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The Samanids (900-999 AD)

The rise of Islam saw the Umayyad Caliphs of Damascus spread their rule eastward through Afghanistan and Northwest India (660 AD), the Sind (708-712 AD), Khwarizm, Sogdiana, Ferghana and Tukharistan (715 AD). The rise of Abu al-Abbas in 750 AD, founder of the Sunni Abbasid Dynasty in Bagdad, saw the "golden age" of Islamic civilization including the spread of Islamic rule further eastward along the Silk Road into Transoxiana past Samarkand (850 AD). By 868 AD, however, the Abbasid Calphate was in decline, having lost Egypt and Palestine to the Tulunids, as well as Spain and Northern Africa. In the east, Ahmad Balkh, a Khorasanian descendant of the Sassanid general Bahram Chobin, founded the Samanid Dynasty, which was also Sunni in faith and loyal to the Abbasid Caliphate, although subjects of the Tahirids. His successor Nasr ibn-Ahmed threw off Tahirid rule in 873-874 AD and made Bukhara the capital of the Samanid Emirate.

To the south, Saffarid power was challenged by the resurgent Abbasids and by local rebels. Encouraged by the Caliph, the Samanids under Ismail Ibn Ahmed took Khurasan proper from the Saffarids in 900, leaving them a toehold as vassals in Seistan. In 908 AD, Abmed Ibn Ismail annexed the balance of Saffarid terroritories. In 913 AD, the Buwayhids (Buyids), a Shiite Dailam conferation, conquered Persia and marched on Bagdad, overthrowing the Abbasids but leaving the Caliphate in his purely symbolic post. Despite pressure from the Buyids, the Samanids continued to control much of eastern Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, subjecting the Turkish rulers at Ferghana and Tashkent and the Hindu Kush to vassalage.

During this era of prosperity, culture and the arts flourished in Central Asia. The Samanids were tolerant of divergent religions, allowing Jewish traders (Radanites) to participate in the Silk Road trade, as well as supporting a substantial wine-making industry. During this period, the renowed scholar and physician Avicenna was born and studied in Bukhara.

In 961 AD, Manauf succeeded Abdul Malik as Emir on his death. The Samanid general Alptigin (of Turkish descent) threw his weight unsuccessfully behind another candidate, and subsequently withdrew to Ghazna (in Afghanistan) where he ruled semi-independently as a provincial governor. His son in law Sebuktigin succeeded Alptigin in 977 AD and was also recognized as governor by the Samanids. When Sebuktigin died in 997 AD, his son, Mahmud was less deferential. Mahmud of Ghazna declared himself Emir (in deference to the Caliph) but also took the title Sultan, declaring formal independence from the Samanids. He then struck a treaty with the Qarakhanids (Ilek Khanate) of Kashgaria recognizing a mutual boundary along the Oxus river that effectively split the territory of the Samanids in half. In 999 AD, the Ghaznavids defeated the Samanids (laying claim to Khorasan) and the Qarakhanids captured Bukhara, the Samanid capital, thus bringing an end to the Samanid list.

Army Composition

The Samanid army is comprised of the following element types:

3Cv (Gen) Samanid/Khorasani Noble Horse and Turkish Ghulams
2Lh Samanid/Khorasani Skirmishers or mercenary Turks.
4Sp Samanid Armored Spearmen
EL Indian elephant (Indian Arab tributaries)
4Bw or 2Ps Samanid/Khorasani archers
4Aux Dailami infantry (w/zupin)

To field this army you will need 9 cavalry (with at least 3 Iranian/Khorasani figures suitable for a command stand and the balance as Turkish ghulams or Khorasani horse), 2 Khorsasani light horse (bow armed), an Indian elephant with Arab Indian crew, 12 armored spearmen, 18 bowmen (to field both 4Bw and 2Ps options) and 4 Dailami foot (represented well equipped and drilled auxilia).


Qarakhanids/Central Asian Turks (III/11b), Dailami (III/57c), Arab Indian (III/38), Saffarids (III/43b), and Ghaznavids (III/63a). Although not listed by the Samanids as an enemy, the Central-Asian City States (III/8) list the Samanids as their enemy, with good reason since Samarkand, Ferghana, Tashkent and other cities of the Silk Road in the Transoxia were made tributories by the Samanids.

Camps and BUAs

Samanid MausoleumA representation of the Samanid capital at Bukhara with curtain walls, towers and middle-eastern style buildings would make a suitable BUA. I am building my Bukhara/Samarkand BUA using 6mm scale Middle-Eastern (Iranian) buildings from J&T Miniatures modern range.

The mausoleum at right is the only surviving building of the Samanid period standing near Bukhara and gives you an idea of the architectural style of the period.



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Last Updated: Jan. 13, 2002