Abbas II of Persia

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Abbas II (Persian: عباس دوم, romanizedʿAbbās II; born Soltan Mohammad Mirza; 30 August 1632 – 26 October 1666) was the seventh Shah of Safavid Iran from 1642 to 1666. As the eldest son of Safi and his Circassian wife, Anna Khanum, he ascended the throne when he was nine-year-old, and was placed on a regency led by Saru Taqi, the erstwhile grand vizier of his father. During his regency, Abbas received formal kingly education that until then, he was denied from. In 1645, at the age of fifteen, he was able to remove Saru Taqi from power, and with a purge of the bureaucracy ranks in following, asserted his authority over court and began his absolute rule.

Abbas II
A painting of a sitted man, wearing a royal crown.
Shah Abbas II in 1663
Shah of Iran
Reign15 May 1642 – 26 October 1666
Coronation15 May 1642 in Kashan
PredecessorSafi I
SuccessorSuleiman I
BornSoltan Mohammad Mirza
30 August 1632
Died26 October 1666 (aged 34)
HouseSafavid dynasty
FatherSafi I
MotherAnna Khanum
ReligionTwelver Shia Islam
TughraAbbas II's signature

The reign of Abbas II was marked by peacefulness and progression. He intentionally avoid a war with the Ottoman Empire, and the relations with the Uzbeks were friendly. On the other hand, as a military commander, Abbas led his army during the war with the Mughal Empire, which ended in the Safavid victory and the retaking of Kandahar. Moreover, on his behest, Rostom Khan invaded the Kingdom of Kakheti in 1648 and sent the rebellious monarch, Teimuraz I, into exile; in 1651, Teimuraz tried to reclaim his lost crown with the support of the Russia, but the Russians were defeated by Abbas' army in the small conflict fought between 1651 and 1653; the wars major event was the destruction of the Russian fortress in the Iranian side of the Terek river. Furthermore, Abbas also suppressed a rebellion led by Georgians between 1659 and 1660, in which he acknowledged Vakhtang V as the King of Kartli, but also had the rebel leaders executed.

From the middle years of his reign onwards, Abbas was occupied with a financial decline that plagued the realm until the end of the Safavid dynasty. In order to increase the revenue, in 1654, Abbas appointed Mohammad Beg, a distinguished economist, however, he was unable to overcome the economic decline. His efforts often damaged the treasury and he himself was corrupt by taking bribes from the Dutch East India Company and nepotism towards his family members. In 1661, Mohammad Beg was replaced with Mirza Mohammad Karaki, a man of inaction and weak in regards of administration, who was an outsider to what the shah did in the inner palace, to the point when he was ignorant to the existence of Sam Mirza, the future Suleiman and the next Safavid shah of Iran.

Abbas II died on 25 September 1666, at the age of thirty-four. A king neither "strong" nor "weak", the Safavid historiography has often held admiration for his administration while also condemning his indifference towards the financial decline of his realm. The Western historians and observers portray him as a magnanimous and tolerant monarch who ruled his kingdom wisely with the absence of rebellions and relatively secure roads. Some criticise him for acts of cruelty similar to his father and the forced conversion of the Iranian Jews, but most praise him for his sense of justice, his generosity and his tolerance towards Christians, having an Armenian Christian as a friend himself. Historians after the fall of the Safavid dynasty in 1722, remember him as forceful ruler who temporarily reversed the decline of the Safavid state into one of stability and an era of peace.


Abbas' father, Safi, succeeded the kingdom from his grandfather, Abbas the Great.[1] Secluded and of passive character, Safi was unable to fill the power vacuum Abbas the Great left behind. His officials would undermine his authority and revolts were constantly breaking out across the realm. Moreover, the continuing war with the Ottoman Empire, started with initial success during Abbas the Great's reign, ended with the humiliating defeat of Iran and the Treaty of Zuhab which returned much of Iran's conquests in Mesopotamia to the Ottomans.[2]

In order to assert his authority, Safi purged every potential claimant to his throne, including the sons of the Safavid princesses, and the already blinded princes; the purge also saw the deaths of the leading figures of the realm.[3] Safi was cruel in his purge, an example being the night of 20 February 1632, also known as the bloody Ma'bas, in which he put forty females of the harem to death. The last act of his bloodshed was killing his grand vizier, Mirza Taleb Khan, and replacing him with a ghulam (military slave,) named Mirza Mohammad Taqi Khan, more famously known as Saru Taqi.[4]

