The Kingdom of Hormuz was among the minor states of medieval period that rose as the result of the internal conflicts following the demise of the Abbasid power and the struggle for supremacy between various powers in Iran. The origins of Hormuz goes back to the collapse of the Buyid power in southern Iran and the Persian Gulf region and the rise of the Seljuks. In the conflicts between the various princes of the house of Seljuq, the area of Hormuz (or Moghistan) gravitated toward Kerman, soon becoming the main trading port for the Seljuq Sultanate in Kerman. Initially existing in a precarious state between the power in Kerman and the Atabegs of Fars and Shabankara, Hormuz eventually managed to gain effective independence following the establishment of the Ilkhanate in the 13th century.
Persian historical records render the name of the island, and the original mainland seaport on which it was based, as Hormuz. While folk etymology derives this from the name of the Iranian god, Ahuramazda, the connection needs to be dismissed. The name instead is either based on a combination of Hur-Muz ‘Place of Dates’ or most likely, the Greek word for ‘cove, bay’, Όρμος, as the description of the geography of Old Hormuz (see below) puts it at the side of a narrow bay (a Khur in the local dialect) at the delta of the Minab River. The name of the actual urban settlement that acted as the capital of the Old Hormuz Kingdom was also given as Naband, while the Salghurid Atabegs also gave it the name of Dewankhana ‘administrative centre.’
There are three periods in the history of the Kingdom of Ormus: First was when Mohammed Diramku migrated from Oman to the Iranian coast in the eleventh century. The capital was transferred to the island of Hormuz in the fourteenth century. In the second period, the island of Hormuz eclipsed the commercial power of the island of Kish. Hormuz become the greatest emporium in the Persian gulf. The last period begin with the attack of the Portuguese of Alfonso of Albuquerque.
The oldest references to the kingdom of Hormuz is Shabankareyi’s history of the kings of the region which runs to the middle of the 14th century. The original location of the kingdom’s chief city was on the coastal parts of southern Iran, near the present city of Minab.
The primary sources on the founding of the Kingdom of Hormuz always mention a dynasty of the ‘old kings of Hormuz’ which in fact come to an end with the 13th century rise of Mahmud Qalahati. The last king of the dynasty, Shihab ud-Dīn Muhammad b. ‘Isa, in fact becomes the genealogical ancestor of the later dynasty, but is presented in the sources as the end of his line, called the Deramkū Dynasty (Al-e Deramkū).
The founder of what Shabankareyi calls ‘the line of the old kings of Hormuz’ was Muhammad Deramku, usually given the folk etymology of Deram-Kub “Dirham issuer.” Supposedly hailing from Oman, Deramku arrived in Hormuz region, called Mughistan, at the end of the 11th or early 12th century. The origins of Deramku is obscure, although Shabankareyi tells us that the Deramku dynasty in fact had local origins. Certain similarities in onomastics and titles with the rulers of Shabankara, who claimed descent from the late Sasanian princes might also point to an origin in the Fars region. Muhammad’s move to Hormuz from Oman might have in fact been caused by the collapse of Buyid power in the south of Iran and the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman region following the death of al-Malik al-Rahim in 1059. The Omani origin might simply be based on the later origin of Mahmud Qalahati who similarly hailed from the Oman region. Local histories, including Natanzi, mention that Muhammad Deramku’s connections were most closely with the Kerman region. In fact, the timing would make sense, as the rise of Dearmkū in Hormuz seems to parallel the rise of the local Seljuq Dynasty of Kerman, founded by Malikshah’s brother, Qavurd.
By controlling parts of Oman, Minab, and Mūghistān, Deramku managed to create a power base on the eastern side of the Straight of Hormuz and enter into direct competition with the rulers of Kish (Qais) who were previously vassals of the Buyids of Fārs. The connection between Hormuz and Kerman is also probably paralleling the connections between Kish and Shiraz (and further Isfahan), making Hormuz and important link in Kerman’s claims to supremacy in the trade of the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
We do not know much about Muhammad’s successors except their names. He appears to have been succeeded by his son Sulaimān and he was in turn succeeded by his son, ‘Isā Jāshū. The latter’s title of Jāshū “naval soldier”, might say something about the ruling society of Old Hormuz. Muhammad Deramku himself had managed to conquer Mūghestān and Mināb by the help of Omani Jashu soldiers, thus establishing the supremacy of naval officers and seamen in a kingdom that was essentially a thalassocracy, with most of its territory consisting of water.
