Gold dinar of Mardavij, 933/4
|King of the Ziyarid dynasty|
|Reign||930 – January 935|
|Mother||Sister of Harusindan|
Born to a Zoroastrian family native to Gilan, Mardavij was an anti-Muslim, who sought to revive the Sasanian Empire which was conquered in 654 by the Muslims. He first started his career by joining the army of his kinsman Asfar ibn Shiruya. Mardavij, however, later betrayed him, and killed him, conquering much of Jibal. He then set out to conquer Hamadan, Dinavar and Isfahan from the Abbasid Caliphate, and thereafter declared himself king of Iran, making Isfahan his capital.
He then defeated the Daylamite military leader Makan ibn Kaki, and conquered Tabaristan in 932. By 934, his authority was acknowledged as far as Shiraz and Ahvaz. However, his goal of recreating the Persian Empire was ruined when he was murdered by his own Turkish slaves in 935.
Mardavij was born ca. in 890 in Gilan; he was the son of Ziyar, who belonged to the Shahanshahvand, a royal clan that roamed in Dakhel. Mardavij's mother was a sister of Harusindan, a Gilaki ruler. Mardavij belonged to the Arghich tribe, which claimed to be descended from Arghush Farhadan, king of Gilan who lived during the time of Kai Khosrow. Members of the Arghich clan were mostly known to be considered as warriors, and the name of Mardavij which means 'a man who fights bravely' should have been popular. The religion of Ziyar and his family is not exactly known. Zoroastrianism, including heterodox branches such as the Mazdakite, the Zurvanite and Gayomardian, was still popular at his time. However, Mardavij was known to harbor Zoroastrian sympathies and practiced that religion.
Rise to power
Around 913, Mardavij joined the army of Asfar ibn Shiruya, a military leader from Lahijan, who served the Zaydids of Tabaristan. In 930, Asfar invaded the domains of the Zaydi Abu Muhammad Hasan ibn Qasim. During the invasion, Mardavij managed to heavily wound Abu Muhammad near Amol, thus avenging his maternal uncle Harusindan, who was killed by the hands of the Alids. The army of Asfar then marched towards Ray, where they defeated the Daylamite general Makan ibn Kaki, who fled to Daylam. Asfar managed to successfully conquer Tabaristan, and also captured Qazvin and Zanjan. He then appointed Mardavij as the governor of Zanjan. In 930, Mardavij along with Asfar's brother, Shirzad, were ordered to capture Tarom, the capital of the Sallarid ruler Muhammad bin Musafir. During the siege, Mardavij, on the urging of Makan and Muhammad, betrayed Asfar by revolting against him. With the aid of Muhammad and Makan, Mardavij defeated and killed Shirzad, including other members of his tribe. He then marched towards Qazvin, the residence of Asfar. However, Asfar managed to flee. Mardavij thus founded the Ziyarid dynasty, and became ruler of Asfar's former territories, which included; Ray, Qazvin, Zanjan, Abhar, Qom and Karaj. He is said to have worn a "crown of Anushirvan" at his court.
Mardavij then aggressively began expanding his domains, by attacking Asfar, who was now residing in Hamadan after his disastrous defeat. In 931, Mardavij managed to defeat and kill Asfar. He then began quickly capturing the Abbasid cities of Hamadan, Dinavar, and Kashan, and finally in Isfahan, which became his capital. He then appointed his brother Vushmgir as the governor of Amol. Mardavij planned to conquer Baghdad, remove the caliphate, be crowned in Ctesiphon and restore the Persian empire.
In 930, Makan managed to defeat Mardavij, and briefly recover Tabaristan. Makan then extended his rule over most of Gurgan and even take possession of Nishapur in western Khurasan, which he was forced to abandon in 931, bowing to pressure by the Samanid ruler Nasr II. In 931, Mardavij sent an army against Makan, but the latter defeated Mardavij's forces in a first engagement in 931. Eventually, after Makan's return to Tabaristan from Nishapur, Mardavij personally launched an attack that conquered Tabaristan.
Just after Mardavij's victory, Ali ibn Buya, along with his two brothers Hasan ibn Buya and Ahmad ibn Buya, managed defect to Mardavij's side just as he was preparing to undertake the conquest to the south of the Alborz mountains as far as Qazvin. Not long afterwards Mardavij granted Ali administrative rule over Karaj, a strategically important town probably situated near modern Bahramabad. While making a stop in Ray on his way to Karaj, however, Ali was warned by Mardavij's vizier al-'Amid that Mardavij was planning to eliminate him. Hurriedly leaving Ray, he arrived at and took over Karaj. In 933, Mardavij made peace treaty with the Samanid ruler Nasr II; Mardavij agreed to cede Gurgan to the Samanids and pay tribute for his possession of Ray. Mardavij then began to focus on western Iran, where his troops managed to conquer as far as Ahvaz, and forced Ali, who was now in Shiraz, to once again acknowledge his authority. Mardavij then had a golden throne with jewels, a tunic, and a golden crown made. His crown was reportedly the same shape of the crown of the Sasanian king Khosrow I. He also had a few silver thrones made for his best generals. Rumours had spread that Mardavij was planning to march to Baghdad and destroy the Abbasid Caliphate, and that he had made an alliance with the Qarmatians of Bahrain, which is proven
In January 935, shortly before Nowruz festivities, Mardavij was assassinated by his Turkish slaves, whom he had treated badly, while favoring his Daylamite/Gilaki troops. After his assassination, many of his troops entered the service of the Abbasids, while some others joined Ali, who founded the Buyid dynasty, and had taken over Mardavij possessions in central and southern Iran. Mardavij's brother Vushmgir succeeded him in northern Iran. Mardavij was buried in Gonbad-e Mardaviz, a place located in the north east of Amin Abbad Borough in the city of Rey, south of Tehran.
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