As a eunuch, Saru Taqi had access to the royal harem, and used this ability to forge relations with the shah's concubines. He influenced Safi's mind greatly, persuading him to increase the royal domains with converting the Fars province into the crown demesne.[5] Furthermore, he imposed heavy taxes throughout the realm, especially on the Isfahan's Armenian population, and investigated the revenue flows of the previous governor of Gilan.[6] He was labeled as greedy and miser and was accused of accepting bribery by the Western observers.[5] In 1634, Saru Taqi appointed his brother, Mohammad Saleh Beg, as the governor of Mazandaran to counteract to the Mar'ashi sayyid line. His family held the province's governorship until the end of Safi's reign.[7]

When Safi died from excessive drinking on 12 May 1642, he left behind a country smaller than it was when he inherited it. A man, weak in mind of in character, Safi manifested many problems that later on plagued the Safavid empire to its decline, one of them being the lack of preparation for the crown prince to rule, and the exclusion of the Qizilbash, the Shi'ia tribes that followed Ismail I into his wars and helped to establish the Safavid dynasty.[8] Instead, a coalition of concubines, eunuchs and ghulams dominated the power from the last decade of his reign onwards.[9]

Ascension and regencyEdit

According to the Dutch report, Soltan Mohammad Mirza was born on 30 August 1632 in Qazvin.[10][a] The eldest son of Safi of Persia and Anna Khanum, he grew up in the royal harem surrounded by women and eunuchs and was put under the tutoring of Rajab Ali Tabrizi.[12] His mother was a Circassian concubine who only gained a political standing in the harem and distinguished herself from other nameless concubines because she had birthed the first male, and thus heir, to the shah.[12] Saru Taqi had a close relationship with Anna Khanum, as observed by travelers such as Jean Chardin, he was an agent and confidant to her, and the queen mother ruled the realm through him upon Mohammad Mirza's ascension.[12]

During Mohammad Mirza's childhood, Safi sought to have him blinded like his other sons, but thanks to a eunuch who was appointed to blind the princes, he retained his sight by feigning blindness until the end of his father's reign (a reason why he remained illiterate by the age ten).[11] When he was nine-and-a-half, the young prince ascended the throne on 15 May 1642, four days after the death of Safi, and following a meeting of the state council provided by Saru Taqi.[10] In his coronation ceremony, Mohammad Mirza adopted the regnal name Abbas, and issued a tax remission of 500,000 tomans, in addition to a ban on the consumption of alcoholic drinks.[10] The grand vizier maintained his position in the smooth transition of power, removing rivals such as Rustam Bek, an influential Georgian figure during Safi's reign, to consolidate his power.[12] Abbas, until now secluded from the outer world like his father, was sent to Qazvin to catch up on the education intended for a king; and he made such good progression on reading and writing that he was soon introduced to the religious texts. In this time, Abbas forged a lifelong interest on theological subjects and this interest may have had rooted in reading a new Persian translation of Al-Kafi.[13] In addition to his studies (which weren't only on religious subjects), the shah also learned riding, archery, polo and other equestrian games.[14]

Through the first years of his reign, a coalition of Saru Taqi, Jani Beg Khan Shamlu, the qurchi-bashi[b] and Mohammad Beg, a statesman and the future grand vizier, effectively ruled Iran.[15] In addition, Saru Taqi and Jani Khan had a family alliance through the marriage of Mirza Qasem, the former's nephew, to the daughter of Jani Khan.[16] However, this alliance did not save the grand vizier when on 11 October 1645 Jani Khan, along with five other conspirators, attacked and murdered him on his house.[17] Jani Khan long had influenced Abbas' mind with implanting the idea that Saru Taqi was driving the realm into ruin and posed a threat to the shah himself. He murdered Saru Taqi by the authority of the shah.[15] The death of Saru Taqi gave the shah the much needed confidant to assert his authority over the court; so, in the same year, he sought to purge the ranks of bureaucracy like his father did before him. The events were no less bloody than Safi's purge, according to the Dutch observers, between 8,000 and 10,000 people were killed in the aftermath of Saru Taqi's assassination, one of them being Jani Khan himself, who was poisoned by the royal sommelier, Safi Quli Beg.[18] The real endorser for Jani Khan's death was Anna Khanum who, saddened from Saru Taqi's death, also ordered the purge of the Shamlu tribe, from which Jani Khan originated from.[19]

An Indian artwork of Abbas II (right) with his grand vizier, Khalifeh Soltan.

