Abbas the Great
ABBAS I THE GREAT OF PERSIA (1571 – 1629)
Abbas of the Safavid dynasty, the third son of Sultan Mohammed Shah, came to the throne in 1588, at a critical time. He had to restore internal security and reassert the authority of the monarchy.
The Turkmen tribes (known as the Red heads or Kizilbash) constituted the backbone of Safavid military strength and they proved unreliable. They were in the matter of time, counterbalanced by the standing army of his ghulams (slaves) mainly of descendents of Georgians, Armenians and Circassians who had been brought to Persia by his predecessors. They were appointed governors of crown provinces.
He was the first king to create a standing army. Next he strove to expel Ottoman and Uzbek troops from Persian soil. In 1598 Uzbeks were defeated and Khorasan was annexed. From 1602 onwards he waged successful wars against the Ottomans and recovered the territory lost to them. After his victory over Uzbeks, he transferred the capital from Kazvin to Isfahan. He made the city one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
His reign was a period of intense commercial and diplomatic activity. It also marked a peak of Persian artistic achievement. The production and sale of silk was a monopoly of the crown. Under his patronage carpet weaving became a major industry. Fine Persian rugs were exported to Europe along with other items like textiles, brocades and damasks of unparalleled richness of colour and design.Paintings, illumination of manuscripts, ceramics the works of his period make his rule exceptional.
He was courageous and energetic ruler with a zeal to justice and welfare of his subjects. He showed unusual religious tolerance, granting privileges to many Christian groups. Notwithstanding he tarnished his reputation by the murder and mutilation of many members of his family.
His traumatic childhood left him with a morbid fear of conspiracy. As time went that obsessive fear increased which caused him to put to death or to blind any member of the royal family who gave him anxiety in this regard. In this way one son was executed, two were blinded*.
His reforms contained within them the seeds of the future decay of both dynasty and state.
*Note: In the East blinding was a common practice,in the case of princes likely to be troublesome to the crown prince at a future date. A deep perpendicular incision was made down each corner of the eyes;the lids were lifted and the balls were removed by cutting the optic nerve and the muscles. Later under Caliphate passing a red hot sword close to the orbit or a needle over the eyeball sufficed. (ack: Burton’s Alf Laylah wa Laylah-footnote/vol .1)