ATĀBAKĀN-E FĀRS, princes of the Salghurid dynasty who ruled Fārs in the 6th/12th and 7th/13th centuries, initially with the status of atābak. They were descended from the chief of a Turkmen clan, the Salḡūr or Salūr, who had accompanied the Saljuq sultan Ṭoḡril on the migration into Khorasan in the mid 5th/11th century. One of his descendants, Sonqor b. Mawdūd, a nephew of the amir Būz Aba, seized power in Fārs in 543-44/1148 but remained tributary to the Saljuqs. His seat of government was at Shiraz. For a long time he was involved in conflicts with Saljuq princes, particularly Malekšāh b. Maḥmūd, and in his resistance to them he owed much to the help of the Saljuqs of the collateral line who ruled Kermān. He was also on friendly terms with the small principality of Lor-e Bozorg. His dealings with Qays (Kīš) island gave him a strong position in Persian Gulf affairs. Time after time, however, he had to contend with Saljuq inroads into Fārs.
Sonqor, who had surrounded himself with the usual array of a princely court, died at the town of Bayżā in 556/1161 and was succeeded by his brother Zangī b. Mawdūd. After defeating several rival members of the family, Zangī adopted the name Moẓaffar-al-dīn and acknowledged Saljuq suzerainty, though his allegiance to the sultans varied with political circumstances. He successfully overcame all opposing forces and repulsed an intervention by the Saljuqs of Kermān. Fārs suffered dreadful damage from all the fighting in these years. Zangī died at the castle of Oškovān near Eṣṭaḵr in 574/1178-79 (according to some sources, 570/1174-75 or 571/1175-76).
Power then passed to one of Zangī’s five sons, by the name Tekla, who had already been designated as the successor. He had trouble with repeated attacks by the atābak Moḥammad Pahlavān of Azerbaijan in 574-75/1179-80 and a revolt by his cousin Qoṭb-al-dīn Ṭoḡrel b. Sonqor in 577/1182-83. The latter temporarily gained possession of parts of the province but was finally captured and executed; he had assumed the titles of king and “heir to the empire of Solomon” (wāreṯ-e molk-e Solaymān, see A. S. Melikian-Chirvani, “Le royaume de Salomon. Les inscriptions persanes des sites Achéménides,” Le Monde Iranien et l’Islam, Geneva and Paris, 1971, pp. 1-41). (According to some sources, these events took place at the start of Saʿd I’s reign.) There was also some fighting with the Oḡuz for control of Kermān after the collapse of the local Saljuq sultanate in 581-82/1186. The land and people of Fārs again suffered much damage. Tekla died after a reign of some twenty years in 594/1197-98. He is praised in the sources for his just rule, but such praises are often conventional and do not necessarily reflect the truth.
After Tekla’s death, his cousin Ṭoḡrel b. Sonqor (again?) fought for the succession, the other claimant and, eventually, winner being Tekla’s younger brother Moẓaffar-al-dīn Abū Šoǰāʿ Saʿd I b. Zangī b. Mawdūd. While this contest was going on, an epidemic plague ravaged the country. Saʿd proceeded to enlarge his domain of Fārs by conquering part of Kermān province, including Sīrǰān. With the help of his vizier Ḵᵛāǰa ʿAmīd-al-dīn Abū Naṣr Asʿad Abzarī he restored some prosperity to Fārs after the war devastation of the preceding years. Tradition affirms that he supported the poet Saʿdī (d. 691/1192) and that the latter chose his pen-name for this reason, though the evidence rather indicates that Saʿdī’s patron was Saʿd II (see below). Saʿd I’s troops occupied Isfahan for a short time in 600/1203-04, but during his absence he temporarily lost his capital Shiraz to the atābak Uzbek b. Pahlavān of Azerbaijan and had to hasten home. Later he was occupied for many years in struggles for control of Kermān, warring against local forces, against the Oḡuz, and finally (in 602/1206-605/1209) against the Sultan Ḵᵛārazmšāh Moḥammad II, whose power was on the rise at this time. In 609/1213 the Ḵᵛārazmšāh succeeded in annexing Kermān. In 614/1217-18, when the Ḵᵛārazmšāh was in conflict with the caliph al-Nāṣer, Saʿd I marched northward and occupied Ray, Qazvīn, and Semnān, but was defeated in a battle with Khwarazmian troops near Ray and taken prisoner. He remained in captivity at Hamadān until he undertook to cede the district around Eṣṭaḵr and Oškovān to Moḥammad II and pay one third of the revenue of his domain as tribute. He also had to deliver his eldest son as a hostage, but the latter was released when marriage ties between the two families were arranged. While these events were in progress, Saʿd’s son Abū Bakr attempted to seize power at Shiraz but was defeated by local troops and imprisoned. Moḥammad II’s subsequent embroilment with the Mongols gave Saʿd I the chance to cast off Khwarazmian suzerainty. Saʿd had to battle against Moḥammad II’s son Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn in 620/1223-24, but fared better in the following year when Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn clashed with his brother Jalāl-al-dīn Mangūbardī (Mengüberdi), who had by then returned from India. Jalāl-al-dīn married Saʿd’s daughter and forced his brother to cede to him a large piece of territory, including Isfahan, and assigned them to his father-in-law; at the same time Saʿd recognized Jalāl-al-dīn as his overlord. Saʿd I died on 12 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 623/5 November 1226 (more probably than in 628/1230-31 as stated in some accounts).
