Timurid Empire    

Safavid Empire

Ghalzay Dynasty

Afsharid Dynasty

Part 2: Qajar Dynasty


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The history of Iran or history of Persia, is intertwined with the history of a larger region, comprising the area from Anatolia, the Bosphorus, and Egypt in the west to the borders of Ancient India and the Syr Darya in the east, and from the Caucasus and the Eurasian Steppe in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the south.

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 7000 BC. The south-western and western part of the Iranian Plateau participated in the traditional Ancient Near East with Elam, from the Early Bronze Age, and later with various other peoples, such as the Kassites, Mannaeans, and Gutians. The Medes unified Iran as a nation and empire in 625 BC. The Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC), founded by Cyrus the Great, was the first true global superpower state and it ruled from the Balkans to North Africa and also Central Asia, spanning three continents, from their seat of power in Persis (Persepolis). It was the largest empire yet seen and the first world empire. The Achaemenid Empire was the only civilization in all of history to connect over 40% of the global population, accounting for approximately 49.4 million of the world's 112.4 million people in around 480 BC. They were succeeded by the Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Empires, who successively governed Iran for almost 1,000 years and made Iran once again as a leading power in the world. Persia's arch-rival was the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire.

The Iranian Empire proper begins in the Iron Age, following the influx of Iranian peoples. Iranian people gave rise to the Medes, the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sasanian Empires of classical antiquity.

Once a major empire, Iran has endured invasions too, by the Macedonians, Arabs, Turks, and the Mongols.

The Muslim conquest of Persia (633–654) ended the Sasanian Empire and is a turning point in Iranian history. Islamization of Iran took place during the eighth to tenth centuries, leading to the eventual decline of Zoroastrianism in Iran as well as many of its dependencies. However, the achievements of the previous Persian civilizations were not lost, but were to a great extent absorbed by the new Islamic polity and civilization.

Iran, with its long history of early cultures and empires, had suffered particularly hard during the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. Many invasions of nomadic tribes, whose leaders became rulers in this country, affected it negatively.

Iran was reunified as an independent state in 1501 by the Safavid dynasty, which set Shia Islam as the empire's official religion, marking one of the most important turning points in the history of Islam. Functioning again as a leading world power, this time amongst the neighbouring Ottoman Empire, its arch-rival for centuries, Iran had been a monarchy ruled by an emperor almost without interruption from 1501 until the 1979 Iranian Revolution, when Iran officially became an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979.

 Over the course of the first half of the 19th century, Iran lost many of its territories in the Caucasus, which had been a part of Iran for centuries, comprising modern-day Eastern Georgia, Dagestan, Republic of Azerbaijan, and Armenia, to its rapidly expanding and emerged neighbouring rival, the Russian Empire, following the Russo-Persian Wars between 1804–’13 and 1826–‘28.

(From: Wikipedia)




Until the revolution of 1979 the emblem of Persia has been a lion and a sun. This emblem was composed of four elements:

A sun radiant with

A face and

A lion passant.

A sword 


This emblem can be traced back to the time of Mongol rule of the Il-Khans in Persia.

The elements mean:

The sun is a very old symbol of the realm or the Empire

The face is the face of the ruler or the owner of the Empire

The lion is the emblem of a military official of a certain rank, often having an administrative mandate.

In west-European hierarchy the lion was the emblem of an official of the third rank after an eagle and a griffin. It was often associated with the rank of a count or a duke.

In Seljuq hierarchy it was also a symbol of a military rank, probably of an official administrating a province. In that quality a sun and a lion was printed on coins of the Sultan of Konia in the time of Mongol suzereinty, the sun being a symbol of the empire

Silver coin of  Khaikosrau II of Rum (1237-‘45)

Lion passant below a faced sun radiant, eight-pointed star


In Mongol hierarchy it was the emblem of a military official of the second or third rank  Other insignia of rank from the Il-Khanid era are a panther, a tiger and a bear (and of course a simurg) which for example can be found on tiles from Takht-i-Suleiman and on Il-Khanid silks.


