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Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 室點密
Simplified Chinese 室点密
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 瑟帝米
Old Turkic name
Old Turkic Old Turkic letter N1.svgOld Turkic letter G1.svgOld turkic letter Q.png Old Turkic letter I.svgOld Turkic letter M.svgOld Turkic letter T2.svgOld Turkic letter S2.svgOld Turkic letter I.svg
Estemi qaγan

Istämi (or Dizabul[1] or Ishtemi Sir Yabghu Khagan[2]) was the ruler of the western part of the Göktürks, which became the Western Turkic Khaganate and dominated the Sogdians.[3] He was the yabgu (vassal) of his brother Bumin Qaghan in 553 AD.[4] His son was Tardu.


During his rule Istami established diplomatic relations with the Persian and Byzantine Empires, defeated the Hepthalites, and acted as an elder statesman during the disintegration of the eastern half of the empire. We know a great deal about him from the diplomatic missions of the Byzantine Empire.

Shortly after the smuggling of silkworm eggs into the Byzantine Empire from China by Nestorian Christian monks, the 6th-century Byzantine historian Menander Protector writes of how the Sogdians attempted to establish a direct trade of Chinese silk with the Byzantine Empire. After forming an alliance with the Sassanid ruler Khosrow I to defeat the Hephthalite Empire, Istämi was approached by Sogdian merchants requesting permission to seek an audience with the Sassanid king of kings for the privilege of traveling through Persian territories in order to trade with the Byzantines.[5] Istämi refused the first request, but when he sanctioned the second one and had the Sogdian embassy sent to the Sassanid king, the latter had the members of the embassy poisoned to death.[5] Maniah, a Sogdian diplomat, convinced Istämi to send an embassy directly to Byzantium's capital Constantinople, which arrived in 568 and offered not only silk as a gift to Byzantine ruler Justin II, but also proposed an alliance against Sassanid Persia. Justin II agreed and sent an embassy to the Turkic Khaganate, ensuring the direct silk trade desired by the Sogdians.[6][5]

As the brother of Tuman he ruled the far-western region of their khanate. His son was Tardu. As a Yabghu, he was autonomous and had de facto sovereignty while officially recognizing the authority of the qaghan. After Khushu’s death he arranged the division of the territory into three realms east, central, and west and distributed them between Jotan, Arslan, and Shetu, respectively.

İstemi and İstemihan are Turkish given names honouring him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Howard, Michael C., Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies, the Role of Cross Border Trade and Travel, McFarland & Company, 2012, p. 133.
  2. ^ Christoph Baumer, History of Central Asia, volume two, 2014
  3. ^ Wood, Francis (2002). The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. pp. 238–239. ISBN 978-0-520-24340-8. 
  4. ^ Michalis N. Michael; Matthias Kappler; Eftihios Gavriel (2009). Archivum Ottomanicum. Mouton. pp. 68, 69. 
  5. ^ a b c Howard, Michael C., Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies, the Role of Cross Border Trade and Travel, McFarland & Company, 2012, p. 133.
  6. ^ Liu, Xinru, "The Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Interactions in Eurasia", in Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History, ed. Michael Adas, American Historical Association, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001, p. 168.
Preceded by
Yabgu of the Western Turkic Khaganate
Succeeded by
Tardush Qaghan