Ghaznavids, an Islamic Dynasty of Turkish slave origin (366-582/977-1186), which in its heyday ruled in the eastern Iranian lands, briefly as far west as Ray and Jabal; for a while in certain regions north of the Oxus, most notably, in Khwarzim; and in Baluchistan and in north-western India. Latterly, however, its territories comprised eastern Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and north-western India, with its last rulers reduced to the Punjab only. The genesis of the Ghaznavids lay in the process which took place in the middle decades of the 4th/10th century, whereby Turkish slave commanders made themselves in effect autonomous on the southern fringes of the Samanid empire, i.e., in Bost and Ghazni. After the death of the Amir Abdul Malik I (b. Nuh I in 350/961), the Turkish slave general of the Samanid army in Khorasan, Alaptagin, withdrew to Ghazni after an attempted coup to place his own candidate on the throne had failed. He dispossessed an indigenous family who had ruled in Ghazni, the Lawiks, and he, and following him a series of slave commanders, ruled there as nominal vassals of the Samanids; they struck coins but placed the names of the Samanids on them (Gardezi, ed. Habibi, pp. 161-62; Jozjani, Tabqaat, I, pp. 226-27; Nizam al-Mulk, pp. 142-58; Sabankarai, pp. 29-34; Bosworth, 1965, pp. 16-21). The fifth of these commanders was Sebuktagin, who governed Ghazni for twenty years till 387/997 with the title (as it appears from his tomb inscription, see Flury, pp. 62-63) of Al-Hajeb al-Ajal (most noble commander). In fact, he laid the foundations of what was speedily to become a fully independent power when the Samanids went into terminal decline in the 990s.
His son Mehmood had already been commander-in-chief of the Samanid forces in Khorasan during his father's lifetime, when the last amirs, faced with invasions by the Turkish Qarakhanids from the Inner Asian steppes, had had willy-nilly to rely on Sebuktagin and Mehmood to withstand these attacks. On Sebuktagin's death, Mehmood successfully asserted his right to succeed in Ghazni over a brother, Ismail (399/998), and thereafter was in sole control of all the former Samanid lands south of the Oxus, comprising Khorasan and what is now Afghanistan. He secured from the Abbasid caliph al-Qader legitimation of his independent power and a string of honorific titles, including the one by which he became best known, Yameen al-Dawla (Bosworth, 1962a, pp. 215-18). He divided up the former Samand dominions with the Ileg Nasr (Gardezi, ed. Habibi, p. 175), who took over all the lands north of the Oxus for the Qarakhanids, and began a reign of thirty-two years, lengthy by contemporary standards.
By ceaseless campaigning, he built up a vast military empire under his own despotic control. He continued his father's raids into the plains of India, and his success as a military leader ensured that there was always a numerous body of volunteers (Ghozat Motawe'un), eager for plunder, flocking to his standard from all over the eastern Islamic world. They supplemented his professional army that was made of specialist contingents of Arabs, the Daylamites, etc., but was essentially composed of Turks, with a core of elite Turkish slaves, namely the palace guards or Ghulaman-e Khaas (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 78-114). Ghaznavid armies penetrated into the Ganges-Jumna Doab and as far as Gwalior in Central India, but the culmination of his Indian campaigns was the attack on the celebrated shrine of Somnath in the Kathiawar peninsula (416-17 /1025-6), which yielded an immense haul of treasure (Gardezi, ed. Habibi, pp. 190-91; Ebn al-Athir, IX, pp. 342-46; Nazim, pp. 115-21). The Sultans' achievements as hammer of the infidels were zealously publicized throughout the lands as far as Baghdad, but, as Muhammad Habib pointed out (pp. 81 ff.), Mehmood's aims were essentially secular and confiscatory, not the conversion of souls. The Indian princes were left as tributaries, for an enforced policy of Islamization would only have been possible with an immense, thickly spread army to hold down the populace permanently; the real Islamization of the subcontinent only began in the 7th/13th century under the Slave Kings of Delhi (cf. Nazim, pp. 86-122).
