Battle of Chaldiran

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Battle of Chaldiran
Part of the Ottoman–Persian Wars
Sekumname1525 Chaldiran battle.jpg
Battle of Chaldiran
Date 23 August 1514
Location Chaldiran, northwestern Iran
Result Decisive Ottoman victory[1]
Political stalemate[2]
Ottomans annex for the first time Eastern Anatolia and parts of Mesopotamia from the Safavids, as well as briefly what is modern-day northwestern Iran.[3]
Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire Safavid dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Ottoman Empire Sultan Selim I
Ottoman Empire Hasan Pasha
Shah Ismail I  (WIA)
Abd al-Baqi Yazdi  
Husayn Beg Shamlu  
Saru Pira Ustajlu  
Durmish Khan Shamlu
Nur-Ali Khalifa
Muhammad Khan Ustajlu  
or 100,000[5]
or 212,000,[6]
artillery and muskets[7]
or 40,000[7]
or 55,000[8]
or 80,000[5]
Casualties and losses
Heavy losses[9]
or less than 2,000 [10]
Heavy losses[9]
or approximately 5,000 [11]

The Battle of Chaldiran or Chaldoran (Persian: چالدران‎‎; Turkish: Çaldıran) occurred on 23 August 1514 and ended with a decisive victory for the Ottoman Empire over the Safavid Empire. As a result, the Ottomans annexed eastern Anatolia and northern Iraq for the first time from Safavid Iran.[12] Despite brief Iranian reconquerings over the course of the centuries by the Safavids as well as by successive Iranian states, the Ottomans would manage by the next bout of hostilities, the 1532-1555 war to fully conquer most the same territories annexed in the Chaldiran battle. By the Chaldiran war, the Ottomans as well gained temporary control of northwestern Iran. The battle, however, was just the beginning of 41 years of destructive war and merely one of the many phases of the Ottoman-Persian Wars, which only ended in 1555 with the Treaty of Amasya. The Ottomans generally had the upper hand, but the Persians for the most part held their ground.[vague] Safavid losses in Shia-dominated metropolitan regions of Persia, such as Luristan and Kermanshah, proved temporary, being quickly recovered from the Ottomans, but important Persian cities such as Tabriz were often the target of destructive Ottoman raids. An exception was Mesopotamia and Eastern Anatolia (Western Armenia) which although eventually taken back, they would be permanently lost to the Ottomans by the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab.

At Chaldiran, the Ottomans had a larger, better equipped army numbering 60,000 to 200,000, while the Qizilbash Turcomans numbered some 40,000 to 80,000. Shah Ismail I, who was wounded and almost captured in the battle, retired to his palace and withdrew from government administration[13] after his wives were captured by Selim I,[14] with at least one married off to one of Selim's statesmen.[15] The battle is one of major historical importance because it not only negated the idea that the Murshid of the Shia-Qizilbash was infallible,[16] but it also fully defined the Ottoman-Safavid borders for a short time with the Ottomans gaining northwestern Iran, and led Kurdish chiefs to assert their authority and switch their allegiance from the Safavids to the Ottomans.[17]


After Selim I's successful struggle against his brothers for the throne of the Ottoman Empire, he was free to turn his attention to the internal unrest he believed was stirred up by the Shia Qizilbash, who had sided with other members of the Dynasty against him and had been semi-officially supported by Bayezid II. Selim now feared that they would incite the population against his rule in favor of Shah Isma'il leader of the Shia Safavids, and by some of his supporters believed to be family of the Prophet. Selim secured a jurist opinion that described Isma'il and the Qizilbash as "unbelievers and heretics" enabling him to undertake extreme measures on his way eastward to pacify the country.[18] In response, Shah Isma'il accused Sultan Selim of aggression against fellow Muslims, violating religious sexual rules and shedding innocent blood.[19]

When Selim started his march east, the Safavids were invaded in the east by the Uzbek state recently brought to prominence by Abu 'I-Fath Muhammad, who had fallen in battle against Isma'il only a few years before. To avoid the prospect of fighting a war on two fronts, Isma'il employed a scorched earth policy against Selim in the west.[20]

The terrain of eastern Anatolia and the Caucuses is extremely rough and combined with the difficulty in supplying the army in light of Isma'il's scorched earth campaign while marching against Muslims, Selim's army was discontented. The Janissaries even fired their muskets at the Sultan's tent in protest at one point. When Selim learned of the Safavid army forming at Chaldiran, he quickly moved to engage Isma'il in part to stifle the discontent of his army.[21]


Artwork of the Battle of Chaldiran.

The Ottomans deployed heavy artillery and thousands of Janissaries equipped with gunpowder weapons behind a barrier of carts. The Safavids used cavalry to engage the Ottoman forces. The Safavids attacked the Ottoman wings in an effort to avoid the Ottoman artillery positioned at the center. However, the Ottoman artillery was highly maneuverable and the Safavids suffered disastrous losses.[22] The advanced Ottoman weaponry was the deciding factor of the battle as the Safavid forces, who only had traditional weaponry, were decimated. The Safavids also suffered from poor planning and ill-disciplined troops unlike the Ottomans.[23]


