The Oḡuz Khan narratives constitute a cycle of mythical accounts associated with the life, conquests, and descendants of Oḡuz, who is also called Oḡuz Khan, Oḡuz Qaḡan, Oḡuz Āqā, or Oḡuz Atā—the legendary ancestor of the Oḡuz tribes (see ḠOZZ). The title Oḡuz-nāma is frequently used to designate various versions of the narrative, although as a generic  title for the Oḡuz narratives it appeared much later.

Origins and early textual examples. The first two datable versions of the Oḡuz narrative are found in Rašid-al-Din’s (d. 718/1318) Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ. The first and shorter version, which is found at the beginning of the Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, is based on a second and longer narrative found in the second volume of the same work (Rašid-al-Din, 1995, I, pp. 47-63; Idem, 2005, pp. 1-62). The former differs from the latter, as it includes interpolations by Rašid-al-Din, such as the account on the Aḡač Eri tribe, which is absent from the longer version (Rašid-al-Din, 1995, I, p. 54). The Arabic version of the Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ includes only the shorter version (MS Ayasofya 3034, fols. 27a-37b); the longer version of the narrative in Arabic has not come down to us.

In the earliest manuscripts of the Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, the Oḡuz narrative does not bear any title (Topkapı Saray Library, MSS Hazine 1653 [copied in 714/1314], fols. 375b-391a, and Hazine 1654 [copied in 717/1317], fols. 237b-251b). However, later Timurid copies do have titles, such as Tāriḵ-e Torkān wa Oḡuz wa ḥekāyat-e jahāngiri-e u (Topkapı Saray Library, MS Ahmed III 2935, fol. 309a), or Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz wa ḥāl-e u (Topkapı Saray Library, MS Bağdad Köşkü 282, fol. 590b). The latter title was adopted by Moḥammad Rowšan, who edited the text (Rašid-al-Din, 2005, p. ix). The term Oḡuz-nāma was first used by the Mamluk historian Ebn al-Dawādāri (fl. 786/1335-6) in his Dorar al-tijān wa ḡorar tawāriḵ al-azmān and by the Ottoman historian Yazıjıoḡlu ʿAli (fl. 840/1436) in his Tāriḵ-e āl-e Saljuq. However, in the case of Ebn al-Dawādāri, it refers to a variant of the Ketāb-e Dede Qorqut, and not to the Oḡuz narrative (Graf, p. 55; Yazıjıoḡlu, fol. 2b).

Rašid-al-Din’s Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz is a collation of five narrative layers: 1) the story of Oḡuz; 2) the stories of the Oḡuz yabḡus; 3) the stories of the Qarā Khans and Buḡrā Khans; 4) the story of Šāh Malek and the early Saljuqs; 5) narratives on various Turkic and Islamic dynasties, such as the Samanids, Ghaznavids, and Salghurids (Sümer, p. 360; Jahn, pp. 45-63). The style and language of these narratives suggest that the text of the Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz had been collated anonymously before Rašid-al-Din composed his chronicle. The following discussion focuses exclusively on the first narrative layer and its subsequent reception in Persianate historiography.

The Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz begins with a short genealogical and topographical introduction connecting the family of Oḡuz to that of Japheth, or Öljey/Oljāy Khan, as he is called in the text, and his son Dib Yāwqu Khan, who lived nomadic life around the lakes of Issyk-Kul and Balkhash. Oḡuz was born to the family of Qarā Khan, son of Dib Yāwqu Khan, and his unnamed wife (Rašid-al-Din, 2005, pp. 1-2). There are three main themes in the following story of Oḡuz: conversion, conquest, and etiology. Oḡuz was born as a monotheist; he first converted his mother by threatening her to starve himself to death, and then his wife, who was also his cousin. Oḡuz’s monotheism causes a cataclysmic clash between the generations, in which Oḡuz kills his father and two of his uncles (incidentally, the surviving uncles are portrayed as ancestors of the Mongols). Then, Oḡuz sets out to conquer the entire world including India, Karal wa Bāšḡird (that is, the Hungarians and the Bashkirs), the land of the Dog-men (Qïl Baraq), the Land of Darkness (Qarā hulun), Šervān and Šemāḵi, Arrān and Muḡān, Diār Bakr and Šām, Kordestān, Rum (Anatolia) and Farang (Europe), Damascus, Baghdad, Kerman, ʿErāq-e ʿAjam, Māzandarān, Gorgān, Dehestān, Ḵorasān, and finally Qohestān (Rašid-al-Din, 2005, pp. 8-54).

The Oḡuz narrative is also an etiological myth, explaining the formation of the twenty-four Oḡuz tribes, as well as the Qarluq, Qalač, Qïpčaq (see QEPČĀQ), Qanglï, and the Mongols (Movāl). Oḡuz divides his six sons into two main branches: Bozoq (Gün Khan, Ay Khan, and Yulduz Khan) and Üčoq (Gök Khan, Ṭaq Khan, and Dengiz Khan), and he stipulates that the Bozoq are always superior to the Üčoq. After Oḡuz’s death, Ïrqïl Ḵᵛāja, the advisor of his eldest son Gün Khan, recommends that Oḡuz’s twenty-four grandsons be organized in a way that future clashes among them can be avoided. Hence, the advisor gives a nickname to each grandson of Oḡuz and defines the tamḡas (brands of their animals) and the onquns (totemic animals) of each of them (Rašid-al-Din, 2005, pp. 53, 56; see the genealogical tree of the Oḡuz in TABLE 1).

That the Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz is a collation of different narrative traditions, both oral and literary, is beyond doubt. With some variations, and without the etiological narratives and the figure of Oḡuz as an ancestor, the list of the Oḡuz tribes is already found in Maḥmud Kāšḡari’s Divān loḡāt al-Tork (Kāšḡari, I, pp. 101-2). The story of the Dog-Men closely resembles the expedition of the Mongol armies to the Land of the Dogs in de Bridia’s Historia Tartarorum (Skelton, pp. 70-72). Similarly, Oḡuz’s relationship with Yuši Ḵvāja, an elderly person who secretly attends Oḡuz’s campaigns, and his voyage into the Land of Darkness show striking resemblances to the story of Eskandar in Neẓāmi Ganjavi’s Šaraf-nāma and in the Alexander romance by the Syriac monk Jacob of Serugh (d. 521; see Neẓāmi, pp. 505-13; Budge, pp. 170-75; Boyle, p. 224). These textual connections might support Zeki Velidi Togan’s argument of locating the place of composition of the Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz in Azerbaijan (Togan, 1982, p. 120).

Besides Rašid-al-Din’s Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz, the most important, yet enigmatic, text of the early history of the Oḡuz narrative is the story of Oḡuz Qaḡan written in Ūighur script in an undetermined Turkic dialect. This narrative reached us in a unique but incomplete manuscript preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris (MS Supplément turc 1001). It shares the conquest and community formation themes with the Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz, but the theme of conversion is absent in it. As opposed to the Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz, it features many ‘miraculous’ themes, such as one of Oḡuz’s wives descending from the sky in a light, and a male wolf playing the role of Yuši Kvāja (Shcherbak, pp. 22-63). There is no agreement among scholars on how and where the Oḡuz Qaḡan narrative should be contextualized. Opinions vary from early 14th-century Eastern Turkestan (Pelliot, p. 358; Shcherbak, pp. 101-7) to late 13th- or early 14th-century Il-khanid (see IL-KHANIDS) Iran (Sümer, p. 389). The historian of Nāder Shah (r. 1736-47) Moḥammad-Mahdi Khan Astarābādi (d. between 1172/1759 and 1182/1768), included a fragment of this narrative in his Chaghatay-Persian dictionary Sanglāḵ (Moḥammad-Mahdi Khan, fol. 180a).

Another early variant of the Oḡuz narrative is the so-called Ūzunköprü Narrative in Eastern Turkic dated to the 13th or 14th century. Ūnlike the Oḡuz Qaḡan narrative, it closely follows Rašid-al-Din’s Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz, although it is not certain whether it represents an independent narrative or a popular verse rendering of the latter (Eraslan, pp. 176-90).

Later historiographical traditions. After its appearance in Rašid-al-Din’s Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, the Oḡuz narrative acquired a canonical status in post-Mongol Persianate historiography (see HISTORIOGRAPHY v. to viii.). The Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ was the primary source of Ḥamd-Allāh Mostowfi’s (d. 750/1349-50) Tāriḵ-e gozida. However, Mostowfi incorporated some oral narratives, such as the intrusion of a wolf into the mythical enclosure Ergene Qun, and he fully integrated the Oḡuz narrative with Čengiz Khan’s (d. 624/1227) career by associating those tribes which opposed Čengiz Khan, such as the Kerayit and Nayman, with Oḡuz’s uncles (Qazvini, pp. 563, 567; Dobrovits, pp. 270-72).

