History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Persia and the East





The Persians (or Parsu, Parsua, Parsuash, Parsumash, from which the modern Fārs gained its name) were a later grouping of Indo-Europeans who migrated, probably along the River Oxus for part of its length, into Iran. They settled to the east of ancient Elam during the period of instability and migration which occurred throughout the Middle East between 1200-900 BC. During this same period other tribal groups such as the Aramaeans and the Sea Peoples were causing chaos further west.

The Persians drifted in from the east alongside other similar groups which included the Alans, Mannaeans, and Medians, probably via Sogdiana and Transoxiana, not long after other Indo-European groups had entered India. That probably made them descendants of Indo-Europeans who had bordered and integrated themselves into the Bronze Age culture known as the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, or Oxus Civilisation. This had emerged between roughly 2200-1700 BC in Central Asia in modern Turkmenistan and towards the Oxus, and although originally indigenous was almost certainly subject to a slow 'invasion' of Indo-European tribes in much the same way as the Pelasgians of Greece were largely subsumed by the Mycenaeans. The mythical early Persian 'kings' seem to rule their people either in these areas around the Oxus or in parts of eastern Iran. In fact, one of the names given by the Thiruvalangadu copperplate grant of the Chola family in India, Aryaman (shortly after around 1000 BC), is the source of the name 'Iran'. This particular Aryaman was not the one who gave his name to that land, but another (Persian) Indo-European who also bore the name did just that.

The Persian capital until 559 BC was Pasargadae in Fars, the modern region which was the heartland of ancient Persia. Increasing dominance saw them move that capital to the former Elamite capital at Susa. In effect, they were Elam's successors, inheriting their language and culture, especially during the Achaemenid period.

(Additional information by Jo Amdahl and Edward Dawson, from Empire of Gold: Foundations, Jo Amdahl, and from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, with reference to a large number of original and secondary sources that are included in the 'Persia and Eastwards' section of the Sources page.)

c.1000 - 559 BC

The Persians are under the overlordship of Elam, although in the later stages Assyria and Media also claim some control over the region. As Elam's influence weakens, the Achaemenid Persians begin to assert their own authority in the region.

River Oxus / Amu Darya
The River Oxus - also known over the course of many centuries as the Amu Darya - was used as a demarcation border throughout history - it was also a hub of activity in prehistoric times, providing a home to the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, or Oxus Civilisation

Later myth ascribes a dynasty of rulers to this period, as described in the Shahnameh ('The Book of Kings'), a poetic opus which is written in about AD 1000 but which accesses older works and perhaps elements of an oral tradition. The Kayanian dynasty of kings are also the heroes of the Avesta, which forms the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism. This faith itself had been founded along the banks of the River Oxus, which had probably also formed part of the migratory route used by the Indo-European Persians as they entered Iran.

Fereydun / Faridun

Ruled a 'world empire'.


Great-grandson. First of the legendary kings or shahs of Iran.


Son and early king. Killed by Afrasiab of Turan.

Kai Kobad / Kei Qobád

Kayanian dynasty founder who united the Aryan tribes.

According to tradition, probbly oral until it was written down in the eleventh century AD, Kai Kobad lives in the Alborz Mountains, a range which stretches from the borders of modern Armenia, across northern Iran to the border between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. This seems to support the evidence of a Persian migration from further north and east, and it may be used to show that they have not yet fully settled in Persia itself.

7th cent BC

Kai Kavoos / Kay Kāvus

Mythical early Persian king.

The wife of Kai Kavoos, Sudabeh, attempts to persuade his son, Sijavus, to betray the king in return for sex, but Sijavus refuses and goes into voluntary exile in Sogdiana. His son, Kai Khosrow, is chosen by Kai Kavoos as his successor in Persia.

Kai Khosrow

Son of Sijavus. Later king of Persia. Reigned for about 60 years.

Kai Lohrasb / Luarsab

Chosen successor of Kai Khosrow.

Kai Garshasp / Goshtasp

Kai Bahman / Wahman

Son of Esfandiyar and grandson of Garshasp.

The Bahamani sultanate of the fourteenth century AD, located on the Deccan plateau in central India, claims descent from Kai Bahman.

Kai Darab / Dara


675 BC

At a time which may fit in with the end of the Kayanian kings, the Persians begin to unite under the (legendary) founder of their new dynasty. Many scholars of Persian history now believe that Achaemenes is a fictional common ancestor who is used to legitimise the rule of Darius I from 521 BC. Darius goes so far as to install inscriptions on the unfinished palace of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae that reads 'I am Cyrus, the king, the Achaemenid.' No record of Achaemenes can be dated earlier than the reign of Darius I. Nonetheless, the name 'Achaemenid' has been commonly accepted for the line of Persian kings beginning with Darius I. Some sources use the term Achaemenid to refer to the entire line of early Persian rulers, including both Cyrus and Cambyses (600 BC).

675 - 640 BC

Achaemenes Teispes

Vassal of the Medes.

644 BC

Assyria devastates Elam and only a fragmented kingdom survives.

640 - 600 BC

Cyrus I

Vassal of the Medes.

c.620 BC

Media gains a level of control in the region as Assyria is destroyed.

600 - 559 BC

Cambyses (Kambuzya of Anshan)

Last Median-controlled Persian king.

559 BC

Cambyses marries Mandane, (a) daughter of Astyages of Media. Their son is Cyrus, later known as 'the Great', while Mandane is also the niece of Amyhia, queen of Babylon. Cyrus ends the vassalage of the Persians by defeating the Medes and then he swiftly creates an empire.

Achaemenid Persia (Persian Empire)
559 - 330 BC

While Cyrus the Great built the Persian empire from its small beginnings in south-western Iran, Darius I is thought to have been a usurper of the Persian throne. Going back to the titular founder of the dynasty, many scholars of Achaemenid history now believe that Achaemenes was a fictional common ancestor who was used to legitimise Darius' rule. Darius went so far as to install inscriptions on the unfinished palace of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae that read 'I am Cyrus, the king, the Achaemenid.' No record of Achaemenes can be dated earlier than the reign of Darius I. Nonetheless, the name 'Achaemenid' has been commonly accepted for the line of Persian kings beginning with Darius I. Some sources use the term Achaemenid to refer to the entire line of early Persian rulers, including both Cyrus and Cambyses.

Each ruler is usually known by the Greek form of his name, but the original Persian versions are included in parenthesis.

(Additional information by Jo Amdahl, from Empire of Gold: Foundations, Jo Amdahl, from The Marshals of Alexander's Empire, Waldemar Heckel, from Alexander the Great and Hernán Cortés: Ambiguous Legacies of Leadership, Justin D Lyons, and from External Link: Zoroastrian Heritage, K E Eduljee, with reference to a large number of original and secondary sources that are included in the 'Persia and Eastwards' section of the Sources page.)

559 - 530 BC

Cyrus (Kurush) II the Great

FeatureSon of Cambyses. Created the Achaemenid empire.

559 - 530 BC

A vigorous ruler, one of Cyrus' very first acts is to move the Persian capital to the former Elamite capital, Susa, in 559 BC. Then, from 553 BC, he sets about releasing the Persians from vassalage. Herodotus tells the story of how the Medians lose control of the Persians when Cyrus rebels. In 550 BC (or 549 BC) Cyrus wins a decisive victory and Astyages of the Medes is captured by his own nobles and handed over. The sources conflict when it comes to explaining the precise relationship between Cyrus and Astyages. According to some, Cyrus is his son-in-law, while others state that he is his grandson and the legal heir of Media. The two versions are not necessarily in conflict with each other. Cyrus is Astyages' grandson through the latter's marriage to a Persian princess. In addition, Cyrus has also married his aunt, Astyages' daughter, Amyhia (not to be confused with his sister of the same name!), in order to cement his claim to the Median throne.

The defeat of the Medes opens the floodgates for Cyrus with a wave of conquests, beginning with Cilicia in 549 BC. Harpagus, a Median of the royal house and the main cause of Astyages' defeat, commands Cyrus' army in Anatolia, conquering it between 547-546 BC. Taken during this campaign are Caria, Lycia, Lydia, Paphlagonia, Phrygia, and Tabal (Cappadocia), and Harpagus and his descendants reign thereafter in Caria and Lycia as satraps. Eastern Iran falls during a more drawn-out campaign between c.546-540 BC, during which the further eastern regions of Arachosia, Bactria, Drangiana, Gandhara, Khwarazm, and Margiana are also added to the empire, although records for these campaigns are characteristically sparse.

Achaemenid palace decoration at Babylon
This Achaemenid (Persian empire) palace decoration stood at Babylon and was transported to Berlin upon being rediscoveed by archaeologists

Macedonia is taken in 542 BC, and Cyrus is virtually invited into Babylon (539 BC). This also gains him the remainder of Elam's territory, plus Phoenicia and the Mediterranean coast are captured (although Arabia and Cilicia are subsequently lost). Typically the end of Cyrus' reign is spent in military activity in Central Asia where, according to Herodotus, he dies in battle in 530 BC fighting the Massagetae.

530 - 523 BC

Cambyses (Kambujiya) II


525 - 522 BC

The Persians conquer Egypt, creating the 27th Dynasty. They add Cyprus to the empire in the same year.

However, it seems that the uncrowned Pharaoh Psamtik is not immediately captured. Instead he, or the bulk of his forces, seek refuge around the Dachla Oasis. Cambyses follows him with an army of 50,000 men and, according to Herodotus, the entire army disappears in the desert, presumably overcome by a sand storm (around 524 BC).

A highly favourable modern theory is that this story was created by Cambyses' successor to mask an embarrassing defeat. Psamtik manages to reconquer a large part of Egypt and is crowned pharaoh in the capital, Memphis. Darius I, ends the Egyptian 'revolt' with a good deal of bloodshed two years after Cambyses' defeat, in 522 BC.

522 - 521 BC

Smerdis / Bardia / Bardiya

Usurper called Gaumata using a royal name. Murdered by Darius.

521 - 485 BC

Darius (Darayavahush) I the Great

First 27th Egyptian Dynasty ruler.

521 BC

Darius kills the usurper Gaumata and takes control of the empire, taking great pains to legitimise his rule by installing an inscription at Pasargadae to record his 'descent' from the legendary founder of the Persian dynasty. He also regulates the system of control within the empire. Instead of a number of polities with different systems of rule, he creates a uniform structure of about twenty provinces. These are often called satrapies, after the Greek interpretation of the original Persian word for 'protecting the kingdom'. He extends the satrapy of Egypt to include Cyrene.

516 - 515 BC

Darius embarks on a military campaign into the lands east of the empire. He marches through Aria and Bactria, and then to Gandhara and Taxila. By 515 BC he is conquering lands around the Indus Valley before returning via Arachosia (modern southern Afghanistan and northern and central Pakistan, and perhaps extending as far as the Indus) and Drangiana. A subsequent cuneiform inscriptions set up by Darius lists the nations that comprise the Persian empire. They include three nations using Saka as a prefix to their names: Saka Haumavarga, Saka Tigrakhauda, and Saka Paradraya.

Sakas on a frieze at Persepolis
Saka Tikrakhauda (otherwise known as 'Scythians' who in this case can be more precisely identified as Sakas) depicted on a frieze at Persepolis in Achaemenid Persia, which would have been the greatest military power in the region at this time

513 - 512 BC

The Persians enter northern Greece, conquering Thrace south of the Danube. They hold onto it for about fifty years, possibly until they are forced out of Macedonia by Alexander I.

500 BC

Darius oversees the completion of a canal connecting the Nile to the Red Sea.

490 BC

In revenge for a rebellion by the Greek cities on the Aegean coast and on Cyprus that had taken between 499-494 to subdue, Darius decides to invade Greece. He is decisively defeated at the Battle of Marathon by a force of Greeks under Miltiades.

485 - 465 BC

Xerxes (Xshayarsha) I

Son. Murdered (by Artabanus?).


Son and heir. Murdered (by Artabanus?).

480 - 479 BC

FeatureInvading Greece in 480 BC, the Persians subdue the Thracian tribes (except for the Satrai, precursors to the Bessoi) and the Macedonians. Then the vast army of Xerxes makes its way southwards and is swiftly engaged by Athens and Sparta in the Vale of Tempe. The Persians are subsequently stymied by a mixed force of Greeks - which includes Athenians, Corinthians, Helots, Mycenaeans, Thebans, and Thespians - led by Sparta under King Leonidas at Thermopylae. (These events are depicted somewhat colourfully - but no less impressively for that - in the 2007 film, 300.) The Persian army is held up long enough for the Athenians to prepare their navy for a seaborne engagement with the Persian fleet.

