The Daylamites or Dailamites (Middle Persian: Daylamīgān; Persian: دیلمیانDeylamiyān) were an Iranian people inhabiting the Daylam—the mountainous regions of northern Iran on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea.[1] They were employed as soldiers from the time of the Sasanian Empire, and long resisted the Muslim conquest of Persia and subsequent Islamization. In the 930s, the Daylamite Buyid dynasty emerged and managed to gain control over much of modern-day Iran, which it held until the coming of the Seljuq Turks in the mid-11th century.

Map showing Daylam in western Tabaristan.

Origins, language and equipment

The Daylamites lived in the highlands of Daylam, part of the Alborz range, between Gilan and Tabaristan. However, the earliest Zoroastrian and Christian sources indicate that the Daylamites originally came from Anatolia near the Tigris,[2] where Iranian ethnolinguistic groups, including Zazas, live today.[3] They spoke the Daylami language, a now-extinct northwestern Iranian variety similar to that of the neighbouring Gilites.[4] During the Sasanian Empire, they were employed as high-quality infantry.[5] According to the Byzantine historians Procopius and Agathias, they were a warlike people and skilled in close combat, being armed each with a sword, a shield and spears or javelins.


Pre-Islamic period

Seleucid and Parthian period

The Daylamites first appear in historical records in the late second century BCE, where they are mentioned by Polybius, who erroneously calls them Ἐλυμαῖοι ("Elamites") instead of Δελυμαῖοι ("Daylamites"). In the Middle Persian prose Kar-Namag i Ardashir i Pabagan, Artabanus V of Parthia (r. 208–224) summoned all the troops from Ray, Damavand, Daylam, and Padishkhwargar to fight the newly established Sasanian Empire. According to the Letter of Tansar, during this period, Daylam, Gilan, and Ruyan belonged to the kingdom of Gushnasp, who was a Parthian vassal but later submitted to Sasanian emperor Ardashir I (r. 224–242).[6]

Sasanian period

Ghale Rud Khan
Rudkhan Castle, constructed in Daylam during the Sasanian Empire.
Adurbadagan Sasanian era
Map showing Daylam (far right) under the Sasanian Empire.

The descendants of Gushnasp were still ruling until in ca. 520, when Kavadh I (r. 488-531) appointed his eldest son, Kawus, as the king of the former lands of the Gushnaspid dynasty.[6] In 522, Kavadh I sent an army under a certain Buya (known as Boes in Byzantine sources) against Vakhtang I of Iberia. This Buya was a native of Daylam, which is proven by the fact that he bore the title wahriz, a Daylamite title also used by Khurrazad, the Daylamite military commander who conquered Yemen in 570 during the reign of Khosrow I (r. 531-579),[6] and his Daylamite troops would later play a significant role in the conversion of Yemen to the nascent Islam.[4] The 6th-century Byzantine historian Procopius described the Daylamites as;

"barbarians who the middle of Persia, but have never become subject to the king of the Persians. For their abode is on sheer mountainsides which are altogether inaccessible, and so they have continued to be autonomous from ancient times down to the present day; but they always march with the Persians as mercenaries when they go against their enemies. And they are all foot-soldiers, each man carrying a sword and shield and three javelins in his hand (De Bello Persico 8.14.3-9)."[7]

Daylamites also took part in the siege of Archaeopolis in 552. They supported the rebellion of Bahrām Chōbin against Khosrow II, but he later employed an elite detachment of 4000 Daylamites as part of his guard.[4]

Dailam soldier
A depiction of a Daylamite cavalryman from an Iranian textbook.

Some Muslim sources maintain that following the Sasanian defeat in the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, the 4000-strong Daylamite contingent of the Sasanian guard, along with other Iranian units, defected to the Arab side, converting to Islam.[8]

Islamic period

Resistance to the Arabs

Caspian coast of Iran during the Iranian intermezzo
Map of the Caspian coast of Iran during the Iranian Intermezzo.
Iran - Qazvin - Alamout Castle View
View of the Alamut Castle.
Prise d'Alamût (1256).jpeg
Siege of Alamut 1213-1214, depicted in the Jami' al-tawarikh by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Division Orientale.

