Moʿin Moṣavver | Manuscripts | History of Shah Esmāʿil |tāriḵ-e jahāngushā'i-ye ḵāqān-e ṣāḥibibqirān

Manuscript L, folio 62v

Battle for the Fortress of Bāku

Date of this event: 907/1500-01.
IWith the defeat of Forroǩyasār, the ruler of Širvān, in 1500-01, most of the province fell into Esmāʿil’s hands. The garrisons of some of the forts, however, continued to put up some resistance, but were eventually subjugated. Most notable of these forts was the one at Bāku, which was surrounded on three sides by the sea, and on the fourth side, which faced the land, protected by a very wide ditch. Eskandar Monši records little of the battle except to state that the Safavid forces were successful. The text to this manuscript, however, reveals that the ǩandaq, or dry moat, was breached by digging a tunnel under it to the tower inside.

The painting depicts a fierce battle raging in front of the walls of a fortress. The Safavid army, represented by four mounted qezelbāš, charge in from the lower right in a fury of activity, firing arrows at their opponents who retreat in front of them. Above them, on what appears to be a balcony or landing of the fortress of somewhat ambiguous spatial arrangement, are three men bearing muskets that are aimed at the retreating forces. Although dressed differently from the Safavids below, the direction of their aim would suggest that they are also part of Esmāʿil’s forces. On the left, five of the Širvāni forces, all mounted and wearing pointed steel helmets and armed with swords and shields, flee before the qezelbāš,onslaught. Two have already been wounded with arrows, and another turns rearward to take aim at his pursuers. Above, in the upper portion of the painting, behind a crenelated parapet, are six turbanned defenders. One hoists a large rock over his head to drop on the attackers below, one blows a long horn, and the other four are archers taking aim. The fortress itself appears formidable, but for the most part covered in tile, with a deep ditch in front, where most of the melée is taking place.

Painting: 17.4 x 12.2 cm. One line of text above and below the painting. Frame enclose spainting and text. Painting damaged in several places: bottom right corner of calligraphy and painting are missing; frame on right side nicked in several places; small tear on left side midway down from the top; some faces show very slight smudging.. Not signed or dated.

Painting references:

Text X-references:
See Savory, SA_1979, p.43-44 for this event in the History of Shah ʿĀbbās.

Robert Eng
Last updated: November 18, 2010

Photo: © The British Library, London