The Backgrounds of the Saveh Battle and its Effect on the Changes in the Power Structure and Relationship in the Iran Seljuk
Article Type:
Research/Original Article (دارای رتبه معتبر)

Seljuk Turks’s conquest was followed by establishing a new political regime in Iran. In the case of organizing their territory, they were neither adhering absolutely to their ancestors’ social-political tradition which was dispersal of power, nor imitating completely Persian-Islamic landowning. This tribe wanted a political system which was capable of maintaining and organizing that vast territory, thereby they used Persian-Islamic doctrines to establish a centralized government; however, they must respect their ancestral traditions for satisfaction of their Turkmen citizens. Accordingly, they ceded parts of their territory to other Turkish princes. In such a political structure, the ruling kingdoms of the provinces constantly tried to rebel against the great sultan to seize his position based on the ethnic traditions of the Turks. Throughout the Seljuk rule over Iran, such events occurred several times. Although the great Seljuk sultans succeeded in suppressing these revolts on several occasions, Sultan Sanjar was finally able to break the traditions for the first time since the establishment of the Seljuk government, defeating the great sultan of the time - Mahmud ibn Muhammad - at the Battle of Saveh and replaced him in throne.


This study has been done with historical method. The required information was achieved by library study as well as referencing to main relative subject. Afterward, that information reviewed and criticized. Finally, the data which their accuracy confirmed, were written in a descriptive-analytical manner for the purpose of the research.


The Great Seljuk sultans, according to their governing strategy, appointed some members of their family to rule those states. Sanjar was one of these people who were appointed to rule Khorasan in 490 AH by Sultan Barkiarq. From then until 513 AH, when he defeated Sultan Mahmud in the battle of Saveh, Sanjar established relationship with the Great Seljuk sultans as a servitor of the central government. The most important factor in establishing these relations was the conflict between Barkiarq and Muhammad to gain the position of the great Seljuk sultan, in which Sanjar participated in favor of his brother-in-law, Muhammad. After the death of Sultan Barkiarq, Sanjar adopted a friendly strategy in relation to his brother Muhammad, who had ascended to the throne, and waited for the right time to elevate his position from Malik to Sultan. This situation was provided after the death of Sultan Mohammad and the beginning of the reign of his son Mahmud, and its consequences were determined during the battle of Saveh.Sanjar's sultanate which manifested in the outbreak of the Saveh war was the result of three factors. The first was Sanjar's great power. During the seigniory over Khorasan, while suppressing the claimants of power, he was able to achieve great wealth and power by continuing the Seljuk domination of Transoxiana and paying tribute to the Ghaznavids; on the eve of the battle of Saveh, he had a significant advantage over Sultan Mahmud. The second factor in the occurrence of this battle was Sanjar's reference to the political and social traditions of the Turks. According to these traditions, the sultanate passed to the senior member of the ruling family.Sanjar, who considered himself the elder of the Seljuk dynasty, based on this principle, believed that despite him, Mahmoud Nojavan did not deserve to hold this position. Finally, the third factor that gave Sanjar a good excuse to confront Sultan Mahmud was Mahmoud's inability to control the situation and manage the affairs of the sultanate. The fact was that Sultan Mahmud was dominated by those around him due to his inexperience and could not resolve the affairs of the sultanate properly. During the battle which took place in Saveh in 513 AH, Sanjar, who had prepared accurately and extensively for this war, succeeded in taking advantage of Sultan Mahmud's incorrect defense strategies as well as disagreement of his army commanders, and achieved an important victory. The battle of Saveh caused the sultanate to be transferred from Ajam Iraq and central Iran to the city of Merv in Khorasan. Subsequently, the status of the former great Seljuk sultans was reduced to an obedient  estates, and Sanjar, who was Malik prior to this event, became the Great Sultan. In proportion to the significant change in the power structure, relationships between the parties also underwent fundamental changes. Before the battle of Saveh, Sanjar, by his capacity as a king and from a low position, communicated with the great Seljuk sultans, after this war he became the Grand Sultan.Sanjar continued to give parts of the territory to Mahmud and his successors and indirectly supervised their affairs. During this period, factors such as Abbasid Caliphate, the struggles of numerous Seljuk princes for the throne of Iraq, the internal and external enemies of Sultan Sanjar and the rivalry of military rulers stationed in Iraq, led to the formation of relationship between Sultan Sanjar and Iraqi Seljuks. These factors, commensurate with their nature, played a dual role in the relationship between the parties. This means that in some cases they caused friendship, while they caused enmity in other cases. 


The political structure of the Seljuk government was a combination of the political and social traditions of the Turks and the pattern of Iranian-Islamic property. Turkic political traditions gave rise to centrifugal tendencies, and the Iranian-Islamic property model emphasized the concentration of power. Such a conflict led to repeated conflicts between the Seljuk central government and those obedient rulers. One of the most important of these conflicts was the battle of Saveh, which took place in 513 AH between Malik Sanjar and Sultan Mahmud. In the period before this battle, Sanjar established relationships with the Seljuk court from a low position as a Malik. Although Sanjar had an almost independent strategy of governing the territory during this period, he ostensibly considered himself obedient to the central government.He succeeded in gaining a lot of power over the land of Khorasan during the period of the seugniory, which lasted from 490 to 513 AH. This great power allowed Sanjar to claim the sultanate in appropriate circumstances after the death of Sultan Muhammad I, relying on the political and social traditions of the Turks in the field of entitlement of a senior member of the ruling family to seize the throne and Sultan Mahmud's inability to run affairs. Such factors provided the grounds for conflict between the parties in the battle of Saveh. Sultan Mahmud was defeated by the powerful Sanjar Corps due to adopting the wrong military strategy and differences of command.The Battle of Saveh resulted in the transfer of the sultanate from the central Iran and Ajam Iraq to Khorasan. This battle led to the formation of a new local dynasty called the Iraqi Seljuks. Another important consequence of this battle was a change in relations between the two sides. In the post-war period until Sanjar's death in 552 AH, the Iraqi Seljuks were a local dynasty headed by Sanjar, and Sanjar indirectly supervised their situation. Factors such as the institution of the Abbasid Caliphate, the internal and external enemies of Sanjar, and the internal conflicts of the Iraqi Seljuks caused the relations between the parties which were friendship in some cases and enmities in other cases.

Journal of The Iranian Studies, Volume:20 Issue: 40, 2022
63 to 97  
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