Iran After Mongol's Attack


After Ghinghis died, his successors divided the captured territory between themselves. The Great Khan Ogodei (Oktai Ghaa-aan) got the mainland Mongolia and China, Batu Nevian, Ghenghis’ grandson, got Russia, and Hologu (Holaaku Khan), other grandson of Ghenghis, got Iran. Hologu named his dynasty “Il-Khan”(1256). During the reign of Hologu and his son Abaqa, Iran was still officially a part of Mongol Empire and under the power of Great Khan, first Ogodei, then Manguk. But when Hologu’s brother, Qubilei, became the Great Khan, he gave Il-Kahns their independence.

Geikhatu(1291-1295), Abaqa's successor, was the first independent Il-Khan. During his reign, the country became bankrupt. Geikhatu’s advisers told him to publish the “paper money”, and he did, but people did not accept that. This first use of paper money failed in the east, but hundred of years later showed the world that this is the way to do business.

After Geikhatu, Arghoon and then Ghazan became Il-Khans. Ghazan was the first khan to accept Islam as his religion. Geikhatu and Arghoon were both Christians. After Ghazan came Sultan Mohammad Khodaabandeh, El-Jaito(1304-1316). El-Jaito was a Shi’it muslim, the first one to rule Iran after the death of Samaa’al Doleh Deilami (see chapter II). After him came Abusaid Bahador Khan(1316-1333). He was a very weak ruler, thus during his reign, the power shifted to his Army Commander in Chief, Amir Choopan. He forced Abusaid to marry his daughter and after awhile, he deposed him and declared the end of Il-Khans. Still, after Abusaid's death, several of his reletives gained the power for a short while, until the Il-Khans broke up completely in 1343, after the death of Suleyman.

After Il-Khans, several of their subjects began new dynasties. The most famouse one of them are: Choopanian (Amir Choopan’s descendants), and Jalaayerian (1336-1411,descendants of Hassan the Great, one of Abusaid’s Army Commanders).

Tatar Attack, Timurid Dynasty(1370-1449)

Around this time, in north eastern Iran, descendants of Ghenghis’ third son, Choghtei, were ruling. Their kingdom was divided to several smaller principalities. In 1370 AD, Teymur (or Tamerlane) became king of Samarghand. He soon began conquering his neighboring territories and soon enough he was king of all Khaarazm( present day Ozbakestan and Tajikestan). Then around 1380’s he turned toward Iran. He conquered all of the country except Lorestan which was between two great mountains. Then he went to Turkey and defeated Ottoman Sultan, Ildurum Bayzit (Bayzit the Thunder). Teymur ruled his vast territory with power till his death in 1405. He was a cruel and wicked ruler. He killed his opponents without mercy and made tens of “Kalle-Menaars”, towers made out of cut off heads of his enemies. The interesting thing is that he also was a very religious and he new the whole Qoran from his memory.

After Teymur’s death his sons Miranshah and Sharokh became kings, but it was obvious that without Teymur’s cruelty and his terrifying power, his empire would not last very long. Soon after Ulugg Beg's death in 1449, the Timurid empire was divided between tens of other smaller Dynasties.

Other cescendants of Teymour continued to rule their petty kingdoms in Khurasan or Transoxania until 1507.

The Era of Chaos

Two of the most important dynasties that came after Teymur were the Turkish Dynasties of Ghara Ghouyounlu (‘the owners of black ships’)(1380-1469) and Aagh Ghouyounlu (‘the owners of white sheep’)(1403-1508). These two dynasties ruled mostly in the western parts of the country, the eastern sections were still under the Teymurid rulers.

Ghara Yousof was the founder of Ghara Ghouyounlus, he and his father were subjects of Jalayerian(see above). He was once imprisoned by Teymour when he conquered Azerbaijan, but escaped after his death and regained power. He conquered Azerbaijan and then Kurdestan(1407) and Baghadad(1412). After him, his kingdom was devided to two sections, the Azerbaijan section and Baghdad section, which were ruled by Ghara Yousof's sons.

Ghara Osman was the founder of Aagh Ghouyounlus. Like his Ghara Ghouyounlu cousin, he started conquering western Iran. At first he established his kingdom in Diyar Bekr in present day Turkey, but after Teymour's death, he started attacking the east and finnaly got most of Azarbaijan. Most famouse of Aagh Ghouyounlu rulers was Ozoun Hassan(Hassan the Tall, 1452-1478), he fought three wars against Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror and captured a lot of lands in eastern Turkey. He was finnaly defated by the Ottomans and died in 1478.

Both of these dynasties became very weak after the death of their founders and both of them left the mallest possible impact on Iranian history and society.

These two dynasties were the last of Iranian principalities. After the death of Alvand(1504) the last ruler of Aagh Ghouyounlus, Iran became a united country, and never again experienced division. This unification came with a man who is called Cyrus of the Islamic Iran, Shah Ismail Safavi.

