Aq Qoyunlu

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Aq Qoyunlu
آق قویونلو
Tamga of Bayandur used by Aq Qoyunlu[2] of Aq Qoyunlu
Tamga of Bayandur used by Aq Qoyunlu[2]
The Aq Qoyunlu confederation at its greatest extent under Uzun Hasan
The Aq Qoyunlu confederation at its greatest extent under Uzun Hasan
StatusConfederate Sultanate
Common languages
Sunni Islam[7]
• 1378–1435
Uthman Beg
• 1497–1503
Sultan Murad
  • Kengač (legislative)[3]
  • Boy ḵānları (military)[3]
Historical eraMedieval
• First raid on the Trapezuntine Empire by Tur Ali Beg[8]
• Siege of Trebizond[8]
• Established
• Coup by Uzun Hasan[3]
Autumn 1452
• Reunification[3]
• Death of Ahmad Beg, division of the Aq Qoyunlu[3]
December, 1497
• Collapse of the Aq Qoyunlu rule in Iran[3]
Summer 1503
• End of the Aq Qoyunlu rule in Mesopotamia[3]
Autumn 1508
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Qara Qoyunlu
Safavid Empire
Ottoman Empire

The Aq Qoyunlu[d] (Persian: آق‌ قویونلو‎, Azerbaijani: Ağqoyunlular آغ‌قویونلولار‎) was a Persianate[12][13] Sunni[7] Turkoman[14][15][16] tribal confederation that ruled parts of present-day eastern Turkey from 1378 to 1503, and in their last decades also ruled Armenia, Azerbaijan, most of Iran, and Iraq. The Aq Qoyunlu empire reached its zenith under Uzun Hasan.[3]



The name Aq Qoyunlu (meaning White Sheep) is first mentioned in late 14th century sources. It has been suggested that this name refers to old totemic symbols, but according to Rashid al-Din Hamadani, the Turks were forbidden to eat the flesh of their totem-animals, and so this is unlikely given the importance of mutton in the diet of pastoral nomads. Another hypothesis is that the name refers to the predominant color of their flocks.[3]


According to chronicles from the Byzantine Empire, the Aq Qoyunlu are first attested in the district of Bayburt south of the Pontic mountains from at least the 1340s.[17] In these chronicles, Tur Ali Beg was mentioned as lord of the "Turks of Amid", who had already attained the rank of amir under the Ilkhan Ghazan. Under his leadership, they besieged Trebizond, but failed to take the town.[18] A number of their leaders, including the dynasty's founder, Qara Osman,[19] married Byzantine princesses.[20]

By the end of the Ilkhanid period in the mid-14th century, the Oghuz tribes that comprised the Aq Qoyunlu confederation roamed the summer pastures in Armenia, in particular, the upper reaches of the Tigris river and winter pastures between the towns of Diyarbakır and Sivas. Since the end of the 14th century, Aq Qoyunlu waged constant wars with another tribal confederation of the Oghuz tribes, the Qara Qoyunlu. The leading Aq Qoyunlu tribe was the Bayandur tribe.[21]

Uzun Hasan used to assert the claim that he was an "honorable descendant of Oghuz Khan and his grandson, Bayandur Khan". In a letter dating to the year 1470, which was sent to Şehzade Bayezid, the-then governor of Amasya, Uzun Hasan wrote that those from the Bayandur and Bayat tribes, as well as other tribes that belonged to the "Oghuz il", and formerly inhabited Mangyshlak, Khwarazm and Turkestan, came and served in his court. He also made the tamga of the Bayandur tribe the symbol of his state. For this reason, the Bayandur tamga is found in Aq Qoyunlu coins, their official documents, inscriptions and flags.[8]


The Aq Qoyunlu Sultans claimed descent from Bayindir Khan, which was a grandson of Oghuz Khagan, the legendary ancestor of Oghuz Turks.[22]

Professor G. L. Lewis:[23]

The Ak-koyunlu Sultans claimed descent from Bayindir Khan and it is likely, on the face of it, that the Book of Dede Korkut was composed under their patronage. The snag about this is that in the Ak-koyunlu genealogy Bayindir's father is named as Gok ('Sky') Khan, son of the eponymous Oghuz Khan, whereas in our book he is named as Kam Ghan, a name otherwise unknown. In default of any better explanation, I therefore incline to the belief that the book was composed before Ak-koyunlu rulers had decided who their ancestors where. It was in 1403 that they ceased to be tribal chiefs and became Sultans, so we may assume that their official genealogy was formulated round about that date.

