Mongol Rulers of Iran

Mongol occupation was disastrous to Iran. Numerous cities were razed, and a large number of people (particularly males) were killed. The Kharezm-Shahs could not oppose the Mongol hordes led by Genghis Khan. The last Kharezm-Shahs's prince, Jalal od-Din, tried to restore the empire but failed to unite the Iranian regions, although by that time Genghis Khan, who had withdrawn to Mongolia, was dead. Iran was left divided between Mongol agents and local adventurers, both of whom profited from the lack of order.

A second Mongol invasion began when Genghis Khan's grandson Hulagu Khan destroyed the _ u

Ismailite fortress at ewer inlaid with

Alamut. He then besieged silver and copper dates from the t-j 1 i i , i i I2th-13th centuries (today in the aagnaaa, wnere ne also British Museum in London).

16th Nevers EwerCengizhan Rlar Harita

decorations of the Shrine of Ali ibn Hossein Bayqara

J afar in Qom) reached the highest 1500 - Overthrow of the level of craftsmaship during the Timurids Mongol and Timurid periods.

Behzad Miniature Paintings

Painting by the famous Persian miniaturist Kamal od-Din Behzad shows the celebrations on the occasion o/Tamerlane's arrival in Samarqand from Transoxiana in 1396.

Tamerlane Mongol

Despite the despotic character of Mongol rulers, sciences prospered at their court, and many related objects such as this brass globe made by Badr ibn Abdullah Muli have remained from this period.

Shah Abbas Tiles

Luster painted tiles (like the one that was used in the dado

The Sultaniyeh Dome near Zanjan is one of the most famous memorabilia of Oljeitu, the Il-Khanid ruler who was reportedly buried there.

ordered the execution of the last Abbasid caliph. Hulagu hoped to consolidate Mongol rule over western Asia and to extend the Mongol Empire as far as the Mediterranean. He made Iran his base, but the Mamluks of Egypt (1250-1517) prevented him and his successors from achieving their imperial goal. Instead, a Mongol dynasty, the Il-Khanids, or "Deputy Khans" to the Great Khan in China, was established in Iran to attempt repair of the damage of the first Mongol invasion. They made Azerbaijan their center and chose Maragheh as the first capital until Sultaniyeh was built early in the 14th century. A later Mongol ruler, Ghazan Khan, and his famous Iranian vizier of Jewish descent, Rashid od-Din Fazlollah, brought Iran a

Despite the despotic character of Mongol rulers, sciences prospered at their court, and many related objects such as this brass globe made by Badr ibn Abdullah Muli have remained from this period.

partial revival. Ghazan Khan was the first Mongol ruler to adopt Islam. His successor to

Luster painted tiles (like the one that was used in the dado the throne was Oljeitu. Oljeitu changed his religious affiliations several times. A great-grandson of Hulagu, founder of the Il-Khanid dynasty, Oljeitu was baptized a Christian and given the name Nicholas by his mother. As a youth, he adhered to shamanism but was later, apparently under the influence of one of his wives, converted to Sunnite Islam, taking the name Mohammad Khodabandeh. During the winter of 1307-08, a bitter religious feud ensued between the adherents of the Hanafi and Shafii schools of Sunnite Islamic law. This so disgusted Oljeitu that he considered converting back to shamanism, but that course proved politically impossible. Greatly influenced by the Shiite theologian, Ibn al-Mutahhar al-Hilli, he came to embrace the Shiite religion. On his return from a visit to the tomb of Imam Ali in Iraq, he proclaimed Shiite Islam to be the state religion. Oljeitu's conversion gave rise to great unrest, and civil war was imminent when he died in 1316. His son and successor, Abu Said, reconverted to Sunnite Islam and averted war, but during his reign factional disputes and internal disturbances became rampant. The Il-Khanid line was interrupted by the death of Abu Said, who died without leaving an heir, and Iran again lapsed into petty dynasties - the Jalayirids, Injuids, and Mozaffarids.

