Geography of Isfahan
Isfahan province is located at the centre of Islamic Republic of Iran. Total area of Isfahan province is 106179 square kilometers, about 6.25 percent of whole Iran ’s area.
The city is located in the lush Zayandeh Roud River plain of foothills of the Zagros Mountains Range . Isfahan is about 1580 meters high from the sea level. It has a mild climate.Isfahan is located at the edge of desert. Desert is situated at the east and north of Isfahan
The Zagrous Range of mountains is located at the west and south of Isfahan . Zayandeh Roud River is the main source and element of Isfahan ’s development and beauty. The river rises from eastern slopes of Zagros Range of mountains.
History of Isfahan
Isfahan is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, an unforgettable international tourism destination popular all of over the world, an encyclopedia of Iranian and Islamic civilization, locally famous as half of the world. Isfahan presents the real Persian character, the most glorious in historical and architectural wealth. Monuments in Isfahan are great examples of our art and architecture.
Isfahan’s ancient history is not clear and our knowledge about the mentioned period is limited. There are legends about ancient Isfahan, goes back to king Jamshid and king – Kavous from the legendary dynasty.
During Parthians and Sassanians the city has been considered as assembly place for armies. In fact armies were sent to different fronts of ancient Persia from this point.
During Elamate period it was one of the most important cities of Persia. During Achamenid kingdom was called Gaba, famous as the royal summer recreational resort. The name Gaba was changed to Jay.
During Parthians it was ruled by prominent sovereigns and during the Sasanian period crown princes were stationed in Isfahan in order to learn statecraft.
During Sasanian kingdom the city was famous as “Shahrestan”.
POST ISLAMIC PERIOD IN ISFAHAN
Fortunately there are more informations regarding post Islamic Isfahan. In 643 AD the city was invaded by Ummayads, and then Abbasids ruled in Isfahan until 931 AD.
Al- Jibal was one of Arab Caliphate provinces and Isfahan was the capital of this province. During 10th century the city was ruled by princes who belonged to Fars and Iraq. The Ziarids and Buyids were the most prominent rulers of this area.
Mardavij revolted against the Abbasids and announced the independence of Gorgan and Mazandaran. He expended his domain of independence to Isfahan. Mardavij was faithful to the ancient Persian traditions. The Seddeh festival was held on the banks of Zayandeh Rud in 935. After assassination of Mardavij the Ziarid ruling era was ended.
Some of historians believe that Jay was not a city but a strong fortress another important district of the original city was called Yahoudiyeh (the Jewish city) which was close to Shahrestan.
Yazdgerd 1, a king from Sassanian dynasty was married to a Jewish wife, allowed a large group of Jews to settle in Isfahan. Their residential district was called as “Yahoudieh”
Some of historians believe that Jews were settled in Isfahan about 600 years BC. Yahoudieh was later called Jubareh and it is still residential district of some of Jews.
Isfahan has been expanded and the two districts are two parts of the metropolitan city of Isfahan
Isfahan and Buyid Dynasty
Soon after Mardavij’s death, Isfahan was ruled by Buyides. The Buyids’s period was one of the most outstanding periods in Isfahan. In 945 Ahmad one of the Buyidi’s ruler, invaded Baghdad which was the capital of the Abbasids. During Buyids period Isfahan was remarkably developed and some of Iranian arts were flourished.
The Shiite customs and traditions were encouraged and pilgrimages to the holy places were developed, magnificent buildings were constructed in Isfahan during Buyid period especially glorious mosques were constructed. These mosques were ornamented magnificently.
The Seljuk Toghrol Beg from Seljuk
In 1047 Toghrol Beg from Seljuk dynasty made Isfahan as the Capital. Soon Isfahan was highly developed and was converted to a great city. During 12 years of Toghrol Beg ruling period a new expanded and prosperous city Isfahan was born.
The city was further developed under Thoghrol's successors. Alb Arsalan and Malek Shah took advantage of learned vizier (minister) named Khaje Nezam Al – Molk.
Great magnificent buildings were constructed during Seljuk rulers; in fact Seljuk and Safavid dynasty highly developed Isfahan.
The congregational Mosque (Jameh) has been considered as one of the wonders of the world. The last Seljuk ruler was defeated Ala al Din Takish from Kharazm Shah Dynasty, a dynasty which survived for a short time.
Mongol to Timurid
After Seljuk dynasty the city declined and lost its importance Mongol, Timurid rulers in Esfahan. When Mongol invaded Iran a great battle took place on the suburb of Isfahan in 1228 and the city was invaded too. A significant part of Isfahan's population was killed and a prominent part of population had to leave Isfahan. Many glorious monuments were destroyed and the most important city of Iran was converted into ruins, but some of buildings survived.
The Barbar Mongols who invaded Isfahan were highly influenced by Iranian and Islamic culture. Some of these Mongols were so deeply changed, who started to redevelop the city again.
Oljaitu the second Il- Khanid ruler developed the city reasonably. Il- Khanids ruled for short period and they were succeeded by Injuid and Mozaffarid. They were vanished by Tamerlane's invasions which happened in 1387. More than 75 thousands of Isfahan's population was slaughtered. The invaders made pyramids by head of killed people. Fortunately several buildings were not destroyed. Many artists, masters and craftsmen of Isfahan were sent to Samarghand to work for Tamerlane who created some of the most glorious buildings.
