Joan Bos' Mad Monarchs|
Safi I of Persia the murderous Shah addicted to alcohol and opium.
Shah Safi I of Persia (±1610-1642) had most of his male family members ruthlessly killed off, and spend most of his
time under the influence of alcohol and opium. Not interested in the government
of his Empire, he lost Irak and Quandahar to the conquering Ottomans and Mughals.
Shah Safi of Persia was born around 1610, and was given the
name Sam Mirza. His mother was Princess Dil-Aram Khanum (†±1647), 2nd
daughter of the mad Persian Shah Ismail II (1537-1577). His father was
Muhammad Baqir (1587-1615), eldest son of the famous Persian Shah Abbas the
Great (1571-1628, to the right). The couragious Abbas may have been a
great ruler, but he wasn’t a great father. When his sons grew up, he became
jealous of their popularity. On January 25, 1615, while returning from his bath,
Muhammad Baqir was stabbed to death by a slave on his father’s orders. Abbas
rewarded the assassin by promoting him to high office. Sam Mirza was
approximately 5 years old at the time, and was to grow up with his mother in the
confines of the harem.
Talmasp I +----- Ismail II ------------------------------ Dil-Aram Khanum
1514-1576 | ±1533-1577 †±1647
x -----+ x ---------- Safi I
Kadamali +- Muhammad Khudabanda -- Abbas I the Great --- Muhammad Baqir ±1610-1642
±1516-1593 1532-1595 1571-1629 1587-1615
Both Safi's grandfathers were Shah of Persia
When Abbas was gravely ill in 1621, his 2nd
surviving son, Muhammad Khudabanda (1591-1632), began celebrating his
anticipated succession, but Abbas recovered, and had his son blinded. In 1627,
the old Shah had his youngest son, Imam Quli (1602-1632), blinded, too, on
suspicion of plotting against him. By this act Abbas cut off the last of his
sons from the throne. Thus, when Abbas finally died on January 19, 1629, he was
succeeded by his grandson Sam Mirza, who was crowned on January 28, and took the
name Shah Safi.
Safi I came to the throne without any experience of government, trained only in
indolence and self-gratification. In the first 5 years after his accession, he
used his autocratic powers to arbitrary execute any who aroused his suspision or
dislike. Safi's aunt, Zubaidah Begum1
(±1586-1632), and her supporters seem to have refused to accept Safi's
succession, and she is alleged to have attempted to poison Safi. This
harem-based opposition to his rule seems to have prompted Safi to kill of all
his family members, including his aunt and her husband. His only brother
Sulaiman and his blinded uncles Khudabanda and Imam Quli were put to death in
1632. In addition, Imam Quli’s young son, Najaf Quli, and 40 women of the harem
were killed. A similar fate overtook many of the senior officials and
high-ranking generals that Safi had inherited from the previous reign.
In 1637 Safi made a prestigious marriage to Princess Tinatina of Kartli (Central
Georgia), a daughter of King Taimuraz I by his 2nd wife, Queen
Khoreshan-Darejan, daughter of King Giorgi X of Kartli. Safi also married a
Circassian, Ana Khanum (†1647). His other women were concubines and they all
lived in the royal harem.
The buildings of the royal harem were within an inner enclosure, where they were
surrounded by a spacious garden. The women in the harem were looked after by
black euneuchs and slave maidservants. The palace complex in Isfahan had been
laid out by Abbas the Great, but Safi had the stables moved to make way for a
grand new reception hall.
Among Safi's 6 sons and 2 daughters were his able successor, Abbas II
(±1633-1666), a son of Ana Khanum, and an able daughter, Mariam Begum. She was
to develop an alcohol addition, too, but still was to play a role
in the reign of Safi’s great-grandson, Husayn (±1668-1726).
At the time Persia was an empire much larger than modern-day Iran, but Quandahar
in the east of the Empire was lost to the Mughals in 1638. The next year, the
Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (1612-1640) captured Bagdad2,
reconquering all of Irak and its Shi'i shrines. Safi appeared at Kasr-i-Shirin
with 12000 men, but his force was too weak to effect anything of importance.
Humiliating though the loss of this territory with the Shi'i shrines was, the
resulting peace treaty with the Ottomans gave a boost to trade, and central
revenues reached unprecedented levels due to the excellent administration of
Safi’s chief miniter, Mirza Muhammad Taqi, known as Saru Taqi. He was quite
competent, integer and incorruptible, and he managed to remain in office well
into the next reign.
Safi’s upbringing in the harem was evident in his lack in interests in affairs
of state, or apparently in much else, apart from drink and drugs. Christians,
who were dependent on his favour, described Safi as “generous, charming
and pleasant to deal with”, but others regarded him as “ruthless
and cruel”. Safi I proved to be the most murderous ruler after his
maternal grandfather, Shah Ismail II. Killing off his relatives, even his
blinded uncles and an aunt, hint at a paranoid or psychopathic tendency,
aggravated by substance abuse.
Safi drank large amounts of alcohol to counter his opium addiction, and, while
still in his early 30s, he died of his excesses at Kashan on May 12, 1642. In
the name of his more competent son and successor, Abbas II, all Safi’s younger
sons were blinded, too.
Copyright © 2011 by J.N.W. Bos. All rights reserved.
" Tis certain there has not been in Persia a more cruel and bloody reign than his. "
1 Zubaida’s daughter, Jahan Banu, married King Simeon II of Kartli (Central
Georgia), and had a grandson, who married Shahbanu, a daughter of Shah Safi II (Safi
I's grandson, who was also known as Sulaiman).
2 After the capture of Bagdad, the Ottoman Sultan
Murad IV (1612-1640) had all but 300 of the garrison of 30000 slaughtered,
and an additional 30000 innocent citizens, mostly women and children.
- Robinson, F.: The Mughal Emperors (and the Islamic Dynasties of India, Iran and Central Asia, 1206-1925), Thames & Hudson, 2007
- Blow, D.: Shah Abbas: The Ruthless King Who Became an Iranian Legend, I.B. Tauris, 2009
- Humphreys, E.: The Royal Road (A popular history of Iran), Scorpion Publishing Ltd, 1991
- Morgan, D.: Medieval Persia, 1040-1797 (1040-1797), A history of the Near East, Longman, 1994
- Sykes, P.M.: A history of Persia, Vol. II, MacMillan and Co. London, 1915
- Newman, A.J.: Safavid Iran (Rebirth of a Persian Empire), I.B. Tauris, 2006
- The Royal Ark - Persia - The Safawi Dynasty
A rebuttal by Qurchi Bashi
Persian Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers