The Life and Times of ‘Amīd al-Mulk al-Kundurī

Carole Hillenbrand

There is no doubt that the most famous vizier of the first Seljuq sultan Tughril has acquired a somewhat curious reputation.1 Two lurid episodes stand out from the story of his life and death – firstly, his castration ordered by Tughril (or his alleged self-castration); and, secondly, his death at the behest of Niẓām al-Mulk, after which his body parts were sent to diverse places in the eastern Islamic world. These stories do him no favours at all. Indeed, much of the accepted view of Kundurī’s life comes through the lens of a retrospective and negative comparison between him and Niẓām al-Mulk, his immediate successor in the Seljuq vizierate. This perception is present already in most of the primary sources and is swallowed wholesale by none other than George Makdisi in his article on Kundurī in the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam.2 In this piece, Makdisi, normally such a sound scholar, goes overboard; his presentation of Kundurī is little more than a tirade against him, a rant in which Niẓām al-Mulk emerges superior to Kundurī on every front. Makdisi writes:

The main ambition of these two viziers was to manipulate power and influence through the sultans whom they served. Niẓām al-Mulk did this with consummate skill for three full decades, outmanoeuvring his rivals, and always keeping a step ahead of them in their plots and intrigues against him.

Makdisi then declares: ‘In comparison with the magisterial politics of Niẓām al-Mulk, Kundurī appears as a bungling fool’.3 Thereafter Makdisi embarks on an account of what he views as the egregious blunders committed by Kundurī during his career as vizier. Anyone looking for a detailed biography and balanced assessment of Kundurī will not find it in Makdisi’s article.

This paper will not discuss one key facet of Kundurī’s career – his religious policies, and in particular his involvement in the inter-sectarian disputes in eleventh-century Nishapur. This is a subject that has already received a great deal of academic attention and has produced lively debate amongst scholars of medieval Islamic history, law and theology.4 Recent scholarship has provided a more nuanced and balanced picture of Kundurī’s attitudes and conduct in the complex religious and political milieu of Seljuq Nishapur and the events of the anti-‘Asharite miḥna there, showing that he was by no means as fanatical and intransigent in his views as he has been painted.5

After giving a short summary of Kundurī’s life, this chapter has three aims: firstly, to examine aspects of the episode of Kundurī’s castration – a subject that has received little attention in the scholarly literature; secondly, to analyse Kundurī’s career on its own terms, without its being constantly seen through the prism of the achievements of his much more famous successor, Niẓam al-Mulk; and thirdly, to reflect more generally on the characteristics of the early Seljuq vizierate as exemplified in Kundurī’s career.

A short summary of Kundurī’s life

Kundurī was born in 415/1024–5 into a landowning family of Kundur in Khurasan.6 He was educated alongside the poet Bākharzī in Nishapur in the circle of the Shāfi‘ī scholar al-Muwaffaq al-Nīshāpūrī. Kundurī joined the service of the Seljuq sultan Tughril as a scribe in the dīwān al-rasā’il when Tughril came to Nishapur.7 In 446/1054–5 Kundurī, a mere thirty or so years old, took over as probably Tughril’s fourth vizier.8 At such a young age his rise to power was meteoric.

The primary sources chronicle in some detail a series of important occasions on which Kundurī played a key role. They include the following events. When Tughril arrived in Iraq in Ramāḍān 447/December 1055 Kundurī negotiated, both outside and inside Baghdad, on Tughril’s behalf with the entourage of the caliph al-Qā’im; eight days before the end of Ramāḍān/15 December 1055, al-Qā’im pronounced the khuṭba in Tughril’s name.9 In Muḥarram 448/April 1056, Kundurī then successfully brokered a marriage between the caliph and Tughril’s niece, Arslān Khātūn.10 During Tughril’s visit to Baghdad in 449/1057–8, Kundurī orchestrated a grand ceremonial face-to-face meeting between his master and the caliph.11 In 453/1061 Kundurī drew up a contract for Tughril to marry the caliph’s daughter. The horrified caliph summoned Kundurī to protest but was finally forced to sign the marriage contract the following year.12 The bride was taken to the caliphal palace in 455/1063.13

