The Marwanids (983-1085, Kurdish: Dewleta Merwanî, Xanedana Merwaniyan) were a Kurdish Sunni Muslim dynasty in the Diyar Bakr region of Upper Mesopotamia (present day northern Iraq/southeastern Turkey) and Armenia, centered on the city of Amid (Diyarbak?r). the Marwanids also ruled over Akhlat, Bitlis, Manzikert, Nisibis, Erci?, Muradiye, Siirt, Cizre, Hasankayf, and temporarily ruled over Mosul and Edessa.
According to most academic sources, the Marwanids were a Kurdish dynasty. The Encyclopaedia of Iran considers them as an Arab dynasty in one article, and refers to them as a Kurdish dynasty in another article.
The founder of the dynasty was a shepherd, Abu Shuj? Badh ibn Dustak. He left his cattle, took up arms and became a valiant chief of war, obtaining popularity. When a member of the Buyid dynasty, Adud al-Dawla, who ruled Iraq, died in 983, Badh took Mayy?f?riq?n. He also conquered Diyarbak?r, as well as a variety of urban sites on the northern shores of Lake Van.
During the rebellion of Bardas Phokas the Younger in the Byzantine Empire, B?dh took advantage of the chaotic political situation to raid the plain of Mush in Taron, an Armenian princedom annexed by the Byzantine Empire in 966.
Elias of Nisibis, a Syriac chronicler, discussed the life of Abu 'Ali al-Hasan. After the death of his uncle Badh, the elder son of Marwan came back to Hisn-Kayfa, and married the widow of the old warrior chief. He fought the last Hamdanids, confused them and retook all the fortresses. Elias related the tragic end of this prince who was killed in Amid (Diyarbak?r) in 997 by rebellious inhabitants. His brother Abu Mansur Sa'id succeeded him under the name of Mumahhid al-Dawla. In 992, after Badh's death and a series of Byzantine punitive raids around Lake Van, Emperor Basil II (r. 976-1025) was able to negotiate a lasting peace with the Kurdish emirate.
Mumahhid, a skilful diplomat, made use of the Byzantines' ambitions. The relations of this prince with Emperor Basil II were quite friendly. When Basil learnt of the murder of the Georgian potentate David III of Tao, who had left his kingdom to the Byzantine Empire by testament, he stopped the campaign that he had begun in Syria to ensure the Arabian emirs' obedience and crossed the Euphrates. He annexed David's state, received Mumahhid al-Dawla with honours and made peace with him. Mumahhid al-Dawla took advantage of the peace to restore the walls of his capital Maïpherqat (Mayyafariqin), where an inscription still commemorates this event.
In 1000 when Basil II travelled from Cilicia to the lands of David III Kuropalates (Akhlat and Manzikert), Mumahhid al-Dawla came to offer his submission to the emperor and in return he received the high rank of magistros and doux of the East.
In 1010, Mumahhid al-Dawla was assassinated by his ghulam, Sharwin ibn Muhammad, who assumed rulership. He legitimized his rule with the ancient 'law of the Turks', that who kills the ruler becomes himself the successor. However this archaic rule and Sharwin's rule were soon contested, and Sharwin was overthrown. Coins are known from his brief reign.
Nasr al-Dawla was the third son of Marwan to ascend the throne. A clever politician, he skilfully navigated between the surrounding great powers: the Buyid emir Sultan al-Dawla, the Fatimid caliph of Egypt al-Hakim and Basil II. Elias of Nisibis has written that Nasr al-Dawla Ahmad ibn Marwan, "the victorious emir", subdued Ibn Dimne, his vassal in Diyarbak?r, in 1011. He signed with the Byzantine Empire a pact of mutual non-aggression, but violated it once or twice. The renown of this Kurdish Muslim prince grew so much that the inhabitants of al-Ruha (Edessa, present-day Sanli Urfa), at the west, called him to free them from an Arab chief. Nasr al-Dawla took the city of Edessa in 1026, and added it to his possessions. This event has been reported by the famous western Syriac author Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286). So Nasr al-Dawla annexed Edessa, but the city was retaken by the Byzantine general George Maniakes in 1031. In 1032 he sent an army of 5000 horsemen, under the command of his general Bal, to re-take the town from Arab tribes supported by Byzantium. The Kurdish commander Bal took the city and killed the Arab tribal chief, then he wrote to his lord, asking for reinforcements, "if you want to save your Lordship on Kertastan (Kurdistan)". Al-Ruha was finally captured again by Byzantines in 1033.
The long rule of Nasr al-Dawla represented the apogee of Marwanid power. He built a new citadel on a hill of Mayyafariqin where the Church of the Virgin stood, and also constructed bridges and public baths, and restored the observatory. Some libraries were established in the mosques of Mayyafarikin and Amid. He invited well-known scholars, historians and poets to his royal court, among them Ibn al-Athir, Abd Allah al-Kazaruni, and al-Tihami. He sheltered political refugees such as the future Abbassid caliph al-Muqtadi (1075-1099). In 1054 he had to acknowledge Toghrul Beg the Seljuq as his own liege, who ruled the largest part of the Jazira, but he kept his territories. This fine period of peace and good feelings between Kurds and Syriacs was rich in cultural creations. It enjoyed extensive trade, vibrant arts and crafts, and an impressive history. Nasr al-Dawla left monumental inscriptions in Diyarbak?r that show still now the artistic brightness of his reign.
After Nasr al-Dawla's death, the Marwanids' power declined. His second son, Nizam, succeeded him and ruled until 1079, then followed his son Nasir al-Dawla Mansur. The end of the Marwanid dynasty came about by treason. Ibn Jahir, a former vizier, left the Diyar Bakr and went to Baghdad. There, he convinced the Seljuq sultan Malik Shah I (1072-1092), a grand-nephew of Toghrul Beg, and the famous vizier Nizam al-Mulk, to allow him to assault Mayyafarikin. When the city was taken, Ibn Jahir took the Marwanids' great treasures for himself. Henceforth, the Diyar Bakr fell almost entirely under the direct rule of the Seljuqs. The last emir, Nasir al-Dawla Mansur, kept only the city of Jazirat Ibn 'Umar (present-day Cizre in south-eastern Turkey).