq, in Tiesenhausen, Sbornik I, pp. 319ff.; ʿAynī, in ibid., pp. 488ff.); while in 720/1321 Abū Saʿīd was obliged to dispatch troops to expel Özbeg’s brother Ḡāzān from Georgia. Upon a further incursion by the army of the Golden Horde in 725/1325, Čoban carried the war into Özbeg’s own territory, which he devastated in reprisal. But the khan of the Golden Horde returned to the offensive at the very end of Abū Saʿīd’s reign, and the Il-khan was in fact advancing to meet him at the time of his death. Abū Saʿīd died at his headquarters in the Qarābāḡ region on 13 Rabīʿ II 736/30 November 1335, and was buried at Solṭānīya. It was believed that he had been poisoned by Baḡdād Ḵātūn, whom he had neglected of late in favor of her niece, Demašq Ḵᵛāǰa’s daughter Delšād Ḵātūn.
Ebn Baṭṭūṭa, who claims to have seen Abū Saʿīd as a young man in Baghdad, describes him as “the most beautiful of God’s creatures in features” (Travels II, p. 336), and he seems to have enjoyed a uniformly high reputation among his contemporaries. He is depicted as a cultured prince, who wrote a good hand in both the Mongol and the Arabic scripts and had achieved skill as a musician, and he was, moreover, the only Il-khan to compose Persian poetry, of which two specimens are preserved in the Tārīḵ-e Šayḵ Oways (text, pp. 155-56). We also learn from the same work that Abū Saʿīd enjoyed the conversation of various ʿolamāʾ (text, pp. 152-53; tr., p. 54). His adherence to the orthodox faith certainly contrasts sharply with the Shiʿite sympathies of his father and may well be a factor underlying the rapprochement with Egypt, though it is noteworthy that the Mamluk chronicler Ebn al-Dawādārī (Kanz al-dorar IX, ed. H. R. Roemer, Cairo, 1960, p. 313) attributes this rather to the influence of Čoban. Towards the Christians Abū Saʿīd’s attitude is difficult to assess. He is said by Ṣafadī (al-Wāfī, p. 323) to have demolished the churches in Baghdad and to have actively encouraged conversion to Islam. Yet his reign witnessed the creation, through a bull of Pope John XXII dated 1 May 1318, of a Latin archbishopric of Solṭānīya along with a dependent episcopal hierarchy, and Western visitors such as Jordanus of Severac give no evidence that Il-khan impeded the ensuing missionary activity. Abū Saʿīd’s tolerance may sometimes, of course, have sprung from economic motives, as when in his commercial treaty with Venice in 1320 he granted permission for frari Latini to build oratories in the cities of his empire.
At his death Abū Saʿīd left no issue by any of his numerous wives, though Delšād Ḵātūn was to give birth to a daughter seven months later. The absence of a son, and indeed of any close male relative, to succeed him proved catastrophic for the Il-khanid state. For the next decade or more it was racked by disputes among rival claimants from the imperial family, of whom some, such as Abū Saʿīd’s immediate successor Arpā, were not even direct descendants of Hülegü. Later 8th/14th century writers therefore looked back on Abū Saʿīd’s reign as a golden age. In Aharī’s words, for example, “the time of his government was the best period of the domination of the Mongols” (Tārīḵ-e Šayḵ Oways, tr., p. 51). For the modern historian it is tempting to locate the roots of the decline of Il-khanid Iran in Abū Saʿīd’s own time, but there are formidable obstacles to so doing. One is the problem of sources. We simply do not possess any source for Abū Saʿīd’s era comparable in authority and depth with Rašīd-al-dīn’s survey of Ḡāzān’s reign or even with Kāšānī’s inferior coverage of that of Öljeitü. A second obstacle lies in what we actually discern of Abū Saʿīd’s own quality as a ruler. The shadowy character of his sovereignty during Čoban’s ascendancy was admittedly a byword among contemporary observers such as Ebn Baṭṭūṭa (II, p. 337) and ʿOmarī (Masālek al-abṣār, tr. K. Lech, Wiesbaden, 1968, p. 157). Yet even in this period the young Il-khan displayed signs of great energy, as in the crisis of 719/1319, and after Čoban’s downfall the sources afford no further indications of weakness or lethargy. Abū Saʿīd’s last years have an air of greater stability than the era of nominal rule.
See also: Chobanids, Il-khans.
The only strictly contemporary source to cover the entire reign is Šabānkāraʾī, Maǰmaʿ al-ansāb, Süleimaniye Kütüphanesi, Istanbul, MS Yeni Cami 909, fols. 258v-66v.
See also Ḥamdallāh Mostawfī Qazvīnī, Tārīḵ-e gozīda, ed. E. G. Browne, Leiden and London, 1910 (GMS, 14/1), pp. 601-13 (to ca. 730/1330).
Waṣṣāf, Taǰzīat al-amṣār wa tazǰīat al-aʿṣār, lithog. ed., Bombay, 1269/1853, pp. 618ff. (to 719/1319).
Kāšānī, Tārīḵ-e Ūlǰāytū, ed. M. Hambly, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969, see index.
Ṣayfī, Tārīḵ-nāma-ye Herāt, ed. M. L. al-Siddiqi, Calcutta, 1944, pp. 649ff., gives the fullest account of events in Khorasan (down to 722/1322).
There are two later sources: Abū Bakr Qoṭbī al-Aharī, Tārīḵ-e Šayḵ Oways, ed. and tr. J. B. Van Loon, The Hague, 1954, text, pp. 149-58; tr., pp. 51-59.
Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū, Ḏayl-e Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ, 2nd ed., Ḵ. Bayānī, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 120-90.
Syrian and Egyptian sources supply details of relations with the Mamluks; see especially: Abu’l-Fedāʾ, al-Moḵtaṣar fī aḵbār al-bašar, ed. and tr. J. J. Reiske and J. G. C. Adler, Abulfedae Annales Muslemici, Copenhagen, 1789-94.
V. Mofażżal, al-Nahī al-sadīd, ed. and tr. S. Kortantamer, Ägypten und Syrien zwischen 1317 und 1341, Freiburg i. Br., 1973 (Islamkundliche Untersuchungen, 23).
There is a character sketch in Ṣafadī, al-Wāfī bi’l-wafayāt X, ed. J. Sublet and ʿA. ʿAmāra, Wiesbaden, 1980 (Bibliotheca Islamica, 6j), pp. 322-23.
The main secondary authorities are: B. Spuler, Die Mongolen in Iran, 4th ed., Berlin, 1968, pp. 117-27 et passim.
J. A. Boyle, “Dynastic and Political History of the Il-khāns,” Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 406-13.
ʿA. Eqbāl, Tārīḵ-e mofaṣṣal-e Īrān, 2nd ed., I, Tehran, 1341 Š./1962, pp. 325-49.
For relations with the Christian West, see J. Richard, La papauté et les missions d’orient au moyen âge (XIIIe-XVe siècles), Rome, 1977, passim.
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 21, 2011
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Vol. I, Fasc. 4, pp. 374-377