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Battle of Chaldiran
Chaldiran Battlefield Site in 2004.JPG
Monument commemorating the Battle of Chaldiran built on the site of battlefield
Date 23 August 1514
Location North-West Iran
Result Ottoman victory
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg Ottoman Empire Flag of Persia 1502.png Safavid Empire
Sultan Selim I Shah Ismail I
60,000[1] to 212,000 ,artillery and janissary musketeer[2][3] 12,000 to 40,000, armored heavy cavalry[3][2]
Casualties and losses
less than 2,000 approximately 5000 [4]

The Battle of Chaldiran (also Chaldoran or Çaldıran) occurred on 23 August 1514 and ended with a victory for the Ottoman Empire over the Safavid Empire of Persia. As a result the Ottomans gained control over the north western part of Iran. The Ottomans had a larger, better equipped army numbering 60,000 to 200,000, while the Iranians numbered some 40,000. Shah Ismail I, who was wounded and almost captured in the battle, retired to his palace and withdrew from government administration[5] after his wives were captured by Selim I[6] with at least one married off to one of Selim's statesman.[7] The Battle is one of major historical importance because it not only ruined the idea that the murshid of the Shia-Qizilbash is infallible;[8] but it also fully defined the Ottoman-Safavid borders and led Kurdish chiefs to assert their authority and switch their allegiance from the Safavids to the Ottomans.[9]



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 Kizilbash, whom 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 Kizilbash as "unbelievers and heretics" enabling him to undertake extreme measures on his way eastward to pacify the country.[10] In response, Shah Isma'il accused Sultan Selim of aggression against fellow Muslims, violating religious sexual rules and shedding innocent blood.[11] Selim and Ismā'il continued to exchange a series of belligerent letters prior to the battle and in one letter to Selim, Ismail quipped:

Mən pirimi haq bilirəm,
Yoluna qurban oluram,
Dün doğdum bugün ölürəm,
Ölən gəlsin iştə meydan.

I know the Truth as my supreme guide,
I would sacrifice myself in his way,
I was born yesterday, I will die today,
Come, whoever would die, here is the arena.

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 possibility of fighting a two front war, Isma'il employed a scorched earth policy against Selim in the west.[12]

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.[13]


Battle of Chaldiran.

The Ottomans deployed heavy artillery and thousands of Janissaries equipped with gunpowder weapons behind a barrier of carts. Even though the Safavids had access to gunpowder technology, they chose not to use it because at that time, they believed it to be inhumane, and instead 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.[14] The advanced Ottoman weaponry was the deciding factor of the battle as the Safavid forces, who elected to use traditional weaponry, were decimated. The Safavids also used poor planning and relied on ill-disciplined troops unlike the Ottomans.[15]


Following the victory Ottomans captured Tabriz, and Safavids did not threaten them again for nearly a century. It also brought an end to the Alevi uprisings in Ottoman Empire. After two of his wives were captured by Selim[16] Ismail was heartbroken and resorted to drinking alcohol.[17] Ismail did not participate in government affairs,[18] as his aura of invincibility was shattered.

The Battle of Chaldiran demonstrated that firearms were a decisive factor in warfare. Prior to Chaldiran, the Safavid army refused to use firearms for they regarded this kind of warfare as cowardly and honorless. However, the Safavids made drastic domestic changes after the defeat at Chaldiran, as Ismail's son, Tahmasp I deployed cannons in subsequent battles.[19] The outcome at Chaldiran had many consequences. Perhaps most significantly, it established the border between the two empires, which remains the border between Turkey and Iran today. With the establishment of that border, Tabriz became a frontier city, uncomfortably close to the Ottoman enemy. That consideration would be a major factor in the decision to move the Safavid capital to Qazvin, in the mid-16th century, and finally to Isfahan, in 1598.

The Battlefield Today

The site of the battle is near Jala 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[20].


  • After the battle, Selim referring to Ismail stated that his adversary:
Always drunk to the point of losing his mind and totally neglectful of the affairs of the state.[21]
  • Selim is also quoted as saying:
A carpet is large enough to accommodate two sufis, but the world is not large enough for two Kings.

See also


  1. ^ 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."
  2. ^ a b Roger M. Savory, Iran under the Safavids, Cambridge, 1980, p. 41
  3. ^ a b Ghulam Sarwar, "History of Shah Isma'il Safawi", AMS, New York, 1975, p. 79
  4. ^ Serefname II s. 158
  5. ^ An Introduction to Shiʻi Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shiʻism, By Moojan Momen, pg. 107
  6. ^ The Cambridge history of Iran, By William Bayne Fisher, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, pg.224
  7. ^ The imperial harem: women and sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, By Leslie P. Peirce, pg. 37
  8. ^ The Cambridge history of Iran, By William Bayne Fisher, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, pg. 359
  9. ^ The Islamic world in ascendancy: from the Arab conquests to the siege of Vienna, By Martin Sicker, pg. 197
  10. ^ Finkel, C: "Osman's Dream", page 104. Basic Books, 2006.
  11. ^ Id. at 105.
  12. ^ Id.
  13. ^ Id. at 106,
  14. ^ A military history of modern Egypt: from the Ottoman Conquest to the Ramadan War, By Andrew James McGregor, pg. 17
  15. ^ The Persians, By Gene Ralph Garthwaite, pg. 164
  16. ^ The Cambridge history of Iran, By William Bayne Fisher, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, pg. 224
  17. ^ The Cambridge history of Islam, Part 1, By Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis, pg. 401
  18. ^ The history of Iran, By Elton L. Daniel, pg. 86
  19. ^ The Mamluks in Egyptian and Syrian politics and society, By Michael Winter, Amalia Levanoni, pg. 127
  20. ^ Lonely Planet Iran, 4th edition, p125
  21. ^ The pursuit of pleasure: drugs and stimulants in Iranian history, 1500-1900 By Rudolph P. Matthee, pg. 77



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