Athens, as the leader of the coalition of city states known as the Delian League, fights the Persian navy at the battles of Artemisium and Salamis, the latter being a resounding Greek victory. It leaves much of the Persian navy destroyed and Xerxes is forced to retreat to Asia, leaving his army in Greece under Mardonius (with the naval battles being shown to superb graphic effect in the 2014 sequel film, 300: Rise of an Empire, although it does contain a great many historical inaccuracies). As a reward for his support of Xerxes during the war, the exiled Demaratus of Sparta is granted a satrapy of his own in Pergamum, whilst Queen Artemisia I of Caria is sent to Ephesus to care for the sons of Xerxes. The following year, Mardonius meets the Greeks in a final battle. The Spartans, now at full strength, lead a pan-Greek army at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC which decisively defeats the Persians and ends the Greco-Persian War.

Xerxes is later murdered, as is his son and heir, Darius. Whether he is responsible or not, Xerxes' chief officer, Artabanus, takes control of the empire until he too is killed, this time by Artaxerxes I.

465 - 464 BC

Artabanus the Hyrcanian

Regent or usurper. Former chief officer under Xerxes I.

464 - 424 BC

Artaxerxes (Artaxshassa) I Longimanus

Son of Xerxes I.

446 BC

Artaxerxes appoints Nehemiah, his Jewish cup-bearer, as the governor of Judea.

424 - 423 BC

Xerxes II


424 - 423 BC



423 - 404 BC

Darius II

Last 27th Egyptian Dynasty ruler.

411 - 409 BC

The Cypriot city state of Salamis breaks away from Persian control. Two years later a Median rebellion against Darius II is less successful, being very short-lived.

404 BC

Egypt breaks away from Persian control.

404 - 359 BC

Artaxerxes II Mnemon


401 - 395 BC

Cyrus, satrap of Asia Minor, attempts to revolt, mobilising an army and ten thousand Greek mercenaries to attack his brother. Defeat leads to his death in October 401 BC at the Battle of Cunaxa. In 395 BC, Artaxerxes initially backs the Greek city states of Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos against Sparta in the Corinthian War.

391 - 381 BC

Persia recovers Salamis in 381 BC following the short-lived Ionian revolt.

387 BC

Persia recaptures Lycia from Athens.

385 BC

Satrap Camissares of Khilakku is killed in the Persian war against the Cadusii, a tribe that lives in the Iranian mountains on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea.

359 - 338 BC

Artaxerxes III Ochus


358 BC

The Phoenician subject city of Sidon on the Mediterranean coast rebels, but the rebellion is crushed in the same year.

350 BC

An attempt in Assyria to assert independence ends in failure and retribution by the Persians.

343 BC

Artaxerxes re-conquers Egypt, but this second Persian occupation of the country is short-lived.

338 - 336 BC

Artaxerxes IV Arses (Arsha)


336 - 330 BC

Darius III Codomannus

Nephew. Murdered by the satrap of Bactria.

334 - 330 BC

Persia is conquered by the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great. The eastern province of Bactria is used as the base for resistance by Bassus. As well as being Bactria's former satrap, he now styles himself Artaxerxes V, king of Asia, and it takes Alexander two more years to fully conquer the region.

Argead Dynasty

The Argead were the ruling family and founders of Macedonia who reached their greatest extent under Alexander the Great and his two successors before the kingdom broke up into several Hellenic sections. Following Alexander's conquest of central and eastern Persia, the Greek empire ruled the region until Alexander's death in 323 BC and the subsequent regency period which ended in 310 BC. Alexander's successors held no real power, being mere figureheads for the generals who really held control of Alexander's empire. Following that latter period and several wars, the region was left in the hands of the Seleucid empire from 305 BC.

(Additional information from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at Livius.org.)

330 - 323 BC

Alexander III the Great

King of Macedonia. Conquered Persia.

323 - 317 BC

Philip III Arrhidaeus

Feeble-minded half-brother of Alexander the Great.

317 - 310 BC

Alexander IV of Macedonia

Infant son of Alexander the Great and Roxana.

323 - 320? BC

The former Persian empire is divided into separate satrapies. The Parthian section of conquered Persia is governed by the Greek general, Phrataphernes, Babylonia and northern Mesopotamia by Arcesilas and Archon, and Susiana by Antigenes, while the other provinces each receive their own satraps.

323 - 320 BC


Greek satrap of Persis.

323 - 320 BC


Greek satrap of Carmania.

323 - 320 BC


Greek satrap of northern Media.

323 - 315 BC


Greek satrap of Media.

320 - 305 BC

Alexander's general, Seleucus, governs Persia during the period of the Diadochi Wars, although the Empire of Antigonus captures areas of his rule between 315-312 BC.

320 - 305 BC


Greek satrap of Babylonia.

305 BC

The Fourth War of the Diadochi sees Media and Persia ruled by the Hellenic Seleucid empire from Babylon and then Antioch, in Syria. The satraps of Media and Persia or Persis (the region as opposed to the former empire) answer directly to the Seleucid ruler, although precisely how much control is wielded from Antioch is unclear. In essence the satraps in the eastern regions operate as they see fit, within certain limits.

256 BC

Andragoras, the Greek satrap of Parthia, declares independence from Seleucid Greek rule at the same time as Bactria.

? - 220 BC


Seleucid satrap of Persis. Brother of Molon of Media.

223 - 221 BC

Antiochus III sets about rebuilding the Seleucid empire which is shown to be very weak at this time. Media and Persis immediately stage a joint rebellion in 223 BC under their satraps, the brothers Molon and Alexander. Ill-advised in the matter, Antiochus sends generals east to deal with them while he embarks on a farcical attack on Egypt to regain lost territory in the south. Both campaigns end in utter defeat. In the north, Achaeus, Antiochus' cousin, records the only immediate success by forcing Pergamum back to its original borders.

Antiochus deals personally with the eastern rebellion in 221 BC. It collapses in the face of his advance, with Molon's forces deserting him. Lesser Media under another rebel, Artabazanes, also buckles and Atropatene in north-western Media is captured.

206 - 205 BC

Seleucid ruler Antiochus III returns from his expedition into the eastern regions by passing through the Iranian provinces of Arachosia, Drangiana, and Carmania. He arrives in Persis in 205 BC and receives tribute of five hundred talents of silver from the citizens of Gerrha, a mercantile state on the east coast of the Persian Gulf. Having re-established a strong Seleucid presence in the east which includes an array of vassal states, Antiochus now adopts the ancient Achaemenid title of 'great king', which the Greeks copy by referring to him as 'Basileus Megas'.

164 BC

The Arsacids have been gradually extending their control over the eastern lands of former Persia, and Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV now campaigns against them. He recovers lost income from the region and forces the defector, Artaxias of Armenia, to recognise his suzerainty. Then he founds the city of Antioch on the Persian Gulf, sets out on an expedition to the Arabian coast and, at the end of 164 BC, dies of illness at Tabae (or Gabae, probably modern Isfahan) in Persis.

Arsacid (Parthian) Persia
248 BC - AD 224

The region known as Parthia lay to the north of Persia itself, nestled between the Greek satrapy of Bactria and the southern third of the Caspian Sea. Following a declaration of independence by the resident Greek satrap of Parthia, the region was slowly liberated from Seleucid rule by Parni tribesmen who emerged out of obscurity on the Iranian Plateau and took over north-eastern and central Persia while the Seleucids weakened in the west. By 130 BC the Parthians, as they came to refer to themselves, had conquered all of Persia, and in 126 BC they took Babylonia. The rise of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty also saw Bactria cut off from the Seleucids, and an independent Greco-Bactrian kingdom was declared there. The Bactrian king, Diodotus II, concluded a peace treaty with Arsaces to forestall a Seleucid re-conquest of both Persia and Bactria.

The dating of the Arsacids is uncertain, as is the sequence of rulers in some cases, and is largely known from coins alone. Not all pretenders and temporary rulers are mentioned in this list, though a fair number of overlapping reigns do seem to be mentioned.

(Additional information from Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus: Books 11-12, Volume 1, Marcus Junianus Justinus, John Yardley, & Waldemar Heckel, from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, and from External Links: the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at Livius.org, and Diodorus of Sicily at the Library of World History.)

323 - 320? BC


Greek satrap of Parthia & Hyrcania.

fl 256 - c.238 BC


Greek satrap of Parthia. Killed by the Parni.

c.256 BC

Andragora declares independence from Seleucid Greek rule at the same time as Bactria.

c.250 - 248 BC

Areas of Persia are slowly liberated from Greek rule by tribesmen from the Iranian Plateau.

c.250 - 211? BC

Arsaces I of the Parni People

248 - c.238 BC

Parthia secures independence from Seleucid rule, and the Parthians fully establish themselves with the death of the Greek satrap and king of Parthia.

235 - 229 BC

Antiochus Heirax continues his campaign to wrest the Seleucid empire from his brother by defeating him at the battle of Ancyra in 235 BC, leaving Anatolia outside of Seleucid power. Seleucus II then marches into Parthia, intent on regaining that, but is forced to be satisfied with a peace agreement. Arsaces I is recognised as king of Parthia. The tide of Seleucid turns when Attalus of Pergamum defeats Antiochus at the Battle of Harpasus in 229 BC.

? - 211 BC


c.211 - 191 BC

Artabanus I (?)

c.200 BC

FeatureThe Persian 'ancient batteries', basic electric cells, are dated to this point in time, although their function and origin remain unclear to this day.

Map of Bactria and India 200 BC
The kingdom of Bactria (shown in white) was at the height of its power around 200-180 BC, with fresh conquests being made in the south-east, encroaching into India just as the Mauryan empire was on the verge of collapse, while the Parthians were only beginning to expand their power and area of control (click on map to show full sized)

c.211 - 191 BC

Arsaces II (?)

212 - 209 BC

Having defeated his rebellious cousin in Anatolia, Antiochus III of the Seleucid empire concentrates on the northern and eastern provinces of the empire. Xerxes of Armenia is persuaded to acknowledge his supremacy in 212 BC, while in 209 BC Antiochus invades Parthia. Its capital, Hecatompylos, is occupied and Antiochus forces his way into Hyrcania, with the result that the Parthian king, Arsaces II, is forced to sue for peace.

c.191 - 176 BC


c.191 - 176 BC


185 BC

The Parthians expand into eastern Iran at the expense of the Seleucid ruler, Seleucus IV. His reign is otherwise uneventful, mostly due to the disastrous defeat of 188 BC. He is assassinated by his own chief minister, Heliodorus, allowing his brother to seize the throne.

c.176 - 171 BC

Phraates I

171 - 132 BC

Mithradates I

(Not the same as the king of Pontus.)

164 BC

The Arsacids have been gradually extending their control over the eastern lands of former Persia, and Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV now campaigns against them. He recovers lost income from the region and forces the defector, Artaxias of Armenia, to recognise his suzerainty. Then he founds the city of Antioch on the Persian Gulf, sets out on an expedition to the Arabian coast and, at the end of 164 BC, dies of illness at Tabae (or Gabae, probably modern Isfahan) in Persis.

145 - 141 BC

Seleucid rival claimant Antiochus VI is recognised in Antioch, and Demetrius is forced to flee to Seleucia near Babylon, although he only makes it thanks to soldiers from Judea who save his life. However, the Parthians under the very able Mithradates I make the most of the Seleucid civil war by taking Media in 141 BC. In the same year Mithradates also captures Seleucia and then Uruk.

140 - 138 BC

In 140 BC, another Seleucid rival claimant, Diodotus, kills Antiochus VI and proclaims himself ruler of the empire with the name Tryphon. Diodotus Tryphon then goes on to destroy Beirut in his contest with Demetrius. The following year, Mithradates of Parthia conquers Susa in Elam, leaving the Seleucids denuded of all lands east of the Euphrates.

c.132 - 126 BC

Phraates II

Son. Killed by Sakas.

132 - 129 BC

Antiochus VII takes up the reins of regaining lost eastern territories, but he turns out to be the last Seleucid emperor of the east. After the death of Mithradates I around 132 BC (138 BC is given as an alternate date, although this may mark the point at which Phraates is raised to a senior supporting role), Antiochus launches a campaign which is initially successful, recapturing Media and Babylonia in 130 BC. Antiochus demands that the Parthians restore all Seleucid territories in Iran, so they defeat him in battle in 129 BC and he commits suicide later that year. His death ends Seleucid rule in Mesopotamia and Iran. The Parthians release the captive Demetrius II and allow him to return to the remnants of the empire in Syria and Cilicia (plus Babylonia until 126 BC).

