Similarities between Safavids & Ottomans

early ottoman minaret image by berkay from

The Safavid Dynasty and the Ottoman Empire were two significant powers in the Middle East during the late medieval, Renaissance and early modern periods. Each had a lasting impact on the history of its region. Despite the many differences between the two empires, there were a number of similarities as well.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire lasted from 1299 to 1923 and was the major power in the Middle East for much of that period. In 1453, the Ottomans captured the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, which became the seat of their empire. At its largest expansion, it controlled Asia Minor and much of the Middle East, as well as large areas in southeastern Europe and North Africa. Large, wealthy, and with a powerful army, the Ottoman Empire eventually fell into decline and was surpassed by European powers.

Safavid Dynasty

The Safavid Dynasty ruled Iran and its surrounding areas from 1501 to 1736. The height of its power was the rule of Shah Abbas I, from 1587 to 1629. At the height of its expansion, the Safavid Shahs ruled Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as significant territories in Iraq, Pakistan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan. The Safavids revolutionized Iranian government, art, and religion but eventually fell victim to a declining economy and repeated attacks from neighbouring kingdoms.


The eastern edge of the Ottoman Empire bordered on the western frontier of Safavid Iran. Given that both empires were expansionist, conflict was inevitable. Clashes over Safavid recruitment in Ottoman territory led to the battle of Chaldiran in 1514. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Safavids were defeated. War raged for decades until the Treaty of Amasy in 1555. The Safavids and Ottomans held the upper hand at different times but, overall, the war ended in a minor victory for the Ottomans.


Superficially, there were few similarities between the Ottoman and Safavid empires. The Ottomans were Sunni Turks, whereas the Safavids were Shiite Iranians. However, both were militarily expansionist empires and both faced the challenge of running large empires consisting of ethnically and religiously diverse populations. They also both left lasting legacies behind them in terms of art, literature, architecture, religion, and government. Many features of modern Turkish or Iranian culture can be traced back to the Ottomans or Safavids.

Most recent