This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals.
The area which is located northwest of modern Afghanistan had once been a thriving center of art and culture of the Timurid dynasty. By the fall of the Timurids (1370-1507) and as the Safavids advanced to power in 1510, the area became a Safavid province with Herat and its suburban gardens as its regional center. Having been the capital of the mighty Timurids, the city continued to serve as a source of legitimacy and inspiration for the following Mughal, Safavid and Uzbek rulers, who were competing for its governance.
If Safavid Isfahan reflects the Safavid ideology as a world renowned empire at the height of its power, Herat was the site where early Safavid dynastic identity was staged in the face of Timurid culture. The established scholarly view has often presented Herat as a role model for Safavid art, architecture and urbanity. Within this purview, this paper attempts to examine the Safavids’ adaptation of Timurid patterns and their continuity or departure from the city's Timurid landscape. Through a critical examination of historical texts, such as Ḥabib al-Siyar and Zayl-e Habib-al-Siyar, which were commissioned in Herat during the early decades of Safavid occupation, this paper offers a dynamic and multi-layered picture of Safavid interaction with the urban and suburban landscape of Herat. Furthermore, it examines new Safavid urban foundations in Herat, within the context of the established Timurid traditions, early Qizilbash practices, and later Safavid dynastic urban prototypes. Finally, it suggests that, unlike the prevalent scholarly view, Herat should not only been viewed as a Timurid role model, whose gardens inspired the Safavids in the building of their capitals. In Herat, the Safavids were not passive recipients of Timurid culture, overwhelmed by the achievements of Timur’s decedents. In contrast, they were active players in making Herat a site of practicing Safavid identity.