Monument commemorating the Battle of Chaldiran built on the site of battlefield

Following their victory the Ottomans captured the Safavid capital city of Tabriz, which they first pillaged and then evacuated. The Ottoman Empire successfully annexed the eastern part of Anatolia (encompassing Western Armenia) and also northern Iraq from the Safavids despite several brief as well as long lasting regains during subsequent wars and battles against the neighbouring rivalling Safavids, as well as other successive Iranian states. However, Ottoman hold over Eastern Anatolia and swaths of Mesopotamia (Iraq) wouldn't be set until the 1555 Peace of Amasya following the Ottoman-Safavid War (1532-1555), and effective governmental rule and eyalets would not be established over these regions until the out coming result of the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab. By the Chaldiran battle, the Ottomans also gained brief control over northwestern Iran. The Shia defeat at Chaldiran brought an end to the Shia uprisings in Ottoman Empire. After two of his wives were captured by Selim[24] Ismail was heartbroken and resorted to drinking alcohol.[25] Ismail did not participate in government affairs,[26] as his aura of invincibility was shattered.[27]

After the defeat at Chaldiran, however, the Safavids made drastic domestic changes. From then on, firearms were made an integral part of the Persian armies and Ismail's son, Tahmasp I deployed cannons in subsequent battles.[28][29]

After the victorious battle of Chaldiran, Selim I would then throw his forces southward to fight the Mamluk Sultanate in the Ottoman–Mamluk War (1516–1517).


The site of the battle is near Chala Ashaqi village, around 6 km west of the town of Siyah Cheshmeh, south of Maku, north of Qareh Ziyaeddin. A large brick dome was built at the battlefield site in 2003 along with a statue of Seyid Sadraddin, one of the main Safavid commanders.


After the battle, Selim referring to Ismail believed that his adversary was:

Always drunk to the point of losing his mind and totally neglectful of the affairs of the state.[30]

See also


  1. David Eggenberger, An Encyclopedia of Battles, (Dover Publications, 1985), 85.
  2. Morgan, David O. The New Cambridge History of Islam Volume 3. The Eastern Islamic World, Eleventh to Eighteenth Centuries. Cambridge: Cambridge U, 2010. p.210 "Although the Safavids experienced military defeat at Chāldirān, the political outcome of the battle was a stalemate between the Ottomans and Safavids, even though the Ottomans ultimately won some territory from the Safavids. The stalemate was largely due to the ‘scorched earth’ strategy that the Safavids employed, making it impossible for the Ottomans to remain in the region"
  3. Ira M. Lapidus. "A History of Islamic Societies" Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1139991507 p 336
  4. Keegan & Wheatcroft, Who's Who in Military History, Routledge, 1996. p. 268 "In 1515 Selim marched east with some 60,000 men; a proportion of these were skilled Janissaries, certainly the best infantry in Asia, and the sipahis, equally well-trained and disciplined cavalry. [...] The Azerbaijanian army, under Shah Ismail, was almost entirely composed of Turcoman tribal levies, a courageous but ill-disciplined cavalry army. Slightly inferior in numbers to the Turks, their charges broke against the Janissaries, who had taken up fixed positions behind rudimentary field works."
  5. 5.0 5.1 Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire, ed. Gábor Ágoston,Bruce Alan Masters, page 286, 2009
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ghulam Sarwar, History of Shah Isma'il Safawi, AMS, New York, 1975, p. 79
  7. 7.0 7.1 Roger M. Savory, Iran under the Safavids, Cambridge, 1980, p. 41
  8. Keegan & Wheatcroft, Who's Who in Military History, Routledge, 1996. p. 268
  9. 9.0 9.1 Kenneth Chase, Firearms: A Global History to 1700, 120.
  10. Serefname II
  11. Serefname II s. 158
  12. Ira M. Lapidus. "A History of Islamic Societies" Cambridge University Press ISBN 1139991507 p 336
  13. Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shiʻi Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shiʻism, (Yale University Press, 1985), 107.
  14. The Cambridge History of Iran, ed. William Bayne Fisher, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, 224
  15. Leslie P. Peirce, The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, (Oxford University Press, 1993), 37.
  16. The Cambridge History of Iran, ed. William Bayne Fisher, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, 359.
  17. Martin Sicker, The Islamic World in Ascendancy: From the Arab conquests to the Siege of Vienna, (Praeger Publishers, 2000), 197.
  18. Caroline Finkel, Osman's Dream, (Basic Books, 2006), 104. .
  19. Caroline Finkel, Osman's Dream, 105.
  20. Caroline Finkel, Osman's Dream, 105
  21. Caroline Finkel, Osman's Dream, 106.
  22. Andrew James McGregor, A Military History of Modern Egypt: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Ramadan War, (Greenwood Publishing, 2006), 17.
  23. Gene Ralph Garthwaite, The Persians, (Blackwell Publishing, 2005), 164.
  24. The Cambridge history of Iran, ed. William Bayne Fisher, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, pg. 224.
  25. The Cambridge history of Islam, Part 1, ed. Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis, pg. 401
  26. Elton L. Daniel, The History of Iran, (ABC-CLIO, 2012), 86
  27. The Cambridge History of Islam, Part 1, By Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis, p. 401.
  28. Gunpowder and Firearms in the Mamluk Sultanate Reconsidered, Robert Irwin, The Mamluks in Egyptian and Syrian politics and society, ed. Michael Winter and Amalia Levanoni, (Brill, 2004), 127
  29. "Safavid Persia:The History and Politics of an Islamic Empire". Retrieved 26 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Rudi Matthee, The Pursuit of Pleasure: Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian history, 1500-1900, (Princeton University Press, 2005), 77