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a significant Turkic tribe in western Eurasia in the 5th century.

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Volume XI, Fascicle 2, pp. 184-187

ḠOZZ, a significant Turkic tribe in western Eurasia in the 5th century.


Ḡozz is the rendering by Muslim geographers of the Turkic Oḡuz. Oḡur, the Bulḡaro-Čuvašic form of this term, is noted as the name of a Turkic people in Western Eurasia in the 5th century. Oḡur/Oḡuz is probably a term denoting some kind of tribal confederation, perhaps signifying a union of related tribes or clans. Chinese sources sometimes translate this word as “clan, people” (hsing/xing). The Oḡurs and Oḡuz were part of a far-flung tribal confederation called, in the Chinese sources, T’ieh-lē (*Tegreg “[People of the] Carts”), which spanned Eurasia. A number of tribal groupings bearing this name, often with a numeral representing the number of constituent tribes in the union, are noted in the Old Türk and Uighur runiform inscriptions of Southern Siberia (Yenisey zone) and Mongolia (Orkhon and Selenge regions): Oḡuz, Üč Oḡuz (“Three Oḡuz,” identified, perhaps, with the Qarluqs; cf. the Üč Qarluq; see Aydarov, p. 349), Sekiz Oḡuz (“Eight Oḡuz,” linked by some scholars with the later Naiman [Mong. eight] tribal union), and Toquz Oḡuz (“The Nine Oḡuz,” the Ṭ/Toḡozḡozz of the Islamic sources: Masʿudi, Moruj, ed. Pellat, sec. 312; Eṣṭaḵri, p. 10; Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 9, 11; Ḥodud al-ʿālam, ed. Sotuda, pp. 77, 78). The latter were ruled by a vassal khagan (“baz qaḡan” [ḵāqān]). The relationship of these Oḡuz groupings to one another has not been resolved. The Oḡuz are depicted in the Türk Orkhon inscriptions as an occasionally unruly subject bodun (people, tribal union). The various tribal groupings bearing the Oḡuz name in one form or another were all part of the Eastern Türk khaganate (552-630, 687-741) centered in Mongolia. The Toquz Oḡuz confederation, however, which came to be led by the Uighur union had a longstanding tradition of enmity with the ruling Türk A-shih-na clan and frequently were in revolt against it. The Uighurs and the Qarluqs assisted the Basmïl in their overthrow of the Turks in 742. Two years later, the Uighurs, allied now with the Qarluqs and Oḡuz, toppled the Basmïl and founded their own khaganate in Inner Asia. This alliance was short-lived as the Qarluqs migrated to the land of the On Oq/Western Türk union in 745 and took possession of the Western Türk capital (Suyāb) in 766. The Oḡuz seem to have been uneasy with the Uighur rule as well. Ebn al-Aṯir (Beirut, XI p. 178), using Khorasani historians, remarked that the Oḡuz had migrated to Tranoxiana from the “most distant parts of the Turks” (presumably Mongolia) during the caliphate of al-Mahdi (r. 775-85). By the early 9th century, the Oḡuz were already an important presence in the region. The Taherids waged war on them, deep in the steppe, bringing back large numbers of prisoners (Ebn Ḵor-dāḏbeh, pp. 37, 39), the embryo of the ḡolām institution of the ʿAbbasid caliphs. Oḡuz legend portrays this as a period of struggle with the Pečenegs, whom they ousted and drove westward into the Pontic steppes. The Oḡuz were centered around the Syr Darya, Chorasmia serving as their principle urban point of contact. Their nominal leader, the yabḡu, made his winter quarters in Yangï Kent (Pers. Deh-e Now; Ar. al-Madina al-Jadida, al-Qarya al-Ḥadiṯa). It was also here that their 22-24 clans/tribes, organized into two sub-confederations, the Boz Oq and Üč Oq, came fully into the view of the Islamic sources. The Oḡuz language, by the time of Maḥmud Kāšḡari (ca. 469/1077), was already showing some differences from the other common Turkic dialects, in part due to borrowings from Iranian languages resulting from close contact with Chorasmia (q.v.) and other districts of Iranian Central Asia.


