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Siege of Baghdad (1638)
Part of Ottoman–Safavid War (1623–1639)
IV. Murat.jpg
Portrait of Murad IV
Date15 November – 25 December 1638
LocationBaghdad, Iraq
Result Decisive Ottoman victory, Treaty of Zuhab
Ottomans recapture Baghdad, lower Mesopotamia, the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris, northern Iraq and part of the Persian Gulf coast.
Safavid Flag.png Safavid Empire  Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Safavid Flag.png Bektas Khan Ottoman Empire Murat IV
Ottoman Empire Grand Vizier Tayyar Mehmet Pasha
40,000 infantry
211 fortified city towers[1]
100 cannons
35,000 infantry
73,000 cavalry
200 cannons
not in combat: 8,000 (lağımcı) miners and sappers[1]
24,000 (beldar) military laborers [1]
Casualties and losses
entire garrison High

Capture of Baghdad refers to the second conquest of the city by the Ottoman Empire.


Baghdad (capital of modern Iraq), once the capital of Arab Abbasid Caliphate, was one of the most important cities of the Muslim World. In the second half of the Medieval age, Turkic rulers (Seljuks, Kara Koyunlu, Ak Koyunlu) as well as others always tried to control this prestigious city. In 1534, Ottoman sultan Suleyman I (also known as Suleyman the Magnificent) captured the city without any serious combat. However 90 years later it was captured by Abbas I of Persia.

Attempts of several Ottoman commanders (Turkish language: serdar) to retake the city following 1624, were fruitless. According to a legend only the sultans could capture the city. Murat was seen as a warrior hero and thus it seemed as his duty to campaign and regain Baghdad. He had been victorious against the Druze rebels a decade earlier and won a great victory at the Siege of Yerevan in 1635. In 1638 Ottoman Sultan Murat IV (five generation younger than Suleyman I) decided to recapture the city.

According to the eyewitness account of Zarain Agha the Ottoman mobilization for the siege of Baghdad was 108,589 men composed of 35,000 infantry in part Janissaries, and 73,589 cavalry.[2]

The siege

The birds' flight distance between Istanbul and Baghdad is about 1,600 kilometres (990 mi). According to historian Joseph von Hammer the Ottoman army covered this distance in 197 days with 110 staging stations in between. The siege began on 15 November 1638. The Safavids had increased the garrison size of the city by around 4-5 times. There were four main gates of the city, the North Gate, Azamiye or Imam-i Azam, (of Abū Ḥanīfa), the South Gate Karanlık Kapu (dark), Ak (white) and Köprü (bridge) gates. The Ottoman observer Ziyaeddin Ibrahim Nuri described the city's fortifications as follows: the city walls were 25 meters tall and between 10 and 7 meters wide, reinforced by earthen ramparts to withstand artillery bombardment and protected by a wide and deep moat.[1] The city walls featured 114 towers between the North and South Gate, and another 94 towers that ran parallel to the Tigris.[1] The Safavid commander, Bektaş Khan, had made extensive repairs to the fortifications. Two Pashas were deployed against the first two gates. But the Grand Vizier Tayyar Mehmet Pasha noticed that these two gates were very well fortified. So he chose to attack on the third (Ak) gate which seemed less fortified. During the siege the Safavids made sallies of around 6,000 men at a time, this was followed by a retreat into the city and a fresh 6,000 to attack. These types of attacks greatly increased the casualties of the Ottomans. The siege continued for 40 days. Towards the end, impatient Murat urged the Grand Vizier for a general attack. The attack was successful and the city was captured on 25 December 1638 (on the 116th anniversary of the capture of Rhodes by Suleyman I). But during the final clashes, the Grand Vizier was shot down.[3]


Although the defenders were given free passage to Persia, some resumed fighting after the capture of the city around Karanlık gate. The human loss during the after-capture fighting was severe. Nevertheless soon after the capture, the new Grand Vizier Kemankeş Mustafa Pasha and the Persian representative Saruhan began peace talks and on 17 May 1639 the treaty of Zuhab was signed, which became an important historical treaty. By this treaty the modern Turkey-Iran and Iraq-Iran frontier lines were drawn. Although there were some other wars after the treaty of Zuhab, the treaties following the wars were merely the ratification of the treaty of Zuhab.[4]


During the Baghdad campaign Murat lost two of his Grand Viziers. The first was Bayram Pasha on 17 August 1638, who died on the way to Baghdad and the second was Mehmet Tayyar who died on 24 December 1638. Tayyar Mehmet was also the third Ottoman Grand Vizier who died on the battle field (the first two being Hadim Ali Pasha in 1511 and Hadim Sinan Pasha in 1517).

After this victory Murat had two magnificent kiosks built in the Topkapi gardens, one for his victory at Yerevan and the other for his victory at Baghdad.

See also

  • History of Baghdad


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Mikaberidze, Alexander (2011). Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 177. ISBN 9781598843378. 
  2. Ottoman Warfare 1500-1700, Rhoads Murphey, 1999, p.36
  3. Joseph von Hammer: Geschichte der osmanischen Dichtkunst Vol II (translation: Mehmet Ata) Milliyet yayınları, p 220-221
  4. Prof. Yaşar Yüce-Prof. Ali Sevim: Türkiye tarihi Cilt III, AKDTYKTTK Yayınları, İstanbul, 1991 p 81-82

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