In his middle years, Mehmood had taken over Khwarzim and towards the end of his life, he also extended his conquests westwards across northern Persia, his prime target here being the branch of the Buyid dynasty ruling at Ray. On the pretext of an anti-Shiite crusade, he marched against Ray in 420/1029, deposed its ruler Majid ad-Dawla and went on to attack various Daylamite and Kurdish princes of north-western Persia (Ebn al-Athir, IX, pp. 371-74). Thus by his death, Mehmood had constituted the most powerful and extensive empire known in the Islamic world since the heyday of the Abbasid caliphate.
His son Masud I, after setting aside his brother Muhammad, took over this empire (421/1030) plus the mighty but expensive army which underpinned it. Though personally brave, Masud's judgement was inferior to that of his father, and his arbitrary behaviour aroused antagonisms within the army and the civilian bureaucracy which impaired the efficiency of the military machine and the administration which had to find the taxation to pay for it. He continued his father's policy of campaigning in both India and Persia, personally leading the army on occasion, as in the attack on the Qalat al-Adhra'(Virgin fortress) of Hansi to the northwest of Delhi, in 428/1037 (Bayhaqi, ed. Fayyaz, pp. 703-04; Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 128, 235). In Persia, the province of Kirman was taken over from its Buyid ruler in 424/1033, but the Ghaznavid force sent there was soon driven out by a Buyid contingent sent against them the next year (Bayhaqi, pp. 552-57). Relations with the Qarakhanids of Transoxania were far from smooth. Ghaznavid vassal principalities on the upper Oxus, Kotal and Chaghanian, were harried by Qarakhanid raiders, and by 425/1034 the outlying province of Khwarzim had slipped from Ghaznavid control. But most serious for the stability of the empire was the appearance of the Oghaz Turks or Turkmen, led by members of the Saljuq family. These nomads had been infiltrating into Transoxania in the early decades of the 5th/11th century, acting as auxiliary troops for the various powers fighting there, namely Samanids, Qarakhanids, and Ghaznavids. Towards the end of Mehmood's reign they reached the northern fringes of Khorasan and began raiding the towns and oases of the province, pasturing their flocks on agricultural lands, devastating the countryside and disrupting the caravan traffic across Khorasan (Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 256-57; Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 219-26). The ponderous Ghaznavid armies failed to stem these incursions. By 427-28/1036-37 major cities like Marv, Ray, and Nishapur were opening their gates to the Oghaz, despairing of ever receiving adequate protection from the sultan. In a battle at Dandanqan in the desert between Saraks and Marv (431/1040), the Ghaznavid army was decisively defeated by the lightly-armed but more mobile Turkmen cavalrymen. The whole of Khorasan and the lands further west were now lost to Masud, and the Oghaz moved into northern Persia to lay the foundations there for the Great Seljuq sultanate of Persia and Iraq. Masud, despaired of retrieving the situation and fully expecting to lose Ghazni itself, retired to India, but he was deposed and killed by a rebellion of his troops when crossing the Indus in 432/1041 (Bayhaqi, pp. 831-46; Ravandi, pp. 99-101; Ebn al-Athir, IX, pp. 473-87; Sabankarai, pp. 79-81).
It fell to Masud's son Mowdud in his reign of some seven or eight years to wreak vengeance on his father's killers and to endeavor to stem further Saljuq raids into Seistan which might outflank the Ghaznavid territories from the south. Balkh, Herat, and Tirmiz eventually passed out of Ghaznavid control and the Nasrid amirate in Seistan was now within the Saljuq orbit, but Mowdud's energy enabled him, after a series of campaigns in southern Afghanistan, to stabilize the situation there and to continue the Ghaznavid traditions of raids in India. The late 1040s and early 1050s were something of a 'Time of Troubles' for the Ghaznavids, with some ephemeral reigns and that of Mehmood's surviving son Abdul Rasheed ending in upheaval in 443/1052, when one of Mowdud's former commanders, the Turk Toghrol, murdered the sultan and usurped the throne in Ghazni for several months (Ebn Fondoq, pp. 177-78; Ebn al-Athir, IX, pp. 582-85; Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 20-33, 37-47).
