Esfahan (ĕsfähänˈ) [key] or Isfahan ĭsˈfəhän, 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. The Zayandeh River flows from the High Zagros to water an oasis, a large fertile plain c.20 mi (32 km) wide and 40 mi (64 km) long. An ancient and picturesque city, rich in history, Esfahan has long been known for its fine carpets, hand-printed textiles, and metalwork, chiefly silver filigree. It has modern textile and steel mills and oil refineries. A noteworthy city in Sassanid times, Esfahan passed to the Arabs in the mid-7th cent. and served as a provincial capital. In the 11th cent. it was captured by the Seljuk Turks, who made it (1051) the capital of their empire. In the early 13th cent. Esfahan was taken by the Mongols. Timur conquered the city in 1388 and, after its inhabitants rebelled, slaughtered c.70,000 persons in revenge; it is said that he built a large hill with the skulls of the dead. Under Shah Abbas I, who made (1598) Esfahan his capital, the city was embellished with many fine buildings—notably the beautiful imperial mosque, one of the masterpieces of world architecture; the lovely Lutfullah mosque; and a great royal palace. Shah Abbas founded the Julfa quarter, located across the Zayandeh River, by transferring Armenians from N Persia to that section. At its zenith, under the Safavid dynasty in the 17th cent., Esfahan had a population of c.600,000, making it one of the world's great cities of the time. However, the city declined rapidly after it was captured (1723) by the Afghans, who massacred most of its inhabitants. Russian troops occupied Esfahan in 1916. The city is the site of the Univ. of Esfahan. The name also appears as Ispahan.
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