138 - 126 BC

In the core Parthian homeland, Phraates comes into conflict with western elements of the Sakas. The Parthians are defeated in several battles, the last of which ends with the death of Phraates himself in the same year in which he regains Babylonia, removing the very last eastern territory from the Seleucid empire.

c.126 BC

Bacasis / Bagasis

Son of Phriapatius.

c.128 - 124 BC

Artabanus II (I)

c.126 - 124 BC

Having already caused the death of Artabanus' predecessor, the Sakas continue to press Parthian borders for territory. Artabanus is killed in one such encounter.

c.121 BC


Unnamed king with the throne name of Arsaces XI.

129 - 126 BC

The Parthians invade and conquer Mesopotamia and Babylonia, dethroning and killing the Seleucid king.

121 - 87 BC

Mithradates II the Great

Cousin of Phraates II.

115 BC

With Parthian territory having been harried for years by the Sakas, Mithridates II is finally able to take control of the situation. First he defeats the Yuezhi in Sogdiana in 115 BC, and then he defeats the Scythians in Parthia and Seistan around 100 BC. After their defeat, the Yuezhi tribes concentrate on consolidation in Bactria.

92 - 90 BC

A treaty is formed with Rome. Within two years the Parthians take control of eastern Iran, and Mithradates launches an attack against the Seleucid empire with Aziz the Arab as his ally. The target is Antiochus X who is killed during the fighting.

89 - 87 BC

Mithradates launches an attack against the Seleucid empire with Aziz the Arab as his ally. The target is Antiochus X who is killed during the fighting. The weakened and distracted Seleucids also lose Harran to Armenia as Tigranes the Great conquers much of Syria (between this point and 69 BC). The civil war at least would seem to be over - until Philip and Demetrius fight each other for the throne. The spark seems to be Demetrius breaking off his attacks against the Hasmonaeans to capture Antioch. Unbelievably, Philip invites the Arsacids to help him, and in 88/87 BC they capture Demetrius. He later dies in captivity. Philip seizes the northern part of the empire and is recognised in Antioch but his younger brother, Antiochus XII, now claims Damascus in the south and a fresh civil war is triggered.

c.90 - 80 BC

Gotarzes I

c.80 - 78 BC

Orodes I

c.80 BC

On the eastern edge of Parthian territory, the Yeuh Chi (Tocharians) continue to drive the Indo-Scythian Sakas southwards from Central Asia. In turn, the Parthians divert the Sakas from Persian territory into Indo-Greek Gandhara, ensuring that their future lies in entering India.

c.77 - 70 BC


c.70 - 58 BC

Phraates III

c.70 BC

Indo-Scythians expel the Indo-Greeks from Arachosia but subsequently lose the region to the Parthians. Parthian rule seems to be limited and perhaps does not include the entire region.

Map of Central Asia & India c.50 BC
By the period between 100-50 BC the Greek kingdom of Bactria had fallen and the remaining Indo-Greek territories (shown in white) had been squeezed towards Eastern Punjab. India was partially fragmented, and the once tribal Sakas were coming to the end of a period of domination of a large swathe of territory in modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and north-western India. The dates within their lands (shown in yellow) show their defeats of the Greeks that had gained them those lands, but they were very soon to be overthrown in the north by the Kushans while still battling for survival against the Satvahanas of India (click on map to show full sized)

66 BC

The Parthians take control of Harran.

c.58 - 39 BC

Orodes II

53 BC

The Battle of Carrhae (Harran). Triumvir Crassus is killed and 34,000 legionnaires are captured or killed. Some captured Romans may later be used to fight against China, while others are sold as slaves by the thousand in China and India, as well as closer to home.

c.57 - 55 BC

Mithradates III

Pacorus I

(d.38 BC)

c.40 - 3 BC

Phraates IV

Son of Orodes.

40 - 36 BC

Between 40-37 BC, the Parthians attack and occupy areas of Roman Syria, including the city of Bashan. Rome's Mark Antony leads an army against the Parthians in 36 BC, supported by Polemon I of Cilicia, Kolkis, and Pontus. However, the force is defeated and Polemon is captured and ransomed.

c.30 - 25 BC


3 BC - AD 3

Phraates V

2 - 4

Queen Musa


The empire gradually breaks into smaller kingdoms that remain loosely united for 200 years.

4 - 7

Orodes III

c.7 - 12

Vonones I

Became king of Armenia 15-16.


The Indo-Greek kingdom disappears under Indo-Scythian pressure. It seems to be Rajuvula, kshatrapa of Mathura, who invades what is virtually the last free Indo-Greek territory in the eastern Punjab, and kills the Greek ruler, Strato II and his son. Pockets of Greek population probably remain for some centuries under the subsequent rule of the Kushans and Indo-Parthian. By now the Parthians already seem to have captured Kashmir from the Indo-Scythians, relieving them of an important prize.

c.10 - 38

Artabanus III (II)

His son became king of Armenia 34-35.


The Parthian vassal in the east of Persia, Gondophares, ventures furthers east and establishes an independent Indo-Parthian kingdom in Afghanistan and northern India.

c.39 - 45

Vardanes I

c.43 - 50

Gotarzes II

c.50 - 76

Vologeses I

Vologeses I is brother to Pacorus of Media, and Tiridates II of Armenia. He is also the father of Tiridates I of Armenia.

77 - 78

Vologeses II

77 - 86

Pacorus II

79 - 80

Artabanus IV (III)

89 - 90

Vologeses II

89 - 90


92 - 95

Pacorus II


The Kushans capture former Bactrian Arachosia from the Indo-Parthians and expend their borders right up to the edge of Persia.

108 - 127



111 - 146

Vologeses III

114 - 117

The Romans under Trajan occupy Mesopotamia right up to the former Elamite capital at Susa (now the Parthian capital), but the conquests are given up following the emperor's death.

113 - 114

Pacorus II

c.130 - 147

Mithradates IV

148 - 190

Vologeses IV

190 - 206

Vologeses V

207 - 221

Vologeses VI

c.213 - 227

Artbanus V (IV)


Weakened by decades of war with Rome, the Parthians are overthrown by a nobleman called Sassa, from the Iranian Highlands.

c.226 - 227


Sassanid Persia
AD 224 - 642

A nobleman from the Iranian Highlands overthrew the regional control of his masters in AD 224 and became shah of Persia. His relationship to the founder of the dynasty is unknown, especially as records covering this period in Persia are conflicting and somewhat sketchy. Some sources claim him as the father of Papak, but he might easily have been a rival or more distant relative.

(Additional information by Sina Heravi and Edward Dawson, and from The Origin of the Turks and the Turkish Khanate, Gao Yang (Tenth Türk Tarih Kongresi, Ankara 1986), from Türkiye halkının kültür kökenleri: Giriş, beslenme teknikleri, Burhan Oğuz (1976), from The Turks in World History, Carter Vaughin Findley (Oxford University Press 2005), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), from Ethnogenesis in the tribal zone: The Shaping of the Turks, Peter Benjamin Golden (2005), from The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, Susan Wise Bauer (2010), and from External Links: University of Leicester, Listverse, and the Encyclopaedia Iranica.)


Sassa / Sassan

? - 208

Papak / Babak / Pāpağ

King of Persis.

208 - 241

Ardashir I

Son. Governor of Persis. Shah from 224. Kushanshah (c.230).

c.230 - c.250

The Kushans of the north and west of India are toppled by the Sassanids, who gain Tokharistan (former Bactria) and Arachosia as a result. In the latter region, centred on the south-east of modern Afghanistan, the Sassanids create a buffer state which is governed by the Kushanshahs.

232 - 242

The Sassanids briefly take control of Harran.

238 - 252

Ardashir conquers Armenia and persecutes the Christians there.

241 - 272

Shapur I

Defeated and captured Roman Emperor Valerian in 260.


A high priest known as Kartir Hangirpe, or Karder, who serves to at least three of the early Sassanid rulers starting with Shapur, begins the process of persecuting non-Zoroastrians throughout the Persian domains. This persecution of religious minorities is ended under the accession of Narses.


In around this year, Shapur devolves direct rule in Afghanistan by creating a buffer state which is governed by the Kushanshahs.


The Sassanids capture the Roman fortress city of Dura in eastern Syria. Part of their efforts to take the fortress involves digging a deep mine under the city wall and a tower. The Romans tunnel from the other side to intercept them and a shaft is created around the intercept point. The precise outcome is unknown.

In the early 1900s, archaeologist Robert du Mesnil du Buisson discovers a pile of nineteen Roman bodies in the mines. Only one Persian body is nearby. In 2009 Simon James of the University of Leicester theorises that the Persians hear the Romans digging and ignite a fire to meet them and the Romans open the shaft between the two mines, possibly to vent the smoke. Sulphur and bitumen is discovered in the mine, possibly making the Roman bodies the earliest victims of chemical warfare to be discovered.

The city of Dura-Europos had been founded in 300 BC by the Seleucid Greeks, seized by the Arsacids and then by the Romans, and was then destroyed almost six hundred years after its creation by a drawn-out border conflict between Rome and the Sassanids

James believes that the Persians deliberately throw these chemicals onto the fire to create deadly fumes, which become sulphuric acid in the lungs of their enemies. The one dead Persian soldier is probably the fire's starter and is unable to get out in time. Once the smoke clears, the Persians quickly pile the bodies like a shield into the countermine and destroy it. Their mining efforts do not collapse the walls, but the Persians eventually get in anyway. They kill some of the residents and deport the rest to Persia. The Seleucid-founded Dura is abandoned forever.

272 - 273

Hormizd I

Son. Kushanshah (from c.270, and perhaps after 273).

272 - 276

Bahram / Varahran I


276 - 293

Bahram II



Bahram III


294 - 302

Narses / Nerseh / Narseh

Uncle. Defeated by Rome in 298.


The Sassanids regain Harran and make it a permanent possession. Around this time they seemingly 'overthrow' the Sakas too, although this seems to be more of a check of Saka power which is already beginning to fade.

302 - 309

Hormizd II

Son. Kushanshah (c.295-c.300).

309 - 379

Shapur II



To prevent Afghanistan from drifting entirely towards separatism, Shapur assumes direct control of the southern areas while the Kushanshahs continue to rule in the north.

379 - 383

Ardashir II

383 - 388

Shapur III


Persia and Rome partition Armenia between them, with Persia gaining the eastern half.

388 - 399

Bahram IV

399 - 421

Yazdagird I


Sassanid control of Tokharistan and Arachosia is ended by the Hephthalites, or White Huns, who establish a kingdom of their own.

421 - 439

Bahram V

439 - 457

Yazdagird II

457 - 459

Hormizd III

459 - 484


Son of Yazdagird II. Killed by White Huns.


The Persian Empire is temporarily overrun by White Huns who maintain puppet rulers on the throne.

484 - 488


488 - 496

Kavad I

496 - 498


498 - 531

Kavad I



Some Turk tribes arrive from Asia and aid in the overthrow of the White Huns.

531 - 579

Khusro I (Chrosroes / Khosrau)

Son of Kavad(h).


Shortly after the end of the Guptas as a political power in India, the Sassanids make some conquests there.


The White Huns are defeated in Kushanshah Afghanistan by an alliance of Göktürks and the Sassanids, and a level of Indo-Sassanid authority is re-established in the region. The Western Göktürks set up rival states in Bamiyan, Kabul, and Kapisa, strengthening their hold on the Silk Road.

Map of Central Asia AD 550-600
As was often the case with Central Asian states that had been created by horse-borne warriors on the sweeping steppelands, the Göktürk khaganate swiftly incorporated a vast stretch of territory in its westwards expansion, whilst being hemmed in by the powerful Chinese dynasties to the south-east and Siberia's uninviting tundra to the north (click on map to show full sized)

The expansionist policy being followed by the Western Göktürks later sees them again cross the Amu Darya, where they come into conflict with their former allies, the Sassanids. Much of Tokharistan (former Bactria, including Balkh) remains a Göktürk dependency until the end of the century.

