BĪGDELĪ (or Bēgdelī, also Bagdīlū), a former Turkish tribe.
Name and origin. The tribe is mentioned in Maḥmūd Kāšḡarī’s Dīwān loḡāt al-Tork as one of the twenty-two Oghuz tribes (ed. Dankoff and Kelly, I, p. 101). Their traditional brand mark was xxx and their totem was the golden eagle. The oldest known form of the name, given by Kāšḡarī ca. 465/1072, is Bagtelī (Bägtilī), which cannot be clearly identified as Turkish; like several other Turkish tribal names, it is perhaps a remnant from a pre-Turkish substrate. Mobārakšāh (ca. 603/1206) is the first to write the name in the Oghuzified form Bagdelī (Bägdilī). Rašīd-al-Dīn (ca. 700/1300) writes Bīgdelī (Bēgdilī) and quotes a popular etymology in explanation. Finally, in the manuscripts of Eskandar Beg (1025/1616), beside Bīgdelī (thus, e.g., the Tehran ed.) we also find the spelling Bagdīlū (see tr. Savory, pp. 1309, 1385; the suffix -lū is obviously analogous to that in numerous Turkish tribal names, e.g., Qazāqlū, Ostājlū). Eskandar Beg describes the tribe as a clan of the powerful Šāmlū tribe. In the 10th/16th century the name Beğdilī appears in 23 toponyms in the Ottoman tax records—a relatively small number compared with the occurrences of tribal names such as Kayï, Bayāt, Afšār, and others. The region having most of the Beğdilī toponyms was north central Anatolia. In the gazetteers of modern Turkey (Meskun yerler kılavuzu, Köylerimiz) only nine places with the name Beydili are listed, most of them in central Anatolia. The Gazetteer of the USSR gives Beydili and Beydilli as the name of two places in the Azerbaijan SSR. The Gökleng Beğdili (also called Čāqū Beğdili) live in Astarābād between the rivers Atrak and Rūd-e Gorgān. Their sub-groups are named Pank, Aman-Ḵōja, Borān, and Qarešmaz (Sümer, 1972, p. 304). According to Oberling, two small clans named Bīgdelī belong to the Kaškūlī tribe of the Qašqāʾī confederacy in southern Iran.
Early history. Although no precise information from before the 8th/14th century has come down, there are grounds to suppose that Bīgdelī tribesmen played a part in the Saljuq conquest of Iran and Anatolia in the 5th/11th century. Others appear to have fled from the Mongol invasion in the 7th/13th century and to have reached Syria and joined forces with the Mamluks. In the second half of the 8th/14th century they are mentioned as being under the command of the Tašḵun Oḡullarï (Sümer, 1953). From Syria they spread to southern and eastern Anatolia and later to Iran, where they acquired a position of some importance under the Āq Qoyunlū and the Safavids. In the course of time they split into several branches.
The Bīgdelī of Anatolia and Syria. From the 9th/15th to the 11th/17th century a large Beğdili group lived in the region between Aleppo and Diyarbakır (Dīār Bakr) where they occupied the best pastures. In the 11th/17th century this group was estimated to have 12,000 tents and to stand first among the Aleppo Turkmen. Another group moved in the 10th/16th century to the Yeni-Il district between Sivas and Malatya, and some of them later headed southward to the neighborhood of Raqqa. Other branches were the Boz-Ulus, who from the 10th/16th century onward lived in the Diyarbakır district, the Beğdili of Tarsus living among the Varsaq near Adana, and the Begdeli of Içel on the southern coast of Anatolia facing Cyprus.
The Bīgdelī of Iran. In addition to tribes from Anatolia, tribes from northern Syria, collectively known as Šāmlū and consisting mainly of Turkmen, played a part in the establishment of the Safavid state in 907/1501. (The word Turkman had originally meant Oghuz non-Muslims, but from the 8th/14th century onward meant Oghuz nomads.) The Šāmlū, after becoming devotees (morīds) of Shaikh Ḥaydar, fought for his son Shah Esmāʿīl, founder of the Safavid dynasty. At first the Šāmlū consisted of three tribes, the Bīgdelī, Īnāllū, and Ḵodābandalū, but later some more tribes were attached to them. For a long time the Bīgdelī held a leading position among the Šāmlū. Many of the powerful Qezelbāš commanders belonged to the Bīgdelī, e.g., Barakat Ḵalīfa, who supported Shah Ṭahmāsb in the fighting against his rebel son. Bīgdelī amirs were particularly influential in Shah ʿAbbās I’s reign. One of them, Naqdī Khan, held the office of īšīk-āqāsī-bāšī (grand marshal of the royal court) and the governorships of Marv and Kūhgīlūya; his son Zaynal Beg (later Khan) was, according to Eskandar Beg (pp. 951-52, 1084; tr. Savory, pp. 1172, 1309), successively tūšmāl-bāšī (master of the royal kitchen), īšīk-āqāsī-bāšī, and governor of Ray, and his four brothers Moḥammad Beg, Ḥaydar Beg, Sārū Beg, and Qapān Beg ranked not far below him. Under ʿAbbās II, too, Bīgdelī amirs held high offices, e.g., Ṣafīqolī Beg, who was governor of Solṭānīya and Zenjān. While Eskandar Beg still places the Šāmlū first among the Turkman tribes and the Bīgdelī first among the Šāmlū clans (Taḏkerat al-molūk, p. 16), and another early 17th-century writer, Don Juan of Persia, similarly refers to their importance and to their tenure of the office of mayordomo mayor in his time (ibid., p. 193); during the 12th/18th century their prestige waned and the primacy passed to other tribes. It was apparently during that century that the Bīgdelī became sedentary, settling for the most part in Azerbaijan. While the names of other Oghuz tribes such as the Bayāt are preserved in a number of Iranian toponyms, the name Bīgdelī appears to have survived only in personal names, the best known being Āḏar Bīgdelī (see āẓar bīgdelī).
General: F. Sümer, “Bozoklu Oğuz boylarına dair,” Dil ve tarih-coğrafya fakültesi dergisi 11/1, 1953.
Idem, Oğuzlar (Türkmenler), 2nd ed., Ankara, 1972, esp. pp. 297-311.
Idem, Safevî devletinin kuruluşu ve gelişmesinde Anadolu türklerinin rolü, Ankara, 1976, esp. pp. 172-73.
A. Şahin, Güney Anadolu’da Beğ Dili ve Baraklar, Ankara, 1962.
Early history: R. Dankoff and J. Kelly, eds., Maḥmūd al-Kāšγarī. Compendium of Turkic Dialects, 3 vols., Cambridge, Mass., 1982.
K. Jahn, ed., Die Geschichte der Oġuzen des Rašīd ad-Dīn, Vienna, 1969, pp. 45, 67-68.
Place names: Köylerimiz, Istanbul, 1933, pp. 104-05.
Türkiye’de meskûn yerler kılavuzu, Ankara, 1946, p. 155.
Official Standard Names Gazetteer, no. 42 (USSR), Washington, D.C., vol. 1, A-B, p. 435.
P. Oberling, The Qashqāʾi Nomads of Fārs, The Hague, 1974, p. 229.
Persian sources: E. Denison Ross, ed., Taʾríkh-i Fakhru’d-Dín Mubárak-sháh, London, 1927, p. 48.
Taḏkerat al-molūk, ed. V. Minorsky, London, 1927, p. 48.
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
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Vol. IV, Fasc. 3, pp. 251-252