An Historical Atlas of Central Asia by Yuri Bregel

By Yuri Bregel

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Layth, a son of a coppersmith, having gathered under his command numerous armed followers, drove out the governor of Sistan (the south-eastern province of Iran) who was subordinate to the Tahirids, and in 873 captured Nishapur, the capital of Khorasan, thus putting an end to the Tahirid rule. During the next six years Ya#qub conquered the southern provinces of Iran and threatened the caliph’s capital itself. His brother, #Amr, succeeded him in 879. He recognized the authority of the caliph, and the latter “appointed” him as governor of Khorasan in 892, but, in reality, he was an independent ruler.

Beginning in the reign of the caliph al-Mu#tasim (833-842), Turkic slaves brought from Central Asia were used in the guard of the caliph, and soon these slaves, called ghulams, became the nucleus of the army. Turkic slaves were brought to the Islamic lands from the steppes of Central Asia either after being captured in wars with the heathen Turkic neighbors of the caliphate or after being bought by Muslim slave traders. Since the Samanid state was the immediate neighbor of the Central Asian steppes, it had full control of the supply of slaves to the other areas of the caliphate and profited from it.

All these vassals sent only annual presents to the Samanid court, but paid no taxes. The largest province of the Samanid state was Khorasan, with its center in Nishapur, whose governor was also the commander-in-chief (sipahsalar) of the Samanid army. In the 940s and 950s Abu #Ali Chaghani (from the Al-i Muhtaj dynasty) was the governor of Khorasan and was close to establishing his independent rule there. Later, it was the commanders of Turkic slave troops who held this governorship, often hardly recognizing central authority; in 991 such a commander, Abu #Ali Simjuri, appropriated all state revenues from Khorasan.

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