Ancient Persia


According to Hegel, German philosopher, Iranian monarchy is the first empire in human history. “Iran” means the land of Aryans. Aryans were the first inhabitants of Iran’s plateau.  Etymologically speaking, Aryan means noble, an attribute which can clearly be seen in modern Iranians – A 12-thousand-year-old attribute. Thousands of years ago, Iran used to be home to many civilizations. For instance, the burnt city civilization in Sistan, Ilam civilization in northern Khuzestan, Jiroft civilization in Kerman, Siyalk hills civilization in Kashan, Ourartu civilization in Azerbaijan, Giyan hills civilization in Nahavand, Manayiyan civilization in Kurdestan and Azerbaijan, Kasis civilization in Lorestan where still some signs have been left.  

The greatest civilization was the Ilamis. The city of Shoosh in the southwest of Iran used to be an affluent and magnificent city. Ilami was one of the three languages which royal scripts were written in. Aryans are a wide branch of a white race whose original homeland was probably extended from north of the Black Sea and Caspian lake through to around Jaxartes (Seyhoon) and Oxus (Jeyhoon) rivers. They were divided into various upon their arrival in Iran. The most important ones were Medes, Parthians, and Persians. The history of ancient Persia is considered to last from the formation of the Median government up to the end of Sassanid era when Arabs invaded Iran.


THE MEDES (708-550 BC)

Median territory covers the western part of Iran’s plateau. The land of Azerbaijan in the northwest of Iran’s plateau and the remaining regions of Zagros were known as small Medes and big Medes respectively. Hegmataneh is the capital of the Medes. They were able to establish the first government in Iran’s history in the early seventh century BC. The median government was overthrown by Cyrus in 550 BC and the monarchy was transferred to the Persians.


Achaemenid, The ancestor of this family, ruled over the entire tribes of Pars. Later they specified Pasargad as their king’s landing. Six kings of this family ruled the country by the time of the third Cyrus (Cyrus, the great). Iran-Greece wars began in Darius era. The Achaemenids were eventually overthrown by Alexander in 330 B.C.


After Alexander (323 B.C.) his conquests were divided among his commanders. The majority of his Asian conquests, Iran being at the heart, were handed over to Seleucus I. Therefore Iran was ruled over by Seleucids (330-250 B.C.). They governed a large part of Iran’s west for 80 years. After a while, they were dethroned by Parthians. Because the first ruler of Parthians was Ashk I, they are known as Ashkenids as well.

THE PARTHIANS (250 B.C-226 A.D.)

Parthians respected Greek civilization. Some Parthian rulers were very well familiar with Greek literature and some Greek plays were performed in Parthian courts. At the time Iran had three parliaments. The Nobles parliament which was indeed two parliamentary advisory councils for the king. The other one was the Assembly of Elites – The Senate. Upon the death of the king, both parliaments were combined together and Megisthanes parliament was formed in which the successor would be chosen. At this time of Iran’s history farming and trading was quite common and slavery was on the go. Zoroastrianism was the main religion and worshipped their ancestors. The other religions were free to practice. Ashk the 22nd was the person who collected the Avesta. They spoke median Persian. Due to the contacts with Romans they were also influenced by the language and culture of Romans. Their writing system was Syriac Aramaic and some coins had Greek carvings. Of all the historical monuments of this era the Anahita temple in Kangavar, the ruins of the temple of Kangavar, the high relieves from Mehrdad and Goudarz in Bisotun.



The Parthians were overthrown by Artaxerxes, the first. The Sassanids were the royal family of Iran which ruled over the country from 224 to 651 A.D. The Sassanid kings who were originated from Pars province predominated the vast part of the west of Asia. The capital city of Sassanids was Ctesiphon near modern Baghdad. At this point, Mani started promoting his religion, Manichaeism (216-276 A.D.).  After his journey to India and getting familiar with Buddhism he set his Manichaeism ideology which was an eclectic range of Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and mythology. In the book of “Shabuhragan”, he wrote down the principles and presented as a gift to Shapur I at the time of his coronation. The vast Empire of Sassanids was weakened due to domestic and foreign troubles.

The last king of this dynasty was Yazdegerd III. In his era, Arab Muslims invaded Iran and overthrew the Sassanids. Interestingly, there were two types of courts of law: The court of convention and the court of religion. In addition, there were two other exclusive courts as well: The military court and nomadic court.


  • The Medes (800 B.C.-550 B.C). Founder: Deioces  (Cyaxares)
  • Achaemenids (559 B.C. – 330 B.C.). Founder: Cyrus, the great. Great kings: Darius, the great and Xerxes.
  • Seleucids (330 B.C. – 129 B.C.). Founder: Seleucus I.
  • Parthians (256 B.C. – 224 A.D.). Founder: Ashk I. Great kings: Mehrdad I and Ashk XIII.
  • Sassanids (224 A.D – 652 A.D.). Founder: Ardashir I. Great kings: Shapur I, Shapur II and Anushirvan.