‘Isā’s successor was called Lashkari. He appears to not have been an active ruler, stepping aside in favour of his son Kay Qubad. The latter’s successors were his two sons, one ‘Isa, who was known to be warlike, and the other, Mahmud. The branches of the family evidently fought each other as Tāj ud-Dīn Shahanshah son of Mahmud was also in conflict with an uncle, Malik Saif ud-Dīn Abu Nasr son of Kay Qobad. Shahanshah sought a closer relationship with Malik Dinār the Oghuz, the ruler of Kerman on behalf of the Khwarazmshahids. The latter, playing on the competition between Hormuz and Kish, used the situation to his advantage, extracting a high tribute from Shahhanshah. The unrest caused by this tipped the scale toward Abu Nasr, who initially accepted the overlordship of the ruler of Shabankara, Dīj, and later that of the great Salghurid Atabeg, Abu Bakhr b. Sa’ad.
Abu Nasr, an expansionist, used the patronage of the ruler of Fars in order to defeat his old enemies. As Vassaf tells us, he and his soldiers boarded a ship to Kish and on 8 May 1229, invaded that island, killing Malik Sultān, it’s ruler, and putting an end to the local dynasty of Banu Qaissar, the old rulers of the island and the major power in the Persian Gulf region. The patronage of Fārs soon came to an end, the relationship between Abu Nasr and Abu Bakhr quickly souring. Abu Bakr thus conquered Hormuz, killed Abānasr, and annexed Hormuz to Fārs, changing the name of the city of Hormuz (known as Nāband) to Dēwānkhāna.
Instead of AbU Nasr, to rule Hormuz, Abu Bakr installed Shihāb ud-Dīn Muhammad, son of Isa, son of Kay Qobad. The new ruler married his cousin Bībī Nāssir ud-Dīn , the daughter of Abu Nasr. The queen was much better cut as a ruler and political player than her husband. Perhaps recognizing the precarious position in which her father and uncles had put Hormuz, swinging between Kerman and Fars (and sometimes even Shabankara), Bibi Nāssir ud-Dīn proceeded to find a man who could help her regain the relative independence of Hormuz. The man was Abulmakārim Rukn ud-Dīn Mahmud Qalhati (Kalhaty/Kalhati).
The New Kings of Hormuz
Bībī Nāssir ud-Dīn and Mahmud soon managed to rid themselves of Shihab ud-Dīn Muhammad by poisoning him and in 1248, took advantage of the disarray at the court of the Salghurid Atabaks of Fars to slowly incorporate their rule. Sources talk about the expansion of the rule of Hormuz over parts of Oman and the port cities further east to northern India, as well as over Qallahat and Julfar. Mahmud and Bibi Naser ud-Din used the momentum caused by the disappearance of their Kerman and Fars overlords to project their power on both sides of the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, controlling as far south as Dhofar and west as Bahrain and settling merchant communities on the coast of Makran and Sind, controlling the Indian trade routes. Their efforts essentially changed the focus of Hormuz away from its hinterland of southern Iran to one more focused on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf. The peace must have been unstable, as soon the onslaught the Mongols under Hulegu put an end to the Salghurid rule of Fars. In 1264, the last of the Salghurids was murdered, and a Mongol governor called Sughunjagh was appointed in his stead. The rising Mongol taxes and their disregard for mercantile equilibrium of the region eventually resulted in a rebellion in Hormuz, led by Rukn ud-Dīn Mahmud himself. The prolonged war resulted in Mahmud’s eventual departure to Kish, were the Mongol ruler could not reach him due to a lack of naval power, and eventually Qalhat, where he died in 1286.