When the childless Tughril died in Rayy later the same year, Kundurī was seventy leagues away besieging Tughril’s nephew Qutlumush in the fortress of Girdkūh near Dāmghān. Kundurī acted decisively, arriving in Rayy only two days later, and he himself conducted Tughril’s funeral.14 He then had Tughril’s nephew, Sulaymān b. Chaghrī, named in the khuṭba as his heir. This appointment was, however, only short-lived. Sulaymān’s brother, Alp Arslān, was in Qazwin with his vizier Niẓām al-Mulk, who arranged for the khuṭba to be said in Alp Arslān’s name. Hoping to stay in his post with the new sultan, Kundurī then gave his public support in Rayy for Alp Arslān and, according to some sources, Alp Arslān appointed him as his vizier.15 However, in 456/1064, after Niẓām al-Mulk had met Kundurī and had become jealous and intimidated by the latter’s grand retinue and large number of troops, he obviously recognised a serious rival and at once moved against him. 16 He persuaded Alp Arslān to arrest Kundurī and to send him in custody to Marw al-Rūdh. Kundurī spent a year there in captivity before being killed. He died on 16 Dhu’l-ḥijja 456/29 November 1064. He was in his early forties, and had served as vizier for eight years and a few months.17

This short summary of the major events in Kundurī’s career highlights some substantial successes, and shows that despite his relative youth he was a seasoned and supple politician, clearly a man to reckoned with. Niẓām al-Mulk, though, had no room for a colleague to share his throne.

1. Kundurī’s castration

The custom of male castration in ancient and medieval societies is, of course, well known. Castration could be religiously motivated as in Christian contexts. The famous example of ‘the towering genius’,18 Origen (c.185 – c. 254), comes to mind. Taking literally Jesus’ words in Matthew 19: 12: ‘And there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake’, Origen performed what has been called ‘a brave, irrevocable, and controversial act’;19 he castrated himself to devote himself exclusively to God.

Eunuchs were used at the Sasanian court to guard the harem and possibly also as cupbearers.20 Medieval Muslim rulers also employed eunuchs to supervise the women’s quarters.21 Medieval Muslim ethnographic writings, such as the works of al-Muqaddasī and al-Mas‘ūdī, devote short chapters to the subject of eunuchs.22 However, amongst the terrible punishments inflicted on malefactors in medieval times in the Islamic world, there would appear to be little mention of the punishment of castration.

The story of Kundurī’s castration is included in almost all the chronicles which deal with Seljuq history, and there is no good reason to doubt it. This event is shown to have happened early during Tughril’s time, except in two accounts when the story is improbably placed at the beginning of the reign of Alp Arslān.23 There are two main versions of the story – one in which Tughril had Kundurī castrated, and one (less frequently given) in which Kundurī castrates himself. Some chronicles include both versions; others relate only that the castration was carried out on Tughril’s orders. No version mentions only Kundurī’s self-castration. An additional variant is that Alp Arslān ordered the castration shortly after he had become sultan. The exact timing of the event though is not as significant as the event itself.

i) The castration of Kundurī ordered by Tughril

In this version of the story Tughril had Kundurī castrated because when he sent him to ask on his behalf for the hand in marriage of an unnamed woman, Kundurī married her himself. Despite the castration, Tughril kept him in his service.24 The chroniclers do not give an exact date for this event but al-Bundārī says that it happened at the beginning of Tughril’s reign.25 Supposing this story is taken at face value, it is noteworthy that, despite Kundurī’s unwise action in stealing the woman from Tughril, who then had him castrated, the sultan still kept Kundurī in his service as his vizier. In this version of events, it is clear that Tughril still recognised and needed Kundurī’s outstanding professional abilities. Meting out such a punishment guaranteed that any further sexual misconduct would not recur; Kundurī would now focus single-mindedly on the job in hand.

ii) Kundurī’s self-castration

Ibn al-Athīr also mentions the self-castration as occurring in Tughril’s time and quotes a poem about the event by Bākharzī containing puns about testicles.26 A variant of the story, included in the account given by Ibn Khallikān, relates that after Alp Arslān had confirmed Kundurī in the post of vizier after Tughril’s death and had sent him to secure a marriage contract with the Khwarazmshah’s daughter, Kundurī’ s enemies spread a rumour that he wanted to marry her himself. When Kundurī heard that Alp Arslān was angry about this, he was so afraid that he cut off his beard and ‘eradicated from his body every trace of manhood’.27 In this version it is obvious that, despite being in his prime, Kundurī preferred high office and the exercise of enormous power to continued sexual activity.

