Safavid dynasty

Safavid dynasty

Overview
The Safavid dynasty was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires since the Muslim conquest of Persia and established the Twelver school of Shi'a Islam
Imamah (Shi'a twelver doctrine)
Imāmah means "leadership" and it is a part of the Shi'a theology. The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, in the Twelver or Ithna Ashariya branch of Shia Islam....

 as the official religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in Muslim history
Muslim history
Muslim history is the history of Muslim people. In the history of Islam the followers of the religion of Islam have impacted political history, economic history, and military history...

. The Safavids ruled from 1501 to 1722 (experiencing a brief restoration from 1729 to 1736) and at their height, they controlled all of modern Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Azerbaijan and Republic of Armenia, most of Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, and the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

, as well as parts of Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

 and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Safavid dynasty was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires since the Muslim conquest of Persia and established the Twelver school of Shi'a Islam
Imamah (Shi'a twelver doctrine)
Imāmah means "leadership" and it is a part of the Shi'a theology. The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, in the Twelver or Ithna Ashariya branch of Shia Islam....

 as the official religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in Muslim history
Muslim history
Muslim history is the history of Muslim people. In the history of Islam the followers of the religion of Islam have impacted political history, economic history, and military history...

. The Safavids ruled from 1501 to 1722 (experiencing a brief restoration from 1729 to 1736) and at their height, they controlled all of modern Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Azerbaijan and Republic of Armenia, most of Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, and the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

, as well as parts of Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

 and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. Safavid Iran was one of the Islamic "gunpowder empires
Gunpowder Empires
Scholars often use the term gunpowder empires to describe the empires of the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal. Each of these three empires had considerable military exploits using the newly-developed firearms, especially cannon and small arms, to create their empires. They existed primarily between...

", along with its neighbours, the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 and Mughal
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

 empires.

The Safavid dynasty had its origin in the Safaviyya Sufi order
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

, which was established in the city of Ardabil
Ardabil
Ardabil is a historical city in north-western Iran. The name Ardabil probably comes from the Zoroastrian name of "Artavil" which means a holy place. Ardabil is the center of Ardabil Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 412,669, in 102,818 families...

 in the Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan (Iran)
Azerbaijan or Azarbaijan , also Iranian Azerbaijan, Persian Azarbaijan is a region in northwestern Iran. It is also historically known as Atropatene and Aturpatakan....

 region. It was of mixed ancestry (Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 and Azerbaijani
Azerbaijani people
The Azerbaijanis are a Turkic-speaking people living mainly in northwestern Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as in the neighbourhood states, Georgia, Russia and formerly Armenia. Commonly referred to as Azeris or Azerbaijani Turks , they also live in a wider area from the Caucasus to...

, which included intermarriages with Georgian
Georgians
The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

 and Pontic Greek
Pontic Greeks
The Pontians are an ethnic group traditionally living in the Pontus region, the shores of Turkey's Black Sea...

 dignitaries). From their base in Ardabil
Ardabil
Ardabil is a historical city in north-western Iran. The name Ardabil probably comes from the Zoroastrian name of "Artavil" which means a holy place. Ardabil is the center of Ardabil Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 412,669, in 102,818 families...

, the Safavids established control over all of Greater Iran
Greater Iran
Greater Iran refers to the regions that have significant Iranian cultural influence. It roughly corresponds to the territory on the Iranian plateau and its bordering plains, stretching from Iraq, the Caucasus, and Turkey in the west to the Indus River in the east...

 and reasserted the Iranian identity
Culture of Iran
To best understand Iran, Afghanistan, their related societies and their people, one must first attempt to acquire an understanding of their culture. It is in the study of this area where the Persian identity optimally expresses itself...

 of the region, thus becoming the first native dynasty since the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 to establish a unified Iranian state.

Despite their demise in 1736, the legacy that they left behind was the revival of Persia as an economic stronghold between East and West, the establishment of an efficient state and bureaucracy based upon "checks and balances", their architectural innovations and their patronage for fine arts. The Safavids have also left their mark down to the present era by spreading Shi'a Islam
Safavid conversion of Iran from Sunnism to Shiism
The Safavid conversion of Iran from Sunnism to Shiism made Iran the spiritual bastion of Shia Islam against the onslaughts of orthodox Sunni Islam, and the repository of Persian cultural traditions and self-awareness of Iranianhood, acting as a bridge to modern Iran...

 in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, as well as major parts of the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

, South Asia, Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, and Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

.

Genealogy – The Ancestors of The Safavids and its multi-cultural identity


The Safavid Kings themselves claimed to be Seyyeds, family descendants of the prophet Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

, although many scholars have cast doubt on this claim. There seems now to be a consensus among scholars that the Safavid family hailed from Persian Kurdistan, and later moved to Azerbaijan, finally settling in the 5th/11th century at Ardabil
Ardabil
Ardabil is a historical city in north-western Iran. The name Ardabil probably comes from the Zoroastrian name of "Artavil" which means a holy place. Ardabil is the center of Ardabil Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 412,669, in 102,818 families...

. Traditional pre-1501 Safavid manuscripts trace the lineage of the Safavids to Firuz Shah Zarin-Kulah.

According to some historians, including Richard Frye, the Safavids were of Azeri (Turkish) origin:
Other historians, such as Vladimir Minorsky and Roger Savory
Roger Savory
Roger Savory is a British-born Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto who is an Iranologist and specialist on the Safavids. His numerous writings on Safavid political, military history, administration, bureaucracy, and dipolomacy-translated into several language have had a great impact in...

, refute this idea:
By the time of the establishment of the Safavid empire, the members of the family were native Turkish-speaking and Turkicized, and some of the Shahs composed poems in their native Turkish language. Concurrently, the Shahs themselves also supported Persian literature, poetry and art projects including the grand Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp
Tahmasp I
Tahmasp or Tahmasb I was an influential Shah of Iran, who enjoyed the longest reign of any member of the Safavid dynasty...

, while members of the family and some Shahs composed Persian poetry as well. In terms of identity, it should be noted that the authority of the Safavids were religiously based and they based their legitimacy on being direct male descendants of the Ali, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, and the first Shi'ite Imam.

Background – The Safavid Sufi Order


Safavid history begins with the establishment of the Safaviyya by its eponymous founder Safi-ad-din Ardabili (1252–1334). In 700/1301, Safi al-Din assumed the leadership of the Zahediyeh
Zahediyeh
The Zahediyeh Sufi Order was founded by Sheikh Zahed Gilani of Lahijan. As a precursor to the Safaviyya tariqa, which was yet to culminate in the Safavid Dynasty, the Zahediyeh Order and its murshid, Zahed Gilani, holds a distinct place in the history of Iran....

, a significant Sufi
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

 order in Gilan, from his spiritual master and father-in-law Zahed Gilani
Zahed Gilani
The mystic Taj Al-Din Ebrahim ibn Rushan Amir Al-Kurdi Al-Sanjani , titled Sheikh Zahed Gilani, was Grandmaster of the famed Zahediyeh Sufi Order at Lahijan....

. Due to the great spiritual charisma of Safi al-Din, the order was later known as the Safaviyya. The Safavid order soon gained great influence in the city of Ardabil and Hamdullah Mustaufi noted that most of the people of Ardabil were followers of Safi al-Din.

Extant religious poetry from him, written in the Old Azari language – a now-extinct Northwestern Iranian language
Iranian languages
The Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-Iranian languages which in turn is a subgroup of Indo-European language family. They have been and are spoken by Iranian peoples....

 – and accompanied by a paraphrase in Persian which helps their understanding, has survived to this day and has linguistic importance.

After Safī al-Dīn, the leadership of the Safaviyya passed onto Sadr al-Dīn Mūsā
Sadr al-Dīn Mūsā
Sadr al-Din was the son and successor of Safi-ad-din Ardabili. His mother was Bibi Fatima, daughter of Zahed Gilani. Sadr al-Din directed the Safaviyya for 59 years. During this time, the activities of the Safaviyya were viewed with favour by Timur, who provided an endowment for the shrine of...

 († 794/1391–92). The order at this time was transformed into a religious movement which conducted religious propaganda throughout Persia, Syria and Asia Minor, and most likely had maintained its Sunni Shafi’ite origin at that time. The leadership of the order passed on from Sadr ud-Dīn Mūsā to his son Khwādja Ali († 1429) and in turn to his son Ibrāhīm († 1429–47).

When Shaykh Junayd, the son of Ibrāhim, assumed the leadership of the Safaviyya in 1447, the history of the Safavid movement was radically changed. According to R.M. Savory, "'Sheikh Junayd was not content with spiritual authority and he sought material power'". At that time, the most powerful dynasty in Persia was that of the Kara Koyunlu
Kara Koyunlu
The Kara Koyunlu or Qara Qoyunlu, also called the Black Sheep Turkomans , were a Shi'ite Oghuz Turkic tribal federation that ruled over the territory comprising the present-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, north-western Iran, eastern Turkey and Iraq from about 1375 to 1468.The Kara Koyunlu Turkomans at one...

, the "Black Sheep", whose ruler Jahan Shah
Jahan Shah
Muzaffar al-Din Jahan Shah ibn Yusuf ‎ was the leader of the Kara Koyunlu Turkmen tribal federation in Azerbaijan and Arran who reigned c.1438-1467. During his reign he managed to expand the Kara Koyunlu’s territory to its largest extent, including Western Anatolia, most of present day Iraq,...

 ordered Junāyd to leave Ardabil
Ardabil
Ardabil is a historical city in north-western Iran. The name Ardabil probably comes from the Zoroastrian name of "Artavil" which means a holy place. Ardabil is the center of Ardabil Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 412,669, in 102,818 families...

 or else he would bring destruction and ruin upon the city. Junayd sought refuge with the rival of Kara Koyunlu Jahan Shah
Jahan Shah
Muzaffar al-Din Jahan Shah ibn Yusuf ‎ was the leader of the Kara Koyunlu Turkmen tribal federation in Azerbaijan and Arran who reigned c.1438-1467. During his reign he managed to expand the Kara Koyunlu’s territory to its largest extent, including Western Anatolia, most of present day Iraq,...

, the Aq Qoyunlu (White Sheep Turkomans) Khan
Khan (title)
Khan is an originally Altaic and subsequently Central Asian title for a sovereign or military ruler, widely used by medieval nomadic Turko-Mongol tribes living to the north of China. 'Khan' is also seen as a title in the Xianbei confederation for their chief between 283 and 289...

 Uzun Hassan
Uzun Hassan
Uzun Hasan or Hassan , Sultan of the Aq Qoyunlu dynasty, or White Sheep Turkmen. Hassan ruled in parts of present-day western Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia between 1453 and 1478....

, and cemented his relationship by marrying Uzun Hassan's sister, Khadija Begum. Junayd was killed during an incursion into the territories of the Shirvanshah
Shirvanshah
Shirvanshah also spelled as Shīrwān Shāh or Sharwān Shāh, was the title in mediaeval Islamic times of an Arab in Ethnos but speedily Persianized dynasty within their culturally Persian environment. The Shirvanshah established a native state in Shirvan...

 and was succeeded by his son Haydar Safavi. Haydar married Martha 'Alamshah Begom, Uzun Hassan
Uzun Hassan
Uzun Hasan or Hassan , Sultan of the Aq Qoyunlu dynasty, or White Sheep Turkmen. Hassan ruled in parts of present-day western Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia between 1453 and 1478....

's daughter, who gave birth to Ismail I
Ismail I
Ismail I , known in Persian as Shāh Ismāʿil , was a Shah of Iran and the founder of the Safavid dynasty which survived until 1736. Isma'il started his campaign in Azerbaijan in 1500 as the leader of the Safaviyya, an extremist heterodox Twelver Shi'i militant religious order and unified all of Iran...

, founder of the Safavid dynasty. Martha's mother Theodora – better known as Despina Khatun – was a Pontic Greek princess, the daughter of the Grand Komnenos
Komnenos
Komnenós or Comnenus was the name of a ruling family of the Eastern Roman Empire , who halted the political decline of the Empire from c.1081 to c.1185.-Origins:...

 John IV of Trebizond
John IV of Trebizond
John IV Megas Komnenos , was Emperor of Trebizond from 1429 to 1459. He was a son of Emperor Alexios IV of Trebizond and Theodora Kantakouzene....

. She had been married to Uzun Hassan in exchange for protection of the Grand Komnenos from the Ottomans.

After Uzun Hassan's death, his son Ya'qub felt threatened by the growing Safavid religious influence. Ya'qub allied himself with the Shirvanshah and killed Haydar in 1488. By this time, the bulk of the Safaviyya were nomadic Oghuz Turkic-speaking
Oghuz Turks
The Turkomen also known as Oghuz Turks were a historical Turkic tribal confederation in Central Asia during the early medieval Turkic expansion....

 clans from Asia Minor and Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan (Iran)
Azerbaijan or Azarbaijan , also Iranian Azerbaijan, Persian Azarbaijan is a region in northwestern Iran. It is also historically known as Atropatene and Aturpatakan....

 and were known as Qizilbash "Red Heads" because of their distinct red headgear. The Qizilbash were warriors, spiritual followers of Haydar, and a source of the Safavid military and political power.

After the death of Haydar, the Safaviyya gathered around his son Ali Mirza Safavi, who was also pursued and subsequently killed by Ya'qub. According to official Safavid history, before passing away, Ali had designated his young brother Ismail as the spiritual leader of the Safaviyya.