The Timurid historian Šaraf-al-Din ʿAli Yazdi’s (d. 858/1454) account of the Oḡuz Khan narrative in the Moqaddama, the so-called Prologue to his Ẓafar-nāma, is partially based on the Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ (Yazdi, fols. 16a-17a). However, Yazdi introduced a completely novel genealogical structure for Oḡuz’s ancestry, resulting in a distinction between “Tātār Khan” and “Moḡul Khan,”—a distinction which reflects the 15th-century social and political dualisms, such as steppe vs. sown and Muslim vs. non-Muslim. Yazdi had tremendous influence over the later Timurid and Mughal historiography (see HISTORIOGRAPHY v. TIMŪRID PERIOD, and INDIA xvi. INDO-PERSIAN HISTORIOGRAPHY). The most noteworthy of the later renderings of Yazdi is the anonymous Šajarat al-Atrāk attributed to Oloḡ Beg (d. 853/1449), which inserts the Ottoman genealogy into the general genealogical scheme by depicting the Ottomans as the descendants of Čin, son of Japheth (Pseudo-Oloḡ Beg, fols. 8b-17a).

Whereas the Oḡuz narrative was intertwined with Chingizid history in Timurid historiography, it gained an independent status in the Turkmen and Ottoman realms in western Iran and Anatolia. The need to define political authority and legitimize it for non-aristocratic, that is, non-Chingizid, Turkmens was determinant in the elevation of the Oḡuz narrative to the level of foundational dynastic myth in 15th-century Azerbaijan and Anatolia, and several dynasties were depicted as descendants of one of the twenty-four grandsons of Oḡuz. The Ottoman historian Šokr-Allāh (d. 894/1488) refers to a certain Tawāriḵ-e Oḡuz in Ūighur script, propagating genealogical superiority of the Ottoman sultan Morād II (r. 1421-44 and 1446-51) as a descendant of Gök Alp over Qarā Yusof of the Qara Qoyunlu as a descendant of Dengiz Alp (Šokr-Allāh, fol. 158b). Likewise, the Āq Qoyunlu chronicles Ketāb-e Diārbakriya and Tāriḵ-e ʿālamārā-ye amini extend the dynastic lineage back to Bayundur Khan, son of Gün Khan, son of Oḡuz Khan (Ṭehrāni, pp. 24-25; Ḵonji, p. 21; Woods, pp. 173-82).

The Oḡuz Khan narrative was introduced to Ottoman intellectual circles by Yazıjıoḡlu ʿAli’s Tāriḵ-e āl-e Saljuq, which he wrote during the reign of the Ottoman sultan Murad II. Yazıjıoḡlu’s narrative is mainly a translation of Rašid-al-Din’s Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, although the section on the customs (töre), the principles of succession, and the rules of politics set by Oḡuz is Yazıjıoḡlu ʿAli’s own contribution preparing the ideological basis for future Ottoman absolutist claims (Yazıjıoḡlu, fols. 1b-18b; Mustafaev, pp. 11-12).

After Yazıjıoḡlu ʿAli, alternative Oḡuz genealogies going back to Gün Khan or Gök Khan were included in many Ottoman chronicles without providing extensive narrative background. One exception is Maḥmud Bayāti’s (fl. 886/1481-82) Jām-e Jam-āyin (Bayāti, pp. 9-55). As a member of the Turkmen Bayat tribe from Tabriz, Bayāti seems to have integrated some local narratives circulating in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan. Evidence for this comes from the Kurdish historian Šaraf Khan Bedlisi, who used similar narratives in his Šaraf-nāma (Bayāti, pp. 30-31; Bedlisi, 1860, I, pp. 16-17), and the Ketāb-e Dede Qorqut, which feature protagonists with similar names (Bügdüz Emen) and characteristics (visiting of the Prophet; see Dede Korkut, pp. 65, 254).