iii) Reflections on the castration narratives

The castration story is inserted into the chronicles without any comment at all. Yet its widespread inclusion in the primary Arabic and Persian sources suggests that its memory lingered on tenaciously in twelfth- and thirteenth- century historiography. Perhaps the chroniclers of this period, who are so laudatory about the achievements of Niẓām al-Mulk, include the castration story (in one or both of its two main versions) in order to stress even more strongly the superiority of Niẓām al-Mulk, Kundurī’s successor as Seljuq vizier. However, the story is often placed somewhat uneasily in their obituary notices of Kundurī alongside the usual stereotypical panegyric phrases accorded to famous men.

One does wonder whether the castration story has an additional function and whether it is being used here in a metaphorical sense, as an exemplary warning of the dire dangers inherent in the exercise of supreme power. It is in this metaphorical sense that its probable historical context in Tughril’s reign carries with it some significant historical connotations which would not have been lost on an educated Persian audience. There are unmistakable resonances here from the story of Abarsām, the close adviser of the first Sasanian ruler, Ardashīr son of Bābak.28 This story appears in Firdawsī’s Shāhnāma29 but it is told at some length before Firdawsī’s time by al-Ṭabarī in his World History.30 Firdawsī would not, however, have needed the narrative of al-Ṭabarī to inspire him to write about the Sasanians since he could draw on ‘an ancient and still living folk tradition’.31 In the story of Abarsām and, as already mentioned, in some of the accounts of Kundurī’s life, both these high-ranking government advisers castrate themselves. Both serve the first ruler of a new dynasty. Both are associated, if only by gossip (especially in the case of Abarsām), with sexual misconduct, involving a woman in whom the ruler has an interest. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, both advisers continue to serve their masters afterwards. Abarsām gives Ardashīr a sealed box containing his testicles and tells him that he has castrated himself so as to exonerate himself from any potential suspicion on the part of the king. He says to Ardashīr: ‘I castrated myself so that no-one could speak evilly of me and soak me in a sea of infamy’.32

Sasanian history and culture were very familiar to the cultivated Perso-Islamic elites in Khurasan, especially in view of the popularity of Firdawsī’s Shāhnāma and the oral traditions on which this poetic masterpiece were based. Moreover, the numerous exemplary anecdotes and models of good government provided in the Siyāsatnāma of Kundurī’s arch-enemy, Niẓām al-Mulk, reveal just how deeply entrenched the memories of Sasanian statecraft and culture still were in Khurasan.33 So it is highly likely that Kundurī and his contemporaries, as well as some at least of the twelfth and thirteenth-century chroniclers, both those who wrote in Arabic and those who used Persian, would have known the story of Ardashīr and Abarsām. It is also worthy of mention that at the beginning of his account of Tughril’s reign, Rāwandī quotes a saying of none other than Ardashīr b. Bābak: ‘Every king must obtain a vizier…for his vizier is the prop of his kingdom’.

These arguments suggest that even in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the exemplary nature of Sasanian models of good government had not been forgotten. While no Arabic or Persian source explicitly links the Sasanian and Seljuq castration stories, it is eminently plausible that Kundurī himself would have been familiar with an episode from early Sasanian history that had such sinister personal relevance to his own case.

2. Kundurī’s achievements as vizier

Previous scholarship about Kundurī, notably the studies by Makdisi and Bosworth, has highlighted vigorously the series of mistakes Kundurī made during his short but eventful career in his handling of the complex internal rivalries within the Seljuq family. In the light of hindsight, Kundurī seems to have backed the wrong members of the family on several occasions. In particular, his decision after Tughril’s death to support his nephew Sulaymān b. Chagrī for the sultanate proved disastrous. Kundurī proved no match for Niẓām al-Mulk with his candidate for the sultanate, Alp Arslān, and even after Kundurī had belatedly declared his support for Alp Arslān, his future career was doomed.