The disarray caused by the Mongol rule in the region continued under the rule of Mahmud’s sons. His son Qutb ud-Dīn Tahmtan was soon killed and was succeeded by his brother Sayf ud-Dīn Nusrat who gained the throne with the help of the Qarakhitai ruler of Kerman, Suyurghatmish. At the time, the rule of Fars was in hands of Malik ul-Islam Jamal ud-Dīn Ibrahim Tibi, on behalf of the Ilkhanid ruler, Ghazan Khan. The overlord of the islands and the coastal regions was Ibrahim Tibi’s son, Malik al-Mu’azzam Fakhruddin Ahmad, under whose rule Sayf ud-Dīn Nusrat ruled. Nusrat seems to have been a blood-thirsty ruler who, in order to consolidate his rule, proceeded to murder all of his eight remaining brothers. However, two of his remaining brothers, Taj ud-Dīn Mas’ūd and Shams ud-Dīn Tūrkānshah who had taken refuge initially in Sirjan and later in the Mongol court, managed to overpower him and kill him in 1291.
Ayaz and the Hormuz Island
The move to New Hormuz was the beginning of the rise of Hormuz as a commercial and political power. The island site, although lacking water, was strategically well located and naturally protected. It was located on important shipping lines and took advantage of good currents and a closeness to the mainland, making it a perfect emporium for the goods coming from India, as well as those from Iran. Later accounts talk about the prosperity of the island (slowly taking on the name of Hormuz, as it is today), its amazing bazaars, and the efficiency of its provisions, including government funded water cisterns that guaranteed people’s livelihoods. Much of this is credited to Ayaz and his liberal policy of offering protection to merchants and welcoming trade from all directions.
The Restoration of the Deramku Dynasty
Ayaz ruled the new island and its possessions until 1311, when he retired to Qalhat, appointing a descendants of Shihab ud-Dīn Mahmud (the ‘last of the old kings of Hormuz’) to rule the new kingdom. The new king, Izz ud-Dīn Gurdānshah son of Salghur son of Shihab ud-Dīn Mahmud, was an able warrior and a generous ruler who continued Ayaz’s policies. A dispute with the ruler of Kish, Shaikh Nu’aim, brought Gurdanshah to conflict with the ruler of the coast and the islands, the other son of Ibrahim Tibi, known as Izz ud-Dīn Abdul-Azīz. The Tibi ruler, with the support of Uljaitu Khan, claimed ancestral possession of Hormuz – now a prosperous island kingdom – and put a siege on Hormuz that was stifling its lucrative trade. A meeting inside a boat resulted in the capture of Gordan Shah and his imprisonment in Kish. Bibi Sultan, Gurdanshah’d wife, mounted a naval battle against Izz ud-Dīn Abdul Aziz. However, unfavourable conditions delayed the start of the battle, but allowed for Gurdanshah to escape from Kish and return to Hormuz, where he ruled until his death in 1317. The conflict with the Tibis was temporarily halted by the payment of tribute of ‘30,000 Hormuzi dirhams’ to Abdul Aziz. Gordan Shah was succeeded by his son Bahramshah, the latter soon being deposed and murdered by his brother-in-law (husband of Gurdanshah’s daughter Bibi Naz Malek), Shihab ud-Din Yusef. Two of Bahramshah’s brothers, Tahmtan and Kay Qobad, escaped to Kish and later to the Tibi court in Lār, asking for help from Rukn ad-Dīn Mahmud, the new ruler of Fars and a brother of Izz ud-Dīn Abdul Aziz. In 1318, with the help of the Tibi ruler, Tahmtan and Kay Qobad removed Yusef from the throne, installing Tahmtan as the new ruler.
Qutb ud-Dīn Tahmtan is one of the most energetic rulers of Hormuz. A great organizer, his rule is marked by the expansion of Hormuz’s commercial power, development of the island of Hormuz itself, and the transformation of Hormuz to the centre of an impressive empire spreading as far east as the coast of India and west as the region of Basra. He was also a brutal military leader. His initial ruler was faced with another claim by Ghiyath ud-Din, the son of Nu’aim of Kish, and an attack on Hormuz which was thwarted by Tahmtan’s generals, Muhammad Surkhab and Ibrahim Sulghur. Tahmtan’s revenge, upon returning to Hormuz from Mūghistan, was complete. The army of Hormuz conquered Kish, arrested all the dicendants of Nu’aim, including Ghiyath ud-Dīn, and massacred much of the resistance in Kish. The captured were moved to Hormuz and later killed, fully incorporating Kish into the kingdom of Hormuz. Further conquests brought Kharg, Andarabi and other islands further west under Tahmtan’s control. By 740’s, Tahmtan was the undisputed ruler of all of the islands of the Persian Gulf and the lord of many of the coastal regions, including Mughestan, Gambrun, Rishahr, Zufar, Qallahat, and Oman.
