The Safavid Empire covered all of what is now Iran and parts of present-day Turkey and Georgia. This Islamic empire lasted from 1501 to 1722, and at its peak, was strong enough to challenge both the Ottomans and Mughals.
The Empire was founded by Shah Ismail I and centered around Shi'a Islam. The Safavid dynasty fiercely rejected all other religions and forms of Islam in the region, though later rulers, particularly Abbas I, softened this stance. The Empire drew its strength from its location on the ancient world's trade routes, particularly the Silk Road, and quickly developed into a hub of art, architecture and philosophy. The capital of Isfahan became one of the most beautiful cities of the world. After developing a strong military, the dynasty eventually became corrupt and complacent, which led to its decline in the early 18th century.