Battle of Chaldiran

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Chaldiran

date=23 August 1514
place=North west of Iran
result=Ottoman victory
commander1= Sultan Selim I
commander2=Shah Ismail I
strength1=60,000Keegan & 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."] to 200,000H.A.R. Gibb & H. Bowen, "Islamic society and the West", i/2, Oxford, 1957, p. 189] Roger M. Savory, Encyclopaedia of Islam, "Safawids", Online Edition 2005 page number]
strength2=50,000 to 80,000
casualties1=less than 2000
casualties2=approximately 5000 [Serefname II s. 158]
The Battle of Chaldiran (also Chaldoran or "Çaldıran") occurred on 23 August 1514 and ended with a decisive victory for the Ottoman Empire over the Safavids. 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 50,000-80,000. Shah Ismail I was wounded and almost captured in the conflict.


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 considered to be the return of Ali. 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. [Finkel, C: "Osman's Dream", page 104. Basic Books, 2006.] In response, Shah Isma'il accused Sultan Selim of aggression against fellow Muslims, violating religious sexual rules and shedding innocent blood. [Id. at 105.]

At the same time that Selim I marched west, 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. In the course of this two front war, Isma'il had to employ a scorched earth policy against Selim in the west. [Id.]

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. [Id. at 106,]


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 they believed it is inhumanity, and instead used qizilbash cavalry to engage the Ottoman forces. The advanced Ottoman weaponry was the deciding factor of the battle as the Safavid forces, who elected to use traditional weaponry, were decimated.


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.

The Battle of Chaldiran demonstrated that firearms were a decisive factor in warfare. Prior to Chaldiran, the Safavid army (Qizilbash) refused to use firearms for they regarded this kind of warfare cowardly and honorless.

The Qizlbasha chivalric code was called the jawanmardi.

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 Safavids made drastic domestic changes after the defeat at Chaldiran. The Safavids spoke a Turkic language [ [ The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Safavid.] ] [Bernard Lewis, The Middle East, 2000 Years of History, Phoenix, 2000 p114 ] [David Morgan, Medieval Persia 1040-1797, Longman, 1988 p. 111 ] . The Safavid royal family moved away from extreme, eschatological, Alevi sect and adopted Shia sect as the official religion of the empire - the position of the Shah as Mahdi being incompatible with the recent defeat . The Sunni Shafi`i majority of Iran was also forciblyFact|date=August 2008 converted to Ithna Ashari Shia while those, mostly Qizilbash, who refused to abandon the previous worship of the Shah were executed.

The Battlefield Today

The site of the battle is near Jala Ashaqi village, around 6km 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 [Lonely Planet Iran, 4th edition, p125] .


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