Babak Khorramdin

Babak Khorramdin

Bābak Khorram-Dīn (Persian: بابک خرمدین; alternative spelling: Bâbak Xoramdin; 795, according to some other sources 798— January 838) was one of the main Persian [M. Whittow, "The Making of Byzantium: 600-1025", Berkley: University of California Press, pp. 195, 203, 215: Excerpts:"Azerbaijan was the scene of frequent anti-caliphal and anti-Arab revolts during the eighth and ninth centuries, and Byzantine sources talk of Persian warriors seeking refuge in the 830s from the caliph's armies by taking service under the Byzantine emperor Theophilos. [...] Azerbaijan had a Persian population and was a traditional centre of the Zoroastrian religion. [...] The Khurramites were a [...] Persian sect, influenced by Shiite doctrines, but with their roots in a pre-Islamic Persian religious movement."] [Armenian historian Vardan Areweltsʻi, ca. 1198-1271 notes: In these days, a man of the PERSIAN race, named Bab, who had went from Baltat killed many of the race of Ismayil(what Armenians called Arabs) by sword and took many slaves and thought himself to be immortal. ..Ma'mun for 7 years was battling in the Greek territorties and ..came back to mesopotamia. See: La domination arabe en Armènie, extrait de l’ histoire universelle de Vardan, traduit de l’armènian et annotè , J. Muyldermans, Louvain et Paris, 1927, pg 119: "En ces jours-lá, un homme de la race PERSE, nomm é Bab, sortant de Baltat, faiser passer par le fil de l’épée beaucoup de la race d’Ismayēl tandis qu’il.."Original Grabar: Havoursn haynosig ayr mi hazkes Barsitz Pap anoun yelyal i Baghdada, arganer zpazoums i sour suseri hazken Ismayeli, zpazoums kerelov. yev anser zinkn anmah. yev i mium nvaki sadager yeresoun hazar i baderazmeln youroum ent Ismayeli] [Ibn Hazm (994-1064), the Arab historian mentions the different Iranian revolts against the Caliphate in his book Al-fasl fil al-Milal wal-Nihal. He writes: "The Persians had the great land expanse and were greater than all other people and thought of themselves as better... after their defeated by Arabs, they rose up to fight against Islam, but God did not give them victory. Among their leaders were Sanbadh, Muqanna', Ostadsis and Babak and others. Full original Arabic::«أن الفرس كانوا من سعة الملك وعلو اليد على جميع الأمم وجلالة الخطير في أنفسهم حتى أنهم كانوا يسمون أنفسهم الأحرار والأبناء وكانوا يعدون سائر الناس عبيداً لهم فلما امتحنوا بزوال الدولة عنهم على أيدي العرب وكانت العرب أقل الأمم عند الفرس خطراً تعاظمهم الأمر وتضاعفت لديهم المصيبة وراموا كيد الإسلام بالمحاربة في أوقات شتى ففي كل ذلك يظهر الله سبحانه وتعالى الحق وكان من قائمتهم سنبادة واستاسيس والمقنع وبابك وغيرهم ». See: al-Faṣl fī al-milal wa-al-ahwāʾ wa-al-niḥal / taʾlīf Abī Muḥammad ʻAlī ibn Aḥmad al-maʻrūf bi-Ibn Ḥazm al-Ẓāhirī ; taḥqīq Muḥammad Ibrāhīm Naṣr, ʻAbd al-Raḥmān ʻUmayrah. Jiddah : Sharikat Maktabāt ʻUkāẓ, 1982. ] revolutionary leaders of the Iranian Khorram-Dinān [ "Babak." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 7 June 2007 .] (Persian, "Those of the joyous religion"), which was a local freedom movement fighting the Abbasid Caliphate. Khorramdin appears to be a compound analogous to dorustdīn (orthodox) and Behdin (Zoroastrian)Encyclopedia Iranica, "Babak Khorrami" by G.H. Yusofi [] ] , and are considered an offshoot of neo-Mazdakite [C. E. Bosworth, "Afshin"; accessed March 15, 2007.] . It is derived from the Persian compounds Khorram (joyful, happy) and Din (Religion).

Early life

Bābak was born into a Persian family in Āzerbāijān (northwestern Iran) close to the city of Artavilla (modern Ardabil). According to Wāqed ben Amr Tamimi, the oldest biographer on Babak, Bābak's father was a Persian from Madā'īn (formerly known as Ctesiphon, capital of Sassanian Persian Empire, 35 km south of modern Bağdād in Irāq) who left for the Āzarbāijān frontier zone and settled in the village of Balālābād in the Maymadh district. According to Fasīh, his mother - a native of Āzarbāijān - was known as Māhrū (meaning "Moon-Face"/"Belle" in Persian).