This prosperity was helped by the confused state of affairs in Fars and Kerman, where the post—Ilkhanid successor states like the Jalayerids and smaller dependencies like the Injuids and Muzafarids were less concerned with the affairs of the coastal regions and the islands. This allowed for Tahmtan to consolidate his power and establish Hormuz as the centre of his commercial sea-empire. The population of Hormuz at this time consisted of Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, as well as Hindus and Buddhists. The island was known for its luxuries, emporia, and mixed population and languages. This is when the famous traveler Ibn Battuta visited Hormuz and wrote about its prosperity and the cultural patronage of its ruler, Qutb ud-Dīn Tahmtan. Hormuz during this time was a sea-empire with islands at its centre and coastal regions of the Iranian Plateau and the Arabian peninsula as its peripheries, keeping it away from the troublesome politics of the interior regions.
The long rule of Tahmtan toward the end was interrupted by a coup under his loyal brother, Kay Qobad, who took advantage of Tahmtan’s visit to the coastal port of Gambrūn (later Bandar-e Abbas), declared himself king. Tahmtan did not try to resist, retiring to Qalhat, waiting until Kay Qubad’s death a year later. Upon returning to the throne, Tahmtan tried to buy the friendship of Kay Qubad’s sons, Shanba and Shadi, who refused. The pursuing war ended in Tahmtan’s success. However, he was soon dead, in 1346, being succeeded by his son Yusef, known as Turan Shah I. Turan Shah continued the tolerant policies of his father and grand-father, giving priority to the security of the port of Hormuz and to the passage of goods through the Strait of Hormuz by strengthening his hold over the region of Qalhat (modern region of Musandam). The trade of Hormuz at this time consisted of goods coming from India and Southeast Asia, usually destined for the markets of Iran and Iraq, as well as goods, including slaves, coming from Central Asia. A contemporary of Tahhmtan describes the situation as such:
- “After having secured his country on land and sea and among Arabs and non-Arabs against his opponents, Sultan Qutb al-Din formed good relations with the sultan of sultans of Gujarat, lands of the kings (muluks) of India, Sind, Basra, Kufa, Oman, Kirman, Shiraz and so on until he stabilized his rule and dominance and spread his justice. He prepared : ships and sent them everywhere. From all seaports such as Mecca, Jidda, Aden, Sofala, Yemen, China, Europe, Calicut, and Bengal they came by sea and brought superior merchandise from everywhere to there and they brought valuable goods from the cities of Fars, Iraq and Khurasan to that place. From whatever that came by sea they took one tenth, and from whatever was brought to Khurasan from [surrounding areas], they took half of one tenth, and it has remained the same way and order until now and in this year (747/1346) after ruling honorably for twenty-two years, his soul ascended to holy land.” Qadi Abdul Aziz Nimdehi, Tabaqat-e Mahmudi. manuscript (quoted in Vosoughi 2009: 93)
The Golden Age of Hormuz
The rule of Turan Shah I and his son Bahman Shah was contemporary with the competition between the post-Ilkhanid competition between the Jalayerids and local powers of Fars, including the Injuids and Muzaffarids. Attempts by Muhammad Muzaffar to control Hormuz were rendered unsuccessful by Turan Shah who essentially paid the Muzaffarid ruler off in ordet to keep the independence of Hormuz intact. The kings of Hormuz, continuing to pay their tribute to the local rulers of Fars and Kerman, managed to keep themselves away from such conflicts, continuing to preserve their commercial supremacy. Control of islands like Bahrain also provided the kingdom with export items like pearls, providing an additional means of income to the rulers. A later observer, Gaspar da Cruz, describes Hormuz as such:
- “Hormuz . . . is, among all the wealthy countries of India, one of the wealthiest, through the many and rich goods that come thither from all parts of India, and from the whole of Arabia and of Persia, as far as the territories of the [Mongols], and even from Russia in Europe I saw merchants there, and from Venice. And thus the inhabitants of Ormuz say that the whole world is a ring and Hormuz is the stone thereof.” (Gaspar da Cruz, quoted in Vosoughi 2009, 97).
