History Files



Middle East Kingdoms

Ancient Persia and the East





The Persians (or Parsu) 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 Mannaeans and Medians, probably via Sogdiana and Transoxiana, not long after other Indo-European groups had entered India. That probably made them descendants of 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 between modern Turkmenistan and down towards the Oxus, and was peopled by Indo-European tribes. The mythical early Persian kings seem to rule 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, and from Empire of Gold: Foundations, Jo Amdahl, 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.

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 was founded along the banks of the River Oxus, whihc probably also formed part of the migratory route used by the 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 Qobd

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, and from Empire of Gold: Foundations, Jo Amdahl, 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
Achaemenid (Persian Empire) palace decoration at Babylon

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

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.

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, Xerxes is swiftly engaged by Athens and Sparta in the Vale of Tempe, and then stymied by a mixed force of Greeks led by Sparta at Thermopylae. Athens then defeats the Persian navy at Salamis, and after Xerxes returns home, his army is decisively defeated at the battle of Plataea and kicked out of Greece.

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, and it takes Alexander two more years to fully conquer it.

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.

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 - 256 BC

The Fourth War of the Diadochi sees Persia ruled by the Hellenic Seleucid empire from Babylon and then Antioch, in Syria. In 256 BC, the Greek satrap of Parthia declares independence.

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 Parthian 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 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.

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 Persia, and fully establish themselves with the death of the Greek satrap and king of Parthia.

? - 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.

c.211 - 191 BC

Arsaces II (?)

c.191 - 176 BC


c.191 - 176 BC


185 BC

The Parthians expand into eastern Iran.

c.176 - 171 BC

Phraates I

171 - 139 BC

Mithridates I

(Not the same as the king of Pontus.)

141 - 139 BC

Mithridates takes Media (141 BC) and Iran (139 BC).

c.139 - 129 BC

Phraates II

c.128 - 124 BC

Artabanus II (I)

138 - 128 BC

Phraates II

Son of Mithradates.

129 - 126 BC

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

124 - 87 BC

Mithridates II the Great

Cousin of Phraates II.

92 - 90 BC

A treaty is formed with Rome. Within two years the Parthians take control of eastern Iran.

c.90 - 80 BC

Gotarzes I

c.80 - 78 BC

Orodes I

c.80 BC

The Parthians divert their Indo-Scythian cousins, the Sakas, from Persia into Indo-Greek Gandhara.

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.

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

Mithridates III

Pacorus I

(d.38 BC)

c.40 - 3 BC

Phraates IV

Son of Orodes.

40 - 37 BC

Parthians attack and occupy areas of Roman Syria, including the city of Bashan.

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.

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

Mithridates 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.)


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.

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.

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.


The Sassanids end the Kushanshah drift towards independence by reasserting their control. Kushanshah rulers remain on the throne as vassals.

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 the Western Kaghans and the Sassanids, and a level of Indo-Sassanid authority is re-established in the region. The Western Kaghans set up rival states in Bamiyan, Kabul, and Kapisa.

579 - 590

Hormizd IV

591 - 628

Khusro II

607 - 616

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

623 - 628

Khusro is defeated by Byzantine emperor Heraclius, and overthrown by the nobles. Persia loses 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-Khita 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 and eastern Anatolia, 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 him.


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.

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 ljeytu 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 ljeytu


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 Tmr-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.

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

Tmr-i Lang / Tamerlane

Mongol conqueror from Mughulistan.

1386 - 1394

Timur conquers Greater Armenia and massacres a large part of the population.


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, defeats the Black Sheep emirate in eastern Anatolia, and captures Damascus. The following year Timur also defeats, captures and imprisons the 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.

1405 - 1407

Pr 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 Latf, 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 following Abu Sa'id's death in 1469.

1501 - 1507

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.


The Safavid shah conquers 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), but in about 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 External Link: Iran Chamber Society.)

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. He also annexes Baghdad and Mosul, and aids Babur of Kabul  in temporarily recapturing Samarkand in 1511.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.)

1736 - 1747

Nadir Shah

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

1738 - 1739

Nadir Shah marches his army through Afghanistan, 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.


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.


Adel Shah



1748 - 1750

Shah Rukh

In Khorasan 1750 & 1755-1796.

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

1751 - 1779

Karim Khan

Regent for Esmail III (1751-1769).


Abul Fath

In Shiraz (City of Roses, in Persia).


Mohammad Ali

In Shiraz.

1779 - 1781

Mohammad Sadiq

In Shiraz.

1781 - 1785

Ali Morad

In Esfahan.

1785 - 1789


In Esfahan, then Shiraz.

1789 - 1794

Lutf Ali

In Shiraz.

Qajar Shahs of Iran
AD 1794 - 1925

1779 - 1797

Agha Mohammad

Southern Persia 1794.


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

1797 - 1834

Fath Ali


A Persian attack on Herat in Afghanistan fails, while internal fighting continues within the state.


Russia acquires eastern Armenia from Iran and makes it a province.

1832 - 1833

The Qajar shahs move into the province of Khorasan, and then threaten Herat. The Afghans are forced to defend the city but manage to repel the invaders.

1834 - 1848


1848 - 1896

Naser od Din

1896 - 1907

Muzaffar od Din

1905 - 1908

The Persian revolution sweeps the country.

1907 - 1909

Mohammad Ali

1909 - 1925


A coup d'etat replaces the Qajars with the Pahlevis.

1913 - 1970

Upon the independence of Bahrain from the Ottoman empire, Persia claims sovereignty through its previous links to the Islamic empire.

Pahlevi Shahs of Iran
AD 1925 - 1979

1925 - 1941

Reza (Rida) Pahlevi

Persia is officially renamed as Iran, previously a regional title.

1941 - 1979

Mohammed Reza

Celebrated 2500th anniversary of Persian Empire (d.1980).


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


Ayatollah Khomeini steers the course of the Iranian Revolution from his base, which is now in France for a short period. The shah is forced to leave the country and Khomeini returns to Iran. 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 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. 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.