The Sultaniyeh Dome near Zanjan is one of the most famous memorabilia of Oljeitu, the Il-Khanid ruler who was reportedly buried there.

1380-1393 - Tamerlane conquers Iran

1405 - Tamerlane's death; the accession of his son Shahrokh 1411-1492 - Jami, the last important Persian classical poet

1429 - Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) bccomes the heroine of France

1447-1452 -Rule of Ulugh Beik, Timur's grandson, who is better remembered in history as a great scientist 1452-1466 - Abu Said's rule

1453 - Constantinople falls to the Ottoman Turks, who end the Byzantine Empire that has ruled since the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 1455-1536 - Behzad, one of the major Persian painters and the founder of the Herat miniature school 1478-1506 - Rule of decorations of the Shrine of Ali ibn Hossein Bayqara

J afar in Qom) reached the highest 1500 - Overthrow of the level of craftsmaship during the Timurids Mongol and Timurid periods.

Timurid and Turkman Rulers

(1389-1508)

Tamerlane (Timur), who claimed descent from Genghis Khan's family, was the next ruler to achieve the status of emperor. He did not have

Painting by the famous Persian miniaturist Kamal od-Din Behzad shows the celebrations on the occasion o/Tamerlane's arrival in Samarqand from Transoxiana in 1396.

Behzad Miniature PicturesMosque Dark Blue Tabriz

The splendid Blue Mosque in Tabriz, founded in 1465 at the order of Jan Beygom Khatun, a pious Jahanshah Qara-Quyunlu s consort, is the most famous architectural commission from the Turkman reign.

VsA.

Iran during the Timurid period

1406-1469 - Qara-Quyunlu dynasty

1439-1467 - Rule of Jahan Shah, the most prominent Qara-Quyunlu ruler, famous for his patronage of architecture and the arts of the book

1453-1490 - Uzun Hasan Aq-Quyunlu

1456 - The Gutenberg Bible published at Mainz

1460-1485 - England's Wars of the Roses

1462-1505 - Ivan 111 the Great, the first Russian national sovereign 1469-1508 - Aq-Quyunlu dynasty 1492 - Christopher Columbus crosses the Atlantic 1497 - Rostam Shah dies, leaving the Aq-Quyunlu tribe without a powerful ruler

1500 - Aq-Quyunlu dynasty comes under attack from tribesmen commanded by the Safavid leader Ismail, at that time only 14

The splendid Blue Mosque in Tabriz, founded in 1465 at the order of Jan Beygom Khatun, a pious Jahanshah Qara-Quyunlu s consort, is the most famous architectural commission from the Turkman reign.

1509-1547 -Henry VIII of England I sffiH|flBK

1510 - Shah Ismail defeats an Uzbek army extending his realm from the Tigris to the Oxus 1514-1555 - War with Turkey

1514 - Shah Ismail is defeated at Chaldoran by his Sunnite rival, the Ottoman Sultan Selim I

1515 - Portuguese naval strategist Alfonso de Albuquerque takes Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf

1517 - Reformation of the Catholic Church, appearance of Protestanism (gets its name in 1529)

1520-1566 - Soleiman the Magnificent of Turkey the huge forces of earlier Mongol leaders, so his conquests were slower than those of Genghis Khan or

Hulagu Khan. Ironically, this ruthless warrior and appalling killer was a great patron of arts and initiated a true civilization with a center in Samarqand. Timur was famed for his great interest in unorthodox religious beliefs, among them Sufism (p36-37), which developed considerably in his time.

