Military Organization under the Buyids in Bosworth's Scholarly Research

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Prof. Clifford Edmund Bosworth (1928-2015) was an English historian and orientalist, specializing in Arabic and Iranian studies. He received his BA in history from Oxford University and his MA and Ph.D. in the same field from Edinburgh University. Prof. Bosworth was a long-standing member of the BIPS Governing Council and the editor of the Institute’s journal IRAN, handling all non-archaeological contributions.1  

He wrote hundreds of articles in academic journals and composite volumes. His other contributions include nearly 200 articles in the Encyclopaedia of Islam and some 100 articles in the  Encyclopædia Iranica, and articles for Encyclopædia Britannica and Encyclopedia Americana. Moreover, he translated remarkable medieval books like Tarikh-e Tabar, Tarikh-e Bayhaqi, and Tarikh-e Gardizi. His books include:

Historic Cities of the Islamic World, (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2007).

The Islamic Dynasties, a Chronological, and Genealogical Handbook, (Edinburgh University Press 1967, revised ed. 1980).

Sistan under the Arabs, from the Islamic Conquest to the Rise of the Saffarids (30-250/651-864), (IsMEO, Rome 1968).

The medieval history of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Variorum, Collected Studies Series, (London 1977).2

Bosworth's scholarly works on the Ghaznavids including The Ghaznavids, their Empire in Afghanistan and Eastern Iran 994-1040, (Edinburgh University Press, 1963) are remarkable in such a way that we cannot study the Ghaznavids without frequent references to Bosworth. But this paper addresses Bosworth’s scholarly studies through his article “Military Organization under the Buyids of Persia and Iraq”, Oriens, Vol. 18/19 (1965/1966), pp. 143-167.

Reviewing the studies on the Buyids (932-1055), Bosworth highlights the orientalists’ disregard for the Dailami dynasties in general and the Buyids particularly. Bosworth refers to V. Minorsky's persistent attempts to stimulate interest in the “Dailami interlude” of Iranian history to support his idea. Minorsky has criticized Spuler's anti-Dailami and pro-Turkish bias in his review of Spuler's Iran in fruh-islamischer Zeit, in Gottingische Gelehrte Anzeigen, CCVII/3-4 [1953], 193-9.   Bosworth explores the reasons for the paucity of scholarly works in the “unenthusiastic” or even “downright condemnatory” attitude of Muslim chroniclers towards the Buyids, the most prominent of the Dailami dynasties. Bosworth divides the Buyids and historical works written during their rule in two subdivisions. The first generation of the Buyids like Laila b. Nu'man, Makin b. Kaki, Asfir b. Shiruya, Marddvic b. Ziyar and the three Buyid brothers 'Ali 'Imad ad-Daula, Hasan Rukn ad-Daula, and Ahmad Mu'izz ad-Daula are regarded as “Barbarians” by Bosworth who “brought savage destruction into the ancient lands of culture and civilization of western Persia and Iraq” (Bosworth, p.143). He specifies that the Buyid family rose to power as soldiers of fortune, and the part played in Islamic history by their people, the Dailamis, was almost exclusively military “No great administrators, scholars or literary men arose from this remote and culturally backward mountain region of Persia, but the Buyid Amirs depended on secretaries and officials from the Arab lands or from the rest of Persia for the smooth running of their government” (p. 144).

Bosworth considers the second phase of the Buyid rule as the time of peace and prosperity. This time, the second half of the 10th century, particularly in Adud ad-Daula Fana Khusrau’s reign (949-983), the Buyid power was at its height and their territories extended from Iraq and Oman to the borders of Khorasan and Baluchestan: “This was undeniably an age of cultural brilliance, above all for Arabic literature and learning; sufficient to note that the Kitab al-Aghtni and al-Mutanabbi's 'Adudiyyat were written under the Buyids and that such great scholars as Abul Fadl b. al-'Amid and the Sahib Isma'il b. 'Abbad served as their ministers” (Bosworth, pp. 143-144).

But what Bosworth will elaborate on in his article is not the Buyid’s cultural achievements, but their military system comprising mostly the Dailamis. The Buyids were an aggressive and expanding dynasty. They clashed with the Samanids and Ziyarids in the east and the Hamdanids and other Arab Amirates of the Syrian Desert fringes in the west (Bosworth, p. 144). But what strikes Bosworth is not just the expansionist aspect of the Buyid state, which was so common among many medieval dynasties in Iran, but “the mixed nature of the Buyid armies and their place in the development of the multinational, slave-centered armies characteristic of the middle Abbasid period and beyond” (Bosworth, p. 144).

