HISTORY OF IRAN (PERSIA)

     
Mahmud of Ghazni: 999-1030

Mahmud's rule coincides with the crumbling of the Samanid dynasty in Persia. From999, when the Samanid emperor loses his capital city (Bukhara), Mahmud treats Ghazni as his own kingdom. Over the next thirty years he greatly extends his territory, until it reaches to Isfahan in the west.

It also stretches eastwards into India, where Mahmud regularly campaigns from 1000 onwards. His incursions begin the process by which northern India falls to a succession of Muslim invaders. But his own empire in Afghanistan and eastern Iran succumbs soon after his death to a new wave of Turkish tribesmen pressing in from the north. The newcomers in this case are the Seljuks.

×
     
The rise of the Seljuks: 10th - 11th century

Seljuk is the chieftain of a group of Turkish tribes who migrate, in the late 10th century, from the steppes to the northern borders of the Persian empire - in the region around the Syr-Darya river. They embrace Islam, and are expected to play their part in the frontier defences of the Muslim world. But in the recurrent pattern of barbarians in the suburbs of civilization, they have their own ideas. They fancy a more central position.

The obvious stepping stone towards greater power is the newly formed Turkish realm, founded by Mahmud and centred on Ghazni. Mahmud, an experienced conqueror, dies in 1030. His son, Mas'ud, becomes the focus of Seljuk attention.

×

Mas'ud is campaigning in the eastern part of his empire, in India, when Togrul Beg, a grandson of Seljuk, strikes in the west. Mas'ud hurries home to confront this threat. He meets the Seljuk army in 1040 at Dandandqan, to the northeast of Mashhad, and is defeated.

The Seljuks establish their base in this border region between modern Iran and Afghanistan, while Togrul Beg looks further west for even greater prizes. Persia is in a state of anarchy, ruled by many petty princes (the majority of them Shi'as). The authority of the Sunni caliph in Baghdad is no more than nominal.

×

Togrul Beg gradually fights his way westwards through Persia. By 1055 he is in a position to enter Baghdad itself. He does so without violence, being welcomed by the caliph as a liberator from the Shi'as. The caliph gives him the title of sultan and an ambitious task - to overwhelm the Fatimids, the Shi'ite dynasty controlling the caliph's Egyptian territories.

This is beyond the powers of Togrul Beg and his still somewhat unruly Turkish tribesmen. But for the next two generations the Seljuk dynasty retains control in Baghdad and governs a Persian empire restored to extensive boundaries.

×

Togrul Beg is succeeded by his nephew and then by his great-nephew, Alp Arslan and Malik Shah. By the time of Malik Shah's death in 1092, the empire stretches from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. Most significant of all, Turkish tribes loosely under Seljuk control have spread through Anatolia.

After Malik Shah's death the Seljuk inheritance is shared between so many family members that the empire loses all cohesion. Only in Anatolia does the Turkish presence have a lasting effect - as a result of the campaign conducted from 1064 to 1071 by Malik Shah's father, Alp Arslan. In Persia the collapse into chaos is hastened by an alarming new sect, the Assassins.

×
     
Assassins: 11th - 13th century

It is not known why their contemporaries give the name Assassins to the Nizari Ismailis who become promiment in the 11th century. All that is certain is that the political activities of the Nizari amply justify the subsequent use of 'assassin' in its modern meaning. (The old theory that the word comes from hashish, which the Assassins supposedly use to get in the mood for murder, derives from Marco Polo and other western writers but seems to have little basis.)

The Assassins first show their hand when they begin to seize strongholds in Persia in the late 11th century, particularly the almost impregnable fortress of Alamut. In the 12th century they also acquire bases in Syria.

×

The Assassins train terrorists and employ a network of secret agents in the camps and cities of their enemies. These enemies are legion. Foremost among them are the Seljuk Turks and the caliphs in Baghdad (the Assassins murder two caliphs). But the terrorists also act against their fellow Ismailis, the Fatimids in Cairo. They assassinate at least one prominent crusader. Most eccentrically of all, they make two attempts on the life of Saladin.

No way is found to eliminate this troublesome sect until the Assassins are finally crushed between two great rival powers in the 12th century - the Mameluke sultans of Egypt and the Mongols, led by Hulagu.