Still needing a regent, Abbas called for Khalifeh Soltan to serve him as the grand vizier.[19] Khalifeh Soltan had once been the grand vizier to both Abbas the Great and Safi from 1623 to 1632, although, his tenure bore no significant to others before him. He was a cleric, in fact, the first cleric to become the grand vizier. He was concerned with enacting the sharia, however, he was only successful in the matter of prohibiting visual misrepresentations of the religious law. Even then, he could never eliminate the widespread habit of drinking wine, only tame it with imposing sharp penalties.[17] Khalifeh's most successful policy regarding enacting sharia was banning prostitution. By his insistence, Abbas issued a firman, in which, he prohibited public prostitution. Although, Prostitutes were still allowed to work in their clients houses.[20]

The death of Saru Taqi and appointing Kahlifeh Soltan is often considered the point when Abbas began his absolute rule and ended his regency. In the age of fifteen, the shah was more energetic to partake in the governmental works unlike his father. One of his methods to consolidate his power was centralisation. He confiscated Saru Taqi's familial lands as his personal estates and throughout his reign also incorporate other cities such as Hamadan, Ardabil and Kerman into the royal domain.[21]


War for KandaharEdit

A painting of Abbas II while negotiating with the Mughal ambassador.

Abbas' reign was predominantly peaceful; the shah didn't desire a war after the lasting peace with the Ottoman Empire and, except a war with the Mughal empire on reconquering Kandahar in 1649, did not take any foreign advantages.[22] Kandahar was surrendered to the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in 1638 by its governor, Ali Mardan Khan. Safi in his later years was mustering an army to retake the city, however, his death halted a potential war.[23] When Shah Jahan sought to advance in Transoxiana in early 1647, he sent an envoy to the Safavid court, and after negotiations, Abbas agreed to remain neutral and do not take advantages from Shah Jahan's military campaign.[24]

In 1648, when Shah Jahan catastrophically failed in conquesting the ancestral Timurid capital, Samarkand, the powerful factions of the court endorsed Abbas to reconquer Kandahar.[25] Abbas instantly took the command of 50000 men and marched towards Kandahar via Afghanistan.[26] The shah's army reached the city's outskirts in January 1649, and after two months of fighting, took the possession of the city's strongholds and the areas around it.[11] During the siege, the Iranian army was demoralised by oppressive commanders, lack of pay, and substandard accommodation, and thus suffered great loses.[24] The army that Abbas had inherited, although virtually unchanged from those of his great-grandfather, was poorly equipped and underfed. Many of his soldiers deserted during the march from Afghanistan, and the fact that the Safavid army could nevertheless reconquer the city was more owed to the weak political standing of the Mughals than their strength.[26]

The Mughals did not hesitated to send relief force; the first of which was a counterattack led by Prince Aurangzeb which proved ineffectual.[27] Two years later, Shah Jahan himself sat out to retake the city with an army fully equipped with elephants and canons, his effort proved vain, and after four months of siege, he had to retreat because of the approaching cold season.[24] The last Mughal attempt to take Kandahar was in 1653, when Prince Dara Shikoh took lead of an army and prompted Abbas to mobilise his men. However, a growing financial crisis hampered his efforts. Even then, the Mughal army struggled to sustain the siege with their medium-sized guns, inefficient for a siege. Moreover, the organisation problems, along with lack of military resolve, led the expedition to fail.[28] Kandahar thence remained in Iranian hands until the Afghan revolt in 1709.[10]

The Northern FrontiersEdit

Painting from the Qajar era, perhaps anachronistically depicting the Safavid victory over the Russian forces in 1651–1653

The main conflict of Georgia during Abbas' reign was between Teimuraz I and Rostom of Kartli. Teimuraz I, who ruled both Kingdoms of Kakheti and Kartli, had always followed an anti-Safavid policy, and was eager to break the Iranian dominance over his realm. In 1633, with the support of Safi, Rostom Khan proclaimed himself the King of Karteli and invaded Teimuraz's realm.[29] Teimuraz remained the King of Kakheti and disturbed Rostom's borders until 1648, when at the behest of Abbas, Rostom invaded Kakheti and sent Teimuraz into exile.[30] In 1659, Rostom died and the crown of Kartli became vacant. Abbas sought to settle the Qizilbash Turkoman tribes in the Georgian region, a measure that incited a major rebellion known as the Bakhtrioni uprising.[31] The rebels, led by Zaal of Aragvi, organised an alliance between the Georgian forces against the common enemy and made a sudden attack to the Iranian fortresses of Bakhtrioni and Alaverdi, and successfully drove out the Qizilbash tribes. Abbas decided to abandon his policy, and acknowledged Vakhtang V as King of Kartli, however, he also had the rebel leaders executed.[32] In order to reconcile with the Georgians, Abbas later married Vakhtang's daughter, Anuka.[33]