Timurid Empire





In the early fourteenth century, however, as the Il-khanid empire began to break up into its constituent parts, the Chaghatai territory also was disrupted as the princes of various tribal groups competed for influence. One tribal chieftain, Timur (Tamerlane), emerged from these struggles in the 1380s as the dominant force in Ma war’un nahr (Transoxiania). Although he was not a descendant of Genghis Khan, Timur became the de facto ruler of Mawarannahr and proceeded to conquer all of western Central Asia, Iran, Asia Minor, and the southern steppe region north of the Aral Sea. He also invaded Russia and India before dying during an invasion of China in 1405.

Timur initiated the last flowering of Ma war’un nahr by gathering in his capital, Samarqand, numerous artisans and scholars from the lands he had conquered. By supporting such people, Timur imbued his empire with a very rich culture. During Timur's reign and the reigns of his immediate descendants, a wide range of religious and palatial construction projects were undertaken in Samarqand and other population centres. Timur also initiated exchange of medical thoughts and patronized physicians, scientists and artists from the neighboring countries like India.; his grandson Ulugh Beg was one of the world's first great astronomers. It was during the Timurid dynasty that Turkish, in the form of the Chaghatai dialect, became a literary language in its own right in Mawarannahr—although the Timurids also patronized writing in Persian. Until then only Persian had been used in the region. The greatest Chaghataid writer, Ali-Shir Nava'i, was active in the city of Herat, now in northwestern Afghanistan, in the second half of the fifteenth century.


The Timurid state quickly broke into two halves after the death of Timur. The chronic internal fighting of the Timurids attracted the attention of the Uzbek nomadic tribes living to the north of the Aral Sea. In 1501 the Uzbeks began a wholesale invasion of Mawarannahr. The slave trade in the Khanate of Bukhara became prominent and was firmly established. Estimates from 1821 suggest that between 25,000 and 40,000 Persian slaves were working in Bukhara at the time.


Three madrasahs of the Registan are: Ulugbek Madrasah (1417-1420), the Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619-1636) and the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1646-1660). Madrasah is a medieval Moslem clergy academy.


The symbol of the Tīmūrid Empire


The sun and the crescent.


Clavijo, writing about the visit of the ambassadors of the spanish king to Kesh in 1403:


...there was a great and lofty pavilion, which was like a tent, only square, and three lances high. It was a hundred paces broad, and had four corners, and the ceiling was round, like a vault. It was pitched against twelve poles, each as large round as a man measured around the chest.[...] They were painted gold and blue, and other colours, and from corner to corned there were poles, three fastened together, and making one [...] From the vault of the ceiling of the pavilion silken cloths descended between each of the poles [....] In the center of the ceiling there was the richest work of all; and in the four corners were the figures of four eagles; with their wings closed. The outside of the pavilion was lined with silk cloths, in black, white and yellow stripes. At each corner there was a high pole, with a copper ball, and the figure of a crescent on the top; and in the centre, there was another tall pole; with a much larger copper ball and crescent; and, on the top of the pavilion, between these poles, there was a tower of silken cloths, with turrets, and an entrance door....

Within the pavilion there was, in one part, a chamber covered with carpets, for the use of the lord. [1]


Of these emblems the sun and crescent are from the buddhist  mongolian repertory of mblems as are the ‘eagles’ whch are cerrtainly gerfalcons which take the place of eagles in Mongolian martial symbolism. They were the symbol of Djengiz Khan himself and of many other ancient mongol wariors.


Timur Beg


Amir of Samarcand 1369-1406

Amir of Transoxiana 1370-1405

Khurasan 1391

Kabul 1398

Bagdad 1401



Timur Beg, also known as Timur Lenk or Tamerlane, originated from Kesh (Shahrisabz), a city some 58 km south of Samarkand.

The name means: Iron Lord. The name Tamerlane is a nickname meaning the Iron Lame.


The Emblems of Timur Beg.

The emblems of Timur Beg, who was the ruler of an immense empire but called himself a beg (chief) for all of his life, were of a different kind. His standard showed a crescent and sun, and his emblem of rank was an eagle of which there were four on the posts of his tent. [2]


A seconday emblem was a lion and a sun, best symbolizing his rank of beg.

Also, his seal with the “three circles like O’s” was of Buddhist origin as it displays the three jewels of Buddhism (tri-ratna or konchog sum) symbolizing the holy triad Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.


In the Timurid Empire the system of military rank insignia from the Il-Khanid empire was apparently continued as we meet a lion, a tiger and a panther  in a military context, sometimes together with a sun.


