Abbas the Great was Shah Abbas I of Persia, born in 1557. He was the peak of the Safavid Dynasty which had been founded by his ancestors in 1500 and established the Shi'ite branch of Islam as the state religion of Persia (as it still is of Iran). When Abbas became Shah in 1588, he inherited a war with the Ottoman Empire on his western border, which he stopped in 1590 by conceding some territory to the Turks. Over the next decade he concentrated on driving the Uzbeks who were invading Persia on its northeastern border, which he accomplished in 1598, and then returned to retake the land from the Ottomans. He also threw the Portuguese out in 1622 when they attempted to establish a colony at Hormuz (though he had some British help).

Abbas moved the Persian capital to Isfahan, rebuilding the city with numerous mosques, religious colleges, public baths, wide streets, and gardens. He also did his best to increase the number and quality of public works and artistic achievements throughout Persia; his reign is the beginning of the export of Persian carpets to Europe and their reputation for fine quality.

Toward the end of his reign he tried to conquer Mesopotamia, but died in 1628 before this could be accomplished.


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