This series has eleven easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Nadir Expels the Afghans From Persia.
By the eighteenth century’s second decade (1720’S) Persia, having escaped the control of the Ottomans, fell under that of the Afghans. Persia’s shah survived only because the Afghans benefited from his weakness. However, a low-born peasant was about to arrive.
This selection is from History of Persia by Sir John Malcolm published in 1815. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Sir John Malcolm (1769-1833) was a Scottish soldier, diplomat, East India Company administrator, statesman, and historian.
Nadir Shah was born in the province of Khorasan. Persian historians pass over the early occurrences of his life, and the first event that these notice is the birth of his eldest son, Reza Kuli, which occurred when he was thirty-one years of age. He had before that experienced great vicissitudes of fortune, and had given proofs both of valor and talent. When only seventeen he was taken prisoner by the Usbegs, who made annual incursions into Khorasan; but he effected his escape after a captivity of four years. His occupation from that period till he entered into the service of Shah Tamasp can only merit notice as it is calculated to show that the character of this extraordinary man was always the same. He was at one time in the service of a petty chief of his native province, whom he murdered, and whose daughter he carried off and married. After this, he obtained a precarious subsistence by heading a band of robbers; from which occupation he passed, by an easy transition in such troubled times, into the employment of the Afghan Governor of Khorasan, by whom he was at first raised to rank and command, as a reward for his valor in actions with the Usbegs, and afterward degraded and punished with the bastinado on account of his insolent and turbulent conduct.
Irritated at the disgrace he had suffered, Nadir left the city of Mushed, and went to the fort of Khelat in the same province, which was in the possession of his uncle, who appears at this period to have been at the head of a small branch of the Affshars. He resided there but a short time, before his relation, alarmed at his violence and ambition, compelled him to retire. He appears next to have resumed his occupation of a robber; but his depredations were now on a more extended scale. The Afghans had become masters of Ispahan; and the rule of the Suffavean monarchs over the distant provinces of the kingdom was subverted, without that of their conquerors being firmly established. At such a moment a plunderer of known valor and experience could not want followers; and in the course of a short time we find Nadir, a chief of reputation, at the head of a body of three thousand men, levying large contributions on the inhabitants of Khorasan.
His uncle, alarmed at his increasing power, sought his friendship. He addressed a kind letter to him, and proposed that he should enter the service of Shah Tamasp, and aid that Prince in expelling the Afghans from Persia. Nadir pretended to listen to this overture, and earnestly desired that the King should grant him a pardon for his past offences. This was easily obtained; and he went to Khelat to receive it. He appears to have always deemed the Governor of that place as the chief obstacle to his rise; and at this moment he laid a plan to destroy him and to seize his fortress. He completely succeeded in both; and, after having slain his uncle with his own hand, he proceeded to employ the means he had acquired by this crime in overthrowing the Afghan ruler of Khorasan. This popular attack upon the enemies of his country enabled him to obtain a second pardon from Shah Tamasp, whose service he entered, and to whose cause he brought a great accession of strength and reputation.
Shah Tamasp early entertained the greatest jealousy of Nadir: and upon his disobeying a mandate he had sent him to return from an expedition on which he was engaged, the weak monarch ventured to proclaim him a rebel and a traitor. The indignant chief, the moment he heard of these proceedings, marched against the court, which he soon compelled to submit on the terms he chose to dictate. From the occurrence of this open rupture we may date the annihilation of the little power Tamasp had ever enjoyed. Nadir continued to treat him with respect till he deemed the time mature for his usurpation of the throne; but we discover that, as early as his first expedition into Khorasan, he began to prepare the minds of his countrymen for his future elevation.
Like Ardisheer, the founder of the Sassanian race of Persian kings, he had his visions of future grandeur. He saw, we are told, in one of these, a water-fowl and a white fish with four horns; he dreamt that he shot the bird; and, after all his attendants had failed in their attempts to seize the extraordinary fish, he stretched out his hand and caught it with the greatest ease. The simple fact of his dreaming of a bird and a fish, he was informed by flattering astrologers, was a certain presage of his attaining imperial power; and his historian has had a less difficult task in discovering, from subsequent events, that the four horns of the fish were types of the kingdoms of Persia, Khaurizm, India, and Tartary, which were all destined to be conquered by this hero. Such trifles are not unworthy of notice; they show the art or superstition of him who uses or believes in them, and portray better than the most elaborate descriptions the character of those minds upon which they make an impression.
The expulsion of the Afghans from Persia seemed the sole effort of the genius of Nadir; and no reward, therefore, appeared too great for the man who was liberating his country from its cruel oppressors. The grant made by Tamasp to this chief, of the four finest provinces of the empire, was considered only as a just recompense for the great services that he had performed. We are told that in the same letter by which Tamasp conveyed the grant of these countries, or, in other words, alienated half his kingdom, his victorious general was requested to assume the title of sultan, and a diadem, richly set with jewels, was sent by one of the noblemen of the court. Nadir accepted all the honors except the title of sultan; that high name he thought would excite envy without conferring benefit; he, however, took advantage of this proffered elevation to the rank of a prince, to exercise one of the most important privileges which attach to monarchs. He directed that his army should be paid in coin brought from the province of Khorasan, and that it should be struck in his own name, which virtually amounted to an assumption of the independent sovereignty of that country.
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