13th to 15th Centuries
Including The Timurids
The Mongol conquest of the Persian world brought with it terrible destruction and large-scale massacres. In 1219, Genghis Khan's army attacked the state of Khwarezm, capturing Transoxiana, Samarkand (1220) and Khorassan (1221), while a detachment penetrated as far as Azerbaijan. In 1256, a second expedition led by Hulagu (1217-1265), Genghis Khan's grandson, subdued the whole of Persia. In 1258, Baghdad was captured and the caliph put to death, bringing the Abbasid Caliphate rule to an end. Hulagu's successors, who took the title of il-Khan, established their capital at Tabriz.
The death of Sultan Abu Said in 1335 lead to the division of the Mongol Empire in Persia. Once again, local chiefs took advantage of this to declare themselves independent: a Persian Shi'ite dynasty, the Sardebarians (1337-1381), settled in the northwestern part of Khorassan while the Mozzafferids (1340-1392) took control of the south from Fars to Kerman. But these dynasties were short-lived as a third invasion, this time by the Turko-Mongol nomads lead by Tamerlane, swept across the region. The east of Iran fell in 1380, and Azerbaijan, Iraq and Fars a few years later.
Tamerlane (Timurid dynasty) dominated all of Persia from 1387. His invasion of Isfahan alone, led to more than 70,000 deaths where the heads of his victims were heaped up into pyramids. Nevertheless, after having established his capital at Samarkand, he drew artists, calligraphers, writers, philosophers, astronomers and mathematicians, from all parts of his empire, the majority of whom came from Shiraz and Isfahan.
Thus, ironically, this ruthless warrior and appalling killer initiated a true civilization in the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Herat, Balkh and Mashad. In the time of Shah Rukh (1405-1447) and Oleg Begh the whole of Persia became covered with admirable monuments and the art of miniature reached its peak at Shiraz and Herat.
The doorway into the hall of Uldjaitu in the Friday Mosque, Isfahan; decorated with Timurid mosaics
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Persian Art Through the Centuries
Copyright© 1998 K. Kianush, Art Arena