The History of Iran is a colourful but bloody one. Waves of successive invasions reduced the population drastically and persistent internal feuding between local rulers did nothing to redress the balance. The table below gives approximate dates insofar as they effect Isfahan as it was not uncommon for a ruler to rule only part of what we now know as Iran and then either to lose or take the city. Clicking on the links will take you to a more detailed discussion of the period in question.
C.E. DatesTitleComments
pre 651 Achamaenids, Seleucids, Sassanids and others This period covers the foundation of the Persian Empire under Cyrus to the conquest of Iran by the Arabs. Apart from the Zoroastrian fire-temple, or Atashgah, just outside Isfahan, there are no monuments from this period.

1000 - 1050 Deylamids and Buyids These were the first indigenous Iranian dynasties following the Arab conquest. The ancient entrance to the Masjed-e-Hakim dates from this period during which Avicenna, the famous physician, also taught in Isfahan

1050 - 1220 Seljuks Many of the most important monuments in Isfahan date from this time including most of the finest minarets and the great dome of the Friday Mosque which was erected by Nizam al-Mulk.

1220 - 1335 Il Khans The Il Khans, or "lords of the World" were the grand-children of Genghiz Khan who had put an end to the Seljuk rule. Oljeitu is the most significant of these as far as Isfahan is concerned and is responsible for the magnificent stuccos mehrab in the Friday Mosque.

1335 - 1393 Muzaffarids The Muzaffarid period in Isfahan is chiefly remarkable for the Minarets of Dardasht and the tomb of Lady Soltan Bakht Agha. It was termninated by Timurlane who blinded every remaining prince of the household rendering them unfit for leadership. It was during this period that Hafez, Iran's greatest poet, flourished in Shiraz.

1393 - 1453 Timurids Timurlane was at first inclined to spare Isfahan, but following the murder of his garrison by the Isfahanis he returned and slaughtered 70,000 of them. The Tomb of Shahshahan dates from this period as does some of the work on the principal Eivan of the Great Friday mosque.

1453 - 1501 Quiunlus The Aq-Quiunlu and Qara-Quiunlu clans, who were distinguished by their banners bearing respectively black and white sheep had been at constant warfare with one another during the Timurid period. The predominantly Sunni Aq-Quiunlu supported Timurlane while the Qara-Quiunlu provided an effective resistance, eventually taking Isfahan in 1453. The Darb-e-Imam dates from the period when the Quiunlus ruled Isfahan as does the series of panels within the main eivan of the Friday mosque.

1501 - 1725 Safavids The defeat of the Qara-Quiunlu leader, Alvand, by his distant cousin Shah Ismail, marked the start of the Safavid period of rule. Shah Ismail's grandson, Shah Abbas I, made Isfahan his capital created the city as we know it today. This period has left a tremendous heritage of architectural splendour in the city. The dynasty was terminated ingloriously following a protracted seige of Isfahan by Afhgani tribesmen.

1725 - 1729 Afghani Interregnum The Afghani interregnum was an unremarable period historically. The only extant work from this time is a mehrab in the part of the Friday Mosque known as the "Porch of Omar".

1729 - 1753 Nader Shah The Afghanis were defeated by Nader Khouli, a general in the army of the last of the Safavid rulers. Eventually in 1736 he took the reins of power himself and for a brief period restored the fortunes of the country. He is thought to have commissioned the murals in the palace of Chehel Sotoon. A period of political chaos followed his assassination in 1747, until Karim Khan took over the government of the country and made his capital in Shiraz in 1753.

1753 - 1925 Qajar Following Karim Khan's death in 1779 a further period of anarchy ensued which was eventually terminated by the accession of Agha Muhammad Qajar in 1794. The Masjed-e-Seyyed dates from this period as does some of the finest domestic architecture in Isfahan, but the movement of the capital first to Shiraz and then to Tehran brought an end to the period of building for which Isfahan is so famous