579 - 590

Hormizd IV

588 - 589

The Göktürk khagan, Çur Bagha, leads his White Hun vassals into the First Perso-Turkic War by invading Sassanid territory. The invasion has been threatening for several years as these former allies vied for regional power in the hinterland between their two empires. A senior Sassanid army commander by the name of Bahram Chobin (later to be enthroned as Bahram VI) leads an army of hand-picked Savaran elite troops to ambush a large army of Turks and White Huns in April 588, at the Battle of Hyrcanian Rock. Another attack in 589 captures Balkh. Then he crosses Oxus and repulses the Turkic Invasion, capturing White Hun territory that had been occupied by the Turks. Çur Bagha is killed during this fight.

590 - 591

Bahram VI

Usurped throne. Formerly army commander Bahram Chobin.

591 - 628

Khusro II

607 - 616

The Sassanids invade and conquer Byzantine Syria, Egypt and Asia Minor.

623 - 628

Now allied with the Western Göktürks, Heraclius attacks the Sassanids as part of the Third Perso-Turkic War (627-630) to regain territory for the Byzantine empire which includes Syria and Palestine - lost for a decade. The defeated Khusro is overthrown by his own nobles and the Sassanids Armenia in the process.


Kavad II

628 - 629

Ardashir III

629 - 630


630 - 632

Hormizd V

630 - 632

Khusro III

632 - 651

Yazdagird III

637 - 651

Mesopotamia is lost to the Arabs in 637. The Sassanids are defeated by Caliph Umar in 642. Persia is overrun by Islam by 651. Yazdagird is killed, but his family flee to Turkistan, where they intermarry with the locals and eventually produce a Yamanid dynasty in the Afghan city of Ghazni. They may also form an ancestral base for the later Shansabani clan in Afghanistan.

651 - 945

Persia is conquered by the Islamic empire and remains under its control until the Buwayid amirs seize power. By 821, the eastern Persian lands are governed by the Tahrids.

c.900 - 1000

A large area of eastern Persia falls under the control of the Samanid emirate.

The Buwayid (Buyid) Amirs of Iraq
AD 945 - 1055

Although they failed to gain control of much of eastern Persia from the Samanid emirate, based in the Transoxiana region, the Buwayids took over in the west and in Mesopotamia. They were Shiite princes of a Deylamite Persian tribal confederation from the shores of the Caspian Sea who dominated the Abbasid Caliphs for a century in Mesopotamia and south-western Persia, reducing the caliph to little more than a figurehead. They also eventually contributed to a weakening of the Samanids. Although they fostered a flourishing of Shiite scholarship and theology, they never tried to suppress the Orthodox caliphs altogether, so the Abbasids continued to exercise their minimal religious authority under the regime. Nevertheless, the caliphs and the Orthodox were not too happy about this and so, at least initially, they welcomed the coming of the Orthodox Seljuqs who overthrew the Buwayids.

945 - 967

Ahmad ibn Buya

967 - 978


978 - 983

Fana Khusraw

983 - 987


987 - 989

Shirzil I

989 - 1012



Khwarazm achieves independence from Persia.

999 - 1000

Thanks to pressure from the Buwayids and their allies, the Karakhanids, the Samanids decline in eastern Persia, and a revolt by the Afghan Ghaznavids sees them conquered and their territory captured.

1012 - 1021

Abu Shuja

1021 - 1025


1025 - 1044

Shirzil II

1044 - 1048


1048 - 1055

Khusraw Firuz


The Buwayid amirs are defeated by and fall to the Seljuq Turks.

Seljuq Dynasty / Great Sultans
AD 1055 - 1194

Originating from Mongolia, the Seljuq Turks (or Seljuk) were part of a larger wave of Turkic tribes which erupted from the Asian Steppes above the Volga, north of the Caspian Sea, invading Persia and Mesopotamia from 1021 onwards.


Seljuk / Seljuq

Dynasty Founder.

c.1020 - 1037

Arslan ('Lion')

Son. Led Transoxianian invasion.

1037 - c.1060


Ruled Khorasan. Nephew of Arslan.

1037 - 1063


Nephew of Arslan.

1040 - 1046

Tughril-Beg defeats the Afghan Ghaznavids and takes control of Afghanistan and eastern Persia in 1040. Between 1041-1046 he establishes his rule over Isfahan. From 1044-1055 he invades Armenia and takes Baghdad. He restores the Abbasid Caliph and is created sultan of Persia.


The Ghaznavid ruler re-establishes a truncated empire after the unstable two decades preceding his rule by agreeing peace terms with the Seljuqs.

1063 - 1072

Alp Arslan ('Heroic Lion')

Son of Chagri. Won the power struggle.


By 1071 a splinter group of Seljuqs has defeated the Byzantines to create a ruling dynasty in Anatolia which is initially subservient to the Persian Seljuqs. Jerusalem is also conquered. The leader of this group, Kutulmush, vies for power with Alp Arslan.

Seljuq cavalry
A stone relief of Seljuq cavalry, which swept through Persia, northern Mesopotamia, Syria, and Anatolia in the eleventh century

1072 - 1092

Malik Shah I

Son. Also sultan of Aleppo. Died of unknown causes.

Rum becomes independent.

1076 - 1078

Turkic invasions see Syria conquered fairly rapidly. Abaaq al-Khwarazmi is a general under the command of Malik Shah I, but Damascus quickly becomes the capital of a newly independent state (either an emirate or the more grand sultanate) under the general, making him the first Seljuq to gain independence from his overlord. Following his short reign, Malik Shah's brother, Tutush, succeeds him in Damascus, and it is he who captures the rest of Syria from Malik Shah, becoming sultan of Aleppo.

1092 - 1094

Mahmud I

1094 - 1105

Berk Yaruq (Barkiyaruq)


Before the forces of the First Crusade are ready to depart, Peter the Hermit leads, against all good advice, a motley band of civilians and soldiers into Anatolia. They are almost wiped out in a running battle with Seljuq Turks at Civetot. By the middle of the year, the main force is ready to leave the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, and the Crusades begin in earnest.

1098 - 1099

The First Crusade finds a divided Islamic empire governed by the Seljuq Turks, and quickly and forcefully carves a large swathe of territory out of it, with loses including Edessa (on the Euphrates), and Jerusalem. Rather than unite, the various local rulers all end their internecine squabbles and return home to defend their own domains.


Malik Shah II

1105 - 1118

Muhammad I Tapar

1118 - 1157

Ahmad Sanjar

Ruled Khorasan (1097-1157).


The death of the Ghaznavid ruler, Masud, in 1115 had triggered a period of instability in his empire to the east. In 1118 Bahram Shah wins the internecine fight with his brothers, but only as a vassal of the Seljuqs.


The sultan appoints the Zangid atabegs to govern recaptured eastern Edessa as part of Syria.


Upon the assassination of the Zangid atabeg at the hands of a slave, his sons divide the state between them, with Nur ad-Din gaining Aleppo and the elder Ghazi gaining Mosul (although not until he has won support to ward off the threat of Ahmad Sanjar's son, Arslan Shah, being installed in Mosul). Breaking up the state into small rival principalities means that the Crusaders are able to recapture Edessa for two months in the immediate aftermath of the division.


Upon the death of Sanjar the Seljuq territories break up into several smaller states. The rump of Seljuq territory is Iraq, where they remained in power as the Khwarazm shahs conquer the rest of Persia.

1118 - 1131

Mahmud II

Ruled Iraq.

1131 - 1132


Ruled Iraq.

1132 - 1134

Tughril II

Ruled Iraq.

1134 - 1152


Ruled Iraq.

1152 - 1153

Malik Shah III

Ruled Iraq.

1153 - 1160

Muhammad II

Ruled Iraq.


The Great Sultanate breaks up.

1160 - 1161

Sulayman Shah

Ruled Iraq.

1161 - 1176

Arslan Shah

Ruled Iraq.

1176 - 1194

Tughril III

Ruled Iraq. Last Seljuq sultan. Died on the battlefield.

1194 - 1219

Persia is conquered by the Khwarazm shahs.


Tiring of the Chinese campaign, Mongol Great Khan Chingiz sends his general, Chepe, westwards to overthrow the empire of the Qara-Khitaï and annexe its territory. This defeat also opens the way towards Mongol interaction with Khwarazm and Persia.

1219 - 1256

Following two attacks by the Mongols in 1219 and 1221 which secures eastern Persia for them, the Khwarazm shahs are finally conquered in 1231 and Persia is controlled directly by the Golden Horde until 1256. Then the descendents of Chingiz Khan divide up the Mongol empire. The Il-Khans control Persia.

Il-Khan Dynasty
AD 1221 - 1336

In Transoxiana in 1219-1221, the Mongols attacked the Khwarazm emirate which controlled Persia, and finally overran it in 1221. When the descendents of Chingiz Khan divided up the Mongol empire, the Il-Khans (as they became known) inherited Persia, eastern Anatolia, and the bulk of now Il-Khan Khwarazm, ruling from Baghdad. While they did so, the Ottoman Turks focused on conquering and securing western Anatolia and Byzantine Greece. The rulers were known by their traditional Mongol title of khan.

The Il-Khanate was officially founded by Hulagu in 1260, following the death of Great Khan Mongke. It faired poorly at the start, struggling with relatively mundane issues such as the economy but also with an embarrassing defeat by the Mameluke Bahris of Egypt. However, under Ghaza Il-Khan, the Il-Khanate regained its military superiority and began an economical recovery that continued until the reign of Abu Said. At its height, the khanate encompassed territory which included modern eastern Turkey, Iran, Iraq, the Transcaucus, and western Turkistan (an ill-defined region which included areas of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), which formed the border with Mughulistan.

1221 - 1256


Son of Chingiz Khan. Governed Khwarazm & Persia in his name.


The Mongol empire is effectively divided into four sections, or 'ulus' (inheritances), each governed by one of the sons of Chingiz. They remain politically united under the great khan, but their existence establishes the basis of future independent Mongol kingdoms. Ogedei is the selected successor to Chingiz, and is officially proclaimed as such in 1229. While he and his successors still control the entire empire, they largely concentrate their attention on Mongolia and China. The rest is divided into three portions to be governed by the other sons of Chingiz. The north-western section is handed to Jochi and it is Jochi's son, Batu Khan, who inherits the westernmost section of this ulu as the Blue Horde, with Orda leading the eastern section as the White Horde (collectively known as the Golden Horde). Chagatai Khan (the second son) inherits Mughulistan, while Tolui governs Persia.

1253 - 1256

Tolui's son, Hulegu, begins a campaign which sees him enter the Islamic lands of Mesopotamia on behalf of Great Khan Mongke. Ismailis (assassins) have been threatening the Mongol governors of the western provinces, so Mongke has determined that the Abbasid caliphs must be brought to heel. Hulegu quickly establishes dominion over Mosul, and Badr ad Din Lu'lu is allowed to retain governance of the city as he aids the Mongols in other campaigns in Syria.

1256 - 1265


Son. First Il-Khan ruler from 1259.


Despite being nominally dominated by the Mongols under the Great Khan Mongke, the actions in Syria and against Egypt of Sultan an Nasir II Yusuf of Damascus force a Mongol invasion of Mesopotamia. Mongke decides to conquer the region as far as the Nile and sends a vast force under Hulegu against Baghdad in 1258. The Abbasid caliph and his family are massacred when Yusuf fails to produce an army to defend them.


The Mongol army under Hulegu marches on Aleppo and it quickly falls (within a week). This time, most of the inhabitants are killed or sold into slavery and the Great Mosque and the defensive Citadel are razed. When the army arrives at Damascus the city surrenders immediately as Nasir II Yusuf has already fled to Gaza. Samaria is captured, with the garrison of Nablus being put to the sword, and Gaza is taken. Yusuf is captured and killed while a prisoner.

Hulegu withdraws from Syria once he learns of Great Khan Mongke's death, leaving behind a minor force. Baybars of Egypt sends a Mameluke army against this and defeats it at the Battle of Ain Jalut. Damascus is freed five days later and within a month most of Syria is in Baybars' hands. With the political climate in the Mongol empire becoming unstable, Hulegu settles in Persia as the first independent ruler of the Il-Khanate.

At Karakorum, there is disagreement about the choice of successor as great khan. The two claimants, Kublai Khan and Ariq-Boke, engage in civil war which lasts four years. During this period, Hulegu's slaughter of so many thousands of Muslims at Baghdad has enraged Berke Khan of the Blue Horde. War erupts between the two, with the side-effect that Berke is forced to cancel a planned invasion of Europe.


