The post combined ideological oversight at home as well acting as a kind of agent provocateur, especially in the Ottoman territories. In due course the power of the Qezilbash was further checked, and eventually subdued, as the shah tilted further toward a succession of Persian officials.
The paradigm shift from a messianic crusade to a bureaucratic state appeared inevitable. He was obliged to assign provincial and district governorships to them as tenured fiefdoms soyurghal. In these fiefdoms the tent-dwelling Turkmen warriors roamed at the expense of the settled rural and urban populations.
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The death of Sultan Hosain Bayqara r. By already a large Uzbek contingent under the leadership of Shayban or Shaybani Khan, a descendant of Changiz Khan and founder of the Uzbek seminomadic kingdom, captured Samarkand, the capital of the eastern Timurids.
The arrival of the Uzbeks, the latest wave of Turkic-Mongolian incursions into the interiors of Central Asia, posed a grave challenge to the security of the region. Shayban Khan, who saw himself as the legitimate heir to Changiz Khan, eventually managed to capture the prized city of Herat in , putting an end to the last of the Timurid kingdoms. Whether it was an old ploy—luring the enemy into the interior before waging battle or the inferiority of Uzbek forces to those of the Qezilbash, the Uzbeks were routed and Shayban himself was trampled to death on the battlefield see map 1.
The defeat of the Uzbeks was an important turning point. The capture of both Marv and Herat set limits on the eastern expansion of Safavid Iran, frontiers that remained essentially in place until the mid-nineteenth century, despite many later Uzbek incursions. He turned the skull of Shayban Khan, his ideological adversary, into a gold-plated wine cup, witness to his long hours of heavy drinking. It was a symbolic reminder of Safavid reach. The reflective Timurid prince took heed and for a while collaborated with the Safavids against their common Uzbek enemy. Later he headed south to the less formidable tranquility of northern Hindustan.
The heinous act, though not entirely outside the norms of the time, generated outrage in the Ottoman capital, reaffirming the perceptions of the Safavids as fierce heretics. The Persian Tajik officials were no less merciful. He felt consoled having retaliated for the massacres centuries earlier in his hometown Isfahan by Mongol and later by Timurid invaders.
The Safavid movement had become a rallying point for the restive population of Anatolia and upper Mesopotamia whose territories were disputed among three powers. The situation, however, changed dramatically in In stark contrast to his father, Salim I r. Second, my respect for that warrior house [i.
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Why should we? Animosity among the kings is an old practice. Attributed to Kamal al-Din Behzad. After first preparing a meticulous register of the Turkmens of Anatolia, he carried out a systematic massacre of these presumed Safavid sympathizers throughout the region.
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The Ottoman forces reportedly killed forty thousand of the local inhabitants. The Ottoman Sunni jurists considered the massacre legitimate, and even furnished the necessary license for an anti-Safavid campaign. The Ottoman forces, the most advanced war machine of the time, consisted of , cavalry and infantry troops, of which 12, were the elite Janissary regiments see map 1. The multiethnic Ottoman army brought with it two hundred cannon, one hundred field guns, and well-maintained land and sea logistical lines via the Black Sea , including eight thousand camels and other beasts of burden.
Salim, his grand vizier, and his commanders those, at least, who survived his fits of rage and the many executions encountered in Chaldiran a meager Safavid cavalry force of less than twenty thousand. The Ottoman campaign came at a time when the Safavids faced a renewed Uzbek incursion in Khorasan, a coordinated effort with the Ottomans, perhaps, to overwhelm the Safavids by forcing them to fight in two fronts.
Shah Salim Play
His scorched-earth tactics and refusal to give battle were well-tested methods of warfare designed to persuade the enemy to give up and return, a possibility surely enhanced by the inhospitable terrain of northwestern Iran. His record of past victories might have made him overly confident about the superiority of the Qezilbash cavalry and its spirit of sacrifice on the battlefield, a fact that explains his lax preparation despite the glaring disparity in troop numbers.
Whether to overcome combat fright or out of sheer self-confidence, he and his Qezilbash chiefs spent the night before the battle drinking until dawn. Even when he joined his loyal Qezilbash troops, his sorties were a mix of valor and vagary rather than studied moves with clear strategic objectives.
Even by the Safavids did not seem to have appreciated the decisive effectiveness of firepower, even though cannon had been employed in eastern Iran a quarter of a century earlier under the Timurids. The Safavid reluctance to use firearms may have been, as has been often noted, because they considered them unmanly and contrary to the chivalrous code of war pl.
