Suleiman I of Persia

Suleiman I
شاه سلیمان
Shahanshah of Iran

Artwork of Shah Suleiman I, painted by Aliquli Jabbadar in 1670.
Reign 1 November 1666 – 29 July 1694
Predecessor Abbas II
Successor Sultan Husayn
Born 1648
Died 29 July 1694
Burial Qom
House Safavid dynasty
Father Abbas II
Mother Nakihat Khanum

Sam Mirza (Persian: سام میرزا), later known by his first dynastic name of Safi II (شاه صفی), and thereafter known by his more famous second dynastic name of Suleiman I (شاه سلیمان), was the eighth Safavid shah (king) of Iran, ruling from 1 November 1666 to 29 July 1694.

Family, youth and accession

Sam Mirza was born in February 1648 (or March); he was the elder son of the previous shah Abbas II and Circassian slave Nakihat Khanum.[1] Sam Mirza had a younger brother named Hamza Mirza, as well as two other brothers named Ismail Mirza and Mirza Ali Naqi. He also had two unnamed sisters. He grew up isolated in the royal harem, where he was taken care of by a black eunuch named Agha Nazir. Because of this, his first language was and remained Azerbaijani; it is still not clearly known how much Persian he was able to speak.[2] Furthermore, due to the way in which he raised, he was much less experienced and less energetic than his father,[3] which had significant consequences for him during his reign, which was quite unsuccessful.[2]

Abbas II died in Mazandaran on 25 September 1666, without revealing who should be his successor. Five days later, the word spread to Isfahan, which made the eunuchs, who took care of the palace, to take care of the succession. The majority of them preferred Hamza Mirza, who was only seven years old, which would make it easier for them to control the affairs of the state. However, in the end, Hamza Mirza's tutor made a statement in the court, where he supported Sam Mirza to be the successor.[2]


Reign after first enthronement; 1666-1668

One day later, on 1 October 1666, Sam Mirza was crowned as Safi II.[4] The ceremony took place in the afternoon and was managed by Mohammad-Baqer Sabzavari, the shaykh al-Islam of Isfahan. Safi II was given the heads of some dead Uzbeks, and in turn rewarded those who had given him the heads.[2] The first year of his reign was markedly unsuccessful. A series of natural disasters such as earthquakes (1667 Shamakhi earthquake) in Shirvan, spread of deadly diseases around Iran, combined with devastating raids by the Cossack Stenka Razin on the coast of the Caspian Sea, convinced court astrologers that the coronation had taken place at the wrong time, and the ceremony was repeated on March 20, 1667. The shah took the new name Suleiman I. He had little interest in the business of government, preferring retreat to the harem.

Reign after second enthronement; 1668-1694

He left political decision-making to his grand viziers or to a council of harem eunuchs, whose power increased during the shah's reign. Corruption became widespread in Persia and discipline in the army was dangerously lax. At the same time revenues increased by the imposition of new taxes and higher taxes. This affected the country's economy and spread poverty, which resulted in many rebellions even in Suleiman's capital Isfahan. In 1672, shah Suleiman offered the former vizier Mohammad Beg to become vizier once again, which he agreed to, but while on his way to Isfahan, he died. According to the French traveler Jean Chardin, Mohammad Beg had been poisoned by Suleiman's vizier Shaykh Ali Khan Zangana.[5] In 1676, Suleiman appointed the Georgian prince George XI as the ruler of Kartli.

With Suleiman I's rule, Georgians came to make up an even larger part of the actual Safavid fighting forces, reaching a contested number of 40,000 by the 1670s.[6][note 1]

Suleiman made no attempt to exploit the weakness of Safavid Persia's traditional rival, the Ottoman Empire, after the Ottomans suffered a serious defeat at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. He even refused the proposals from the European states to form a coalition against the Ottoman Empire. Persia also suffered raids by the Uzbeks and Kalmyks on the eastern and northern (North Caucasus) borders of the empire respectively. In 1688, George XI rebelled against Suleiman, and tried to urge the Ottomans to aid him. However, his request for help was fruitless, and Suleiman appointed another Georgian prince named Heraclius I as the ruler of Kartli, and forced George XI to flee from Kartli. To secure Iranian control over Kartli, he appointed Abbas-Quli Khan as the viceroy of the region.

Suleiman died on July 29, 1694 at Isfahan, either as a result of heavy drinking or gout.[7] When he was on his deathbed, he asked his court eunuchs to choose between his two sons, saying that if they wanted peace and quiet they should pick the elder, Sultan Husayn, but if they wanted to make the empire more powerful then they should opt for the younger, Abbas Mirza. The ennuchs decided to make Sultan Husayn the new shah of Iran.


The French traveler Jean Chardin, who met the Safavid king in the late 1660s (or early 1670s), wrote that he was a tall and elegant, with blond hair dyed black, blue eyes, and pale white skin. His pale skin is often noticeable in various portraits of him. According to Nicolas Sanson, Suleiman was "tall, strong and active; a fine prince, a little too effeminate for a monarch who should be a warrior, with an aquiline nose, large blue eyes, a beard dyed black".[2]


Suleiman I married numerous times, including Elena, daughter of the Atabegi of Samtzkhé, in Georgia.




  1. As mentioned by Matthee (p. 295), this number is given by Fryer, (A New Account), 2:290. Lang, Georgians and the Fall, 525, thinks this number is too high.
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  1. Roemer 1986, p. 305.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Matthee 2015.
  3. Roemer 1986, p. 306.
  4. Buyers, Christopher. "PERSIA - The Safavid Dynasty (Genealogy)". Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  5. Matthee 2011, p. 52.
  6. Matthee 2012, p. 79.
  7. Roemer 1986, p. 310.


Suleiman I of Persia
Preceded by
Abbas II
Shah of Persia
Succeeded by
Sultan Husayn
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