Dailami, living in the mountainous Caspian region next to Gilan, were the first elements of the Buyid dynasty. These mountaineers, who revealed their aptitude for warfare, “achieved a reputation as mercenary soldiers, above all as infantrymen” (Bosworth, p. 147). The Dailamis and Gilanis formed the national backing of the three Buyid brothers and are often referred to by contemporaries as the auliya', partisans of the dynasty par excellence (e.g. by Hill, in Eclipse, III, 12, 41, 151, 242, 379, tr. VI, 4, 39, 157, 256, 406, and Tanukhi, Nishwar al-muhadara, 154, tr. 168); and in his dying testament of 356/967 Mu'izz ad-Daula enjoined his son and successor in Baghdad, 'Izz ad-Daula Bakhtiar, to cherish and conciliate the Dailamis and always see that they were paid regularly (Miskawaih, in Eclipse, II, 234 ff., tr. V, 248 ff.).

Bosworth is one of the first scholars highlighting the role of the Dailami not only in the Buyids dynasty but also the Ghaznavids, the Saljuqs, and the Abbasid Caliphate: “Under the Buyids, the Dailamis continued to play their historic role as hardy infantrymen, with their swords and brightly painted shields, their battleaxes, their bows and arrows, and above all, their Zupins, two-pronged short spears which could be used either for thrusting or for hurling at the enemy as javelins” (Bosworth, p. 149). Bosworth provides detailed accounts of the military tactics the Dailami infantrymen employed to advance on their enemies. One significant characteristic of the Dailmai was their care for purity of blood and lineage which one might expect in a proud, isolated mountain people, “Maqdisi, 368-9, stresses how marriage in Dailam was strictly endogamous, with death as the penalty for exogamy; when in Dailam, he himself witnessed the murderous pursuit of a man accused of this social crime. Furthermore, within this endogamous framework, some marriage practices flourished in Dailam which were outside those sanctioned by the Sharia and which may have approximated to the looser ways of pre-Islamic Persia” (Bosworth, p. 152).

The racial solidarity of Dailami was so critical not only in their military duties and prestige but also in receiving the pay and privileges so that many non-Dailamis frequently insinuated themselves into their ranks, and that periodical reviews of the troops were necessary, “In 388/998 Samsam ad-Daula of Firs and Kirmin was advised by his counselors to make a register of all the Dailamis in his territories, retaining those whose lineage was sound (sarik an-nasab wa asil) and rejecting those whose lineage was doubtful (mutashabbih) or who were obvious intruders (dukhala')” (Bosworth, 152-53). Bosworth supports his striking findings of the Dailamis with many examples of the medieval chroniclers namely al-Athar al-baqiya and, Hudad al-'alam.

However, this fact that the Dailamis were essentially infantrymen created a military problem for the Dailami generals who needed horsemen for their thrusts across the Iranian plateau. To solve this problem, the Buyids like the Abbasid Caliphate follow the prevailing military trend of the time and recruit Turkish cavalrymen. The indispensability of these Turkish cavalrymen was readily acknowledged by “the rank-and-file of the Dailami soldiery” (Bosworth, p. 154).

Having done much research on the Ghaznavids and the Saljuq, Bosworth compares the gradual growth of Buyid Amirs to their Turkish ghuldms than in their Dailami co-nationals, parallel to the gradual estrangement of the Great Saljuq Sultans from their Turkmen supporters.

The presence of Turks in the Buyid troops led to drastic conflicts between two ethnic groups of Dialamis and Turkish ghulams. The rivalry of the Dailami and Turkish elements of the Bilyid forces sometimes emerged out of religious attitudes challenged the solidarity and unity of the Buyid dynasty. Even the Buyid Amirs’ policy of bringing the two opposing ethnic elements together and of linking them both with his own family could not remove the disputes among two elements of Dailami and Turks.

One of the fundamental problems of the Buyid Amirs was how to pay their troops including Dailamis and Turkish ghulams requirements. Bosworth explores the roots of this difficulty in the attitudes of the Amirs themselves. He describes “their comparative inability to make the change from being military adventurers to becoming rulers of settled states” (Bosworth, p. 159). For the payment of their troops, the Buyids established a system of land grants, iqta's. In this system, the grantee was allotted a sum from the Kharaj of an estate or district. The Buyid iqt'a system derived from earlier practice in the central lands of the Caliphate, but the Buyid period is significant for the spread and consolidation of the system in western Iran (ibid).

The Diwan al-Caish was presided over by the 'Arid al-Caish, who dealt with the recruitment of soldiers, their recording in the registers (card'id), their state of equipment, and military preparedness, and the disbursement of their pay. At the peak of the dynasty's fortunes, under 'Adud ad-Daula and later under Bahd' ad-Daula, there were two separate 'Arids, one for the Dailamis and one for the Turks, Kurds and Arabs (Bosworth, p. 162). Besides iqta, the Buyids Amir paid their troops cash grants. However, as Bosworth specifies, the persistent attempts of the Buyid Amirs to satisfy their envious troops and unify the rival ethnic elements of Dailami and Turkish ghulam failed and ultimately led to the decline of the Buyids.

Maryam Kamali

C.E. Bosworth, “Military Organization under the Buyids of Persia and Iraq”, Oriens, Vol. 18/19 (1965/1966), pp. 143-167.




                              [2]. To learn more about the scholarly studies of C.E. Bosworth, you can visit




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