According to the Kitab-i Diyarbakriyya, the grandfathers of Uzun Hasan back to the prophet Adam in the 68th generation are listed by name and information is given about them. Among them is Tur Ali Bey, the grandfather of Uzun Hasan's grandfather, who is also mentioned in other sources. But it is difficult to say whether Pehlivan Bey, Ezdi Bey and Idris Bey, who are listed in earlier periods, really existed. Most of the people who are listed as the ancestors of Uzun Hasan are names related to the Oghuz legend and to Oghuz rulers.[24]

Uzun Hasan[edit]

The Aq Qoyunlu Turkomans first acquired land in 1402, when Timur granted them all of Diyar Bakr in present-day Turkey. For a long time, the Aq Qoyunlu were unable to expand their territory, as the rival Qara Qoyunlu or "Black Sheep Turkomans" kept them at bay. However, this changed with the rule of Uzun Hasan, who defeated the Black Sheep Turkoman leader Jahān Shāh in 1467.

After the defeat of a Timurid leader, Abu Sa'id Mirza, Uzun Hasan was able to take Baghdad along with territories around the Persian Gulf. He expanded into Iran as far east as Khorasan. However, around this time, the Ottoman Empire sought to expand eastwards, a serious threat that forced the Aq Qoyunlu into an alliance with the Karamanids of central Anatolia.

As early as 1464, Uzun Hasan had requested military aid from one of the Ottoman Empire's strongest enemies, Venice. Despite Venetian promises, this aid never arrived and, as a result, Uzun Hassan was defeated by the Ottomans at the Battle of Otlukbeli in 1473,[25] though this did not destroy the Aq Qoyunlu.

In 1470, Uzun selected Abu Bakr Tihrani to compile a history of the Aq Qoyunlu confederation.[26] The Kitab-i Diyarbakriyya, as it was called, referred to Uzun Hasan as sahib-qiran and was the first historical work to assign this title to a non-Timurid ruler.[26]

Sultan Ya'qub[edit]

Miniature of Sultan Ya'qub and his courtiers, Mehmed the Conqueror's album

When Uzun Hasan died early in 1478, he was succeeded by his son Khalil Mirza, but the latter was defeated by a confederation under his younger brother Ya'qub at the Battle of Khoy in July.[11]: 128 

Ya'qub, who reigned from 1478 to 1490, sustained the dynasty for a while longer. However, during the first four years of his reign there were seven pretenders to the throne who had to be put down.[11]: 125  Following Ya'qub's death, civil war again erupted, the Aq Qoyunlus destroyed themselves from within, and they ceased to be a threat to their neighbors. The early Safavids, who were followers of the Safaviyya religious order, began to undermine the allegiance of the Aq Qoyunlu. The Safavids and the Aq Qoyunlu met in battle in the city of Nakhchivan in 1501 and the Safavid leader Ismail I forced the Aq Qoyunlu to withdraw.[27]

In his retreat from the Safavids, the Aq Qoyunlu leader Alwand destroyed an autonomous state of the Aq Qoyunlu in Mardin. The last Aq Qoyunlu leader, Sultan Murad, brother of Alwand, was also defeated by the same Safavid leader. Though Murād briefly established himself in Baghdad in 1501, he soon withdrew back to Diyar Bakr, signaling the end of the Aq Qoyunlu rule.

