Oghuz Khagan

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Oghuz Khan pictured with two horns as Zulqarnayn on a 100 Turkmenistan manat banknote.

Oghuz Khagan or Oghuz Khan (Turkmen: Oguz han; Turkish: Oğuz Kağan) is a legendary and semi-mythological khan of the Turkic peoples. Some Turkic cultures use this legend to describe their ethnic origins and the origin of the system of political clans used by Turkmen, Ottoman, and other Oghuz Turks. The various versions of the narrative preserved in many different manuscripts has been published in numerous languages as listed below in the references. The narrative is often entitled Oghuznama, or narrative of the Oghuz.


The legend of Oghuz Khan is one of a number of different origin narratives that circulated among the Turkic peoples of Central Asia. It was first recorded in the 13th century.

The anonymous Uyghur vertical script narrative of the 14th century, which is preserved in Paris, is a manuscript that was probably already being modified to fit with stories of the Mongol Conquest, as Paul Pelliot has shown. But it does not have any suggestions of Oghuz Khan's later significance as Islamizer of the Turks, and it does not include the figure of Moghul (Mongol) as an ancestor of Oghuz Khan.

Abū’l-Ghāzī’s 17th century version called Shajare-i Tarakime (Genealogy of the Turkmen) roughly follows Rashīd ad-Dīn’s already Islamized and Mongolized (post-conquest) version of the early 14th century. But in his account, Oghuz Khan is more fully integrated into Islamic and Mongol traditional history. The account begins with descent from Adam to Noah, who after the flood sends his three sons to repopulate the earth: Ham was sent to Hindustan, Sam to Iran, and Yafes went to the banks of the Itil and Yaik rivers and had eight sons named Turk, Khazar, Saqlab, Rus, Ming, Chin, Kemeri, and Tarikh. As he was dying he established Turk as his successor.

Turk settled at Issiq Kul and was succeeded by Tutek, the eldest of his four sons. Four generations after him came two sons, Tatar and Moghul, who divided his kingdom between them. Moghul Khan begat Qara Khan who begat Oghuz Khan. For three days he would not nurse and every night he appeared in his mother's dream and told his mother to become a Muslim or he would not suckle her breast. His mother converted, and Abū’l-Ghāzī writes that the Turkic peoples of Yafes from the time of Qara Khan had been Muslim but had lost the faith. Oghuz Khan restored Islamic belief.


According to a Turkish legend, Oghuz was born in Central Asia as the son of Qara Khan, leader of a Turkic people. He started talking as soon as he was born. He stopped drinking his mother's milk after the first time and asked for kymyz (an alcoholic beverage made with fermented horse milk) and meat. After that, he grew up supernaturally fast and in only forty days he became a young adult. At the time of his birth, the lands of the Turkic people were preyed upon by a dragon named Kiyant. Oghuz armed himself and went to kill the dragon. He set a trap for the dragon by hanging a freshly killed deer in a tree, then killed the great dragon with a bronze lance and cut off its head with a steel sword.

After Oghuz killed Kiyant, he became a people's hero. He formed a special warrior band from the forty sons of forty Turkic begs (lords, chiefs), thus gathering the clans together. But his Chinese stepmother and half-brother, who was the heir to the throne, became intimidated by his power and convinced Qara Khan that Oghuz was planning to dethrone him. Qara Khan decided to assassinate Oghuz at a hunting party. Oghuz learned about this plan and instead killed his father and became the khan. His stepmother and half-brother fled to Chinese lands.

After Oghuz became the khan, he went to the steppes by himself to praise and pray to Tengri. While praying, he saw a circle of light coming from the sky with a supernaturally beautiful girl standing in the light. Oghuz fell in love with the girl and married her. He had three sons whom he named Güneş (Sun), Ay (Moon), and Yıldız (Star) (all in Turkish). Later, Oghuz went hunting and saw another mesmerizing girl inside a tree. He married her as well and had three more sons whom he named Gök (Sky), Dağ (Mountain), and Deniz (Sea) (in Turkish).

After his sons were born, Oghuz Khan gave a great toy (feast) and invited all of his begs (lords). At the feast, he gave this order to his lords:

"I have become your Khan;
Let's all take swords and shields;
Kut (divine power) will be our sign;
Gray wolf will be our uran (battle cry);
Our iron lances will be a forest;
Khulan will walk on the hunting ground;
More seas and more rivers;
Sun is our flag and sky is our tent."

