Battle of Torches

Battle of Torches
Part of Ottoman–Safavid War (1578–1590)
Date9–11 May 1583
LocationBaştepe, near Derbent
Result Decisive Ottoman victory

 Ottoman Empire

Safavid Persia
Georgian irregulars
Commanders and leaders
Osman Pasha
Cafer Pasha
Haydar Pasha
Imam Kulu
Rustem Khan
Disputed 50,000+

The Battle of Torches[1] (Turkish: Meşaleler Savaşı) was fought in 1583 during the Ottoman–Safavid War (1578–1590). The name of the battle refers to torches used during night clashes.[2] The battle resulted in an Ottoman victory, and had thereby secured Dagestan and Shirvan until the end of the war.


In the first phase of the war the Ottomans had been able to conquer most of the Caucasus. Özdemiroğlu Osman Pasha (Özdemir Pasha’s son) was appointed as the governor of the newly conquered territories. The capital of his province was Derbend at the Caspian coast. However, after the Ottoman army returned to its main base in Istanbul, the Persians under Imam Kulu began to regain some of their former territories. Although an army from the Crimean Khanate (which was an Ottoman vassal) under Adil Giray Khan was sent to the Caucasus in summer 1579 as a reinforcement, they were routed by Hamza Mirza and Mirza Salman, and Adil Giray Khan was taken prisoner, and put in Qazvin, where he was later executed.[3] Consequently, Osman Pasha had to retreat to North Caucasus. In 1582, the Ottoman Porte sent a second reinforcing force under Cafer Pasha, the governor of Caffa, to restore Ottoman dominance in the area.[4]


The 50,000-strong Persians under Imam Kulu, together with Georgian irregulars, attacked again in the spring of 1583. In a first clash by the vanguard units of both armies, the Ottomans were defeated (25 April 1583). The main clash occurred in Baştepe near Derbend on 9 May 1583. On the Ottoman side, Osman Pasha was placed in the center, Cafer Pasha was at the left flank and Haydar Pasha, the governor of Sivas, was at the right flank. On the Persian side, Imam Kulu was in the center, Rustem Khan was at the right and Burhaneddin at the left.[5] The result of the battle was inconclusive at the end of the first day, but the battle continued during the night, both sides using torches. In the second day, there was a momentary pause in the combat. But in the third day, an Ottoman general attack marked the end of the battle. The Persian army was defeated and the Persian prisoners of war exceeded 3000.


By this victory, the Ottomans were able to establish control over all of the Caucasus. After further Ottoman victories in the south (conquest of Tebriz) both sides agreed to conclude peace. By the Treaty of Ferhat Pasha of 1590, Persians acknowledged Ottoman gains in both the Caucasus and modern Azerbaijan as well as West Iran. But these gains were not long lasting, as they were reversed in the next Ottoman–Safavid War.


  1. Colin P. Mitchell. New Perspectives on Safavid Iran: Empire and Society p 68
  2. Colin P. Mitchell. New Perspectives on Safavid Iran: Empire and Society p 68
  3. The Practice of Politics in Safavid Iran: Power, Religion and Rhetoric p 162
  4. Prof. Yaşar Yüce-Prof. Ali Sevim: Türkiye tarihi Cilt III, AKDTYKTTK Yayınları, İstanbul, 1991 p 23
  5. Joseph von Hammer:Osmanlı Tarihi Vol II (condensation: Abdülkadir Karahan), Milliyet yayınları, İstanbul. p 100

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