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Typically, the majority of empires have a remarkably similar way of development: firstly, they rise from a small or weak state, then they prosper, and sooner or later, the decline begins, and eventually, an empire comes to an end. However, it is also apparent that every particular case has its own specific characteristics. In order to exemplify this assumption, the Ottoman and Safavid empires will be compared and contrasted in this paper.
Academic sources on the topic will be referenced. The timeframe covered by this paper is considerably large since the Safavid empire ceased to exist in 1722 while the Ottomans lasted until 1922. This essay is organized in the following way: in two paragraphs, the countries under discussion are analyzed separately, in order to use the synthesized and analyzed information for the comparison of these two empires. A comprehensive conclusion will be provided as well.
The Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman empire is known as one of the largest as well as the most long-lasting political powers in the Islamic world. As it is mentioned in the profound study by Quataert, the empire grew from a small state, which existed from around thirteen century, until its official elimination in 19221. Given the fact that the empire had enlarged immensely over time, the typical problem, which is experienced by the majority of kingdoms, arose. The Ottoman empire became so large that it became considerably difficult to control and coordinate the centralized power in different regions of the state. Accordingly, in the nineteenth century, the Ottomans experienced an evident decline that was largely determined by the changing balance of powers in Europe2.
The Safavid Dynasty
The Safavid empire is known as the “longest-lasting Persian dynasty in the past thousand years” as it ruled Iran from 1500 to 17223. The state is also known as one of the primary rivals of the Ottoman empire since both countries were in the same region and strived for prosperity by relatively similar methods. The rise of the Iranian dynasty was largely dependent on the leadership of its most recognized rulers, namely Shah Ismail I and Shah Abbas, as the country did not have much economic resources4. The inheritors of the dynasty did not succeed in maintaining the power of the empire.
Comparison of the Two Selected Empires
It is difficult to compare these two countries as they were closely related in terms of their political goals, methods of expansion, and other aspects. However, it could be stated with certainty that the rivalry of the Ottoman and Safavid empires represented the controversy between two primary branches of Islam, which are Suni and Shi respectively5. The use of the military power to expand westward and spreading the faith of Islam could be considered as common characteristics of both countries.
However, it is possible to mention that the Safavid empire fell due to the fact that the rulers who came to power after Shah Abbas did not have the same level of ambition and they also lacked understanding of how to develop the country6. The Ottoman empire came to decline as well, but it prospered for a considerably longer time, and its fall was largely determined by the pressure of political powers in Europe.
In conclusion, it is essential to state that both countries under discussion represented very important political powers of the Islamic world, which had a considerable impact on the European and Middle-East history. The comparison of the two empires shows that the success of the Safavid dynasty was largely dependent on the leadership qualities of its founders. In this respect, the Ottoman empire could be considered as a much more powerful state. However, it also eventually came to its end due to the changing balance of European political powers.
Foran, John. “The Long Fall of the Safavid Dynasty: Moving beyond the Standard Views.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 24, no. 2 (1992): 281-304.
Matthee, Rudi. “The Decline of Safavid Iran in Comparative Perspective.” Journal of Persianate Studies 8, no. 2 (2015): 276-308.
Quataert, David. The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922. 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
- Quataert, David. The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922. 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 13.
- Quataert, The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922, 55.
- Foran, John. “The Long Fall of the Safavid Dynasty: Moving beyond the Standard Views.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 24, no. 2 (1992), 281.
- Matthee, Rudi. “The Decline of Safavid Iran in Comparative Perspective.” Journal of Persianate Studies 8, no. 2 (2015), 301.
- Matthee, Rudi. “The Decline of Safavid Iran in Comparative Perspective.” Journal of Persianate Studies 8, no. 2 (2015), 302.
- Foran, John. “The Long Fall of the Safavid Dynasty: Moving beyond the Standard Views.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 24, no. 2 (1992), 282.