Shah Abbas and the Golden Age of the Safavid Period
Isfahan Golden Age and its flourishing, especially Safavid period, has an inextricable connection with Shah Abbas I. A great ruler who chose Isfahan as the third capital of the Safavid dynasty in 1598 and spent forty-two years of his life toward its beautification and eminence. Under the influence of Herat's architecture, painting and culture, King Abbas made many changes to the city.
This young prince as a connoisseur did astounding precocity cultural service in this city. At the age of seven, an emissary from the royal court arrived in Herat accompanied by his favorite painter, Habibollah of Saveh. Abbas appreciated the artist's work and appropriated his master without ceremony. He came to power in 1587 and began to eliminate all enemies. In the late 20s, Shah Abbas lived up to his power. His "revolution from above" preceded that of Louis XIV, but was at least as deep. As an energetic person and a skilled craftsman, Shah Abbas loved hunting and horse riding.
Like his contemporary king Akbar in India, Shah Abbas enjoyed discussing religion with Christians, with whom he was very tolerant and protective, and found it amusing to see his own religious fight against the arguments of the missionaries. Like many oriental monarchs, he liked to walk among his subjects, and often he walked in the streets incognito.
Another very notable characteristic of Shah Abbas was his extreme seriousness. He never undertook any project without following the advice of his astrologers. This blind faith in the stars was responsible for the curious episode of his temporary abdication in 1591. Having been informed by the court astrologer that the configuration of the planets threatened the occupant of the throne, he designated a certain Yusuf as shah until 'the danger had passed. Yusuf was crowned and enjoyed four days of glory; on the fifth day, he was executed.
In 1598, Shah Abbas transferred the Safavid capital of Qazvin to Isfahan, where he built a brand new city, playing with the old one in a hurry. His intention was to build a new capital worthy of the Safavid state at the height of its power. Under the direction of Shah Abbas, Isfahan quickly became one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The change of status of the city from a provincial capital to an imperial capital led to a large increase in the population. Many of the newcomers were highly skilled artisans who sought the necessary patronage. Others came for commercial reasons, and among them were thousands of Armenian Christians, forcibly displaced by the Shah from northwest Iran to Julfa. The new seat of authority was a vital embodiment of Iran's new system and new force, as well as a strategic movement towards the Persian-speaking center of the Iranian plateau.
Isfahan under Shah Abbas
Successors The period following the death of Shah Abbas, with the exception of a short interlude during the reign of his grandson Shah Abbas II, was marked by a gradual decline. However, this decline was felt much less in Isfahan than in other parts of Iran. At the end of the Safavid period, Isfahan remained one of the most magnificent cities in the world. According to a description that appears in Chardin's travelogue, Isfahan contained 162 mosques, 48 madresehs, 1,802 commercial buildings, and 283 public baths. Most of these buildings no longer survive, but those that remain are some of the most beautiful monuments in the city.
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