The ‘Ilkhanid Legacy’ and the Re-imagining of Dynastic Rulership under the Jalayirids and Qara Quyunlu

This paper examines the appropriation of Ilkhanid rhetoric and symbolism by post-Chinggisid rulers in Iran in the 14th and early 15th centuries. Although the end of the Ilkhanate is generally understood to have occurred in 1335 with the end of the Chinggisid line, the notion of the Ilkhanid political tradition continued, and became a powerful ideological concept by which contenders for power sought to create a prestigious political identity.
Specifically, the paper focuses on the ways in which the Jalayirid ruler Shaykh Uvays (d. 1374) and the Qara Quyunlu ruler Qara Yusuf (d. 1420) deployed notions of legitimate political authority developed during the Ilkhanid period by figures such as Rashid al-Din in order to connect themselves and their families to the (usefully) vague notion of a Ilkhanid legacy. Because the Jalayirids and Qara Quyunlu Turkmans were not Chinggisids, the nature of the connection between both Shaykh Uvays and Qara Yusuf to the Mongol past could not be genealogical. Instead, the connection rested upon a quite broader formulation of the Ilkhanid ulus as a geo-ideological concept, which could be distinct from the Chinggisid family, provided it was in the hands of a ruler who could uphold the political and religious traditions of the Ilkhanate. What these traditions were was of course open to a degree of interpretation, and thus served as an attractive notion for members of the political elite who were non-Chinggisids, but who also hoped to convert the Ilkhanid patrimony into their own dynastic possession. Such a formulation of ideology required ingenuity, literary subtlety, and a rich understanding of the earlier generations of Ilkhanid historical writing by those who served these rulers, and who had a great deal to gain by connecting their patrons, and thus, their own fortunes, to the power and glory of the Ilkhanate.
The “conversion” dealt with here is thus not a religious one, but a transferal of political legitimacy from one dynastic tradition to another, mediated by a re-imagining of the essential features of the Ilkhanate by those rulers and men of the pen who would rule post-Chinggisid Iran.