Safavid Dynasty

Shah Ismail

Around the time of Teymur’s attack, there was a clergy man named “Sheikh Safi al-Din” living in the city of Ardebil in north-western Iran. He had a lot of followers that loved him and were devoted to him. He also was a “shi’a” meaning he belonged to another section of Islam: Shi’ism. This was unusual, because in that period, Iran as a well as other Islamic countries was a Sunny country. After Sheikh Safi died, his son and then his grandson replaced him as the head of his “Sufi” sect. His great-grandson, Sheikh Jonayd was the first of his family to claim the throne after “Ozoun Hassan’s” death. Jonayd was killed in a war and his son “Shaikh Heydar” replaced him. Heydar was a very bold and ruthless warrior, he organized a little guard for himself that eventually evolved into a very strong army. It was called “Ghezel Baash”, meaning “ the red hats”, because they were wearing a big, red turban. Heydar fought in a lot of wars, he gained control of most of the north-western Iran, and finally got killed in a war with Yaghoob Aagh Ghouyounlu, Ozoun Hassan's son.

When Heydar died in(1499), Yaghoob improsoned his three children: Ali, Ismail, and Ebrahim. The followers of Sheikh Heydar elected Ali as their new “Morshed”(leader), but Ali, who was a weak person, was not ready for this heavy responsibility and after a while, he disappointed all of his father’s followers. In this period, the future of Sheikh Safi al-Din’s family was in danger, so Ismail, the middle brother, acted fast. He got control of the “Ghezel Baash”, and organized a movement against Agh Ghouyounlus, he killed Yaghoob Aagh Ghouyounlu in a war(1502), and became the only ruler in north and west of Iran.

Ismail named his dynasty Safavid after his great-great grandfather Sheikh Safii. Immediately after gaining control in the north and west, he started moving further east. He conquered most of Iran and reached the borders of India from the east and Ottoman Empire from the west. He soon was the ruler of most of what we know as Iran. He also began spreading his family's religious beliefs, the Shi’ism. This action caused him a lot of trouble because at that time Shi’its were considered as heretics in most of the Islamic territories. Shi’its had to hide their true beliefs just to avoid getting killed by Sunnies. Now, Shah Ismail was declaring Shi’ism as the official religion of his country.

At this time, the greatest enemies of Iran were Uzbaks in Central Asia and Ottoman Empire on the Asia Minor and they were both Sunny muslims. Uzbeks were descendants of Ghenghis Khan’s first son, Juchi and they were living a Nomadic lifestyle. Ottoman’s were on the north west of Iran and they were at the height of their power at this time. Their empire spread from the borders of Iran on the east to the gates of Vienna on the west. When Sultan Salim heard about Shah Ismail and his Shi’it state, he thought he found a good reason to finally invade Iran and add it to his territories. So he declared war on Shah Ismail and the two armies faced each other in Chaldoran plateau(1514). This war was a disaster for the young Safavi dynasty and Iran both. Iranians were fighting with sword and bow and arrows, but Ottoman’s had Cannons and guns. So they scared Iranians and defeated them in a totaly unequal battle. Ottoman’s invaded the North Western part of the country and they even came close to Ismail’s capital, Tabrizl. Immediately, Ismail turned to the east and gathered another army and faced the Ottomans again. This time he was successful and he pushed them out of the country and regained control. Of course he never gained all of the lost territories; Diyar Bakr and most of what is today Iraq stayed in Ottaman hands.

Although this was a victory, it actually started a series of battles between two countries that lasted throughout the reign of Safavids. This battles can be compared to the endless wars of Iran and Rome during the reign of Sasanid’s. On the other side, Uzbeks were also attacking Iran from the east and tried to do the same thing as their Ottoman allies, but with one exception, they never came further than Mashad or Nishabour in North eastern Iran.

Most of Ismail’s reign was spent in wars with Ottomans and Uzbeks, as well as battles with different oppositions inside the country. Ismail managed to unite Iran after a period of nearly 900 years (end of Sasanid dynasty). He was the first person after the Arab invasion to actually rule Iran, not just part of it. He also was a great patron of arts and literature and his age was the beginning of new Iranian art. He and his successors supported painters such as Reza Abbasi and Kamal al-Din Behzad who reinvented the long forgotten Iranian painting, as painting was considered as an evil art in Islamic belief because it could illustrate the face of god or prophets. He also established the reign of his family as the only rulers of Iran and took the title and position of all of the “local rulers”. But probably his greatest achievement was establishing Shi’ism as the national religion of Iran. This act guaranteed the separation and independence of Iran from other Islamic countries and set the country as an non-Arabic state, something that Iranians are most proud of! It also caused Iranians great troubles because of endless wars with other Islamic states who wanted to destroy this country of heretics!

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