Primary sources: Abu’l-Ḡāzi Bahādor Khan, Šajara-ye Tarākema, ed. and tr. A. N. Kononov as Rodoslovnaya turkmen, Moscow and Leningrad, 1958.

Ebn Faqih, p. 329.

Ebn Fażlān, Raḥla Ebn Fażlān, ed. and tr. Ahmed Z. Validi Togan as Ibn Faḍlāns Reisebericht, Leipzig, 1939, Text, pp. 10-17, tr. pp. 19-31; tr. Abu’l-Fażl Ṭabāṭabāʾi as Safar-nāma-ye Ebn Fażlān, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966, pp. 69-77.

Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 14-15, 375, 389, 426, 431, 459, 511-13.

Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh, pp. 30-31, 155. Eṣṭaḵri, pp. 214, 217-19, 222, 225, 282, 288, 290; tr. Moḥammad b. Asʿad Tostari, ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1373 Š./1994, pp. 9, 11, 221, 226-28, 230, 234, 282, 360-63.

Gardizi, ed. Ḥabibi, pp. 256-63, 266-68, 270.

Ḥodud al-ʿālam, ed. Sotuda, pp. 11, 75, 83, 123; tr. V. Minorsky, comm., pp. 123, 263-77, 371.

Maḥmud Kāšḡari, Diwān loḡat al-Tork, ed. and tr. Robert Dankoff and James Kelley as Compendium of the Turkic Dialects, Cambridge, Mass., 1982-1985.

S. E. Malov, ed., Pamyatniki drevnetyurkskoĭ pis’mennosti (Monuments in ancient Turkic script), Moskow and Leningrad, 1951.

Masʿudi, Moruj, ed. Pellat, secs. 226, 313, 326, 396, 458. Mojmal, ed. Bahār, pp. 102-3.

Qodāma, Ketāb al-ḵarāj, pp. 206, 262.

Rašid-al-Din Fażl-Allāh, Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, ed. and tr. Karl Jahn as Die Geschichte der Oġuzen des Rašîd ad-Dîn, Vienna, 1969.

T. Tekin, ed., Orhon Yazıtları, Ankara, 1988.

Studies: G. Aydarov, Yazïk orkhonskikh pamyatinikov drevnetyurkskoĭ pis’mennosti VIII vekka (The language of the ancient Turkic literary monuments from the 8th century), Alma-Ata, 1971.

Bosworth, The Ghaznavids, pp. 206-26.

Peter B. Golden, “The Migrations of the Oğuz,” Archivum Ottomanicum 4, 1972, pp. 45-84.

Idem, An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples, Wiesbaden, 1992.

Omeljan Pritsak, “Von den Karluk zu den Karachaniden,” ZDMG 101, 1951, pp. 270-300.

Idem, “The Decline of the Empire of the Oghuz Yabghu,” The Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S. 2, 1952, pp. 279-92.

Faruk Sümer, Oğuzlar, 3rd ed., Istanbul, 1980.


Name of a Turkish (Oḡuz) tribe that came to play a considerable role in medieval Islamic Persian history.

The Oḡuz appear in history as a group of nine tribes, the Toḡuz Oḡuz, who formed part of the Eastern Turkish or Tiu-kiu confederation and as such are mentioned in the Orkhon inscriptions of the early 8th century C.E. In the later 8th century they moved from Mongolia westward to the regions of the upper Irtysh (Erteš) river, the Aral Sea, and the fringes of the Syr Darya valley (now the southern part of the Kazakhstan Republic), where they entered Islamic history. By 205/820-21, the Toḡuz Oḡuz were harrying the middle Syr Darya province of Ošrusana (Ṭabari, III, p. 1044), and the governor of Khorasan, ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ṭāher (213-30/828-45, q.v.), raided the land of the Ḡozz (belād al-Ḡuzziya; Balāḏori, Fotuḥ, p. 431).