The Daylamites managed to resist the Arab invasion of their own mountainous homeland for several centuries under their own local rulers.[4][9] Warfare in the region was endemic, with raids and counter-raids by both sides. Under the Arabs, the old Iranian fortress-city of Qazvin continued in its Sasanian-era role as a bulwark against Daylamite raids. According to the historian al-Tabari, Daylamites and Turkic peoples were considered the worst enemies of the Arab Muslims.[4] The Abbasid Caliphate penetrated the region and occupied parts of it, but their control was never very effective.

During the reign of Harun al-Rashid, several Shi'i Muslims fled to the largely pagan Daylamites, with a few Zoroastrians and Christians, to escape persecution. Among these refugees were some Alids, who began the gradual conversion of the Daylamites to Shia Islam.[4][10] Nevertheless, a strong Iranian identity remained ingrained in the peoples of the region, along with an anti-Arab mentality. Local rulers such as the Buyids and the Ziyarids, made a point of celebrating old Iranian and Zoroastrian festivals.[9]

The Daylamite expansion

In the mid ninth-century, need increased in the Abbasid Caliphate for mercenary soldiers in the Royal Guard and the army, thus they began recruiting Daylamites, who although during this period were not as strong in numbers as the Turks, Khorasanis, the Farghanis, and the Egyptian Arab tribesmen of the Maghariba. From 912/3 to 916/7, a Daylamite soldier, Ali ibn Wahsudhan, was chief of police (ṣāḥib al-shurṭa) in Isfahan during the reign of al-Muqtadir (r. 908–929). For many decades, "it remained customary for the Caliph's personal guards to include the Daylamites as well as the ubiquitous Turks".[11]



The name of the king Muta sounds uncommon, but when in the 9th and 10th centuries Daylamite chieftains appear in the spotlight in massive numbers, their names are undoubtedly pagan Iranian, not of the south-western “Persian” type, but of the north-western type: thus Gōrāngēj (not Kūrānkīj, as originally interpreted) corresponds to Persian gōr-angēz “chaser of wild asses”, Shēr-zil to Shēr-dil “lion’s heart”, etc. The medieval Persian geographer Estakhri differentiates between Persian and Daylami and comments that in the highlands of Daylam there was a tribe that spoke a language different from that of Daylam and Gilan, perhaps a surviving non-Iranian language.[12]


The Daylamites were most likely adherents of some form of Iranian paganism, while a minority of them were Zoroastrian and Christian. According to al-Biruni, the Daylamites and Gilites "lived by the rule laid down by the mythical Afridun."[6] The Church of the East had spread among them due to the activities of John of Dailam, and bishoprics are reported in the remote area as late as the 790s, while it is possible that some remnants survived there until the 14th century.[4]

Customs, equipment and appearance

Daylamite infantryman
Artistic rendering of a Daylamite Buyid infantryman.
Ghaleye Rud Khan (40) 4
Picture of a rainforest in Daylam.

Many habits and customs of the Daylamites have been recorded in historical records. Their men were strikingly tough and capable of lasting terrible privations. They were armed with javelins and battle axes, and had tall shields painted in gray colours. In battle, they would usually form a wall with their shields against the attackers. Some Daylamites would use javelins with burning naphtha. A poetic portrayal of Daylamite armed combat is present in Fakhruddin As'ad Gurgani's Vis and Rāmin. A major disadvantage of the Daylamites was the low amount of cavalry that they had, which compelled them to work with Turkic mercenaries.[12]

The Daylamites exaggeratedly mourned over their dead, and even over themselves in failure. In 963, the Buyid ruler of Iraq, Mu'izz al-Dawla, popularized Mourning of Muharram in Baghdad, which may have played a part in the evolution of the ta'zieh.[12]

Estakhri describes the Daylamites as a bold but inconsiderate people, being thin in appearance and having fluffy hair. They practised agriculture and had herds, but only a few horses. They also grew rice, fished, and produced silk textiles. According to al-Muqaddasi, the Daylamites were handsome and had beards. According to the author of the Hudud al-'Alam, the Daylamite women took part in agriculture like men. According to Rudhrawari, they were "equals of men in strength of mind, force of character, and participation in the management of affairs."[12] Furthermore, the Daylamites also strictly practised endogamy.