Muhammad Shah I, the son of Bahman Shah, was a contemporary of the later Timurids. In the struggle between Umar Shaikh and Jahangir, Hormuz’ possession on the mainland, particularly the area of Mughistan, the resort of the wealthy Hormuzis, were threatened. Muhammad Shah managed to fend off the Timurid princes, although Mughistan was attacked by Jahangir at least once.
Bahman Shah II and Turan Shah II presided over a prosperous period when the kings of Hormuz became patrons of learning and knowledge. As Sunni kings, they were very tolerant of Shi’as, Nestorian Christians, Jews, Hindus, and even “pagans” (most likely Hindus). They built several schools in which scholars like Safi ad-Din Iji resided and taught, and Turan Shah II himself appears to have been an accomplished poet. In fact, his lost composition, Shahnameh-e Turn Shahi, was the main source for the history of Hormuz. Its translation by later Portuguese travelers and scholars such as Pedro Teixeira in fact are all we know of the early history of Hormuz, including it’s Old Kings.
The four sons of Turan Shah II got into a rivalry over the succession to their father, with Shahweis Shengelshah initially coming out as the successful one. However, his brother Salghur Shah managed to remove his brother and deprive his sons of the throne, ruling himself until 1504. His rule was perhaps the last period of prosperity for Hormuz before the arrival of the Portuguese. Salghur Shah’s two sons, including Turan Shah III, ruled less than a year, before being removed by their cousin, Sayf ud-Din Abu Nasr Shah.
It was during the reign of Abu Nasr Shah that the Portuguese Conquest of Hormuz took place, first in 1507 and then completed in 1515 by Alfonso de Albuquerque. The second conquest resulted in establishment of a Portuguese fortress on the island and the take over the customs house by the Portuguese, leading to a prolonged decline of the commercial empire of Hormuz.
The kings of Hormuz under the Portuguese rule were reduced to vassals of the Portuguese empire in India, mostly controlled from Goa. The archive of correspondence between the kings and local rulers of Hormuz and some of its governors and people, and the kings of Portugal, contain the details of the kingdom’s disintegration and the independence of its various parts. They show the attempts by rulers such as Kamal ud-Din Rashid trying to gain separate favour with the Portuguese in order to guarantee their own power. This reflects in the gradual independence of Muscat, previously a dependency of Hormuz, and its rise one of the successor states to Hormuz.
The Kings of Hormuz
Old Kings (Muluk al-Qadim) (Dependency of Kerman until c. 1247)
- Muhammed I Deramku (محمد درمکو), About 1060
- Sulaiman b. Muhammad
- Isa Jashu b. Sulaiman (d. 1150)
- Lashkari b. Isa (d. 1189)
- Kay Qobad b. Lashkari
- Isa b. Kay Qobad
- Mahmud b. Kay Qobad
- Shahanshah b. Mahmud (d. 1202)
- Abu Nasr b. Kay Qobad (conquest of Hormuz by Atabeg of Fars, Abu Bakr)
- Mir Shihab ud-Dina Mahmud (Malang) b. Isa (d. 1247)
- (jointly with his wife, Bibi Nasir ad-Din bt. Abu Nasr)
New Kings (Muluk Jadid)
- Rokn ed-Din Mahmud Kalhati (1242–1277)
- (jointly with his wife, Bibi Nasir ad-Din bt. Abu Nasr)
- Qutb ud-Din Tahmtan I b. Mahmud Kalahati (under Bibi Nasir ad-Din’s regency)