Ahmad Beg[edit]

Amidst the struggle for power between Uzun Hasan's grandsons Baysungur (son of Yaqub) and Rustam (son of Maqsud), their cousin Ahmed Bey appeared on the stage. Ahmed Bey was the son of Uzun Hasan's eldest son Ughurlu Muhammad, who, in 1475, escaped to the Ottoman Empire, where the sultan, Mehmed the Conqueror, received Uğurlu Muhammad with kindness and gave him his daughter in marriage, of whom Ahmed Bey was born.[28]

According to Hasan Rumlu's Ahsan al-tavarikh, in 1496-7, Hasan Ali Tarkhani went to the Ottoman Empire to tell Sultan Bayezid II that Azerbaijan and Persian Iraq were defenceless and suggested that Ahmed Bey, heir to that kingdom, should be sent there with Ottoman troops. Beyazid agreed to this idea, and by May 1497 Ahmad Bey faced Rustam near Araxes and defeated him.[28]


The leaders of Aq Qoyunlu were from the Begundur or Bayandur clan of the Oghuz Turks[29] and were considered descendants of the semi-mythical founding father of the Oghuz, Oghuz Khagan.[30] The Bayandurs behaved like statesmen rather than warlords and gained the support of the merchant and feudal classes of Transcaucasia (present-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia).[30]

Uzun Hasan's conquest of most of mainland Iran shifted the seat of power to the east, where the Aq Qoyunlu adopted Iranian customs for administration and culture. In the Iranian areas, Uzun Hasan preserved the previous bureaucratic structure along with its secretaries, who belonged to families that had in a number of instances served under different dynasties for several generations. The four top civil posts of the Aq Qoyunlu were all occupied by Iranians, which under Uzun Hasan included; the vizier, who led the great council (divan); the mostawfi al-mamalek, high-ranking financial accountants; the mohrdar, who affixed the state seal; and the marakur "stable master", who supervised the royal court.[3] Culture flourished under the Aq Qoyunlu, who, although of coming from a Turkic background, sponsored Iranian culture. Uzun Hasan himself adopted it and ruled in the style of an Iranian king.[31]

In letters from the Ottoman Sultans, when addressing the kings of Aq Qoyunlu, such titles as Arabic: ملك الملوك الأيرانية‎ "King of Iranian Kings", Arabic: سلطان السلاطين الإيرانية‎ "Sultan of Iranian Sultans", Persian: شاهنشاه ایران خدیو عجمShāhanshāh-e Irān Khadiv-e Ajam "Shahanshah of Iran and Ruler of Persia", Jamshid shawkat va Fereydun rāyat va Dārā derāyat "Powerful like Jamshid, flag of Fereydun and wise like Darius" have been used.[32] Uzun Hassan also held the title Padishah-i Irān "Padishah of Iran", which was re-adopted by his distaff grandson Ismail I, founder of the Safavid Empire.[33]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ However some Aq Qoyunlu rump states continued to rule until 1508, before they were absorbed into the Safavid Empire by Ismail I.[1]
  2. ^ ...Persian was primarily the language of poetry in the Aq Qoyunlu court.[5]
  3. ^ ... and dedicated it to the Aqqoyunlu Sultan Yaʿqub (r. 1478–90), who himself wrote poetry in Azeri Turkish.[6]
  4. ^  • Also referred to as the Aq Qoyunlu confederacy, the Aq Qoyunlu sultanate, the Aq Qoyunlu empire,[3] the White Sheep confederacy or the White Sheep Turkomans.
     • Other spellings includes Ag Qoyunlu, Agh Qoyunlu or Ak Koyunlu.
     • Also mentioned as Bayanduriyye (Bayandurids) in Iranian[9][8] and Ottoman sources.[10]
     • Also known as Tur-'Alids in Mamluk sources.[11]: 34 


