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Unity of the Persianate World under Turko-Mongolian Domination and Divergent Development of Imperial Autocracies in the Sixteenth Century

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The promotion of the Persianate normative model of imperial kingship was the major ecumenical contribution of the Persian bureaucrats who served the Saljuq and Mongol rulers of Iran and Anatolia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to state-building. The phenomenal growth of popular Sufism in Timurid Iran and early Ottoman Anatolia had a highly paradoxical impact on the legitimacy of kingship, making its conception increasingly autocratic. Both in the Ottoman and the Safavid successor empires, the disintegrative tendency of nomadic patrimonial empires was countered by variants of Persianate imperial monarchy. It is argued that the decisive event in sundering the ecumenical unity of the Persianate world was not the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, but the Mahdist revolution of the Safavid sheykhoghlu, Shah Esmāʿil, half a century later. The parting of ways stemmed from the variant of mystically enhanced autocracy adopted in the two cases—one with orthodox, Sunni, and the other with heterodox, Shiʿite inflection. The latter model became the Safavid model of autocracy under Shah Esmāʿil, and was quickly adopted by the Timurids after their conquest of India in 1526.

Affiliations: 1: Stony Brook


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