The eagle


Clavijo, writing about the visit of the ambassadors of the spanish king to Kesh (Shahrisabz) in 1403:


P. 145

There was another very high tent made like the former one; with the same red cloth and silver-gilt bezants; and these tents were higher than three lances. On the highest part of the latter tent there was a very large silver-gilt eagle, with wings displayed, and a little below it, above the door of the tent, were three silver-gilt falcons, with extended wings, and heads turned towards the eagle, which seemed to wish to attack them. These figures were very well made, and were so placed as to present a very beautiful effect.

The first wall and tents were for the use of the chief wife of the lord, who was called Caño; and the other was for his second wife, called Quinchicano, which means “the little lady” [3].


Apparently he also used other special symbo­lic emblems, judging from a description of the interior of one of Timur's great tents: “In the ceiling of the cupola ... is seen the figure of an eagle in silver gilt, it is of great size and its wings are open. Then a fathom and a half below on the tent wall they have figured three falcons in silver gilt, one on the one side and the other two beyond: these are very skilfully wrought, they have their wings open as though they were in flight from the eagle, their heads being turned back to look at him, with their wings extended for flying. The eagle is represented as though about to pounce on one of the falcons. All these birds are extraordinarily well figured, and they are set here as though some special purpose were intended.” (Le Strange pp. 241-242)

(...) Timur evidently used also a crescent as an emblem and perhaps as a talisman, for finials consisting of a ball topped with a cres­cent surmounted some of his tents . [4]


Of mixed origin but not conflicting with the Seljuq or Byzantine traditions is the lion-and-sun of Timur Beg. Timur Beg, also known as Timur Lenk or Tamerlane originated from Kesh, a city some 58 km south of Samarcand.


Sierksma, Klaas: Flags of the world: 1669-1670: a seventeenth century manuscript with commentary and historical annotations by Kl. Sierksma. Amsterdam, 1966


This particular flag nowhere has its counterpart. It is not to be found in the Sketchbook.

Nevertheless it can almost certainly be defined as that of the empire of Tamerlane, inasmuch as we read in Cleirac (pages 67 and 68): “Tamerlane, le fleau de l’Asie, souloit arborer ses pavillons de trois diverses couleurs de blanc, de rouge & de noir, couleurs de paix, de sang, & de mort.” [5]


The Lion and Sun of Timur Beg


Clavijo, [6] writing about the visit of the ambassadors of the spanish king to Kesh in 1403:


“On Friday they (the ambassadors) were taken to see some great palaces. [....] In front of the first entrance there was another gateway, leading to a great courtyard paved with stones, and surrounded by doorways of very rich workmanship. In the centre of the court there was a great pool of water, and this court was three hundred paces wide. The court led to the body of the building, by a very broad and lofty doorway, ornamented with gold an blue patterns on glazed tiles, richly and beautifully worked. On top of this doorway there was the figure of a lion and a sun, which are the arms of the lord of Samarcand; and though they say that Timour Beg ordered these palaces to be built, I believe that the former lord of Samarcand gave the order; because the sun and the lion which are here represented, are the arms of the lords of Samarcand [and those which Timour Beg bears, are three circles like O’s drawn in this manner OOO and this is to signify that he is lord of the three parts of the world. He ordered this device to be stamped on his coins, and on everything he had; and for this reason I think that some other lord must have commenced this palace, before the time of Timour Beg. The lord has these three O’s on his seals, and he has ordered that those who are tributary to him shall have it stamped on the coins of their countries.”]

That is to say that the emblem of Timur Beg when Lord of Samarcand (1363-1406) may have been a lion and sun indeed. This emblem can be explained by the fact that his great grandfather Karachar Nevian was a minister of Chagatai..... “he ruled with justice and moderation for many years, and established his own tribe of Berlus round the town of Kesh, near Samarcand. He became Sepoh Salar or general of Chagatai’s forces, and the title was made hereditary in his family.” [7]

This would explain the emblem of the sun and lion in the Kesh Palace, as it corresponds with the title of Beg. Depending of which tradition was followed, the sun was a red disc or a faced sun radiant. 