Under Timur's son Shahrokh and grandson Ulugh Beik the Iranian culture began to flourish. Their capital, Herat, was turned into the seat of splendid culture, the atelier of great miniature painters, and the home for a revival of Persian sciences and arts. The Timurid Empire, however, disintegrated rapidly after Ulugh Beik's death. After the Timurid princes, Iran was dominated, particularly in its northern part, by the Qara-Quyunlu, the "Black Sheep" Turkman tribe. On Shahrokh's death, their leader, Jahan Shah, extended his rule deep into Iran. Their rival was another Turkman tribe of Aq-Quyunlu, the "White Sheep", who were concentrated around Diyarbakir in Turkey. The White Sheep, led by Uzun Hasan, destroyed Jahan Shah's troops by the end of 1467. Uzun Hasan established a short-lived empire but was confronted by a new power in Asia Minor -the Ottoman Turks. Minor Mongol tribes, Uzbeks, and Turkman clans ruled over Iran until the rise of the Safavid dynasty.

Sheikh Safi
The famous dome with Allah-Allah motif in Ardabil crowns the mausoleum of Sheikh Safi od-Din, the great ancestor of the Safavid dynasty; (photo by Nasrollah Kasraiyan).

Safavid Dynasty (1501-1736)

While the Turkman dynasties ruled in Azerbaijan, Sheikh Heydar headed a movement that had begun in the late 13th century as a Sufi order under his ancestor, Sheikh Safi od-Din of Ardabil, who claimed descent from the Seventh Shiite Imam, Musa al-Kazem. By the end of the 15th century, this Sufi order was turned into a militant movement with numerous followers, mainly from the Turkman tribesmen of Anatolia. They were called the Qizil-Bash, Red Heads, because of the distinctive red headgear that they had adopted to mark their adherence to the Safavids. With their help, the Safavids conducted several successful military campaigns, especially in the Caucasus. By virtue of their descent from the Prophet's family, the Safavid movement was invested with a semi-sacred character, and the religious character of the new claimants to the throne was particularly acceptable to the Persians. When Sheikh Heydar was killed in one of his battles in the Caucasus, his son Ismail avenged his death by con-

Iranian Shah

quering Azerbaijan and then the whole of Iran. In 1501, Ismail was proclaimed Shah of Iran. He became the founder of one of the most famous ruling dynasties in Iranian history - the Safavids.

The Safavids declared Shiite Islam the state religion and used proselytizing and force to convert the large majority of Muslims in Iran to the Shiite sect. Their main external enemies were the Uzbeks and the Ottomans. The Uzbeks were an unstable element along Iran's northeastern frontier, raiding Khorasan and blocking the Safavid advance northward into Transoxiana. The Ottomans, who were Sunnites, were rivals for the religious allegiance of Muslims in eastern Anatolia and Iraq and pressed territorial claims in both these areas and in the Caucasus. A series of battles between Iran and the Ottoman Turkey lasted throughout the reign of the Safavids.

Tahmasb, the eldest son and successor of Shah Ismail, had none of his father's appeal or personal courage. For a long period after coming to the throne, he was a pawn of powerful tribal leaders. He is remembered for the unusual length of his reign (fifty-two years), his treach-

Ismail Safavid Leader

Ismail I

(1501-1524)

Shah Ismail 1501 1524

Ismail I

(1501-1524)

Abbas I, The Great

(1587-1629)

1533-1584 - Ivan IV the Terrible of Russia, who in 1547 is crowned czar (caesar) to be the first Russian ruler formally to assume this title 1534 - Ottoman forces attempt to take Tabriz from the Persians; Shah Tahmasb, now 20, has his regent executed and assumes personal power

1548 - Ottoman forces occupy Tabriz

1555 - Safavid capital is removed to Qazvin

1558-1643 - Queen Elizabeth of England

1582 - A new Gregorian calendar is instituted by Pope Gregory 1589-1610 - Henry IV the Great of France

1590 -Shah Abbas and the Ottoman Sultan Murad III end a 12-year war

1595 - The Dutch East India Company sends its first ships to Iran

1587 - Shah Abbas chooses Esfahan as his capital and undertakes to make it a showplace of the world

Antique Erivan Carpets Rugs

Carpet industry greatly flourished under the Safavids, and many beautiful rugs have survived from this period. Among them is the Sungoshko carpet, today in the Carpet Museum in Tehran.