He was succeed by his son Abū Bakr b. Saʿd b. Zangī, who on account of an attempted revolt (see above) had been kept in prison for a long time. With prudent regard for the might of the Mongols, Abū Bakr sent his brother (or nephew?) Tahamtan to the Great Khan Ögedei (Ogdāy, Oktāy) in token of his submission. He received the title Qutluḡ Khan and had to admit into his territory a resident Mongol overseer (šeḥna), who did not in fact pay much heed to the workings of the government. Fārs now enjoyed a quite long spell of calm and was able to make good progress, both politically and economically. Abū Bakr, like his father and his successors, surrounded himself with scholars and artists (list in Merçil, Fars Atabegleri, pp. 135-43), though none except the poet Saʿdī were of more than local importance. The atābak himself pursued scholarly interests. He was well served by the viziers Moḡreb-al-dīn Mofāḵer Masʿūd and Amīr Faḵr-al-dīn Abū Bakr, the chief qāżī Jamāl-al-dīn Abū Bakr Meṣrī, and a carefully picked staff of officials. Several mosques and madrasas were built in his reign, and remains of some of them survive today (list in Merçil, op. cit., pp. 135-39; also idem, Die Bautätigkeit der Salguridenzeit nach historischen Quellen, Fifth International Congress of Turkish Arts, ed. G. Fehér, Budapest, 1978, pp. 599-604). Strict financial discipline made it possible to cope with the tribute payments to the Mongols. Attempts were made to reform the land tenure usages but in the main had to be abandoned. The army was enlarged and put to good use in the suppression of a prince’s revolt and in an expedition in 627/1230 which extended the atābak’s sway to the island of Qays, thereby facilitating trade with India and bringing new tax and customs revenues to the government. A further advance to the Bahrain islands, which then belonged to the caliphate, led to protracted fighting with the local Arabs; this began in Ḏu’l-ḥeǰǰa, 633/August, 1236 and ended in 654/1256-57 with a concession of far-reaching autonomy and a division of authority between certain Arab amirs.
Meanwhile the Il-khan Hülegü (Hūlāgū) had taken steps since 653-54/1256 to assert his authority throughout Iran. Abū Bakr offered allegiance and sent his son Saʿd as a hostage to the Mongol court, then at Baghdad. Before Saʿd’s return, Abū Bakr died on 5 Jomādā II 658/18 May 1260. With his death the bright days of the atābaks of Fārs were over. His still absent son succeeded him as Saʿd II but died after a reign of only eighteen days before reaching Shiraz. The local mint managed to produce a few coins bearing Saʿd II’s name.
The next successor was Saʿd’s young son Moḥammad I, who was under the guardianship of his mother Terken (Torkān) Ḵātūn, a princess of Yazd. She chose a vizier named Neẓām-al-dīn Abū Bakr. Unrestrained oppression and peculation now opened the way to ruin. Moḥammad I died after a reign of two and a half years on 6 Moḥarram 661/20 November 1262. Terken Ḵātūn then procured the succession of Moḥammad II b. Salḡūr b. Saʿd (I). Despite a record of valor as a warrior on the side of the Mongols, he spent too much of his time as a ruler in revelry. Before long, Terken Ḵātūn decided to get rid of him, even though he had married her daughter; in Ramażān, 661/July, 1263 she arranged his departure for a stay at the Mongol court. A secret approach of Terken Ḵātūn to the Mamlūk sultan Baybars I at this time evidently had no useful result.
Moḥammad II’s brother and successor Salǰūqšāh b. Salḡūr proceeded to marry Terken Ḵātūn, but soon incurred the displeasure of his wife and the amirs. He therefore had Terken Ḵātūn murdered at a banquet. Next he foolishly sanctioned an attack on the Mongol delegation. The consequences were that Moḥammad II met an early death at the Mongol court and a force of Hūlāgū’s troops set out for Shiraz, Salǰūqšāh escaped and entrenched himself at Kāzerūn, but finally had to surrender and was excecuted outside that town on 12 Ṣafar 663/4 December 1264.
The throne of Fārs was then given to the princess Ābeš Ḵātūn, a daughter of Saʿd II, she and her sister being the only members of the Salghurid family left alive. She was only a child, and in 671/1272 she was married to Möngke Temür (Mongū Teymūr), a brother of the Il-khan Abāqā. The Mongols were thus in position to exert direct influence. Disorders at Shiraz gave them a pretext to imprison her in or around 683/1284. She died on 12 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 685/31 December 1286. The deposition of Ābeš marked the end of the dynasty of the Salghurid atābaks of Fārs. The province was then placed under direct Mongol rule.
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Šehāb-al-dīn Moḥammad Nasavī, Sīrat-e Jalāl-al-dīn Mīnkbernī, ed. M. Mīnovī, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965, passim.
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Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 17, 2011
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