SOPHY, n.p. The name by which the King of Persia was long known in Europe—“The Sophy,” as the Sultan of Turkey was “The Turk” or “Grand Turk,” and the King of Delhi the “Great Mogul.” This title represented Sufi, Sàfavi, or Safi, the name of the dynasty which reigned over Persia for more than two centuries (1449–1722, nominally to 1736). The first king of the family was Isma’il, claiming descent from ’Ali and the Imams, through a long line of persons of saintly reputation at Ardebil. The surname of Sufi or Safi assumed by Isma’il is generally supposed to have been taken from Shaikh Safi-ud-din, the first of his more recent ancestors to become famous, and who belonged to the class of Sufis or philosophic devotees. After Isma’il the most famous of the dynasty was Shah Abbas (1585–1629).

c. 1524.—“Susiana, quae est Shushan Palatium illud regni Sophii.”—Abraham Peritsol, in Hyde, Syntagma Dissertt. i. 76.

1560.—“De que o Sufi foy contente, e mandou gente em su ajuda.”—Terceiro, ch. i.

„ “Quae regiones nomine Persiae ei regnantur quem Turcae Chislibas, nos Sophi vocamus.”—Busbeq. Epist. iii. (171).

1561.—“The Queenes Maiesties Letters to the great Sophy of Persia, sent by M. Anthonie Ienkinson.

“Elizabetha Dei gratia Angliae Franciae et Hiberinae Regina, &c. Potentissimo et inuictissimo Principi, Magno Sophi Persarum, Medorum, Hircanorum, Carmanorum, Margianorum, populorum cis et vltra Tygrim fluuium, et omnium intra Mare Caspium et Persicum Sinum nationum atque Gentium Imperatori salutem et rerum prosperarum foelicissimum incrementum.”—In Hakl. i. 381.

[1568.—“The King of Persia (whom here we call the great Sophy) is not there so called, but is called the Shaugh. It were dangerous to call him by the name of Sophy, because that Sophy in the Persian tongue is a beggar, and it were as much as to call him The great beggar.”—Geffrey Ducket, ibid. i. 447.]

1598.—“And all the Kings continued so with the name of Xa, which in Persia is a King, and Ishmael is a proper name, whereby Xa Ismael, and Xa Thamas are as much as to say King Ismael, and King Thamas, and of the Turkes and Rumes are called Suffy or Soffy, which signifieth a great Captaine.”—Linschoten, ch. xxvii.; [Hak. Soc. i. 173].


Sir Toby. Why, man, he’s a very devil: I have not seen such a firago …

“They say, he has been fencer to the Sophy.”—Twelfth Night, III. iv.

[c. 1610.—“This King or Sophy, who is called the Great Chaa.”—Pyrard de Laval, Hak. Soc. ii. 253.]

1619.—“Alla porta di Sciah Sofi, si sonarono nacchere tutto il giorno: ed insomma tutta la città e tutto il popolo andò in allegrezza, concorrendo infinita gente alla meschita di Schia Sofi, a far Gratiarum actionem.”—P. della Valle, i. 808.


“Were it to bring the Great Turk bound in chains
Through France in triumph, or to couple up
The Sophy and great Prester-John together;
I would attempt it.”

Beaum. & Fletch., The Noble Gentleman, v. 1.

c. 1630.—“Ismael at his Coronation proclaim’d himself King of Persia by the name of Pot-shaw (Padshaw)- Ismael-Sophy. Whence that word Sophy was borrowed is much controverted. Whether it be from the Armenian idiom, signifying Wooll, of which the Shashes are made that ennobled his new order. Whether the name was from Sophy his grandsire, or from the Greek word Sophos imposed upon Aydar at his conquest of Trebizond by the Greeks there, I know not. Since then, many have called the Kings of Persia Sophy’s: but I see no reason for it; since Ismael’s son, grand and great grandsons Kings of Persia never continued that name, till this that now reigns, whose name indeed is Soffee, but casuall.”—Sir T. Herbert, ed. 1638, 286.

1643.—“Y avoit vn Ambassadeur Persien qui auoit esté enuoyé en Europe de la part du Grand Sophy Roy de Perse.”—Mocquet, Voyages, 269.


“As when the Tartar from his Russian foe,
By Astracan, over the snowy plains
Retires; or Bactrian Sophy, from the horns
Of Turkish crescent, leaves all waste beyond
The realm of Aladule, in his retreat
To Tauris or Casbeen. …”

Paradise Lost, x. 431 seqq.

1673.—“But the Suffee’s Vicar-General is by his Place the Second Person in the Empire, and always the first Minister of State.”—Fryer 338.

1681.—“La quarta parte comprehende el Reyno de Persia, cuyo Señor se llama en estos tiempos, el Gran Sophi.”—Martinez, Compendio, 6.

1711.—“In Consideration of the Company’s good Services … they had half of the Customs of Gombroon given them, and their

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