ARDEBIL, or Ardabil, chief town of a district, or sub-province, of same name, of the province of Azerbaijan in north-western Persia, in lat. 38° 14' N., and long. 48° 21' E., and at an elevation of 4500 ft. It is situated on the Baluk Su (Fish river), a tributary of the Kara Su (Black river), which flows northwards to the Aras, and in a fertile plain bounded on the west by Mount Savelan, a volcanic cone with an altitude of 15,792 ft. (Russian triangulation), and on the east by the Talish mountains (9000 ft.). Ardebil has a population of about 10,000, and post and telegraph offices. Its trade, principally in the hands of Armenians, is still important, but is chiefly a transit trade between Russia and Persia by way of Astara, a port on the Caspian 30 m. north-east of Ardebil. It is surrounded by a ruinous mud wall flanked by towers; a quarter of a mile east of it stands a mud fort, 180 yds. square, constructed according to European system of fortification. Inside the city are the famous sepulchres and shrines of Shaikh Safi ud-din and his descendant Shah Ismail I. (1502-1524) the first Shiah shah of Persia and founder of the Safavi dynasty. Plans and photographs of the shrines were taken in 1897 by Dr F. Sarre of Berlin and published in 1901 (Denkmäler Persischer Baukunst; 65 large folio plates).
European and Chinese merchants resided at Ardebil in the middle ages, and for a long time the city was a great emporium for central Asian and Indian merchandise, which was forwarded to Europe via Tabriz, Trebizond and the Black Sea, and also by way of the Caucasus and the Volga. Since the beginning of the 16th century, when Persia fell under the sway of the Safavis, the place has been much frequented by pilgrims who come to pay their devotions at the shrine of Shaikh Safi. This shrine is a richly endowed establishment with mosques and college attached, and had a fine library containing many rare and valuable MSS. presented by Shah Abbas I. at the beginning of the 17th century, and mostly carried off by the Russians in 1828 and placed in the library at St Petersburg. The grand carpet which had covered the floor of one of the mosques for three centuries was purchased by a traveller about 1890 for 100 pounds, and was finally acquired by the South Kensington Museum for many thousands. This beautiful carpet measures 34 ft. by 17 ft. 6 in., and contains 380 hand-tied knots in the square inch, which gives over 32,500,000 knots to the whole carpet (W. Griggs, Asian Carpet Designs).
(A. H. S.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)