Carpet industry greatly flourished under the Safavids, and many beautiful rugs have survived from this period. Among them is the Sungoshko carpet, today in the Carpet Museum in Tehran.

Sultan Hossein

(1694-1722)

Sultan Hossein

(1694-1722)

Abbas I, The Great

(1587-1629)

577)

-1736)

1475

1500

1525

1550

1575

1600

1625

1650

1675

1700

1725

1750

Mohammad Khodabandeh

(1577-1587)

Tahmasb I

(1524-1576)

Safi II (Soleiman)

(1666-1694)

Abbas II

Tahmasb II

(1722-1732)

Tahmasb I

(1524-1576)

Abbas II

1603-1625 - James I of England, the first king to rule over a united kingdom

1616 - England's East India Company begins trading with Persia from its Indian base at Surat 1618 - The Ottoman Sultan Mustapha I gives up Georgia and Azerbaijan by treaty with Abbas the Great

1622 - Persians take Qandahar from the Mughal Empire and drive the Portuguese out of Hormuz

Khanid Koran

Richly illuminated manuscript of the Koran, copied by Ahmad Neirizi (in the Golestan palace-museum in Tehran), features Sura al-Fatiha, the first chapter of the

Koran which is recited by the Muslims during the daily prayers.

Richly illuminated manuscript of the Koran, copied by Ahmad Neirizi (in the Golestan palace-museum in Tehran), features Sura al-Fatiha, the first chapter of the

Koran which is recited by the Muslims during the daily prayers.

1623 - Abbas I takes all of Mesopotamia from the Ottoman Turks

1629 - Abbas I dies on January 19 at age 72 after a 42-year reign. Two of his five sons died, he had two others executed and another blinded, so he is succeeded by a grandson aged 13. The new shah has his grandfather's counselors beheaded along with most of Persia's best generals, all the blood princes, and even some of the princesses. Qandahar's Persian governor defects to the Uzbeks, who take the city and province.

1630 - The Ottoman Sultan Murad IV defeats the Iranian army and captures Hamadan

Islamic Pottery Early Mongol Ottoman

The flat-rimmed Safavid dish is painted with the canstellation Pisces and has a Persian verse inscription under a bright green glaze (today in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London).

The flat-rimmed Safavid dish is painted with the canstellation Pisces and has a Persian verse inscription under a bright green glaze (today in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London).

ery in selling his guest Bayazid, son of the Ottoman Sultan Soleiman the Magnificent, to his father in exchange for 400,000 pieces of gold, and for a mention (as "Bactrian Sophi") in John Milton's "Paradise Lost". The political history of his reign is characterized by petty intrigues. However, its art history, especially the arts of the book, is rich and compelling. During his reign, Qazvin was chosen a capital as being a less vulnerable city compared to Tabriz, the first capital of Safavids. The decade after Tahmasb's death (he was poisoned by one of his wives) was characterized by political turbulence. After endless plotting and several assassinations, his fourth son d ascended the throne as Ismail Ismail had been held in prison by his father for twenty-five years. Demented by incarceration and an eventually fatal drug addiction, he began his reign by extirpating his rivals. He ordered that his brother, the purblind and seemingly innocuous Mohammad Khodabandeh, and Mohammad's young son Abbas be assassinated.

Afghanistan Tilework

Tilework of outstanding quality was applied in the most beautiful

Safavid building, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Esfahan.

Tilework of outstanding quality was applied in the most beautiful

Safavid building, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Esfahan.

Miniature Iran

Miniature in the Esfahan style by the famous Reza Abbasi is called "A Young Man Wearing His Boot"(today in the Reza

Abbasi Museum in Tehran).

Miniature in the Esfahan style by the famous Reza Abbasi is called "A Young Man Wearing His Boot"(today in the Reza

Abbasi Museum in Tehran).

