The political history of the Sāmānid state
The Sāmānids (204/819-395/1005) were the last Iranian dynasty to rule Eastern Iran before the advent of the Turkish Muslim states which dominated the_central Islamic lands during the medieval period. The Sāmānid state was the largest and most prosperous of the "Abbasid successor states and one of the most vigorous culturally. Yet like all successor states, the Samanids were beset by a high level of political instability which led finally to the dismemberment of the state between two Turkish dynasties, the Qarākhānid steppe rulers and the Ghaznavids, former vassals of the Sāmānids. This thesis explores the causes of this instability and attempts to account for the fall of the state, using the works of V.V. Barthold and R.N. Frye as points of reference. Barthold's hypothesis, which concludes that the Samanids and their bureaucrats were overwhelmed by an alliance of military and scholarly interests before the arrival of the Qarākhānids, is rejected. Instead the fatal weakness in the state structure is sought in the institution of patronage which controlled appointments to provincial governorships. Chapter one presents a survey of the sources with particular reference to the chronicle literature and the geographers, Iṣtakhrī, Ibn Hawqal and Muqaddasī; the unpublished works of the chronicler Ibn Ẓafir al-Azdī (d. 613/1216) and Muhammad ibn ˋAbd al-Jalll al-Samarqandī's 12th century biographical dictionary of Transoxanian scholars are also analysed. Chapter two comprises an overview of the physical and human geography of the 10th century mashriq. The following six chapters form a narrative of the political history of the dynasty from the obscure pre-monarchical period to 395/1005. Chapters five and six are devoted to the reign of Nasr ibn Aḥmad, a watershed in the Sāmānid period during which the earliest works of Persian literature were composed and many senior courtiers converted to Ismāˋīlīsm. Chapter nine examines the Sāmānids 1 sources of revenue, the state apparatus, the nature of Sāmānid politics and the ways in which rulers sought to legitimize their authority and Chapter ten summarizes my conclusions regarding Barthold's interpretation of the fall of the dynasty. The appendices include prosopographical studies of members of the state elite, notes on the Ismāˋīlī rebellion of 295/907, the history of the Khwārazmshāhs and an edition of Ibn Ẓāfir al-Azdī's chapter on Sāmānid history.