  1. ^ Charles Melville (2021). Safavid Persia in the Age of Empires: The Idea of Iran. 10. p. 33. Only after five more years did Esma‘il and the Qezelbash finally defeat the rump Aq Qoyunlu regimes. In Diyarbakr, the Mowsillu overthrew Zeynal b. Ahmad and then later gave their allegiance to the Safavids when the Safavids invaded in 913/1507. The following year the Safavids conquered Iraq and drove out Soltan-Morad, who fled to Anatolia and was never again able to assert his claim to Aq Qoyunlu rule. It was therefore only in 1508 that the last regions of Aq Qoyunlu power finally fell to Esma‘il.
  2. ^ Daniel T. Potts (2014). Nomadism in Iran: From Antiquity to the Modern Era. p. 7. Indeed, the Bayundur clan to which the Aq-qoyunlu rulers belonged, bore the same name and tamgha (symbol) as that of an Oghuz clan.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "AQ QOYUNLŪ". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 5 August 2011. pp. 163–168.
  4. ^ Arjomand, Saïd Amir (2016). "Unity of the Persianate World under Turko-Mongolian Domination and Divergent Development of Imperial Autocracies in the Sixteenth Century". Journal of Persianate Studies. 9 (1): 11. doi:10.1163/18747167-12341292. The disintegration of Timur’s empire into a growing number of Timurid principalities ruled by his sons and grandsons allowed the remarkable rebound of the Ottomans and their westward conquest of Byzantium as well as the rise of rival Turko-Mongolian nomadic empires of the Aq Qoyunlu and Qara Qoyunlu in western Iran, Iraq, and eastern Anatolia. In all of these nomadic empires, however, Persian remained the official court language and the Persianate ideal of kingship prevailed.
  5. ^ a b Erkinov 2015, p. 62.
  6. ^ a b Javadi & Burrill 2012.
  7. ^ a b Michael M. Gunter, Historical dictionary of the Kurds (2010), p. 29
  8. ^ a b c d e Faruk Sümer (1988–2016). "UZUN HASAN (ö. 882/1478) Akkoyunlu hükümdarı (1452-1478).". TDV Encyclopedia of Islam (in Turkish). Istanbul: Turkiye Diyanet Foundation, Centre for Islamic Studies.
  9. ^ Seyfettin Erşahin (2002). Akkoyunlular: siyasal, kültürel, ekonomik ve sosyal tarih (in Turkish). p. 317.
  10. ^ International Journal of Turkish Studies. 4–5. University of Wisconsin. 1987. p. 272.
  11. ^ a b c Woods, John E. (1999). The Aqquyunlu: Clan, Confederation, Empire. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. ISBN 0-87480-565-1.
  12. ^ Aq Qoyunlu, R. Quiring-Zoche, Encyclopædia Iranica, (December 15, 1986);"Christian sedentary inhabitants were not totally excluded from the economic, political, and social activities of the Āq Qoyunlū state and that Qara ʿOṯmān had at his command at least a rudimentary bureaucratic apparatus of the Iranian-Islamic type.."
    "With the conquest of Iran, not only did the Āq Qoyunlū center of power shift eastward, but Iranian influences were soon brought to bear on their method of government and their culture..""[1]
  13. ^ Kaushik Roy, Military Transition in Early Modern Asia, 1400-1750, (Bloomsbury, 2014), 38;"Post-Mongol Persia and Iraq were ruled by two tribal confederations: Akkoyunlu (White Sheep) (1378–1507) and Qaraoyunlu (Black Sheep). They were Persianate Turkoman Confederations of Anatolia (Asia Minor) and Azerbaijan."
  14. ^ "Ak Koyunlu". Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Ak Koyunlu, also spelled Aq Qoyunlu (“White Sheep”), Turkmen tribal federation that ruled northern Iraq, Azerbaijan, and eastern Anatolia from 1378 to 1503 ce."
  15. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander (2011). Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia, vol. 1. Santa-Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio. p. 431. ISBN 978-159884-336-1. "His Qizilbash army overcame the massed forces of the dominant Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep) Turkomans at Sharur in 1501...".
  16. ^ The Book of Dede Korkut (F.Sumer, A.Uysal, W.Walker ed.). University of Texas Press. 1972. p. Introduction. ISBN 0-292-70787-8. "Better known as Turkomans... the interim Ak-Koyunlu and Karakoyunlu dynasties..."
  17. ^ Sinclair, T.A. (1989). Eastern Turkey: An Architectural & Archaeological Survey, Volume I. Pindar Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780907132325.
  18. ^ Jackson, Peter; Lockhart, Lawrence, eds. (1986). The Cambridge History of Iran. Volume 6, The Timurid and Safavid Periods. Cambridge University Press. p. 154.
  19. ^ Minorsky, Vladimir (1955). "The Aq-qoyunlu and Land Reforms (Turkmenica, 11)". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 17 (3): 449. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00112376.
  20. ^ Robert MacHenry. The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1993, ISBN 0-85229-571-5, p. 184.
  21. ^ Clifford Edmund Bosworth. The new Islamic dynasties: a chronological and genealogical manual. — Edinburgh University Press, 2004. p. 275—276. ISBN 0-7486-2137-7
  22. ^ Cornell H. Fleischer (1986). Bureaucrat and intellectual in the Ottoman Empire. p. 287.
  23. ^ H. B. Paksoy (1989). Alpamysh: Central Asian Identity Under Russian Rule. p. 84.
  24. ^ İsmail Aka (2005). Makaleler (in Turkish). 2. Berikan Kitabevi. p. 291.
  25. ^ Eagles 2014, p. 46.
  26. ^ a b Markiewicz 2019, p. 184.
  27. ^ Thomas & Chesworth 2015, p. 585.
  28. ^ a b Vladimir Minorsky. "The Aq-qoyunlu and Land Reforms (Turkmenica, 11)", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 17/3 (1955): 458.
  29. ^ C.E. Bosworth and R. Bulliet, The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual , Columbia University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-231-10714-5, p. 275.
  30. ^ a b Charles van der Leeuw. Azerbaijan: A Quest of Identity, a Short History, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0-312-21903-2, p. 81
  31. ^ Langaroodi & Negahban 2008.
  32. ^ Muʾayyid S̲ābitī, ʻAlī (1967). Asnad va Namahha-yi Tarikhi (Historical documents and letters from early Islamic period towards the end of Shah Ismaʻil Safavi's reign.). Iranian culture & literature. Kitābkhānah-ʾi Ṭahūrī., pp. 193, 274, 315, 330, 332, 422 and 430. See also: Abdul Hussein Navai, Asnaad o Mokatebaat Tarikhi Iran (Historical sources and letters of Iran), Tehran, Bongaah Tarjomeh and Nashr-e-Ketab, 2536, pages 578,657, 701-702 and 707
  33. ^ H.R. Roemer, "The Safavid Period", in Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. VI, Cambridge University Press 1986, p. 339: "Further evidence of a desire to follow in the line of Turkmen rulers is Ismail's assumption of the title 'Padishah-i-Iran', previously held by Uzun Hasan."


