BEGLERBEGĪ (Pers. also -beygī), a Turkish title meaning “beg of begs,” “commander of commanders.” In the Il-khanid period it is sometimes employed in chronicles to designate the leading amir in the state, e.g., of Taḡačar (Ṭaḡājār) in 694/1295 (Waṣṣāf, Tajzīat al-­amṣar wa tazjīat al-aʿṣār, ed. Bombay, 1269/1853, p. 284); and according to the Mamluk geographer ʿOmarī (Masālek al-abṣār, ed. and tr. K. Lech, Das mongolische Weltreich, Wiesbaden, 1968, text, p. 93, tr. p. 153), this was the regular usage. In this case the term would have been synonymous with ulusbegī “amir of the ulus (state),” and equivalent to the Arabic-Persian amīr al-omarāʾ. Under the Safavids the title came to be applied to governors of the more important provinces. At first governors of all ranks were called merely ḥākem, but beglerbegī appears in an edict of Ṭahmāsb I in 950/1543-44 referring to the governor of Herat. During the succeeding decades the title is used for the governors of numerous provinces, including those of Azerbaijan, Qarabāḡ, Šīrvān, Fārs, ʿErāq-e ʿArab, and Astarābād. At the same time, however, a few provinces—those, it seems, regarded as strategically more important—were administered by a wālī, and by the end of the Safavid period this term had superseded beglerbegī also.

See also BEG.


V. L. Ménage, “Beglerbegī,” in EI2.

G. Doerfer, Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen, Wiesbaden, 1963-75, II, pp. 406-­10.

Taḏkeratal-molūk, ed. Minorsky, pp. 25, 43, 163.

K. M. Röhrborn, Provinzen und Zentralgewalt Per­siens im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1966, pp. 19-­25, 33-37, 44-45, 84.

(Peter Jackson)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 1, p. 84