Re-establishment of the sultanate on a firmer basis fell to two sons of Masud, Farrokhzad and Ibrahim, the latter of whom reigned for forty years. Not surprisingly, the Saljuq ruler of the east, Chaghri Beg tried to take advantage of Ghaznavid weakness at the time of Toghrol's usurpation, but a Saljuq attack on Ghazna was beaten off. When Ibrahim came to the throne in 451/1059, irredentist hopes of recovering the lost territories in western Afghanistan began to look completely unrealistic, hence Ibrahim negotiated a peace agreement with the Saljuqs on a basis of what was then the status quo. The Ghaznavid empire, though now truncated, still comprised the region of eastern Afghanistan from Kabul to Bost, Baluchistan, and extensive lands in north-western India, and was strong enough in many ways to deal with the Great Saljuqs on a basis of equality. This now became a time of perceptible cultural and social interaction between the two empires, with marriage alliances, a free flow of poets and scholars from one to the other, imitation by the Ghaznavids of Saljuq titulature practices (seen, e.g., in the formal use now on Ghaznavid coins of the characteristic Saljuq formula al-Sultan al-Muazzam, 'highly-exalted sultan'), etc. (Bosworth, 1962a, pp. 223-24, 230-31).
The half-century or so from Ibrahim's death in 492/1099 till the struggle for power in eastern Afghanistan between the Ghaznavids and the Ghurids, which broke out around 543/1148, is spanned by the reigns of Masud III b. Ibrahim and his own three sons, Sherzad, Malek Arslan or Arslanshah, and Bahramshah, ruling successively. Apart from the two or three years of fraternal strife, it was a period of comparative tranquillity for the empire, deriving from the stability and prosperity attained by Ibrahim's restraint and sagacity, which was to continue substantially until the protracted struggle, ultimately lethal for the Ghaznavid empire, with the aggressive and expansionist Ghurids. Raids across the plains of northern India, mounted from the center of Ghaznavid power in the Punjab, Lahore, continued, for the exploitation of the riches of India was increasingly the raison d'etre for the empire's existence, shorn as it now was of its western lands, although these raids rarely went forward unchallenged; in the early 6th/12th century the Muslim armies faced powerful and resolute Hindu opponents from such dynasties as the Paramaras of Malwa and the Gahadavalas of Kanawj.
Masud III was an enthusiastic warrior whose armies were active in India against the infidels. It seems that Masud, like the rest of his dynasty, employed the spoils of war and the temple treasures of India to beautify his capital Ghazni and to construct gardens and palaces (Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 35, 87-89). Adjacent to the minaret of Masud (formerly, and wrongfully, attributed to Sultan Mehmood), the Italian Archaeological Mission in Afghanistan excavated a palace of his, notable for what was apparently a Persian poetic text on marble slabs forming a dado round an inner courtyard. The poem extolls the sultan and his forebears both as Muslim ghazes and as heroes connected with the Iranian epic, legendary past.
Signs of weakness in the state became apparent when Masud III died in 508/1115 and a period of internecine warfare amongst his sons followed, out of which Bahramshah finally emerged triumphant (511/1117), but only thanks to military aid from his Saljuq patron, the Sultan Sanjar (Jozjani, Tabqaat I, p. 241, tr. Raverty, p. 108; Fakhr-e Modabber, pp. 269-71). Bahramshah now had to reign as a Saljuq vassal, paying a heavy tribute and sending his son as a hostage at Sanjar's court in Marv; only once, in 529/1135, did he unsuccessfully rebel against Saljuq control. Thus now, for the first time since Mehmood had thrown off Samanid authority in 389/999, the Ghaznavid realm was subject to an outside power. Bahramshah was an active leader of raids into India, and his exploits there were hymned by his court panegyrist, the poet Sayyed Hasan Ghaznavi, but exact details of these military campaigns are lacking (Khan, pp. 62-91). In the later part of his reign, it was his fate to come up against the increasing power of the Ghurids from Ghor in central Afghanistan. The sultan's capture and execution of the Ghurid Sayf-al-Den Suri in 544/1149 provoked a punitive expedition by Sayf-al-Den's brother Ala'ud Din Hussein, culminating in a frightful sacking of Ghazni in about 545/1150-51. Bahramshah was driven into India, only returning after the Ghurid ruler had been defeated by the Saljuqs and made captive by them (Jozjani, Tabqaat I, pp. 241-42, 336; Fakhr-e Modabber, p. 437; Ebn al-Athir, XI, p. 135, 164-66; Khan, pp. 199-217; Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 114-19). The exact date of his death is uncertain, but probably fell in 552/1157.
