Decade of Anarchy

From the 830s, the ʿAbbasids began buying large numbers of Turkish slaves to replace their reliance on Khorasani military. In 836, the ʿAbbasid capital moves to Samarraʾ, a city in Iraq about 130 km north of Baghdad. This move allows the ʿAbbasids to separate their newly-formed Turkish regiments from the rest of society. The rise of Samarraʾ reflected the artistic brilliance of ʿAbbasid Baghdad. However, serious fissures in the ʿAbbasid society arose as a result of the power of various Turkish military factions. In 861, threatened with losing their access to the caliph and his resources, a group of soldiers killed the caliph Mutawakkil. The ʿAbbasid state effectively collapsed from the pressure. During the “Decade of Anarchy,” also known as the “Anarchy at Samarra” or the fifth fitna, there is a quick turnover of ineffective caliphs, coupled with warring Turkish factions within the army and multiple revolts throughout the Caliphate. The ʿAbbasids will emerge in power still at the end, but they will not recover the same sort of centralized power we saw earlier. After this week, we shift to a geographical organization to understand—region by region—what happened in the aftermath.

6a. Samarra’

6b. Mutawakkil

6c. Tahirids

6d. Zanj Revolt