After his father’s death in his early teens, Babak was given the responsibility of his 2 brothers and mother during a traditional Zoroastrian ceremony in a fire-temple. By the age of 18, Bābak had established himself in the city of Tabrēz and was engaged in the arms trade and industry.Later on, this engagement gave him the opportunity to travel to some regions and become familiar with regions like the Caucasia, the Middle East, and the Byzantine Empire [ "Khorramis in Byzantium" in Encyclopedia Iranica by Evangelos Venetis [] Access Date, Nov 05, 2007. ] .


In 755, Abū Muslim of Khorassan, a famous and popular Persian nationalist, was murdered. Although he had helped the Abbasids to defeat the former Caliphs, the Umayyad dynasty, the ruling Caliph had given the order to kill him, probably because of his increasing popularity among Iranians and Non-Muslims. Many Iranians, who had expected more freedom and more rights from the new rulers, could not believe that their hero was killed by the ruling Caliph whom they had considered a friend of Iran and Iranians. [CAIS News, "Restoration of Fortress of Babak Khorramdin to Continue", May 16, 2004.]

This incident led to many revolts, mostly by angry Zoroastrians. This, in turn, forced the Caliphs to use more violence against the Iranian population in order to keep the eastern provinces under control. The constant revolts did not come to an end in the following decades, and the Iranian population of the Caliphate was constantly being oppressed.

Bābak joined the "Khurramiyyah (Khorram-Dinān)" movement in what later became known as Qale-ye Bābak, meaning "Bābak Castle", located in the mountains of Qaradag in Arasbaran jungles. The story of joining the Khorrami movement is being told in Waqed's account, in summary, as follows:

Under the direction of his Mentor Javidan b. Shahrak, a leader of one of the sects of the Khorramdin, Babak's knowledge of history, geography, and the latest battle tactics strengthened his position as a favorite candidate for commander during the early wars against the Arab occupiers.

Bābak was a highly spiritual person who respected his Zoroastrian heritage. He made every possible effort to bring Iranians together and also with leaders such as Maziar to form a united front against the Arab Caliph. According to the medieval historian, Ibn Esfandyar, who composed the book "Tarikh-e-Tabaristan" (History of Tabaristan), Maziar said:

cquote|"I (Maziyar), Afshin Kheydar son of Kavus, and Babak had made an oath and allegiance that we re-take the government back from the Arabs and transfer the government and the country back to the family of Kasraviyan (Sassanids)" [Said Nafisi, Babak Khorramdin Delawar-e-Azarbaijan (Babak Khorramdin, the braveheart of Azarbaijan), Tabesh Publishers, Tehran 1955, pg 57, actual quote from Ibn Esanfiyarمن (مازیار) و افشين خيدر بن کاوس و بابک هر سه از دير باز عهد و بيعت کرده ايم و قرار داده بر آن که دولت از عرب بازستانيم و ملک و جهانداري با خاندان کسرويان نقل کنيم»]

However, one of the most dramatic periods in the history of Iran was set under Bābak’s leadership between 816-837. During these most crucial years, they not only fought against the Caliphate, but also for the preservation of Persian language and culture.

After the death of Javidan, Babak married Javadan's wife, and became the Khorramis' leader, sometime in the year 816-17 during al-Ma'mun's reign. Babak incited his followers to rise in rebellion against the caliphal regime. The reports state that Babak called Persians to arms, seized castles and strong points, thereby barring roads to his enemies. Gradually a large multitude joined him..

According to Vladimir Minorsky, around the 9th-10th century: [ V. Minorsky, Studies in Caucasian History, Cambridge University Press, 1957, pg 112] :cquote|”The original sedentary population of Azarbayjan consisted of a mass of peasants and at the time of the Arab conquest was compromised under the semi-contemptuous term of Uluj(“non-Arab”) - somewhat similar to the raya(*ri’aya) of the Ottomon empire. The only arms of this peaceful rustic population were slings, see Tabari, II, 1379-89. They spoke a number of dialects (Adhari(Azari), Talishi) of which even now there remains some islets surviving amidst the Turkish speaking population. It was this basic population on which Babak leaned in his revolt against the caliphate.