Persia prior to Ismāil's rule


After the decline of the Timurid Empire (1370–1506), Persia was politically splintered, giving rise to a number of religious movements. The demise of Tamerlane's political authority created a space in which several religious communities, particularly Shi’i ones, could now come to the fore and gain prominence. Among these were a number of Sufi brotherhoods, the Hurufis
Hurufism
Hurufism was a mystical kabbalistic Sufi doctrine, which spread in areas of western Persia, Anatolia and Azerbaijan in later 14th - early 15th century.- Foundation :...

, Nuqtawis and Musha‘sha‘. Of these various movements, the Safawid Qizilbash was the most politically resilient, and it was on account of its success that Shah Isma’il I gained political prominence in 1501 CE.
There were many local states prior to the Iranian state established by Ismāil. The most important local rulers about 1500 were:
  • Huṣayn Bāyqarā
    Husayn Bayqarah
    Husayn Bayqarah was a Timurid ruler of Herat from 1469 to 1506, with a brief interruption in 1470. His father was Mansur, a great-grandson of Timur...

    , the Timurid
    Timurid Dynasty
    The Timurids , self-designated Gurkānī , were a Persianate, Central Asian Sunni Muslim dynasty of Turko-Mongol descent whose empire included the whole of Iran, modern Afghanistan, and modern Uzbekistan, as well as large parts of contemporary Pakistan, North India, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and the...

     ruler of Herāt
    Herat
    Herāt is the capital of Herat province in Afghanistan. It is the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 397,456 as of 2006. It is situated in the valley of the Hari River, which flows from the mountains of central Afghanistan to the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan...

  • Alwand Mīrzā, the Aq Qoyunlu Khan
    Khan (title)
    Khan is an originally Altaic and subsequently Central Asian title for a sovereign or military ruler, widely used by medieval nomadic Turko-Mongol tribes living to the north of China. 'Khan' is also seen as a title in the Xianbei confederation for their chief between 283 and 289...

     of Tabrīz
    Tabriz
    Tabriz is the fourth largest city and one of the historical capitals of Iran and the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. Situated at an altitude of 1,350 meters at the junction of the Quri River and Aji River, it was the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s, one of its former...

  • Murad Beg, Aq Qoyunlu ruler of Irāq al-Ajam
  • Farrokh Yaṣar
    Farrukh Yassar
    Farrukh Yassar Shirvanshah of Shirvan .In 1488 Shaykh Haydar of Safaviyya moved through Shirvan towards Derbend, supposedly to wage jihad against Circassians, but instead laid siege to Derbent. Farrukh Yassar was not able to mount defense and asked Sultan Yagub of Kara Koyunlu to the rescue...

    , the Shah of Širvan
    Shirvanshah
    Shirvanshah also spelled as Shīrwān Shāh or Sharwān Shāh, was the title in mediaeval Islamic times of an Arab in Ethnos but speedily Persianized dynasty within their culturally Persian environment. The Shirvanshah established a native state in Shirvan...

  • Badi Alzamān Mīrzā, local ruler of Balkh
    Balkh
    Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

  • Huṣayn Kīā Chalavī, the local ruler of Semnān
  • Murād Beg Bayandar, local ruler of Yazd
    Yazd
    Yazd is the capital of Yazd Province in Iran, and a centre of Zoroastrian culture. The city is located some 175 miles southeast of Isfahan. At the 2006 census, the population was 423,006, in 114,716 families....



Ismāil was able to unite all these lands under the Iranian Empire he created.

Rise of Shāh Ismāil I



The Safavid dynasty was founded about 1501 by Shāh Ismāil I. Shah Ismail's background is disputed: the language he used is not identical with that of his "race" or "nationality" and he was bilingual from birth. Some scholars argue that Ismāil was of mixed Azeri, Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

, and Pontic Greek
Pontic Greeks
The Pontians are an ethnic group traditionally living in the Pontus region, the shores of Turkey's Black Sea...

 descent, although others argue that he was non-Azeri and was a direct descendant of Sheikh Safi al-Din. As such, he was the last in the line of hereditary Grand Masters of the Safaviyeh order, prior to its ascent to a ruling dynasty. Ismāil was known as a brave and charismatic youth, zealous with regards to his Shi’a faith, and believed himself to be of divine descent—practically worshipped by his Qizilbāsh followers. In 1500, Ismāil invaded neighboring Shirvan
Shirvan
Shirvan , also spelled as Shirwan, Shervan, Sherwan and Šervān, is a historical region in the eastern Caucasus, known by this name in both Islamic and modern times...

 to avenge the death of his father, Sheik Haydar, who had been murdered in 1488 by the ruling Shirvanshah, Farrukh Yassar. Afterwards, Ismail went on a conquest campaign, capturing Tabriz
Tabriz
Tabriz is the fourth largest city and one of the historical capitals of Iran and the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. Situated at an altitude of 1,350 meters at the junction of the Quri River and Aji River, it was the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s, one of its former...

 in July 1501, where he enthroned himself the Shāh of Azerbaijan, proclaimed himself Shahanshah of Iran and minted coins in his name, proclaiming Shi’ism the official religion of his domain. The establishment of Shi’ism as the state religion led to various Sufi orders openly declaring their Shi’i position, and others, to promptly assume Shi’ism. Among these, the founder of one of the most successful Sufi orders, Ni’matullah (d. 1431) traced his descent from the Ismaili
Ismaili
' is a branch of Shia Islam. It is the second largest branch of Shia Islam, after the Twelvers...

 Imam
Imam
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

 Muhammad b. Ismail, as evidenced in a poem as well as another unpublished literary composition. Though Nimatullah was apparently Sunni, the Ni’matullahi order soon declared his order to be Shi’I after the rise of the Safavid dynasty.

Although Ismail I initially gained mastery over Azerbaijan alone, the Safavids ultimately won the struggle for power in all of Persia which had been going on for nearly a century between various dynasties and political forces. A year after his victory in Tabriz, Ismāil claimed most of Persia as part of his territory, and within 10 years established a complete control over all of it. Ismail followed the line of Turkmen rulers prior to him by assumption of the title "Padishah-i-Iran", previously held by Uzun Hasan. The Ottoman sultans addressed him as the king of Persian lands and the heir to Jamshid
Jamshid
Jamshid is a mythological figure of Greater Iranian culture and tradition.In tradition and folklore, Jamshid is described as having been the fourth and greatest king of the epigraphically unattested Pishdadian dynasty . This role is already alluded to in Zoroastrian scripture Jamshid (Middle-...

 and Kaykhusraw
Kaykhusraw
Kaykhusraw may refer to one of the following Seljuq Sultans of Rum:* Kaykhusraw I * Kaykhusraw II * Kaykhusraw III...

. Hamadan
Hamadan
-Culture:Hamadan is home to many poets and cultural celebrities. The city is also said to be among the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.Handicrafts: Hamadan has always been well known for handicrafts like leather, ceramic, and beautiful carpets....

 fell under his power in 1503, Shiraz
Shiraz, Iran
Shiraz is the sixth most populous city in Iran and is the capital of Fars Province, the city's 2009 population was 1,455,073. Shiraz is located in the southwest of Iran on the Roodkhaneye Khoshk seasonal river...

 and Kerman
Kerman
- Geological characteristics :For the Iranian paleontologists, Kerman has always been considered a fossil paradise. Finding new dinosaur footprints in 2005 has now revealed new hopes for paleontologists to better understand the history of this area.- Economy :...

 in 1504, Najaf
Najaf
Najaf is a city in Iraq about 160 km south of Baghdad. Its estimated population in 2008 is 560,000 people. It is the capital of Najaf Governorate...

 and Karbala
Karbala
Karbala is a city in Iraq, located about southwest of Baghdad. Karbala is the capital of Karbala Governorate, and has an estimated population of 572,300 people ....

 in 1507, Van
Van Province
Van Province is a province in eastern Turkey, between Lake Van and the Iranian border. It is 19,069 km2 in area and had a population of 1,035,418 at the end of 2010....

 in 1508, Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 in 1509, and Herat
Herat
Herāt is the capital of Herat province in Afghanistan. It is the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 397,456 as of 2006. It is situated in the valley of the Hari River, which flows from the mountains of central Afghanistan to the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan...

, as well as other parts of Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

, in 1510. By 1511, the Uzbeks
Uzbeks
The Uzbeks are a Turkic ethnic group in Central Asia. They comprise the majority population of Uzbekistan, and large populations can also be found in Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China...

 in the north-east, led by their Khan Muhammad Shaybāni
Muhammad Shaybani
Abu 'I-Fath Muhammad , known in later centuries as Shaybani Khan , was a khan of the Uzbeks who continued consolidating various Uzbek tribes and laid foundations for their ascendance in Transoxiana. of Genghis Khan through his grandson Shayban and considered the Timurids as usurpers of the...

, were driven far to the north, across the Oxus River where they continued to attack the Safavids. Ismail's decisive victory over the Uzbeks, who had occupied most of Khorasan, ensured Iran's eastern borders, and the Uzbeks never since expanded beyond the Hindukush. Although the Uzbeks continued to make occasional raids to Khorasan, the Safavid empire was able to keep them at bay throughout its reign.

Clashes with the Ottomans


More problematic for the Safavids was the powerful Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. The Ottomans, a Sunni dynasty, considered the active recruitment of Turkmen tribes of Anatolia for the Safavid cause as a major threat. To counter the rising Safavid power, in 1502, Sultan Bayezid II
Bayezid II
Bayezid II or Sultân Bayezid-î Velî was the oldest son and successor of Mehmed II, ruling as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512...

 forcefully deported many Shi'as from Anatolia to other parts of the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 realm. In 1514, Bayezid
Bayezid II
Bayezid II or Sultân Bayezid-î Velî was the oldest son and successor of Mehmed II, ruling as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512...

's son, Sultan Selim I
Selim I
Selim I, Yavuz Sultân Selim Khan, Hâdim-ül Haramain-ish Sharifain , nicknamed Yavuz "the Stern" or "the Steadfast", but often rendered in English as "the Grim" , was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1512 to...

 marched through Anatolia and reached the plain of Chaldiran near the city of Khoy
Khoy
Khoy is a city in and the capital of Khoy County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 178,708, in 45,090 families....

, and a decisive war was fought there (Battle of Chaldiran
Battle of Chaldiran
The Battle of Chaldiran or Chaldoran occurred on 23 August 1514 and ended with a victory for the Ottoman Empire over the Safavid Empire of Persia . As a result, the Ottomans gained immediate control over eastern Anatolia and northern Iraq...

). Most sources agree that the Ottoman army was at least double the size of that of Ismāil, however, what gave the Ottomans the advantage was the artillery which the Safavid army lacked. According to R. M. Savory, "Salim's plan was to winter at Tabriz and complete the conquest of Persia the following spring. However, a mutiny among his officers who refused to spend the winter at Tabriz forced him to withdraw across territory laid waste by the Safavid forces, eight days later". Although Ismāil was defeated and his capital was captured, the Safavid empire survived. The war between the two powers continued under Ismāil's son, Shāh Tahmāsp I
Tahmasp I
Tahmasp or Tahmasb I was an influential Shah of Iran, who enjoyed the longest reign of any member of the Safavid dynasty...

 (q.v.), and the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I, until Shāh Abbās (q.v.) retook the area lost to the Ottomans by 1602.
The consequences of the defeat at Chaldiran were also psychological for Ismāil: the defeat destroyed Ismāil's belief in his invincibility, based on his claimed divine status. His relationships with his Qizilbāsh followers were also fundamentally altered. The tribal rivalries between the Qizilbāsh, which temporarily ceased before the defeat at Chaldiran, resurfaced in intense form immediately after the death of Ismāil, and led to ten years of civil war (930-40/1524-33) until Shāh Tahmāsp regained control of the affairs of the state.

Early Safavid power in Iran was based on the military power of the Qizilbāsh. Ismāil exploited the first element to seize power in Iran. But eschewing politics after his defeat in Chaldiran, he left the affairs of the government to the office of the Wakīl (q.v.). Ismāil's successors, and most ostensibly Shāh Abbās I successfully diminished the Qizilbāsh's influence on the affairs of the state.

Shāh Tahmāsp



Shāh Tahmāsp, the young governor of Herat
Herat
Herāt is the capital of Herat province in Afghanistan. It is the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 397,456 as of 2006. It is situated in the valley of the Hari River, which flows from the mountains of central Afghanistan to the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan...

, succeeded his father Ismāil in 1524, when he was ten years and three months old. He was the ward
Ward (law)
In law, a ward is someone placed under the protection of a legal guardian. A court may take responsibility for the legal protection of an individual, usually either a child or incapacitated person, in which case the ward is known as a ward of the court, or a ward of the state, in the United States,...

 of the powerful Qizilbash amir Ali Beg Rūmlū (titled "Div Soltān") who saw himself as the de facto ruler of the state. The qizilbash, which still suffered under the legacy of the battle of Chaldiran, was engulfed in internal rivalries. The low morale within the military, and the decentralized structure of the government, with much power in the hands of local governors, eventually led to 10 years of civil war. Rival Qizilbāsh factions fought amongst themselves for the control of the empire until Shāh Tahmāsp came of age and reasserted his authority. Tahmasp reigned for 52 years, the longest reign in Safavid history.