×
     
Mongols in Persia and Mesopotamia: from1256

Hulagu crosses the Amu Darya river in January 1256, beginning the Mongol campaign against Islamic Persia. The region has been terrorized in recent years by the Assassins, but this extremist Ismaili sect meets its match in the Mongols. One by one Hulagu takes the Assassin fortresses, including the supposedly impregnable Alamut.

At the end of 1257 Hulagu presses further to the west, into even richer lands. He and his horde move into Mesopotamia - the territory of the caliph, and as such the ostensible centre of the Islamic world.

×

In 1259 Hulagu and the Mongols take Aleppo and Damascus. The coastal plain and the route south to Egypt seem open to them. But in 1260 at Ayn Jalut, near Nazareth, they meet the army of the Mameluke sultan of Egypt. It is led into the field by Baybars, a Mameluke general.

In one of the decisive battles of history Baybars defeats the Mongols. It is the first setback suffered by the family of Genghis Khan in their remorseless half century of expansion. This battle defines for the first time a limit to their power. It preserves Palestine and Syria for the Mameluke dynasty in Egypt. Mesopotamia and Persia remain within the Mongol empire.

×
     
The Il-khans of Persia: 1260-1335

After defeat by the Mamelukes at Ayn Jalut, Hulagu and his descendants make their capital at Tabriz, on the trade route from the east to the Black Sea. They rule as Il-khans ('subordinate khans'), accepting the great khan in Mongolia as their overlord. They make several further attempts to wrest Syria and Palestine from the Mamelukes, but the Euphrates remains the western border of their empire.

It is the western extreme of a very large territory. The Il-khans rule as far as the Indus in the east, and from the Amu-Darya in the north down to the Indian Ocean.

×

The last Il-khan in Hulagu's line dies in 1335. His death is followed by a succession of petty rulers in different parts of Persia, until the arrival of another conqueror from the steppes of central Asia - a man accustomed to a horizon almost as broad as the one claimed by Genghis Khan.

The army of Timur reaches northern Persia in 1383.

×
     
Timur's conquests:1383 - 1405

Timur begins his campaign with the capture in 1383 of Herat, a city on the border of Afghanistan and Iran which will later, under his own descendants, become a great centre of Persian culture. In the next two years he subdues the whole of eastern Persia.

By 1394 he has extended his rule throughout Persia and Mesopotamia and up between the Black Sea and Caspian into Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In 1396 he storms into Russia and occupies Moscow for a year.

×

Timur's rule is brutal. In Persia frequent uprisings are put down with a severity similar to that of Genghis Khan. Populations of entire cities are massacred, and Timur develops an effective new form of memento mori. The skulls of the dead form the masonry for towers, firmly cemented together to stand as cautionary tales.

In 1398 Timur outdoes one of Genghis Khan's expeditions. He invades India, but unlike his predecessor he does not stop at the Indus. He marches on to Delhi and devastates the city. He then spends several months collecting treasure, which he carries home on 120 elephants.

×

Home is Samarkand, the city closest to his birthplace. Timur is busy turning it into a great centre of Muslim architecture and art. Together with the Indian elephants come the best craftsmen of Delhi, who will be set to work in Samarkand - where they join, in 1399, a community of skilled captives from previous expeditions.

This is connoisseurship of an unusually violent kind, but it is a genuine passion. Inherited by Timur's descendants, in less rapacious form, it results in a great Timurid tradition in the visual arts.

×
     
The Timurid tradition: 1405-1510

Shahrukh, Timur's favourite son, is his family's greatest patron of the arts. From about 1405 he rebuilds Herat, devastated by his father in 1383, and actively encourages the Persian school of miniature painting - which has already begun to flourish under the patronage of the Mongol Il-Khans.

With some difficulty Shahrukh maintains control over the empire conquered by his father in central Asia and Persia. In subsequent generations the descendants of Timur fight constantly among themselves over their shared inheritance, weakening their joint defence against their enemies. But Herat remains a centre of Timurid civilization until it falls, in 1510, to the founder of the new Safavid dynasty.