Rukn ad Din Ismail of Mosul sides with the Mamelukes against the Mongols, precipitating Mongol retribution. Mosul is destroyed by them and its surrounding territory is integrated into the Il-Khan dominions, ending Zangid rule of the region.

In the same year, following several battles between Alughu of the Chaghatayids, who has sided with Kublai Khan, and Orqina and one Masud Beg, who are fighting on the side of Ariq-Boke, the latter arranges peace negotiations between the two sides. Alughu then takes advantage of the unstable situation by revolting against Ariq-Boke's rule of the west and gaining the allegiance of the governors of Khwarazm. He also ends up marrying Orqina, and Masud Beg is appointed viceroy of Central Asia, probably with a seat in Transoxiana as the very governor that Alughu needs to support him. With a Chaghatayid governor in place in Khwarazm it seems likely that this is the point at which Il-Khan control there ends.

1265 - 1282

Abaqa / Abaga / Abagha Khan



The sultan of Egypt is faced with an invasion of Syria through Homs under the leadership of Abaqa Khan. The threat is overcome after the bloody Second Battle of Homs produces no clear outcome and Abaqa withdraws.

1282 - 1284

Ahmad Teguder / Tekuder


1284 - 1291


Son of Abaqa.

1291 - 1295




With the death of Kublai Khan, the Yuan dynasty survives under his successor, but the Mongol empire effectively ceases to exist. There are no further Khakhans (great khans), and command of the empire's territory is now permanently divided into four distinct and fully independent kingdoms: the Golden Horde (made up of the Blue Horde and White Horde), the Il-Khanate, Mughulistan, and Yuan China.


Baydu / Baidu


1295 - 1304

Mahmud Ghazan / Casanus / Ghaza Il-Khan

Son of Arghun. Led a golden age.


Following his accession, Mahmud Ghazan accepts Islam, marking a departure in the politics of Mongol Persia. From this point onwards, despite Ghazan maintaining strong links with the Yuan, the Il-Khanate becomes increasingly Islamicised, turning away from its Mongol origins.

1299 - 1303

Mahmud Ghazan marches on Syria, taking Aleppo. He is joined there by his vassal, King Hethoum II of the kingdom of Lesser Armenia. Together they defeat the Mameluke Bahrids of Egypt and Damascus at the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar on 23 or 24 December. The Bahrids are pushed back into Egypt and Damascus quickly falls to the invaders. The Il-Khans then withdraw, perhaps due to a lack of supplies. The attack is renewed in 1301, but it degenerates into a scattering of inconclusive battles and politicking. In the end, Ghazan's forces are defeated by the Mamelukes of Egypt at the Battle of Marj al-Saffar in April 1303 and withdraw, never to return.


Thanks to the support of Kaidu of Mughulistan for the opposing faction in the White Horde dynastic conflict, Buyan has won support both from Great Khan Temur and Mahmud Ghazan. Temur now organises a response against Kaidu, ending with the latter's defeat at the bloody Battle of the River Zawkhan. Kaidu dies shortly afterwards.

1304 - 1306

The Chaghatayids under Du'a and Chapar, son of Kaidu, the Golden Horde under Toqta, and the Il-Khanate under Mahmud Ghazan negotiate peace with Temur Khan so that trade and diplomatic relations are not harmed by constant bickering and fighting. The Yuan emperor is also accepted as the nominal overlord of the three junior Mongol states. As is customary (but not always observed in recent times), Temur designates Öljeytu as the new Il-Khan. Soon afterwards, the former allies Du'a and Chapar fall out over the territory they control within Mughulistan, so Temur backs the rightful ruler, Du'a, and sends a large army into the region in 1306, forcing Chapar to surrender.

1304 - 1316

Muhammad Khudabanda Öljeytu


1316 - 1335

Abu Said Ala ad Dunya wa dDin

Son. No heir.

1335 - 1336

Arpa Keun

Married Sati Beg, sister of Abu Said. Captured and killed.

1335 - 1353

Almost immediately in 1335, Arpa Keun faces an invasion by the Golden Horde under Ozbeg Khan. This is defeated, but the following year he is attacked by Oirat 'Ali Padsah, the governor of Baghdad. Padsah defeats him on 10 April 1336 near Maraga and soon afterwards he is captured and killed. Oirat 'Ali Padsah immediately places an Il-Khan Puppet on the throne which he rules from Baghdad. This triggers a period in which several rival Mongol successor states, such as the Chobanids and the Jalayirids, jostle for control. The latter seize Baghdad and rule south-western Persia from there. The entire region undergoes a period of anarchy and civil war.

Il-Khan Post-Dynasty Puppets
AD 1336 - 1357

The Il-Khan (or Ilkhan) dynasty was of Mongol origin. They had been based in Uruk in Mesopotamia since 1231, apparently giving the region a new name based on their capital - Iraq. In 1336 Oirat 'Ali Padsah, the governor of Baghdad, attacked and killed Arpa Keun, the last Il-Khan. Padsah immediately placed a puppet on the throne which he ruled from Iraq, but the khanate broke up almost immediately, with a period of anarchy and misrule hitting Persia as several Mongol successor states jostled for control, the main ones being the Jalayirids in south-western Persia and the Chobanids in north-western Persia. The Il-Khans found themselves contained in Iraq, under the domination of their successors. Few of them remained long on the throne and their claim appears to have died out after the little-known Ghazan II in 1357.



Puppet of 'Ali Padsah of Baghdad.


Musa is the great-great grandson of Hulegu, the second Il-Khan, but his right to the throne is challenged by the Jalayirid, Hasan Buzurg. Padsah is killed and Musa flees after being defeated at the Battle of Qara Darra on 24 July 1336. Hasan Buzurg maintains his own puppet, the child Muhammad Khan, on the Il-Kahn throne after that.

1337 - 1338

Muhammad Khan

Jalayirid puppet (south-western Persia). A child.

1338 - 1339

The Chobanid, Hasan Kucek, fights Hasan Buzurg and Muhammad at the Battle of Alataq on 16 July 1338, defeating them. Buzurg flees but Muhammad is captured and executed. Sati Beg, the widow of the final ruling Il-Khan, Arpa Keun, had initially been a supporter of Hasan Buzurg, but when he is defeated by Kucek, Sati Beg's own step-grandson, she defects. She is raised to the throne as a figurehead, although her authority does not extend beyond the Chobanid borders. Kucek grows suspicious of her by 1339 so he deposes her and marries her to his next candidate for the throne, Suleiman Khan.

1338 - 1339

Sati Beg

Chobanid figurehead (north-western Persia). Died after 1345.


Togha Temur

Jalayirid puppet.

1339 - 1343

Suleiman Khan / Sulayman

Chobanid puppet. m Sati Beg. Claimed title until 1345.

1339 - 1340

Following the withdrawal of Jalayirid support from Togha Temur, the next candidate put forward by Hasan Buzurg is Jahan Temur. He and Buzurg meet the Chobanids in battle on the Jaghatu in 1340 and are defeated. Buzurg gives up on the idea of puppet claimants to the throne and now establishes his own Jalayirid Sultanate in Baghdad.

1339 - 1340

Jahan Temur

Jalayirid puppet.

1341 - 1343

Suleiman Khan is also recognised by the Sarbadars in western Khorasan as they attempt to begin an alliance with the Chobanids. However, when Hasan Kucek is murdered in 1343, Suleiman appeals to Hasan Buzurg to intervene in the ensuing Chobanid succession struggle, but both claimants, together with Suleiman, are forced to flee to Diyarbakr, where Suleiman maintains his claim until 1345. The Chobanids renew their control of the Il-Khans.

1343 - 1356


Chobanid puppet.

1356 - 1357

Ghazan II

Known only through numismatic evidence.

1357 - 1401

Southern and eastern Persia and Iraq are controlled directly by the Jalayirids until 1401, when Iraq becomes a province of the Timurids after their founder, Timur, conquers Baghdad - the last of a series of conquests which gives him all of Persia.

Timurid Dynasty
AD 1384 - 1500

Persia was the location for a long period of unrest between about 1336-1387, while the surviving Il-Khans were used as puppets by the Chobanids and the Jalayirids for the right to claim control of all of Persia. Chaghatayid khans attempted to quell the tribes of Transoxiana but were eventually unsuccessful, despite two invasions of the region in the 1360s. The death of the khan ended Chaghatayid hopes of restoring control of western Mughulistan which included Transoxiana. Instead, two tribal leaders, Amir Husayn and Tîmûr-i Lang contested for control of Transoxiana.

The latter was ultimately successful, taking Transoxiana and Khorasan in the name of the Chaghatyids, but effectively forming his own Timurid khanate. Samarkand fell in 1366, Balikh in 1369, and Timur was recognised as the region's ruler in 1370. He placed a figurehead Mongol on the throne to legitimise his rule there while he governed from behind the throne as amir and his increasingly Persian and Turkic-influenced Timurid descendants succeeded him. His rise to power may also have been the trigger that sparked Shaibanid expansion around Bukhara.

Timur extended his new-found empire by taking southern and western Persia from 1380. He entered Persia proper in 1382 and an ambitious attack on the Chobanids and the disputed Caucuses region by the Golden Horde allowed Timur to fill the power vacuum and found the Timurid dynasty. At its height, Timurid Persia governed all the territory between the eastern edge of the Black Sea, down through Mesopotamia and Iran, and eastwards to the Aral Sea, Samarkand, and halfway into modern Pakistan. However, so many people were killed by his wars (estimated by some to have reached seventeen million), that the seat of Persian culture and influence moved further east, to Samarkand.

1370 - 1405

Tîmûr-i Lang / Tamerlane

Mongol conqueror from Mughulistan.

1386 - 1394

Timur invades the Caucuses and eastern Anatolia, winning the support of the nascent White Sheep emirate along the way. Greater Armenia is conquered and Timur massacres a large part of its population.

Map of the Timurid empire AD 1400
Timur effectively recreated the ancient Persian empire through his various conquests over the course of almost forty years, subduing many competing clans and khanates that would begin competing again after his death (click on map to show full sized)


Timur removes the Muzaffarids from Shiraz in 1393.


The Golden Horde is beaten, allowing Timur to claim complete control of the Caucuses, which probably includes the Alans to its north. The horde's capital at Sarai is sacked by Timur while the horde itself is forced to accept vassalage and a puppet ruler.


Timur subjugates Multan (in modern Pakistan) through the efforts of Pir Muhammad, his grandson through his son, Jahangir. Subsequently, Dipalpur (in India) falls, causing destruction in Delhi.

1400 - 1402

Jalayirid Iraq becomes a province of Timur's Persia when he conquers Baghdad. Timur also defeats the Black Sheep emirate in eastern Anatolia, and captures Damascus. The following year he also defeats, captures, and imprisons Ottoman ruler Bayezid I at the Battle of Ankara, making Anatolia another province. Now fully secure in Persia, the figurehead Chaghatayid khans become completely unimportant. The subject Ak Qoyunlu Turkmen in eastern Anatolia are granted (or conquer) Diyar Bakir on the banks of the Tigris (now one of the largest cities in south-eastern Turkey).

1405 - 1407

Pîr Muhammad

Grandson. In Kandahar (modern Afghanistan).


On his deathbed, Timur names Pir Muhammad as his successor. None of his own sons are suitable for the position. Miran Shah suffers from mental problems, and Shah Rukh seems to be more interested in his religion, while the other two, Jahangir and Umar Shaikh have already died.

After Timur's death, none of the Timurid royalty accept his decision and Pir Muhammad is unable to enforce his rule in Transoxiana, splitting the empire in two. The western portion is ruled by Shah Rukh from Herat in Khorasan, and his wife, Goharshad moves the capital there from Samarkand. The eastern portion of Transoxiana is ruled from Samarkand (in modern Uzbekistan). The confusion also acts as a prompt for the Ottomans to re-invade Greater Armenia and annexe it to their own empire while the subservient Golden Horde fractures into separate states.


Pir Muhammad is murdered by his vizier and from Khorasan, in about 1409, Shah Rukh is able to secure the role of overall ruler of the empire when he recaptures Transoxiana.

1409 - 1447

Shah Rukh / Shahrukh

In Khorasan (1405-1409). In Transoxiana (1409-1447).


The Black Sheep emirate captures Baghdad, reducing the Timurids to Persia proper in the west, and Khorasan and Transoxiana in the east.


