BOYŪTĀT-E SALṬANATĪ (lit. royal houses), in the Safavid period (907-1145/1501-1732) departments and production workshops within the royal household serving primarily the needs of the court and usually located inside the palace precincts in Isfahan. The following terms have the same meaning: (kār-ḵāna-ye) boyūtāt-e maʿmūra (Minorsky, text, fols. 9b, 45b; Dānešpažūh, p. 85), boyūtāt-e sarkār-e ḵaṣṣa or simply boyūtāt (Minorsky, text fols. 16b, 54b), and kār-­ḵānejāt-e sarkār-e ḵaṣṣa-ye šarīfa (Minorsky, text, fol. 54b).

The boyūtāt included those units of the royal household concerned with supplies and related basic services: larders, storerooms, coalbins, and cellars; essential facilities for food preparation, like cooking, baking, butchering, and roasting coffee; and court apothe­cary and baths. Another category consisted of magazines and storerooms for furnishings and other household objects, like lamps, firewood, candles, utensils, and carpets, as well as the royal treasury itself. Among workshops in the narrow sense those for weaving, fulling, garment making, shoemaking, cabinetmaking, goldsmithing, minting, and bookbinding have been attested. Finally, the stables were also included among the boyūtāt (Kaempfer, pp. 117-25).

History. In the Il-khanid period (7-8th/13th-14th centuries) merchants and artisans in the urban centers were not in a position to supply the daily and luxury needs of the court. To fill these needs two institutions were introduced under the aegis of the crown. On one hand, the ordū-bāzār (army bāzār) was especially geared to the needs of a mobile court, for it could be set up wherever the court and the army happened to be encamped (Keyvani, p. 165). Subsequently the Jalayerids, Āq Qoyunlū, Qara Qoyunlū, and Timurids continued this practice. Only under the Safavids did the ordū-bāzār lose its significance (Fragner, 1986, pp. 530ff.). On the other hand, the prince maintained manufactories es­pecially to produce weapons and military equipment for the court (Rašīd-al-Dīn, pp. 336-39). Also to be men­tioned are the numerous craftsmen and artists whom the Mongols and particularly Tīmūr and his followers forcibly transported as war booty to work under royal auspices, for example, in architecture, architectural decoration, and the arts of the book (Fragner, 1986, p. 531). Court workshops were equally well known under the Mughals and in the Ottoman empire (Minor­sky, pp. 29, n. 4, 135, n. 1).

In Iran the boyūtāt reached their highest development under the Safavids. The main expansion took place in the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1587-1629), when the capital was transferred to Isfahan and the royal household became larger, more extravagant, and more pretentious (Keyvani, p. 166).

The number of court departments has been variously given in the sources as thirty-two, thirty-three (Chardin, V, p. 499, VII, p. 329; Minorsky, p. 50), and more than fifty (Kaempfer, p. 117). Lists and descriptions of individual boyūtāt are to be found in contemporary documents and the accounts of 17th-century European travelers (Minorsky, pp. 64-69, 95-100; Dānešpažūh, pp. 435f., 553-59; Kaempfer, pp. 117-25; Chardin, V, pp. 349-56; du Mans, pp. 21-24). According to Jean Chardin’s report, each court department consisted of approximately 150 employees varying somewhat according to its function; the total would thus have been about 5,000. He estimated the annual cost at about 5 million écus (ca. 350,000 tomans; Chardin, VII, pp. 329f.; Minorsky, p. 30).

Organization and administration. The superintendent of the royal workshops (nāẓer-e boyūytāt) was responsible for the entire royal household (sarkār-e ḵaṣṣa-ye šarīfa) and supervised the overall operation of its departments (for a somewhat narrower range of responsibility in the early phase, cf. Minorsky, p. 119). He was among the most powerful and influential court amirs, carried the title ʿālījāh (highness), and had the right to sit at court gatherings. At first this office could be held only by qezelbāšes, but subsequently Shah Solaymān and Shah Solṭān Ḥosayn bestowed it only on white eunuchs (ḵᵛājagān-e safīd). The nāẓer-eboyūtāt was not only responsible for the purchase, storage, and preparation of all supplies, but he also oversaw the baths and the stables, evaluated the presents (pīškaš; Fragner, 1975, pp. 211f.; Papazyan, p. 239), and super­vised all the department heads (ṣāḥeb-jamʿān) within the boyūtāt. Once a year he inspected the personnel of the boyūtāt, confirmed salaries, and granted leaves (Minor­sky, text., fol. 31b and pp. 48-50, 56, 118f.; Dānešpažūh, pp. 85f.; Kaempfer, pp. 79f.; Chardin, VII, pp. 330ff.). Immediately subordinate to the nāẓer, or perhaps on the same level, was the wazīr-e boyūtāt, who conducted him on his tour of inspection and was responsible for overseeing bureaucratic routine. The control of all financial transactions of the boyūtāt—including those conducted by the nāẓer—fell under the direction of the mostawfī-e arbāb-e taḥāwīl (Minorsky, pp. 29f., 70f., 140f.; Dānešpažūh, pp. 547f.).