×




< Prev.  Page 5 of 6   Next >

Achaemenids

Rivalries with Greece

Parthians and Byzantines

Arabs

Turks and Mongols
Safavids

To be completed





HISTORY OF IRAN (PERSIA)

     
Mahmud of Ghazni: 999-1030

Mahmud's rule coincides with the crumbling of the Samanid dynasty in Persia. From999, when the Samanid emperor loses his capital city (Bukhara), Mahmud treats Ghazni as his own kingdom. Over the next thirty years he greatly extends his territory, until it reaches to Isfahan in the west.

It also stretches eastwards into India, where Mahmud regularly campaigns from 1000 onwards. His incursions begin the process by which northern India falls to a succession of Muslim invaders. But his own empire in Afghanistan and eastern Iran succumbs soon after his death to a new wave of Turkish tribesmen pressing in from the north. The newcomers in this case are the Seljuks.

×
     
The rise of the Seljuks: 10th - 11th century

Seljuk is the chieftain of a group of Turkish tribes who migrate, in the late 10th century, from the steppes to the northern borders of the Persian empire - in the region around the Syr-Darya river. They embrace Islam, and are expected to play their part in the frontier defences of the Muslim world. But in the recurrent pattern of barbarians in the suburbs of civilization, they have their own ideas. They fancy a more central position.

The obvious stepping stone towards greater power is the newly formed Turkish realm, founded by Mahmud and centred on Ghazni. Mahmud, an experienced conqueror, dies in 1030. His son, Mas'ud, becomes the focus of Seljuk attention.

×

Mas'ud is campaigning in the eastern part of his empire, in India, when Togrul Beg, a grandson of Seljuk, strikes in the west. Mas'ud hurries home to confront this threat. He meets the Seljuk army in 1040 at Dandandqan, to the northeast of Mashhad, and is defeated.

The Seljuks establish their base in this border region between modern Iran and Afghanistan, while Togrul Beg looks further west for even greater prizes. Persia is in a state of anarchy, ruled by many petty princes (the majority of them Shi'as). The authority of the Sunni caliph in Baghdad is no more than nominal.

×

Togrul Beg gradually fights his way westwards through Persia. By 1055 he is in a position to enter Baghdad itself. He does so without violence, being welcomed by the caliph as a liberator from the Shi'as. The caliph gives him the title of sultan and an ambitious task - to overwhelm the Fatimids, the Shi'ite dynasty controlling the caliph's Egyptian territories.

This is beyond the powers of Togrul Beg and his still somewhat unruly Turkish tribesmen. But for the next two generations the Seljuk dynasty retains control in Baghdad and governs a Persian empire restored to extensive boundaries.

×

Togrul Beg is succeeded by his nephew and then by his great-nephew, Alp Arslan and Malik Shah. By the time of Malik Shah's death in 1092, the empire stretches from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. Most significant of all, Turkish tribes loosely under Seljuk control have spread through Anatolia.

After Malik Shah's death the Seljuk inheritance is shared between so many family members that the empire loses all cohesion. Only in Anatolia does the Turkish presence have a lasting effect - as a result of the campaign conducted from 1064 to 1071 by Malik Shah's father, Alp Arslan. In Persia the collapse into chaos is hastened by an alarming new sect, the Assassins.

×
     
Assassins: 11th - 13th century

It is not known why their contemporaries give the name Assassins to the Nizari Ismailis who become promiment in the 11th century. All that is certain is that the political activities of the Nizari amply justify the subsequent use of 'assassin' in its modern meaning. (The old theory that the word comes from hashish, which the Assassins supposedly use to get in the mood for murder, derives from Marco Polo and other western writers but seems to have little basis.)

The Assassins first show their hand when they begin to seize strongholds in Persia in the late 11th century, particularly the almost impregnable fortress of Alamut. In the 12th century they also acquire bases in Syria.

×

The Assassins train terrorists and employ a network of secret agents in the camps and cities of their enemies. These enemies are legion. Foremost among them are the Seljuk Turks and the caliphs in Baghdad (the Assassins murder two caliphs). But the terrorists also act against their fellow Ismailis, the Fatimids in Cairo. They assassinate at least one prominent crusader. Most eccentrically of all, they make two attempts on the life of Saladin.