  1. ^ Fishbein, Michael (1990). The History of al-Tabari Vol. 21: The Victory of the Marwanids A.D. 685-693/A.H. 66-73. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-0222-1., page 90, note 336
  2. ^ Dadagi, Farnbagh. Bahar, Mehrdad. Bundahishn. Tus, 1991
  3. ^ Extra, Guus; Gorter, Durk (2001). The Other Languages of Europe: Demographic, Sociolinguistic, and Educational Perspectives. Multilingual Matters. ISBN 978-1-85359-509-7.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Daylamites at Encyclopædia Iranica
  5. ^ Farrokh (2007), pp. 201, 224, 231
  6. ^ a b c d Madelung & Felix 1995, pp. 342-347.
  7. ^ Potts 2014, p. 165.
  8. ^ Farrokh (2007), p. 269
  9. ^ a b Price (2005), p. 42
  10. ^ Farrokh (2007), pp. 274-275
  11. ^ Bosworth (1975)
  12. ^ a b c d Minorsky 2012.


Abu'l-Hasan Mihyar al-Daylami

Abu'l-Hasan Mihyar al-Daylami (died 1037) was an Arabic-language poet of Daylamite origin during the Buyid period. Mihyar's poetry was dominated by metaphor, and he wrote in various poetic genres including ghazal, as well as writing elegies on Ali and Husayn ibn Ali.A former Zoroastrian, Mihyar was converted to Shia Islam by his teacher who was also poet. Ibn Khallikan narrates that Mihyar was harshly rebuked by an acquaintance for reviling the companions of Muhammad.Ibn Khallikan, who said Mihyar's works were so high in number that it fills four volumes, opined that Mihyar's writings "displayed great delicacy of thought and a remarkable loftiness of mind." However, Mihyar's poetic style was criticized for being "artificial and derivative."

Al-Hasan ibn al-Fairuzan

Al-Hasan ibn al-Fairuzan (Arabic: الحسن بن الفيروزان‎) (fl. 10th century) was a Daylamite prince from the Firuzanid family.

Buyid dynasty

The Buyid dynasty or the Buyids (Persian: آل بویه‎ Āl-e Buye), also known as Buwaihids, Bowayhids, Buyahids, or Buyyids, was a Shia Iranian dynasty of Daylamite origin. Coupled with the rise of other Iranian dynasties in the region, the approximate century of Buyid rule represents the period in Iranian history sometimes called the 'Iranian Intermezzo' since, after the Muslim conquest of Persia, it was an interlude between the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate and the Seljuk Empire.The Buyid dynasty was founded by 'Ali ibn Buya, who in 934 conquered Fars and made Shiraz his capital, while his younger brother Hasan ibn Buya conquered parts of Jibal in the late 930s, and by 943 managed to capture Ray, which he made his capital. In 945, the youngest brother, Ahmad ibn Buya, conquered Iraq and made Baghdad his capital, receiving the honorific title of "Mu'izz al-Dawla" ("Fortifier of the State"), while 'Ali was given the title of "'Imad al-Dawla" ("Support of the State"), and Hasan was given the title of "Rukn al-Dawla" ("Pillar of the State").

As Daylamite Iranians the Buyids consciously revived symbols and practices of Iran's Sasanian Empire. In fact, beginning with 'Adud al-Dawla they used the ancient Sasanian title Shahanshah (شاهنشاه), literally "king of kings".At its greatest extent, the Buyid dynasty encompassed most of today's Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria, along with parts of Oman , the UAE, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. During the 10th and 11th centuries, just prior to the invasion of the Seljuq Turks, the Buyids were the most influential dynasty in the Middle East, and under king 'Adud al-Dawla, became briefly the most powerful dynasty in the Middle East.