In the first half of 15th century Timurids lost a great part of Iran, by two Turkmen tribes Qara- Quyunlu (the Black sheep) and Aq- Quyunlo (the white sheep). The two mentioned tribes ruled in Isfahan , for a very short time in 15th century.
In 1499 Ismail who was a relative of white sheep (Grand son of Uzun Hassan of white sheep) came to power and established the Safavid dynasty. The most glorious era of Isfahan development was begun by Safavids.
SHAH ABBAS AND THE EXTRA ORDINARY ERA OF CONSTRUCTION IN ISFAHAN
Shah Abbas the great is the golden name in Isfahan development and flourishment. He chose Isfahan as his capital in 1598. About 42 years of his unforgettable life was spent for the splendor of Isfahan .
New urban planning on the south west of Seljukid city highly enhanced the beautification of Isfahan . He was grown up in Harat which was the great cultural city of Iran . The beauty of arts and architecture of Herat created Shah Abbas innovation for further development of Iran , specially his new capital city called Isfahan . Even when he was a young prince highly appreciated arts and architecture. He showed a great interest in calligraphy too.
In 1587 Shah Abbas was crowned as the new king of Iran . Soon he eliminated many of his influential friends and enemies. In 1591 he appointed a dynamic learned vizier (minister) called Hatim Beik Ordubadi. This man carried out a lot of constructive reforms in Iran and Iran was highly dominated by the Shah and his government. So the Shah controlled and ruled over all parts of Iran .
As an illiterate Shah he learned a lot of knowledge, and was interested in knowing more and more about Iran and foreign countries. He was informed about foreign countries and how these countries were developed. He took advantage of opportunities and welcome foreign delegations in order to know more about world development. He was interested in other religions, especially Christians. One of his main hobbies was going to streets and society as an ordinary man in order to acquire view points of citizens regarding development of capital city and Iran .
One of the negative characteristics of Shah Abbas was superstitions. In 1598 selected Isfahan as the capital and removed the capital from Qazvin to Isfahan.
Isfahan's geographical location and Zayandeh Rood River were main factors of Shah's decision. The powerful empire of Iran deserved a new magnificent capital.
Under the innovative Shah's decisions, soon Isfahan was converted to one of the greatest cities of the world. Isfahan became a desirable metropolitan city. Many Iranians migrated to the capital, especially tradesmen, artists, architects and able craftsmen. A large number of Armenians were ordered by the Shah to migrate to Isfahan . A beautiful village located on the south western side of Zayandeh Rood was selected as new residential site for Armenians and was named Julfa. Armenians were skilled tradesmen and technical masters. The fame of Isfahan attracted several foreign delegations and travelers.
SUCCESSORS OF SHAH ABBAS
After Shah Abbas the Iranian empire declined, except in a short period during the time of Shah Abbas the second. Decline was witnessed much more in Iran and not in Isfahan .
The fall of Iranian Empire
During the reign of the last Safavid king Shah Sultan Hossein, Iran was torn apart.
Life was very difficult for common people. They had to pay unjust taxes Rebellions appeared in different parts of Iran . Mahmood Afghan who controlled Sistan and south Khorasan advanced to areas near capital, finally the approached Isfahan and besieged the capital.
In 1722 a battle took place in Golnabad. Afghan troops were about 25000 and Iranian troops more than 50000. Afghans invaded Isfahan and massacred a great numbers of Isfahan citizens. At the same time Peter the Great of Russia invaded northern part of Iran . On the other hand Ottomans, the traditional enemies of Safavid invaded the west part of Iran . The empire was disintegrated under inefficient Shah Sultan Hossein.
Mahmud's short period was faced with a lot of problems. Russians in the north and Ottomans in the west were major issues for Mahmud. Tahmasb the second proclaimed a king. He revolted with the help of people who considered Afghans as Barbars.
Mahmud massacred several princes, relatives of Shah and people of Isfahan . Mahmud became completely mad. Because of Mahmud's matness his cousin Ashraf took power in Isfahan .
At the same time Tahmasb Quli came to power in Khorasan and was destined as Nader Shah.
In 1729 a great battle occurred between Nader and Ashraf. Ashraf was defeated. Nader chose Mashhad as the capital. Nader and Karim Khan Zand were prominent rulers for a short time.
QAJAR AND DARK PERIOD IN ISFAHAN
Karim Khan Zand moved the capital to Shiraz and during Qajar dynasty Tehran was the capital of Iran. During Qajar the Fathali Shah the oldest son Zel- al Sultan, was appointed as rulers and governors of Isfahan. The city experienced its darkest period during Zel - al Sultan. This crazy governor sold everything and increased taxes which were unbearable for people. Magnificent monuments were destroyed. No attention was paid to art and architecture. The sun of development and prosperity was set during Qajar dynasty.
A great part of Isfahan population migrated to Tehran and other cities. During Pahlavi dynasty principal historic buildings were restored. The great mistakes were made in urban planning. Construction of new streets highly damaged historic axes of Isfahan. So, many of historic buildings, especially old houses and textures were ruined in order to create new streets. The old axe and texture of Isfahan was seriously damaged in the historic city, not only by the government, but also people of Isfahan. Many of educated people in foreign countries were highly influenced by western and architecture which was not appropriate for Isfahan. Construction of new houses and buildings in the centre of old city deeply infected old characteristics.