No way is found to eliminate this troublesome sect until the Assassins are finally crushed between two great rival powers in the 12th century - the Mameluke sultans of Egypt and the Mongols, led by Hulagu.

×
     
Mongols in Persia and Mesopotamia: from1256

Hulagu crosses the Amu Darya river in January 1256, beginning the Mongol campaign against Islamic Persia. The region has been terrorized in recent years by the Assassins, but this extremist Ismaili sect meets its match in the Mongols. One by one Hulagu takes the Assassin fortresses, including the supposedly impregnable Alamut.

At the end of 1257 Hulagu presses further to the west, into even richer lands. He and his horde move into Mesopotamia - the territory of the caliph, and as such the ostensible centre of the Islamic world.

×

In 1259 Hulagu and the Mongols take Aleppo and Damascus. The coastal plain and the route south to Egypt seem open to them. But in 1260 at Ayn Jalut, near Nazareth, they meet the army of the Mameluke sultan of Egypt. It is led into the field by Baybars, a Mameluke general.

In one of the decisive battles of history Baybars defeats the Mongols. It is the first setback suffered by the family of Genghis Khan in their remorseless half century of expansion. This battle defines for the first time a limit to their power. It preserves Palestine and Syria for the Mameluke dynasty in Egypt. Mesopotamia and Persia remain within the Mongol empire.

×
     
The Il-khans of Persia: 1260-1335

After defeat by the Mamelukes at Ayn Jalut, Hulagu and his descendants make their capital at Tabriz, on the trade route from the east to the Black Sea. They rule as Il-khans ('subordinate khans'), accepting the great khan in Mongolia as their overlord. They make several further attempts to wrest Syria and Palestine from the Mamelukes, but the Euphrates remains the western border of their empire.

It is the western extreme of a very large territory. The Il-khans rule as far as the Indus in the east, and from the Amu-Darya in the north down to the Indian Ocean.

×

The last Il-khan in Hulagu's line dies in 1335. His death is followed by a succession of petty rulers in different parts of Persia, until the arrival of another conqueror from the steppes of central Asia - a man accustomed to a horizon almost as broad as the one claimed by Genghis Khan.

The army of Timur reaches northern Persia in 1383.

×
     
Timur's conquests:1383 - 1405

Timur begins his campaign with the capture in 1383 of Herat, a city on the border of Afghanistan and Iran which will later, under his own descendants, become a great centre of Persian culture. In the next two years he subdues the whole of eastern Persia.

By 1394 he has extended his rule throughout Persia and Mesopotamia and up between the Black Sea and Caspian into Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In 1396 he storms into Russia and occupies Moscow for a year.

×

Timur's rule is brutal. In Persia frequent uprisings are put down with a severity similar to that of Genghis Khan. Populations of entire cities are massacred, and Timur develops an effective new form of memento mori. The skulls of the dead form the masonry for towers, firmly cemented together to stand as cautionary tales.

In 1398 Timur outdoes one of Genghis Khan's expeditions. He invades India, but unlike his predecessor he does not stop at the Indus. He marches on to Delhi and devastates the city. He then spends several months collecting treasure, which he carries home on 120 elephants.

×

Home is Samarkand, the city closest to his birthplace. Timur is busy turning it into a great centre of Muslim architecture and art. Together with the Indian elephants come the best craftsmen of Delhi, who will be set to work in Samarkand - where they join, in 1399, a community of skilled captives from previous expeditions.

This is connoisseurship of an unusually violent kind, but it is a genuine passion. Inherited by Timur's descendants, in less rapacious form, it results in a great Timurid tradition in the visual arts.

×
     
The Timurid tradition: 1405-1510

Shahrukh, Timur's favourite son, is his family's greatest patron of the arts. From about 1405 he rebuilds Herat, devastated by his father in 1383, and actively encourages the Persian school of miniature painting - which has already begun to flourish under the patronage of the Mongol Il-Khans.

With some difficulty Shahrukh maintains control over the empire conquered by his father in central Asia and Persia. In subsequent generations the descendants of Timur fight constantly among themselves over their shared inheritance, weakening their joint defence against their enemies. But Herat remains a centre of Timurid civilization until it falls, in 1510, to the founder of the new Safavid dynasty.