In each individual department the ṣāḥeb-jamʿ was responsible for overall operations, while the auditor (mošref) handled administrative duties like keeping the accounts (Minorsky, pp. 64-69, 71, 134-40).

The highest-ranking ṣāḥeb-jamʿs, because of their importance in the court hierarchy, were the jabbadārbāšī, director of the arsenal (at first a qezelbāš, later a white eunuch) and the ḵazānadārbāšī, the court treasur­er (a black eunuch). As they were members of the inner circle of the palace administration and were close to the shah, they bore the title moqarrab al-ḵāqān and had the right to sit in court assemblies (Minorsky, pp. 65f., 136; Dānešpažūh, pp. 303-06). The chief cook (tūšmālbāšī) also had the right to this noble title (Dānešpažūh, p. 319). The next category comprised fifteen to eighteen department heads who must have been called moqarrab al-ḥażrat (Minorsky, pp. 64-69, 134-39; Dānešpažūh, p. 319). A few of these men represented manufacturing departments (tailoring, saddlery, book production, painting, etc.), but most were heads of various house­keeping units. Mīrzā Rafīʿā named a dozen additional, clearly low-ranking workshop heads, mostly chiefs of individual manufactories, as well as other representatives of craft activity who obviously occupied a level lower than that of the ṣāḥeb-jamʿs; unfortunately, the manuscript has a lacuna in the middle of this list (Dānešpažūh, pp. 553-59). In Taḏkerat al-molūk a some­what different organization of this hierarchy is given, and also the sequence of offices does not correspond. Beside those listed under the rubric moqarrab al-ḥaż­rat, a whole series of ṣāḥeb-jamʿs is simply listed among the employees (Minorsky, pp. 95-100, 151, 154).

Many though not all of the ṣāḥeb-jamʿs bore honorific titles in bāšī. Conversely, by no means all bāšīs were ṣāḥeb-jamʿs, especially if they directed only subdivisions within larger production units. These differences in rank seem secondary in the list of 137 positions of all bāšīs in the royal household under Shah Solṭān Ḥosayn that was preserved in Rostam al-tawārīḵ (pp. 100f.); there employees attached to the boyūtāt and to entirely different branches of the court are freely mingled, and the impression given is that they constituted a homo­geneous, even uniformly dressed group (Hoffmann, pp. 100ff., 224-31).

Employees in each household department were paid an annual salary (mawājeb) in the form of a draft (barāt) against tax revenues; as a rule one employee in the department cashed it on behalf of all his colleagues, at a cost of 5-10 percent of the face value. The salary varied according to branch of service and qualifications; and a raise could be expected every three years on the average. In addition, the ṣāḥeb-jamʿs and mošrefs received vari­ous bonuses and commissions (rosūm, dūšollok) in goods and services of the various departments, which were apportioned according to an established ratio (Minorsky, pp. 93-100, 155-59). A further perquisite was an allotment of food (jīra), measured by the con­tainer (qāb), one container being considered adequate for six or seven people. It was always given in whole-, half- or quarter-qābs. Also lucrative gifts were some­times given upon completion of special commissions; it was not rare for such a gift to surpass a year’s wages (Fragner, 1986, pp. 532ff.). According to Chardin, employees of the boyūtāt enjoyed numerous privileges: They were guaranteed lifetime employment (cf. Kaemp­fer, pp. 79f.), were allowed to work on private account, and received paid leave in case of illness. Furthermore, their sons could enter the court workshops as appren­tices (Chardin, VII, pp. 329-33, 499f., II, pp. 109f.). Occasionally Europeans were also taken into the service of the boyūtāt, for example, as clockmakers and painters (Fragner, 1986, p. 533; Keyvani, pp. 166, 170).