The Uzbeks, during the reign of Tahmāsp, attacked the eastern provinces of the kingdom
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

 five times and the Ottomans under Soleymān I
Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman I was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566. He is known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent and in the East, as "The Lawgiver" , for his complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system...

 initiated four invasions of Persia. Losing territory in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and the north-west, Tahmāsp realized that his capital was not secure, and he was forced to move the capital from Tabriz to Qazvin. Tahmasp made the Peace of Amasya
Peace of Amasya
The Peace of Amasya was a treaty agreed to on May 29, 1555 between Shah Tahmasp of Safavid Iran and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire at the city of Amasya, following the Ottoman–Safavid War of 1532–1555....

 with the Ottomans in 1555, ending the war during his life.

Alliances to the East – The Mughal Emperor at the Shah's court


Almost simultaneously with the emergence of the Safavid Empire, another Muslim society was developing in South-Asia. The Mughal Empire
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

, which ruled a largely Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 population, adhered to Sunni Islam. But a common foe, in the Uzbeks, would eventually lead the two empires closer together. During the reign of Tahmasp, Shah Humayun
Humayun
Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun was the second Mughal Emperor who ruled present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from 1530–1540 and again from 1555–1556. Like his father, Babur, he lost his kingdom early, but with Persian aid, he eventually regained an even larger one...

 of Mughal Hindustan found himself in a desperate situation, with devastating wars being fought against the Afghans and the Uzbeks and Humayuns brother, Kamran, attempting a coup d'état. Having to flee from city to city, Humayun eventually sought refuge at the court of Tahmasp. Tahmasp, who refused to hand him over to his brother, greeted Humayun at his court in Qazvin as the true emperor of the Mughal dynasty, despite the fact that Humayun had been living in exile for more than fifteen years. After converting to Shia Islam, Tahmasp offered him military assistans to fight off the revolts in return for Kandahar
Kandahar
Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 512,200 as of 2011. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at about 1,005 m above sea level...

, which had for long been a battle ground between the two empires, and a combined Persian-Mughal force managed to seize Kandahar and occupy Kabul. This eventually led to strong ties between the Safavids and the Mughals, and they persisted, almost unabated, throughout the history of the Safavid dynasty.

Legacy of Shah Tahmasp


When Shah Tahmasp entered the throne at a young age, Persia was in a dire state. But despite of a weak economy, a civil war and wars being fought on two fronts, Tahmasp had managed to maintain his position as the shah. During the first 30 years of his long reign, he had managed to suppress the internal divisions, slowly elevate the strength of the military to a level that finally led to the retreat of the Ottomans during the fourth war in 1533, and, in 1553, even wage a campaign against the Ottomans. This resulted in the peace treaty of Amasya, a treaty that favoured the Persians and secured Tabriz and the North-Western borders. Some years before, in 1528, he had also converted an unfavorable war against the Uzbeks, at the battle of Jam, into a victory by the Persians. When Shah Tahmasp's throne was overtaken by his successor, Persia was in a calm state, with secure borders and cordial relations with the neighbours to both east and west. What remained unchanged, was the decentralized power structure of the government, and that would not change until the throne was overtaken by his grandson, Shah Abbas.

After the death of Tahmāsp in 984/1576, the struggle for a dominant position in the state flared up again and was complicated by rival groups and factions. Dominant political factions vied for power and support three different candidates. The mentally unstable Ismāil, the son of Tahmāsp and the purblind Muhammad Khudābanda were some of the candidates but did not get the support of all the Qizilbāsh chiefs. The Turkmen Ustājlū tribe, one of the most powerful tribes among the Qizilbāsh, threw its support behind Haydar, who was of a Georgian mother, but the majority of the Qizilbāsh chiefs saw this as a threat to their own, Turkmen-dominated power. Instead, they first placed Ismāil II.
Ismail II
Ismail II was the third Safavid Shah of Iran.-Life:Ismail was the son of Shah Tahmasp I by a Turcoman mother, Sultanum Bekum Mawsillu. In 1547, he was appointed governor of the province of Shirvan where he led several expeditions against the Ottomans...

 on the throne (1576–77) and after him Muhammad Shāh Khudābanda
Mohammed Khodabanda
Mohammed Khodābande or Khudābanda, also known as Mohammed Shah or Sultan Mohammed , was the fourth Safavid Shah of Iran. He was the son of Shah Tahmasp I by a Turcoman mother, Sultanum Bekum Mawsillu...

 (1578–88).

In addition, Tahmasp must be credited for the revival of the fine arts, which flourished under his patronage and were brought to the pitch of perfection. Safavid culture is often admired for the large-scale city planning and architecture, achievements made during the reign of later shahs, but the arts of persian miniature
Persian miniature
A Persian miniature is a small painting on paper, whether a book illustration or a separate work of art intended to be kept in an album of such works called a muraqqa. The techniques are broadly comparable to the Western and Byzantine traditions of miniatures in illuminated manuscripts...

, book-binding and calligraphy
Calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

, in fact, never received as much attention as they did during his time.

Shah Abbas






The greatest of the Safavid monarchs, Shah Abbas I
Abbas I of Persia
Shāh ‘Abbās the Great was Shah of Iran, and generally considered the greatest ruler of the Safavid dynasty. He was the third son of Shah Mohammad....

 (1587–1629) came to power in 1587 aged 16 following the forced abdication
Abdication
Abdication occurs when a monarch, such as a king or emperor, renounces his office.-Terminology:The word abdication comes derives from the Latin abdicatio. meaning to disown or renounce...

 of his father, Shah Muhammad Khudābanda, having survived Qizilbashi court intrigues and murders. He recognized the ineffectualness of his army which was consistently being defeated by the Ottomans who had captured Georgia and Armenia and by Uzbeks who had captured Mashhad
Mashhad
Mashhad , is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the Shia Muslim world. It is also the only major Iranian city with an Arabic name. It is located east of Tehran, at the center of the Razavi Khorasan Province close to the borders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Its...

 and Sistan
Sistan
Sīstān is a border region in eastern Iran , southwestern Afghanistan and northern tip of Southwestern Pakistan .-Etymology:...

 in the east. First he sued for peace in 1590 with the Ottomans giving away territory in the north-west. Then two Englishmen, Robert Sherley and his brother Anthony, helped Abbas I to reorganize the Shah's soldiers into an officer-paid and well-trained standing army similar to a European model (which the Ottomans had already adopted). He wholeheartedly adopted the use of gunpowder (See Military history of Iran
Military history of Iran
With thousands of years of recorded history, and due to an unchanging geographic condition, Iran has had a long, varied, and checkered military culture and history, ranging from triumphant and unchallenged ancient military supremacy affording effective superpower status in its day, to a series of...

). The army divisions were: Ghulam
Ghulam
Ghulam is a 1998 Hindi film directed by Vikram Bhatt and starring Aamir Khan. The film was inspired by Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront . It is the second remake of On the Waterfront after Kabzaa starring Sanjay Dutt...

s غلام (crown servants, usually conscripted from Georgians
Georgians
The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

 and Circassians), Tofangchis (تفگنچى, musketeers), and Topchis (Tupchis, توپچى, artillery-men).

Abbas moved the capital to Isfahan, deeper into central Iran. Abbas I built a new city next to the ancient Persian one. From this time the state began to take on a more Persian character. The Safavids ultimately succeeded in establishing a new Persian national monarchy.

Abbas I first fought the Uzbeks, recapturing Herat
Herat
Herāt is the capital of Herat province in Afghanistan. It is the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 397,456 as of 2006. It is situated in the valley of the Hari River, which flows from the mountains of central Afghanistan to the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan...

 and Mashhad in 1598. Then he turned against the Ottomans recapturing Baghdad, eastern Iraq and the Caucasian provinces by 1622. He also used his new force to dislodge the Portuguese from Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

 (1602) and, with English help, from Hormuz
Ormus
The Kingdom of Ormus was a 10th to 17th century kingdom located within the Persian Gulf and extending as far as the Strait of Hormuz...

 (1622), in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 (a vital link in Portuguese trade with India). He expanded commercial links with the English East India Company and the Dutch East India Company
Dutch East India Company
The Dutch East India Company was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia...

. Thus Abbas I was able to break the dependence on the Qizilbash for military might and therefore was able to centralize control.

The Ottoman Turks
Ottoman Turks
The Ottoman Turks were the Turkish-speaking population of the Ottoman Empire who formed the base of the state's military and ruling classes. Reliable information about the early history of Ottoman Turks is scarce, but they take their Turkish name, Osmanlı , from the house of Osman I The Ottoman...

 and Safavids fought over the fertile plains of Iraq for more than 150 years. The capture of Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 by Ismail I in 1509 was only followed by its loss to the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I in 1534. After subsequent campaigns, the Safavids recaptured Baghdad in 1623 yet lost it again to Murad IV
Murad IV
Murad IV Ghazi was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1623 to 1640, known both for restoring the authority of the state and for the brutality of his methods...

 in 1638. Henceforth a treaty, signed in Qasr-e Shirin, was established delineating a border between Iran and Turkey in 1639, a border which still stands in northwest Iran/southeast Turkey. The 150 year tug-of-war accentuated the Sunni and Shi'a rift in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

.

In 1609–10, a war broke out between Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 tribes and the Safavid Empire. After a long and bloody siege led by the Safavid grand vizier Hatem Beg, which lasted from November 1609 to the summer of 1610, the Kurdish stronghold of Dimdim was captured
Battle of DimDim
The Battle of DimDim is the name for the battle between the Safavid Empire and the Sunni Kurds of Ottoman Empire between 1609 and 1610.-Location:...

. Shah Abbas ordered a general massacre in Beradost and Mukriyan (Mahabad
Mahabad
-Culture:Muhammad Qazi translated more than 70 important literary works into Persian. Other writers and poets have hailed from Mahabad in the 19th and 20th century including Wafaei , Hejar , Hêmin , Abdorrahamn Zabihi and Giw Mukriyani...

, reported by Eskandar Beg Monshi, Safavid Historian (1557–1642), in "Alam Ara Abbasi") and resettled the Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 Afshar tribe
Afshar tribe
Afshars, also called Avshar are a branch of the Turkic Oghuz groups. These originally nomadic Oghuz tribes moved from Central Asia through Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, and finally most of them settled in Anatolia.Most of Afshars are followers of Shia Islam....

 in the region while deporting many Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 tribes to Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

. Nowadays, there is a community of nearly 1.7 million people who are descendants of the tribes deported from Kurdistan to Khurasan (Northeastern Iran) by the Safavids.

Due to his obsessive fear of assassination, Shah Abbas either put to death or blinded any member of his family who aroused his suspicion. One of his sons was executed and two blinded. Since two other sons had predeceased him, the result was personal tragedy for Shah Abbas. When he died on 19 January 1629, he had no son capable of succeeding him.

The beginning of the 17th century saw the power of the Qizilbash decline, the original militia that had helped Ismail I capture Tabriz and which had gained many administrative powers over the centuries. Power was shifting to a new class of merchants, many of them ethnic Armenians
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

, Georgian
Georgian people
The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

s and Indian
Demographics of India
The demographics of India are inclusive of the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.21 billion people , more than a sixth of the world's population. Already containing 17.5% of the world's population, India is projected to be the world's most populous country by 2025, surpassing...

s.

At its zenith, during the long reign of Shah Abbas I the empire's reach comprised Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

, Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, and parts of Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

, Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Contacts with Europe during Abbas' reign



Abbas' tolerance towards Christians was part of his policy of establishing diplomatic links with European powers to try to enlist their help in the fight against their common enemy, the Ottoman Empire. The idea of such an anti-Ottoman alliance was not a new one — over a century before, Uzun Hassan
Uzun Hassan
Uzun Hasan or Hassan , Sultan of the Aq Qoyunlu dynasty, or White Sheep Turkmen. Hassan ruled in parts of present-day western Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia between 1453 and 1478....

, then ruler of part of Iran, had asked the Venetians
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 for military aid — but none of the Safavids had made diplomatic overtures to Europe and Abbas' attitude was in marked contrast to that of his grandfather, Tahmasp I, who had expelled the English traveller Anthony Jenkinson
Anthony Jenkinson
Anthony Jenkinson was born at Market Harborough, Leicestershire. He was one of the first Britons to explore Muscovy and present day Russia. Jenkinson was a traveller and explorer on behalf of the Muscovy Company and the English crown. He also met Ivan the Terrible several times during his trips...

 from his court on hearing he was a Christian. For his part, Abbas declared that he "preferred the dust from the shoe soles of the lowest Christian to the highest Ottoman personage."
In 1599, Abbas sent his first diplomatic mission to Europe
Persian embassy to Europe (1599–1602)
The Persian embassy to Europe was dispatched by the Persian Shah Abbas I in 1599 to obtain an alliance against the Ottoman Empire. The Persians had then been at war with the Ottoman Empire for more than a century, and so decided to try to obtain European help against the Ottomans...

. The group crossed the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

 and spent the winter in Moscow, before proceeding through Norway, Germany (where it was received by Emperor Rudolf II) to Rome where Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII , born Ippolito Aldobrandini, was Pope from 30 January 1592 to 3 March 1605.-Cardinal:...

 gave the travellers a long audience. They finally arrived at the court of Philip III of Spain
Philip III of Spain
Philip III , also known as Philip the Pious, was the King of Spain and King of Portugal and the Algarves, where he ruled as Philip II , from 1598 until his death...

 in 1602. Although the expedition never managed to return to Iran, being shipwrecked on the journey around Africa, it marked an important new step in contacts between Iran and Europe and Europeans began to be fascinated by the Iranians and their culture — Shakespeare's 1601–2 Twelfth Night, for example, makes two references (at II.5 and III.4) to 'the Sophy', then the English term for the Shahs of Iran. Henceforward, the number of diplomatic missions to and fro greatly increased.

