Shah Abbas I (شاه عباس اول) (January 27, 1571?-January 19, 1629?) was the most eminent ruler of the Safavid Dynasty. He was also known as Shah Abbas the Great (شاه عباس بزرگ). In early October, 1588 he became shah, by revolting against his father, Mohammad of Safavid, and imprisoning him.
In the midst of general anarchy in Persia, he was proclaimed ruler of Khorasan in 1581, and obtained possession of the Persian throne with the help of Morshed Gholi Ostajlou, whom he later killed in July, 1589. Determined to raise the fallen fortunes of his country, he first directed his efforts against the predatory Uzbeks, who occupied and harassed Khorasan. After a long and severe struggle, he regained Mashhad, defeated them in a great battle near Herat in 1597, and drove them out of his dominions.
He moved his capital from Qazvin to Isfahan in 1592. A few years later, in 1599, the Englishman Sir Robert Shirley directed a major army reform. With his new army, he defeated the Ottoman Turks in 1603, forcing them to give back the territory they had seized, including Baghdad. In 1605 following a victory at Basra he extended his empire beyond the Euphrates; Sultan Ahmed I was forced to cede Shirvan and Kurdistan in 1611; the united armies of the Turks and Tatars were completely defeated near Sultanieh in 1618, and Abbas made peace on very favourable terms; and on the Turks renewing the war, Baghdad fell into his hands after a year's siege in 1623. In 1622 he took the island of Hormus from the Portuguese, by the assistance of the British, and much of its trade was diverted to the town of Bandar Abbas which he had taken from the Portuguese in 1615 and had named after himself.
Shah Abbas I embracing his wine boy. Painting by Muhammad Qasim, 1627. The poem reads “May life grant all that you desire from three lips, those of your lover, the river, and the cup.” Louvre, Paris
Shah Abbas' reign, with its military successes, efficient administrative system, raised Iran to the status of a great power. Abbas was a skilled diplomat, tolerant of his Christian subjects in Armenia. He sent Shirley to Italy, Spain and England in order to create a pact against the Ottomans.
Trade with the west and industry grew. Isfahan became the center of Safavid architectural achievement, with the mosques Masjed-e Shah and the Masjed-e Sheykh Lotfollah and other monuments like the Ali Qapu, the Chehel Sotoun, and the Meydan-e Shah. His painting ateliers created some of the finest art in modern Persian history, by such illustrious painters as Riza Abbasi, Mohammed Qasim and others. The enlightened rule of Abbas is also reflected in an easing of the proscriptions against wine drinking, and male love, as can be seen from the copious examples of Safavid art celebrating earthly pleasures.
When he died, his dominions reached from the Tigris to the Indus. His fame is tarnished, however, by numerous deeds of tyranny and cruelty, particularly against his own family. Afraid of a coup by his family (as he had done to his father), he locked them up in palaces in order to keep them without knowledge of the outside world. This resulted in weak successors. He killed his eldest son, Safi Mirza, and left his throne to his grandson.
- The Persian Encyclopedia's entries on "Abbas I of Safavid" and "Mohammad of Safavid"
- Iran Chamber (http://www.iranchamber.com/history/safavids/safavids.php)
- See also The Three Brothers, or Travels of Sir Anthony, Sir Robert Sherley, etc. (London, 1823); Sir C. R. Markham, General Sketch of the History of Persia (London, 1874).
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.