Chala Ashaqi, Iran (1514 AD)
The Battle of Chaldiran marked the beginning of forty years of war between the Ottomans and Safavids. A victory for the Ottomans, Chaldiran was one of the last truly major military engagents exclusively fought by two great Muslim powers before the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century. Fought near the present-day frontier between Turkey and Iran, Chaldiran was one of the last in a long line of battles in this region which had seen so many wars between east and west. Although the Safavids lost, the site of the battle eventually became an honored part of the history of Iran, who erected a monument on the battlefield just a few years ago.
Since the rise of the first Persian Empire in ancient times, Persia and its successors have fought a seemingly never-ending series of wars with various western empires, mostly on its northwestern frontier: The Persians versus the Greeks, the Sassanids versus the Romans and later Byzantines and Persia versus the various Islamic Caliphates and Sultanates. In war after war, the result was almost always the same status quo.
Finally in 1514 it was the turn of the Ottomans. The Ottomans, who in the previous century had finally captured Constantinople and were pressing into Central Europe, finally turned their attention eastward. This was in part a response to Shia uprisings in the Ottoman Empire. Under the guise of holy war, the Ottoman Sultan Selim I accused the Persian Shah Ismael I, a Shia Muslim, of heresy. Ismael countered with accusations of violations of religious law. After this minimal diplomacy, the two sides prepared for war.
Assembling a massive army, armed with the latest, most advanced gunpowder weapons available, marched into Persia intent on finally reuniting it with the Islamic west. The Safavids assembled a much smaller force, due in part to the fact that many Persian soldiers were already engaged in another war in Central Asia. The two armies met in what is now the extreme northwestern corner of Iran.
The Safavids, led by their magnificent cavalry, fought fiercely against the Ottomans, using traditional cavalry tactics that might have worked a century earlier. Unfortunately, the substantial Ottoman artillery, for which the Persians were not prepared, proved the decisive factor in the battle. The Safavids were driven back with heavy losses, and the Ottomans took the field. This ultimately led to the loss of its western territories, although the Safavids managed to fight off the Ottomans in the long run.
The Battle of Chaldiran is well remembered by both Turkey and Iran, and though a loss for the Iranians, the battlefield has become a site of national historic interest. The field itself, surrounded by scenic mountains, remains roughly as it did centuries ago. The main difference, and the primary site of interest, is the Chaldiran Mosque, built in 2003 to commemorate the battle and the fallen.
The Chaldiran Battlefield is located in northwestern Iran close to the borders of Turkey and Armenia, just outside the town of Maku, approximately 130 miles northwest of Tabriz. The battle field is an open site. The mosque is technically an open site, though off limits to non-Muslims. There is no cost of admission. Web: www.www.tourisiran.ir (official tourism website of Iran).