Safavid Empire and Troubles of an Ever-Expanding Imperial Territory

  May 23, 2021   Read time 2 min
Safavid Empire and Troubles of an Ever-Expanding Imperial Territory
The Safavid empire possessed numerous frontier areas like Qandahar. Some of them were ruled as vassal states by native governors, who occasionally bore the title of vali. The territories were often remote and differed from the rest of Persia in the language, culture and religion of their populations.

Sometimes they formed a kind of buffer state between Persia and her powerful neighbours. In the course of time they were integrated with the Persian state as provinces, thereby of course losing their special status. This tendency can be seen even in the reign of Tahmasp I: in fact, from 943/1536-7, with the appointment of a governor in Lahijan, where following the death of Isma'H's benefactor Karkiya Mirza 'All relations between the Safavid court and the ruler of east Gllan had rapidly deteriorated; the appointment was short-lived, though another was made for a few years towards the end of the shah's reign.1 Shirvan lost its autonomy once and for all in 1538, Baku followed some years later and Shakkl in 15 51. Tahmasp also appointed a governor over part of Mazandaran, but the latter could only maintain his position from 1569 to 1576. The rulers of'Arabistan, the Musha'- sha', had remained loyal to the Safavids since their subjugation by IsmaiI. To be sure, Badran b. Falah found himself in a cleft stick when the Ottomans began their operations against Mesopotamia, and had no choice but to go to greet Siileyman the Magnificent on his advance from Hamadan towards Baghdad in 941/1534. Yet his son and heir Sajjad once again acknowledged the shah as his lord when Tahmasp proceeded to Dizful in 948/1541. On this occasion Sajjad was confirmed as governor {hakim) of Haviza. Naturally there were also territories conquered by Isma'Il I which were lost to his son; for example, Bitlls on the Turkish frontier, which has already been mentioned, and Slstan in the far south-east of Persia. Georgia — including the areas of Shirvan and Shakkl — held a particular attraction for the Safavids, as indeed it did for the Ottomans and had also done for previous Muslim dynasties such as the Turkmens. Tahmasp was following an established precedent, therefore, when he undertook no fewer than four Georgian campaigns, three of them in the period 947-61/i 540-54. Great as was the attraction of this land for the Safavids, the difficulties confronting them there were no less daunting, both on account of its geography and because of the military prowess of the Georgians. Tahmasp was not able to hold the capital Tiflis, although it had been captured several times by the Qizilbash, until he succeeded in establishing there as his governor the Bagratid David, a brother of King Simon I, who came to the Persian court, was converted to Islam and entered Tahmasp's service. This, however, did not by any means solve the Georgian problem. Nevertheless, the operations of the Safavids in Georgia had a domestic significance.