To balance, to some extent at least, the above-mentioned negative judgement of Kundurī, the following discussion will focus instead on what may be viewed as his successes during the turbulent eight-year period of his vizierate. There is no doubt in the sources about his administrative abilities. Al-Bundārī mentions that when Tughril came to Nishapur he needed a scribe who could manage both literary Arabic and Persian; al-Bundārī adds that by taking Kundurī into his service Tughril had acquired ‘a youth with the judgement of a middle-aged man’.34 This makes excellent sense, since otherwise his promotion to the post of royal vizier at such an early age would simply not seem reasonable. Ibn Ḥassūl, a scribe in Tughril’s administration from 434/1058, whom Kundurī called the best scribe of the age,35 writes in his Arabic epistle extolling the virtues of the Turks that Kundurī read and commented on his work and that he translated it into Turkish for the sultan and explained it to him.36

Kundurī’s vizierate was a very difficult time for the Khurasani Perso-Muslim bureaucratic elite. To be sure, they had been acquainted with Turks during the Ghaznavid period, but there were no precedents for how to manage nomadic Turks coming into Khurasan on the scale of the Seljuq mass migration. Tughril’s entry into Baghdad was fraught with difficulties and it required sophisticated and delicate handling as well as linguistic and diplomatic skills of the highest order to deal with them. These qualities Kundurī possessed in abundance, and he managed the extremely difficult task of negotiating the relationship between the Abbasid caliph al-Qā’im on the one hand and the untutored Turkish-speaking Seljuq sultan Tughril on the other hand. When speaking or writing to the caliph elaborate Arabic protocols that befitted his office were needed, and Kunduri appears to have been the ideal man to write these.

The build-up to Tughril’s eventual entry into Baghdad was complicated. Preliminary meetings were held by Kundurī with the caliphal retinue, and indeed with the caliph himself. Kundurī needed to draw up documents and letters in Arabic and then to translate and explain these as well as the caliph’s responses to his master Tughril in Turkish, presenting their contents in an appropriate light so as to flatter the sultan’s vanity and not to antagonise him. Once in control in Baghdad, Kundurī the administrator came to the fore; as the author of the Pseudo-Nishāpūrī writes: ‘Al-Kundurī took all the official governmental correspondence under his control in such a manner that the dust of affliction settled nowhere’.37 In particular, Kundurī asked to see papers on the taxation revenues of Baghdad and he decided on a suitable revenue for the caliph.38 In other words, he controlled the caliphal purse strings. The same source relates that whilst in custody just before his death, Kundurī was questioned closely by Niẓām al-Mulk about the conditions in the provinces and about the contents of the tax-registers of every city and district.39 More generally, it is clear from the sources that Kundurī’s administrative skills were fully recognised by Niẓām al-Mulk, who was envious of Kundurī’s ostentatious public persona but must also have feared him just because of his all-round competence.40 Much then had been achieved in just over eight years by such a young but brilliant linguist and bureaucrat.

Kundurī’s last hours are presented in the sources as a model for how to meet death with courage, dignity and piety. Al-Bundārī takes the trouble to point out the high status that Kundurī had enjoyed in his heyday by mentioning that his torso was wrapped in a cloth which was part of the covering of the Prophet’s burda and in a brocade; both these valuable textiles he had received as gifts from the caliph al-Qā’im himself.41 However, Kundurī’s death at such a young age provides an opportunity for the chroniclers to launch into didactic mode about the fragility and dangers of power; indeed, according to the well-known exemplary quotation given by Ibn Khallikān (and mentioned in different phrasing in other sources), Kundurī instructed his executioner to say to the vizier Niẓām al-Mulk: ‘You have acted wrongly in teaching the Turks to put to death their viziers and administrative heads. He who digs a pit shall fall into it’.42

3. The characteristics of the early Seljuq vizierate as exemplified in Kundurī’s career

Goitein rightly pointed out that in the period of Turkish and Mongol rule ‘the delegation of the highest civil authority to a competent official chosen from the conqueror’s cultivated subjects became imperative’.43 However, a Seljuq vizier had no prescribed role and no fixed tenure of office.44 The career of Kundurī epitomises many of the characteristics as well as the hazards of the vizierate. This was a dangerous position to fill. On the one hand, there was the potential for wielding enormous power and for the acquisition of great wealth. On the other hand, the office brought with it many dangers. It was not easy to enjoy a lasting and close relationship with the sultan who could often become jealous of the power wielded by his vizier. And the safety of a vizier was often endangered by rivalry from other contenders for his position. Many a vizier came to a violent end. All three famous early Seljuq viziers – Kundurī, Niẓām al-Mulk and Tāj al-Mulk – suffered this fate.