However, before this order could be carried out, Ismail suddenly died, perhaps of drink and an overdose of opium. Some authorities, however, say that he was assassinated by a conspiracy of dissident feudal chiefs. His successor, the feeble Mohammad Khodabandeh, ruled only in name. For two years, his energetic wife tried to bring the shah's vassals under control. When she proved too threatening, the vassals murdered her, and for eight years Iran was dismembered in bitter, fratricidal feuds.

The Safavid state was saved by Mohammad's son, Shah Abbas I, who is better known in Iranian historical tradition as Shah Abbas the Great. Shah Abbas started his career by signing a largely disadvantageous treaty with the Ottomans. This treaty, however, allowed him to gain breathing space to confront and defeat the Uzbeks. With the advice of Robert Shirley (p71), an English adventurer versed in artillery tactics, he reorganized the army and equipped it on European lines. He then fought several successful battles with the Ottomans, reestablishing Iranian control over Iraq, Georgia, and parts of the Caucasus. He also strengthened the bureaucracy and further centralized the administration. Shah Abbas transferred the capital from Qazvin to Esfahan, a centrally located city, from where he could control his vast territories more successfully. This monarch, a contemporary of King James I of England and King Henry IV of France, was not only great as a warrior and administrator, but he also fostered a renaissance of art. The period of his reign brought forth the golden age of Esfahan, which was turned into one of the most beautiful cities of the world, worthy of its title "half the world".

Under Abbas's patronage, carpet weaving became a major industry, and fine Persian rugs appeared in the homes of wealthy Europeans. Another profitable export was textiles, including brocades and damasks of unparalleled richness. The production and sale of silk was made a monopoly of the crown. In the illumination of manuscripts, bookbinding, and ceramics, the work of this period is outstanding. In painting, it is one of the most notable in Persian history. Shah Abbas was a patron of science and scientific achievements as well. Some of the greatest philosophers of Iran lived under his rule, among them Mullah Sadra, Mir Damad, and Moqaddas Ardabili.

Shah Abbas's enthusiasm for building was not confined to Esfahan. The extension and restoration of the famous shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad and the construction, along the swampy littoral of the Caspian Sea, of the celebrated stone causeway were among his ^ I other notable achievements, i There is hardly a part of Iran

^^^ where either Safavid buildings

^Jk^flj or major Safavid restorations cannot be found. The dynasty spent a great deal of money and effort on the building of bridges, roads, and caravansaries to encourage trade. To facilitate commerce and find a way to southern seas, Shah Abbas

The piece-molded ewer with a expelled the Portuguese, who latticed medallion dates from the had previously occupied early 17th century (today in the Bahrain and the island of

Hetiens Museum in Dusselfdorf). TT . t

Iiormoz, trying to dominate the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf trade. He also freed and expanded the port that became known as Bandar Abbas, which is functioning even now. After Shah Abbas, the centralized rule started to decline. It is hardly surprising that Chardin (p71) saw Shah Abbas's reign as the golden age of Iran. "When this great prince ceased to live", he wrote, "Persia ceased to prosper". And indeed, the Safavid state never achieved the degree of political and military power, economic prosperity, internal stability and security, and artistic distinction that it had under Shah Abbas. Of Shah Abbas's successors, only Abbas II, the great-grandson of his namesake, interrupted the steady

Safavid Tiles
An important innovation in Safavid buildings was the use of polychrome tiles, as seen in the fragment of the dome of the Imam (Royal) Mosque in Esfahan.

1635 - Murad IV leads an Ottoman army against Persia, Erivan capitulates after a siege, Tabriz surrenders without resistance but is deliberately destroyed

1636 - Shah Safi retakes Erivan and signs a treaty with Constantinople setting western borders that will remain substantially unchanged for more than two centuries

1638 - Murad IV retakes Baghdad from the Persians after a 40-day siege, slaughtering the city's defenders

1642-1646 The Great Civil War in England

Ell v.;-.-". . '-X- sjx g« 'ï&tewâ n,-.-^ '4 o ^ -- M

Woven in Tabriz, this 17th-century carpet with a medallion design, highlighted by gold and silver threads is one of the most important objects in the collection of the Carpet Museum in Tehran.

