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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Muslim Counter-Reformation Prince?: Pietro della Valle on Shah ‘Abbas I

  • Author(s): Lee, Rosemary Virginia
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license

This article explores shifting images of Islamic rulers, specifically, of Shah ‘Abbas (1587-1629), whose well-known enmity with the Ottoman sultan brought him to Italian attention during the Ottoman-Safavid wars.  In his efforts to promote ‘Abbas, the Roman orientalist Pietro della Valle confronted existing perceptions of Islamic rulers.  These ideas had been shaped by a gendered polemical discourse that linked religious and sexual deviance.  In his 1628 treatise, Della Valle offered animage of Abbas as a Muslim Counter-Reformation prince: a strong, masculine ruler who could prove a trustworthy ally for rulers and institutions like the Propaganda Fide, a religious congregation that was Della Valle’s primary audience.  Della Valle’s argument hints at the possibility for new readings on Islam and Muslim rulers as learned Italians developed new understandings of religion’s relationship to the state in the early modern period.

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