Upon Shah Rukh's death, his wife, Goharshad, becomes the de facto ruler of the Timurid empire. She elevates her favourite grandson to the throne and is the power behind that throne.

1447 - 1449

Ulugh Beg / Mīrza Mohammad Taregh

Son. Viceroy in Transoxiana (1409-1447).

1447 - 1457


Mother. In Persia and Khorasan. Executed in Transoxiana.

1448 - 1449

Ulugh Beg, unpopular and unsuccessful in battle, is beheaded by his own son after he massacres the people of Herat, which is then conquered by another Timurid rival, Babur Ibn-Baysunkur. Sultan Muhammad, a grandson of Shah Rukh, claims control of Central Persia, while Ulugh Beg's son, Abd al Latîf, is left with Transoxiana.

1449 - 1451

Sultan Muhammad

Grandson of Shah Rukh. In Central Persia.

1450 - 1451

Sultan Muhammad invades Khorasan, defeating Babur at the Battle of Mashad in March 1450. After initially ceding territory, Babur recovers in 1451 and turns the tables, taking his rival prisoner and executing him. Central Persia becomes his, reuniting two portions of the empire.

1451 - 1453

Jahan Shah ends the loyalty of the Black Sheep emirate with the fracturing Timurids. He besieges Qum and Sava with overwhelming forces which the main Timurid ruler, Babur Ibn-Baysunkur of Khorasan, is unable to face. Most of Persia is taken by 1452, including Ray, with the last section, Abarquh, falling in 1453. Khorasan and the Timurids are never able to recapture Persia.

1461 - 1469

Abu Sa'id of Transoxiana completes his conquest of much of Khorasan and eastern Iran, agreeing with the Black Sheep emir, Jahan Shah, to divide Iran (Central Persia) between the two of them. The Timurids lose Iran permanently to the White Sheep emirate following Abu Sa'id's death in 1469.

Map of Anatolia and Persia c.AD 1475
The White Sheep emirate, or Ak Qoyunlu confederation, at its height controlled a great area of territory, stretching from Azerbaijan in the north to the Persian Gulf and eastern Iran (click on map to show full sized)

1469 - 1501

Subsequently, Uzun Hassan of the White Sheep emirate is able to capture Baghdad, along with territories around the Persian Gulf. He expands his emirate into Iran as far east as Khorasan, replacing the Black Sheep emirs as the main regional power. The emirate is not a single entity, though, having been formed through uniting several clans and tribes in the form of a confederation. Unfortunately, around this time, the Ottomans are also seeking an eastwards expansion. This poses a serious threat to the White Sheep, and Uzun is forced to seek an alliance with the Karamanids of central Anatolia.


The Safavid shah begins a purposeful conquest of Persia, and establishes a nationalist Persian monarchy on the basis of Shiite (Twelver) ideology.

Safavid Shahs of Iran
AD 1501 - 1736

The Safavids were a Turkic-speaking Iranian dynasty which was descended from Sheykh Safi ad Din (1253-1334) of Ardabil, head of the Sufi order of Safaviyeh (Safawiyah). They also bore a direct relationship to Uzun Hassan of the White Sheep emirate, but around 1399 they exchanged their Sunnite affiliation for Shi'ism. The Safavids established Shi'ite Islam as the state religion of Persia, which became a major factor in the emergence of a unified national consciousness among the various ethnic and linguistic elements of the country.

The founder of the dynasty, Ismail I, as head of the sufis of Ardabil, won enough support from the local Turkmen and other disaffected heterodox tribes to enable him to capture Tabriz from the White Sheep emirate. In July 1501, Ismail was enthroned as shah of Azerbaijan. By May the following year he was shah of Iran.

(Additional information by Anar R Guliyev, and from History of the Mongols: From the 9th to the 19th Century, Henry H Howarth (1880), and from External Links: Iran Chamber Society, and History of Khiva.)


The Safavid leader, Esmail, defeats the Ak Qoyunlu at the Battle of Nakhchivan (in modern Azerbaijan), forcing the White Sheep to withdraw from the heartland of Iran and relinquish Tabriz (on the Iranian side of the modern Azerbaijani border). Esmail is subsequently enthroned as shah of Azerbaijan. Despite his family connections with Uzun Hassan, he is intent on building his own empire centred on Iran.

1501 - 1524

Esmail / Ismail I

Grandson of Uzun Hasan of the White Sheep Emirate.

1501 - 1511

Esmail spends a decade subjugating much of greater Iran, also annexing Baghdad and Mosul on the way. However to the east in 1501, the Shaibanid Turks conquer Transoxiana and Khorasan. The former region includes a small Timurid principality at Farghana which is ruled by Babur, the Timurid son of Umar Sheikh Mirza. The Uzbek conquest forces him into exile where he captures Kabul in 1504. Esmail aids him in recapturing Samarkand in 1511 following the death of Shaibanid ruler Mohammed Shaibani. However, Babur is unable to retain it. The Shaibanids re-conquer the city just eight months later.


A Persian occupying force in Georgia is wiped out by the Georgian king of Kartli.

1520 - 1521

Following the death of Ottoman Sultan Selim I and the accession of his successor, Suleyman I the Magnificent, Governor Djanbirdi al-Ghazali of Damascus rebels. He seeks to restore Mameluke suzerainty over Syria and goes so far as to declare himself sultan. Hama, Hims, and Tripoli join his rebellion, but both Khair Bey of Egypt and Shah Esmail himself refuse to support him. Eventually, the Ottomans destroy both him and his army.

1524 - 1576

Tahmasp I / Tahmash

Son. Weak ruler.


Ubayd Allah Sultan Khan of Bukhara is at war against Tahmasp, and the Uzbeks of Khwarazm support Bukharan attacks by advancing to Pil Kupruki. The border cities of Khodjend (in Khorasan) and Asferain (near Astarabad) are also stormed. As Tahmasp also has to face the Ottomans, he negotiates with the Khwarizmi and effectively hands them Khorasan.

1543 - 1545

The exile Moghul emperor of northern India, Humayun, seeks refuge with the sympathetic Tahmasp, until he is able to strike out and recapture his empire, firstly by retaking Kabul.

1576 - 1578

Esmail II


The Safavid shahs begin to encroach on Afghan territory, putting pressure on Kabul to defend itself.

1578 - 1587

Mohammad Khodabanda

1587 - 1629

Abbas I, the Great

Established Safavids as a major power.

1588 - 1598

In the name of Abdullah II of Bukhara, his son, Abdul-Mu'min, leads his Uzbek forces in an attack on the important Persian city of Mashhad (Maixhad). After four months of being besieged, the city surrenders and the systematic looting that follows does not spare the sacred tombs. The Uzbek Shaibanids retain the city for almost a full decade, but Abbas II regains it for the Safavids upon Abdullah's death in Samarkand.


Abbas deposes the king of Kartli for attempting to unify Georgia.


Taking advantage of a revolt by Shah Jahan, son of the Moghul emperor, the Persians capture Kandahar. The attempt has taken quite some time, with Isfandiyar, son of Khan Arab Muhammad I of Khwarazm, also aiding them in 1621. In return, he is granted five hundred troops to aid him against his rebel brothers in the khanate.

1629 - 1642

Safi I

1642 - 1666

Abbas II


Ten years after it is temporarily retaken by the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan, Ghazni is again captured by the Persians, and this time they hold onto it.

1651 - 1653

The Russo-Persian War sees Safavid troops and their allies in Dagestan attacking Russian fortifications along the Sunzha. The Dagestani units are led by Khan of Derbent, the governor of the region, who is possibly also the instigator of the violence. The intention is to strengthen the Persian position in the North Caucasus. Alexis sends an embassy to Persia to conclude a peaceful settlement of the conflict, which succeeds in August 1653.

1666 - 1694

Safi II / Solayman I

1694 - 1722

Hosayn I


Governor of the Kandahar province of Afghanistan since 1704, The Georgian King Giorgi XI of Kartli is killed by rebel Ghilzai Afghan tribes under Mirwais Khan Hotak, when the latter creates a kingdom of his own. As governor, Giorgi leads a Persian force against the Ghilzais but is defeated and killed.

1722 - 1729

Shah Hosayn surrenders the Persian capital of Isfahan to Afghan rebels after a seven month siege. The Hotaki Afghans from Kandahar occupy much of Iran, including the capital at Estfahan. However, they are seen as usurpers by much of the population, and hold effective power only in the east. In 1725, they order the massacre of all captured Safavid princes except for Hosayn himself, although Hosayn manages to have the lives of his two sons spared as well.

Sensing the weakness of the Safavid empire, Czar Peter the Great of Russia launches the Russo-Persian War of 1722-1723. Otherwise known as the 'Persian Expedition of Peter the Great, the war is designed to increase Russian influence in the Caucuses and prevent the Ottoman empire from increasing its own regional authority. Astrabad, Baku, Derbent, Gilan, Mazandaran, and Shirvan are all successfully won (only to be subsequently leased back to Afsharid Persia between 1732-1735 now that the two states are allies).

1729 - 1730

The general, Nadir Kuli, liberates the country from the Afghans at the Battle of Damghan, and restores the Safavids. He himself occupies the position of regent over the remaining Safavid shahs.

1722 - 1732

Tahmasp II / Tahmash

Killed 1740.

1732 - 1736

Abbas III

Killed 1740.


Abbas leaves no heir to the throne so Nadir Kuli claims the title and founds the short-lived Afsharid dynasty. Two minor Safavid claimants almost outlast the Afsharids by ruling small pockets of eastern territory.


Solayman II

In Mashhad.

1750 - 1765

Esmail III

In Esfahan. Died 1773.

Afsharid Shahs of Iran
AD 1736 - 1750

Nadir shah's assassination led to the weakening of the Afsharids amid speculation about his death. The Afghans claimed he was killed by Iranian Shias because he was Sunni, and was from Khorasan (northern and western Afghanistan), and had close ties with the Afghan tribes. In return, Iranians were of the mind that he was killed because the Afghans had a plan to gain independence, and they pointed the finger at Ahmad Shah Abdali, who was very close to Nadir Shah.

(Additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, from Travels Through Arabia and Other Countries in the East, Carsten Niebuhr, 1792, and from First Light, Al Khalifa.)

1736 - 1747

Nadir Shah

Former general, and regent (1732-1736). Assassinated.

1732 - 1735

Astrabad, Baku, Derbent, Gilan, Mazandaran, and Shirvan, all of which were won by Russia in the war of 1722-1723, are leased back to Persia now that the two states are allies. The Treaty of Resht in 1732 secures Astrabad, Gilan, and Mazandaran, whilst the rest are returned under the terms of the Treaty of Ganja in 1735. The agreement is the result of a desire to prevent Ottoman expansion in the region.

1738 - 1740

Nadir Shah marches his army through Afghanistan in 1738, destroying the ruling Hotaki dynasty. The following year he loots Delhi, heart of the Moghul empire, humiliating the emperor, looting his treasures and causing the empire to fragment into a loose association of states. In 1740 he occupies the khanate of Khiva, reducing it to the status of a dependency during this period.


Khiva remains a troubled state. Now Persia's General Ali Kuli goes on the offensive, defeating the Turkmen yomuts in battle close to Old Urgench, these being the main supporters of the rebel khan. Abu al-Ghazi remains the figurehead of the rebels but Ali Kuli appoints Ghaib as the 'official' khan, he being the son Batir or Batyr Khan of the Kazakh Lesser Horde but, with the support of the Uzbek Karakalpak, a rival to Nurali, son of Abu l-Khayr, for control of the horde.


Nadir Shah is assassinated. In the east, his former general, Ahmad Shah Abdali, is appointed king by loya Jirga and establishes the Durrani empire in Afghanistan. In addition, Iran appears to lose direct control of Bahrain from this point, with Nasr Al-Madhkur, governor of Bushire (Bushehr) and Bahrain exercising semi-independent control of the island. The territories in the Caucuses break away as independent khanates, whilst the Georgian kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti also reclaim their independence under the energetic Erekle II.


Adel Shah



1748 - 1750

Shah Rukh

In Khorasan 1750 & 1755-1796.

1748 - 1750

The increasing instability in the Persian lands allows several groups of tribal Arabs attempt the occupation of Bushire (Bushehr) in the south, although they fail. To strengthen their hand they later side with Dutch-German trading companies and attack the city again. It takes a year for a two-thousand-man mounted army to get rid of all of the invaders.