During Abbas' reign, Iran's sphere of influence over Caucasus clashed primarily with the Russia and less with the Ottoman Empire. From 1646, the Russians had began undermining the rights of foreign merchants who delivered silk via Iran to Sweden, and in 1649, the Russian government issued a new policy of economic regulations known as Sobornoye Ulozheniye, which further curtailed the foreigner's rights.[34] The relations between Russia and Iran was already intermittent when in Abbas' early years, Russian officials were diminished for their renewed anti-Ottomanism. Between 1647 and 1653 the relations became even more tensed over a series of caravan robberies, and detention of Russian merchants from Iran.[34] These tensions led to a small conflict in 1651–1653, when the Russians tried to expend their territories to south the Terek river which the Safavids considered as part of their realm.[35] The Russians were trying to build a fortress in support of Teimuraz, the deposed King of Kakheti, who had turned to them for aid. When Abbas learned of this, he decided to act against the Russians, while his was simultaneously preoccupied with his campaign in Kandahar. A troop was assembled from the forces of Ardabil, Karabakh, and Astara and under the leadership of Khosrow Soltan, a ghulam of Armenian origin, attacked the fortress, drove out the Russians, and destroyed their settling.[36] Negotiations over the outstanding issues would continue for ten years, with couriers going back and forth between Moscow and Isfahan.[34]

Financial DeclineEdit

Silver coin of Abbas II, dated 1658/9 and struck at the Ganja mint. As a part of his plan to increase the state's revenue, the grand vizier Mohammad Beg had the gold coins prohibited, therefore flooding the realm with silver coins.[37]

Khalifeh Soltan had found an adversary in the master of the hunt, Allahverdi Khan. Allahverdi Khan, an Armenian ghulam and the childhood friend of Abbas, had rose quickly in the ranks of the bureaucracy, first becoming the master of the hunt and then, the qurchi-bashi in 1649, by the early 1650s, Allahverdi was the shah's absolute favourite, making him an influential figure on appointing the next grand vizier when Khalifeh Soltan died in 1654.[38] Abbas appointed Mohammad Beg, an Armenian by origin, and the intendant-general of the court. His appointment was endorsed by Allahverdi.[39] Mohammad Beg's tenure saw an economic decline, mainly driven from Abbas' costly campaign to Kandahar and the scarcity of the silk for trade. Notwithstanding of his long-standing economical experience, Mohammd Beg could not come up with a solution to the immoderate outlay on the court and the expensive investment on the army, and further put the state's income into decline with enhancing centralisation, a process that could not be supported by New Julfa's trade network.[40] In the former's case, Mohammad Beg had the position of sipahsalar become vacant to prevent salary he considered unnecessary, furthermore, he eliminated the artillery department of the army.[37] In order to increase the royal revenue, Mohammad Beg sought to sell the many mansions Abbas had confiscated, according to Jean Chardin, the shah had more than 137 of these mansions in Isfahan alone. Of course, no one came forth to by these mansions and Mohammad Beg's scheme failed.[41] He also prohibited the usage of gold coins, to the point where the state was flooded with the silver coinage.[37]

Perhaps the most imaginative and simultaneously, disastrous of Mohammad Beg's measures was his plan to unlock and harness some of the realm's natural resources. He made an effort to mine deposits of precious metal in the vicinity of Isfahan, and in order to do that, he employed a self-styled French charlatan Chapelle de Han whose assistance proved to be little more than a fraud. Moreover, he also opened coal mines, another fruitless attempt.[41] All of these failures, along with his aloofness from the administration matters, and nepotism towards his family, made Mohammad Beg a hated figure between the courtiers. Nonetheless, he survived his adversaries and even as far as petitioning Abbas to grant him monopoly over state affairs, including access to the harem. The shah took to spending most of his time either in the inner palace or on hunting outings and drinking parties, while Mohammad Beg hid unpleasant news from him.[42] Ultimately, Mohammad Beg fell from the shah's grace by the efforts of his initial endorser, Allahverdi Khan, who informed Abbas of Mohammad Beg's lies and deceiving, and the shah dismissed and exiled him to Qom on 19 January 1661. Mohammad Beg's dismissal was widely seen as a loss by the Dutch East India Company who enjoyed exporting gold secretly through Iran's trade routs by bribing Mohammad Beg.[43]


A drawing of Abbas II's tomb in Fatima Masumeh Shrine.