The line of the Ghaznavids continued for some thirty more years, briefly under Bahramshah's son Khusro Shah, and then, with a greater duration, under the latter's son Khusro Malek (the two similar names are often confused and the events of their reigns conflated in the sources). Historical information on this period now grows sparse. It seems that there were further attacks by the Ghurids and that, by the early years of Khusro Shah's reign, Bost and Zamendavar were lost to the Ghaznavids. Perhaps by the accession of Khusro Malek in 555/1160 or soon afterwards, Ghazni itself was lost, not immediately to the Ghurids but to a group of Oghaz Turkish adventurers from Khorasan; these incomers injected a new element into the political structures of the region, and held up Ghurid expansion into the Ghazni region and Zabolestan for up to fifteen years. Khusro Malek, meanwhile, had moved his capital to Lahore, carrying on raids against the Indian princes and making the Punjab the last redoubt of Ghaznavid power. The Ghurid Shehab-al-Den or Moiz ud-Din Muhammad nibbled away at Khusro Malek's remaining territories, capturing Multan and then Peshawar, and forced him to pay tribute and to send his son to the Ghurid court as a hostage. Finally, Khusro Malek was besieged in Lahore and in 582/1186 forced to surrender, being then deposed and apparently executed shortly afterwards (Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 120-31). The Ghurids thereby succeeded to the heritage of the Ghaznavids in Afghanistan and north-western India, but did not enjoy it for long; within a generation, their empire succumbed in turn to their ancient rivals, the Khwarzimshahs.
The ethos of the Ghaznavid empire was, from the outset, strongly orthodox Sunni, with the sultans personally followers of the Hanafite legal school. Mehmood was assiduous in cultivating good relations with the Abbasid caliphs in order to supplement the naked force, which was the practical foundation for his authoritarian rule, with a moral and religious element. Immediately on his accession, he recognized the caliph al-Qader in the khotba of Khorasan, where the Samanids had continued to acknowledge his predecessor al-Tayee He regularly sent presents to Baghdad from the captured plunder of India. He emphasized his personal role as the enforcer of orthodoxy against dissidents within his own lands and against outside heretics like the Ismailis of Multan and the Shiites and Mu'tazilites of Ray. At the end of his life, without dwelling at all on the practicalities involved, he proclaimed that he was going to lead a crusade against the Ismaili Fatimids of Egypt and Syria (Bosworth, 1962b, pp. 59-74). Masud I continued this policy of identifying his rule with the caliphate and religious orthodoxy, and it was only the rise of the Saljuqs and the interposition of their empire between the Ghaznavids and Iraq which reduced direct connections with Baghdad for the later Ghaznavids (Bosworth, 1962b, p. 76).
The Ghaznavid sultans were ethnically Turkish, but the sources, all in Arabic or Persian, do not allow us to estimate the persistence of Turkish practices and ways of thought amongst them. Yet given the fact that the essential basis of the Ghaznavids' military support always remained their Turkish soldiery, there must always have been a need to stay attuned to their troops' needs and aspirations; also, there are indications of the persistence of some Turkish literary culture under the early Ghaznavids (Köprülüzade, pp. 56-57). The sources do make it clear, however, that the sultans' exercise of political power and the administrative apparatus which gave it shape came very speedily to be within the Perso-Islamic tradition of statecraft and monarchical rule, with the ruler as a distant figure, buttressed by divine favor, ruling over a mass of traders, artisans, peasants, etc., whose prime duty was obedience in all respects but above all in the payment of taxes. The fact that the personnel of the bureaucracy which directed the day-to-day running of the state, and which raised the revenue to support the sultans' life-style and to finance the professional army, were Persians who carried on the administrative traditions of the Samanids, only strengthened this conception of secular power. The offices of vizier, treasurer, chief secretary, head of the war department, etc., were the preserves of Persians, and no Turks are recorded as ever having held them. It was not for nothing that the great Saljuq vizier Khwaja Nizam al-Mulk held up Mehmood and the early Ghaznavids as exemplars of firm rule (Nizam al-Mulk, passim; Barthold, Turkestan 3, pp. 291-93; Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 55-97).