Daylam, also known in the plural form Daylaman (and variants such as Dailam, Deylam, and Deilam), was the name of a mountainous region of inland Gilan, Iran. It was so named for its inhabitants, known as the Daylamites.

Fayruz al-Daylami

Fayruz al-Daylami (Arabic: فيروز الديلمي‎, Persian: فیروز دیلمی, Firuz the Daylamite) was a Persian companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He belonged to the descendants (abna') of Persians that had been sent by Khusraw Anooshiravan to Yemen, conquered it, and drove out the Abyssinians.

After Aswad Ansi claimed prophethood in Yemen, proceeded to invade Najran and much of Yemen, attacking Sana'a and the ruler of Yemen and Shahr, who along with the son of Badhan was killed in battle against Aswad, Fayruz was sent out by the Prophet Muhammad to kill him. In reference to this, in al-Tabari's History, Muhammad was reported as saying, "He was killed by the virtuous man Fayruz b. al-Daylami." Fayruz died during the caliphate of Uthman.

Fuladh ibn Manadhar

Fuladh ibn Manadhar (Persian: دیر فولاد بن مانا‎), was a Justanid prince, who served as a high-ranking military officer of the Buyid dynasty.

Gond-i Shahanshah

Gond-i Shahanshah ("the army of the Shahanshah"), also known by its Arabicized form of Jund-i Shahanshah, was the name of the 4,000 Daylamite elite unit of the Sasanian king. They originally lived in Daylam, but were resettled in Ctesiphon by Khosrow II (r. 590-628), probably some time after 600. After the Sasanian Empire suffered a major defeat in 636 to the Arabs at the battle of al-Qadisiyyah, the Gond-i Shahanshah defected to the Arabs, converted to Islam, and settled in Kufa, where they had their own quarter.

Ibn Fuladh

Ibn Fuladh, also known as Ibn Puladh, was a Daylamite military officer who is known for revolting against his Buyid overlords. He was the son of Fuladh ibn Manadhar, a prominent Buyid officer who was son of Manadhar, an Justanid king.

Ibn Fuladh, in order to gain Qazvin as his fief, revolted against the Buyid ruler Majd al-Dawla in 1016. Majd al-Dawla, however, refused to make him governor of Qazvin, which made Ibn Fuladh threaten him around the countryside of his capital in Ray. Majd al-Dawla then requested the aid of his vassal, the Bavandid ruler Abu Ja'far Muhammad, who managed to defeat Ibn Fuladh and repel him from Ray. Ibn Fuladh then requested aid from the Ziyarid ruler Manuchihr, who was a rival of the Buyids. Ibn Fuladh agreed to become Manuchihr's vassal in return for his aid. The following year, a combined army of Ibn Fuladh and Manuchihr besieged Ray, which forced Majd al-Dawla to make Fuladh the governor of Isfahan. However, the Kakuyid ruler Muhammad ibn Rustam Dushmanziyar, who was the original ruler of Isfahan, defeated Ibn Fuladh, and possibly killing him during the battle.

Kiya Buzurg Ummid

Kiyā Buzurg-Ummīd (Persian: کیا بزرگ امید‎) (died 1138) was a dāʿī and the second Nizari Isma'ili ruler of Alamut Castle from 1124 to 1138 CE (or 518—532 AH). He was of Daylami origin from the region of Rudbar.


Abu Mansur Lashkarwarz ibn Sahlan, better known as simply Lashkarwarz (also spelled Lashkarwaz), was a Daylamite military officer who served the Buyid dynasty. He was the son of a certain Sahlan, and had a brother named Musafir. Lashkarwarz is first mentioned in participating in the army of the Buyid vizier Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Muhallabi in the defense of Basra against the Wajihid ruler of Oman, Yusuf ibn Wajih. In 954, Lashkarwarz was sent to aid the Muhtajid ruler Abu 'Ali Chaghani, whose claims to Samanid Khorasan was supported by the Buyids. However, this attempt turned fruitless, and Abu 'Ali died one year later of disease. Lashkarwarz also had a daughter who married the son of the Buyid ruler Mu'izz al-Dawla, Izz al-Dawla. Lashkarwarz along with his brother died in 958.