In 1661, Abbas appointed Mirza Mohammad Karaki as his fourth and last grand vizier.[39] It is unclear why the shah made Karaki grand vizier other than on account of a satisfactory performance as the sadr-i mamalik (minister of religion) and perhaps because he was well integrated into the ruling elite, being from the prestigious Karaki family that trace its line back to Shaykh Ali al-Karaki, the deputy of the Hidden Imam for Tahmasp I.[44] Karaki himself was described as a man of inaction, sluggish and impractical, and was a puppet to a faction of the courtiers.[45] His tenure saw the promotion of the trade via the overland route to the Levant and the checking to the ongoing specie problem that Mohammad Beg had left behind.[46] However, he was caught up in the domestic crisis that he was marginal to, when in 1663, he had the qurchi-bashi Murtaza Quli Khan Qajar decapitated and tempted the shah to also execute his successor. Even then, Karaki could never influence Abbas as much as Mohammad Beg did. During his tenure, the shah was more inclined to spend time in the inner palace and let the grand vizier to be ignorant to what he did. So much so, that Karaki wasn't aware of existence of Sam Mirza, the shah's eldest son.[47]

During the last decade of his reign, Abbas more or less had withdrawn from the state affairs to engage in the pleasures of the flesh, and drinking carouses.[10] At first, his persist drinking did not seem to have affects on his governing, but slowly, it got the better of him. He threw luxurious parties and in the aftermath of these parties, he would go as far as hiding from the public for two weeks.[48] Finally, On 26 October 1666, while in his winter town, Behshahr, Abbas II died of various debilities and illnesses, including syphilis and throat cancer as a result of his excessive drinking.[49] He was buried in Qom.[10] Abbas was succeeded by his eldest son, Sam Mirza, whose mother was a Georgian concubine named Nakihat Khanum.[50] Overall, he had two sons, and reportedly, he favoured his younger son, Hamza Mirza, from a Circassian concubine.[51]



A royal firman of Abbas II regarding granting pension to the Shi'ia scholar Mohammad Bagher Sabzevari.

Abbas II's reign shows great paradox in regard of to the treatment of non Shi`is. He propagated Shi'ism as a matter of official policy, and had the Shi'ia jurisprudence works translated to Persian, and consulted the ulama on these taxes.[52] He maintained friendly relations with the renowned contemporary Shi'ia scholars of his time such as Mohsen Fayz Kashani, Mohammad Bagher Sabzevari and Mohammad Taqi Majlesi (Father of Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi).[53] However, he did not practice Shi'ism with zealotry. The shah paid his respects to his ancestral Sufi order, the Safaviyya with building lodges in the order's most holy city, Ardabil, and engaged in discussions with Sufis.[54] Even then, persecution on Sufis were increased in his reign; an example being the emergence anti-Sufi writing by scholars such as Mir Lawhi and Muhammad Tahir Qummi.[55] Abu Muslim, who was often portrayed as a messianic figure by the population, also was targeted by essayists during Khalifeh Soltan's tenure, one of them being Ahmad ibn Muhammad Ardabili who wrote Hadiqat al Shi'a.[56] Abbas too wasn't spared by the Shi'ia scholars, who once argued that he should abdicate to make room for a king more devoted on account of his unholy lifestyle.[57] Abbas enjoyed alcohol carousing with his courtiers, yet, he would dismiss his staff for their drunkenness. In 1653, the shah was persuaded to give up drinking, possibly by Sabzevari, who argued the monarchs who gave up drinking were stronger, happier, and more likely to live longer, an example being the long reign of Tahmasp I, and thus encouraged Abbas to follow his ancestor's path.[58] Thereafter, for a short time between 1653 and 1654, selling alcohol was forbidden.[10]

Regardless of his personal beliefs, Abbas still continued the religious controversy, even fiercer than his predecessors.[10] At various times between n 1645 and 1654, the Safavid authorities sought to force Iranian Jews to convert and forced the Armenian Christians to decamp into New Julfa.[59] According to Abbas-nama by Mohammad Taher Vahid Qazvini, 20000 Jewish families converted to Islam, however, the Armenian historian, Arakel of Tabriz, suggests the number of 350.[60] During Mohammad Beg's tenure, some of the Christians churches were banned and the Christians were forbidden to construct churches.[61] Three years after Mohammad Beg's dismissal in 1664, the construction of the Vank Cathedral and five other churches were completed.[62]


Either from the lasting peace with the Ottoman Empire or from the economical crisis during his reign, the Safavid army under Abbas II saw its decline.[11] The decline was first evident among the provincial contingents and not as yet among the main body of the royal army, which in 1654 was in fact increased by a small corps of qurchi infantry, consisting of 600 men and later increasing to 2000 men.[13] However, with the economical decline upcoming, the state could no longer provide money for a lasting army while the court enjoyed extravagant and luxurious living. Therefore, serving soldiers became impoverished.[11] The result of such neglects was that discipline disintegrated and the strength of units was allowed to fall, so that it was eventually said of the Safavid army was quite useful for military parades but no use at all for war.[13]


Abbas II receiving the Uzbek ambassador. The identifying inscription reads: al-Sultan Shah Abbas (and) Akbar ibn Humayun, though the scene does not appear to feature Akbar or any other Indian figure. Painting belonging to Qajar era, circa 1880.

