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Iran: see EsfahanEsfahan
or Isfahan
, anc. Aspadana, city (1991 pop. 1,127,030), capital of Esfahan prov., central Iran, on the Zayandeh River. The city is located on a high plain at the foot of the Zagros Mts., where the nearby peaks are c.1,400 ft (430 m) high.
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or Esfahan, a city in central Iran, on the Zayandeh Rud, administrative center of the ostan of Isfahan. Population, approximately 600,000 (1972).

Isfahan ranks second in the country behind Tehran as an economic center. Its industries produce textiles, food (vegetable oil and sugar), cement, and footwear; near Isfahan there is a metallurgical plant with a capacity of 500,000 to 600,000 tons of steel a year, built with Soviet assistance. The city has a university.

Reference is made to Isfahan, then called Aspadana, by classical authors, for example, Ptolemy. Under the Sassanians it was a major economic and administrative center of central Iran. The Arabs conquered the city in the seventh century, and from the eighth to the 13th centuries it was one of the most important handicraft and trade centers of the Middle East. Devastated in 1237 by the Mongols, it was shortly thereafter rebuilt. In 1387, Tamerlane conquered the city and imposed a heavy indemnity. A revolt of artisans and the urban poor broke out and was cruelly suppressed, the slain numbering more than 70,000. Isfahan reached its zenith in the late 16th and 17th century, after it became the capital of the Safavid state in 1597–98. Under Shah Abbas I it was replanned; monumental edifices were erected all over the city. In the mid-17th century Isfahan had a population of 600,000. In 1722 the Afghans occupied and sacked it; its population declined sharply. After the capital of Iran was transferred to Tehran in the late 18th century, Isfahan for a long time lost its former importance.

Preserved in Isfahan are many architectural masterpieces, which are concentrated in the old city, located north of the river and east of the major thoroughfare, the Chahar Bagh. Among them are the Cathedral Mosque (ninth to 20th centuries), the Chehel-Doktaran (1107), the Sareban (late 12th century) and other minarets, and the Imamzadeh Jafar Mausoleum (14th century) and the Tomb of Harun-e Velaya, which was built in 1512 by the architect Hoseyn and restored in 1656; it has glazed mosaics. Under the Safavids the center of the now larger Isfahan came to be the rectangular square, the Meydan-e Shah, with its buildings richly embellished with glazework: the Royal Mosque, or Masjed-e Shah (1612–30, architect Abul Qazem; reconstructed in the 18th-20th centuries), the Masjed-e Sheykh Lotf Allah (1603–18), the portal of the Qeysariyeh bazaar (17th century), and the Palace of Ali Qapu (15th century, enlarged in the 17th), behind which are laid out the shah’s gardens with palace pavilions (the Chehel Sotun, 1590, with wall paintings and mirror mosaics). Southwest of the Meydan-e Shah is the complex of the Madar-e Shah Madrasah (1706–14). The Allahvardi Khan Bridge (c. 1600) and the Pul-e Khaju (1641–66) span the river. Under construction 40 km from Isfahan are a metallurgical plant and the city of Aryashahr (plans drawn in 1969–70 by A. I. Melik-Pashaev and other Soviet architects). Isfahan is an ancient center of carpet weaving and medieval miniatures.


Bartol’d, V. V. “Istoriko-geograficheskii obzor Irana.” Soch., vol. 7. Moscow, 1971.
LeStrange, G. The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate. Cambridge, 1905.
Godard, A. Isfahan. Haarlem, 1937.
Honarfar, L. Historical Monuments of Isfahan. Tehran, 1958.
Lockhart, L. Persian Cities. London, 1960.


, Eşfahan
a city in central Iran: the second largest city in the country; capital of Persia in the 11th century and from 1598 to 1722. Pop.: 1 547 000 (2005 est.)
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