History of Iran

Afsharid Dynasty (Nader Shah)

"Nader Shah" Afshar
Oil on canvas; Artist: Abol-Hassan 1774
Nader Shah or King Nader (1688-1747), the founder of Afsharid Dynasty, an enigmatic figure in Iranian history ruled from 1736 - 1747 A.D.

Nader Shah, or Nader Qoli Beg was born in Kobhan, Iran, on October 22, 1688, into one of the Turkish tribes loyal to the Safavid shahs of Iran. He was the son of a poor peasant, who lived in Khorasan and died while Nader was still a child. Nader and his mother were carried off as slaves by the Ozbegs, but after death of his mother in captivity Nader managed to escape and became a soldier. Soon he attracted the attention of a chieftain of the Afshar in whose service Nader rapidly advanced. Eventually, the ambitious Nader fell out of favour. He became a rebel and gathered a substantial army.

In 1719 the Afghans had invaded Persia. They deposed the reigning Shah of the Safavid dynasty in 1722. Their ruler, Mahmoud Ghilzai (1699-1725), murdered a large number of Safavid Princes, hacking many of them to death by his own hand. After he had invited the leading citizens of Esfahan to a feast and massacred them there, his own supporters assassinated Mahmoud in 1725. His cousin, Ashraf (1700-1730), took over and married a Safavid princess.

At first, Nader fought with the Afghans against the Ozbegs until they withheld him further payment. In 1727 Nader offered his services to Tamasp II (1704-1740), heir to the Safavid dynasty. Nader started the reconquest of Persia and drove the Afghans out of Khorasan. The Afghans suffered heavy losses, but before they fled Ashraf massacred an additional 3000 citizens of Esfahan. Most of the fleeing Afghans were soon overtaken and killed by Nader's men, while others died in the desert. Ashraf himself was hunted down and murdered.

By 1729 Nader had freed Persia from the Afghans. Tamasp II was crowned Shah, although he was little more than a figurehead. While Nader was putting down a revolt in Khorasan, Tamasp moved against the Turks, losing Georgia and Armenia. Enraged, Nader deposed Tamasp in 1732 and installed Tamasp's infant son, Abbas III (1732-1740), on the throne, naming himself regent. Within two years Nader recaptured the lost territory and extended the Empire at the expense of the Turks and the Russians.

In 1736 Nader evidently felt that his own position had been established so firmly that he no longer needed to hide behind a nominal Safavid Shah and ascended the throne himself. In 1738 he invaded Kandahar, captured Kabul and marched on to India. He seized and sacked Delhi and, after some disturbances, he killed 30000 of its citizens. He plundered the Indian treasures of the Moghal Emperors, taking with him the famous jewel-encrusted Peacock Throne and the Koh-i Noor diamond. In 1740 Nader had Tamasp II and his two infant sons put to death. Then he invaded Transoxania. He resumed war with Turkey in 1743. In addition, he built a navy and conquered Oman.

Gradually Nader's greedy and intolerant nature became more pronounced. The financial burden of his standing armies was more than the Persians could bear and Nader imposed the death penalty on those who failed to pay his taxes. He stored most of his loot for his own use and showed little if any concern for the general welfare of the country. Nader concentrated all power in his own hands. He was a brilliant soldier and the founder of the Persian navy, but he was entirely lacking any interest in art and literature. Once, when Nader was told that there was no war in paradise, he was reported to have asked: "How can there be any delights there?". He moved the capital to Mashhad in Khorasan, close to his favourite mountain fortress. He tried to reconcile Sunnism with Shi'itism, because he needed people of both faiths in his army, but the reconciliation failed.

In his later years, revolts began to break out against his oppressive rule. Nader became increasingly harsh and exhibited signs of mental derangement following an assassination attempt. He suspected his own son, Reza Qoli Mirza (1719-1747), of plotting against him and had him blinded. Soon he started executing the nobles who had witnessed his son's blinding. Towards the end, even his own tribesmen felt that he was too dangerous a man to be near. In 1747 a group of Afshar and Qajar chiefs decided "to breakfast off him ere he should sup off them". His own commanders surprised him in his sleep, but Nader managed to kill two of them before the assassins finished him off.

Nader was Persia's most gifted military genius and is known as "The Second Alexander" and "The Napoleon of Persia". Although he restored national independence and effectively protected Iran's territorial integrity at a dark moment of the country's history, his obsessive suspicions and jealousies plunged Iran into political turmoil. Little is known about Nader's personal life. His grandiosity, his insatiable desire for more conquests and his egocentric behaviour suggest a narcissistic personality disorder and in his last years he seems to have developed some paranoid tendencies. Nader was married four times and had 5 sons and 15 grandsons.

Afsharid Kings:
Nader Shah
Ali Gholi
1737 - 1747
1747 - 1748
1748 - 1749
1748 - 1749