The shah had set great store on an alliance with Spain, the chief opponent of the Ottomans in Europe. Abbas offered trading rights and the chance to preach Christianity in Iran in return for help against the Ottomans. But the stumbling block of Hormuz remained, a port which had fallen into Spanish hands when the King of Spain inherited the throne of Portugal in 1580. The Spanish demanded Abbas break off relations with the English East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 before they would consider relinquishing the town. Abbas was unable to comply. Eventually Abbas became frustrated with Spain, as he did with the Holy Roman Empire, which wanted him to make his 170,000 Armenian
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 subjects swear allegiance to the Pope but did not trouble to inform the shah when the Emperor Rudolf signed a peace treaty with the Ottomans. Contacts with the Pope, Poland and Moscow were no more fruitful.

More came of Abbas' contacts with the English, although England had little interest in fighting against the Ottomans. The Sherley brothers arrived in 1598 and helped reorganise the Iranian army. The English East India Company also began to take an interest in Iran and in 1622 four of its ships helped Abbas retake Hormuz from the Portuguese in the Capture of Ormuz (1622)
Capture of Ormuz (1622)
In the 1622 Capture of Ormuz, a Anglo-Persian force combined to take over the Portuguese garrison at Hormuz Island, thus opening up Persian trade with England...

. It was the beginning of the East India Company's long-running interest in Iran.

Decline of the Safavid state


In addition to fighting its perennial enemies, the Ottomans and Uzbeks, as the 17th century progressed Iran had to contend with the rise of two more neighbors. Russian Muscovy in the previous century had deposed two western Asian khanates of the Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

 and expanded its influence into the Caucasus Mountains and Central Asia. In the east, the Mughals
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

 of India had expanded into Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

 (now Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

) at the expense of Iranian control, taking Qandahar
Kandahar
Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 512,200 as of 2011. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at about 1,005 m above sea level...

.

Furthermore, trade routes between the East
Eastern world
__FORCETOC__The term Eastern world refers very broadly to the various cultures or social structures and philosophical systems of Eastern Asia or geographically the Eastern Culture...

 and West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 had shifted away from Iran by the 17th century, causing a loss of commerce and trade. Moreover, Shah Abbas had a conversion to a ghulam-based military, though expedient in the short term.

Except for Shah Abbas II
Abbas II of Persia
Shah Abbas II was Shah of Iran from 1642 to 1666. He was the seventh Shah of the Safavid Dynasty. He was the son of Shah Safi I and a Circassian, Anna Khanum, and originally bore the name Sultan Muhammed Mirza before his coronation on May 15, 1642...

, the Safavid rulers after Abbas I were ineffectual. The end of the reign of Abbas II
Abbas II of Persia
Shah Abbas II was Shah of Iran from 1642 to 1666. He was the seventh Shah of the Safavid Dynasty. He was the son of Shah Safi I and a Circassian, Anna Khanum, and originally bore the name Sultan Muhammed Mirza before his coronation on May 15, 1642...

, 1666, marked the beginning of the end of the Safavid dynasty. Despite falling revenues and military threats, later shahs had lavish lifestyles. Sultan Husayn (1694–1722) in particular was known for his love of wine and disinterest in governance.

The country was repeatedly raided on its frontiers — Kerman by Baloch tribes
Baloch tribes
The Baloch are a tribal society settled in Balochistan in southwestern Asia. The Balochistan region is divided among Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.The following is a partial list of major Baloch tribes.A* Ahmadani...

 in 1698, Khorasan by the Hotakis in 1717, constantly in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 by peninsula Arabs. Sultan Hosein tried to forcibly convert his Afghan subjects in Qandahar from Sunni to the Shi'a sect of Islam. In response, a Ghilzai
Ghilzai
Ghilzai are the largest Pashtun tribal confederacy found in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are also known historically as Ghilji, Khilji, Ghalji, Ghilzye, and possibly Gharzai...

 Afghan chieftain named Mir Wais Hotak
Mir Wais Hotak
Hajji Mirwais Khan Hotak, also known as Mir Vais Ghilzai , was an influential tribal chief of the Ghilzai Pashtuns from Kandahar, Afghanistan, who founded the Hotaki dynasty that ruled a wide area in Persia and Afghanistan from 1709 to 1738...

 revolted and killed Gurgin Khan, the Safavid governor of the region, along with his army. In 1722, an Afghan army led by Mir Wais' son Mahmud
Mir Mahmud Hotaki
Shah Mahmud Hotaki, , also known as Mahmud Ghilzai , was an Afghan ruler of the Hotaki dynasty who defeated and overthrew the Safavid dynasty to become the king of Persia from 1722 until his death in 1725.He was the eldest son of Mirwais Hotak, the chief of the Ghilzai-Pashtun tribe of Afghanistan,...

 advanced on the heart of the empire and defeated the government forces at the Battle of Gulnabad
Battle of Gulnabad
The Battle of Gulnabad was fought between the military forces from Afghanistan and the army of the Persian Safavid Empire. The battle resulted in Afghanistan, under Shah Mahmud, winning and controlling much of Persia. Persian Shah Husayn was taken captive during the battle...

. He then besieged the capital of Isfahan, until Shah Sultan Husayn abdicated
Abdication
Abdication occurs when a monarch, such as a king or emperor, renounces his office.-Terminology:The word abdication comes derives from the Latin abdicatio. meaning to disown or renounce...

 and acknowledged him as the new king of Persia.

The tribal Afghans rode roughshod over their conquered territory for seven years but were prevented from making further gains by Nader Shah
Nader Shah
Nāder Shāh Afshār ruled as Shah of Iran and was the founder of the Afsharid dynasty. Because of his military genius, some historians have described him as the Napoleon of Persia or the Second Alexander...

, a former slave who had risen to military leadership within the Afshar tribe
Afshar tribe
Afshars, also called Avshar are a branch of the Turkic Oghuz groups. These originally nomadic Oghuz tribes moved from Central Asia through Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, and finally most of them settled in Anatolia.Most of Afshars are followers of Shia Islam....

 in Khorasan, a vassal state of the Safavids. Nadir Shah defeated the Ghilzai Hotaki forces in the 1729 Battle of Damghan
Battle of Damghan
The Battle of Damghan was fought from September 29 to October 5, 1729, near the city of Damghan. On one side of the battle were the Afsharid Persians commanded by Nader Shah Afsharid. On the other side were the Hotaki forces led by Ashraf Hotaki...

. He had removed them from power, and in 1738 conquered their last stronghold in Qandahar; in the same year he occupied Ghazni
Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

, Lahore
Lahore
Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the second largest city in the country. With a rich and fabulous history dating back to over a thousand years ago, Lahore is no doubt Pakistan's cultural capital. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Lahore remains a...

, and as far as Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

 in India. However, these cities were later inherited by his Abdali
Durrani
Durrani or Abdali is the name of a chief Pashtun tribal confederation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Originally known by their ancient name Abdali later as Durrani they have been called Durrani since the beginning of the Durrani Empire in 1747. The number of Durranis are estimated to be roughly 16%...

 Afghan military commander, Ahmad Shah Durrani
Ahmad Shah Durrani
Ahmad Shah Durrani , also known as Ahmad Shāh Abdālī and born as Ahmad Khān, was the founder of the Durrani Empire in 1747 and is regarded by many to be the founder of the modern state of Afghanistan.Ahmad Khan enlisted as a young soldier in the military of the Afsharid kingdom and quickly rose...

. Nadir had effective control under Shah Tahmasp II
Tahmasp II
Tahmasp II was one of the last Safavid rulers of Persia . Tahmasp was the son of Husayn , the Shah of Iran at that time. When Husayn was forced to abdicate by the Afghans in 1722, Prince Tahmasp wished to claim the throne. He fled to Tabriz where he established a government...

 and then ruled as regent of the infant Abbas III
Abbas III
Abbas III was a son of Shah Tahmasp II of the Safavid dynasty. After the deposition of his father by Nader Khan the infant Abbas was appointed nominal ruler of Iran on 7 September 1732. Nader Khan, who was the real ruler of the country, assumed the positions of deputy of state and viceroy...

 until 1736 when he had himself crowned shah.

Immediately after Nadir Shah's assassination in 1747, the Safavids were re-appointed as shahs of Iran in order to lend legitimacy to the nascent Zand dynasty
Zand dynasty
The Zand dynasty ruled southern and central Iran in the 18th century.- Karim Khan Zand :The dynasty was founded by Karim Khan, chief of the Zand tribe which was Lur or Lak deportees. Modern scholarships such as Wadie Jwaideh suggested his Kurdishness. He became one of Nader Shah's generals...

. However the brief puppet regime of Ismail III ended in 1760 when Karim Khan
Karim Khan
Karim Khan Zand, , , was a ruler of Iran, and the founder of the Zand Dynasty.He was born to a family of the Zand tribe of Lur or Lak deportees...

 felt strong enough take nominal power of the country as well and officially end the Safavid dynasty.

Shia Islam as the state religion


Even though Safavids were not the first Shia rulers in Iran, they played a crucial role in making Shia Islam the official religion in the whole of Iran. There were large Shia communities in some cities like Qom
Qom
Qom is a city in Iran. It lies by road southwest of Tehran and is the capital of Qom Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 957,496, in 241,827 families. It is situated on the banks of the Qom River....

 and Sabzevar
Sabzevar
Sabzevar is a city in, and the capital of Sabzevar County, in Razavi Khorasan Province in northeastern Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 208,172, in 57,024 families.It is approximately 220 kilometres west of Mashhad, the provincial capital...

 as early as the 8th century. In the 10th and 11th centuries the Buwayhid
Buwayhid
The Buyid dynasty, also known as the Buyid Empire or the Buyids , also known as Buwaihids, Buyahids, or Buyyids, were a Shī‘ah Persian dynasty that originated from Daylaman in Gilan...

s, who were of the Zaidiyyah
Zaidiyyah
Zaidiyya, or Zaidism is a Shi'a Muslim school of thought named after Zayd ibn ʻAlī, the grandson of Husayn ibn ʻAlī. Followers of the Zaydi Islamic jurisprudence are called Zaydi Shi'a...

 branch of Shia, ruled in Fars, Isfahan
Isfahan (city)
Isfahan , historically also rendered in English as Ispahan, Sepahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 km south of Tehran. It has a population of 1,583,609, Iran's third largest city after Tehran and Mashhad...

 and Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

. As a result of the Mongol conquest and the relative religious tolerance of the Ilkhanids, Shia dynasties were re-established in Iran, Sarbedaran in Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

 being the most important. The Ilkhanid ruler Öljaitü
Öljaitü
Öljeitü, Oljeitu, Olcayto or Uljeitu, Öljaitu, Ölziit , born Muhammad Khodabandeh , was the eighth Ilkhanid dynasty ruler in Iran from 1304 to 1316...

 converted to Twelver Shiism in the 13th century.

Following his conquest of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Ismail I made conversion mandatory for the largely Sunni population. The Sunni Ulema
Ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

 or clergy were either killed or exiled. Ismail I, despite his heterodox Alevi
Alevi
The Alevi are a religious and cultural community, primarily in Turkey, constituting probably more than 15 million people....

 Shia beliefs (Momen, 1985), brought in mainstream Ithnā‘ashariyyah Shi'a religious leaders and granted them land and money in return for loyalty. Later, during the Safavid and especially Qajar period, the Shia Ulema's power increased and they were able to exercise a role, independent of or compatible with the government. Despite the Safavid's Sufi origins, most Sufi groups were prohibited, except the Nimatullahi
Nimatullahi
The Ni'matullāhī or Ne'matollāhī is a Sufi order originating in Iran. According to Moojan Momen, the number of Ni'matullāhī in Iran in 1980 was estimated to be between 50,000 and 350,000. Following the emigration of Dr...

 order.

Iran became a feudal theocracy: the Shah was held to be the divinely ordained head of state and religion. In the following centuries, this religious stance cemented both Iran's internal cohesion and national feelings and provoked attacks by its Sunni neighbors.

Military and the role of Qizilbash



The Qizilbash were a wide variety of Shi'ite (ghulāt
Ghulat
Ghulāt , is a term used in the theology of Shia Islam to describe some minority Muslim groups who either ascribe divine characteristics to a member of Muhammad's family , or hold beliefs deemed deviant by mainstream Shi'i theology...

) and mostly Turcoman
Oghuz Turks
The Turkomen also known as Oghuz Turks were a historical Turkic tribal confederation in Central Asia during the early medieval Turkic expansion....

 militant groups who helped found the Safavid Empire. Their military power was essential during the reign of the Shahs Ismail and Tahmasp. The Qizilbash tribes were essential to the military of Iran until the rule of Shah Abbas I
Abbas I of Persia
Shāh ‘Abbās the Great was Shah of Iran, and generally considered the greatest ruler of the Safavid dynasty. He was the third son of Shah Mohammad....

- their leaders were able to exercise enormous influence and participate in court intrigues (assassinating Shah Ismail II
Ismail II
Ismail II was the third Safavid Shah of Iran.-Life:Ismail was the son of Shah Tahmasp I by a Turcoman mother, Sultanum Bekum Mawsillu. In 1547, he was appointed governor of the province of Shirvan where he led several expeditions against the Ottomans...

 for example).