×

> HISTORY OF IRAN (PERSIA)

     
Mahmud of Ghazni: 999-1030

Mahmud's rule coincides with the crumbling of the Samanid dynasty in Persia. From999, when the Samanid emperor loses his capital city (Bukhara), Mahmud treats Ghazni as his own kingdom. Over the next thirty years he greatly extends his territory, until it reaches to Isfahan in the west.

It also stretches eastwards into India, where Mahmud regularly campaigns from 1000 onwards. His incursions begin the process by which northern India falls to a succession of Muslim invaders. But his own empire in Afghanistan and eastern Iran succumbs soon after his death to a new wave of Turkish tribesmen pressing in from the north. The newcomers in this case are the Seljuks.

     
The rise of the Seljuks: 10th - 11th century

Seljuk is the chieftain of a group of Turkish tribes who migrate, in the late 10th century, from the steppes to the northern borders of the Persian empire - in the region around the Syr-Darya river. They embrace Islam, and are expected to play their part in the frontier defences of the Muslim world. But in the recurrent pattern of barbarians in the suburbs of civilization, they have their own ideas. They fancy a more central position.

The obvious stepping stone towards greater power is the newly formed Turkish realm, founded by Mahmud and centred on Ghazni. Mahmud, an experienced conqueror, dies in 1030. His son, Mas'ud, becomes the focus of Seljuk attention.

Mas'ud is campaigning in the eastern part of his empire, in India, when Togrul Beg, a grandson of Seljuk, strikes in the west. Mas'ud hurries home to confront this threat. He meets the Seljuk army in 1040 at Dandandqan, to the northeast of Mashhad, and is defeated.

The Seljuks establish their base in this border region between modern Iran and Afghanistan, while Togrul Beg looks further west for even greater prizes. Persia is in a state of anarchy, ruled by many petty princes (the majority of them Shi'as). The authority of the Sunni caliph in Baghdad is no more than nominal.

Togrul Beg gradually fights his way westwards through Persia. By 1055 he is in a position to enter Baghdad itself. He does so without violence, being welcomed by the caliph as a liberator from the Shi'as. The caliph gives him the title of sultan and an ambitious task - to overwhelm the Fatimids, the Shi'ite dynasty controlling the caliph's Egyptian territories.

This is beyond the powers of Togrul Beg and his still somewhat unruly Turkish tribesmen. But for the next two generations the Seljuk dynasty retains control in Baghdad and governs a Persian empire restored to extensive boundaries.

Togrul Beg is succeeded by his nephew and then by his great-nephew, Alp Arslan and Malik Shah. By the time of Malik Shah's death in 1092, the empire stretches from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. Most significant of all, Turkish tribes loosely under Seljuk control have spread through Anatolia.

After Malik Shah's death the Seljuk inheritance is shared between so many family members that the empire loses all cohesion. Only in Anatolia does the Turkish presence have a lasting effect - as a result of the campaign conducted from 1064 to 1071 by Malik Shah's father, Alp Arslan. In Persia the collapse into chaos is hastened by an alarming new sect, the Assassins.

     
Assassins: 11th - 13th century

It is not known why their contemporaries give the name Assassins to the Nizari Ismailis who become promiment in the 11th century. All that is certain is that the political activities of the Nizari amply justify the subsequent use of 'assassin' in its modern meaning. (The old theory that the word comes from hashish, which the Assassins supposedly use to get in the mood for murder, derives from Marco Polo and other western writers but seems to have little basis.)

The Assassins first show their hand when they begin to seize strongholds in Persia in the late 11th century, particularly the almost impregnable fortress of Alamut. In the 12th century they also acquire bases in Syria.

The Assassins train terrorists and employ a network of secret agents in the camps and cities of their enemies. These enemies are legion. Foremost among them are the Seljuk Turks and the caliphs in Baghdad (the Assassins murder two caliphs). But the terrorists also act against their fellow Ismailis, the Fatimids in Cairo. They assassinate at least one prominent crusader. Most eccentrically of all, they make two attempts on the life of Saladin.