Musa The Warrior Mongol
The base of a 16th-century large dish is painted in two tones of blackish cobalt and features the signs of the zodiac (today in the Museum of Islamic Arts in Berlin).
Nader Shah Court

Pictorial carpets - like the one showing the coronation of Nader Shah (in the Carpet Museum in

Tehran) - have become very popular since the 18th century.

Nader Shah

The richly illuminated page of the manuscript of "Monajat-e Hazrat-e Ali" ("Imam Ali's Prayers") was copied by Mir Emad - today in the collection of the Golestan palace-museum.

Miniatures Imam Ali

Pictorial carpets - like the one showing the coronation of Nader Shah (in the Carpet Museum in

Tehran) - have become very popular since the 18th century.

The richly illuminated page of the manuscript of "Monajat-e Hazrat-e Ali" ("Imam Ali's Prayers") was copied by Mir Emad - today in the collection of the Golestan palace-museum.

1643-1715 - Louis XIV of France 1649-1660 - The Commonwealth is established in England 1650 - Abbas II retakes Qandahar, but Mughal emperors will besiege the city repeatedly 1667 - Shah Abbas II dies at age 33 after a 25-year reign. His ministers pretend that his son of 20 is blind and try to install a younger son, but a court eunuch betrays their scheme, and the dissolute elder son will reign as Soleiman I 1689-1730 - Peter the Great of Russia

1707 - The Kingdom of Great Britain is established 1722 - Mahmud, an Afghan chieftain and a vassal of the Safavids, attacks Persia and captures Esfahan, thus ending the Safavid rule decline of the dynasty. He was crowned at a very early age and thus successfully escaped the seclusion of the harem, which may well be the reason why he developed more favorably than the other of Shah Abbas's successors. Although inclined to lose control under the influence of alcohol and narcotics, he was more gifted than any other descendant of Shah Abbas the Great, and history records him as a just ruler and an intelligent patron of arts. Abbas IT died in 1666 at the age of thirty-three. Abbas's eighteen-year-old son ascended the throne as Shah Safi. However, shortly after his accession, the shah fell ill. The doctors ascribed his illness to the miscasting of his horoscope at the time of his accession. Therefore on a day proclaimed by the astrologers as unlucky, a mock coronation of a Zoroastrian was performed. The following day, allegedly a lucky one, an effigy of the Zoroastrian was decapitated, and Shah Safi reassumed his throne as Shah Soleiman. Soleiman's harem upbringing had left him under the thumb of the eunuchs. Like most of the Safavid rulers, he cared more about women and wine than his country. Chardin reported that he could drink any Swiss or German under the table. The Soleiman's reign was for the most part peaceful, though it was not the ruler's merit but rather a fortunate culmination of circumstances. The last ruling Safavid cVii»h wac ^hnh <iiiltiin The love-scene miniature done in snail was Mian sultan Esfahan style is part of the

Hossein. In character, he remarkable murals of Chehel Sotun.

was pious, humane, and feeble. His piety earned him the nicknames of "Mullah Hossein" and "Yashki dir" (Turkish: "It is good"), the second deriving from his invariable reply of assent to every proposal made by the clergy. His feebleness accelerated the decline of the country. Once again the eastern frontiers began to be breached, and a small body of Afghan tribesmen led by Mahmud, a former Safavid vassal in Afghanistan, won a series of easy victories before taking the capital. Although the Safavid dynasty claimed rule for many following years, bearing illustrious but hollow names like Tahmasb II and Abbas III, the glory of the Safavid reign was never re-established.

1729-1747 - Nader Shah 1729 - Nader expels the Afghans from Iran

1736 - Nader ascends the throne 1740-1786 - Frederick the Great, Prussia's King

Iranian Throne
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