A major problem faced by Ismail I
Ismail I
Ismail I , known in Persian as Shāh Ismāʿil , was a Shah of Iran and the founder of the Safavid dynasty which survived until 1736. Isma'il started his campaign in Azerbaijan in 1500 as the leader of the Safaviyya, an extremist heterodox Twelver Shi'i militant religious order and unified all of Iran...

 after the establishment of the Safavid state was how to bridge the gap between the two major ethnic groups in that state: the Qizilbash ("Redhead") Turcomans, the "men of sword" of classical Islamic society whose military prowess had brought him to power, and the Persian elements, the "men of the pen", who filled the ranks of the bureaucracy and the religious establishment in the Safavid state as they had done for centuries under previous rulers of Persia, be they Arabs, Mongols
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

, or Turkmen
Turkmen people
The Turkmen are a Turkic people located primarily in the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and northeastern Iran. They speak the Turkmen language, which is classified as a part of the Western Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages family together with Turkish, Azerbaijani, Qashqai,...

s. As Vladimir Minorsky put it, friction between these two groups was inevitable, because the Qizilbash "were no party to the national Persian tradition".

Between 1508 and 1524, the year of Ismail's death, the shah appointed five successive Persians to the office of vakil. When the second Persian vakil was placed in command of a Safavid army in Transoxiana
Transoxiana
Transoxiana is the ancient name used for the portion of Central Asia corresponding approximately with modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgystan and southwest Kazakhstan. Geographically, it is the region between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers...

, the Qizilbash, considering it a dishonor to be obliged to serve under him, deserted him on the battlefield with the result that he was slain. The fourth vakil was murdered by the Qizilbash, and the fifth was put to death by them.

Reforms in the military


Shah Abbas realized that in order to retain absolute control over his empire without antagonizing the Qizilbash, he needed to create reforms that reduced the dependency that the shah had on their military support. Part of these reforms was the creation of the 3rd force within the aristocracy, but even more important in undermining the authority of the Qizilbash was the introduction of the Royal Corps into the military. This military force would serve the shah only and eventually consisted of four separate branches:
  • Shahsevans – these were 12 000 strong and built up from the small group of qurchis that Shah Abbas had inherited from his predecessor. The Shahsevans, or "Friends of the King", were Qizilbash tribesmen who had forsaken their tribal allegiance for allegiance to the shah alone.
  • Gulams – Tahmasp had started introducing Georgian
    Georgian people
    The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

    , Armenian
    Armenians
    Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

     and Circassian
    Adyghe people
    The Adyghe or Adygs , also often known as Circassians or Cherkess, are in origin a North Caucasian ethnic groupwho were displaced in the course of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus in the 19th century, especially after the Russian–Circassian War of 1862.Adyghe people mostly speak Adyghe and most...

     slaves from the Caucasus
    Caucasus
    The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

    , appointing them either in the harem or the royal household. Shah Abbas expanded this program significantly and eventually created a force of 15 000 ghulam cavalrymen.
  • Musketers – realizing the advantages that the Ottomans had because of their firearms, Shah Abbas was at pains to equip both the qurchi and the ghulam soldiers with up-to-date weaponry. More importantly, for the first time in Iranian history, a substantial infantry corps of musketeers (tofang-chis), numbering 12 000, was created.
  • Artillery Corps – with the help of Westerners, he also formed an artillery corps of 12 000 men, although this was the weakest element in his army. According to Sir Thomas Herbert, who accompanied the British embassy to Persia in 1628, the Persians relied heavily on support from the Europeans in manufacturing cannons. It wasn't until a century later, when Nadir Shah became the Commander in Chief of the military that sufficient effort was put into modernizing the artillery corps and the Persians managed to excel and become self sufficient in the manufacturing of firearms.


Despite the reforms, the Qizilbash would remain the strongest and most effective element within the military, accounting for more than half of its total strength. But the creation of this large standing army, that, for the first time in Safavid history, was serving directly under the Shah, significantly reduced their influence, and perhaps any possibilities for the type of civil unrest that had caused havoc during the reign of the previous shahs.

Society


A proper term for the Safavid society is what we today can call a meritocracy, meaning a society in which officials were appointed on the basis of worth and merit, and not on the basis of birth. It was certainly not an oligarchy, nor was it an aristocracy. Sons of nobles were considered for the succession of their fathers as a mark of respect, but they had to prove themselves worthy of the position. This system avoided an entrenched aristocracy or a cast society. There even are numerous recorded accounts of laymen that rose to high official posts, as a result of their merits.

Nevertheless, the Persian society during the Safavids was that of a hierarchy, with the Shah at the apex of the hierarchical pyramid, the common people, merchants and peasants at the base, and the aristocrats in between. The term dowlat, which in modern Persian means "government", was then an abstract term meaning "bliss" or "felicity", and it began to be used as concrete sense of the Safavid state, reflecting the view that the people had of their ruler, as someone elevated above humanity.

Also among the aristocracy, in the middle of the hierarchical pyramid, were the religious officials, who, mindful of the historic role of the religious classes as a buffer between the ruler and his subjects, usually did their best to shield the ordinary people from oppressive governments.

The customs and culture of the people



Jean Chardin
Jean Chardin
Jean Chardin , born Jean-Baptiste Chardin, and also known as Sir John Chardin, was a French jeweller and traveller whose ten-volume book The Travels of Sir John Chardin is regarded as one of the finest works of early Western scholarship on Persia and the Near East.-Life and work:Chardin was born in...

 devoted a whole chapter in his book to describing the Persian character, which apparently fascinated him greatly. As he spent a large bulk of his life in Persia, he involved himself in, and took part in, their everyday rituals and habits, and eventually acquired intimate knowledge of their culture, customs and character. He admired their consideration towards foreigners, but he also stumbled upon characteristics that he found challenging. His descriptions of the public appearance, clothes and customs are corroborated by the miniatures, drawings and paintings from that time which have survived. As he describes them:
He then goes on:
But as he also experienced:

Character



It is however no question, from reading Chardin's descriptions of their manners, that he considered them to be a well educated and well behaved people, who certainly knew the strict etiquettes of social intercourse. As he describes them,
Unlike Europeans, they much disliked physical activity, and were not in favor of exercise for its own sake, preferring the leisure of repose and luxuries that life could offer. Travelling was valued only for the specific purpose of getting from one place to another, not interesting them self in seeing new places and experiencing different cultures. It was perhaps this sort of attitude towards the rest of the world that accounted for the ignorance of Persians regarding other countries of the world. The exercises that they took part in were for keeping the body supple and sturdy and to acquire skills in handling of arms. Archery
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

 took first place. Second place was held by fencing
Fencing
Fencing, which is also known as modern fencing to distinguish it from historical fencing, is a family of combat sports using bladed weapons.Fencing is one of four sports which have been featured at every one of the modern Olympic Games...

, where the wrist had to be firm but flexible and movements agile. Thirdly there was horsemanship. A very strenuous form of exercise which the Persians greatly enjoyed was hunting.

Entertainment



Since pre-Islamic times, the sport of wrestling
Wrestling
Wrestling is a form of grappling type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position...

 had been an integral part of the Iranian identity, and the professional wrestlers, who performed in Zurkhaneh
Zurkhaneh
Zurkhaneh, Zorkhana or Zourkhaneh is a traditional gymnasium of urban Persia and adjacent lands, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan etc....

s, were considered important members of the society. Each town had their own troop of wrestlers, called Pahlavan
Varzesh-e Pahlavani
Varzesh-e Bastani is a traditional style of folk wrestling practiced in Iran....

s. Their sport also provided the masses with entertainment and spectacle. Chardin described one such event:
As well as wrestling, what gathered the masses was fencing, tightrope dancers, puppet-players and acrobats, performing in large squares, such as the Royal square. A leisurely form of amusement was to be found in the cabaret
Cabaret
Cabaret is a form, or place, of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, distinguished mainly by the performance venue: a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances and the audience sitting at tables watching the performance, as introduced by a master of ceremonies or...

s, particularly in certain districts, like those near the mausoleum of Harun-e Velayat. People met there to drink liqueurs or coffee, to smoke tobacco or opium, and to chat or listen to poetry.

Clothes and Appearances


As noted before, a key aspect of the Persian character was its love of luxury, particularly on keeping up appearances. They would adorn their clothes, wearing stones and decorate the harness of their horses. Men wore many rings on their fingers, almost as many as their wives. They also placed jewels on their arms, such as on daggers and swords. Daggers were worn at the waist. In describing the lady's clothing, he noted that Persian dress revealed more of the figure than did the European, but that women appeared differently depending on whether they were at home in the presence of friends and family, or if they were in the public. In private they usually wore a veil that only covered the hair and the back, but upon leaving the home, they would put on a large sheet, that concealed the whole of the body except from the face. They would often dye their feet and hands with henna. Their hairstyle was simple, the hair gathered back in tresses, often adorning the ends with pearls and clusters of jewels. Women with slender waists were regarded as more attractive than those with larger figures. Women from the provinces and slaves pierced their left nostrils with rings, but well-born Persian women would not do this.

The most precious accessory for men was the turban
Turban
In English, Turban refers to several types of headwear popularly worn in the Middle East, North Africa, Punjab, Jamaica and Southwest Asia. A commonly used synonym is Pagri, the Indian word for turban.-Styles:...

. Although they lasted a long time it was necessary to have changes for different occasions like weddings and the Nowruz
Nowruz
Nowrūz is the name of the Iranian New Year in Iranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations. Nowruz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year....

, while men of status never wore the same turban two days running. Clothes that became soiled in any way were changed immediately.

The Turks and the Persians


One could say that, just as the administrative system was divided vertically into different branches of the society, it was also divided horizontally along ethnic lines between the two "founding" races of the Safavid society; the qizilbash Turks and the tajiki Persians (iranians), and the tensions between these two had been present from the very founding of the dynasty. As the former represented the "people of the sword" and the latter, "the people of the pen", high-level official posts would naturally be reserved for the Persians. Indeed, this had been the situation throughout Persian history, even before the Safavids, ever since the Arab conquest. Shah Tahmasp introduced a change to this, when he, and later the other Safavid rulers as well, sought to blur the formerly defined lines between the two ethnic groups, by taking the sons of qizilbash officers into the royal household for their education. Consequently, they were slowly able to take on administrative jobs in areas which had hitherto been the exclusive preserve of the Iranians.

The third force


From 1540 and onwards, Shah Tahmasp initiated a transformation of the society by slowly constructing a new branch within the aristocracy. The campaigns that he waged against Georgia between 1540 and 1554 were primarily meant to uphold the morale and the fighting efficiency of the qizilbash military, but they brought home large numbers of Georgian, Armenian
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 and Circassian slaves. The women came to occupy prominent positions in the harems of the Safavid elite, particularly the Shah's, while the men were given special training, on completion of which they were either enrolled in one of the newly created ghulam regiments, or employed in the royal household. Shah Abbas continued this program and greatly expanded the ghulam military corps from a few hundred to 15 000 highly trained cavalrymen. He then went on to reduce the number of qizilbash provincial governorships and systematicly moved qizilbash governors to other districts, thus disrupting their ties with the local community, and reducing their power. Many were replaced by a ghulam, and within short time, Georgians, Armenian
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

s and Circassians had been appointed to many of the highest offices of state. By 1595, Allahverdi Khan
Allahverdi Khan
Allahverdi Khan was an Iranian general and statesman of Georgian origin who, although initially a ghulām , rose to high office in the Safavid state....

, a Georgian, became one of the most powerful men in the Safavid state, when he was appointed the Governor-General of Fars, one of the richest provinces in Persia. And his power reached its peak in 1598, when he became the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Thus, this new group eventually came to constitute a powerful "third force" within the state, alongside the Tajik Persians and the Qizilbash Turks, and it only goes to prove the meritocratic society of the Safavids.

Emergence of a clerical aristocracy


An important feature of the Safavid society was the alliance that emerged between the ulama
Ulama
-In Islam:* Ulema, also transliterated "ulama", a community of legal scholars of Islam and its laws . See:**Nahdlatul Ulama **Darul-uloom Nadwatul Ulama **Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal**Jamiat ul-Ulama -Other:...

 (the religious class) and the merchant
Merchant
A merchant is a businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit.Merchants can be one of two types:# A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between producer and retail merchant...

 community. The latter included merchants trading in the bazaars, the trade and artisan guilds (asnāf) and members of the quasi-religious organizations run by dervish
Dervish
A Dervish or Darvesh is someone treading a Sufi Muslim ascetic path or "Tariqah", known for their extreme poverty and austerity, similar to mendicant friars in Christianity or Hindu/Buddhist/Jain sadhus.-Etymology:The Persian word darvīsh is of ancient origin and descends from a Proto-Iranian...

es (futuvva). Because of the relative insecurity of property ownership in Persia, many private landowners secured their lands by donating them to the clergy as so called vaqf. They would thus retain the official ownership and secure their land from being confiscated by royal commissioners or local governors, as long as a percentage of the revenues from the land went to the ulama. Increasingly, members of the religious class, particularly the mujtahids and the seyyeds, gained full ownership of these lands, and, according to contemporary historian Iskandar Munshi
Iskandar Beg Munshi
Iskandar Beg Munshi — was a Persian historian, the court historian of the Safavid emperor Shah Abbas I. Iskandar Beg began as an accountant in the bureaucracy, but later became a privileged secretary of the Shahs. He wrote one of the greatest works of Persian historiography,...