- Seyf ed-Din Nusrat b. Mahmud (1277–1290)
- Taj ud-Din Mas’ud b. Mahmud (1290–1293)
- Mir Baha ud-din Ayaz Seyfi (with his wife, Bibi Maryam; 1293–1311; moved the capital to Jarun)
- Izz ud-Din Gordan Shah (son of Salghur son of Mahmud Malang; restoration of the old dynasty) (عزالدین گردان شاه) (1317–1311)
- Shihab ud-Din Yusef (husband of Naz Malek, d. of Gordan Shah) (1317-1319)
- Bahramshah (1319)
- Qutb al-Din Tahmtan II b. Gordan Shah (قطب الدین تهمتن) (1345–1319)
- Nizam ud-Din Kay Qubad b. Gordan Shah (usurpation, 1345-1346)
- Turan Shah I (Yusef) b. Tahmtan (1346-1377)
- Bahman Shah b. Turan Shah (1377-1389)
- Muhammad Shah I b. Bahman Shah (1389-1400)
- Bahman Shah II b. Muhammad Shah
- Fakhruddin Turan Shah II b. Firuz Shah b. Muhammad Shah
- Shahweis Shengel Shah b. Turan Shah
- Salghur Shah b. Turan Shah
- Turan Shah II b. Salghur Shah
- Sayf ud-Din Aba Nasr Shah b. Shengel Shah (at the time of Portuguese invasion; 1507-1513)
- Turan Shah IV b. Shengel Shah (1513-1521; Albuquerque’s conquest of Hormuz in 1515)
- Muhammad Shah II b. Turan Shah (1521-1534)
- Salghur Shah II b. Turan Shah (1534-1543)
- Fakhr ud- Din Turan Shah V b. Salghur Shah II (1543-1565)
- Muhammad Shah III b. Firuz Shah b. Turan Shah V (1565)
- Farrukh Shah I b. Muhammad Shah (1565-1597)
- Turan Shah VI b. Farrukh Shah (1597)
- Farrukh Shah II b. Turan Shah VI (1597-1602)
- Firuz Shah b. Farrukh Shah II (1602-1609)
- Muhammad Shah IV b. Firuz Shah (1609-1622; conquest of Hormuz by Imam Quli Khan of Fars on behalf of Shah Abbas I)
- Aubin, Jean. “Les Princes d’Ormuz du XIIIe au XVe siècle.” Journal asiatique, vol. CCXLI, 1953, pp. 77–137.
- Carls, Hans-Georg. Alt-Hormuz: Ein historischer Hafen an der Strasse von Hormuz (Iran): Retrospekt und Prospekt zu einem ungelösten archäologischen, geographischen und orientalischen Problem, München : Minerva, 1982.
- Eqtedari, Ahmad. Asar-e Shahrha-ye Bastani-ye Savaahel o Jazaayer-e Khalij-e Fars o Daryaye Omman, Tehran: Anjoman-e Asar-e Melli, 1348.
- Faroughy, Abbas. Histoire du Royaume de Hormuz depuis son Origine jusqu’ à son incorporation dans l’Empire persan des Séfévis en 1622, Brussels, 1949.
- Fiorani Piacentini, Valeria. L’emporio ed il regno di Hormuz (VIII-fine XV secolo d. Cr.): vicende storiche, problemi ed aspetti de una civiltà costiera del Golfo Persico, Academie de Scienze e Lettere: Classe di scienze morale e storiche 35, Memorie dell’Instituto Lombardo, 1982.
- Floor, Willem. “Hormuz ii: Islamic Period,” Encyclopaedia Iranica (online).
- Natanzi, Mo’in ad-Din. Montakhab ut-Tawarikh-e Mo’ini. ed. Parvin Estakhri. Tehran: Asateer, 1383 (2004).
- Qa’em Maqami, Jahangir. “Asnad-e Farsi o Arabi o Torki dar Arshiv-e Melli-ye Porteghal Darbarey-e Hormuz o Khaleej-e Fars.” Barrasihaa-ye Tarikhi (1356-1357).
- Shabankareyi, Muhammad b Ali. Majma al-Ansab. ed. Mir-Hashem Mohadess. Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1363 (1984).
- Texeira, Pedro. The Travels of Pedro Texeira, ed. and tr. W. F. Sinclair, London, 1902
- Vosoughi, Mohammad Bagher. “the Kings of Hormuz: from the Beginning until the Arrival of the Portuguese.” in Lawrence G. Potter (ed.) The Persian Gulf in History, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.