Even when they did see the Ottoman cumbersome muzzle-loading harquebuses, the standard weapon of the Janissaries, and the heavy field guns, with their short range and inaccurate targeting, they did not seem to have been impressed. In fact, the effectiveness of the Ottoman artillery, perhaps the most advanced in the early s, was mostly in siege warfare rather than on the battlefield, which may have encouraged the Safavids to face the enemy on the open plain rather than from within a walled fortress.
At the outset the Safavid hope for victory did not seem wholly misplaced. The advances on the right were also impressive—until the Ottoman cannon finally found the chance to fire. By the end of the day, the dual effects of the cannon thunder and shelling, perhaps more the former than the latter, shattered the Safavid defenses.see
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A favorite woman of his harem, Behruzeh Khanum, was captured and taken to Istanbul. Remarkably, a number of women fought on the Iranian side, and a few were among the casualties, a reflection, perhaps, of the revolutionary perspective of the early Safavids that allowed the women to fight alongside the men. A number of Ottoman officials were also killed. The total number of casualties on both sides probably was no more than five thousand, of which more than two-fifths were the Turks.
The capture of Tabriz shortly thereafter completed the humiliation and brought Safavid power to the verge of collapse. The prospect of a Janissary mutiny, however, saved the Safavid capital. Salim was obliged to abandon his original plan to winter in Tabriz, and contrary to earlier Ottoman practice, he departed a week after his arrival in late summer of without leaving behind a single Ottoman contingent.
He nevertheless stayed long enough to allow the city to be looted and then rounded up and took to Istanbul a considerable number of artists, artisans, and merchants from Tabriz and elsewhere in the Safavid domains including more than twelve painters, book illuminators, and calligraphers. They later established in Istanbul a Persian community of artists who would have a lasting influence on Ottoman fine arts. The consequences of the Battle of Chaldiran were far reaching. It is from this point that the charismatic Safavid leadership gradually transformed into a traditional Persian kingship, a process that took several generations of Safavids to be completed.
The Ottomans continued to consolidate in central and eastern Anatolia. At the obvious expense of the Safavids, they captured the key fortress of Kumakh in central Anatolia in It is quite possible that the Ottoman sultan, despite his hasty departure from Tabriz, intended to revisit Iran and put an end to the Safavid heresy, perhaps with the ambition to at least partition Iran. Although such an offensive never materialized, the dual Sunni threat on opposite flanks of Iran proper remained in place throughout the Safavid and post-Safavid periods.
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The exposure of the Guarded Domains of Iran to repeated aggressions on both sides and the stretching limited military resources did not subside before the beginning of the nineteenth century. Ottoman consolidation in Anatolia not only cost the Safavids direct loss of territory but also removed their hopes for unhindered access to the Black Sea through an Anatolian enclave. For at least four centuries the Safavids, and their successors, faced an Ottoman barrier that deprived them of direct political and commercial access to the Mediterranean world. Although Alawite communities in Anatolia periodically revolted against the Ottomans during the Jelali revolts of the mid to late sixteenth century, for all intents and purposes the war of eliminated any potential replication of a Safavid-like revolution there.
Significantly, however, under Salim, and later under his son Suleiman—whose reign marked the zenith of Ottoman expansion—the Ottomans never succeeded in subordinating their Safavid neighbor. In part this was because of obstacles in maintaining secure logistical lines through Anatolia to Iran, to establish effective control over hostile terrain.
Their reluctance to fight inside Iran became evident in a serious mutiny during the siege of Tabriz and later. For the most part, however, it was the religio-political synergy of the Safavids that helped them to resist Ottoman expansion and, in due course, that fashioned Iran into a territorial empire with a distinct identity.
Within the three years after Chaldiran, Salim secured eastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia but also successfully shifted the direction of Turkish conquest toward the Mamluk lands. Such an enterprise proved easier to achieve and more materially beneficial. No phenomenon similar to the Safavids barred him from taking Damascus, or even Cairo. By he had conquered the entire Mamluk territory in the Levantine Mediterranean as well as Egypt and coastal North Africa. The Battle of Chaldiran revealed the utter superiority of Ottoman firearms and the organization of a well-equipped slave army over the traditional means and tactics of warfare waged by a tribal army such as the Qezilbash.
The age of the Gunpowder Empires came to Iran with an experience of defeat even though its memory predictably toned down in the Safavid official narrative.