No way is found to eliminate this troublesome sect until the Assassins are finally crushed between two great rival powers in the 12th century - the Mameluke sultans of Egypt and the Mongols, led by Hulagu.

     
Mongols in Persia and Mesopotamia: from1256

Hulagu crosses the Amu Darya river in January 1256, beginning the Mongol campaign against Islamic Persia. The region has been terrorized in recent years by the Assassins, but this extremist Ismaili sect meets its match in the Mongols. One by one Hulagu takes the Assassin fortresses, including the supposedly impregnable Alamut.

At the end of 1257 Hulagu presses further to the west, into even richer lands. He and his horde move into Mesopotamia - the territory of the caliph, and as such the ostensible centre of the Islamic world.

In 1259 Hulagu and the Mongols take Aleppo and Damascus. The coastal plain and the route south to Egypt seem open to them. But in 1260 at Ayn Jalut, near Nazareth, they meet the army of the Mameluke sultan of Egypt. It is led into the field by Baybars, a Mameluke general.

In one of the decisive battles of history Baybars defeats the Mongols. It is the first setback suffered by the family of Genghis Khan in their remorseless half century of expansion. This battle defines for the first time a limit to their power. It preserves Palestine and Syria for the Mameluke dynasty in Egypt. Mesopotamia and Persia remain within the Mongol empire.

     
The Il-khans of Persia: 1260-1335

After defeat by the Mamelukes at Ayn Jalut, Hulagu and his descendants make their capital at Tabriz, on the trade route from the east to the Black Sea. They rule as Il-khans ('subordinate khans'), accepting the great khan in Mongolia as their overlord. They make several further attempts to wrest Syria and Palestine from the Mamelukes, but the Euphrates remains the western border of their empire.

It is the western extreme of a very large territory. The Il-khans rule as far as the Indus in the east, and from the Amu-Darya in the north down to the Indian Ocean.

The last Il-khan in Hulagu's line dies in 1335. His death is followed by a succession of petty rulers in different parts of Persia, until the arrival of another conqueror from the steppes of central Asia - a man accustomed to a horizon almost as broad as the one claimed by Genghis Khan.

The army of Timur reaches northern Persia in 1383.

     
Timur's conquests:1383 - 1405

Timur begins his campaign with the capture in 1383 of Herat, a city on the border of Afghanistan and Iran which will later, under his own descendants, become a great centre of Persian culture. In the next two years he subdues the whole of eastern Persia.

By 1394 he has extended his rule throughout Persia and Mesopotamia and up between the Black Sea and Caspian into Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In 1396 he storms into Russia and occupies Moscow for a year.

Timur's rule is brutal. In Persia frequent uprisings are put down with a severity similar to that of Genghis Khan. Populations of entire cities are massacred, and Timur develops an effective new form of memento mori. The skulls of the dead form the masonry for towers, firmly cemented together to stand as cautionary tales.

In 1398 Timur outdoes one of Genghis Khan's expeditions. He invades India, but unlike his predecessor he does not stop at the Indus. He marches on to Delhi and devastates the city. He then spends several months collecting treasure, which he carries home on 120 elephants.

Home is Samarkand, the city closest to his birthplace. Timur is busy turning it into a great centre of Muslim architecture and art. Together with the Indian elephants come the best craftsmen of Delhi, who will be set to work in Samarkand - where they join, in 1399, a community of skilled captives from previous expeditions.

This is connoisseurship of an unusually violent kind, but it is a genuine passion. Inherited by Timur's descendants, in less rapacious form, it results in a great Timurid tradition in the visual arts.

     
The Timurid tradition: 1405-1510

Shahrukh, Timur's favourite son, is his family's greatest patron of the arts. From about 1405 he rebuilds Herat, devastated by his father in 1383, and actively encourages the Persian school of miniature painting - which has already begun to flourish under the patronage of the Mongol Il-Khans.

With some difficulty Shahrukh maintains control over the empire conquered by his father in central Asia and Persia. In subsequent generations the descendants of Timur fight constantly among themselves over their shared inheritance, weakening their joint defence against their enemies. But Herat remains a centre of Timurid civilization until it falls, in 1510, to the founder of the new Safavid dynasty.



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