Abbas II's foreign policy was marked with caution and calculation.[10] During his reign, the European maritime companies such as the VOC and the East India Company who had previously established their basis in Shiraz and Isfahan, were endorsed by Abbas by privileges given to them.[63] The main trade of the Persian Gulf was the various silks such as brocade, taffeta, velvet and satin bought by the Dutch and the English and in return, they would import to Iran spices, sugar and textiles. However, from time to time, the companies' presence would prove troublesome, its apex being in 1645, when the VOC was prompted to lay a naval blockade around Bandar Abbas regarding the unfavourable silk terms. The action was short-lived, for the Dutch, wary of their own commercial losses and the expense involved, gave in to Iranian demands, after which they ended up concluding a new silk treaty in 1652.[64] Furthermore, the French East India Company also attempted to establish trade relations with Iran. Abbas sanctioned for these relations in a firman issued shortly before his death, but for the time being nothing came of them.[65]

From the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639, relations with the Ottoman Empire was peaceful and remained as such during Abbas' reign. He was not tempted to expand his territory, notwithstanding of favourable opportunities that occurred during his reign, for instance, in Transcaucasia, where the risk of war was so acute that the governor of the Turkish border provinces had even evacuated the civilian population in expectation of a Persian attack, or in Basra, where the shah's aid had been sought to settle a struggle for the succession.[66] No dangers arose from the Ottomans, whether because the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed IV, was already occupied in the Cretan War, or because of the internal crises such as the Fire of 1660 which burnt Two-thirds of Istanbul.[65] As a sign of lasting peace, in 1657, a new trade agreement was signed between the two empires which further assured the importance of the Anatolian trade routes and the Armenians’ role in the overland silk trade.[67]

The relations with the Uzbeks were also peaceful. The new Khan of Khiva, Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur, who had spent many years in Safi's court in exile, was enthroned in the same year as Abbas. He did not take any advantages towards the Greater Khorasan.[25] However, relations with the Khanate of Bukhara was hostile, although this hostility was not based on raids, but rather, on the conflicts within the ruling dynasty of Bukhara, and the fugitive khans taking shelter in Iran.[25] In 1646, Nader Mohammad Khan, the then Khan of Bukhara, took refuge in the young Abbas' court after being dethroned by his son, Abd al-Aziz Khan and losing Balkh to the Mughals. Abbas treated him with the utmost consideration and honour, sending his own physician to treat him when he fell ill, and in return, Mohammad Khan showed extreme delight and great courtesy when the Shah came to visit him.[68] Initially, the shah wanted to give Mohammad Khan military assistance to reclaim his throne, but Saru Taqi prevented him. At the end, with the Iranian cooperation, Mohammad Khan and Abd al-Aziz settled for a shaken truce which only led to another strife in early 1650s, and Mohammad Khan again taking refuge in Isfahan. He died while en route to Isfahan in 1653.[69] Later, Abbas arranged agreements with the Uzbeks of Bukhara and kept them from raiding into the Iranian territory thereon until his death.[10]


Abbas' reign saw further constructions in Isfahan, he built the Khaju Bridge, completed the Chehel Sotoun, and expanded Ali Qapu.[70] His constructions in Isfahan led to the expansion of the city's public sphere, generating a lively coffeehouse culture combining royal patronage and popular entertainment in the form of Naqali (storytelling of Shahnameh).[71] The sponsorship for arts continued in his reign, causing arts to blossom in the mid-to-late-seventeenth century. The Persian miniature reached new heights of diversity with its leading figure Mo'en Mosavver, a student of Reza Abbasi, who contributed in at least five manuscripts of Shahnameh and was known for his single-page illustrations.[72] Moreover, the popular demand for traditional miniature was also strong in this era; painters such as Afzal al-Husayni and Malik Husayn Isfahani produced works for Shahnameh and also pictures of young men seated with bottles of wine and fruit.[72] Abbas hired Dutch painters and studied drawing under them, but he also supported Iranian painters who painted in the Farangi-sazi or the Europeanising painting style.[73] Two of Abbas' court artists, Mohammad Zaman and Aliquli Jabbadar were most influenced by the European painting style and made efforts to either copy them or to demonstrate traditional Iranian themes in the Western style.[74] Abbas himself was fascinated by the European paintings, therefore, he sent a group of painters to Europe for further training. Among them was the aforementioned Mohammad Zaman who spent two or three years in Rome.[75] The masterpiece of Abbas II's reign is the Chehel Sotoun's wall paintings. A palace intended for the Nowruz festivals, the Chehel Sotoun's wall paintings constitute the most important part of the palace's decorative program. They are often historical scenes: Battle of Marv between Ismail I and Muhammad Shaybani; Tahmasp I receiving Humayun, the Mughal emperor; Abbas I and Vali Muhammad Khan, the Khan of Bukhara; and a painting of Abbas II along with Nader Mohammad Khan.[76]

