Stefan Sperl, C. Shackle, Nicholas Awde, "Qasida poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa", Brill Academic Pub; Set Only edition (February 1996), p. 193: "Like Shah Ni'mat Allah-i Vali he hosted distinguished visitors among them Ismail Safavi, who had proclaimed himself Shahanshah of Iran in 1501 after having taken Tabriz, the symbolic and political capital of Iran".  Therefore, in 1540, Shah Tahmāsp started the first of a series of invasions of the Caucasus region, both meant as a training and drilling for his soldiers, as well as mainly bringing back massive numbers of Christian Circassian and Georgian slaves, who would form the basis of a military slave system, alike to the janissaries of the neighbouring Ottoman Empire, as well as at the same time forming a new layer in Iranian society composed of ethnic Caucasians. Even though the Safavids were not the first Shiʻi rulers in Iran, they played a crucial role in making Shiʻa Islam the official religion in the whole of Iran, as well as what is nowadays the Republic of Azerbaijan. The second most senior appointment was the Grand Steward (Ichik Agasi bashi), who would always accompany the Shah and was easily recognizable because of the great baton that he carried with him. "... the Order of the Lion and the Sun, a device which, since the 17 century at least, appeared on the national flag of the Safavids the lion representing 'Ali and the sun the glory of the Shiʻi faith", Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovskiĭ, J. M. Rogers, Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House, Courtauld Institute of Art. The two princes quarrelled and eventually Bayezid rebelled against his father. For most of the last decade of Ismail's reign, the domestic affairs of the empire were overseen by the Tajik vizier Mirza Shah Hossein until his assassination in 1523.  With the later end of the Portuguese Empire, the British, Dutch and French in particular gained easier access to Persian seaborne trade, although they, unlike the Portuguese, did not arrive as colonisers, but as merchant adventurers.  Although Ismāʻil was defeated and his capital was captured, the Safavid empire survived. Because of the relative insecurity of property ownership in Iran, many private landowners secured their lands by donating them to the clergy as so called vaqf. Georgian, Circassian and Armenian were also spoken, since these were the mother-tongues of many of the ghulams, as well as of a high proportion of the women of the harem.  Thus, starting from the reign of Tahmāsp I but only fully implemented and completed by Shah Abbas, this new group solely composed of ethnic Caucasians eventually came to constitute a powerful "third force" within the state as a new layer in society, alongside the Persians and the Qizilbash Turks, and it only goes to prove the meritocratic society of the Safavids. The ruler, also known as a Shah, was said to be a semidivine person and was also thought to be a direct descendant from the prophet Muhammad. Indeed, this had been the situation throughout Persian history, even before the Safavids, ever since the Arab conquest. First, in the west, the Ottomans, seeing the disarray of the warriors, pressed deep into Safavid territory and occupied the old capital of Tabriz. In 1500, Ismāʻil invaded neighboring Shirvan to avenge the death of his father, Sheik Haydar, who had been murdered in 1488 by the ruling Shirvanshah, Farrukh Yassar. Most sources agree that the Ottoman army was at least double the size of that of Ismāʻil; however, the Ottomans had the advantage of artillery, which the Safavid army lacked. According to the Iranologist Richard Nelson Frye:.  Tahmāsp was the ward of the powerful Qizilbash amir Ali Beg Rūmlū (titled "Div Soltān Rumlu") who saw himself as the de facto ruler of the state.
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