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Nadir Shah

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Nadershahtomb.jpg
Tomb of Nader Shah Afshar, a popular tourist attraction in Mashad.

Nadir Shah (Nadir Qoli Beg, also Tahmasp-Qoli Khan) (October 22, 1688 - June, 1747) ruled as shah of Iran (173647) and was the founder of the short-lived Afsharid dynasty. Some historians described him – by his military genius – as the Napoleon of Persia or the Second Alexander. He created a great Iranian Empire with boundaries from the Indus River (west) to the Caucasus Mountains (north) and India (east). Nadir Shah is probably the last great Asian military conqueror.

He was born in the Dastgerd region of Khorasan, a province of Iran. His father, a poor peasant, died while Nadir was still a child. Nadir and his mother were carried off as slaves by marauding Uzbeg tribesmen, but Nadir managed to escape. He joined a band of brigands while still a boy and eventually advanced to become their leader. Later he found refuge with the Turkic Afshar tribe, where, under the patronage of Afshar chieftains, he rose through the ranks to a powerful military leader.

When in 1719 the Afghans invaded Persia, Nadir supported the Safavid ruler Tahmasp II, in deference of whom he had named himself Tahmasp Qoli (Slave of Tahmasp), with a force of 5,000 soldiers, against the Afghan usurper Mahmud Ghilzai. Nadir defeated the Afghans in the Battle of Damghan, 1729. He drove out the Afghans, who were still occupying Persia, by 1730. In 1729 Tahmasp II was proclaimed as shah in Isfahan. Later, Nadir deposed Tahmasp II and placed his infant son Abbas III on the throne, declaring himself regent in 1732. Finally, in 1736, Nadir ascended to the throne himself, assuming the title Shah.

After he defeated the Afghans, Nadir turn to the west against Ottomans. He defeated the Ottomans in several battles. In siege of Baghdad, in 1733, he was defeated behind the walls of the city. Nadir, however, came back with larger army and the Ottomans was forced to made a peace treaty. Nadir was given the cities on the west of Aras River to Iran, in addition to Karbala and Basra on southern Iraq.

In 1738, Nadir Shah conquered Kandahar. In the same year he occupied Ghazni, Kabul and Lahore. He continued on to India, crossed the river Indus before the end of year. He defeated the great Mughal army of Mohammad Shah at the Battle of Karnal, February 24 1739. After victory, Nadir captured Mohammad Shah and entered with him in Delhi. After some disturbances, where Indians killing several of Nadir’s soldiers, despite orders to stop fighting, Nadir had Delhi plundered, in the process massacring 30,000 of its people.

Nadir returned home with vast treasures, including the Peacock Throne, which thereafter served as a symbol of Persian imperial might, and, among a trove of other fabulous jewels, the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond. The Persian troops left Delhi at the beginning of May 1739, taking with them several thousand Indian girls (both Hindu and Muslim) and a large number of boys as slaves. Nadir's soldiers also took with them thousands of elephants, horses and camels, loaded with the booty they had collected. The plunder seized from India was so rich that Nadir stopped taxation in Iran for a period of three years, following his triumphant return.

In 1740 Nadir had Tahmasp II and his two infant sons put to death. After India, Nadir atacked Uzbeks in Transoxania. Nadir also started to build a powerful Persian navy. He captured Bahrain from the Arabs. In 1743 he conquered Oman and its main capital, Muscat.

In 1741, after an assassination attempt on him failed, Nadir suspected his oldest son Reza Quli Mirza as being responsible for conspiracy and had him blinded. Soon afterwards, Nadir started executing the nobles who had witnessed his son's blinding. In his last years, Nadir became increasingly paranoid, ordering the assassination of large numbers of supposed enemies.

In 1743 Nadir started another war against the Ottoman Empire. War ended with a peace treaty in 1746; by treaty the Ottomans agreed to let Nadir occupy Najaf.

Nadir was assassinated in 1747, and the empire he had conquered fell apart shortly afterward. He was assassinated by group officers of his own guard. They surprised him in his sleep and cut his head with a sword. Nadir has been married four times; he has 5 sons and 15 grandsons. He also had 33 women in his harem. During Nadir Shah's brief reign a 40,000-man army was created, and the boundaries of his empire extended to the greatest in Iran since the days of the Sassanids.

After his death, he was succedded by his nephew Adil Shah. During the struggle between Adil Shah, his brother Ibrahim Khan and Nadir's grandson Shah Rukh almost all provincial governors declared independence, established their own states, and the entire Empire of Nadir Shah fell into anarchy. Finally, Karim Khan founded the Zand dynasty and became ruler of Iran by 1760.

In 1768, Christian VII of Denmark commissioned Sir William Jones to translate a Persian language biography of Nadir Shah into French. It was publshed in 1770 as Histoire de Nadir Chah, and subsequently translated into English, becoming the vehicle by which Nadir Shah became known to the reading public in the West.


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