Then, he sent letters to the Kings of the Four Directions, saying: "I am the Khan of the Turks. And I will be Khan of the Four Corners of the Earth. I want your obedience."

Altun Khan (Golden Khan), on the right corner of the earth, submitted his obedience, but Urum (Roman), Khan of the left corner, did not. Oghuz declared war on Urum Khan and marched his army to the west. One night, a large male wolf with grey fur (which is an avatar of Tengri) came to his tent in an aura of light. He said, "Oghuz, you want to march against Urum, I want to march before your army." So, the grey sky-wolf marched before the Turkic army and guided them. The two armies fought near the river İtil (Volga). Oghuz Khan won the battle. Then, Oghuz and his six sons carried out campaigns in Turkistan, India, Iran, Egypt, and Syria, with the grey wolf as their guide. He became the Khan of the Four Corners of the Earth.

In his old age, Oghuz saw a dream. He called his six sons and sent them to the east and the west. His elder sons found a golden bow in the east. His younger sons found three silver arrows in the west. Oghuz Khan broke the golden bow into three pieces and gave each to his three older sons Gün, Ay, and Yıldız. He said, "My older sons, take this bow and shoot your arrows to the sky like this bow." He gave the three silver arrows to his three younger sons Gök, Dağ and Deniz and said, "My younger sons, take these silver arrows. A bow shoots arrows and you are to be like the arrow." Then, he passed his lands on to his sons, Bozoks (Gray Arrows - elder sons) and Üçoks (Three Arrows - younger sons) at a final banquet. (Abū’l-Ghāzī identifies the lineage symbols, tamga seals and ongon spirit guiding birds, as well as specifying the political hierarchy and seating order at banquets for these sons and their 24 sons) Then he said:

"My sons, I walked a lot;
I saw many battles;
I threw so many arrows and lances;
I rode many horses;
I made my enemies cry;
I made my friends smile;
I paid my debt to Tengri;
Now I am giving my land to you."

Historical precursor[edit]

Oguzhan monument in Ashgabat

In scientific literature, the name of Maodun is usually associated with Oguz Kagan, an epic ancestor of the Turkic people. The reason for that is a striking similarity of the Oguz-Kagan biography in the Turko-Persian manuscripts (Rashid al-Din, Hondemir, Abulgazi) with the Maodun biography in the Chinese sources (feud between the father and son and murder of the former, the direction and sequence of conquests, etc.), which was first noticed by N.Ya. Bichurin (Collection of information, pp. 56–57).[1][2]


Oghuz Khan is sometimes considered the mythological founder of all Turkic peoples, and ancestor of the Oghuz subbranch. Even today, subbranches of Oghuz are classified in order of the legendary six sons and 24 grandsons of Oghuz Khan. In history, Turkmen dynasties often rebelled or claimed sovereignty by saying their rank was higher than the existing dynasty in this tribal classification.

Oğuz and Oğuzhan are a common masculine Turkish given names, which come from Oghuz Khan.


  1. ^ Bichurin N.Ya., "Collection of information on peoples in Central Asia in ancient times", vol. 1, Sankt Petersburg, 1851, pp. 56-57
  2. ^ Taskin V.S., "Materials on history of Sünnu", transl., 1968, Vol. 1, p. 129

See also[edit]


  • Abū’l Ghāzī. 1958. Rodoslovnaia Turkmen. Andrei N. Kononov, ed. Moscow: Nauka.
  • İlker Evrim Binbaş,Encyclopaedia Iranica, "Oguz Khan Narratives" [1], accessed 7 July 2012.
  • Golden, Peter B. 1992. An introduction to the history of the Turkic peoples. Ethnogenesis and state formation in medieval and early modern Eurasia and the Middle East. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Light, Nathan. Genealogy, history, nation
  • Nationalities Papers: The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity. Volume 39, Issue 1, 2011, Pages 33 – 53.
  • Pelliot, Paul. 1930. Sur la légende d'Uγuz-khan en écriture ouigoure. T'oung Pao. Second Series. 27: 4-5. pp. 247–358.
  • Rašīd ad-Dīn. Die Geschichte der Oġuzen des Rašīd ad-Dīn. Karl Jahn, trans. Vienna: 1969
  • Shcherbak, Aleksandr Mikhaǐlovich. Oguz-name. Muhabbatname. Moscow, 1959.
  • Woods, John E. 1976. The Aqquyunlu Clan, Confederation, Empire: a study in 15th/16th Century Turco-Iranian Politics. Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamica.