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Coordinates: 39°05′19.87″N 44°19′37.19″E / 39.0888528°N 44.3269972°E / 39.0888528; 44.3269972

Battle of Chaldiran
Part of the Ottoman–Persian Wars
Sekumname1525 Chaldiran battle.jpg
Battle of Chaldiran
Date23 August 1514
LocationNorthwestern Iran
Result Decisive Ottoman victory[1]
Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire Safavid dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Ottoman Empire Sultan Selim I Shah Ismail I
or 100,000[3]
or 212,000,[4]
artillery and muskets[5]
or 40,000[5]
or 55,000[6]
or 80,000[3]
Casualties and losses
Heavy losses[7]
or less than 2,000 [8]
Heavy losses[7]
or approximately 5,000 [9]

The Battle of Chaldiran or Chaldoran (Persian: چالدران‎, Turkish language: Çaldıran) occurred on 23 August 1514 and ended with a victory for the Ottoman Empire over the Safavid Empire. As a result, the Ottomans gained immediate control over eastern Anatolia and northern Iraq. The battle, however, was just the beginning of 41 years of destructive war between the two empires that only ended in 1555 with the Treaty of Amasya. While the Ottomans often had the upper hand, the Persians for the most part held their ground. All Safavid losses in Shia-dominated metropolitan regions of Persia, such as Luristan and Kermanshah, proved temporary, being recovered from the Ottomans soon after each battle. An exception was Azerbaijan, which- though taken back from the Ottomans, would later be permanently lost to the Russian Empire. Iraq, as well as eastern Anatolia, would also be forever taken from traditional Iranian suzerainty.

At Chaldiran, the Ottomans had a larger, better equipped army numbering 60,000 to 200,000, while the Qizilbash Turcomans numbered some 40,000 to 80,000. Shah Ismail I, who was wounded and almost captured in the battle, retired to his palace and withdrew from government administration[10] after his wives were captured by Selim I,[11] with at least one married off to one of Selim's statesmen.[12] The battle is one of major historical importance because it not only negated the idea that the Murshid of the Shia-Qizilbash was infallible,[13] but it also fully defined the Ottoman-Safavid borders and led Kurdish chiefs to assert their authority and switch their allegiance from the Safavids to the Ottomans.[14]


After Selim I's successful struggle against his brothers for the throne of the Ottoman Empire, he was free to turn his attention to the internal unrest he believed was stirred up by the Shia Qizilbash, who had sided with other members of the Dynasty against him and had been semi-officially supported by Bayezid II. Selim now feared that they would incite the population against his rule in favor of Shah Isma'il leader of the Shia Safavids, and by some of his supporters believed to be family of the Prophet. Selim secured a jurist opinion that described Isma'il and the Qizilbash as "unbelievers and heretics" enabling him to undertake extreme measures on his way eastward to pacify the country.[15] In response, Shah Isma'il accused Sultan Selim of aggression against fellow Muslims, violating religious sexual rules and shedding innocent blood.[16]

When Selim started his march east, the Safavids were invaded in the east by the Uzbek state recently brought to prominence by Abu 'I-Fath Muhammad, who had fallen in battle against Isma'il only a few years before. To avoid the prospect of fighting a war on two fronts, Isma'il employed a scorched earth policy against Selim in the west.[17]

The terrain of eastern Anatolia and the Caucuses is extremely rough and combined with the difficulty in supplying the army in light of Isma'il's scorched earth campaign while marching against Muslims, Selim's army was discontented. The Janissaries even fired their muskets at the Sultan's tent in protest at one point. When Selim learned of the Safavid army forming at Chaldiran, he quickly moved to engage Isma'il in part to stifle the discontent of his army.[18]


rightMonument commemorating the Battle of Chaldiran built on the site of battlefield

Persian manuscript showing Shah Isma'il in the battle with an Ottoman commander

The Ottomans deployed heavy artillery and thousands of Janissaries equipped with gunpowder weapons behind a barrier of carts. The Safavids used cavalry to engage the Ottoman forces. The Safavids attacked the Ottoman wings in an effort to avoid the Ottoman artillery positioned at the center. However, the Ottoman artillery was highly maneuverable and the Safavids suffered disastrous losses.[19] The advanced Ottoman weaponry was the deciding factor of the battle as the Safavid forces, who only had traditional weaponry, were decimated. The Safavids also suffered from poor planning and ill-disciplined troops unlike the Ottomans.[20]


