Founded by Shah Ismail in the early 1500s, the Safavid dynasty broke with the Sunni Muslims, declared independence and enforced Shiite Islam as their state religion. Safavid power and territory grew quickly, yet the empire was prone to Sunni attack from the Uzbeks in the North, Mughals in the east and, most of all Ottomans in the west. The conflict with the Ottomans was not only over religious differences, but also territory, and the fighting lasted for over 150 years. Between 1587–1629, Shah Abbas led the Safavids through a time of military, political and cultural confidence, reflected in the founding of the beautiful city of Isfahan. He accepted Ottoman occupation in previously disputed areas, allowing him to concentrate on fending off Uzbek incursions. The English assisted in his victory at Ormuz against the Portuguese, opening up trade through the Persian Gulf with England. He went on to rebuild his army and reclaim lost territories, all the while utilizing his geographical position through lucrative trade deals. After his death in 1629, the empire went into decline.
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