The Akkoyunlu or the White Sheep Turkomans (Azeri-Turkish: Ağqoyunlular/Akkoyunlular) were a Turkoman tribal federation that ruled present-day Azerbaijan, eastern Anatolia, northern Iraq and western Iran from 1378 to 1508.
According to chronicles from the Byzantine Empire, White Sheep Turkomans were present in Anatolia since at least 1340, and most White Sheep Turkoman leaders, including the dynasty's founder, Kara Osman , married Byzantine princesses.
The White Sheep Turkomans officially first acquired land in 1402, when Tamerlane granted them all of Diyar Bakr, in northern Iraq. For a long time, the White Sheep Turkomans were unable to expand their territory, as the rival Black Sheep Turkoman kept them at bay. However, this changed with the rule of Uzun Hasan, who defeated the Black Sheep Turkoman leader, Jihan Shah , in 1467.
After the defeat of a Timurid leader, Abu Sai'd , Uzun Hasan was able to take Baghdad, along with territories around the Persian Gulf. He expanded into Iran as far west as Khorasan. However, around this time, the Ottoman Empire sought to expand westwards, a serious threat that forced the White Sheep Turkomans into an alliance with the Qaramanids of central Anatolia.
As early as 1464, Uzun Hasan had requested military aid from one of the Ottoman Empire's strongest enemies, Venice, however, despite Venetian promises, this aid never arrived, and as a result, Uzun Hasan was defeated by the Ottomans at Tercan in 1473, though this did not destroy the White Sheep Turkomans.
Yaqub , who reigned from 1478 to 1490, sustained the dynasty for a while longer, but following his death the White Sheep Turkomans began to destroy themselves from within, and thanks to years of infighting, they ceased to be a threat to their neighbours.
The Safavids, who were Shi'ites, began to undermine the allegiance of many White Sheep Turkomans, particularly Sunnis. The Safavids and the White Sheep Turkomans met in battle at Nakhichevan in 1501, and the Safavid leader Ismail I forced the White Sheep Turkomans to withdraw.
In his retreat from the Safavids, the White Sheep Turkoman leader Alwand destroyed an autonomous White Sheep Turkoman state in Mardin . The last White Sheep Turkoman leader, Murad , brother of Alwand, was also defeated by the same Safavid leader. Though Murad briefly established himself in Baghdad in 1508, he soon withdrew back to Diyar Bakr, signalling the end of the White Sheep Turkomans.
See also: Rulers of Ak Koyunlu
Bosworth, Clifford. The New Islamic Dynasties, 1996. Morby, John. Oxford Dynasties of the World, 2002.
Last updated: 10-15-2005 11:30:24