The caliph’s envoy Aḥmad b. Fażlān (q.v.), who traveled in the spring of 309-10/922 from Chorasmia to the Ural and Emba rivers en route for the kingdom of Bulgar on the middle Volga, commented on the Oḡuz while passing through their lands on the Üst Urt plateau between the Aral and Caspian Seas. He described them as nomads of a low cultural level, wandering “like wild asses” (text pp. 10-14, tr. pp. 19-27). Some of the Oḡuz were, however, beginning to settle, and one of their towns was Yengi Kent “new town” (Ar. al–Qarya al-Ḥadiṯa, Pers. Deh-e Now) on the lower Syr Darya, which was the winter capital of the pagan Oḡuz ruler (Ḥodud al-ʿālam, ed. Sotuda, p. 123, tr. Minorsky, p. 122). These Oḡuz, made up of twenty-two component tribes (Kāšḡari I, pp. 55-59), now found themselves on the northern fringes of the Samanids; it was out of one of these tribes, the Qïnïq, that the Saljuq family was to arise. Proximity to the more civilized Muslim lands brought about the gradual conversion of the Oḡuz to Islam. Details of the process are lacking, but the Saljuq family was Muslim by 382/992, when Arslān b. Esrāʾil b. Saljuq was aiding the Samanids against the Qarakhanid invaders of Transoxania. The conversion of the other significant leading family of the Oḡuz, that of the Yabḡus of Yengi Kent, came around the same time, for the Yabḡu allied with the last Samanid Esmāʿil Montaṣer in 393/1003 (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 221-22).

From the region of Bokhara, the Oḡuz, now often designated in the sources as Turkmans, a name whose exact meaning has not yet been elucidated (see Kafesoğlu, pp. 121-330), moved in the 1020s through the Qara Qum desert to the fringes of Khorasan, where they harried such towns under Ghaznavid control as Nasā, Farāva and Abivard (qq.v.). Despite punitive expeditions launched against them by the Ghaznavid sultans, uncoordinated bands of Turkmans moved with their flocks of sheep and herds of horses into the pasture lands of northern Khorasan and westward to Ray and Jebāl, with raids extending by 420/1030 as far west as Azerbaijan. Counter-attacks by the exasperated sultans pushed some of the Oḡuz back to the Üst Urt region, but other bands were by now raiding across the whole of northern Persia, disrupting caravan traffic and commercial life, and ruining the agriculture of the oases by the pasturing of their herds. The victory of the Saljuqs and their followers over the Ghaznavid army at Dandānqān (q.v.) in 431/1040 enabled the Saljuq family eventually to establish a genuine state in Persia and beyond (Bayhaqi, ed. Fayyaż, pp. 829 ff.; Ebn al-Aṯir, IX, pp. 462-64, 482-84).

The Great Saljuq empire, thus constituted, contained within it considerable groups of Oḡuz or Turkmans, who continued to be tribally organized, with a way of life, and with economic and political interests very different from those of the Saljuq sultans, now rulers of an extensive territorial empire and with their exercise of power increasingly permeated by the Perso-Islamic ruling ethic. In the early decades of Saljuq rule, the Turkmans often gave their support to rebellious members of the Saljuq family or to claimants in contested successions, as to Qāvord b. Čaḡri Beg Dāwud in 466/1074 after Alp Arslān’s death. (Rāvandi, pp. 126-27; Ebn al-Aṯir, IX, pp. 78-79)

