Sunday 20 May 2018

Sayyid Dynasty - Delhi Sultanate

The Sayyid dynasty was the fourth dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, with four rulers ruling from 1414 to 1451. Founded by a former governor of Multan, they succeeded the Tughlaq dynasty and ruled the sultanate until they were displaced by the Lodi dynasty. 

Delhi Sultanate

Following the 1398 Sack of Delhi, Amir Timur appointed the Sayyids as the governors of Delhi. Their dynasty was established by Sayyid Khizr Khan, deputised by Timur to be the governor of Multan (Punjab). He did not take up any royal title due to fear of Amir Timur (better known historically as Tamerlane) and contended himself with the titles of Rayat-i-Ala (Sublime Banners) and Masnad-i-Aali or (Most High Post). He was in office from 1414 until 1421.

Amir Timur

After his accession to the throne, Khizr Khan appointed Malik-us-Sharq Tuhfa as his wazir and he was given the title of Taj-ul-Mulk and he remained in office until 1421. In 1414, an army led by Taj-ul-Mulk was sent to suppress the rebellion of Har Singh, the Raja of Katehar. Raja fled to the forests but finally was compelled to surrender and agree to pay tributes in future. In July, 1416 an army led by Taj-ul-Mulk was sent to Bayana and Gwalior.


As a mark of recognition of the suzerainty of the Mongols, the name of the Mongol ruler (Shah Rukh) was recited in the khutba but as an interesting innovation, the name of Sayyid ruler Khizr Khan was also attached to it. But strangely enough the name of Mongol ruler was not inscribed on the coins and the name of old Tughlaq sultan continued on the currency. No coins are known in the name of Khizr Khan.

Billon Tanka of Khizr Khan INO Firoz Shah Tughlaq

Mubarak Shah (r. 1421–1434) was the second monarch of the Sayyid dynasty which ruled the Delhi Sultanate. He succeeded his father, Khizr Khan to the throne. He was a man of great vision, but the nobles were against him and kept revolting. He was murdered in 1434 and succeeded by his nephew, Muhammad Shah.

Mubarak Shah's tomb in Kotla Mubarakpur.

Muhammad Shah (r. 1434–1445) was the third monarch of the Sayyid dynasty which ruled the Delhi Sultanate. He succeeded his uncle, Mubarak Shah to the throne. Muhammad Shah's tomb is a notable monument within the Lodi Gardens of New Delhi.

Lodi Gardens

Alam Shah (r. 1445–1451) was the fourth and last ruler of the Sayyid dynasty which ruled the Delhi Sultanate. Both Muhammad Shah and his son, Alam Shah who succeeded him, were incapable rulers. Alam Shah was an incapable ruler who abandoned his charge in 1448 and retired to Budaun. Three years later, Bahlul Lodi, who had made two prior attempts at capturing Delhi, took control of the capital to mark the beginning of the Lodi dynasty.

Indo-Islamic Architecture

Sunday 13 May 2018

First Bulgarian Empire

The First Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state that existed in southeastern Europe between the 7th and 11th centuries AD. It was founded circa 681 when Bulgar tribes led by Asparukh moved to the north-eastern Balkans. At the height of its power, Bulgaria spread from the Danube Bend to the Black Sea and from the Dnieper River to the Adriatic Sea.

Samuel's Fortress in Ohrid

The Bulgars were semi-nomadic warrior tribes originating from Central Asia. Between 630 and 635 Khan Kubrat of the Dulo clan managed to unite the main Bulgar tribes and to declare independence from the Avars.  Kubrat, who was baptised in Constantinople in 619, concluded an alliance with the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641) and the two countries remained in good relations until Kubrat's death between 650 and 663. After his demise Old Great Bulgaria disintegrated under strong pressure in 668.

The Bulgarian colonies after the fall of Old Great Bulgaria in the 7th century

In 680 the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV (r. 668–685), having recently defeated the Arabs, led an expedition at the head of a huge army and fleet to drive off the Bulgars but suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of Asparukh at Onglos.  In 681, the Byzantines were compelled to sign a humiliating peace treaty, forcing them to acknowledge Bulgaria as an independent state.

Constantine IV and his retinue, mosaic in basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna.

The Bulgars were superior organisationally and militarily and came to dominate politically the new state but there was cooperation between them and the Slavs for the protection of the country. To the north-east the war with the Khazars persisted and in 700 Khan Asparukh perished in battle with them. Despite this setback the consolidation of the country continued under Asparukh's successor, Khan Tervel (r. 700–721).

Khan Tervel

In 705 Khan Tervel assisted the deposed Byzantine Emperor Justinian II to regain his throne in return of the area Zagore in Northern Thrace, which was the first expansion of Bulgaria to the south of the Balkan mountains. In addition Tervel obtained the almost imperial title Caesar and sitting enthroned besides the Emperor received the obeisance of the citizenry of Constantinople and numerous gifts.  However, three years later Justinian tried to regain the ceded territory by force, but his army was defeated at Anchialus.

Battle of Anchialus

Skirmishes continued until 716 when Khan Tervel signed an important agreement with Byzantium that defined the borders and the Byzantine tribute. When the Arabs laid siege to Constantinople in 717–718 Tervel dispatched his army to help the besieged city. In the decisive battle before the Walls of Constantinople the Bulgarians slaughtered around 22,000 Arabs forcing them to abandon the undertaking.

