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The Safavid dynasty ruled Persia from 1501 until 1736.  They united the successor states of the Arab empire into a Persian state and introduced Shiism as the state religion, either because of the preponderance of Shia Islam in Persian territory or to counter the Sunni Islam of their rivals, the Ottoman empire. Isfahan was the capital of Safavid Persia after Baghdad fell to the Turks in 1533.

The Arab empire was overrun by the Mongols and eventually split into smaller kingdoms. until the 16th century

The Safavids arose from the Safaviya Sufi in the 14th century founded by Sheikh Safi-ad-din Ardabili in the 14th century. The Safavids may have been of mixed  Persian and Kurdish ancestry. They were probably not Georgian or Turkic as is sometimes charged.  In the 15th century, the Safaviya under Sheikh Haydar became a militant sect, launching raids against Christian Georgia. Ismail, a grandson of Haydar, launched the Safavid dynasty in 1501 or  1502, with his military allies, the Qizilbashi. Ismail introduced Shia Islam as a state religion. Ismail's program included forced conversion anddestruction os Sunni Mosques.

Ismail and his successors were unable to meet the challenge of the Ottoman empire, Ismail also declared a theocracy for a time, with himself as head. The Safavids were repeatedly defeated until Abbas I modernized the Persian army with British help, and suppressed the role of the Qizilbashi, who were reluctant to integrate with the Persians or take orders from them.

Safavid rule ended in civil war. Some consider that it ended with the death of Abbas III in 1736, making Nadir the founder of the Afsharid dynasty, while others date the end of Safavid rule to the death of Nader Shah in 1747. Still others date the end of the dynasty to much later.

  Persian Safavid Empire about 1600

Safavid empire map

Shahs of the Safavid Dynasty

Ismail I 15011524

Tahmasp I 15241576

Ismail II 15761578

Mohammed Khodabanda 15781588

Abbas I 15881629

Safi 16291642

Abbas II 16421666

Suleiman I 16661694

Sultan Hoseyn I 16941722

Tahmasp II 17221732

Abbas III 17321736

Nader 1736 - 1747

Chronology of the Safavid Dynasty

1501 Isma'il takes control of Tabriz, is crowned as shah, and declares Shiism as the state religion.

1502: Isma'il declares himself an infallible Shia imam as well as Shah..

1514: Battle of Chaldiran. Ismail is defeated by the Turkish Sultan Selim. This battle destroyed the claim of the shah that he was infallible and semi-divine figure.

1524 - Ismail succeeded by his son Tahmasp.

1533: Baghdad is overrun by the Ottoman empire. Isfahan becomes temporary capital.

1580's: Qizilbashi murder the heir to the crown together with other important members of the royal family and other Persians.

1588: Abbas I becomes shah.

1590: Abbas I makes peace with the Ottoman empire.

1599: AbbasI I  modernizes the army with British aid, dismisses the Qizilbashi and pays the army out of the royal treasury.

1602: Abbas I displaces the Portuguese from the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.

1603: Abbas I  defeats the Ottomans, winning back the territory they had lost earlier.

1623: With the aid of British officers and troops, Abbas I forces the Portuguese out of the island of Hormuz.

1624: The Safavids take back control over Baghdad.  Nonetheless, Isfahan remained the capital of Safavid Persia.

1638: Safavid control over Baghdad is lost.

1629: Death of Abbas I.

1639: The Treaty of Qasr-e Shirin between the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia sets the western border of Persia.

1722: Capture of Isfahan by the Ghilzai Afghans.

1729: Shah Tahmasp II retakes Isfahan.

1732: Tahmasp II is deposed by his own troops, under the leadership of Nader

1747: The Safavid dynasty comes to an end,

Ami Isseroff

October 29, 2010



Synonyms and alternate spellings: Sasanid, Sassanian

Further Information:: Persia  

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

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Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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