Makan ibn Kaki

Abu Mansur Makan ibn Kaki (died 25 December 940) was a Daylamite military leader active in northern Iran (esp. Tabaristan and western Khurasan) in the early 10th century. He became involved in the succession disputes of the Alids of Tabaristan, and managed to establish himself as the ruler of Tabaristan and Gurgan for short periods of time, in competition to other Daylamite warlords such as Asfar ibn Shiruya or the Ziyarid brothers Mardavij and Vushmgir. He alternately opposed and secured support from the Samanid governors of Khurasan, and eventually fell in battle against a Samanid army.

Muhammad Buzurg Ummid

Muḥammad ibn Kiyā Buzurg-Ummīd (Persian: محمد بن کیا بزرگ امید) (1097‎) (February 20, 1162) was the son of Kiyā Buzurg-Ummīd, and the third commander of the Alamūt Castle of the Nizari Ismaili state.

Muta of Daylam

Muta was a 7th-century Daylamite king, who fought against the Arabs in the battle of Waj Rudh. He was, however, defeated and killed by Nu'aym ibn Muqarrin.

Rustam Dushmanziyar

Rustam Dushmanziyar (Persian: رستم دشمنزار‎) was a Daylamite aristocrat and the ancestor of the Kakuyid dynasty. His personal name was Rustam, but was known as Dushmanziyar, which is the Daylami version of the Persian word Dushmanzar ("he who brings grief to his enemy").

Ruzbihan Baqli

Abu Muhammad Sheikh Ruzbehan Baqli (1128–1209) was a Persian poet, mystic, and sufi from Fasa, Fars, Iran.

Sayyida Shirin

Sayyida Shirin (Persian: سیده ملک خاتون‎), also simply known as Sayyida, was a Bavandid princess, who was the wife of Buyid ruler of Ray, Fakhr al-Dawla. She was the de facto ruler of Ray during the reign of her son, Majd al-Dawla (r. 997–1029).


Shabankara or Shabankareh (Persian: ملوک شبانکاره‎, Kurdish: Şivankaran or Şiwankaran, other spellings: Shabankara, Shwankara, Marco Polo: Soncara, Ibn Athir: Shwankara) was the name of a tribal federation of Iranian nomads who resided some parts of the Zagros mountains. They claimed descent from the mythical Iranian king Manuchehr, and are thought to be descendants of Daylamites who had followed the Buyid dynasty from northern Iran, or "Kurds" (back then a non-ethnic term for Iranian nomads) who had been deported to eastern Fars from Isfahan by the Buyid shahanshah 'Adud al-Dawla (r. 949–983).In the early twelfth century there were five subdivisions of them: Ramani, Shakani, Karzuwi, Masudi and Ismaili.


Boes (Grecized form of Middle Persian Bōē) better known by his title of Vahrez (Middle Persian: Weh-rēz, literally "having a good abundance"), was a Sasanian general of Daylamite origin attested in the prelude to the Iberian War.


Zoarab was king of the Daylamites in the late 6th-century. He is first mentioned in 590, when he together with Sarames the Younger, betrayed the Sasanian king Hormizd IV (r. 579–590) by murdering his general Pherochanes. Zoarab then joined the rebellion of Bahram Chobin, while Sarames joined a group of dissatisfied nobles led by Vistahm and Vinduyih.

Bahram Chobin managed to briefly become king of the Sasanian Empire from 590 until he was defeated and killed in 591. Hormizd IV's son Khosrow II thereafter became king, but Vistahm later rebelled himself; Zoarab joined his rebellion, which lasted from 591 to 596 or from 594/5 to 600.

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