That is to say that the emblem of Timur Beg when Lord of Samarcand (1363-1406) may have been a lion and sun indeed. This emblem can be explained by the fact that his great grandfather Karachar Nevian was a minister of Chagatai..... “he ruled with justice and moderation for many years, and established his own tribe of Berlus round the town of Kesh, near Samarcand. He became Sepoh Salar or general of Chagatai’s forces, and the title was made hereditary in his family.”[8]

This would explain the emblem of the sun and lion in the Kesh Palace, as it corresponds with the title of Beg. Depending of which tradition was followed, the sun was a red disc or a faced sun radiant. 


During the period when Timur Lenk was still Emir of Transoxiana, it is quite possible that he used the emblem of the sun and the lion as Clavijo suggests. Later, probably after the conquest of Baghdad in 1393, the symbols are changed.




Timur's personal emblem was another equally ancient astral symbol, the three-ball motif, so common in Sāsānian ornament and already in use at that time on banners. [9] Timur displayed it on his buildings, his coins, and his seal.  [10]

Clavijo writes: [.....the arms] which Timour Beg bears, are three circles like O’s drawn in this manner OOO and this is to signify that he is lord of the three parts of the world. He ordered this device to be stamped on his coins, and on everything he had; and for this reason I think that some other lord must have commenced this palace, before the time of Timour Beg. The lord has these three O’s on his seals, and he has ordered that those who are tributary to him shall have it stamped on the coins of their countries.” [11]


Het sterrensymbool wordt eerder aangetroffen op de uniformen van de soldaten van de Il-Khans


Silver 1/4 Tangka, Æ 16 mm.

Samarqand mint, 1388-1403 AD


The three circles represent the badge of Tamerlane. The inscription names Tamerlane as subject to the Chagatayid overlord Mahmud. By this time, Tamerlane had usurped all effective power, but nonetheless continued to acknowledge the Chagatayid overlords in name.


Silver Tangka, Æ 28 mm

Herat mint, 1388-1403 AD


The three circles represent the badge of Tamerlane. Tamerlane names himself as subject to the Chagatayid overlord Mahmud despite having complete power at this time.


Mongolian lion’s throne with the three jewels of Buddhism


Also, the seal with the “three circles like O’s” was perhaps of Buddhist origin as it displays the three jewels of Buddhism (tri-ratna or konchog sum) symbolizing the holy triad Buddha, Dharma and Sangha here supported by two lions

In a corrupted form the three balls of Timur Lenk came to be documented in the  Constanz Chronicle of  Ulrich Richental.[12]  With the legend:



Ulrich Richental. 1418 ca. fol. 130b.

Primus imperator Tartharorum, qui confinis est Yndie, et est sibi impositum nomen Magnus Chanis, das ist der groß Chan oder hund. Der ist her mit gewalt über die 6 kaiserthům in der Tartharie, und můß doch ain herren han, der sin vicary sy von Ordo, der doch hie abgezaichet ist. Und was hie ain herolt, der by mir auß.




Western Persia 1405-1408



Transoxiana 1405-1409

Western Persia 1409-1411



Khurasan 1405-1447

Transoxiana 1409-1447


Shah Rukh (Persian: شاهرخ Šāhrokh)  (20 August 1377– 13 March 1447) was the ruler of the Timurid Empire between 1405 and 1447.

He was the son of Timur (Tamerlane). However, Shah Rukh ruled only over the eastern portion of the empire established by his father, comprising most of Persia and Transoxiana, the western territories having been lost to invaders in the aftermath of Timur's death. In spite of this, Shah Rukh's empire remained a cohesive dominion of considerable extent throughout his reign, as well as a dominant power in Asia.


The heraldic emblems to be associated with the rule of Shahrukh can be found on the Regsitan in Samarkand.

The madrasa of Smanarkand was built from 1417 to 1420. Some buildings at the Registan are very close to it in the west. This right angular madrasa has two floors of 56x81 meters. The facade is directed towards the main square, and the structure can be widely seen with its height of 16.5 m. Next to it there are gardens with various types of flowers and trees. The arch is 32 meters in height.

This madrasa is decorated with big size symbols of tigers and suns. These are the symbols of the the commanders of the Timurid Empire

Sher dor madrasa tigers, Samarkand (1417-’20)


The insignia of rank are walking tigers with faced suns radiant on their backs.

These insignia are for imperial commanders of the first or second rank


Design of a  simurg for a quiver.