Iranian ceramics also continued to product in Abbas' reign despite the economical decline. As a result of Chinese influence, the ceramics between 1640s and 1650s became blue and white themed in accordance to the porcelain from China.[77] These ceramics, made mainly in the Kerman workshops, were of sufficient quality to attract the attention of Dutch and English traders based in Bandar Abbas seeking alternatives to Chinese porcelain when, following the Ming dynasty’s collapse in 1643–5, porcelain exports were curtailed until 1683.[78] In addition to ceramics, Kerman, alongside Isfahan and Kashan, continued to outshine as centres of the Persian carpet industry; producing carpets in silk with gold and silver brocade for both the court and non-court Iranian markets.[78]

Personality and appearancesEdit

A painting of Abbas II, currently kept in the Brooklyn Museum.

The Western observers has often portrayed Abbas II's personality in favourable terms. He was generous and magnanimous towards friends and strangers alike, especially in his carousing parties.[10] Abbas decided to take the cup in 1649, when he was only seventeen-years-old, and this aspect of his life is the best-documented one with various of his carousing parties described in details in the Abbas-nama.[79] The shah would usually invite a small number of his favourite courtiers to his drinking parties, throughout the Nowruz festivals and royal hunting parties,[c] he allowed the wine to flow freely, and would often request the Western residents in Isfahan to join him.[80] He would allow the Western men to drink from his golden cup, which was "fully inlaid with precious stones, mostly uncut rubies", and also a gift from the Russian.[81]

Abbas is praised for his sense of justness. In Jean Chardin’s words, he considered himself put on the throne by God to rule as a king responsible for the welfare of all his subjects, not as a tyrant bent on the curtailment of freedom, including the freedom of conscience.[10] In Western eyes, this sense of justness makes his brutality (which sometimes is seen as a fault) akin to the harsh punishments of Abbas the Great rather than the cruelty of Safi.[10] According to Chardin, the Iranians appreciated Abbas' justice, stating that he treated his people favourably, while made himself feared abroad, and that he loved justice and did not abuse his power to oppress his people.[82]

Regarding his appearances, the VOC envoy, Joan Cuneaus who met Abbas in 1652, described him as "being of medium height, rather skinny, loose-limbed, and beardless".[10] However, the surviving portraits show him with a longish face, sharply defined features and a wide, sweeping moustache.[83]


A dominant feature attributed to Abbas II that distinguished him from his father and his successors was his persistent concern towards the state affairs that did not wane even at the peak of his drinking and at the times of his illness. He is often mentioned alongside of Ismail I and Abbas I (he is even claimed as the true heir to Abbas the Great) as the three outstanding ruling figures of the Safavids, and not without reason at that; because he could have been the king who prevented the downfall of the Safavid kingdom, if it wasn't for challenges such as the outflow of the income.[84] Such challenges has marked him amongst the modern historians as a king neither "strong" nor "weak", for as much as the European observers had praised Abbas II for a prosperous realm and safer roads than those in Europe, the internal Safavid bureaucracy was broken beyond repair and the economical decline that would plague Iran until the end of Safavid dynasty, made the Safavid downfall inevitable.[85]

Although these conditions tarnish Abbas' reign in someways, it is worth to note his efforts to overcome the corruption of his bureaucracy, he was quick to intervene in cases of despotism, irregularities or malpractices, irrespective of whether it was a question of the normal administration of justice or the surveillance of political and administrative bodies, both civil and military.[86] To ensure justice, he devoted several days a week for the purpose of rendering public justice; and during his reign it was still possible for commoners to hand him petitions in his palace.[10] Indeed, such efforts made the twenty-four-years of his reign relatively peaceful and scarce of rebellions. The Persian chronicles describe several years of his reign, such as 1060 and 1069, as “peaceful” and “uneventful” and Western observers are astonished by the well-being of the rural population in Persia in contrast of the very much worse plight of the peasantry in the West.[87] The same Western travelers speak of Abbas' reign with nostalgia when they visited Iran a generation later after his death. Historians after the fall of the Safavid dynasty speak of him as forceful ruler who temporarily reversed the decline of the Safavid state and Modern historians, such as Hans Robert Roemer call him a king both just and magnanimous and even liberal, whose death marked the end of the Safavid's long period of prosperity and peace once and for all.[88]




