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Artwork of Shah Suleiman I, painted by Aliquli Jabbadar in 1670.
|8th Safavid Shah|
|Reign||1 November 1666 – 29 July 1694|
|Died||29 July 1694 (aged 46)
|Burial||Fatima Masumeh Shrine, Qom, Iran|
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.
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. 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. Sam Mirza grew up isolated in the royal harem, where he was cared for by Agha Nazira, a eunuch. Because of this, Sam Mirza's first language was Azerbaijani; it is still not clearly known how much Persian he was able to speak. Furthermore, due to the way Sam Mirza was raised, he was much less experienced and less energetic than his father, which had significant consequences for his reign.
Abbas II died in Mazandaran on 25 September 1666, without revealing his successor. Five days later, the news spread to Isfahan. The eunuchs, who took care of the palace, now got to name the successor;. Most of them preferred the seven year-old Hamza Mirza, who they could easily control. However, the matter was decided when Hamza Mirza's tutor made a statement in the court supporting Sam Mirza to assume the throne.
One day later, on 1 October 1666, Sam Mirza was crowned as Safi II. 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 with money. He also gave money to 300 exiles from the Ottoman Empire who sought refuge in Iran to avoid being enrolled into the Ottoman army. All administrative positions were reconfirmed that same day. The name "Abbas II" was removed from royal stamps, and new coins were minted in Safi II's name. Demonstrating the sleekness of the changeover, the city of Isfahan remained peaceful; "the shops stayed open, and life went on as if nothing had happened, causing foreign residents who, fearing disturbances and looting, had kept their houses locked, to emerge before the day was out."
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, 1668. The shah took the new name Suleiman I. He had little interest in the business of government, preferring retreat to the harem.
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. In 1676, Suleiman appointed the Georgian prince George XI as the ruler of Kartli.
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.
The Qizilbash remained an important part of the Safavid executive apparatus, even though ethnic Caucasians had come to largely replace them. For example, even in the 1690s, when ethnic Georgians formed the mainstay of the Safavid military, the Qizilbash still played a significant role in the army.
Diplomatic activity had already started decreasing since the reign of Shah Abbas I (r. 1587–1629), but it decreased even more under Suleiman. Although Suleiman had requested King William III of England for adept artisans in 1668/69, he is not known to have been involved in an operating foreign diplomacy.
In 1687 a ship of the Danish East India Company captured a Bengali ship and transported it into the port of Trankebar, which at that time was part of a Danish colony on the southeastern coast of India. The goods of the ship belonged to Armenian traders from New Julfa at Isfahan in Iran. The Danes had the ship with its wares sent to their capital of Copenhagen, where four years later a Safavid diplomat showed up to settle a payment for the goods. On 11 December 1691, the Safavid diplomat showed King Christian V (r. 1670-99) his diploma and a letter from Suleiman I directed to an earlier king, Christian III. The letter contained an inclusive stock of the contested goods and the names of the Armenian traders. Albeit the diplomat returned fortuneless, the elegantly adornmented wrapper in which he had bore his diploma and the letter is preserved in the Danish Museum of Art & Design.
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".
Suleiman died on July 29, 1694 at Isfahan, either as a result of heavy drinking or gout. 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.
Suleiman I married numerous times, including Elena, daughter of the Atabegi of Samtzkhé, in Georgia.
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