Balkh, from the Seljuqs to the Mongol Invasion

In: Eurasian Studies
Jürgen Paul Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

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The current article deals with the forms of local rule at Balkh in the Seljuq and post-Seljuq period up to the Mongol invasion. At all times we observe relatively high degrees of regional autonomy, in which local rulers were far more than “governors”. Balkh was a regional state, or “minimal beylik”, at times included within larger imperial structures and at others continuing more on its own. Military manpower was frequently provided by Turkish nomads (Ghuzz), who are seen throughout the period as a powerful regional force. Urban notables (aʿyān) played a decisive role in local rule, in particular the qadis, who judged according to sharia rules, and the raʾīs, in charge of fiscal and administrative affairs. Besides these office holders the sayyids must also have been important, alongside other Muslim scholars, mostly Hanafi. Balkh therefore is another example for the amīr-aʿyān system, as has been described in detail for other Iranian cities of the Seljuq period. In the post-Seljuq era the situation continues but becomes more unstable. Hereditary lines of emirs emerge again and again, but the sources do not offer a clear picture of the chronological and prosopographic details.

The paper draws on general historiography, the extant city history and other narrative and non-narrative sources, as well as numismatic evidence.

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