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Istemi yabgu
First Yabgu of the Western Turkic Khaganate
Reign553 - 576
FatherAshina Tuwu

Istämi (or Dizabul[1] or Ishtemi Sir Yabghu Khagan[2]) was the ruler of the western part of the Göktürks, which became the Western Turkic Khaganate and dominated the Sogdians.[3] He was the yabgu (vassal) of his brother Bumin Qaghan in 553 AD.[4] He was posthumously referred to as khagan in Turkic sources.[5] His son was Tardu.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/3
    1 701
  • ✪ Who Is Bumin Qaghan?
  • ✪ Tang (618-907)
  • ✪ The Sorrow of Bumin Qaghan by David Hart




During his rule Istami established diplomatic relations with the Persian and Byzantine Empires, defeated the Hepthalites, and acted as an elder statesman during the disintegration of the eastern half of the empire. We know a great deal about him from the diplomatic missions of the Byzantine Empire.

Shortly after the smuggling of silkworm eggs into the Byzantine Empire from China by Nestorian Christian monks, the 6th-century Byzantine historian Menander Protector writes of how the Sogdians attempted to establish a direct trade of Chinese silk with the Byzantine Empire. After forming an alliance with the Sassanid ruler Khosrow I to defeat the Hephthalite Empire, Istämi was approached by Sogdian merchants requesting permission to seek an audience with the Sassanid king of kings for the privilege of traveling through Persian territories in order to trade with the Byzantines.[6] Istämi refused the first request, but when he sanctioned the second one and had the Sogdian embassy sent to the Sassanid king, the latter had the members of the embassy poisoned to death.[6] Maniah, a Sogdian diplomat, convinced Istämi to send an embassy directly to Byzantium's capital Constantinople, which arrived in 568 and offered not only silk as a gift to Byzantine ruler Justin II, but also proposed an alliance against Sassanid Persia. Justin II agreed and sent an embassy to the Turkic Khaganate, ensuring the direct silk trade desired by the Sogdians.[7][6]

As the brother of Bumin he ruled the far-western region of their khanate. His son was Tardu. As a Yabghu, he was autonomous and had de facto sovereignty while officially recognizing the authority of the qaghan. After Khushu’s death he arranged the division of the territory into three realms east, central, and west and distributed them between Jotan, Arslan, and Shetu, respectively.


İstemi and İstemihan are Turkish given names honouring him.

See also


  1. ^ Howard, Michael C., Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies, the Role of Cross Border Trade and Travel, McFarland & Company, 2012, p. 133.
  2. ^ Christoph Baumer, History of Central Asia, volume two, 2014
  3. ^ Wood, Francis (2002). The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. pp. 238–239. ISBN 978-0-520-24340-8.
  4. ^ Michalis N. Michael; Matthias Kappler; Eftihios Gavriel (2009). Archivum Ottomanicum. Mouton. pp. 68, 69.
  5. ^ "TURK BITIG". Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  6. ^ a b c Howard, Michael C., Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies, the Role of Cross Border Trade and Travel, McFarland & Company, 2012, p. 133.
  7. ^ Liu, Xinru, "The Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Interactions in Eurasia", in Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History, ed. Michael Adas, American Historical Association, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001, p. 168.

Further reading

  • Golden, Peter (1992). An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples: Ethnogenesis and State-Formation in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. ISBN 9783447032742.
Preceded by
Yabgu of the Western Turkic Khaganate
Succeeded by
Tardush Qaghan

This page was last edited on 3 January 2020, at 15:11
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