ČAḠRĪ BEG DĀWŪD b. Mīḵāʾīl b. Saljūq, Abū Solaymān (b. in the 380s/990s, d. 452/1060), a member of the Saljuqs, the leading family of the Oghuz Turks, who with his brother Ṭoḡrel (Ṭoḡrïl) Beg founded the Great Saljuq dynasty in Persia in the 5th/11th century. All the subsequent rulers of this dynasty, as well as those of the Saljuqs of Kermān (descendents of Qāvord b. Čaḡrī) and of Syria (descendents of Totoš b. Alp Arslān), derived from him. The name Čaḡrī (Čaḡrï) is Turkish and literally means “small falcon, merlin” (Clauson, p. 410).
The early history of the Saljuq family is obscure, and what is known of it contains some semi-legendary touches. Certain early traditions seemed to have survived in the Malek-nāma, which is now lost but was utilized by Ebn al-Aṯīr, Ṣadr-al-Dīn Ḥosaynī, Ebn ʿEbrī (Bar Hebraeus), Mīrḵᵛānd, Matthew of Edessa, and Vartan (cf. Cahen, 1949, pp. 31-65). Čaḡrī and Ṭoḡrel must have been born when the Oghuz tribe was still in the Central Asian steppes north of Khorasan and Ḵᵛārazm. They were apparently brought up in the region of Jand to the south of the Aral Sea by their grandfather Saljūq b. Doqāq, the eponymous founder of the line, after the death of their father (Cahen, op. cit., pp. 44-46). In the first three decades of the 5th/11th century the Saljuq family became drawn into the internecine struggles of the Qarakhanids of Transoxania, and Ṭoḡrel and Čaḡrī entered the service of ʿAlītegīn b. Boḡrā Khan, settling in the regions of Naḵšab and Bukhara with their tribesmen and their herds (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, p. 223). A long-distance raid led by Čaḡrī in 409/1018 or 412/1021 as far as Azerbaijan is recorded by certain sources (Mīrḵᵛānd; Ebn ʿEbrī, Matthew of Edessa, and Vartan), but, whereas Kafesoğlu has maintained the historicity of this raid, Cahen (1954) has more plausibly denied that such an expedition could be mounted at such an early date, seeing in the episode (which presages the extensive future Turkish settlements in Azerbaijan) a subsequent attempt to glorify Čaḡrī and his descendents.
There is firmer historical evidence from Ebn al-Aṯīr and Mīrḵᵛānd that Ṭoḡrel, Čaḡrī, and their uncle Arslān Esrāʾīl b. Saljūq continued to be involved in ʿAlītegīn struggles with his kinsmen but then moved into Ḵᵛārazm, probably in the early 420s/1030s (see Cahen, p. 53). However, when Shah Malek of Jand, a member of the Oghuz tribe but hostile to the Saljuq family, rose to power there, they were compelled to migrate once again, and in 426/1035 some 10,000 Oghuz tribesmen—Saljuqs led by Ṭoḡrel, Čaḡrī, and the Yabḡū and Īnālīs led by Ebrāhīm Īnāl (Yenāl), another Saljuq chief—crossed the Oxus into Khorasan, seeking refuge and pastures for their flocks. Sultan Masʿūd b. Maḥmūd (q.v.), who was preoccupied in India, was forced to grant the Saljuqs this foothold within his dominions, giving their chiefs official recognition as local governors. In 428/1036-37 the town of Marv admitted Čaḡrī as local governor, and in the spring of 429/1038 Ṭoḡrel was temporarily in control of Nīšāpūr (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 223-26, 241-68).
The Saljuqs rapidly gained power and Masʿūd’s final attempt to subdue them failed. Their victory over the Ghaznavid at Dandānqān in 431/1040 laid the whole of Khorasan as far east as Balḵ open to the Saljuqs. After this the two brothers, who until then seem to have largely operated as autonomous leaders, came to a division of responsibilities. Ṭoḡrel led raiding bands westwards, ultimately as far as Iraq, while Čaḡrī remained ruler of Khorasan and carried on war with the Ghaznavids, who still retained much of their might and over the next months did in fact manage to stabilize their frontier along a roughly north-south line through the center of what is modern Afghanistan.
Relations between Čaḡrī and his brother Ṭoḡrel always remained good, probably helped by the fact that Ṭoḡrel was childless whereas Čaḡrī had various offspring. The future of the united Saljuq power was obviously going to depend on family unity and the maintenance of strong family lines like that of Čaḡrī, who therefore came to be regarded as suzerain over the Saljuq leaders in Sīstān. In 435/1043-44 Čaḡrī’s son Alp Arslān stopped Masʿūd’s son Šehāb-al-Dawla Mawdūd’s invasion of Balḵ and Ṭoḵārestān, inflicting heavy losses on the Ghaznavid. After this Čaḡrī formally made over to Alp Arslān the governorship of northeastern Khorasan as far as Waḵš (Ṣadr-al-Dīn Ḥosaynī, p. 27; Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 26-27). Soon afterwards peace was made with Mawdūd, who married one of Čaḡrī’s daughters. In the following years Čaḡrī intervened militarily against the short-lived Ghaznavid sultans ʿEzz-al-Dawla ʿAbd-al-Rašīd b. Maḥmūd (441/1050), and Jamāl-al-Dawla Farroḵzād b. Masʿūd (444/1053), but without solid results, and when Ebrāhīm b. Masʿūd came to the throne in 451/1059 the two major powers in eastern Iran came to a modus vivendi.
It is difficult to account for the fact that Ṭoḡrel before his death in 455/1063, in spite of Alp Arslān’s strong position, named as his successor Solaymān, another of Čaḡrī sons who was a virtual nonentity. In the event, however, it was Alp Arslān with his extensive military experience who became sultan over the united Saljuq empire.
The sources have very little to say about Čaḡrī compared to Ṭoḡrel, about whom there are chronicles, anecdotes, poetry, etc. This fact led Cahen (in EI) to conclude that Čaḡrī must have been a somewhat colorless personality. However, his achievement in preventing a Ghaznavid retaliation was a substantial one since by it he preserved Khorasan as a core province of the Saljuq empire, and it was from Khorasan that much of the directing official and religious personnel of the empire was to come.
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(C. Edmund Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: December 15, 1990
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 6, pp. 617-618