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Safavid Empire (1502–1736)

Helpful information in history of Iran.

Safavid Empire (1502–1736)

Postby Gotravel » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:25 am

The Safavids were an Iranian Shia dynasty of mixed Azeri and Kurdish origins, which ruled Persia from 1501/1502 to 1722. Safavids established the greatest Iranian empire since the Islamic conquest of Persia, and established the Ithnāʻashari school of Shi'a Islam[5] as the official religion of their empire.

The Safavid ruling dynasty was founded by Ismāil, who styled himself Shāh Ismāil I. Practically worshipped by his Qizilbāsh followers, Ismāil invaded Shirvan to avenge the death of his father. Afterwards he went on a campaign of conquest, and following the capture of Tabriz in July 1501, he enthroned himself as the Shāh of Azerbaijan, minted coins in this name, and proclaimed Shi'ism the official religion of his domain.

Although initially the masters of Azerbaijan only, the Safavids had, in fact, won the struggle for power in Persia which had been going on for nearly a century between various dynasties and political forces. A year after his victory in Tabriz, Ismāil proclaimed most of Persia as his domain, and quickly conquered and unified Iran under his rule. Soon afterwards, the new Safavid Empire conquered most of modern-day Afghanistan (the eastern parts of which, including Ghazni and Kabul, remained Mughal territory) and Iraq. However, Eastern Anatolia and the eastern section of Southeastern Anatolia (modern Turkey), as well as Iraq was lost to Ottomans within four decades.

The greatest of the Safavid monarchs, Shah Abbas I the Great (1587–1629) came to power in 1587 aged 16. Abbas I first fought the Uzbeks, recapturing Herat 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 (1602) and the English navy from Hormuz (1622), in the Persian Gulf (a vital link in Portuguese trade with India).
He expanded commercial links with the English East India Company and the Dutch East India Company. Thus Abbas I was able to break the dependence on the Qizilbash for military might and therefore was able to centralize control. The Safavid dynasty soon became a major power in the world and started the promotion of tourism in Iran. Under their rule Persian Architecture flowered again and saw many new monuments.

Except for Shah Abbas II, the Safavid rulers after Abbas I were ineffectual. The end of his reign, 1666, marked the beginning of the end of the Safavid dynasty. Despite falling revenues and military threats, later shahs had lavish lifestyles. Shah Soltan Hosain (1694–1722) in particular was known for his love of wine and disinterest in governance.

The country was repeatedly raided on its frontiers. Finally, Ghilzai Pashtun chieftain named Mir Wais Khan began a rebellion in Kandahar and defeated the Safavid army. Later, in 1722 an Afghan army led by Mir Wais' son Mahmud marched across eastern Iran, besieged, and sacked Isfahan. Mahmud proclaimed himself 'Shah' of Persia. Meanwhile, Persia's imperial rivals, the Ottomans and the Russians, took advantage of the chaos in the country to seize territory for themselves.
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