Tahmasp I, Shah (1514–1576)

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TAHMASP I, SHAH (1514–1576)

Tahmasp I, born on 22 February 1514, was the eldest son of Shah Isma˓il. He succeeded his father to the throne in 1524 and ruled Iran until his death on 14 May 1576. His fifty-two-year reign was marked by religious consolidation and battles with rival Uzbeks and Ottomans.

Tahmasp came to power at age ten, at which time Qizilbash (Turkoman tribesmen) forces took control of Iran for the first decade of his rule. The Qizilbash were not united, however, and the situation deteriorated into civil war in 1526. By 1533, Tahmasp reasserted his sovereignty, having executed the main Qizilbash chief who was effectively ruling the country. By this time, rival Ottomans and Uzbeks had taken advantage of Iran's weak position, gaining territory from the Safavids. Nevertheless, the Safavids held on, fighting numerous defensive wars on two fronts. As a result of the Ottoman threat to the capital city of Tabriz, Tahmasp moved the capital to the city of Qazvin in 1555.

Tahmasp's reign witnessed a flowering of the arts, in particular the arts of the book, best exemplified by a magnificent Shah-nameh (Book of kings), commissioned in 1522 and containing some 250 outstanding miniature paintings. Tahmasp was a man of great piety, and his long reign was of great importance for the spread and consolidation of Twelver Shi˓ism in Iran.

See alsoEmpires: Safavid and Qajar .


Savory, Roger. Iran under the Safavids. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Sholeh A. Quinn