Thursday, November 7, 2019
The Safavid Empire of Persia
The Safavid Empire of Persia The Safavid Empire, based in Persia (Iran), ruled over much of southwestern Asia from 1501 to 1736. Members of the Safavid Dynasty likely were of Kurdish Persian descent and belonged to a unique order of Sufi -infused Shia Islam called Safaviyya. In fact, it was the founder of the Safavid Empire, Shah Ismail I, who forcibly converted Iran from Sunni to Shia Islam and established Shiism as the state religion. Its Massive Reach At its height, the Safavid Dynasty controlled not only the entirety of what is now Iran, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, but also most of Afghanistan, Iraq, Georgia, and the Caucasus, and parts of Turkey, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. As one of the powerful gunpowder empires of the age, the Safavids re-established Persias place as a key player in economics and geopolitics at the intersection of the eastern and western worlds. It ruled over the western reaches of the late Silk Road, although the overland trade routes were quickly being supplanted by ocean-going trading vessels. Sovereignty The greatest Safavid ruler was Shah Abbas I (r. 1587 - 1629), who modernized the Persian military, adding musketeers and artillery-men; moved the capital city deeper into the Persian heartland; and established a policy of tolerance towards Christians in the empire. However, Shah Abbas was fearful to the point of paranoia about the assassination and executed or blinded all of his sons to prevent them from replacing him. As a result, the empire began a long, slow slide into obscurity after his death in 1629.