Following their victory the Ottomans temporarily captured the Safavid capital of Tabriz, which they evacuated quickly. The Shia defeat at Chaldiran brought an end to the Shia uprisings in Ottoman Empire. After two of his wives were captured by Selim[21] Ismail was heartbroken and resorted to drinking alcohol.[22] Ismail did not participate in government affairs,[23] as his aura of invincibility was shattered.[24]

After the defeat at Chaldiran, however, the Safavids made drastic domestic changes. Ismail's son, Tahmasp I deployed cannons in subsequent battles.[25]

After the battle of Chaldiran, Selim I would then throw his forces southward to fight the Mamluk Sultanate in the Ottoman–Mamluk War (1516–1517).


The site of the battle is near Chala Ashaqi village, around 6 km west of the town of Siyah Cheshmeh, south of Maku, north of Qareh Ziyaeddin. A large brick dome was built at the battlefield site in 2003 along with a statue of Seyid Sadraddin, one of the main Safavid commanders.


After the battle, Selim referring to Ismail believed that his adversary was:

Always drunk to the point of losing his mind and totally neglectful of the affairs of the state.[26]

See also

  • Shi'a–Sunni relations
  • Sipahi


  1. David Eggenberger, An Encyclopedia of Battles, (Dover Publications, 1985), 85.
  2. Keegan & Wheatcroft, Who's Who in Military History, Routledge, 1996. p. 268 "In 1515 Selim marched east with some 60,000 men; a proportion of these were skilled Janissaries, certainly the best infantry in Asia, and the sipahis, equally well-trained and disciplined cavalry. [...] The Azerbaijanian army, under Shah Ismail, was almost entirely composed of Turcoman tribal levies, a courageous but ill-disciplined cavalry army. Slightly inferior in numbers to the Turks, their charges broke against the Janissaries, who had taken up fixed positions behind rudimentary field works."
  3. 3.0 3.1 Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire, ed. Gábor Ágoston,Bruce Alan Masters, page 286, 2009
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ghulam Sarwar, History of Shah Isma'il Safawi, AMS, New York, 1975, p. 79
  5. 5.0 5.1 Roger M. Savory, Iran under the Safavids, Cambridge, 1980, p. 41
  6. Keegan & Wheatcroft, Who's Who in Military History, Routledge, 1996. p. 268
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kenneth Chase, Firearms: A Global History to 1700, 120.
  8. Serefname II
  9. Serefname II s. 158
  10. Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shiʻi Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shiʻism, (Yale University Press, 1985), 107.
  11. The Cambridge History of Iran, ed. William Bayne Fisher, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, 224
  12. Leslie P. Peirce, The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, (Oxford University Press, 1993), 37.
  13. The Cambridge History of Iran, ed. William Bayne Fisher, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, 359.
  14. Martin Sicker, The Islamic World in Ascendancy: From the Arab conquests to the Siege of Vienna, (Praeger Publishers, 2000), 197.
  15. Caroline Finkel, Osman's Dream, (Basic Books, 2006), 104. .
  16. Caroline Finkel, Osman's Dream, 105.
  17. Caroline Finkel, Osman's Dream, 105
  18. Caroline Finkel, Osman's Dream, 106.
  19. Andrew James McGregor, A Military History of Modern Egypt: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Ramadan War, (Greenwood Publishing, 2006), 17.
  20. Gene Ralph Garthwaite, The Persians, (Blackwell Publishing, 2005), 164.
  21. The Cambridge history of Iran, ed. William Bayne Fisher, Peter Jackson, Laurence Lockhart, pg. 224.
  22. The Cambridge history of Islam, Part 1, ed. Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis, pg. 401
  23. Elton L. Daniel, The History of Iran, (ABC-CLIO, 2012), 86
  24. The Cambridge History of Islam, Part 1, By Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis, p. 401.
  25. Gunpowder and Firearms in the Mamluk Sultanate Reconsidered, Robert Irwin, The Mamluks in Egyptian and Syrian politics and society, ed. Michael Winter and Amalia Levanoni, (Brill, 2004), 127
  26. Rudi Matthee, The Pursuit of Pleasure: Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian history, 1500-1900, (Princeton University Press, 2005), 77

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