Some Ottoman historians, however, introduced a radical shift in the mythical discourse of the Oḡuz narrative. As opposed to the Japhetic paradigm, this new narrative discourse suggests an alternative lineage going back to Esau, son of Isaac. Hence, the term ‘Semitic paradigm’ referring to Isaac’s lineage going back to Shem. Enveri (fl. 869/1465) first signaled this new approach in his Düsturnāme, where the Oḡuz tribesman Tümen Khan has his daughter Turunc Ḵātun marry a certain ʿAyāż b. ʿOṯmān, a Qoreyshi soldier in the army of Saʿd b. Abi Waqqās (d. in 670s) in Iraq. They have a son, Soleymān, who is also called Oḡuz. In this narrative, the name ʿAyāż is most probably a corrupted form for ʿIyāṣ, that is, Esau, son of Isaac (Enveri, pp. 5-11). Edris Bedlisi’s (d. 926/1520) Hašt behešt, as well as the Pseudo-Ruhi (Oxford Anonymous), bear some similarities with Enveri’s text. According to Edris Bedlisi, Esau, son of Jacob, went to Turkestan and there became the ancestor of the Turks. Bedlisi adds that Esau was called Qayti Khan, who was the father of Oḡuz (Edris Bedlisi, fol. 18a). According to Pseudo-Ruhi, Esau was Oḡuz’s grandfather, who was also called Qoy Khan (Pseudo-Ruhi, p. 375). The late 15th-century popular legend Ṣaltuq-nāma includes a similar narrative, connecting the Ottoman dynasty to Esau (Abu’l-Ḵayr Rumi, IV, p. 619). The rise of apocalyptic expectations after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed (Moḥammad) II (r. 1444-46 and 1451-81) seems to have been the main thrust behind the rise of the Semitic paradigm among the Ottoman intellectuals, as Esau was seen as the ancestor of the Banu al-Aṣfar, who would appear at the end of time (Flemming, pp. 134-37). The Ottoman historian Neşri’s critique of the Semitic paradigm reveals this underlying tension. According to Neşri, those who claim an Esavitic lineage for Oḡuz are in error, as Esau was the ancestor of the second Rome. Oḡuz, like the Mongols, Turks, and the first Rome, was of the Japhetic lineage (Neşri, I, pp. 56-57). The Semitic paradigm also resonated in the Ottoman mystic Vāni Meḥmed (Moḥammad) Efendi’s (d. 1096/1685) commentary to the Qorʾān (ʿArāʾes al-Qorʾān, Surah IX [al-Tawba], 38-39), where he says that the Turks are the predicted people (qowm) whom God would send if the believers were to turn to the pleasures of the world, arguing that Oḡuz Khan, the ancestor of the Turks and a contemporary of Abraham, was married to the daughter of Isaac. Hence, according to Vāni Meḥmed Efendi, the Ottomans had a prophetic lineage going back to Isaac via maternal line (Vāni Meḥmed Efendi, fol. 544b).

After the decline of Timurid rule in Central Asia in early 16th century, Shaybanid historians mainly followed the pattern established by their Il-khanid and Timurid predecessors, and the Oḡuz narrative was intertwined with Chingizid dynastic myths, such as the stories of Alan Qoa and Ergene Qun. The anonymous Tawāriḵ-e gozida-ye noṣrat-nāma, which was written in the early 16th century for Moḥammad Šaybāni Khan (d. 915/1510) combined the versions of Rašid-al-Din and Ḥamd-Allāh Mostowfi, although it had an added section on the Kerayit tribe, which might reflect the prevailing importance of tribes in Ūzbek politics during this period (Tawāriḵ-e gozida, pp. 15-31). Likewise, the Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz Ḵān wa Alan Qoa (or the Šïbāni-nāma) relies on Šaraf-al-Din ʿAli Yazdi, but also adds a section on the Qongrat tribe to the narrative (Šïbāni-nāma, pp. 1-21).

Another post-Timurid Central Asian historian, Abu’l-Ḡāzi Bahādor Khan (r. 1054-74/1644 to 1663-64), the Chingizid ruler of Ḵiva, was the first to compose an Oḡuz narrative divorced of the Chingizid history. The Šajara-ye Tarākema is mainly based on Rašid-al-Din, but Abu’l-Ḡāzi clearly incorporated oral Turkmen traditions (probably from the perspective of the Ersari Turkmen tribe) into the narrative (Abu’l-Ḡāzi, 1996, p. 109; Penrose, p. 205). Abu’l-Ḡāzi and his son Anuša composed another chronicle entitled Šajara-ye Tork, which brings the history of the Shaybanid Chingizids down to 1663. The Oḡuz narrative in this work follows the canon established by Yazdi (Abu’l-Ḡāzi, 1871-74, pp. 5-61). Around 1204/1789-90, a Chaghatay translation of Yazdi’s Oḡuz narrative and the Šajara-ye Tarākema were edited together with some additions, such as the story of Afšār Khan, in the Bayān-e Oḡuz-nāma, which reflects the oral traditions of the Afšār tribe in Persia (Bayān-e Oḡuz-nāma, fols. 34b-67a, 86a-97b; Türkmen, pp. 343-62). The 18th-century Turkmen poet Nur-Moḥammad Andalip’s Oḡuz-nāma was likewise mainly based on Abu’l-Ḡāzi’s Šajara-ye Tarākema, but it features some interpolations, probably oral in origin, such as the Ūighur ancestry of the Qïpčaq tribe (Bekmyradov, pp. 105-23).