1750 - 1803

As the Zands take political control of Persia, the Afsharids become increasingly marginalised and end their rule in eastern Khorasan, which is now disputed territory with the Afghan Durranis.


Mir Sayyed Mohammed

In Khorasan.

1750 - 1773

Esmail / Ismail III

In Khorasan.


Qajar shah, Agha Mohammad, invades the Durrani Afghan province of Khorasan and annexes it to Iran.

1796 - 1803

Nader Mirza

In Mashhad.

Zand Shahs of Iran
AD 1750 - 1794

Karim Khan never took the title of shah. Instead, he was referred to as vakil, or regent, of the people (incidentally this is the reason for Karim Khan's name - and that of Lutf Ali Khan Zand - remaining in place on street signs following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the names of the shahs were removed).

(Additional information from Travels Through Arabia and Other Countries in the East, Carsten Niebuhr, 1792, from The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, Farhad Daftary (1990), from The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol 7: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic, Gavin R G Hambly (1991), and from External Link: Historical Iran Blogspot.)

1751 - 1779

Karim Khan

Regent for Esmail III (1751-1769). Died following illness.


When the news of the attack on Bushire (Bushehr) of 1748-1750 reaches the governing Al-Madhkur clan, they and their allies leave the city for good and migrate to the island of Bahrain where they set up an all-but-independent governorship. Successive invasions of the island have left it vulnerable and chaotic. The German geographer, Carsten Niebuhr, states that the Sunni Persians of Bushire under the Al-Madhkurs are one of southern Persia's three major governing forces in the 1760s, so clearly not all of them migrate.

Niebuhr's statements are sometimes used to assert that the governorship of Bushire and Bahrain is really an independent sovereign state, but this seems unlikely as the claim is not repeated elsewhere. Instead, as is usual at times of instability, the governors probably exercise a good deal of independent authority without actually being independent in name.


Following a period of about six months of illness, Karim Khan dies. His long term 'guest' (or hostage) is Agha Mohammad of the Qajar tribe of Azerbaijan. Upon hearing the news, and having up until now acted as a perfect 'guest' with not a word of rebellion, Mohammad collects together his immediate loyal followers and proceeds to his home province. Once there he quickly defeats his two brothers and assumes command of his tribe. Now he is in a position to begin his armed opposition to a Zand nobility that is still fighting itself for the throne. Mohammad effectively rules as the first Qajar shah in the north (including Tehran), while the Zands govern the centre (around Esfahan) and the south (Shiraz).


Mohammad Ali Khan

Son. In Shiraz ('City of Roses', in the south).


Zaki Khan

Brother of Karim Khan, and the true power in the south. Killed.


Both candidates for the Zand throne are still young, and also brothers. Mohammad Ali Khan is under the power of the ruthless Zaki Khan, brother of the late Shah Karim Khan. Keen to secure his hold on power, he also appoints Abdul Fath as co-ruler. Then he dispatches an army under the command of his nephew, Ali Morad Khan, against Agha Mohammad. It soon becomes apparent that Ali Morad is using the army to take Esfahan for himself, setting up a rival Zand lordship there. Zaki Khan marches on Esfahan where he is killed by his own men before he can mount an attack.



Abul Fath

Young brother of Mohammad Ali and 'co-ruler'. In Shiraz.


With Zaki Khan's death, his surviving brother, Mohammad Sadiq, returns to Shiraz from Kerman with his own army. He has Abul Fath proclaimed sole shah - otherwise his puppet ruler - and governs the south himself. Two months later Sadiq deposes the young 'ruler' and takes the throne, clearly not content with being the power behind it. Abul Fath is blinded. Ali Morad Khan remains in Shiraz and continues the fight in the north against the Qajars.

1779 - 1781

Mohammad Sadiq Khan

Brother of Karim Khan. In Shiraz. Killed by Ali Morad.

1781 - 1785

Ali Morad Khan

Nephew of Zaki Khan. In Esfahan (central Iran). Overthrown.

1782 - 1783

War breaks out between the Bani Utbah federation on Zubarah and the Al-Madhkurs. The battle of Zubarah in 1782 between the Bani Utbah and the army of Nasr Al-Madhkur must result in the defeat of the latter, as Governor Nasr Al-Madhkur loses the islands of Bahrain to the Bani Utbah tribe the following year.


Upon successfully invading Shiraz in 1781, Ali Morad Khan had murdered Mohammad Sadiq Khan and all of his sons bar one - Jafar Khan Zand. Now, while Ali Morad is in northern Iran (presumably fighting the Qajars), Jafar Khan snatches the chance to besiege Esfahan. Ali Morad marches his forces towards the city in order to relieve it, but he dies along the way, on 11 February 1785.

Jafar takes the throne for himself, at Esfahan, but almost immediately the Qajar shah of northern Iran, Agha Mohammad, arrives with an army. Jafar sends out a small force to hold him off but this backs away without even offering battle. A larger force is sent but this is defeated in battle near Kashan. Jafar has little choice but to flee southwards to Shiraz, allowing Agha Mohammad to take Esfahan and a large chunk of central Iran. Suddenly the Qajar shah is the dominant force in the Persian empire.

1785 - 1789

Jafar Khan Zand

Son of Mohammad Sadiq. Seized Esfahan, then Shiraz. Killed.


After four years of inconclusive war against the Qajar shah, Jafar Khan is murdered by the son of Ali Morad Khan, one Sayed Murad Khan. Instead of being able to seize the throne himself (although he is sometimes shown as a ruling Zand shah), he and the rest of the Zand nobility are engulfed in four months of bitter in-fighting. When a victor emerges it is Lutf Ali Khan, the son of Jafar Khan.


Sayed Murad Khan

Attempted to seize the throne. Executed after the civil war.

1789 - 1794

Lutf Ali Khan

Son of Jafar Khan. In Shiraz.


Luft Ali has proven himself to be one of the more redoubtable members of the Zand dynasty. However, the reigns of his squabbling predecessors have alienated many of the regional governors and increased the momentous task of reclaiming all of Iran. Defeat in battle near Persepolis in 1792 makes him a virtual fugitive while Agha Mohammad now holds Shiraz. In the end, despite valiant resistance, his last stronghold of Kerman is besieged and captured. He flees, but is betrayed, handed over to Ahga Mohammad, and tortured for almost three years before being killed. The Qajar shah now rules Iran unopposed.

Qajar Shahs of Iran
AD 1794 - 1925

The founder of the line of Qajar shahs was Agha Mohammad, the son of Mohammad Hasan Khan Qajar, a chieftain of the Qoyunlu division of the Qajar tribe. The Qajars (with a multiplicity of variations on this spelling) were (and still are) Turkic Oghuz in origin. Intermixed with many other tribes, they occupied a swathe of territory that covered parts of southern Armenia, Azerbaijan, and north-western Iran. Safavid interference in the South Caucuses and their attempts to fully subjugate the region in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries had resulted in the Qajars or Kajars resisting them and creating the Karabakh khanate by 1750 out of the Persian province of the same name. The Safavids fractured soon afterwards, allowing the Kajars to enjoy half a century of relative security.

In general the Qajars are classed as being Azerbaijani (they still form a significant population within modern Iran), at a time in which this area was a maze of Persian possessions rather than a single coherent state in its own right. Agha Mohammad was able to overthrow the Zand dynasty of shahs in Iran, initially reducing their area of control to Esfahan and Shiraz, and then Shiraz alone, before extinguishing them in 1794.

Under Agha Mohammad, Iran was fully reunited as a strong and centrally-dominated kingdom. In 1789 he was confirmed as shah of Iran. He went on to reconquer many of Persia's lost territories, especially those in the South Caucuses, and he re-subjugated Georgia, displaying astonishing cruelty in the act. He was also the first Persian ruler to switch the capital to Tehran. This city had been built up and expanded by the Safavids and the Zands, but Agha's own war with the Zands had shown the importance of having a more northerly focus for the empire. Although his official coronation did not take place until March 1796, this was merely a rubber stamp for almost two decades of strong rule, and it took place a little over a year before he was assassinated.

(Additional information from An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empire, James Stuart Olson, Lee Brigance Pappas, and Nicholas Charles Pappas (1994), from The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, Farhad Daftary (1990), and from The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol 7: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic, Gavin R G Hambly (1991).)

1779 - 1797

Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar

In the north 1779. United Iran in 1794. Assassinated.


Following a period of about six months of illness, Zand Shah Karim Khan dies. His long term 'guest' (or hostage) is Agha Mohammad of the Qajar tribe of Azerbaijan. Upon hearing the news, and having up until now acted as a perfect 'guest' with not a word of rebellion, Mohammad collects together his immediate loyal followers and proceeds to his home province. Once there he quickly defeats his two brothers and assumes command of his tribe. Now he is in a position to begin his armed opposition to a Zand nobility that is still fighting itself for the throne. Mohammad effectively rules as the first Qajar shah in the north (including Tehran), while the feuding Zands govern the centre (around Esfahan) and the south (Shiraz).

Askeran Fortress
Askeran Fortress (also known as Mayraberd) - located on the banks of the River Qajar in what today is the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh - was built by the rulers of the Karabakh khanate, Agha Mohammad's homeland


Upon successfully invading Shiraz in 1781, the Zand shah of southern and central Iran, Ali Morad Khan, had murdered his rival, Mohammad Sadiq Khan and all of his sons bar one - Jafar Khan Zand. Now, while Ali Morad is in northern Iran (presumably fighting Agha Mohammad), Jafar Khan snatches the chance to besiege Esfahan. Ali Morad marches his forces towards the city in order to relieve it, but he dies along the way, on 11 February 1785.

Jafar takes the Zand throne for himself, at Esfahan, but almost immediately Agha Mohammad arrives with an army. Jafar sends out a small force to hold him off but this backs away without even offering battle. A larger force is sent but this is defeated in battle near Kashan. Jafar has little choice but to flee southwards to Shiraz, allowing Agha Mohammad to take Esfahan and a large chunk of central Iran. Suddenly the Qajar shah is the dominant force in the Persian empire.


After four years of inconclusive war against Agha Mohammad, Jafar Khan, the Zand shah of southern Iran, is murdered by the son of Ali Morad Khan, one Sayed Murad Khan. Instead of being able to seize the throne himself (although he is sometimes shown as a ruling Zand shah), he and the rest of the Zand nobility are engulfed in four months of bitter in-fighting. When a victor emerges it is Lutf Ali Khan, the son of Jafar Khan.


Shah Luft Ali of the Zand dynasty has proven himself to be one of the more redoubtable members of his family. However, the reigns of his squabbling predecessors have alienated many of the regional governors and increased the momentous task of reclaiming all of Iran. Defeat in battle near Persepolis in 1792 makes him a virtual fugitive while Agha Mohammad now holds Shiraz. In the end, despite valiant resistance, his last stronghold of Kerman is besieged and captured. He flees, but is betrayed, handed over to Ahga Mohammad, and tortured for almost three years before being killed. The Qajar shah now rules Iran unopposed.


Agha Mohammad invades the Durrani Afghan province of Khorasan and annexes it to Iran. in the same year, he mounts a campaign to re-strengthen Persian positions in Dagestan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. He also launches a devastating attack on Georgia which sees Tiblisi destroyed and from which the kingdom never recovers. However, Georgia's agreement with Russia means that Catherine the Great launches the Persian Expedition of 1796. Georgia is cleared of Persians with little trouble, but with Azerbaijan also seemingly captured, the empress' sudden death means that her son, Paul, is free to cancel the expedition (resulting in a sense of injustice amongst many officers involved).

1797 - 1834

Fath Ali Shah Qajar


1804 - 1813

King Solomoni is attempting to enlist Ottoman and Persian support for Imeretia in preparation for the anticipated Russian encroachment on his borders. The Russian commander in the region is Prince Pavel Tsitsianov. He marches his army into Imereti and forces Solomoni to accept vassalage under the terms of the convention of Elaznauri, on 25 April 1804. This effectively triggers a Russo-Persian War (1804-1813) which sees some early Persian victories followed by defeats, stalemate, and the effective loss of Dagestan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.


The Persians have been attempting to intrude small units of troops into Afghanistan in a bid to conquer the city of Herat while the Afghans are fighting one another for domination of their kingdom. Unfortunately for the Persian forces, that very instability undermines their own efforts and forces the plan's abandonment.