There had long been groups of Khorramis scattered in Isfahan, Azarbaijan, Ray, Hamadan, Armenia, Gorgan, and elsewhere in Iran , and there had been some earlier Khorrami revolts, e.g., in Gorgan jointly with Red Banner (Sorkh-'alamān) Bātenis in the caliph Al-Mahdi's reign in 778-79, when 'Amr b. 'Ala', the governor of Tabarestān, was ordered to repulse them, and at Isfahan, Ray, Hamadan, and elsewhere in Harun al-Rashid's realm, when 'Abd-Allah b. Malek and Abu Dolaf 'Ejli put them down on caliph's behalf - but none had the scale and duration of Babak's revolt, which pinned down caliphal armies for twenty years. After Babak's emergence, the Khorrami movement was centered in Azarbaijan and reinforced with volunteers from elsewhere, probably including descendants of Abu Moslem's supporters and other Iranian enemies of the 'Abbasid caliphate. The figures given for the strength of Babak's Khorramdinan army, such as 100,000 men (Abu'l-Ma'ali), 200,000 (Mas'udi), or innumerable (Baghdadi) are doubtless highly exaggerated but at least indicate that it was large. At that time of Babak, there were Khorramis scattered in many regions of Iran, besides Azerbaijan, reportedly in Tabarestan, Khorasan, Balkh, Isfahan, Kashan, Qom, Ray, Karaj, Hamadan, Lorestan, Khuzestan as well as in Basra, and Armenia.

Tabari records that Babak claimed he possessed Javadan's spirit and that Babak became active in 816-817. In 819-820 Yahya ibn Mu'adh fought against Babak, but could not defeat him. Two years later Babak vanquished the forces of Isa ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Khalid. In 824-825 the caliphal general Ahmad ibn al Junayd was sent against Babak. Babak defeated and captured him.

In 827-828 Muhammad ibn Humayd Tusi was dispatched to fight Babak. He won a victory and sent some captured enemy, but not Babak, to al-Ma'mun. However, about two years later, on June 9, 829, Babak won a decisive victory over this general at Hashtadsar. Muhammad ibn Humayd lost his life. Many of his soldiers were killed. The survivors fled in disarray.

In 835-836 the caliph al-Mu'tasim sent his outstanding general Afshin against Babak. Afshin rebuilt fortresses. He employed a relay system to protect supply caravans. Babak tried to capture the money being sent to pay Afshin's army, but was himself surprised, lost many men and barely escaped. He did succeed in capturing some supplies and inflicting some hardship on his enemies. Amongst Babak's commander were Azin, Rostam, Tarkhan, Mua’wiyah and Abdullah. [ Said Nafisi, Babak Khorramdin Delawar-e-Azerbaijan (Babak Khorramdin, the brave-heart of Azerbaijan), Tabesh Publishers, Tehran 1955 ] .

The next year Babak routed the forces of Afshin's subordinate, Bugha al-Kabir. In 837-838 al-Mu'tasim reinforced Afshin and provided him clear military instructions. Patiently following these enabled Afshin to capture Babak's stronghold of Badhdh. Babak escaped. Al-Mu'tasim sent a safety guarantee for Babak to Afshin. This was taken to Babak who was very displeased. He said:

"Better to live for just a single day as a ruler than to live for forty years as an abject slave."

He made his way to the Armenian leader Sahl Smbatian (Armenian: Սահլ Սմբատյան; Sahl ibn Sunbat in Arab sources), Prince of Khachen. Sahl Smbatian, however, handed Babak over to Afshin, punishing Babak for devastations that his troops inflicted upon Armenian lands of Syunik and Artsakh. Al-Mu'tasim commanded his general to bring Babak to him. Afshin informed Babak of this and told him since Babak might never return, this was the time to take a last look around. At Babak's request, Afshin allowed his prisoner to go to Badhdh. There Babak walked through his ruined stronghold one night until dawn.

Eventually, Bābak, his wife, and his warriors were forced to leave "Ghaleye Bābak" after 23 years of constant campaigns. He was eventually betrayed by Afshin and was handed over to the Abbasid Caliph. During Bābak's execution, the Caliph's henchmen first cut off his legs and hands in order to convey the most devastating message to his followers. The legend says that Bābak bravely rinsed his face with the drained blood pouring out of his cuts, thus depriving the Caliph and the rest of the Abbasid army from seeing his pale face, a result of the heavy loss of blood. [CAIS News, "Restoration of Fortress of Babak Khorramdin to Continue", May 16, 2004]


Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari History v. 32 "The Reunification of the Abbasid Caliphate," transl. C.E. Bosworth, SUNY, Albany, 1987; v. 33 "Storm and Stress along the Northern Frontiers of the Abbasid Caliphate," transl. C.E. Bosworth, SUNY, Albany, 1991

ee also

* Abu Muslim Khorasani
* Sassanid dynasty
* Manichaeism
* Babak Castle
* Mazdakism
* Maziar
* Mardavij
* Babek (film)

References and notes

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