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The History of Hamadan

The History of Hamadan, An overview of the history of Hamadan

The historical city of Hamadan, with a history spanning over 3,000 years of recorded civilization, holds a significant place in Iran’s social and political landscape. It has played an unparalleled role in our country’s history and, from the very beginning as the capital of the Medes, has had strategic importance.

After being select as the capital by Diako for the first time, Hamedan repeatedly fulfilled this role for national and local rulers, providing protection against their enemies. In this blog post from Sepehran, you will become familiar with the historical background of Hamadan.

Hamadan, the capital of Iran from the Achaemenid era to the Qajar period

The kings of the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sasanian empires selected this city as their summer capital. The Seljuks also established their central government in this city for half a century and vacated Baghdad.

Furthermore, for a century, the successors of Alexander the Great took control of the central and fragmented parts of Iran from this city. Finally, Ali Morad Khan, the niece of Karim Khan Zand, declared independence in Hamadan after Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar seized power, and he chose this city as his government’s capital. He resisted Shah Qajar’s attacks for six years, seeking refuge there.

Hamadan  History | From Ancient Names to the Present

“Hamadan” has adopted various names throughout its history, with the most famous being “Hegmataneh” (the gathering place), “Ecbatan,” “Amadaneh,” “Epiphalia,” and “Aksaya,” among the ancient names given to this city. However, its current name emerged after the Islamic conquest and is etymologically derived from the Greek title “Ecbatan.”

Hamadan was endowed with great glory until the Sasanian era, as it was always a prominent administrative center and the summer capital of Iranian kings. With the arrival of the Arabs and the failure of initial peace negotiations between the Muslims and the rulers of Hamadan, the city faced invasion and extensive destruction. There is no recorded evidence of Hamadan revival, especially in the early Islamic period, and what is clear is that the city successfully underwent a long process of reconstruction. This revival might have been a deliberate effort, as Muslim rulers paid attention to the ancient capital of the Iranians.

Reports from Hamadan in the fourth century of the Islamic provide clearer details. During this period, the city had strong fortifications, four gates, three markets, and connecting streets. It is evident from the evidence that the city managed to recover and regain its former glory over time.

The Attack of Murdawij on Hamadan in the Fourth Century

Perhaps, following the conquest of the city by Muslims, the raid of Murdawij in 310 AD (310 AH in the Islamic calendar) was the most significant blow that Hamadan had experienced until that time. This commander from the Ziyarid dynasty, under the pretext of avenging the killing of Abu al-Kiradis (his niece), who had been appointed by the caliph as the leader of an army to conquer Hamadan, led an expedition against Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Khalaf, the ruler of the area.

During this campaign, he, along with four thousand of his soldiers, was killed. Murdawij attacked the city, and in the course of three days, a massive massacre and unprecedented destruction took place. Two decades after this heinous crime, in 335 AH, a major earthquake struck, devastating what had remained untouched from the Al-Ziyar raid, transforming the foundations of Hamadan into ruins.

Reconstruction and Revival in the Fifth Century

From the mid-fourth century AH to the early years of the fifth century, the Al-Ziyar dynasty managed to take control of the affairs of the city and contribute to its revival. This became especially evident during the period when Avicenna (Ibn Sina) accepted the ministry of Shams al-Dawla Dilami, as the city experienced tangible growth. However, this prosperity and tranquility did not last, and in 408 AH, the Kakuyid dynasty seized control of the city, subjecting it once again to invasion and extensive pillaging.

Soon after, conflicts erupted among the Ghuzz and Seljuks, resulting in the victory of the Seljuks and the expulsion of Hamadan from the domain of Ghuzz power. In this way, the Seljuks rebuilt Hamadan in the latter half of the fifth century, choosing it as the political center of their rule. A century later, following the disintegration of the Seljuk Empire, Hamadan became the capital of the Seljuks of Iraq and Khurasan, successfully playing a significant political role in this historical period.