The policy of the Great Saljuq sultans came to be to direct as many as possible of these anarchic and undisciplined Turkman bands beyond the empire’s boundaries, to Transcaucasia, to Syria, and to Armenia and Anatolia; in this latter region, the sons of the Saljuq Solaymān b. Qotalmeš b. Arslān Esrāʾil succeeded, essentially with Turkman support, in founding the Saljuq sultanate of Rum based on Konya. Other Turkman elements settled within those regions of the empire suitable for pastoral nomadism, such as Khorasan, Azerbaijan, the uplands of Fārs, and the steppes of Kermān. In Azerbaijan they established an ethnic and linguistic core that eventually made Azerbaijan a Turkish-speaking province (see azerbaijan iv. and viii.). In Fārs, after the extinguishing there of the Buyids in 454/1062, Turkmans had to compete with the indigenous Šabānkāraʾi Kurds; the Turkish elements of the Qašqāʾi tribe of Fārs are of comparatively recent formation. In neighboring Kermān, however, a Saljuq principality enduring for nearly a century and a half (440-ca. 584/1048-ca.1188), was formed under Qāvord and his descendants, which was strongly tribal in its ethos, and after its demise, Ḡozz elements under local chieftains such as Malek Dinār became the dominant element in Kermān until the Khwarazmians appeared there. A similar process took place in Khorasan during the 12th century. There, friction between on one hand the Saljuq administration, concerned to extend the authority of the central government over nomadic Ḡozz elements and, above all, to subject them to taxation, and on the other hand the still tribally organized Ḡozz, was at its most acute. In the last years of Sultan Sanjar’s reign, in 548/1153, the Ḡozz burst out into rebellion, captured Sanjar and took him around with them for three years as their prisoner (Rāvandi, pp. 177-85; Ebn al-Aṯir, XI, pp. 176-83); this revolt marked the end of Saljuq rule in Khorasan, and after the sultan’s death in 552/1157, Khorasan fell into the hands of various former slave military commanders of the Saljuqs, with the Ḡozz, lacking any purposeful leadership or political sophistication, remaining an intractable and unpredictable element there up until the coming of the Mongols (Köymen, 1947-48).

The appearance of the Oḡuz in Persia had long-term effects in the spheres of social and economic organization and land utilization. It began a process of pastoralization across many parts of northern Persia which was to be accentuated under the Mongols by the injection of fresh waves of Turko-Mongol nomads (see Lambton, Landlord and Peasant pp. 55 ff.; idem, Continuity, pp. 3 ff. and passim).


W. Barthold, Histoire des Turcs d’Asie Centrale, tr. M. Denskis, Paris, 1945, pp. 47-93.

Bayhaqi, ed. Fayyāż, passim. Bosworth, The Ghaznavids, pp. 210-26.

Idem, “The Political and Dynastic History of the Iranian World (A.D. 1000-1217),” in Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 15-23, 145-46.

Idem, “The Saljuḳids ii.,” in EI2 VIII, pp. 937-40.

Claude Cahen, “Le Malik-Nameh et l’histoire des origines Seljukides,” Oriens 2, 1949, pp. 31-65.

Idem, “Ghuzz. i. Muslim East,” in EI2 II, pp. 1107-10.

Ebn al-Aṯir, Beirut, IX, pp. 377-91, 473-84.

M. T. Houstma, “Die Ghuzzenstämme,” WZKM 2, 1888, pp. 219-33.

Ebn Fażlān, Raḥlat Ebn Fażlān, ed. and tr. Ahmed Z. Validi Togan, as Ibn Faḍlāns Reisebericht, Leipzig, 1939; tr. Abu’l-Fażl Ṭabāṭabāʾi as Safar-nāma-ye Ebn Fażlān, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966.

Ḥodud al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, comm. pp. 263-77.

İbrahim Kafesoğlu, “Türkmen adı, mânasi ve mahiyeti,” in J. Echmann et al., eds. Jean Deny armağanı, Ankara, 1958, pp. 121-33.

Maḥmud b. Ḥosayn Kāšḡari, Diwān loḡat al-Tork, tr. B. Atalay as Divanü lûgat-it Türk tercümesi, Ankara, 1939-41.

M. A. Köymen, “Büyük Selçuklar imparatorluğunda Oğuz isyanı ve istilâsı,” Ankara Üniv. Dil ve Tarih-Coğr. Fakültesi Dergisi 5/2, 1947-48, pp. 159-86.

Idem, “Die Oghusen-Einfall und seine Bedeutung im Rahmen der Geschichte des Grossen Seldschukenreiches,” ibid., 5/5, pp. 563-660.

Moḥammad b. ʿAli Rāvandi, Rāḥat al-ṣodur wa āyat al-sorur dar tāriḵ-e āl-e Saljuq, ed. Moḥammad Eqbāl, comm. Mojtabā Minovi, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985.

Faruk Sümer, “Oğuzlar, “ in İA IX, pp. 378-87.

Cite this page
Peter B. Golden and C. Edmund Bosworth, “ḠOZZ”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 20 July 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_2402>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 20021215

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