That the craftsmen of the boyūtāt were organized in “royal guilds” (aṣnāf-e šāhī; Keyvani, p. 170) is doubtful, for the expression corps used by Chardin, on which this conclusion is based, cannot easily be interpreted as guild; rather, it has the more general sense of work force (Chardin, VII, pp. 331, 333, V, p. 499). Furthermore, the statement that every bāšī of a royal workshop was at the same time answerable for the corresponding craft corporation in Isfahan, even in the entire country (Keyvani, pp. 47, 80), also seems correct only in isolated instances.

Not all boyūtāt were located in Isfahan. The Safavid rulers also maintained state factories in other cities, for example, in Yazd (silk textiles) and Kāšān (carpets). Such establishments not only served the specific needs of the royal household but also earned considerable profits (Keyvani, pp. 171ff.; Mankowski, p. 2431). Fur­thermore, many provincial governors established work­shops comparable to boyūtāt-e salṭanatī.

The fate of the boyūtāt after the siege and conquest of Isfahan by the Afghans (1135/1722) is little known. Isfahan remained the most populous city on the Iranian plateau and a center of craft production, but it never again became the capital or a seat of the court. Nevertheless, at least a few artists and craftsmen (miniature painters, calligraphers, carpet weavers, etc.) were employed for prestige at the courts of the Afsharids, the Zand, and the Qajars, in Mašhad, Shiraz, and Tehran respectively.



Moḥammad-Hāšem Āṣaf, Ros­tam al-tawārīḵ, ed. M. Mošīrī, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1352 Š./1973.

J. Chardin, Voyages du chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l’Orient, ed. by L. Langlès, 10 vols., Paris, 1811.

M.-T. Dānešpažūh, “Dostūr al-molūk-e Mīrzā Rafīʿā wa Taḏkerat al-molūk-e Mīrzā Samīʿā,” MDAT 15/5-6, 1347 Š./1968, pp. 475-504; 16/1-2,1347-48 Š./1968-69, pp. 62-93; 3, pp. 298-322; 4, pp. 416-40; 5-6, pp. 540-64.

B. Fragner, “Das Ardabīler Heiligtum in den Urkunden,” WZKM 67, 1975, pp. 169-215.

“Social and Internal Economic Affairs,” in Camb. Hist. Iran VI, London and New York, 1986, pp. 491-567.

G. Hambly, “An Introduc­tion to the Economic Organization of Early Qajar Iran,” Iran 2, 1964, pp. 69-81.

B. Hoffmann, Per­sische Geschichte 1694-1835 erlebt, erinnert und erfunden. Das Rustam at-tawārīḫ in deutscher Bearbeitung, Islamwissenschaftliche Quellen und Texte aus deut­schen Bibliotheken 4, Berlin and Bamberg, 1986.

E. Kaempfer, Am Hofe des persischen Grosskönigs (1684-85).

Das erste Buch der Amoenitates Exoticae, tr. with introd. by W. Hinz, Leipzig, 1940.

M. Keyvani, Artisans and Guild Life in the Later Safavid Period. Contributions to the Social-Economic History of Persia, Islamkundliche Untersuchungen 65, Ber­lin, 1982.

T. Mankowski, “Some Documents from Polish Sources Relating to Carpet Making in the Time of Shāh ʿAbbās I,” in Survey of Persian Art VI, pp. 2431-36.

R. du Mans, Estat de la Perse en 1660, ed. C. Schefer, Paris, 1890, repr. 1969.

V. Minorsky, ed. and tr., Tadhkirat al-Mulūk. A Manual of Ṣafavid Administration (circa 1137/1725), Cambridge, 1943, repr. 1980.

A. D. Papazyan, Agrarnye otnosheniya v vostochnoĭ Armenii v XVI-XVII vekakh, Yerevan, 1972.

J. R. Perry, Karim Khan Zand. A History of Iran, 1747-1779, Publications of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies 12, Chicago and London, 1979.

Rašīd-al-Dīn, Tārīḵ-eḡāzānī. R. Savory, Iran under the Safavids, Cambridge, etc., 1980, pp. 188-90.

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 بیوتات سلطنتی  boyoutat e saltanati bouyouatate saltanani booyootate saltantee

(Birgitt Hoffmann)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

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Vol. IV, Fasc. 4, pp. 421-423