The Ketāb-e Dede Qorqut, which is a collection of twelve stories reflecting the oral traditions of the Turkmens in the 15th-century eastern Anatolia, is also called Oḡuz-nāma. It is true that Dede Qorqut, the main protagonist of the Ketāb-e Dede Qorqut, appears as a wise man in Rašid-al-Din’s Tāriḵ-e Oḡuz, but the figure of Oḡuz and the mythical fiction around him are not mentioned (Rašid-al-Din, 2005, pp. 67-71; Dede Korkut, pp. 29, 48, 197, 214). The term Oḡuz-nāme here refers to the story of the Oḡuz tribesmen, and not to Oḡuz as a mythical person. Besides, the Oḡuz narratives and the Ketāb-e Dede Qorqut have different discursive structures. While the Oḡuz narratives tell the stories of the khans, that is, the supreme rulers of the steppe politics, the Ketāb-e Dede Qorqut relate the stories of the Oḡuz tribesmen and their chiefs; the supreme leader, Bayundur Khan, is mentioned but never emphasized in the text. This is also true for the Topkapı fragment, an anonymous account found on the front flyleaf of Yazıjıoḡlu’s Tāriḵ-e āl-e Saljuq immediately preceding the story of Oḡuz (Edgüer, pp. 243-49). Despite these differences, these two narrative circles were apparently brought together during the 14th to 16th centuries. The Kalemāt-e Oḡuz-nāma al-mašhur be Atalar Sözi, which is a collection of proverbs, including an introduction on Qorqut Atā, mentions Oḡuz Atā as a figure in prophetic capacity (Kalemāt-e Oḡuz-nāma, fols. 4a-4b; Gökyay, p. xxxii). The Golden Horde narratives reflecting the narratives in the Mamluk historian Ebn al-Dawādāri’s (fl. 786/1335-6) chronicles, Kanz al-dorar wa jāmeʿ al-ḡorar and Dorar al-tijān wa ḡorar tawāriḵ al-azmān, represent a unique combination of stories on Čengiz Khan, Oḡuz, and Dede Qorqut (Ebn al-Dawādāri, pp. 217-31; Graf, pp. 52, 55; Haarmann, pp. 15-16). Finally, the Tāriḵ-e jadid-e merʾāt-e jahān, a universal history written in 1000/1592 by a member of the Āq Qoyunlu family, includes the narrative of Oḡuz with references to both the Dede Qorqut narratives and the Oḡuz Khan narrative (ʿOṯmān, pp. 13-20; Miroğlu, pp. 49-54).

In several instances, Oḡuz was presented as an ancestral figure in hagiographical literature. Moḥyi Golšani (d. ca. 1014/1605-06) depicted the Ottoman mystic Ebrāhim Golšani (d. 940/1533) as a direct descendant of Oḡuz Atā in his Manāqeb-e Ebrāhim-e Golšani (Moḥyi Golšani, p. 13). There is also a very short narrative appended to a 19th-century manuscript of the Šajara-ye Tarākema on a Sufi sheikh called Dāna Atā, who propagated the Oḡuz-nāma among the Golden Horde (Samoǐlovich, pp. 896-98). The now-lost Tawāriḵ-e mašāyeḵ-e Tork by Sayyed Aḥmad Nāṣer-al-Din Marḡināni (fl. 1229/1814) also connects Oḡuz with Kᵛāja Solaymān b. Barman, the son-in-law of and successor to the Sufi shaykh Aḥmad Yasavi, who lived in Central Asia in the late 12th century (Togan, 1953, p. 525).



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(İlker Evrım Bınbaş)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: April 15, 2010