Iran. Paper, 1st ½ 15 th cent. Staatsbibliothek Diez A fol. 73, S. 49/1 (Gierlichs cat. n° 39)


From 15th century Timurid empire we know a tiger and a sun and a lion and a sun. Another emblem is a lion’s head.


The armies of Timur e Lang or Tamerlane (1336-1405), one of the post-Mongol Turkmen warriors from Central Asia also witnessed the appearance of the simultaneous lion-sun motif. The above depiction is attributed to the year 1450 by Martini. [13]. (Here however not a lion but a tiger seems to be depicted!) 


Ulugh Beg



The state created by Tamerlane was unstable and after his death in 1405 began to crumble.In 1405, his grandson, the son of Miran Shah, Khalil Sultan, came to power in Maverannahr. The youngest son of Timur Shahrukh (1409-1447) managed to save Khorasan, Afghanistan and Maverannahr (Transoxiana). He transferred the capital to Herat, and appointed his son Ulugbek, a prominent scholar, who provoked discontent among conservative clergy , as ruler in Samarkand.

In 1417-1420, Ulugbek built a madrasah in Samarkand, which became the first building in the Registan architectural ensemble. Ulugbek invited a large number of astronomers and mathematicians of the Islamic world to this madrasah. The other two madrassas were built in Gijduvan and Bukhara.The inscription (hadith of the Prophet Muhammad) was preserved on the portal of the latter: “The pursuit of knowledge is the duty of every Muslim and Muslima” In general, all the numerous inscriptions on the madrasah encourage people to do science.

Under Ulugbek, Samarkand became one of the world centers of medieval science. Here, in Samarkand in the first half of the 15th century, a whole scientific school arose around Ulugbek, bringing together prominent astronomers and mathematicians - Giyasiddin Jamshid Kashi, Kazizade Rumi, al-Kushchi. At that time, the historian Hafizi Abru lived in Samarkand , who wrote a remarkable work on the history of Central Asia, the famous physician Mavlono Nafis, the poets Sirazhiddin Samarkandi, Saqqaki, Lutfi , Badakhshi and others.

Ulugbek's main interest in science was astronomy. In 1428, the construction of the Ulugbek Observatory was completed , the main instrument of which was a wall quadrant with a radius of 40 meters and with a working part from 20 ° to 80 °, which had no equal in the world. The main scientific work of Ulugbek is rightfully considered to be "Ziji Jadidi Guragani" or "New Guraganov Astronomical Tables". The author completed this work in 1444 after thirty years of painstaking work and astronomical observations. The astronomical guide was soon translated into Latin and, along with the Almagest of Claudius Ptolemy and the astronomical tables of the Castilian king Alphonse X. He was a manual on astronomy in all observatories in Europe [35].

The accuracy of these tables exceeded all previously achieved in the East and in Europe. Only in the XVII century. Tycho Braga managed to achieve accuracy comparable to Samarkand observations, and then surpass it. It is not surprising that the Zij Ulugbek constantly attracted the attention of astronomers, both in the East and in Europe.

In 1428, Ulugbek carried out an important monetary reform in the country, which had a beneficial effect on the state economy.

After the death of Shahrukh in 1447, civil strife began in the country. In 1447, after the death of his father, Ulugbek became the head of the ruling dynasty, but in 1449 he was killed by his son Abd al Latif  (1449-1450). The following rulers Abu Said (1451-1469) and Sultan Ahmed Mirza (1469-1494) enjoyed the patronage of the clergy, headed by the head of the Naqshbandi order, Sheikh Khoja Ahrar. In Khorasan (Herat), Sultan Hussein of Baikar ruled (1469-1506), who patronized the culture. At his court, the prominent poet Alisher Navoi was the vizier.


A king with a headdress of a panthers’ mask

From: 7000 jaar perzische kunst no. 43


King Kajumarth and his courtiers. From a World History of Hafiz Abru (†1430). H. 22. cm. Middle of the 15th c. Coll. Kofler-Trunigen, Luzern. Z. 570, P. 1086.

As the spots are tripartite, the skin must be of a spotted panther (Pantera Pardus – Felidae) which became the insignia of a commander of the third rank in the Mongolian rank-system


'Abd al-Latif



At the center of the recto side of this folio is a shamsa, or sunburst, an exquisite symmetrical pattern of floral and geometric shapes painted in precious pigments and gold to reference divine light. The shamsa might have been intended to contain a name or portrait identifying the manuscript’s original owner, but in this case it is empty.

