a family of local rulers of Marāḡa who ruled from the early 6th/12th century until 605/1208-09.


ATĀBAKĀN-E MARĀḠA (also called Aḥmadīlīs), a family of local rulers of Marāḡa who ruled from the early 6th/12th century until 605/1208-09 in Marāḡa itself and in Rūʾīn Dez for some years after the Mongol conquest. They are often referred to as the Aḥmadīlī Dynasty because of a connection with Aḥmadīl b. Ebrāhīm b. Vahsūḏān Rawwādī Kordī who is first mentioned by Ebn al-Aṯīr under the year 501/1107-08 and was named as ruler of Marāḡa in 505/1111-12 (repr., X, pp. 447, 485). Aḥmadīlī himself was in the service of the Saljuq Sultan Moḥammad b. Malekšāh (r. 498-511/1105-18). There are questions about his ethnic background and how he relates to the Rawwadid Vahsūḏān. Minorsky (EI1 III, p. 263, EI2I, p. 300) and Kasravī (Šahrīārān, p. 230) regard him as a Kurdicized descendant of the Arab Rawwadids. He is noted for joining the force which Sultan Moḥammad sent against the Crusaders in 505/1111-12, for his desire to gain the lands of the Shah Armanid Sokmān Qoṭbī, and for hostility towards the Ismaʿilis, according to Sebṭ b. al-Jawzī (Merʾāt VIII/1, p. 53) who reports that his eqṭāʿ yielded 4,000 dinars and that he had 5,000 horsemen in his service. This author places his assassination at the hands of the Ismaʿilis in 508/1114-15, while Ebn al-Aṯīr puts it in Moḥarram, May-June of 510/1116 (X, p. 516).

Āq Sonqor Aḥmadīlī (ca. 516/1122-1123 to 528/1133-1134): Āq Sonqor is the first person who can be called an atābak (atabeg) of Marāḡa and the clear founder of the line. Some writers, such as Kasravī (Šahrīārān, p. 232) and Ṣafā (Adabīyāt II, p. 44) regard him as the son of Aḥmadīl, but, aside from the evidence of his Turkish name, it should be noted that he is never referred to as “Ebn Aḥmadīl,” only as “al-Aḥmadīlī,” a type of appellation which usually indicated a mamluk or freed-man of the person referred to in the nesba. In addition, the poet Neẓāmī Ganǰavī clearly refers to him as the founder of the line in the Haft peykar (p. 23), and it is unlikely that he would have made an error in this regard. He is referred to as one of the great mamluks of the Saljuq house by Ḥosaynī (Aḵbār al-dawla al-salǰūqīya, p. 196). It is not known if Āq Sonqor held Marāḡa before 516/1122-23. It was under the control of Masʿūd, brother of the Iraq Sultan Maḥmūd b. Moḥammad, who gave it to his atābak, Qasīm-al-dawla Borsoqī, in 514/1120-21, but after Masʿūd’s defeat at the hands of the sultan, it was apparently either given, or returned, to Āq Sonqor who had it in 516/1122-23 when he tried to use his position as atābak of Ṭoḡrel b. Moḥammad to revolt against Maḥmūd and gain control of Azerbaijan. He failed but apparently got his land back and seems to have been faithful in his service to Maḥmūd for the next seven years or so. In 523/1129 Maḥmūd sent him into Arab Iraq in pursuit of the Mazyadid Dobays b. Ṣadaqa, for whom he and another amir were held responsible (Ebn al-Aṯīr, X, p. 655).

When Maḥmūd died in 525/1131, Āq Sonqor was atābak of Ḡīāṯ-al-dīn Dāʾūd b. Maḥmūd. He and the sultan’s vizier, Abu’l-Qāsem Dargazīnī, proclaimed Dāʾūd sultan in Azerbaijan and Jebāl, but they were defeated by Maḥmūd’s brother Rokn-al-dīn Ṭoḡrel, who had been made sultan by Sanǰar, at Hamadān in 526/1131-1132. Ṭoḡrel’s brother, Masʿūd, had also opposed them and had been besieged by Āq Sonqor in Tabrīz until he made peace. Ṭoḡrel set out after them and forced them to flee to Baghdad. There the caliph proclaimed Masʿūd sultan and Dāʾūd his heir. After being outfitted by the caliph, they proceeded to Azerbaijan and Marāḡa where Āq Sonqor apparently put considerable cash at the disposal of the expedition. Ṭoḡrel’s forces shut themselves up in Ardabīl where they were besieged by Āq Sonqor and his Saljuqs. An attempt on the part of some of Ṭoḡrel’s amirs to raise the siege failed, and they were pursued to Hamadān where Ṭoḡrel himself was defeated and driven off in Šaʿbān, 528/May-June, 1134. Āq Sonqor himself was murdered by Assassins in his tent at Hamadān. Bondarī (Zobda, p. 169) leads one to believe that the Ṭoḡrel’s vizier, Dargazīnī, instigated the murder, while Ebn al-Aṯīr (X, p. 686) reports that it was said that Masʿūd himself was responsible.

