Battle of Chaldiran

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The location of Chaldiran is marked by a red dot on the right-hand side of the map.

The Battle of Chaldiran (23 August 1514) was fought between the Ottoman Empire of Selim I and the Safavids in the area of Chaldiran in the eastern Anatolian plateau. The Ottomans won, and the result was that the Ottomans took Eastern Anatolia and Northern Iraq from the Safavids. The loss of Anatolia is a turning point for Safavid history.[1] One feature of the battle was that the Ottoman army used guns and cannons to defeat the cavalry corps. However, the Ottomans led more than twice as many troops as the Safavid army, and it said that the difference in troop strength made the difference between victory and defeat.[2] The defeat of the Safavids in this battle destroyed the myth of Islam I's supremacy and had historical significance. It is also historically significant in that it switched the belonging of the Kurds from the Safavids to the Ottomans. Kurdish sheikhs, who had initially accepted Safavid suzerainty, recognized that the power of the Safavid dynasty had begun to wane since Ismail's defeat at Chaldiran and began to assert their independence. Then, Selim I was able to win the loyalty of the Ottomans by providing financial and military support to the Kurdish sheikhs.[3]

Background[change | change source]

In the 16th century, the Islamic world was dominated by three major empires. The Ottoman Empire fell Constantinople and controlled the Balkans and the Anatolian Plateau. The Safavid dynasty expanded its power in Iran using Turkic cavalrymen, the Qizilbash. And the Mughal Empire, which ruled northern India.[4] A severe threat to the Ottoman Empire was the Safavid dynasty.

Safavid dynasty[change | change source]

The Safavid dynasty was founded in March 1501 by Ismail I, a 15-year-old descendant of the Safavid family from Azerbaijan, Iran.[2] The Safavids were hostile to the Ottoman Empire, which was Sunni, as the state religion was Shi'a Islam. Furthermore, the Safavids became a threat to the Ottoman Empire, with growing support among the Turkic nomads of eastern Anatolia.[5][6] Ismail aimed to create a Shia society, and forced conversions took place. There was a massacre of Sunnis who rebelled against this in the Tabriz.[7] In addition, Ismail expanded his control by annexing Azerbaijan and large parts of Iran, Baghdad, Khorasan and Diyarbakr.[8]

Ottoman empire[change | change source]

When Sultan Selim ascended to the Ottoman throne in 1512, relations between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid dynasty changed radically.[6] Selim I gained the position of sultan after a power struggle with his brothers. He eliminated his brothers, who were rivals for the throne, one after the other, and one of them fled to Ismail I of the Safavid dynasty.[9] Furthermore, Selim ruled Trabzon for nearly 25 years from 1487 and was based in Trabzon to fight the Safavid invasion.[10] This experience also contributed to Selim's conviction that the Safavid threat was the biggest problem for the Ottoman Empire.[11] And in 1514, he launched a campaign against the Safavids against Shah Ismail to conquer Eastern Anatolia, including Erzurum and Erzincan.[6][12]

Progress of the battle[change | change source]

Battle of Chaldiran. The gun-carrying soldiers in the bottom right are the Janissary from Ottoman empire and the Safavid soldiers are on the left

The Ottoman army was dominated by elite janissaries and included an additional 200 cannons, 100 field guns and 8 000 camels. In contrast, the Safavid cavalry was less than half of the Ottoman army.[2] In this battle, the Safavid cavalry of Qizilbash attacked in a mass assault, and then the Ottoman army responded with artillery fire.[6] Ismail I had been proposed to surprise the Ottomans before they had finished their positions, but he scoffed at this proposal and decided to wait for the enemy's positions and attack in a straightforward manner.[1] The battle opened with a wave of attacks by Safavid cavalry, and in the first half of the cavalry battle, the Safavids held the upper hand. However, in the second half of the battle, the battle tilted in favor of the Ottomans, who had superior firepower, mobilizing not only rifles but also artillery. In the end, the Safavid army succumbed to the firepower of the Ottomans and fled westward, leaving Tabriz in their hands.[11]

Disparity in Troops
Ottoman empire Safavid iran
Sultan Selim I Shah Ismail I

or 100,000[6]

or 120,000 ~ 212,000[13]


or 80,000[6]

or 12,000~20,000[13]

Afterwards[change | change source]

In Ottoman Empire[change | change source]

