Meanwhile Mír Maḥmúd was continuing his cruelties at Iṣfahán. In A.D. 1723 he put to death in cold blood some Cruelties committed by Afgháns. three hundred of the nobles and chief citizens, and followed up this bloody deed with the murder of about two hundred children of their families. He also killed some three thousand of the deposed Sháh's body-guard, together with many other persons whose sentiments he mistrusted or whose influence he feared. In the following year (A.D. 1724) the Afghán general Zabardast Khán succeeded, where his predecessor Naṣru'lláh * had failed and fallen, in taking Shíráz; and towards the end of the year Mír Maḥmúd prepared to attack Yazd, which had hitherto remained unsubdued. The Muslim inhabitants of that town, fearing that the numerous Zoroastrians dwelling in it might follow the example of their co-religionists of Kirmán and join the Afgháns, killed a great number of them.

About this time Mír Maḥmúd, alarmed at the increasing insubordination of his cousin Ashraf, and, we may hope,

Mír Maḥmúd murders the Ṣafawí princes (Feb. 7, 1725), and is himself slain by his cousin Ashraf (April 22, 1725). tormented by an uneasy conscience on account of his cruelties, betook himself to a severe course of self-discipline and mortification, which did but increase his melancholy and distemper, so that on February 7, 1725, he murdered all the surviving members of the royal family with the exception of the deposed Sháh Ḥusayn and two of his younger children. Thereafter his disorder rapidly increased, until he himself was murdered on April 22 by his cousin Ashraf, who was thereupon proclaimed king. Mír Maḥmúd was at the time of his death only twenty-seven years of age, and is described as “middle-sized and clumsy; his neck was so short that his head seemed to grow to his shoulders; he had a broad face and flat nose, and his beard was thin and of a red colour; his looks were wild and his countenance austere and disagreeable; his eyes, which were blue and a little squinting, were generally downcast, like a man absorbed in deep thought.”

The death of Peter the Great about this period made Russia slightly less dangerous as a neighbour, but the Turks Death of Peter the Great, and Turkish invasion of Persia. continued to press forwards and on August 3, 1725, succeeded at last in capturing Tabríz. They even advanced to within three days' march of Iṣfahán, but turned back before reaching it. They subsequently (A.D. 1726) took Qazwín and Marágha, but were defeated by Ashraf near Kirmán-sháh. Negotiations for peace were meanwhile in progress at Constantinople, whither Ashraf had sent an ambassador named 'Abdu'l-'Azíz Khán, whose arrogant proposal that his master should be Caliph of the East and the Ottoman Sulṭán Caliph of the West caused great umbrage to the Negotiations between Turks and Afgháns. Porte. The war, however, was very unpopular with the Turkish soldiers and people, who failed to see why they should fight fellow-Sunnís in order to restore a heretical Shí'a dynasty, though the 'ulamá were induced to give a fatwá in favour of this course, on the ground that a divided Caliphate was incompatible with the dignity or safety of Islám. Finally, however, a treaty of peace was concluded and signed at Hamadán in September, 1727.*

This danger had hardly been averted when a far greater one, destined in a short time to prove fatal to the Afgháns,

Rise of Nádir. presented itself in the person of Nádir-qulí, subsequently known to fame as Nádir Sháh, one of the most remarkable and ruthless military geniuses ever produced by Persia. Hitherto, though he was now about forty years of age, little had been heard of him; but this year, issuing forth from his stronghold, that wonderful natural fastness named after him Kalát-i-Nádirí, * he defeated an Afghán force and took possession of Níshápúr in the name of Sháh Ṭahmásp II, at that time precariously esta­blished at Faraḥábád in Mázandarán, and supported with a certain condescending arrogance by the Qájár chief Fatḥ- Assassination of Fatḥ-'Alí Khán Qájár. 'Alí Khán. After this success Nádir paid a visit to the fugitive Sháh, and, after insinuating himself into his favour, contrived the assassi­nation of the Qájár, against whom he had succeeded in arousing the Sháh's suspicions. On May 15 of the following year (1728) the Sháh, accompanied by Nádir (or Ṭahmásp-qulí, “the slave of Ṭahmásp,” to give him the name which he temporarily assumed about this time), made a solemn Níshápúr recovered by Persians. entry into Níshápúr, amidst the rejoicings of the inhabitants, and shortly afterwards occupied Mashhad and Herát. He also despatched an ambassador to Constantinople, whence in return a certain Sulaymán Efendi was sent as envoy to Persia.

Meanwhile Ashraf, having taken Yazd and Kirmán, marched into Khurásán with an army of thirty thousand Defeat of Ashrat at Dámghán. men to give battle to Ṭahmásp, but he was completely defeated by Nádir on October 2 at Dámghán. Another decisive battle was fought in the following year at Múrchakhúr near Iṣfahán. The Iṣfahán evacuated and Sháh Ḥusayn murdered by Afgháns. Afgháns were again defeated and evacuated Iṣfahán to the number of twelve thousand men, but, before quitting the city he had ruined, Ashraf murdered the unfortunate ex-Sháh Ḥusayn, and carried off most of the ladies of the royal family and the King's treasure. When Ṭahmásp II entered Iṣfahán on December 9 he found only his old mother, who had escaped deportation by disguising herself as a servant, and was moved to tears at the desolation and desecration which met his eyes at every turn. Nádir, having finally induced Ṭahmásp to empower him to levy taxes on his own Defeat of Afgháns near Persepolis and death of Ashraf (A.D. 1730). authority, marched southwards in pursuit of the retiring Afgháns, whom he overtook and again defeated near Persepolis. Ashraf fled from Shíráz towards his own country, but cold, hunger and the unrelenting hostility of the inhabitants of the regions which he had to traverse dissipated his forces and compelled him to abandon his captives and his treasure, and he was finally killed by a party of Balúch tribesmen. Thus ended the disastrous period of Afghán dominion in Persia in A.D. 1730, having lasted eight years.