Noṣrat-al-dīn Arslān Aba b. Āq Sonqor (ca. 528/1133-34 to 570/1174-75): He was atābak in Marāḡa for a long time, but he is never at the focus of interest in the sources, and it is often difficult to see where he fits into the factional strife which marked so much of the reign of Masʿūd b. Moḥammad. He is first mentioned by Ebn al-Aṯīr under the year 530/1135-36 as one of the amirs who gathered with the Saljuq Dāʾūd b. Maḥmūd in Baghdad in support of the ill-fated caliph, al-Rāšed. The next notices deal with his brother, Šīrgīr, who took troops to serve Masʿūd’s Azerbaijan-based ǰāndār, Jāvlī (Čāvlī), in 540/1145-46, then again was among the commanders brought by Ḵāṣṣ Beg Arslān b. Palangarī (Minorsky, “Beling-eri,” EI2, p. 300) to defeat Masʿūd’s enemy Būz Aba the amir of Fārs at Isfahan in 542/1147-48 (Bondārī, Zobda, p. 191-92). However, Bondārī (p. 217), also says that Ḵāṣṣ Beg besieged Marāḡa in 541/1146-47. Rāvandī (Rāḥat al-ṣodūr, p. 244) also says that Masʿūd himself besieged Marāḡa in Šawwāl, 545/February, 1151, took it in two days, and ordered the fortifications ruined. Rāvandī further reports that there was antagonism between Ḵāṣṣ Beg and Atābak Arslān Aba and that they were reconciled in the castle of Rūʾīn. This fortress, usually referred to as Rūʾīn Dez, seems to have become the family stronghold. Minorsky (EI1III, p. 264) suggests it was some ten miles above Marāḡa on the Sūfī Čāy on the site of a place now called Yay-Šahar (summertown).

Arslān Aba and the atābak of Azerbaijan, Īldegoz, protested when Sultan Moḥammad b. Maḥmūd killed Ḵāṣṣ Beg in early 548/1153. From that time until 551/1156-57, Arslān Aba cooperated with Īldegoz and other amirs against Moḥammad, joining them in the attempt to put Solaymānšāh b. Moḥammad on the throne in Hamadān. He also joined Īldegoz in obtaining the expulsion of the Saljuq prince, Čaḡrī Beg, from Azerbaijan in 549/1154-55. The two then divided up the province between themselves, save for Ardabīl. But, after Sultan Moḥammad defeated Īldegoz at Naḵǰavān in 551/1 l56-57, he made Arslān Aba wālī of Azerbaijan, and when the sultan died in 554/1159-60, he entrusted his young son to the atābak of Marāḡa who refused to accept Īldegoz’s control of the sultanate of Iraq through his own ward, Sultan Arslānšāh. Īldegoz sent his son, Moḥammad Jahān-pahlavān, against Arslān Aba who met and defeated the Ildegozid with the assistance of troops sent to him by the Shah Arman of Ḵelāṭ (Aḵlaṭ).

Arslān Aba usually opposed Īldegoz and his ward, Arslānšāh, in the years between 556/1161 and 563/1168, when Īldegoz was plagued by the opposition of Īnānǰ of Ray. Arslān Aba sent 5,000 troops to assist Ḥosām-al-dīn Īnānǰ in his rebellion of 556/1161, and, even though he took part in Īldegoz’s campaigns against the Georgians in 557/1161-62 and 558/1162-63, his opposition to Īldegoz’s control of the Saljuq sultanate of Iraq continued. He took advantage of Īnāǰ’s renewed opposition to Īldegoz in the years 561/1165-66 to 564/1168-69, and Ebn al-Aṯīr (XI, p. 332) records that in 563/1167-68 [Ebn] Āq Sonqor requested that the caliph give the ḵoṭba in the name of the Saljuq malek, son of Moḥammad, who was with him. This challenge to his supremacy caused Īldegoz to send his son Jahān-pahlavān against Arslān Aba once again, and this time he was defeated and forced to shut himself up in Marāḡa, after which they made peace.