, Persia started to witness the emergence of a new and significant group of landowners.

State and government


The Safavid state was one of checks and balance, both within the government and on a local level. At the apex of this system was the Shah, with total power over the state, legitimized by his bloodline as a seyyed, or descendant of the Prophet Mohammad
Prophets of Islam
Muslims identify the Prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God and given revelation to deliver to mankind. Muslims believe that every prophet was given a belief to worship God and their respective followers believed it as well...

. So absolute was his power, that the French merchant, and later ambassador to Persia, Jean Chardin
Jean Chardin
Jean Chardin , born Jean-Baptiste Chardin, and also known as Sir John Chardin, was a French jeweller and traveller whose ten-volume book The Travels of Sir John Chardin is regarded as one of the finest works of early Western scholarship on Persia and the Near East.-Life and work:Chardin was born in...

 thought the Safavid Shahs ruled their land with an iron fist and often in a despotic manner. To ensure transparency and avoid decisions being made that circumvented the Shah, a complex system of bureaucracy and departmental procedures had been put in place that prevented fraud. Every office had a deputy or superintendent, whose job was to keep records of all actions of the state officials and report directly to the Shah. The Shah himself exercised his own measures for keeping his ministers under control by fostering an atmosphere of rivalry and competitive surveillance. And since the Safavid society was meritocratic, and successions seldom were made on the basis of heritage, this meant that government offices constantly felt the pressure of being under surveillance and had to make sure they governed in the best interest of their leader, and not merely their own.

The Government


There probably did not exist any parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

, as we know them today. But the Portuguese ambassador to the Safavids, De Gouvea
García de Silva Figueroa
Don García de Silva Figueroa was a Spanish diplomat, and the first Western traveller to correctly identify the ruins of Takht-e Jamshid in Persia as the location of Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire and one of the great cities of antiquity.- Life and work :De Silva was born...

, still mentions the Council of State in his records, which perhaps was a term for governmental gatherings of the time.

The highest level in the government was that of the Prime Minister, or Grand Vizier (Etemad-e Dowlat), who was always chosen from among doctors of law. He enjoyed tremendous power and control over national affairs as he was the immediate deputy of the Shah. No act of the Shah was valid without the counter seal of the Prime Minister. But even he stood accountable to a deputy (vak’anevis), who kept records of his decision-makings and notified the Shah. Second to the Prime Minister post were the General of the Revenues (mostoufi-ye mamalek), or finance minister, and the Divanbegi, Minister of Justice. The latter was the final appeal in civil and criminal cases, and his office stood next to the main entrance to the Ali Qapu
Ali Qapu
Ālī Qāpū is a grand palace in Isfahan, Iran. It is located on the western side of the Naghsh-i Jahan Square opposite to Sheikh lotf allah mosque, and had been originally designed as a vast portal. It is forty-eight meters high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral...

 palace. In earlier times, the Shah had been closely involved in judicial proceedings, but this part of the royal duty was neglected by Shah Safi and the later kings.

Next in authority were the generals: the General of the Royal Troops (the Shahsevans), General of the Musketeers, General of the Ghulams and The Master of Artillery. A separate official, the Commander-in-Chief, was appointed to be the head of these officials.

The Royal Court


As for the royal household, the highest post was that of the Nazir, Court Minister. He was perhaps the closest advisor to the Shah, and, as such, functioned as his eyes and ears within the Court. His primary job was to appoint and supervise all the officials of the household and to be their contact with the Shah. But his responsibilities also included that of being the treasurer of the Shahs properties. This meant that even the Prime Minister, who held the highest office in the state, had to work in association with the Nazir when it came to managing those transactions that directly related to the Shah.

The second most senior appointment was the Grand Steward (Ichik Agasi bashi), who would always accompany the Shah and was easily recognizable because of the great baton that he carried with him. He was responsible for introducing all guests, receiving petitions presented to the Shah and reading them if required. Next in line were the Master of the Royal Stables (Mirakor bashi) and the Master of the Hunt (Mirshekar bashi). The Shah had stables in all the principal towns, and Shah Abbas was said to have about 30 000 horses in studs around the country. In addition to these, there were separate officials appointed for the caretaking of royal banquets and for entertainment.

Chardin specifically noticed the rank of doctors and astrologers and the respect that the Shahs had for them. The Shah had a dozen of each in his service and would usually be accompanied by three doctors and three astrologers, who were authorized to sit by his side on various occasions. The Chief Physician (Hakim-bashi) was a highly considered member of the Royal court, and the most revered astrologer of the court was given the title Munajjim-bashi (Chief Astrologer).

During the first century of the dynasty, the primary court language remained Azeri
Azerbaijani language
Azerbaijani or Azeri or Torki is a language belonging to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia by the Azerbaijani people, primarily in Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran...

, although this increasingly changed after the capital was moved to Isfahan.

Local governments


On a local level, the government was divided into public land and royal possessions. The public land was under the rule of local governors, or Khans. Since the earliest days of the Safavid dynasty, the Qizilbash generals had been appointed to most of these posts. They ruled their provinces like petty shahs and spent all their revenues on their own province, only presenting the Shah with the balance. In return, they had to keep ready a standing army at all times and provide the Shah with military assistance upon his request. It was also requested from them that they appoint a lawyer (vakil) to the Court who would inform them on matters pertaining to the provincial affairs. Shah Abbas I
Abbas I of Persia
Shāh ‘Abbās the Great was Shah of Iran, and generally considered the greatest ruler of the Safavid dynasty. He was the third son of Shah Mohammad....

 intended to decrease the power of the Qizilbash by bringing some of these provinces into his direct control, creating so called Crown Provinces (Khassa). But it was Shah Safi, under influence by his Prime Minister, Saru Taqi, that initiated the program of trying to increase the royal revenues by buying land from the governors and putting in place local commissioners. In time, this proved to become a burden to the people that were under the direct rule of the Shah, as these commissioners, unlike the former governors, had little knowledge about the local communities that they controlled and were primarily interested in increasing the income of the Shah. And, while it was in the governors’ own interest to increase the productivity and prosperity of their provinces, the commissioners received their income directly from the royal treasury and, as such, did not care so much about investing in agriculture and local industries. Thus, the majority of the people suffered from rapacity and corruption carried out in the name of the Shah.

Democratic institutions in a totalitarian society


In 16th and 17th century Iran, there existed a considerable number of local democratic institutions. Examples of such were the trade and artisan guilds, which had started to appear in Persia from the 1500s. Also, there were the quazi-religious fraternities called futuvva, which were run by local dervish
Dervish
A Dervish or Darvesh is someone treading a Sufi Muslim ascetic path or "Tariqah", known for their extreme poverty and austerity, similar to mendicant friars in Christianity or Hindu/Buddhist/Jain sadhus.-Etymology:The Persian word darvīsh is of ancient origin and descends from a Proto-Iranian...

es. Another official selected by the consensus of the local community was the kadkhoda, who functioned as a common law administrator. The local sheriff (kalantar), who was not elected by the people but directly appointed by the Shah, and whose function was to protect the people against injustices on the part of the local governors, supervised the kadkhoda.

Legal system


In Safavid Persia there was little distinction between theology and jurisprudence, or between divine justice and human justice, and it all went under Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh
Fiqh
Fiqh is Islamic jurisprudence. Fiqh is an expansion of the code of conduct expounded in the Quran, often supplemented by tradition and implemented by the rulings and interpretations of Islamic jurists....

). The legal system was built up of two branches: civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

, which had its roots in sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

, received wisdom, and urf
Urf
Urf العرف is an Arabic Islamic term referring to the custom, or 'knowledge', of a given society. To be recognized in an Islamic society, Urf must be compatible with Sharia law...

, meaning traditional experience and very similar to the Western form of common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

. While the imams and judges of law applied civil law in their practice, urf was primarily exercised by the local commissioners, who inspected the villages on behalf of the Shah, and by the Minister of Justice (Divanbegi). The latter were all secular functionaries working on behalf of the Shah.

The highest level in the legal system was the Minister of Justice, and the law officers were divided into senior appointments, such as the magistrate (darughah), inspector (visir), and recorder (vak’anevis). The lesser officials were the qazi, corresponding a civil lieutenant, who ranked under the local governors and functioned as judges in the provinces.

According to Chardin
Jean Chardin
Jean Chardin , born Jean-Baptiste Chardin, and also known as Sir John Chardin, was a French jeweller and traveller whose ten-volume book The Travels of Sir John Chardin is regarded as one of the finest works of early Western scholarship on Persia and the Near East.-Life and work:Chardin was born in...

:
Chardin also noted that bringing cases into court in Persia was easier than in the West. The judge (qazi) was informed of relevant points involved and would decide whether or not to take up the case. Having agreed to do so, a sergeant would investigate and summon the defendant, who was then obliged to pay the fee of the sergeant. The two parties with their witnesses pleaded their respective cases, usually without any counsel, and the judge would pass his judgment after the first or second hearing.

Criminal justice
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

 was entirely separate from civil law and was judged upon common law administered through the Minister of Justice, local governors and the Court minister (the Nazir). Despite being based on urf, it relied upon certain sets of legal principles. Murder was punishable by death, and the penalty for bodily injuries was invariably the bastinado. Robbers had their right wrists amputated the first time, and sentenced to death on any subsequent occasion. State criminals were subjected to the karkan, a triangular wooden collar placed around the neck. On extraordinary occasions when the Shah took justice into his own hand, he would dress himself up in red for the importance of the event, according to ancient tradition.

Economy


What fueled the growth of Safavid economy was Iran's position between the burgeoning civilizations of Europe to its west and India and Islamic Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 to its east and north. The Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 which led through northern Iran to India revived in the 16th century. Abbas I also supported direct trade with Europe, particularly England and The Netherlands which sought Persian carpet, silk and textiles. Other exports were horses, goat hair, pearls and an inedible bitter almond hadam-talka used as a spice in India. The main imports were spice, textiles (woolens from Europe, cottons from Gujarat), metals, coffee, and sugar.

Agriculture


According to the historian Roger Savory
Roger Savory
Roger Savory is a British-born Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto who is an Iranologist and specialist on the Safavids. His numerous writings on Safavid political, military history, administration, bureaucracy, and dipolomacy-translated into several language have had a great impact in...

, the twin bases of the domestic economy were pastoralism
Pastoralism
Pastoralism or pastoral farming is the branch of agriculture concerned with the raising of livestock. It is animal husbandry: the care, tending and use of animals such as camels, goats, cattle, yaks, llamas, and sheep. It may have a mobile aspect, moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and...

 and agriculture. And, just as the higher levels of the social hierarchy was divided between the Turkish "men of the sword" and the Persian "men of the pen"; so were the lower level divided between the Turcoman tribes, who were cattle breeders and lived apart from the surrounding population, and the Persians, who were peasants and settled agriculturalists.

The Safavid economy was to a large extent based on agriculture and taxation of agricultural products. According to the French jeweller Jean Chardin
Jean Chardin
Jean Chardin , born Jean-Baptiste Chardin, and also known as Sir John Chardin, was a French jeweller and traveller whose ten-volume book The Travels of Sir John Chardin is regarded as one of the finest works of early Western scholarship on Persia and the Near East.-Life and work:Chardin was born in...

, the variety in agricultural products in Persia was unrivaled in Europe and consisted of fruits and vegetables never even heard of in Europe. Chardin was present at some feasts in Isfahan were there were more than fifty different kinds of fruit. He thought that there was nothing like it in France or Italy:
Despite of this, he was disappointed when travelling the country and witnessing the abundance of land that was not irrigated, or the fertile plains that were not cultivated, something he thought was in starch contrast to Europe. He blamed this on misgovernment, the sparse population of the country, and lack of appreciation of agriculture amongst the Persians.

In the period prior to Shah Abbas I, most of the land was assigned to officials (civil, military and religious). From the time of Shah Abbas onwards, more land was brought under the direct control of the shah. And since agriculture accounted to the by far largest share of tax revenue, he took measures to expand it. What remained unchanged, was the "crop-sharing agreement" between whom ever was the landlord, and the peasant. This agreement concisted of five elements: land, water, plough-animals, seed and labour. Each element constituted 20 per cent of the crop production, and if, for instance, the peasant provided the labour force and the animals, he would be entitled to 40 per cent of the earnings. According to contemporary historians, though, the landlord always had the worst of the bargain with the peasant in the crop-sharing agreements. In general, the peasants lived in comfort, and they were well paid and wore good clothes, although it was also notet that they were subject to forced labour and lived under heavy demands.

Travel and Caravanserais


Horses were the most important of all the domestic animals, and the best were brought in from Arabia and Central-Asia. They were costly because of the widespread trade in them, including to Turkey and India. The next most important mount, when travelling through Persia, was the mule. Also, the camel was a good investment for the merchant, as they cost nearly nothing to feed, carried a lot weight and could travel almost anywhere.