 

Hamadan History | The Mongol Invasion of Hamadan and “Hamadan-e Now”

The Mongol invasion subjected Hamadan, like their other conquests in Iran, to unparalleled plunder and devastation. To the extent that the city was almost obliterated, and only a few people who managed to escape the Mongol catastrophe found refuge.

So, by fleeing through the mountains to Toiserkan, unaware that the Mongols were pursuing them. The Mongols also besieged Toiserkan, sealing the fate of Hamadan and erasing the city from the geographical landscape of Iran.

The only recourse for the small number of survivors of the Mongol onslaught was to return to their ruined city. It seemed that the desolation would be safer than the Mongol army’s path of destruction. Consequently, a small town was established near the old Hamadan, which became known as “Hamadan-e Now” (New Hamadan). In this way, Hamadan once again had the opportunity to rebuild itself through the efforts of the few remaining survivors of the savage Mongol attack and continue its existence.

Throughout its historical journey, Hamadan never managed to regain its ancient glory in later eras. Although the city remained relatively calm and stable, it seemed that, after the Mongol invasion, it could not fully recover for centuries. Even the efforts of Khaje Rashid al-Din Fazlullah Hamadani, who was in charge of the Ilkhanate’s administration under Hulagu Khan, could not heal the wounds of this historical and damaged city. Especially after the Mongol Ilkhans, the invasions of the Timurids and the Ghaznavid Turks further contributed to the cycle of destruction, halting its growth and recovery.

 

Hamadan History | From the Safavids to the Rise of Nader Shah

The emergence of the Safavid dynasty, which was expected to bring days of peace and tranquility to Hamadan, could not overcome the hardships of the times in this city.

Hamadan was consistently exposed to the repeated attacks of the Ottoman Empire. Ultimately, simultaneously with the fall of the Safavids, it fell under the control of “Ahmad Shah Pasha,” the governor of Baghdad, and remained in the hands of this empire.

However, with the rise of Nader Shah, the forces of Iran managed to reclaim the city from occupation, pushing the Ottomans back to the border of Baghdad.

After centuries, Hamadan was able to experience a period of peace and security during the Afsharid and Zand dynasties, albeit brief. With the establishment of the Qajar dynasty, the city became a base for resistance against Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar. Claiming independence, Hamadan once again stood against the onslaught of Qajar forces. The city’s six-year resistance eventually collapsed, and the Qajar king, as retribution for this prolonged resistance, issued a devastating mass killing order, resulting in the loss of many lives in Hamadan and the city being reduced to ashes.

Hamadan During World War I

With the death of the last Qajar king, Hamadan managed to achieve relative peace and gradually rebuilt itself as a strategic region.

However, with the outbreak of World War I in the final years of the Qajar dynasty, foreign forces once again occupied Hamadan.

With the invasion of Russian, Ottoman, British, and American forces and their establishment in the city, separate from its destruction, Hamadan experienced one of the deadliest famines ever recorded.

Hamadan History | Modern Era from Pahlavi Era to Today

Hamadan good fortune was that, concurrently with the weakening of the Qajar dynasty, a man rose to power who had been the head of the Cossack Brigade in this city for years.

Reza Khan Mirpanj, who had solidified his coup with the support of his forces in Hamadan on February 22, 1921, showed special attention to this city during his rule. He ordered the first comprehensive urban development project in the history of Iran to be carried out in Hamadan, which had been developed under the supervision of Germans on behalf of the Iranian government.

This plan laid the foundation for a new Hamadan and brought about the transformation of the city. The result was a Hamadani that had never been seen in any other period of its history. This process was later intensified during the Pahlavi era and, after the Islamic Revolution, in the modern era. Hamadan, as the cradle of Iranian civilization, once again rose to a historical position that befits its significance.

Summary

We hope that by reading this article, you have become acquainted with Hamadan history and its role in different periods of rule by various monarchs in Iran. If you have additional information about Hamadan’s history, please share it with us in the comments section.

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