Falak-al-dīn (?), dates unknown. There is only one report in Ebn al-Aṯīr (XI, p. 423), which records that, when Moḥammad Jahān-pahlavān besieged Marāḡa in 570/1174-75, Ebn Āq Sonqor had died and left the city to his son, Falak-al-dīn. It is not clear whether his death was in 570 or somewhat before. Pahlavān besieged Rūʾīn Dez, then Marāḡa itself, but was unable to take either. He had sent his brother, Qezel Arslān, to besiege Tabrīz, also under Aḥmadīlī control at that time, and a peace was made in which Tabrīz was ceded to the Ildegozids. Falak-al-dīn’s reign would have to have ended sometime before 584/1188-89, as noted below. A notice by Ḥamdallāh Mostawfī (Tārīḵ-egozīda, p. 462), a much later author, claims that the “ruler of Marāḡa” was thinking of war with Īldegoz after the death of Īnānǰ and that Pahlavān went and defeated him. It then says that Marāḡa was given as eqṭāʿ to the brothers ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Karba (Karpa) and Rokn-al-dīn. This tradition eliminates Falak-al-dīn and seems to indicate that Arslān Aba was deposed in favor of ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn, who is known from other sources, and Rokn-al-dīn, who is not mentioned elsewhere. A scribal error in Browne’s facsimile Tārīḵ-egozīda is probably responsible for Minorsky’s entry of an otherwise unknown Qotloḡ into the family list (EI2I, p. 300).

ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Karpā (or Karpa) Arslān (before 584/1188-1189 to 604/1207-08; on the name see Kasravī, Šahrīārān, p. 232). The sources have no notices of the Aḥmadīlīs for fourteen years, then we find in Rāvandī (Rāḥat al-ṣodūr, p. 347) that shortly after the last Saljuq sultan of Iraq, Ṭoḡrel, had defeated the caliph’s army at Dāy Marg in 584/1188-89, ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn of Marāḡa came to Hamadān to pay homage and was given charge of Ṭoḡrel’s son Berk-yaruq (Barkīāroq). The situation in Hamadān was not to the atābak’s liking, so he returned to Marāḡa. Again, we lack a connected account of ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn’s reign.

He seems to have been a man of pronounced literary interests, since at his request the poet Neẓāmī Ganǰavī composed the Haft peykar. According to the poet (p. 22) he was a descendant of Āq Sonqor and he had two sons who are otherwise unknown to us, Noṣrat-al-dīn Moḥammad and Falak-al-dīn Aḥmad. We also learn at the end of the poem that it was sent to Rūʾīn Dez, confirming this place as the residence of the atābaks, and that it was finished 14 Ramażān 593/31 July 1197.

Ebn al-Aṯīr (XII, p. 236) reports that he planned to take Azerbaijan from the irresolute Ildegozid atābak of Azerbaijan, Abū Bakr, with the help of Moẓaffar-al-dīn Kūkborī of Erbel. Abū Bakr got assistance, however, and besieged ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn in Marāḡa. Peace was made with ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn ceding one of his fortresses and receiving Ošnū and Urmia from Abū Bakr, who actually had the last word. For ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn died in 604/1207-08, leaving his kingdom to a child, in this account, who died in 605/1208-09, allowing Abū Bakr to take all of the Aḥmadīlī possessions save Rūʾīn Dez in which a faithful eunuch shut himself with the stores and treasures and presumably with a granddaughter, who is the last of the line we know about (Ebn al-Aṯīr, XII, p. 275).

There are two entries in Ebn al-Fowaṭī’s Maǰmaʿ al-ādāb which may complicate the list of rulers of the family. In one (pt. 2, p. 1070, no. 1598) there is an ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn b. Karba b. Noṣrat-al-dīn Aba Arslān b. Atābak Qarā Sonqor Aḥmadīlī. This is probably our ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn with his name and ancestors somewhat garbled. He is reported to have been partial to the learned and religious leaders, as well as to Sufism. Ebn al-Fowaṭī, quoting a work by Qāżī Afżal-al-dīn, the Tārīḵ-eBīškīn, also says that he died in Ḏu’l-qaʿda of 604/1207-08, which agrees with Ebn al-Aṯīr, and that he was buried in his tomb which was attached to a madrasa not named in the text. If ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn was a tomb builder, he could have been responsible for the so-called Gonbad-e Kabūd which is from about the right period (Godard, Monuments, p. 9; Kārang, Abnīa, p. 15). The other person mentioned in the Maǰmaʿ al-ādāb (pt. 1, p. 27, no. 18) is more difficult to account for. He is called ʿEzz-al-dīn Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Arslān Aba b. Atābak Torkī Marāḡī and is said to have been killed in a battle near Tabrīz with one Noṣrat-al-din Bīškīn in 605/1208-09. It is not clear from his name whether he was even part of the family, just that he is supposed to have ruled in Marāḡa. The date of his death is the same as that of the child mentioned by Ebn al-Aṯīr (XII, p. 275), but Ebn al-Fowaṭī’s notice suggests that this person was an adult, as he was “ṣāḥeb” of a madrasa and was killed in battle. Even so, we do not know enough to rule out the possibility that he was a son of ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn, although his name is not the same as either one of the sons of ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn mentioned by the poet Neẓāmī.

