ATĀBAKĀN-E YAZD, a dynasty which governed Yazd in the 6th/12th century. Most of them were tributaries to the Saljuqs and Il-khans, and linked by marriage to the last Kakuyids of Yazd.

The dynasty originated with the appointment by the Saljuq sultan Arslān b. Ṭoḡrel (556/1116-571/1176) of Rokn-al-dīn Sām b. Langar, a commander of the Yazd garrison, as atābak for the two daughters of the last Kakuyid prince of Yazd, Farāmarz b. ʿAlāʾ-al-dawla ʿAlī, who had died at the battle of Qaṭvān in 536/1141 without a male heir (Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn Kāteb, Tārīḵ-eǰadīd-e Yazd, p. 65). The local histories of Yazd described Atābak Sām as virtuous but incapable of ruling, and Bāfqī (Jāmeʿ-e mofīdī, p. 84) described him as ineffective in his later years against gangs of ruffians that freely plundered the countryside. He died in 590/1193-94, but Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn (op. cit., p. 67) relates that he was replaced at the age of ninety with his younger brother ʿEzz-al-dīn Langar, who ruled until 604/1207-08. ʿEzz-al-dīn, who had governed Isfahan and Shiraz for the Saljuqs, reestablished order and built much in Yazd (forts, mosques, ḥammāms, gardens, qanāts, caravansarais); Bāfqī (op. cit., p. 86) describes his establishment of the prosperous and well-watered village of ʿEzzābād outside Yazd.

Little is mentioned about ʿEzz-al-dīn’s successor, his son Vardānrūz, who reigned from 604/1207-08 to 615/1218-19, and the history of the next several years is even more obscure. There is mention of a son of Atābak Sām, ʿAlāʾ-al-dawla Atā Khan, referred to as the lord of Yazd (Nasavī, Sīrat-e Jalāl-al-dīn, p. 127), who died in the service of Sultan Jalāl-al-dīn Ḵᵛārazmšāh fighting the Mongols near Isfahan in 625/1228, and of two other sons of ʿEzz-al-dīn, Moʿezz-al-dīn Kaykāʾūs and Moḥyī-al-dīn, but it is not indicated whether any of these was actually atābak. Bāfqī describes Moḥyī-al-dīn as reclusive and “dervish-like in disposition” (op. cit., p. 85).

At some point, either directly after Vardānrūz’s death (Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn, op. cit., p. 69) or after the death of Moḥyī-al-dīn (Jaʿfarī, op. cit., p. 41), the succession went to the fourth son of ʿEzz-al-dīn Langar, Esfahsālār Abū Manṣūr, known as Qoṭb-al-dīn. The local histories describe his construction of villages, qanāts, mausoleums, a bazaar, a polo maydān, and, according to Jaʿfarī (ibid.), a pilgrimage center at the qadamgāh of the eighth imam, ʿAlī al-Reżā, in Mašhad, as well as his reputation as an avid hunter and polo player. Qoṭb-al-dīn attempted to ensure good relations with the new Qarā Ḵetāy sultanate of Kermān by arranging the marriage of his son, Maḥmūd Shah, to Yāqūt Torkān, daughter of the founder of the Qarā Ḵetāy dynasty there, Borāq Ḥāǰeb Qotloḡ solṭān; another daughter, Maryam Torkān, had already been married to Moḥyī-al-dīn (Wazīrī Kermānī, Tārīḵ-eKermān, p. 346). Despite his marriage, Maḥmūd Shah clearly lacked equality to the Qarā-Ḵetāy rulers after he succeeded his father in 626/1228-29. The Tārīḵ-ešāhī-e Qarā-Ḵetāʾīān (p. 98) describes his humiliation in the presence of Borāq Ḥāǰeb “like a child before his father” after attempting to usurp his wife’s dowry. Some years later during Maḥmūd’s reign Yazd served as a staging base for Borāq’s son Rokn-al-dīn Abu’l-Moẓaffar Qotloḡ solṭān (Ḵᵛāǰa Jūq) to gain the sultanate in Kermān (Nāṣer-al-dīn Monšī Kermānī, Semṭ al-ʿolā, p. 28).

Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn (op. cit., p. 72) states that Maḥmūd Shah ruled for thirteen years, which would be until 639/1241-42 (although Jaʿfarī places his death in 637/1239-40), and names as his successor his son Salḡor Shah (not mentioned by Jaʿfarī). The Great Khan Ögedei, to whom Salḡor Shah had sent gifts, authorized his investiture by sending a diploma and robe of honor (Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn, ibid.). Salḡor Shah was succeeded by his son, Ṭaḡā Shah, whom Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn remembers for his construction of gardens, wind towers, and qanāts in Yazd during his long reign until 670/1271-72 (op. cit., p. 73). Ṭaḡā Shah’s son ʿAlāʾ-al-dawla ruled until his death in 673/1274-75 from an illness contracted from heavy spring floods that caused much damage to the city of Yazd (ibid., p. 74).