Selim I was unable to capitalize on this victory. Despite chasing them to Tabriz, he allowed Ismail to escape.[6] Furthermore, Selim's original plan was to spend the winter in Tabriz and fight the Safavids again in the spring. However, the soldiers were so exhausted from the previous battles that he could not get their approval. Therefore, he had to retreat and return to Istanbul.[10] However, the Ottoman victories can be said to have extended their power. After annexing eastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia, they controlled the Central Asian trade route between Tabriz and Bursa. The following year, it annexed the Mamluk dynasty of Syria and Egypt and brought the Holy Land of the Hejaz under its control.[14]

Ottoman Tile Panel Iznik in 16th century

During the siege of Tabriz, the Ottoman army brought many merchants and ceramic artisans back to their own country.[15] The artisans belonged to a pottery factory in Istanbul and were responsible for decorating the tiles on most of the buildings constructed by the Ottoman Empire by the 1550s. This is said to have contributed significantly to the development of Iznik pottery.[16]

In Safavid[change | change source]

The Safavids lost Eastern Anatolia to the Ottomans, which meant that they lost an important source of troops from the Turkish army. Thousands of Qizilbash tribesmen were also killed. Although Ismail I himself was wounded and managed to escape after terrible hardship, he had been believed to be invincible, but he had lost his prestige in Iran.[6] He himself lost confidence and never led his troops into battle again.[1] Tribal leaders were given authority and the struggle for control over them became the central political issue of the Safavid dynasty, changing the balance of power within the coalition. A power struggle ensued, which lasted until the reign of his son and successor, Tahmasp I.[17]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Wood, Barry (January 2017). "The Battle of Chālderān: Official History and Popular Memory". Iranian Studies. 50 (1): 79–105. doi:10.1080/00210862.2016.1159504. ISSN 0021-0862. S2CID 163512376.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Amanat, Abbas (2017). Iran : a modern history. New Haven. ISBN 978-0-300-23146-5. OCLC 1005583110.
  3. Sicker, Martin (2000). The Islamic world in ascendancy : from the Arab conquests to the siege of Vienna. Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. ISBN 0-313-00111-1. OCLC 55103313.
  4. Dale, Stephen F. (2009), "The rise of Muslim empires", The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 48–76, doi:10.1017/cbo9780511818646.005, ISBN 9780511818646, retrieved 17 May 2022
  5. "Nomads in the Modern Middle East", Nomads in the Middle East, Cambridge University Press, pp. 199–230, 2 December 2021, doi:10.1017/9781139028813.010, ISBN 9781139028813, S2CID 244092763, retrieved 17 May 2022
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire. Gábor Ágoston, Bruce Alan Masters. New York, NY: Facts On File. 2009. ISBN 978-0-8160-6259-1. OCLC 227205977.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. HerausgeberIn., Matthee, Rudolph P. 1953- (22 July 2021). The Safavid world. ISBN 978-1-138-94406-0. OCLC 1251760182.
  8. Atçıl, Abdurrahman (May 2017). "The Safavid Threat and Juristic Authority in the Ottoman Empire During the 16Th Century". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 49 (2): 295–314. doi:10.1017/S002074381700006X. ISSN 0020-7438. S2CID 159557002.
  9. İnalcık, Halil (21 November 2013). The Ottoman empire : the classical age, 1300-1600. ISBN 978-1-78022-699-6. OCLC 893654243.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Reza., Baraheni (1988). God's shadow : prison poems. UMI Out-of-Print Books on Demand. ISBN 0-253-13218-5. OCLC 557244525.
  11. 11.0 11.1 J., Shaw, Stanford (2010). History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-511-61497-2. OCLC 958552836.
  12. The Cambridge history of Turkey. Volume 2, The Ottoman Empire as a world power, 1453-1603. Suraiya Faroqhi, Kate Fleet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2013. ISBN 978-1-139-04904-7. OCLC 852712564.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Auteur., Sarwar, Hafiz Ghulam (1975). History of Shah Ismail Safawi. AMS Press. ISBN 0-404-56322-8. OCLC 949099372.
  14. Ruthven, Malise (2004), Historical atlas of Islam, Azim Nanji, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-01385-9, OCLC 55527966, retrieved 18 May 2022
  15. E., Dumper, Michael. Stanley, Bruce (2007). Cities of the Middle East and North Africa : a historical encyclopedia. ABC CLIO. ISBN 978-1-57607-919-5. OCLC 912609090.
  16. Necipoglu, Gulru (1990). "From International Timurid to Ottoman: A Change of Taste in Sixteenth-Century Ceramic Tiles". Muqarnas. 7: 136–170. doi:10.2307/1523126. JSTOR 1523126.
  17. E., STREUSAND, DOUGLAS (2019). ISLAMIC GUNPOWDER EMPIRES : ottomans, safavids, and mughals. ROUTLEDGE. ISBN 978-0-367-09592-5. OCLC 1110670098.