  1. ^ Another birth date suggestion is 5 January 1633 which was discovered through a chronogram in the formula of ‘kalb-i āstān-i amīr al-muʾminīn’ (the dog (the servant) of the amir al-mu'minin (Ali)).[11]
  2. ^ The head of the qurchis (the loyal bodyguards of the shah).
  3. ^ From a young age, Abbas enjoyed hunting leopards and falconry.[10]


  1. ^ Matthee 2021, p. 144.
  2. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 285.
  3. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 280.
  4. ^ Matthee 2021, p. 146.
  5. ^ a b Matthee 1999, p. 130.
  6. ^ Newman 2008, p. 76.
  7. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 41.
  8. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 287–288.
  9. ^ Babaie et al. 2004, p. 42.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Matthee 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d e Rahimlu 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d Babaie et al. 2004, p. 44.
  13. ^ a b c Roemer 2008, p. 291.
  14. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 292.
  15. ^ a b Matthee 2019, p. 43.
  16. ^ Newman 2008, p. 81.
  17. ^ a b Roemer 2008, p. 293.
  18. ^ Matthee 2021, p. 148.
  19. ^ a b Matthee 2019, p. 44.
  20. ^ Floor 2008, p. 227.
  21. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 295.
  22. ^ Morgan 2014, p. 146.
  23. ^ Soroush 2000.
  24. ^ a b c Matthee 2019, p. 124.
  25. ^ a b c Roemer 2008, p. 299.
  26. ^ a b Matthee 2021, p. 152.
  27. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 300.
  28. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 125.
  29. ^ Sanikidze 2021, p. 392.
  30. ^ Suny 1994, p. 53.
  31. ^ Hitchins 2001.
  32. ^ Mikaberidze 2007, p. 175.
  33. ^ Matthee 2001.
  34. ^ a b c Matthee 1999, p. 169.
  35. ^ Bournoutian 2021, p. 4.
  36. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 122.
  37. ^ a b c Matthee 2019, p. 47.
  38. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 45.
  39. ^ a b Roemer 2008, p. 294.
  40. ^ Babaie et al. 2004, p. 71.
  41. ^ a b Matthee 1991, p. 25.
  42. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 50.
  43. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 51.
  44. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 52.
  45. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 52–53.
  46. ^ Newman 2008, p. 86.
  47. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 53.
  48. ^ Matthee 2011, p. 52.
  49. ^ Rahimlu 2015; Matthee 2012.
  50. ^ Matthee 2015.
  51. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 56.
  52. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 183.
  53. ^ Mansourbakht 2010, p. 137.
  54. ^ Matthee 2011, p. 86.
  55. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 184.
  56. ^ Newman 2008, p. 84.
  57. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 191.
  58. ^ Matthee 2011, p. 87.
  59. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 185.
  60. ^ Morren 1981, p. 283.
  61. ^ Matthee 2019, p. 187.
  62. ^ Newman 2008, p. 89.
  63. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 297.
  64. ^ Matthee 2012; Roemer 2008, p. 297
  65. ^ a b Roemer 2008, p. 298.
  66. ^ Matthee 2012; Roemer 2008, p. 298
  67. ^ Newman 2008, p. 85.
  68. ^ Burton 1988, p. 32.
  69. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 299; Burton 1988, p. 32
  70. ^ Golombek & Reily 2013, p. 16.
  71. ^ Matthee 2021, p. 150.
  72. ^ a b Newman 2008, p. 90.
  73. ^ Taylor 1995, p. 25–26.
  74. ^ Tanavoli 2016, p. 20.
  75. ^ Tanavoli 2016, p. 21.
  76. ^ Babaie 1994, p. 126–127.
  77. ^ Golombek & Reily 2013, p. 90.
  78. ^ a b Newman 2008, p. 91.
  79. ^ Matthee 2011, p. 55.
  80. ^ Matthee 2011, p. 55–56.
  81. ^ Matthee 2011, p. 56.
  82. ^ Mokhberi 2019, p. 20.
  83. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 301.
  84. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 301; Newman 2008, p. 91
  85. ^ Matthee 1991, p. 18.
  86. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 303.
  87. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 295; Matthee 2012
  88. ^ Roemer 2008, p. 304; Matthee 1991, p. 17
  89. ^ Babaie et al. 2004, p. 104.
  90. ^ Babaie et al. 2004, p. Note 60; page 157.
  91. ^ Newman 2008, p. 42.


Abbas II of Persia
Born: 30 August 1632 Died: 26 October 1666
Iranian royalty
Preceded by Shah of Iran
Succeeded by