Scholars such as Lambton have argued for a clear distinction between the ‘men of the pen’, to which group viziers, usually Persian, belonged, and the ‘men of the sword’ who in the Seljuq period were mostly of Turkish extraction.45 She points out, moreover, that the most important function of the vizier was the supervising of state finances. Given his religious education and his administrative skills, Kundurī certainly conforms to the usual profile of a ‘man of the pen’ trained in Perso-Islamic learning and statecraft. However, the distinction between ‘men of the pen’ and ‘men of the sword’ in early Seljuq times was certainly not as clear-cut as Lambton, or indeed Makdisi, suggested, and it is important to correct Makdisi’s confident but erroneous assertion in the last sentence of his Encyclopaedia of Islam2 article where he declares: ‘Not the least among al-Kundurī’s mistakes was his personal engagement in battle, whereas Niẓām al-Mulk remained a man who manipulated the pen, leaving the sword for those better suited to the battlefield.’46

In fact this is totally wrong. Both these viziers, as well as some other later Seljuq viziers, entered the military arena. In his obituary notice of Niẓām al-Mulk, al-Subkī states grandly that Niẓām al-Mulk participated in military operations in Rūm, Aleppo, Khurasan and Transoxiana,47 and according to Sibṭ b. al-Jawzī, Kundurī besieged the citadel of Girdkūh in the year 455/1063.48

The problems posed by these unassimilated nomadic Turks were exacerbated by the peripatetic lifestyle that they continued to follow once they had entered the eastern Islamic world. Tughril was constantly on the move, but for the Iranian bureaucrat and scholar that Kundurī was, to accompany the sovereign such protracted journeys must have required enormous reserves of stamina. Yet he had to go with the sultan in order to keep control of what was going on. His strategic skills had to be exercised on the move.

Kundurī had to contend with many conflicting groups and their relationship both with each other and with him – the relationships between the Seljuq family with their nomadic followers, between individual members of the Seljuq family, between the Seljuq sultan and the caliph, and between all these groups and himself. This called for him to perform a diabolically difficult balancing act.

Other areas of the role played by Kundurī as vizier included acting as a kind of tutor to the sultan. In his high-flown panegyric of Kundurī, Ibn Ḥassūl mentions the vizier’s vast range of knowledge in the religious sciences, Arabic grammar, astronomy and physics and he records that Kundurī gave Tughril lessons in good manners, telling him edifying tales about wise men from the past.49 Ibn al-‘Imrānī writes that when Tughril met al-Qā’im, Kundurī translated the caliph’s words from Arabic into Turkish for Tughril.50

Ibn al-Athīr is sometimes hostile to Kundurī, measuring his behaviour unfavourably against that of Niẓām al-Mulk. For example, under the year 451/1059–60, Ibn al-Athīr tells the story of a library in Karkh being burned and books looted; Kundurī came and selected the best of the books. They numbered over 10,000 volumes. Having banished the mob who were looting the books, Kundurī then sat down to choose some for himself. Ibn al-Athīr remarks that this was a misuse of his power and wicked behaviour on his part, concluding as follows: ‘What a difference between his conduct and that of Niẓām al-Mulk who built his madrasas, organized learning in all the lands of Islam, and made pious donations of books and other things’.51

Kundurī does not seem to have appointed a family network in important governorships and high administrative posts in the Seljuq state, in order to bolster his own position, as Niẓām al-Mulk was to do later. Kundurī hardly had the time to do so though.

Concluding remarks

Kundurī established a key part of the role of the vizier in Seljuq times – namely to begin the protracted process of embedding the rule of the Seljuq Turks into what may be called Perso-Islamic government and making the presence of the Turkish military leaders and their nomadic followers palatable to the Arab and Persian populations whom they dominated by their military might. Moreover, Kundurī was striving to create a pragmatic working relationship between the Turkish military usurpers and the caliph. Yet there was no fixed blueprint for the role of a Seljuq vizier, nor for how long the post should last, although there were ample precedents from Abbasid, Sāmānid and Ghaznavid times. The difference for Kundurī and for those who were to succeed him in the post of Seljuq vizier was the need to learn how to handle the Turkish leaders and to control the disruptive presence of the Turkish nomads.

