The Capitals of Iran (Part 2)
In the post-Islamic era, many small and large dynasties ruled Iran and established cities as their capital to govern the country. In this regard, we must face two points: First, during the 1400 years after Islam, dozens of dynasties and tribes ruled Iran. Therefore, the capitals of Iran in this period are too many.
The capitals of Iran in small governments do not count in this blog, and that we mention only the great dynasties and their Capitals. Secondly, some Capitals of this era are not within the current political borders of Iran, for example, Damascus, the capital of the Umayyads, Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasids, or Bukhara, the capital of the Samanids, so we excluded them too.
Iran did not have a central government like before the Arabs invasion for almost two centuries. With the formation of the Bani Abbas, Iranians had enough of the Bani Umayyads and joined the movement of Abu Muslim against them. Abu Muslim drove all the Arabs back. He started from Khorasan and the ancient civilized city of Neyshabur. However, Neyshabur was hardly considered as one of the capitals of Iran, and we cannot call his rebellion an Iranian government.
But what he did was to give Khorasan the means to be the first Iranian government after Islam, when Al-Ma’mun Abbasi gave Khorasan to his Persian commander, Tahir Ibn Husayn. By removing Ma’mun’s name in the sermons, he declared their independence and made Neyshabur his capital.
Not so long after, Ya’qub Ibn Al-Layth Al-Saffar defeated the last members of the Tahiri dynasty and also made Sistan an independent state. He, AKA the Persian Robin Hood, gave another ancient city its glory back. In the third and fourth century AH Drangiana, with the new pronunciation of Zarang, was Iran’s independent capital and joined the rank of the capitals of Iran.
Because of Zarang’s proximity to the Helmand River and its strategic position on major trade routes, Ya’qub ibn al-Layth chose this city. Zarang resurrected the Persian language and passed it onto the Samanid dynasty, where Rudaki composed his famous poems.
Ancient backgrounds helped several cities to once again participate in the political life of Persian rulers and the ancient capitals of Iran. After Neyshabur and Zarang, now it was Rey or Raga’s turn. The city of Rey was the capital of the Parthians in the previous life of Iran’s history. In the post-Islamic epoch, the Buyid dynasty made great efforts in the development of Rey. Adud Al-Dawla, however, chose Shiraz as his capital. He built a hospital, library, and a dam there.
Then, it was either Turks or Turkmen who ruled over Iran. The Mongol invasion and onward, the attack of Hulagu Khan and Timur devastated Iran’s situation. They destroyed many cities, some of them were the capitals of Iran, and anyone in their way. There was no time for a city to flourish.
Finally, the Safavid dynasty was the one to unify the broken shell of Iran and, after many centuries, established the former Empire. During their relatively long three-hundred-year rule in Iran (907 AH to 1200 AH), they chose Tabriz, Qazvin, and Isfahan as the capitals of Iran.
Shah Ismail Safavid chose Tabriz as his capital to be close to the center of his family’s spiritual leader in Ardabil. During the reign of Shah Ismail and after him Shah Tahmasp I, the Ottomans repeatedly invaded Iran from the northwest and sometimes reached Tabriz.
These clashes in Tabriz caused Shah Tahmasp I to move the capital away from the borders to a more secure location. Therefore, the choice of Qazvin, considering its strategic location, was considered a logical choice.
Qazvin experienced significant growth so that it did not have such grandeur before the Safavid government. At the same time, Shah Tahmasp I built gaits around Tehran to protect Qazvin more. Later on, this action led to Tehran’s advantage over other cities to be Iran’s final throne.
Within a few years, this decision brought Isfahan to the peak of its greatness and made it an international capital to which envoys and merchants from Europe and the Far East turn. Unlike other kings who settled in the old city of Isfahan, Shah Abbas decided to establish his court on the southwestern outskirts of old Isfahan.
The core of Shah Abbas’s plan was the field around which included his administrative, religious, scientific, and economic facilities.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square is the result of pre-studying and pre-planning of a king with foresight. Naqsh-e Jahan Square is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a wonder to all, the best of all the capitals of Iran.
Once again, after the Safavid dynasty, Iran faced the invasions of Afghans. They were angry and merciless and reaped just what the Safavids kings (the qualified ones) sow.
Nader Shah Afshar was the grand general who saved Iran alongside Karim Khan Zand in 1139 AH. After having his coronation in Mughan Desert, he chose Mashhad as the next capital of Iran.
Mashhad was further developed during the Safavid period when they made great efforts to promote the rites of the Shiite religion. Nader was a fine general, but the duties of a king drove him to the extent of madness. His soldiers arranged a mutiny and killed him.
Karim Khan Zand knew it was only him who could save the tender establishment of what Nader had built. He stepped in and took the responsibility but refused to be called king. He chose Shiraz as his capital.
After Islam, among all of the capitals of Iran, Shiraz was the center of the Persian region during the rule of Deylaman and Atabakan of Fars. For reasons such as temperate climate, natural fortifications (mountains in the north and rivers in the southeast), Shiraz’s location Fars, the military fortress of Fahnder, and the fort of the city, was chosen as the capital. Karim Khan first repaired and strengthened the fortifications and then dug a ditch around the fence. During the Mongol invasion and other attacks, the governor of Shiraz agreed to the invaders’ rules and thus, saved the city from burning to the ground like Neyshabur, Rey, and others. It was in the time when Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar came to power after Karim Khan’s successor, Lotf Ali Khan, that out of long term grudge, that he tried to destroy whatever Karim Khan had built in Shiraz.
The Qajar family got the tether of Iran’s throne, and since, Tehran has been the final city to be one in the rank of the Capitals of Iran, witnessing both glory and political frustration.
From that date on, Tehran became the capital of the two dynasties and one so-called republic government, Qajar, Pahlavi, and the Islamic Republic. One of Reza Shah’s preoccupations was to renovate cities and change the appearance of the country. So the mayor of Tehran transformed the capital from the old version to a new one with intensity and power.