  • Bosworth, Clifford (1996) The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual (2nd ed.) Columbia University Press, New York, ISBN 0-231-10714-5
  • Eagles, Jonathan (2014). Stephen the Great and Balkan Nationalism: Moldova and Eastern European History. I.B. Tauris.
  • Erkinov, Aftandil (2015). Translated by Bean, Scott. "From Herat to Shiraz: the Unique Manuscript (876/1471) of 'Alī Shīr Nawā'ī's Poetry from Aq Qoyunlu Circle". Cahiers d'Asie centrale. 24: 47–79.
  • Langaroodi, Reza Rezazadeh; Negahban, Farzin (2008). "Āq-qūyūnlū". In Madelung, Wilferd; Daftary, Farhad (eds.). Encyclopaedia Islamica Online. Brill Online. ISSN 1875-9831.
  • Javadi, H.; Burrill, K. (May 24, 2012). "AZERBAIJAN x. Azeri Turkish Literature". Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  • Markiewicz, Christopher (2019). The Crisis of Kingship in Late Medieval Islam: Persian Emigres and the Making of Ottoman Sovereignty. Cambridge University Press.
  • Morby, John (2002) Dynasties of the World: A Chronological and Genealogical Handbook (2nd ed.) Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, ISBN 0-19-860473-4
  • Thomas, David; Chesworth, John A., eds. (2015). Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History:Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. Vol. 7. Brill. |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Woods, John E. (1999) The Aqquyunlu: Clan, Confederation, Empire (2nd ed.) University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, ISBN 0-87480-565-1