Above all, Kundurī had the difficult – and at times it must have seemed impossible – task of serving as the intimate adviser and first port of call to a ruler who was a powerful and wilful personality and whose upbringing and mindset could scarcely have been more different from his own. Tughril was a Turk, not a Persian, and he belonged to a nomadic society, not a settled one. Tughril’s Weltanschauung was not that of Kundurī, and it required constant vigilance on the latter’s part to handle the difficulties that arose as a natural result of these different perspectives.

Despite the hostile comments made about Kundurī in the primary sources because of the mistakes he made about which Seljuq aspirants to the sultanate he supported, the chroniclers give a generally favourable image of him. Indeed Qummī waxes lyrical about him: ‘After ‘Amīd al-Mulk Kundurī there was no vizier more distinguished in the blessed Seljuq state than he was’.52 Ibn Khallikān praises Kundurī for his ‘acuteness of mind and abilities as a scribe, adding that ‘he administered the state with uncontrolled authority’.53 Al-Bundārī, drawing on a respected historiographical genealogy which went back through ‘Imād al-Dīn al-Isfāhānī to the earlier twelfth-century Seljuq vizier Anūshirwān b. Khālid, gives the following assessment of Kundurī: ‘He had sound judgement, he was eloquent, he gave good advice (and) he was dominant in his position, having command of his sultan’.54 However, in his ornately phrased obituary notice of Kundurī, al-Bundārī balances this favourable assessment with a reference to his irresponsibility and the weakness of his ‘long hand’; 55 in other words, he lacked the firm grip of the true despot.

In sum, it can be said with some confidence that Kundurī was very far from being a bungling fool, as Makdisi avers. He was clearly an outstanding linguist, translator and negotiator. He was the de facto ruler of the Seljuq state at perhaps its most critical stage – that of obtaining from the Sunni caliph the necessary credentials of rule and titulature for the Seljuqs as ‘sultans of the east and the west’. Through protracted and tortuous negotiations, and despite a highly volatile situation, Kundurī managed to effect a modus operandi between caliph and sultan. It was his misfortune to arouse the hostility of Niẓām al-Mulk because of their religious differences and their intense political rivalry.

It is surely inappropriate and unfair to compare Kundurī’s eight-year rule with the thirty-year rule of Niẓām al-Mulk, as the primary sources, and indeed earlier secondary research which deals with the Seljuq period, have tended to do. Indeed, it can certainly be said that Niẓām al-Mulk built on the precedents set by Kundurī as well as creating his own strategies for staying in power. Kundurī was a young man though and the castration story, even if apocryphal, suggests his impetuosity and lack of self-control. Nevertheless, in the arena of grandiose ceremonies and negotiating at the highest level in the land, his reputation must have been a hard act to follow. In a number of ways, he was indeed a trailblazer for Niẓām al-Mulk.


1This contribution should be read in conjunction with my forthcoming book chapter about Niẓām al-Mulk where there is also an analysis of aspects of the Seljuq vizierate: cf. Carole Hillenbrand, ‘Nizam al-Mulk: A maverick vizier?’, in Edmund Herzig and Sarah Stewart (eds), The Idea of Iran , Vol V: The Age of the Seljuqs, (London, 2014), pp. 24–35.

2George Makdisi, ‘Al-Kundurī’, EI2, v, pp. 387–8.


4Cf. the impressive corpus of research published by Bulliet on Khurāsān in Sāmānid, Ghaznavid and Seljuq times – for example: Richard W. Bulliet, ‘Local politics in Eastern Iran under the Ghaznavids and Seljuks’, Iranian Studies xi/1 (1978), pp. 35–56, and idem., ‘The Shaikh al-Islām and the evolution of Islamic society’, Studia Islamica xxxv (1972), pp. 53–67.

5Peacock argues this case most cogently: cf. A.C.S. Peacock, Early Seljuq History: A New Interpretation (London, 2010), pp. 99–127.

6For other accounts of Kundurī’s career, cf. Heinz Halm, ‘Der Wesir al-Kundurī und die Fitna von Nīsāpur’, Die Welt des Orients, vi/2 (1971), pp. 205–33; C. Edmund Bosworth, article ‘Kondurī, Mohammad b. Mansur’, EIr.