Persianisation of the state apparatus was accompanied by the Persianisation of high culture at the Ghaznavid court. Ferdowse sought Mehmood's beneficence towards the end of his life, but Mehmood and Masud are most notably known as the patrons of Persian poets with a simple, lyrical style like Unsar, Farrokhe, and Manuchehr (Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 173-77; Clinton; Moayyad). The level of literary creativity was just as high under Ibrahim and his successors up to Bahramshah, with such poets as Abu al-Faraj Rune, Sanai, Otman Mokhtare, Masud-e Saad-e Salman, and Sayyed Hasan Ghaznive (Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 196-97; Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 75-77, 107-10). We know from the biographical dictionaries of poets (Tazkera-ye Shu'ara) that the court in Lahore of Khusro Malek had an array of fine poets, none of whose devans has unfortunately survived, and the translator into elegant Persian prose of Ebn Muqaffa's Kalela wa Demna, namely Abu al-Ma'ale Nasr-Allah b. Muhammad, served the sultan for a while as his chief secretary (Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 127-28). The Ghaznavids thus present the phenomenon of a dynasty of Turkish slave origin which became culturally Persianised to a perceptibly higher degree than other contemporary dynasties of Turkish origin such as Saljuqs and Qarakhanids. Whereas most of the Great Saljuq sultans seem to have remained illiterate, many of the Ghaznavids were highly cultured; as emerges from the pages of Bayhaqi, Masud I had a good knowledge of Arabic poetry and was a competent Persian chancery stylist (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 129-30); Abdul Rasheed commissioned the copying in Ghazni of a superb manuscript on traditions describing the Prophet which survives today (Stern).
Art and architecture enjoyed a great florescence in the Ghaznavid period under the stimuli first, of enthusiastic patronage from the ruling dynasty and its high officials and commanders, not only in Ghazni but in provincial centers like Herat, Balkh and Bost, and second, of the great amount of money available for the arts of peace flowing in from the spoils of India. It is possible that idols and other trophies of war were on occasion actually set into the fabric of public buildings like mosques and palaces in the capital as symbols of the triumph of Islam over paganism (Scerrato). It is literary sources like Abu al-Fazal Bayhaqi and Abu Saeed Gardezi which tell us about the numerous gardens, kiosks, and palaces laid out by the sultans in the cities of the empire, since gardens are transient affairs and the use of sun-dried brick as the standard building material equally makes for impermanence (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 135-40). Nevertheless, some constructions have fortunately survived. At Ghazni, we have the tombs of Sebuktagin, the minarets of Masud III and Bahramshah, and the palace of Masud III mentioned above. At Lashkare Bazar on the banks of the Helmand river near Bost there survives an extensive complex of military encampments and palaces, whose foundation may go back to Sebuktagin or even earlier (cf, Bombaci, "Ghaznavidi"). All these provide us with evidence of the fine quality of Ghaznavid architecture and the elegance of its decoration. On a smaller scale, finds of ceramics and bronze work show us a plastic art which evolved from Samanid models but came to be influenced by Saljuq ones, whilst the fortunate preservation, albeit fragmentarily, of some mural paintings in the reception hall of the Lashkare Bazar palace, depicting the sultans' Turkish guards, indicates the existence of a lively representational art.
These major sources are discussed in C. E. Bosworth, 1963, and in idem, Ghaznavids, pp. 7-24, with full bibliographical details given in the bibliography at pp. 308-14 (updated in the 2nd ed., Beirut, 1973, pp. 315-318):
For the later Ghaznavids, the sources are much sparser. Apart from Gardeze for the earlier years, we depend mainly on non-contemporary sources like Jowzjani's Tabqaat and Ibn al-Athir's, in addition to the literary sources, all discussed in Bosworth, Later Ghaznavids, pp. 1-4, with full bibliographical details at pp. 187-91.
The whole history of the dynasty is covered in Bosworth, Ghaznavids, and idem, Later Ghaznavids. Several articles by Bosworth dealing specifically with Ghaznavid history, literature, and culture are collected together in his Medieval History of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Variorum Reprints, London, 1977, nos. X-XVI, XVIII. Of recent studies which touch upon Ghaznavid history, see R. W. Bulliet, The Patricians Of Nishapur: A Study in Medieval Islamic Social History, Cambridge, Mass., 1972. See also