Under the governance of the strong shahs, especially during the first half of the 17th century, travelling through Persia was easy because of good roads and the caravanserai
Caravanserai
A caravanserai, or khan, also known as caravansary, caravansera, or caravansara in English was a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day's journey...

s, that were strategically placed along the route. Thévenot
Jean de Thévenot
Jean de Thévenot was a French traveller in the East, who wrote extensively about his journeys. He was also a linguist, natural scientist and botanist....

 and Tavernier
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was a French traveller and pioneer of trade with India, and travels through Persia , most known for works in two quarto volumes, Les Six Voyages de Jean-Baptiste Tavernier and diamond merchant for some important diamonds of the century...

 commented that the Persian caravanserais were better built and cleaner than their Turkish counterparts. According to Chardin, they were also more abundant than in the Mughal or Ottoman Empires, where they were less frequent but larger. Caravanserais were designed especially to benefit poorer travellers, as they could stay there for as long as they wished, without payment for lodging. During the reign of Shah Abbas I, as he tried to upgrade the Silk route to improve the commersial prosperity of the Empire, an abundance of caravanserais, bridges, bazaars and roads were built, and this strategy was followed by wealthy merchants who also profitted from the increase in trade. To uphold the standard, another source of revenue was needed, and road toll, that were collected by guards (rah-dars), were stationed along the trading routes. They in turn provided for the safety of the travellers, and both Thevenot and Tavernier stressed the safety of travelling in 17th century Persia, and the courtesy and refinement of the policing guards. The Italian traveller Pietro Della Valle
Pietro Della Valle
Pietro della Valle was an Italian who traveled throughout Asia during the Renaissance period. His travels took him to the Holy Land, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and as Far as India.-Biography:...

 was impressed by an encounter with one of these road guards:

Foreign trade and The Silk Route


The Portuguese Empire
Portuguese Empire
The Portuguese Empire , also known as the Portuguese Overseas Empire or the Portuguese Colonial Empire , was the first global empire in history...

 and the discovery of the trading route around the Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the...

 in 1487 not only hit a death blow to Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 as a trading nation, but it also hurt the trade that was going on along the Silk Route and especially the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

. They correctly identified the three key points to control all seaborn trade between Asia and Europe; The Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which is about 20 miles wide....

, The Persian Gulf and the Straits of Malacca by cutting off and controlling these strategic locations with high taxation. In 1602 Shah Abbas I drove the Portuguese out of Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

, but he needed naval assistance from the newly arrived British East India Company
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 to finally expel them from the Strait of Hormuz
Strait of Hormuz
The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow, strategically important waterway between the Gulf of Oman in the southeast and the Persian Gulf. On the north coast is Iran and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman....

 and regain control of this trading route. He convinced the British to assist him by allowing them to open factories in Shiraz, Isfahan and Jask. With the later end of the Portuguese Empire, the British, Dutch and French in particular gained easier access to Persian sea-born trade. Although they, unlike the Portuguese, did not arrive as colonisers, but as merchant adventurers. The terms of trade were not imposed on the Safavid shahs, but rather negotiated.
In the long term, however, the sea-born trade route was of less significance to the Persians than was the traditional Silk Route. Lack of investment in ship building and the navy, provided the Europeans with the opportunity to monopolize this trading route. The land-born trade would thus continue to provide the bulk of revenues to the Persian state. Much of the cash revenue came not so much from what could be sold abroad, as from the custom charges and transit dues levied on goods passing through the country. Shah Abbas was determined to greatly expand this trade, but faced the problem of having to deal with the Ottomans, who controlled the two most vital routes: the route across Arabia to the Mediterranean ports, and the route through Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 and Istanbul. A third route was therefore devised which circumvented Ottoman territory. By travelling across the Caspian sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

 to the north, they would reach Russia. And with the assistans of the Muscovy Company
Muscovy Company
The Muscovy Company , was a trading company chartered in 1555. It was the first major chartered joint stock company, the precursor of the type of business that would soon flourish in England, and became closely associated with such famous names as Henry Hudson and William Baffin...

 they could cross over to Moscow, reaching Europe via Poland. This trading route proved to be of vital importance, especially during times of war with the Ottomans.

By the end of the 17th century, the Dutch had become dominant in the trade that went via The Persian Gulf, having won most trade agreements and managed to strike deals before the British or French were able to. They particularly established monopoly of the spice trade between the East Indies and Iran.

The Armenian merchants and the trade of silk



The one valuable item, sought for in Europe, which Iran possessed and which could bring in silver in sufficient quantites was silk, which was produced in the northern provinces, along the Caspian coastline. The trade of this product was done by Turks and Persians to begin with, but during the 17th century the Christian Armenians
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 became increasingly vital in the trade of this merchandise, as middlemen.

Whereas domestic trade was largely in the hands of Persian and Jewish merchants, by late 17th century, almost all foreign trade was controlled by the Armenians
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

. They were even hired by wealthy Persian merchants to travel to Europe when they wanted to create commercial bases there, and the Armenians eventually established themselves in cities like Bursa, Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

, Venice, Livorno, Marseilles and Amsterdam. Realizing this, Shah Abbas resettled large numbers of Armenians from the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 to his capital city and provided them with loans. And as the shah realized the importance of doing trade with the Europeans, he assured that the Safavid society was one with religious tolerance. The Christian Armenians thus became a commercial elite in the Safavid society and managed to survive in the tough atmosphere of business being fought over by the British, Dutch, French, Indians and Persians, by always having large capital readily available and by managing to strike harder bargains ensuring cheaper prices than what, for instance, their British rivals ever were able to.

Culture



Culture within the Safavid family


The Safavid family was a literate family from its early origin. There are extant Tati and Persian poetry from Shaykh Safi ad-din Ardabili as well as extant Persian poetry from Shaykh Sadr ad-din. Most of the extant poetry of Shah Ismail I is in Azerbaijani
Azerbaijani language
Azerbaijani or Azeri or Torki is a language belonging to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia by the Azerbaijani people, primarily in Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran...

 pen-name of Khatai. Sam Mirza, the son of Shah Esmail as well as some later authors assert that Ismail composed poems both in Turkish and Persian but only a few specimens of his Persian verse have survived. A collection of his poems in Azeri were published as a Divan. Shah Tahmasp who has composed poetry in Persian was also a painter, while Shah Abbas II was known as a poet, writing Azerbaijani verses. Sam Mirza, the son of Ismail I was himself a poet and composed his poetry in Persian. He also compiled an anthology of contemporary poetry.

Culture within the empire


Shah Abbas I recognized the commercial benefit of promoting the arts - artisan products provided much of Iran's foreign trade.
In this period, handicrafts such as tile making, pottery and textiles developed and great advances were made in miniature painting, bookbinding, decoration and calligraphy. In the 16th century, carpet weaving evolved from a nomadic and peasant craft to a well-executed industry with specialization of design and manufacturing. Tabriz
Tabriz
Tabriz is the fourth largest city and one of the historical capitals of Iran and the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. Situated at an altitude of 1,350 meters at the junction of the Quri River and Aji River, it was the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s, one of its former...

 was the center of this industry. The carpets of Ardabil
Ardabil Carpet
The Ardabil Carpet is either of a pair of two famous Persian carpets in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art....

 were commissioned to commemorate the Safavid dynasty. The elegantly baroque yet famously 'Polonaise' carpets were made in Iran during the 17th century.
Using traditional forms and materials, Reza Abbasi
Reza Abbasi
Riza Abbasi, Riza yi-Abbasi or Reza-e Abbasi, رضا عباسی in Persian, usually "Riza" or Reza Abbasi also Aqa Riza or Āqā Riżā Kāshānī was the leading Persian miniaturist of the Isfahan School during the later Safavid period, spending most of his career working for Shah Abbas I...

 (1565–1635) introduced new subjects to Persian painting — semi-nude women, youth, lovers. His painting and calligraphic style influenced Iranian artists for much of the Safavid period, which came to be known as the Isfahan school. Increased contact with distant cultures in the 17th century, especially Europe, provided a boost of inspiration to Iranian artists who adopted modeling, foreshortening, spatial recession, and the medium of oil painting (Shah Abbas II sent Zaman
Zaman
Zaman may refer to:*Zaman A large ornamental tropical American tree with bipinnate leaves and globose clusters of flowers with crimson stamens and sweet-pulp seed pods eaten by cattle ....

to study in Rome). The epic Shahnameh
Shahnameh
The Shahnameh or Shah-nama is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c.977 and 1010 AD and is the national epic of Iran and related societies...

 ("Book of Kings"), a stellar example of manuscript illumination and calligraphy, was made during Shah Tahmasp's reign. (This book was written by Ferdousi in 1000 AD for Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi) Another manuscript is the Khamsa by Nizami executed 1539-43 by Aqa Mirak and his school in Isfahan.

Isfahan
Isfahan (city)
Isfahan , historically also rendered in English as Ispahan, Sepahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 km south of Tehran. It has a population of 1,583,609, Iran's third largest city after Tehran and Mashhad...

 bears the most prominent samples of the Safavid architecture, all constructed in the years after Shah Abbas I permanently moved the capital there in 1598: the Imperial Mosque, Masjid-e Shah
Shah Mosque
Imam Mosque, is a mosque in Isfahan, Iran standing in south side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square.Built during the Safavid period, it is an excellent example of Islamic architecture of Iran, and regarded as one of the masterpieces of Persian Architecture. The Shah Mosque of Esfahan is one of the...

, completed in 1630, the Imam Mosque (Masjid-e Imami) the Lutfallah Mosque
Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque
Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque is one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, standing on the eastern side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran.Construction of the mosque started in 1603 and was finished in 1618...

 and the Royal Palace.
According to William Cleveland and Martin Bunton, the establishment of Isfahan as the Great capital of Persia and the material splendor of the city attracted intellecutal's from all corners of the world, which contributed to the cities rich cultural life. The impressive achievements of its 400 000 residents prompted the inhabitants to coin their famous boast, "Isfahan is half the world".

Poetry stagnated under the Safavids; the great medieval ghazal
Ghazal
The ghazal is a poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing the same meter. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in 6th century...

 form languished in over-the-top lyricism. Poetry lacked the royal patronage of other arts and was hemmed in by religious prescriptions.

The arguably most renowned historian from this time was Iskandar Beg Munshi
Iskandar Beg Munshi
Iskandar Beg Munshi — was a Persian historian, the court historian of the Safavid emperor Shah Abbas I. Iskandar Beg began as an accountant in the bureaucracy, but later became a privileged secretary of the Shahs. He wrote one of the greatest works of Persian historiography,...

. His History of Shah Abbas the Great written a few years after its subject's death, achieved a nuanced depth of history and character.

The Isfahan School – Islamic philosophy revived



Islamic philosophy flourished in the Safavid era in what scholars commonly refer to the School of Isfahan. Mir Damad
Mir Damad
Mir Damad , known also as Mir Mohammad Baqer Esterabadi, or Asterabadi, was an Iranian philosopher in the Neoplatonizing Islamic Peripatetic traditions of Avicenna and Suhrawardi, a scholar of the traditional Islamic sciences, and foremost figure , of the cultural renaissance of Iran undertaken...

 is considered the founder of this school. Among luminaries of this school of philosophy, the names of Iranian philosophers such as Mir Damad
Mir Damad
Mir Damad , known also as Mir Mohammad Baqer Esterabadi, or Asterabadi, was an Iranian philosopher in the Neoplatonizing Islamic Peripatetic traditions of Avicenna and Suhrawardi, a scholar of the traditional Islamic sciences, and foremost figure , of the cultural renaissance of Iran undertaken...

, Mir Fendereski
Mir Fendereski
Mir Fendereski was a renowned Iranian philosopher, poet and mystic of the Safavid era. His full name is given as Sayyed Mir Abulqasim Astarabadi , and he is famously known as Fendereski...

, Shaykh Bahai
Shaykh Bahai
Muhammad ibn Thalib ibn Abd Allah ibn Ni`mat Allah ibn Sadr ad-Din ibn Shaykh Baha' ad-Din ash-Shirazi was a 15th century Persian physician from Shiraz, Iran....

 and Mohsen Fayz Kashani standout. The school reached its apogee with that of the Iranian philosopher Mulla Sadra
Mulla Sadra
Ṣadr ad-Dīn Muḥammad Shīrāzī also called Mulla Sadrā was a Persian Shia Islamic philosopher, theologian and ‘Ālim who led the Iranian cultural renaissance in the 17th century...

 who is arguably the most significant Islamic philosopher after Avicenna. Mulla Sadra
Mulla Sadra
Ṣadr ad-Dīn Muḥammad Shīrāzī also called Mulla Sadrā was a Persian Shia Islamic philosopher, theologian and ‘Ālim who led the Iranian cultural renaissance in the 17th century...

 has become the dominant philosopher of the Islamic East, and his approach to the nature of philosophy has been exceptionally influential up to this day. He wrote the Al-Hikma al-muta‘aliya fi-l-asfar al-‘aqliyya al-arba‘a ("The Transcendent Philosophy of the Four Journeys of the Intellect"), a meditation on what he called 'meta philosophy' which brought to a synthesis the philosophical mysticism of Sufism, the theology of Shi'a Islam
Shi'a Islam
Shia Islam is the second largest denomination of Islam. The followers of Shia Islam are called Shi'ites or Shias. "Shia" is the short form of the historic phrase Shīʻatu ʻAlī , meaning "followers of Ali", "faction of Ali", or "party of Ali".Like other schools of thought in Islam, Shia Islam is...

, and the Peripatetic and Illuminationist philosophies of Avicenna
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

 and Suhrawardi.

According to the Iranologist Richard Nelson Frye
Richard Nelson Frye
Richard Nelson Frye is an American scholar of Iranic and Central Asian Studies, and Aga Khan Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Harvard University...