7Harold Bowen, ‘Notes on some early Seljuqid viziers’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, xx/1 (1957), p. 110, citing Bākharzī, Dumyat al-Qaṣr wa-‘uṣrat ahl al-‘aṣr, ed. Muḥammad Rāghib Ṭabbākh, (Aleppo, 1930), p. 641. According to al- Ḥusaynī, Kundurī’s first post was as court chamberlain (ḥājib al-bāb); al-Ḥusaynī, Akhbār al-Dawla al-Saljūqiyya, tr. C. E. Bosworth as The History of the Seljuq State: A Translation with Commentary of Akhbār al-dawla al-saljūqiyya (London, 2011), p. 22.

8Cf. Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil fi l-Ta’rīkh, tr. D. S. Richards as The Annals of the Seljuk Turks (London, 2002), p. 57; Nīshāpūrī, The Saljūqnāma of Ẓahīr al-Dīn Nīshāpūrī, ed. A. H. Morton, (Chippenham, 2004), p. 20. However, according to Rāwandī, Kundurī was Tughril’s third vizier – cf. Rāwandī, Rāḥat al-Ṣudūr wa-āyāt al-surūr, ed. M. Iqbāl (London, 1921), p. 98. Al-Bundārī calls him ‘the first vizier of the Seljuqs’ – cf. al-Bundārī, Zubdat al-Nuṣra wa-nukhbat al-‘uṣra, ed. M. T. Houtsma in Recueil de textes relatifs à l’histoire des Seldjoucides Vol. II: Histoire des Seldjoucides de l’Irâq (Leiden, 1889), p. 10.

9Ibn al-Athīr, Annals, tr. Richards, p. 100.

10Ibid, pp. 103–04.

11Ibid, p. 114.

12According to Ibn al-‘Imrānī, Kundurī was in charge of organising the marriage contract. He took it with the caliph’s signature to Tughril and explained its contents to him. Ibn al-‘Imrānī also gives the text of the document; cf. Ibn al-‘Imrānī, Al-Inbā’ fī Ta’rīkh al-Khulafā’, ed. Qāsim al-Samarrā’ī, (Leiden, 1973), p. 198.

13Ibn al-Athīr, Annals, tr. Richards, pp. 141–2.

14Ibid, pp. 142–3.

15Ibid, p. 145; Sibṭ b. al-Jawzī, Mir’āt al-Zamān fī ta’rīkh al-a‘yān, ed. A. Sevim (Ankara, 1968), p. 110. For the short-lived appointment of Kundurī as Alp Arslān’s vizier, cf. Ibn al-‘Imrānī, p. 199; Ibn Khallikān, Kitāb wafāyāt al-a‘yān. tr. Baron Macguckin de Slane as Ibn Khallikan’s Biographical Dictionary, vol. iii, reprint, (Beirut, 1970).

16Ibn al-Athīr, Annals, tr. Richards, p. 146; Sibṭ b. al-Jawzī, Mir’āt, p. 112.

17Al-Bundārī, Zubda, p. 29; al-Ḥusaynī, History, tr. Bosworth, p. 24.

18Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity. From Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad (London, 1971), p. 82.

19Timothy D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge MA, 1981), p. 83.

20Touraj Daryaee, Sasanian Persia. The Rise and Fall of an Empire (London, 2009), p. 52.

21For a detailed discussion about eunuchs in medieval Muslim contexts, see David Ayalon, ‘On the eunuchs in Islam’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam i (1979), pp. 67–124; idem, ‘On the term khādim in the sense of ‘eunuch’ in the early Muslim sources’, Arabica xxxii (1985), pp. 289–308.

22Al-Muqaddasī, Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions: Aḥsan al-taqāsīm fī ma‘rifat al-aqālīm, tr. Basil Collins, (Reading, 2001), p. 200; al-Mas‘ūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, tr. Paul Lunde and Caroline Stone as The Meadows of Gold. The Abbasids (London and New York, 1989). pp. 345–6; cf. also Lutz Richter-Bernburg, article ‘castration’ in EIr, v, pp. 70–3 and Charles Pellat, ‘Khāṣī’, EI2, v, pp. 1087–92.

23Al-Ḥusaynī, Akhbār, tr. Bosworth, p. 23; Ibn Khallikān, Biographical Dictionary, tr. de Slane, pp. 293–4. Bosworth rightly points out the improbability of such a placing for this event: C. E. Bosworth, ‘Kondori’.

24Ibn al-Athīr, Annals, tr. Richards, p. 148; Sibṭ b. al-Jawzī, Mir’āt, p. 124.

25Al-Bundārī, Zubda, p. 30.