A shamsa in an illuminated qur’an, copied by ‘Abd al-latif al-sayfi uzbek, egypt, mamluk, dated 876 AH/1472 AD





Abu Sa'id




Zafarnama, or Book of Victory, ca 1467. From The John Work Garrett Library of The Johns Hopkins University.








Ruler in his court

Book of Kings of Ali Mirza (killed 1494), brother of Shah Ismail

Mongol School, end of 15th century

Evkaf Museum, Istanbul


Above his throne a feline’s (lion’s) head between two pennons








The lion-and-sun motif  is unmistakable on this miniature:


Page of a end of 15th-century manuscript of the Kitâb al-mawâlid (Book of Nativities)

by Abû Ma'shar al-Balkhî (787-886AD)

(BNF Arabe 2583 fol. 15v).


Within the larger frame there is the emblem of de Lion and the sun, together with a seated man probably personifying the ruler or an official.

In the smaller frames are the courtiers called mubids in another context with their attibutes: a kneeling black bearded man with an axe; a writer with an open book; a lawyer; a female musician with a lute; a helmeted warrior with a sword and a cut head. [14]








Ozbeg conquest of Transoxiana


Safavid Dynasty





From the reign of the first Safavid Shah, Ishmael (1501-24), the lion-and-sun symbol is said to have been in use in Persia. This Shah had taken it over from his grandfather, Sheikh Junayd. The author who mentions this describes the symbol as “this new ensign, viz. Venus [vert], a lion couchant, Sol [or], the sun orient in his face, of the same: minted also in their brass medals, and (as a tie of amity) accepted of by the Great Mogul and other neighboring Princes in India. ” (Ackermann Ph .: A survey of Persian Art, 1939. T.III p. 2780 n. 5).


Chardin describes the lion and sun flag and other banners and standards of his period: ...As legend and in place of a device they put on these flags their credo, or a quotation from the Quaran, or the two-pointed sabre of Aly... or a lion with a rising sun on its back.





Fête princière dans un jardin.

Iran, 1er moitié du XVIe siècle

Gouache et or sur papier


Legs R. Koechlin, 1932                                                                                                                                     K 3433


(Musée du Louvre, Paris)


Het baldakijn versierd met simurgs en herten.


1530 ca Simurg in gesprek met Zal. (Gierlichs cat. n° 41)


Ismail II 



Sultan Muhammad



A Curious Coat of arms




From the reign of Sultan Muhammad of Persia (1577-1587), dates the curious coat of arms of Persia under the title "Von Persia" in Martin Schrot's "Wappenbuch". The coat of arms is probably taken from an older coat of arms, I think that of Conrad Grüneberg from 1483. It represents the top half of a person dressed in a dalmatic seen from behind. For crrst a seated dog on a grand helmet and diagonally behind the shield a scepter with a sphere and a six-pointed star. On either side of the shield are two smaller shields, the left one with a boat with the letters KAT CAY on it, the right one with a tau cross over which a dalmatic is draped.

The dog undoubtedly refers to the "Magnus Chanis" or "Grosser Hund" mentioned by Ulrich Richental in his chronicle of the Council of Constance. The scepter is possibly a fantasy of the writer as the Persian monarchs are never depicted with a scepter in hand. The star is perhaps the star of Bethlehem (thus characterizing the Persian konig / shah as one of the Three Magi). By the way, the symbol of the Shah of Persia at that time was already a lion-with-sun.



However, the depicted man should not be seen as standing with his back to the viewer but as veiled. On Persian miniatures from the sixteenth century onwards, Shia Imams are also depicted veiled. This can be seen, for example, in this detail of the print “The Shah of Khorasan comes to the rescue of the water people against the attacks of a demon”. ) "Shah of Khorasan" was the nickname of Ali ar-Rida, the 8th Imam of the Shia who lived in the 9th century and is buried in Mashad, Iran,

The “coat of arms” of Persia at Martin Schrot thus depicts a Shia spiritual leader. It is not yet clear what the two small shields stand for. The dalmatic may refer to the “mantle of the Redeemer” which is kept in the cathedral of Mshketi, Georgia, and which was among the relics of the Bagration (Georgian) royal house. In that case it is a coat of arms for Georgia (then a vassal of Persia). Another possibility is that this concerns the mantle of the Prophet (the so-called burda), which is said to have been burned by Hülegü in Baghdad in 1260, but a copy of which is also kept in Istanbul. In that case it concerns the coat of arms of the eyâlet (province) of Baghdad.