Jaʿfarī, Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn, and Bāfqī agree in naming Yūsof Shah, brother of ʿAlāʾ-al-dawla, as the last atābak of Yazd, and in their narration of his disobedience against the il-khan, Ḡāzān. According to them he angered Ḡāzān’s amirs by not sending them presents although he had sent gifts to Ḡāzān. He refused to comply when Ḡāzān sent one of the amirs, Yasūdor, to collect three years of ḵarāǰ due from Yazd and to summon him to the throne to be confirmed as governor of Yazd. After refusing Yasūdor and his men entry into Yazd, Yūsof Shah attacked them at their camp, killing Yasūdor and most of his men and taking his wife and sons captive. When Ḡāzān sent another amir, Moḥammad Īdāǰī, with 30,000 horsemen from Isfahan, Yūsof Shah fled with Yasūdor’s wife and children to Sīstān, where he remained beyond Ḡāzān’s reach. Īdāǰī spared the population of Yazd, which came under direct Il-khanid administration of a dārūḡa appointed by Ḡāzān. Moʿīnī (Montaḵab al-tawārīḵ, pp. 33-34), however, has a different version of Yūsof Shah’s final days, in which he was captured in Khorasan and taken to Ḡāzān at Tabrīz, where he was eventually pardoned. However, Ḡāzān later had him executed for refusing to accompany him on a campaign to Syria. Moʿīnī adds that Yūsof Shah had two sons, ʿAlāʾ-al-dawla and Salḡor Shah, who eventually died in disgrace in Yazd during the period of Il-khanid control. Some of the descendants of the atābaks of Yazd were still to be found in Moʿīnī’s own day (he wrote in 817/1414-15) “occupied as dervishes and cultivators along with the multitudes of subjects” (op. cit., p. 34).



I. Primary sources. The only comprehensive accounts of the dynasty are those of the local histories of Yazd, though they are sketchy and chronologically confusing.

The earliest of these, Jaʿfar b. Moḥammad Jaʿfarī’s Tārīḵ-eYazd, ed. Ī. Afšār (Tehran, 1343 Š./1964, pp. 38-46) is the basis for Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn Kāteb’s Tārīḵ-eǰadīd e Yazd, ed. Ī. Afšār (Tehran, 1345 Š./ 1966, pp. 64-79) and Moḥammad Mofīd Mostawfī Bāfqī’s Jāmeʿ-e mofīdī, ed. Ī. Afšār (Tehran, 1342 Š./1963, pp. 83-92), which repeat Jaʿfarī but have some additional information.

These works are noteworthy for their information on architectural monuments commissioned by the atābaks.

As noted above, Moʿīn-al-dīn Naṭanzī’s Montaḵab al-tawārīḵ-e Moʿīnī; ed. J. Aubin (Tehran, 1336 Š./1957, pp. 31-35), gives an account of the last years of the dynasty which differs considerably from that of the local historians.

Some additional information can be gleaned from scattered references in three local histories of Kermān: Nāṣer-al-dīn Monšī Kermānī’s Semṭ al-ʿolā le’l-ḥażra al-ʿolyā, ed.

ʿA. Eqbāl (Tehran, 1328 Š./1950), the anonymous Tārīḵ-ešāhī-e Qarā-ḵetāʾīān, ed. M. E. Bāstānī Pārīzī (Tehran, 2535 = 1355 Š./1976) and Aḥmad-ʿAlī Khan Wazīrī Kermānī’s Tārīḵ-eKermān (Sālārīya), ed. M. E. Bāstānī Pārīzī (Tehran, 1340 Š./1961).

Šehāb-al-dīn Moḥammad Ḵorandezī Nasavī, Sīrat-e Jalāl-al-dīn Mīnkbernī, ed. M. Mīnovī, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965, pp. 171 n. 3, 402.

2. Secondary sources. For background on the Kakuyids and the changeover to atābak rule in Yazd, see C. E. Bosworth, “Dailamīs in Central Iran: The Kākūyids of Jibāl and Yazd,” Iran 8, 1970, pp. 73-95, and idem, “Kakuyids,” in EI2IV, pp. 465-67.

ʿA. Eqbāl, Tārīḵ-emofaṣṣal-e Īrān az estīlā-ye moḡol tā eʿlān-e mašrūṭīyat I: Az ḥamla-ye Čengīz ta taškīl-e dawlat-e tīmūrī, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1341 Š./1962, pp. 401-03.

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 اتابکان یزد atabakan e yazd ataabakaan e yazd


(S. C. Fairbanks)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 17, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 8, pp. 900-902