26Ibn al-Athīr, Annals, tr. Richards, p. 148.

27Ibn Khallikān, Biographical Dictionary, tr. de Slane, iii, pp. 293–4; see also al-Ḥusaynī, Akhbār, tr. Bosworth, p. 23.

28Al-Ṭabarī writes this name as Harjand b. Sām; cf. al-Ṭabarī, Tar’īkh al-Rusul wa’l-mulūk, tr. C. E. Bosworth as The History of al-Tabari. Volume V. The Sasanids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen (Albany, 1999), p. 24, n.85.

29Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Shahnameh. The Persian Book of Kings, tr. Dick Davis, (New York, 2000), pp. 556–8.

30Al-Ṭabarī, History, tr. Bosworth, Vol. V, pp. 24–6; see also al-Dīnawarī, Kitāb al-Akhbār al-Ṭiwāl, ed. ‘Abd al-Mu‘nim ‘Āmir and Jamāl al-Dīn al-Shayyāl, (Cairo, 1960), pp. 43–5.

31Davis, ‘Introduction’, in Ferdowsi, Shahnameh, tr. Davis, p. xiii.

32Ferdowsi, Shahnameh, tr. Davis, pp. 556–8.

33See Deborah G. Tor, ‘The long shadow of pre-Islamic Iranian kingship: antagonism or assimilation’ in Theresa Bernheimer and Adam Silverstein (eds), Late Antiquity: Eastern Perspectives, (Oxford, 2012), pp. 145–163.

34Al-Bundārī, Zubda, p. 10.

35Pseudo-Nīshāpūrī, tr. K.A. Luther as The History of the Seljuq Turks from the Jāmi’ al-tawārīkh. An Ilkhānid adaptation of the Saljuqnāma of Ẓahīr al-Dīn Nīshāpūrī (London, 2001), p. 43.

36Ibn Ḥassūl, Kitāb Tafḍīl al-Atrāk ‘alā sā’ir al-ajnād, ed. A. ‘Azzawī, (Cairo, 1940), p. 45.

37Pseudo-Nīshāpūrī, History, trans. Luther, p. 46.

38Ibid, p. 44.

39Ibid, p. 47.


41Al-Bundārī, Zubda, p. 29.

42Ibn Khallikān, Biographical Dictionary, tr. de Slane, p. 294.

43S. D. Goitein, ‘The origin of the vizierate and its true character’, Islamic Culture xvi (1942), pp. 255–62, 380–92; reprinted in idem, Studies in Islamic History and Institutions (Leiden,1968), p. 190.

44S. Fairbanks, ‘The Ta’rīkh al-vuzārā’: A History of the Saljuq Bureaucracy’, unpublished PhD dissertation, (University of Michigan, 1977), p. 140.

45A. K. S. Lambton, ‘Wazīr’, EI2, xi, p. 192.

46Fairbanks, ‘The Ta’rīkh al-vuzārā’’, pp. 152–3.

47Al-Subkī, Ṭabaqāt al-Shāfi‘iyya al-Kubrā, ed. Maḥmūd Muḥammad Tanaḥī and ‘Abd al-Fattāḥ Muḥammad al-Ḥulw, (Cairo, 1964), v, p. 313.

48Sibṭ b. al-Jawzī, Mir’āt, p. 101.

49Ibn Ḥassūl, Kitāb Tafḍīl al-Atrāk, p. 49.

50Ibn al-‘Imrānī, al-Inbā’, p. 189.

51Ibn al-Athīr, Annals , tr. Richards, pp. 130–1.

52Najm al-Dīn Qummī, Tar’īkh al-Wuzarā’, ed. Ḥusayn Mudarrisī Ṭabāṭabā’ī, (Tehran, 1389), p. 118.

53Ibn Khallikān, Biographical Dictionary, tr. de Slane, p. 291.

54Al-Bundārī, Zubda, p. 10.

55Ibid, p. 29. The Arabic term used here – yaduhu al-ṭūlā – is a calque of the Persian darāz-dast. The term was famously used of the Achaemenid ruler Artaxerxes I, known to the Romans as Longimanus. Once again, there are echoes of ancient Persian models here. What began as a physical description of Artaxerxes I, as shown in the rock relief on his tomb at Naqsh-i Rustam, took on the metaphorical meaning of rapacity and oppressive rule.


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