In accordance with what became established practice in the Islamic world, the soldiers of the Samanid army were mostly slaves; they were bought in the slave markets and then trained to be soldiers subservient to the ruler. These slave soldiers were called “ghulams” which means “boys.” Ghulam slave soldiers who performed well could achieve upward mobility in government service, even rising to governorships over provinces. It was a system that may seem peculiar to people of modern Western culture. It was a system which worked well as long as the state employing it was expanding through conquest and scooping up the booty it needed to buy the loyalty of its slave soldiers.
Today, the Samanids are mostly famous for the high level of refinement and sophistication of their art and culture. They had a large urban population among whom scientists, mathematicians, poets, and book authors thrived. They were a major mercantile economic power. They were chiefly responsible for the successful spread of Islam over central Asia.
The Sunni Moslem Samanids were weakened by a protracted and inconclusive war with the Shia Moslem Buyid Persians in the 940s and 950s AD. Ever-worsening internal disputes doomed the Samanids. In 992 AD, a rebellious Samanid noble asked for help from the Karakhanid Turks. A Karakhanid army granted the request and temporarily occupied the Samanid capital city of Bukhara. The king of the Samanids asked the Ghaznavid Turks for help in suppressing the rebellion. The Ghaznavids granted the request but claimed a peripheral slice of the Samanid realm as their reward. Inviting foreign intervention in their internal dispute was a fatal mistake for the Samanids. The fact that the Karakhanid and Ghaznavid Turks had by this time embraced Islam conferred upon the Turks a political legitimacy they had lacked when they were pagans. In 999 AD, the Samanid state vanished when the Karakhanid Turks seized the northern part and the Ghaznavid Turks led by Mahmud of Ghazni seized the southern part of their lands.