:

Medicine


The status of physicians during the Safavids stood as high as ever. Whereas neither the ancient Greeks nor the Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 accorded high social status to their doctors, Iranians had from ancient times honored their physicians, who were often appointed counselors of the Shahs. This would not change with the Arab conquest of Iran, and it was primarily the Persians that took upon them the works of philosophy, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

, astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

, music and alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

.

By the sixteenth century, Islamic science
Islamic science
Science in the medieval Islamic world, also known as Islamic science or Arabic science, is the science developed and practised in the Islamic world during the Islamic Golden Age . During this time, Indian, Iranian and especially Greek knowledge was translated into Arabic...

, which to a large extent meant Persian science, was resting on its laurels. The works of al-Razi (865-92) (known to the West as Razes) were still used in European universities as standard textbooks of alchemy, pharmacology
Pharmacology
Pharmacology is the branch of medicine and biology concerned with the study of drug action. More specifically, it is the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and chemicals that affect normal or abnormal biochemical function...

 and pediatrics
Pediatrics
Pediatrics or paediatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents. A medical practitioner who specializes in this area is known as a pediatrician or paediatrician...

. The Canon of Medicine
The Canon of Medicine
The Canon of Medicine is an encyclopedia of Galenic medicine in five books compiled by Ibn Sīnā and completed in 1025. It presents a clear and organized summary of all the medical knowledge of the time...

 by Avicenna
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

 (c. 980–1037) was still regarded as one of the primary textbooks in medicine throughout most of the civilized world. As such, the status of medicine in the Safavid period did not change much, and relied as much on these works as ever before. Physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 was still based on the four humours of ancient and mediaeval medicine, and bleeding and purging were still the principal forms of therapy by surgeons, something even Thevenot
Jean de Thévenot
Jean de Thévenot was a French traveller in the East, who wrote extensively about his journeys. He was also a linguist, natural scientist and botanist....

 experienced during his visit to Persia.

The only field within medicine where some progress were made was pharmacology, with the compilement of the "Tibb-e Shifa’i" in 1556. This book was translated into French in 1681 by Angulus de Saint
Ange de Saint Joseph
Ange de Saint Joseph was a French missionary friar of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. He was a linguist, and wrote works on Oriental pharmacology.-Life:...

, under the name "Pharmacopoea Persica".

The architectural legacy of the Safavids


A new age in Iranian architecture
Iranian architecture
Iranian architecture or Persian architecture is the architecture of Iran . It has a continuous history from at least 5000 BCE to the present, with characteristic examples distributed over a vast area from Turkey to North India and the borders of China and from the Caucasus to Zanzibar...

 began with the rise of the Safavid dynasty. Economically robust and politically stable, this period saw a flourishing growth of theological sciences. Traditional architecture evolved in its patterns and methods leaving its impact on the architecture of the following periods.

Indeed, one of the greatest legacies of the Safavids is the architecture. In 1598, when Shah Abbas decided to move the capital of his Persian empire from the north-western city of Qazvin
Qazvin
Qazvin is the largest city and capital of the Province of Qazvin in Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 349,821, in 96,420 families....

 to the central city of Isfahan, he initiated what would become one of the greatest programmes in Persian history; the complete remaking of the city. By choosing the central city of Isfahan, fertilized by the Zāyande roud ("The life-giving river"), lying as an oasis of intense cultivation in the midst of a vast area of arid landscape, he both distanced his capital from any future assaults by the Ottomans and the Uzbeks
Uzbeks
The Uzbeks are a Turkic ethnic group in Central Asia. They comprise the majority population of Uzbekistan, and large populations can also be found in Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China...

, and at the same time gained more control over the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, which had recently become an important trading route for the Dutch and British East India Companies
East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

.


The Chief architect of this colossal task of urban planning was Shaykh Bahai
Shaykh Bahai
Muhammad ibn Thalib ibn Abd Allah ibn Ni`mat Allah ibn Sadr ad-Din ibn Shaykh Baha' ad-Din ash-Shirazi was a 15th century Persian physician from Shiraz, Iran....

 (Baha' ad-Din al-`Amili), who focused the programme on two key features of Shah Abbas's master plan: the Chahar Bagh
Chahar Bagh
Chahar Bagh is an avenue in Isfahan constructed in the Safavid era of Iran. Shah Abbas I was the king who changed his capital from Qazvin to Esfahan and decided to pour all the countries artistic wealth into that central spot which has been dubbed for centuries nisfi jahan or "Half the...

 avenue, flanked at either side by all the prominent institutions of the city, such as the residences of all foreign dignitaries. And the Naqsh-e Jahan Square ("Examplar of the World"). Prior to the Shah's ascent to power, Persia had a decentralized power-structure, in which different institutions battled for power, including both the military (the Qizilbash) and governors of the different provinces making up the empire. Shah Abbas wanted to undermine this political structure, and the recreation of Isfahan, as a Grand capital of Persia, was an important step in centralizing the power. The ingenuity of the square, or Maidān, was that, by building it, Shah Abbas would gather the three main components of power in Persia in his own backyard; the power of the clergy, represented by the Masjed-e Shah
Shah Mosque
Imam Mosque, is a mosque in Isfahan, Iran standing in south side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square.Built during the Safavid period, it is an excellent example of Islamic architecture of Iran, and regarded as one of the masterpieces of Persian Architecture. The Shah Mosque of Esfahan is one of the...

, the power of the merchants, represented by the Imperial Bazaar, and of course, the power of the Shah himself, residing in the Ali Qapu
Ali Qapu
Ālī Qāpū is a grand palace in Isfahan, Iran. It is located on the western side of the Naghsh-i Jahan Square opposite to Sheikh lotf allah mosque, and had been originally designed as a vast portal. It is forty-eight meters high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral...

 Palace.

Distinctive monuments like the Sheikh Lotfallah (1618), Hasht Behesht
Hasht Behesht
Hasht Behesht is a Safavid era palace in Isfahan.It was built in 1669 and is today protected by Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization.-Links:*...

 (Eight Paradise Palace) (1469) and the Chahar Bagh School
Chahar Bagh School
Chahār Bāgh school , also known as Shah school, is a 16-17th century cultural complex in Isfahan, Iran....

(1714) appeared in Isfahan and other cities. This extensive development of architecture was rooted in Persian culture and took form in the design of schools, baths, houses, caravanserai and other urban spaces such as bazaars and squares. It continued until the end of the Qajar reign.

The languages of the court, military, administration and culture


The Safavids by the time of their rise were Azerbaijani
Azerbaijani language
Azerbaijani or Azeri or Torki is a language belonging to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia by the Azerbaijani people, primarily in Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran...

-speaking although they also used Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 as a second language.
The language chiefly used by the Safavid court and military establishment was Azerbaijani
Azerbaijani language
Azerbaijani or Azeri or Torki is a language belonging to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia by the Azerbaijani people, primarily in Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran...

. But the official language of the empire as well as the administrative language, language of correspondence, literature and historiography was Persian. The inscriptions on Safavid currency were also in Persian.
Safavids also used Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 as a cultural and administrative language throughout the empire and were bilingual in Persian. According to Arnold J. Toynbee,
According to John R. Perry,
According to Zabiollah Safa,
According to É. Á. Csató et al.,
According to Rula Jurdi Abisaab,
According to Cornelis Versteegh,

Legacy


It was the Safavids who made Iran the spiritual bastion of Shi’ism against the onslaughts of Sunni Islam, and the repository of Persian cultural traditions and self-awareness of Iranianhood, acting as a bridge to modern Iran. The founder of the dynasty, Shah Isma'il, adopted the title of "Persian Emperor" Pādišah-ī Īrān, with its implicit notion of an Iranian state stretching from Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

 as far as Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

, and from the Oxus to the southern Territories of the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

. According to Professor Roger Savory:

Safavid Shahs of Iran


  • Ismail I
    Ismail I
    Ismail I , known in Persian as Shāh Ismāʿil , was a Shah of Iran and the founder of the Safavid dynasty which survived until 1736. Isma'il started his campaign in Azerbaijan in 1500 as the leader of the Safaviyya, an extremist heterodox Twelver Shi'i militant religious order and unified all of Iran...

     1501–1524
  • Tahmasp I
    Tahmasp I
    Tahmasp or Tahmasb I was an influential Shah of Iran, who enjoyed the longest reign of any member of the Safavid dynasty...

     1524–1576
  • Ismail II
    Ismail II
    Ismail II was the third Safavid Shah of Iran.-Life:Ismail was the son of Shah Tahmasp I by a Turcoman mother, Sultanum Bekum Mawsillu. In 1547, he was appointed governor of the province of Shirvan where he led several expeditions against the Ottomans...

     1576–1578
  • Mohammed Khodabanda
    Mohammed Khodabanda
    Mohammed Khodābande or Khudābanda, also known as Mohammed Shah or Sultan Mohammed , was the fourth Safavid Shah of Iran. He was the son of Shah Tahmasp I by a Turcoman mother, Sultanum Bekum Mawsillu...

     1578–1587
  • Abbas I 1587–1629
  • Safi
    Safi of Persia
    Shah Safi was Shah of Iran from 1629 to 1642. He was the sixth ruler of the Safavid dynasty.Safi was given the name Sam Mirza when he was born. He was the son of Mohammed Baqir Mirza, the eldest son of Shah Abbas I, and Dilaram Khanum, a Georgian wife. In 1615, Abbas had Mohammed Baqir killed,...

     1629–1642
  • Abbas II
    Abbas II of Persia
    Shah Abbas II was Shah of Iran from 1642 to 1666. He was the seventh Shah of the Safavid Dynasty. He was the son of Shah Safi I and a Circassian, Anna Khanum, and originally bore the name Sultan Muhammed Mirza before his coronation on May 15, 1642...

     1642–1666
  • Suleiman I
    Suleiman I of Persia
    Suleiman I was a Safavid shah of Persia who reigned between 1666 and 1694. He was the elder son of the previous shah Abbas II and a Circassian slave, Nakihat Khanum....

     1666–1694
  • Sultan Hoseyn I
    Husayn (Safavid)
    Sultan Husayn was a Safavid king of Iran . He ruled from 1694 until he was overthrown in 1722 by Shah Mahmud Hotaki, an Afghan warrior of Pashtun ethnic background...

     1694–1722
  • Tahmasp II
    Tahmasp II
    Tahmasp II was one of the last Safavid rulers of Persia . Tahmasp was the son of Husayn , the Shah of Iran at that time. When Husayn was forced to abdicate by the Afghans in 1722, Prince Tahmasp wished to claim the throne. He fled to Tabriz where he established a government...

     1722–1732
  • Abbas III
    Abbas III
    Abbas III was a son of Shah Tahmasp II of the Safavid dynasty. After the deposition of his father by Nader Khan the infant Abbas was appointed nominal ruler of Iran on 7 September 1732. Nader Khan, who was the real ruler of the country, assumed the positions of deputy of state and viceroy...

     1732–1736

See also

  • Safavid Dynasty family tree
    Safavid dynasty family tree
    The oldest extant book on the genealogy of the Safavid family is Safvat as-safa and was written in 1350 by Ibn Bazzaz, a disciple of Sheikh Sadr-al-Din Safavi, the son of the Sheikh Safi ad-din Ardabili. According Ibn Bazzaz, the Sheikh was a descendant of a noble Kurdish man named Firooz Shah...

  • List of Shi'a Muslims dynasties
  • Safavid conversion of Iran from Sunnism to Shiism
    Safavid conversion of Iran from Sunnism to Shiism
    The Safavid conversion of Iran from Sunnism to Shiism made Iran the spiritual bastion of Shia Islam against the onslaughts of orthodox Sunni Islam, and the repository of Persian cultural traditions and self-awareness of Iranianhood, acting as a bridge to modern Iran...

  • Safavid art
    Safavid art
    Safavid art is the art of the Persian Safavid dynasty from 1501 to 1722, in present day Iran. It was a high point for the art of the book and architecture; and also including ceramics, metal, glass, and gardens...

  • School of Isfahan

Literature

  • M.I. Marcinkowski (tr.),Persian Historiography and Geography: Bertold Spuler on Major Works Produced in Iran, the Caucasus, Central Asia, India and Early Ottoman Turkey, M. Ismail Marcinkowski, Singapore: Pustaka Nasional, 2003, ISBN 9971-77-488-7.
  • M.I. Marcinkowski (tr., ed.),Mirza Rafi‘a's Dastur al-Muluk: A Manual of Later Safavid Administration. Annotated English Translation, Comments on the Offices and Services, and Facsimile of the Unique Persian Manuscript, M. Ismail Marcinkowski, Kuala Lumpur, ISTAC, 2002, ISBN 983-9379-26-7.
  • M.I. Marcinkowski,From Isfahan to Ayutthaya: Contacts between Iran and Siam in the 17th Century, M. Ismail Marcinkowski, Singapore, Pustaka Nasional, 2005, ISBN 9971-77-491-7.
  • Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman
    Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman
    Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman , is well known for his contribution to Unani medicine. He founded Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences in 2000...

    , "Safavi Ahad Main Ilm Tashreeh Ka Mutala (a book in Urdu on Studies of History of anatomy
    History of anatomy
    The development of anatomy as a science extends from the earliest examinations of sacrificial victims to the sophisticated analyses of the body performed by modern scientists. It has been characterized, over time, by a continually developing understanding of the functions of organs and structures...

    during Safavid dynasty), Tibbi Academy, Aligarh, India, 1983, 96 pp.
  • "The Voyages and Travels of the Ambassadors", Adam Olearius, translated by John Davies (1662),

External links