Abbas I, the Great



Since 1603: Persia


Simurg killed by Isfandiyar Iran 1605 Staatsbibliothek Ms.or.fol. 4251, Bl.479b. (Gierlichs cat n° 42)


1620 ca Jahangir and Shah Abbas I the Great of Persia (1587-1629) Painting of Abul Hassan. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington  n° 48.19B.


Jahangir, standing on a lion and a big sun rayonnant and a crescent supported by two angel-heads

. Shah Abbas staande op een lam



Series/Portfolio: Effigie naturali dei maggior prencipi et piu valorosi capitani di questa eta con l'arme loro

Artist:Giacomo Franco (Italian, Venice 1550–1620 Venice)

Publisher: Published by Giacomo Franco (Italian, Venice 1550–1620 Venice)

Published in: Venice

Date: 1596

Medium: Engraving

Dimensions: Sheet: 9 7/8 × 7 1/16 in. (25.1 × 18 cm)

Plate: 7 15/16 × 5 5/16 in. (20.2 × 13.5 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1957

Accession Number: 57.506(33) [15]


Safi I



Coin from Kandahar 1058 H/1641AD

Lion and sun


Abbas II




Portrait of Shah Abbas II, bust-length, turned to the right, wearing turban adorned with feather and surmounted by crown, cape fastened at shoulder with jewel, and frogged tunic; in oval frame with ribbon tied in the upper part, and coat of arms in the lower part Engraving.

Sultan Muhammad Mirza better known by his dynastic name of Shah Abbas II was shah of Persia from 1642 to 1666. he was the seventh shah of the Safavid dynasty.


Safi II ( = Sulayman I 1668)





Safavid Period

From  the time of Shah Suleiman I

Kept in the David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

Coin from Kandahar, 1085-‘86AH/1674-‘75AD

Lion and sun, inscription on the reverse


The Shah and His Courtiers


‘Ali Quli Jabbadar

Fol 98a from an album of Painting and Calligraphy

Isfahan, circa 1660s or 1670s

Opaque watercolor, silver and gold on paper; 28.2 x 42.1 cm.

the saint petersburg branch of the institute of oriental studies, russian academy of sciences, e  14.


 Flag: Geel, drie witte afnemende manen 2 en 1 (Ackermann p. 2781, vlaggenkaart)


Flags of the world: 1669-1670 : a seventeenth century manuscript / with commentary and historical annotations by Kl. Sierksma


Sultan Husayn




Coin, AH1113/1700AD


Lion walking to the sinister, faced rising sun on its back


Coin from Kerman – تبریز AH 1126 /AD 1713


Obverse: Lion walking to the dexter with its tail up in floral garden

Reverse: zarb-e falus Tabriz ضرب فلوس تبریز 


An Iranian delegation led by Mohammad-Reza Beg visits French dignitaries at Versailles, August 1715.

Note the Iranian flag with Lion and Sun motif carried by the “Alamdar-Bashi” or standard bearer at Versailles. [16]


Coin from Kandahar, 1136AH/1718AD

Lion and sun


Coin from Kerman  1134 AH/1721AD


Obverse: Lion walking to the sinister with its tail down in floral garden. Faced rising sun on its back.

Reverse: zarb-e falus Kirman ضرب فلوس کرمان 


Ghalzay Dynasty








Flag: White, three black lions 2 & 1. (Ackermann p. 2781)


Safavid Dynasty


Tahmasp II




Abbas III



Afsharid Dynasty



Regent 1732-1736

Shah 1736-1747

Royal seal with Lion and Sun motif from the reign of Nader Shah.

