1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sāmānids

SĀMĀNIDS, the first great native dynasty which sprang up in the 9th century in E. Persia, and, though nominally provincial governors under the suzerainty of the caliphs of Bagdad, succeeded in a very short time in establishing an almost independent rule over Transoxiana and the greater part of Persia. Under the caliphate of Mamun, Sāmān, a Persian noble of Balkh, who was a close friend of the Arab governor of Khorasan, Asad, b. Abdallah, was converted from Zoroastrianism to Islam. His son Asad, named after Asad b. Abdallah, had four sons who rendered distinguished services to Mamun. In return they all received provinces: Nūḥ obtained Samarkand; Aḥmad, Ferghana; Yahyā, Shash; Ilyās, Herat. Of these Aḥmad and his second son Ismā‘īl overthrew the Saffārids (q.v.) and the Zaidites of Tabaristan, and thus the Sāmānids established themselves with the sanction of the caliph Motamid in their capital Bokhara.

The first ruler (874) was Naṣr I. (Naṣr or Naṣir b. Aḥmad b. Asad. b. Sāmān). He was succeeded by his brother Ismā‘īl b. Aḥmad (892). His descendants and successors, all renowned for the high impulse they gave both to the patriotic feelings and the national poetry of modern Persia (see Persia: Literature), were Aḥmad b. Ismā‘īl (907-913); Naṣr II. b. Aḥmad, the patron and friend of the great poet Rūdagi (913-942); Nūḥ I. b. Naṣr (942-954); Abdalmalik I. b. Nūḥ (954-961); Manṣūr I. b. Nūḥ, whose vizier Bal‘amī translated Tabarī's universal history into Persian (961-976); Nūḥ II. b. Manṣūr, whose court-poet Daqiqi (Daḳiḳi) began the Shāhnāma (976-997); Manṣūr II. b. Nūḥ (997-999); and Abdalmalik II. b. Nūḥ (999), under whom the Sāmānid dynasty was conquered by the Ghaznevids. The rulers of this powerful house, whose silver dirhems had an extensive currency during the 10th century all over the N. of Asia, and were brought, through Russian caravans, even so far as to Pomerania, Sweden and Norway, where Sāmānid coins have been found in great number, were in their turn overthrown by a more youthful and vigorous race, that of Sabuktagīn, which founded the illustrious Ghaznevid dynasty and the Mussulman empire of India. Under Abdalmalik I. a Turkish slave, Alptagīn, had been entrusted with the government of Bokhara, but, showing himself hostile to Manṣūr I., he was compelled to fly and to take refuge in the mountainous regions of Ghazni, where he soon established a semi-independent rule, to which, after his death in 977 (367 A.H.), his son-in-law Sabuktagīn, likewise a former Turkish slave, succeeded. Nūḥ II., in order to retain at least a nominal sway over those Afghan territories, confirmed him in his high position and even invested Sabuktagīn's son Maḥmūd with the governorship of Khorasan, in reward for the powerful help they had given him in his desperate struggles with a confederation of disaffected nobles of Bokhara under the leadership of Fā’iq and the troops of the Dailamites, a dynasty that had arisen on the shores of the Caspian Sea and wrested already from the hands of the Sāmānids all their western provinces. Unfortunately, Sabuktagīn died in the same year as Nūḥ II. (997, 387 A.H.), and Maḥmūd (q.v.), confronted with an internal contest against his own brother Ismā‘īl, had to withdraw his attention for a short time from the affairs in Khorasan and Transoxiana. This interval sufficed for the old rebel leader Fā’iq, supported by a strong Tatar army under the Ilek Khān Abu‘l Ḥosain Naṣr I., to turn Nūḥ's successor Manṣūr II. into a mere puppet, to concentrate all the power in his own hand, and to induce even his nominal master to reject Maḥmūd's application for a continuance of his governorship in Khorasan. Maḥmūd refrained for the moment from vindicating his right; but, as soon as, through court intrigues, Manṣūr II. had been dethroned, he took possession of Khorasan, deposed Manṣūr's successor Abdalmalik II., and assumed as an independent monarch for the first time in Asiatic history the title of “sultān.” The last prince of the house of Sāmān, Montaṣir, a bold warrior and a poet of no mean talent, carried on for some years a kind of guerilla warfare against both Maḥmūd and the Ilek Khān, who had occupied Transoxiana, till he was assassinated in 1005 (395 A.H.). Transoxiana itself was annexed to the Ghaznevid realm eleven years later, 1016 (407 A.H.).

See S. Lane Poole, Mahommedan Dynasties (1894), pp. 131-133; Stockvis, Manuel d'histoire (Leiden, 1888), vol. i. p. 113; also articles Caliphate and Persia: History, section B, and for the later period Maḥmūd, Seljuks, Mongols.