Mullahs meet the shah
In a painting that exhibits a markedly Qajari style, visiting mullahs are entertained by the shah himself (on the far right)


In a tumultuous Afghanistan, war with Persia is inconclusive following another attack on Herat. Mohamman Vali Mirza, son of the Persian shah, is defeated at the Battle of Kafir Qala in 1818. However, internal fighting continues until the Afghan Durrani dynasty is utterly defeated.

1826 - 1828

The Russo-Persian War is the last major military conflict between the Russian and Persian empires, and the first time the two have fought each other since the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813. Shah Fath Ali is still desperate for increased foreign subsidies, and is advised by British agents to reconquer the territories that have been lost to Russia. On 28 July 1826, a 35,000-strong Persian army is led across the border by Abbas Mirza, invading the khanates of Talysh and Karabakh. The khans surrender their main cities to the Persians. However, Russian military power proves too much for them and eastern Armenia is taken before Persia agrees peace terms, bolstered in part by the start of the Russo-Turkish War.

1832 - 1833

The Qajar shahs move into the province of Khorasan, and then threaten Herat yet again. The Afghans are forced to defend the city but manage to repel the invaders, only to lose Peshawar to the Sikhs almost immediately.


Abbas Mirza

Son and crown prince. Predeceased his father.

1834 - 1848

Mohammad Mirza

Son, and grandson of Fath Ali Shah Qajar. Died of gout.


Having been named as the crown prince following the death of his brother, and only a year or so before the death of his father, Mohammad Mirza ascends the throne. Almost immediately, one of his many brothers, Ali Mirza, seizes control in opposition to him. Ali Mirza lasts for around forty days before being removed by Mirza Abolghasem Ghaem Magham Farahani, politician, scientist, and poet. Mohammad Mirza is returned as shah.


Ali Mirza

Brother and usurper. Quickly removed and pardoned.

1848 - 1896

Naser al-Din

Son of Mohammad Mirza. Assassinated.

1856 - 1857

The Anglo–Persian War is triggered on 1 November 1856 during a further - and this time largely successful - attempt by Persia to capture the Afghan city of Herat, a long-standing ambition to compensate them for the loss of the South Caucuses. However, they have taken too long, and now Afghanistan is generally within the British sphere of operations from their base in India. Herat has already declared independence as a city state with its own emir, in alliance with the emirate of Kabul, and has accepted British protection. A two-pronged British attack on Iran's southern coast and also in southern Mesopotamia drives Naser al-Din to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1857, in which he relinquishes control over and any claim to Herat.

1867 - 1868

Relations between Qatar and Bahrain have gradually deteriorated during the course of the decade. A series of minor disputes escalates when Bahrain arrests a Qatari Bedouin on the Qatari mainland. The Qataris waste no time in expelling the Bahraini forces from the mainland, and in response Abu Dhabi and Bahrain join in attacking Qatar. The Qatari-Bahraini War is a brief affair but it leaves about a thousand dead and many of Bahrain's deployed vessels destroyed. Britain responds by appointing Hakim Muhammad's brother, Ali, to replace him as ruler of Bahrain, and any remaining Iranian influence or control over Bahrain is severed.

1896 - 1907

Muzaffar al-Din

Son. A poor ruler. Died of heart attack.


Muzaffar al-Din leads an extravagant life of pleasure-seeking and spending money that his country can ill afford, especially in the face of debts incurred by the Qajar court with both Britain and Russia. In various bids to access more money he has regularly granted national concessions to foreign business, taking chunks of Persia out of state control. The country's nobility has been growing more and more anxious about this trend, and in 1906 the shah is forced to accept the imposition (to him) of a national consultative assembly named the Majles. Forty days later the shah dies of a heart attack.

1907 - 1909

Mohammad Ali

Son. Deposed and fled. Died 5 Apr 1925 in exile.

1907 - 1909

Mohammad Ali dissolves parliament and abolishes the constitution that had been ratified during his father's reign. With support from Britain and Russia he bombards the Majles to underline its termination. Two years later, in July 1909, pro-Constitution forces march on Tehran, led by Sardar As'ad, Sepehdar A'zam, Sattar Khan, Bagher Khan, and Yeprem Khan. Mohamman Ali is forcibly deposed and the constitution is restored. On 16 July 1909, parliament votes to place Mohammad Ali's eleven year-old son on the throne.

1909 - 1925


Son. A minor at accession. Deposed and exiled.

1909 - 1910

Ali Reza Khan 'Azod al-Molk'

Uncle and regent. Lived lavishly and died in 1910.


Britain and the Ottoman government sign a treaty recognising the independence of Bahrain. The country remains under British protection and is rapidly developing itself into a thoroughly modern state. It is quickly becoming a business centre for the gulf and India. Iran claims sovereignty over Bahrain through its previous links to the Islamic empire.

1916 - 1918

The British-backed Arab Revolt is proclaimed with an attack on Medina (where the Prophet Mohammed had died in AD 632). The revolt liberates much of the Middle East from Ottoman control, but the two sides also battle each other inside Persia's borders, leading to a movement against the weak shah. The effect is worsened when Britain in 1917 attempts to launch an attack from Persia on Soviet Russia in order to reverse the revolution. The Soviet government responds by annexing some northern portions of Persian territory to use as a buffer zone and extracting further concessions from Shah Ahmad.

Shah Ahmad Qajar
Ahmad Shah Qajar came to the throne at the tender age of eleven, attempted to govern a land that was suffering increased levels of turmoil thanks partly to the First World War, and was deposed just shy of his twenty-eighth birthday

1920 - 1925

By 1920 Ahmad's authority in his own country extends barely beyond the confines of Tehran itself. A bloodless coup d'etat led by Colonel Reza Pahlevi a year later removes Ahmad from power. The country is in such a state of disarray that peace must quickly be restored by a strong leader, and Reza Pahlevi has the appearance of being that man, although he is not officially enthroned until 1925 as the first shah of the Pahlevi dynasty.

Pahlevi Shahs of Iran
AD 1925 - 1979

The previous ruling dynasty of Persia, the Qajars, were seemingly unable to prevent encroachment by the British and the Soviet Russians. Much of Iran apart from the capital was outside their control. The country's military elite were not impressed and overthrew them in a coup. They were exiled, eventually ending up in France. The nation's parliament, the majilis, met on 12 December 1925 where it voted to formally remove the Qajars and replace them with the Pahlevis, in the form of Reza Khan. Born in 1878, he was the son of a major in the 7th Savadkuh Regiment. and had himself risen to the position of minister of war and commander of the Iranian army following his part in the coup of 1921.

Persia had been one of the world's great non-maritime empires, especially in the ancient world. The country had long maintained a distinct cultural identity within the Islamic world by retaining its own language and adhering to the Shia interpretation of Islam. Reza Khan ruled the country with a strong hand, introducing various reforms including a leaning towards a Westernised way of life, complete with everything from emancipated women to modern department stores. Additionally, in 1935 ancient Persia became officially known as Iran whereas previously this had been a regional title. Reza's successor qualified this in 1959 by announcing that both Iran and Persia were acceptable names.

(Additional information from External Link: BBC Country Profiles.)

1925 - 1941

Reza (Rida) Pahlevi

Military colonel. Persia officially renamed Iran. Deposed.


The shah's pro-Axis allegiance during the Second World War makes Iran a target. The shah encourages Nazi German economic involvement in the country while attempting to play off Britain and Russia against each other. The policy falls apart when Britain and Russia become allies in the war and occupy Iran to use it as a conduit for supplies. The shah is deposed in favour of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

1941 - 1979

Mohammed Reza

Son. Celebrated 2500th anniversary of Persian empire. Died 1980.

1950 - 1951

Ali Razmara becomes prime minister and is assassinated less than nine months later. He is succeeded by the nationalist, Mohammad Mossadeq. In April of the following year parliament votes to nationalise the oil industry, which is dominated by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Britain imposes an embargo and a blockade, halting oil exports and hitting the economy. A power struggle ensues between the shah and Mossadeq and the shah flees the country in August 1953. This sets a precedent.


Mossadeq is overthrown in an August coup that has been engineered by the British and American intelligence services. General Fazlollah Zahedi is proclaimed prime minister and the shah is able to return.


In January the shah announces the 'White Revolution', a programme of social and political reform and privatisation. He is vociferously opposed by the leading cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini, but following several brushes with authority, Khomeini is exiled to Iraq the following year.

Ayatollah Khomeini addresses the crowd in Tehran
Ayatollah Khomeini addresses the crowd in Tehran in 1979, soon after his rise to power in Rian, having seen off the modernising shah of Iran


In May, Iran renounces its claim to sovereignty over Bahrain after a United Nations report shows that Bahrainis want to remain independent.

1978 - 1979

The shah's modernisation policies have alienated the conservative clergy. Coupled with this problem is his authoritarian rule, which leads to riots, strikes, and mass demonstrations. Martial law is imposed on the country but in January 1979 the shah is forced to lead his family into exile. Ayatollah Khomeini steers the course of the Iranian Revolution from his base, which is now in France for a short period before he returns to Iran in February 1979. Shah Mohammed Reza is the last emperor in Europe, the Mediterranean, or the Middle East. An Islamic republic is declared in place of the shahdom and Khomeini rules over an oppressive hard-line regime.

Modern Iran
AD 1979 - Present Day

The modern Islamic republic of Iran is a good deal smaller than historic Persia, although those historic borders have fluctuated wildly over the centuries. The republic was created in 1979, after ending the Iranian shahdom which had existed for almost five hundred years. With its capital at Tehran in the northern central region, close to the Caspian Sea, the country is neighboured by Turkmenistan to the north-east, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait across the Persian Gulf to the south, Iraq and Turkey to the west, and Armenia and Azerbaijan to the north-west.

While the modern state itself is known as Iran, the geographical region in which it sits can still be labelled Persia, as can Iranian cultural and historic matters. The ancient Greeks used 'Persia' to describe the land of the Persians (or Parsu), a grouping of Indo-Europeans who had arrived in the region after the twelfth century BC. The official modern use of 'Iran' began in 1935, at the request of Reza Shah of the Pahlevis, although in 1959 it was accepted that both this and 'Persia' were valid. The name originates in the proto-Iranian 'Aryānā', meaning 'land of the Aryans'. The country also incorporates the region of Elam, one of the world's earliest emergent civilisations.

Following the revolution, the 'Grand Ayatollah' became the supreme leader in the new 'Islamic Republic of Iran', with the position being embodied by the leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. Beneath him was a twelve-man 'Guardian Council' which was created with the power to veto any laws passed by the Majlis (the parliament), and the power to reject any candidate who presented himself for election (only Islamists qualified). In the first years of the twenty-first century, the council persistently sided with extremists and hard-liners, using its veto powers very aggressively to block any moderates. By the early 2010s the moderates gained a stronger foothold, and a marginally more inclusive administration was inaugurated.

(Additional information from External Link: BBC Country Profiles.)

1979 - 1989

Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini / Khumayni

Leader of the Iranian Revolution.

1980 - 1988

Saddam Hussein of Iraq claims that the new revolutionary government of Iran is attempting to topple him from power. He declares war and the border between the two countries is a permanent battlefield for nearly a decade. Iraq is supported strategically and financially by Kuwait. Hussein occasionally employs chemical weapons on his enemy, but the two sides are evenly matched and the war ends in stalemate.

Iran-Iraq War
In places the Iran-Iraq War was a regional recreation of the First World War, with hopeless charges against enemy lines of trenches, and the death toll was suitably immense

1989 - Present

Ali Khamenei

Previously president of Iran.


Disputed election results on 12 June, which see the return to office of the hard line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, brings tens of thousands of ordinary Iranians onto the streets in protest. Khamenei allows the Guardian Council to deal with the election dispute, but instead of fully backing the result, the council announces that it might recount ten per cent of the votes amid admissions that there might be some basis for the claims of voting irregularities.

Mass protests continue, despite bans being issued, and a public speech by Khamenei on 19 June in which he fully backs the results simply inflames his growing opposition. When a young female student named Neda Agha-Soltani is shot dead by a sniper while taking part in a peaceful demonstration, the opposition have a martyr behind which to rally, and the future of the regime begins to look shaky. It survives the protests however, although in a weakened state.


Hopes for more fruitful engagement with the rest of the world rise with the election of self-proclaimed moderate Hassan Rouhani to the presidency. A deal to restrict the country's highly controversial uranium enrichment programme in November sees the lifting of some international sanctions, but the domestic political divide remains deep. Young people are continually arrested for allegedly flouting strict Islamic rules and regulations, including dancing in public and even women attending basketball matches.