Note the word Al-Molkollah (Arabic: The earth as God) within the sun. [17]




Nādir Shāh had two imperial standards: “one of them was in stripes of red, blue and white, and the other of red, blue, white and yellow, without any other ornament”    (Ackerman, p. 2781)


a. Red, Blue, White (Which is also the Russian flag upside down)


b. Red, Blue, White, Yellow












Safavid Dynasty



Sulayman II



Ismail III

Karim Khan of the Zand Dynasty


 Regent 1750-1779


Achievement of Ali Mirza (†1494) [18]


Arms: A lion passant charged with a faced sun radiant Or

Supporters: Two flags on their poles in saltire, the one per bend a full faced moon surrounded by 8 five-pointed stars, its ball a five-pointed star; the one per bend sinister a faced sun radiant, its ball a crescent.

Legend: Schah Myrsa Roy de Perse



This flag is represented on “Nieuwe Tafel van alle de Zeevarende Vlaggen des Werelts” from the middle of the 18th century. The flag is:

Five breadths blue, yellow green, yellow and blue, the first and last charged with  three golden roses and two white crescents alternating; the second and third charged with two red square crosses; the third and middle charged with the sword of Ali (dhu ‘l fakr) and a yellow rose between two white crescents.

Legend: Pav: du Mogol des Perses.


Persian flags on the Nieuwe Tafel


These flags may be ascribed to chief commander Karim Khan who should have flown the flag with the Sword of Ali, symbol of the commander in chief. The other flag may have been of Abolfath Khan who was the Prime Minister,

The arms as given by Diderot may be ascribed to Ali Morad Khan who was the regent.


The Lion-Sun motif as seen on a tombstone dated to the Zand dynasty (1750-‘94) [19]


Afsharids in Khurasan




 Restored in Khurasan only, 2nd term 1750-1796



Qajar dynasty




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 © Hubert de Vries  2020.09.16.




[1] Markham, Clements R.: Narrative of the Embassy of Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo to the Court of Timour at Samarcand. London, MDCCCLIX. p. 143

[2] Markham, op. cit. p. 143

[3] Markham,, op. cit p. 145

[4] Ackermann, p. 2778. In a note she writes: The thesis that the golden eagle represented Timur is supported by the function of the golden bird (...) represented as finial on Mongol thrones, provided Blochets interpretation (op.cit., p. 77) be correct, for he states that this is a symbol of the mongol sovereignty. Similarly a bird was sometimes set as ferrule of the royal parasol. Ackermann mainly cites: Le Strange, G. (Trans.) Clavijo: Embassy to Tamerlane. London, 1928. Also see: Roux, Jean Paul: Tamerlan. Paris, 1991. 

[5] Cleirac, Etienne: Vs et Costvmes de la Mer. Guillaume Tapinard, Bourdeaux, 1661.

[6] Markham, op. cit.. p. 123

[7] Ibid, p. xiii

[8] Ibid, p. XIII

[9] Little balls or stars are quite common in Sassanian decoration indeed. Circles of stars surrounded the beasts woven on Sassanian official dress. We also find such stars on the seals of Sassanian officials. (See: Gyselen, Rika: La Géographie Administrative de l’Empire Sassanide. In: Res Orientales, Vol. I, Paris 1989.) 

[10] Ackermann, Phyllis: Standards, Banners and Badges. In: A Survey of Persian Art,  T.III. London, 1939, p. 2778: Timur’s personal emblem was another equally ancient astral symbol, the three-ball motif, so common in Sasanian ornament and already in use in that time on banners. Timur displayed it on his buildings, his coins, and his seal

[11] Markham, op. cit. p. 123

[12] Ulrich Richental: Chronik des Konzils zu Konstanz 1414-1418. Faksimile der Konstanzer Handschrift. Darmstadt, 2015.

[13] Matini, J. (1992). Nazaree be naghshe-ha-ye ghadeeme-ye Iran [An examination of the ancient maps of Iran]. Iranshenasi: A Journal of Iranian Studies,  IV (2), p.269-302. Pl. 60

[14] The Bibliothèque Nationale de France gives it an astrological explanation, the persons giving the names of the planets.


[16] See also: Herbert, T. (edited and abridged, W. Foster in 1928): Travels in Persia 1627-1629. London.

[17] From: Khorasani, M.M.: Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period. Germany: Verlag. (2006). p. 326

[18] From: Diderot et D’Alembert  eds: 'Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. Paris 1751 -1772 . Pl. XVI

[19] Khorasani, M.M.:op.cit 2006 p. 326