Section of wall of Constantinople

With the demise of Khan Sevar (r. 738–753) the ruling Dulo clan died out and the Khanate fell into a long political crisis during which the young country was on the verge of destruction. In just fifteen years seven Khans reigned, and all of them were murdered. The internal instability was used by the "soldier Emperor" Constantine V (r. 745–775), who launched nine major campaigns aiming to eliminate Bulgaria.

Constantine V(on the right) and his father Leo III the Isaurian(on the left)

Sunday 6 May 2018

Twenty Years' Anarchy - Byzantine Empire

The Twenty Years' Anarchy is a term used for the period of acute internal instability in the Byzantine Empire, marked by the rapid succession of several emperors to the throne between the first deposition of Justinian II in 695 and the ascent of Leo III the Isaurian to the throne in 717, marking the beginning of the Isaurian dynasty.

Hagia Sophia, originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537

Justinian II, was the Byzantine Emperor, reigning from 685 to 695 and again from 705 to 711. Justinian II was an ambitious and passionate ruler who was keen to restore the Roman Empire to its former glories, but he responded poorly to any opposition to his will and lacked the finesse of his father, Constantine IV.

Coin of Justinian II

Justinian II set in motion a chain of events by embarking on a despotic and increasingly violent course. His policies met with considerable opposition, eventually provoking a rebellion led by Leontios (695–698) in 695, which deposed and exiled him, precipitating a prolonged period of instability and anarchy, with seven emperors in twenty-two years.


Leontios was Byzantine emperor from 695 to 698. He led forces against the Umayyads during the early years of Justinian's reign, securing victory and forcing the Umayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, to sue for peace. He led a rebellion against Justinian, and seized power, becoming emperor in 695 CE.  He led a march on the guards barracks, freeing those who were imprisoned by Justinian for opposing him. His force was joined by a host of Blues supporters, and then marched to the Hagia Sophia.

Mural in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Leontios proved equally unpopular and was in turn overthrown by Tiberios III (698–705). As emperor, he made the tactical decision to ignore Africa, where Carthage was now definitively lost. Instead, he appointed his brother Heraclius as monostrategos of the East, who firstly strengthened the land and sea defences of Anatolia before proceeding to attack the Umayyad Caliphate under Abd al-Malik, winning minor victories while raiding into northern Syria in 700 and 701.

Ven, Turkey(Former part of Anatolia)

Tiberios managed to bolster the eastern frontier and reinforced the defenses of Constantinople, but meanwhile Justinian was conspiring to make a comeback and after forming an alliance with the Bulgars succeeded in taking Constantinople and executing Tiberios. His second reign was marked by unsuccessful warfare against Bulgaria and the Caliphate, and by cruel suppression of opposition at home.

Restored walls of Constantinople

Justinian II then continued to reign for a further six years (705–711). In 708 he turned on Bulgarian Khan Tervel, whom he had earlier crowned Caesar, and invaded Bulgaria. The Emperor was defeated, blockaded in Anchialus, and forced to retreat. Peace between Bulgaria and Byzantium was quickly restored. This defeat was followed by Arab victories in Asia Minor, where the cities of Cilicia fell into the hands of the enemy, who penetrated into Cappadocia in 709–711.

Landscape view of Cappadocia

His treatment of Tiberios and his supporters had been brutal and he continued to rule in a manner that was despotic and cruel. He lost the ground regained by Tiberios in the east, and imposed his views on the Pope John VII. However, before long he faced a rebellion led by Philippikos Bardanes (711–713). Justinian was captured and executed as was his son and co-emperor, Tiberius (706–711), thus extinguishing the Heraclian line.

Pope John VII

Philippikos' rebellion after executing emperor Justinian and his son co - emperor Tiberius in 711, extended beyond politics to religion, deposing the Patriarch Cyrus and reestablishing Monothelitism. Militarily the Bulgars reached the walls of Constantinople, and moving troops to defend the capital allowed the Arabs to make incursions in the east. His reign ended abruptly when an army rebellion deposed him and replaced him with Anastasius II (713–715).


Emperor Anastasius in 713 reversed his predecessor's religious policies and responded to Arab attacks by sea and land, this time reaching as far as Galatia in 714, with some success. Anastasios attempted to restore peace by diplomatic means. His emissaries having failed in Damascus, he undertook the restoration of Constantinople's walls and the rebuilding of the Roman fleet. 

A representation of Roman Fleet at Byzantium

The on death of the Caliph al-Walid I in 715, Emperor Anastasius dispatched an army under Leo the Isaurian, afterwards emperor, to invade Syria, and he had his fleet concentrate on Rhodes with orders not only to resist the approach of the enemy but to destroy their naval stores.  However the very army that had placed him on the throne (the Opsikion army) rose against him, proclaimed a new emperor and besieged Constantinople for six months, eventually forcing Anastasius to flee.

Coin of Leo III the Isaurian

The troops had proclaimed Theodosius III (715–717) as the new emperor, and once he had overcome Anastasius was almost immediately faced with the Arab preparations for the Second Arab siege of Constantinople (717–718), forcing him to seek assistance from the Bulgars. He in turn faced rebellion from two other themata, Anatolikon and Armeniakon in 717, and chose to resign, being succeeded by Leo III (717–741) bringing an end to the cycle of violence and instability, end to Twenty year's anarchy period.

Second siege of  Constantinople
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