According to chronicles from the Byzantine Empire, the Aq Qoyunlu are first attested in the district of Bayburt south of the Pontic mountains from at least the 1340s, and a number of their leaders, including the dynasty’s founder, Qara Osman, married Byzantine princesses.
The Aq Qoyunlu Turkomans first acquired land in 1402, when Timur granted them all of Diyar Bakr in present-day Turkey. For a long time, the Aq Qoyunlu were unable to expand their territory, as the rival Kara Koyunlu or “Black Sheep Turkomans” kept them at bay. However, this changed with the rule of Uzun Hasan, who defeated the Black Sheep Turkoman leader Jahān Shāh in 1467.
After the defeat of a Timurid leader, Abu Sa’id Mirza, Uzun Hasan was able to take Baghdad along with territories around the Persian Gulf. He expanded into Iran as far east as Khorasan. However, around this time, the Ottoman Empire sought to expand eastwards, a serious threat that forced the Aq Qoyunlu into an alliance with the Karamanids of central Anatolia.
As early as 1464, Uzun Hasan had requested military aid from one of the Ottoman Empire’s strongest enemies, Venice. Despite Venetian promises, this aid never arrived and, as a result, Uzun Hassan was defeated by the Ottomans at the Battle of Otlukbeli in 1473, though this did not destroy the Aq Qoyunlu.
When Uzun Hasan died early in 1478, he was succeeded by his son Khalil Mirza, but the latter was defeated by a confederation under his younger brother Ya’qub at the Battle of Khoy in July.
Ya’qub, who reigned from 1478 to 1490, sustained the dynasty for a while longer. However, during the first four years of his reign, there were seven pretenders to the throne who had to be put down. Following Ya’qub’s death, civil war again erupted, the Aq Qoyunlus destroyed themselves from within, and they ceased to be a threat to their neighbours.
The early Safavids, who were followers of the Safaviyya religious order, began to undermine the allegiance of the Aq Qoyunlu. The Safavids and the Aq Qoyunlu met in battle in the city of Nakhchivan in 1501 and the Safavid leader Ismail I forced the Aq Qoyunlu to withdraw.
In his retreat from the Safavids, the Aq Qoyunlu leader Alwand destroyed an autonomous state of the Aq Qoyunlu in Mardin. The last Aq Qoyunlu leader, Murad, brother of Alwand, was also defeated by the same Safavid leader. Though Murād briefly established himself in Baghdad in 1501, he soon withdrew back to Diyar Bakr, signalling the end of the Aq Qoyunlu rule.
List or Rulers
- Bey Tur Ali Pehlwan (1340 – 1360 )
- Bey Qutlugh bin Tur Ali (1360 – 1378/79 )
- Bey Ahmed bin Qutlugh (1389 – 1403 )
- Nominally Under Qara Yoluq Osman from 1396 – 1403
- Bey Qara Yoluq Osman (1403 – 1435 )
- Bey Ali bin Qara Yoluq Osman (1435 – 1438 )
- Bey Hamza bin Qara Yoluq Osman (1438 – 1444 )
- Bey Jahangir bin Ali (1444 – 1451/52 )
- Bey Qilich Arslan bin Ahmed (1451/52 – 1457)
- Bey Uzun Hasan bin Ali (1457 – 1478 )
- Bey Sultan Khalil bin Uzun Hasan (1478 )
- Bey Yaqub bin Uzun Hasan (1478 – 1490 )
- Bey Baysonqor bin Yaqub (1490 – 1491 )
- Bey Rustam bin Maqsud bin Uzun Hasan (1493 – 1497 )
- Bey Ahmed Gövde bin Ughurlu Muhammad bin Uzun Hasan (1497 )
- Muhammad bin Yusuf bin Uzun Hasan (1497-1500)
- Alwand bin Yusuf bin Uzun Hasan (1497-1502)