The last certain recorded member of the family is the Salāfa Ḵātūn mentioned in Ebn al-Fowaṭī’s notice. She is apparently the woman referred to by Ebn al-Aṯīr (XII, p. 377) as being the ruler of Marāḡa and being in Rūʾīn Dez when Marāḡa was taken by the Mongols in 617/1220-21. Nasavī (Sīrat, p. 232) who refers to her as one of the descendants or grandchildren (ḥafada) of atābak ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn, notes that she had been married to the deaf-mute, Malek-e Ḵāmūš Qezel Arslān by his father, the atābak of Azerbaijan, Ozbek. She apparently remained in Rūʾīn Dez when Malek-e Ḵāmūš joined the Ḵᵛārazmšāh Jalāl-al-dīn, whose service he later left for Alamūt where he died. Salāfa Ḵātūn was preparing to end the siege of her castle by the Ḵᵛārazmšāh’s vizier, Šaraf al-molk, by marrying him when Jalāl-al-dīn arrived and claimed her for himself, installing a governor in Rūʾīn Dez. Ḵāmūš’s son, Noṣrat-al-dīn, who, according to Jovaynī (I, p. 116; II, p. 248), later received appointments from the Mongols, may have been by Salāfa Ḵātūn, but, according to Minorsky (EI2I, p. 301), this is not certain.

See also Atābakān-e Āḏarbāyǰān; and Atābakān-e Marāḡa.



Medieval sources: Abu’l-Fatḥ Bondārī, Zobdat al-noṣra wa noḵbat al-ʿoṣra, ed. M. Th. Houtsma, in Recueil de textes relatifs à l’histoire des Seldjoucides II, Leyden, 1889, pp. 160-70, 175, 217, 231-43.

Ebn al-Aṯīr (repr.), X, years 501, 505, 510, 514, 516, 523, 525-528; XI, years 529, 530, 532, 554, 556, 557, 563, 570; XII, years 602, 604, 617.

Ebn al-Fowaṭī, Maǰmaʿ al-ādāb, Damascus, 1962, IV/1, p. 27; IV/2, p. 1070.

Abu’l-Ḥasan ʿAlī Ḥosaynī, Aḵbār-al-dawla Salǰūqīya, Lahore, 1933, pp. 101, 142, 196.

Tārīḵ-egozīda (Tehran), pp. 446, 454, 472.

Šehāb-al-dīn Moḥammad Nasavī, Sīrat al-solṭān Jalāl-al-dīn Mankobertī, Cairo, 1953, pp. 223-24, 264; Pers. tr., Sīrat-e Jalāl-al-dīn Minkbernī, ed. M. Mīnovī, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965-66, pp. 161-62, and notes, pp. 366, 404, 407.

Neẓāmī Ganǰavī, Haft peykar, ed. Waḥīd Dastgerdī, Tehran, n.d., pp. 21-28, 366-67.

Moḥammad b. ʿAlī Rāvandī, Rāḥat al-ṣodūr wa āyat al-sorūr, ed. M. Eqbāl, GMS, N.S. II, London, 1921, pp. 44, 233, 244, 347.

Sebṭ b. al-Jawzī, Merʾāt al-zamān VIII/1, Hyderabad (Deccan), 1951, p. 53.

Modern sources: A. Godard, Les Monuments de Marāgha, Publications of the Société des études iraniennes, no. 7, Paris, 1934, pp.7-11.

ʿAbd-al-ʿAlī Karāng, Abnīa wa āṯār-e tārīḵī-e Marāḡa, Tabrīz, 1350 Š./1971-72, pp. 13-16.

A. Kasravī, Šahrīārān-e gomnām, 1335 Š./1956-57, pp. 228-50, 252.

V. Minorsky, “Marāgha,” EI1III, pp. 261-66.

Idem, “Aḥmadīlīs,” EI2I, pp. 300-01.

Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 169-71, 176-79, 183.

(K. A. Luther)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 17, 2011

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