There happened many changes in society, religion and politics of Iran’s history after the establishment of Islam in Iran which resulted from the victory of Muslim Arabs over Sassanids leading to the conquering Iran by them. Conquering Iran was not so simple. Cities accepted their dominance sooner than rural areas where they refused their ruling resulting in the fact that Arabs had to conquer an area for many times. It took 20 years to completely conquer Iran. The nonstop rebellions in Iran led to the fall of the Arabic government of Umayyads owing to the fact that Abbasids exploited Iranians to eliminate the central government of Arabs. After a while, however, they began to kill the Iranians. Iranians never accepted the Arab invaders. Gradually local governments would declare independence. For the first time since the advent of Islam in Iran’s history, the eastern regions of Iran such as Khorasan was brought to independence by Taherids.

 Saffarids made use of another foreign language instead of Arabic for the first time. Since the era of Samanids (819-999 A.D.), there emerged a modern Persian writing system and Arabic alphabet was introduced with the Persian language. The governors of Buyids (945-1055 A.D.) conquered Shiraz and established their government. Subsequently, they made their way to Baghdad and conquering the city. They turned caliphate into a propaganda tool and took the real power into their own hands. Ghaznavids (977-1186 A.D.) introduced themselves in Iran’s history as the Muslim worriers and invaded some territories such as India.

SALJUGHIDS (1038-1194 A.D.)

They took the throne by defeating the Ghaznavids and the entire country fell under their control. They consolidated their power with the help of the great knowledgeable ministers of Iran. Even the Abbasid caliph came under their influence. The Saljughids managed to win in a war against the Byzantine. It was after this victory that the Crusades began to break out. It was not until 1099 A.D. when officially the wars started. Eventually, they were overthrown by Kharazm-shahids.

KHARAZM-SHAHIDS (1077-1231 A.D.)

It was another government in Iran’s history which was established upon the Mongol’s invasion on Iran’s soil. It led to the fall of the Kharazm-shahids as well as looting in cities, the extermination of people. Subsequently, Iran’s economy and agriculture were completely wrecked. Baghdad was seized in the next Mongolian attack organized by Hulagu Khan. The Abbasids fell and the caliph was murdered. The survivors which were ruling Iran by the name of Ilkhanids converted to Islam under the influence of some ministers and counselors such as Khaje Nasireddin Tusi, Shamseddin Muhammad Juweyni and Rashideddin Fadhl Allah Hamedani and especially the Persian-Islamic culture of Iranians. They were indeed defeated by the civilization and instructions of Iranians.


TEYMOURIDS (1370-1506 A.D.)

The Ilkhanids ended up with weaknesses, internal divisions and multitudinous revolts in all over the country. That was when another Mongol generals called Tamerlane started his attacks.

SAFAVIDS (1501-1732 A.D.)

Eventually, Shah Esmaeil put an end to all these governments. For the first time in Iran’s history, the Shia was introduced as the official religion of Iran. The Shia with its social and political characteristics made Iran a united and independent country. It was the Shia which protected the national identity against the invasion and fierce attacks of the Ottoman Empire and Once again throughout the history of Iran, it managed to stand up as a major political and religious power. Isfahan was chosen as the capital of Iran in the period of Shah Abbas, the great and reached the zenith of glory inasmuch as numerous monuments has remained from that time up to now. Isfahan was conquered by Afghans and Safavids were subsequently overthrown.


Nader Shah defeated Afghans and established Afsharids dynasty by bringing the whole country under his control. In addition, he invaded India and brought along some important spoils such as the giant Koh-i-Noor and Darya-ye Noor diamonds with himself to Iran. The peacock throne which was considered to be a gift from Indians can now be visited in jewelry museum of Tehran. He fought against the Ottomans for three times and them away from Iran. Finally, he was murdered by his comrades in arms.

ZAND (1750-1796 A.D.)

They were on the throne after Afsharids. Shiraz was chosen to be the capital city in his this era and turned into a magnificent and large city. The dynasty was founded by Karim Khan, chief of the Zand tribe. By 1760, Karim Khan had defeated all his rivals and controlled all of Iran except Khorasan, in the northeast. Karim Khan’s monuments in Shiraz include the famous Arg of Karim Khan, Vakil Bazaar, and several mosques and gardens. The Zand era was an era of relative peace and economic growth for the country. Many territories that were once captured by the Ottomans in the late Safavid era were retaken, and Iran was once again a coherent and prosperous The biggest enemies of the Zands, the Qajar chiefs, led by the former hostage, Agha Mohammad Khan, was advancing fast against the declining kingdom. Finally, in 1789, Lotf Ali Khan, a grand-nephew of Karim Khan, declared himself the new king. His reign (until 1794) was spent mostly in a war with the Qajar khan. He was finally captured and brutally killed in the fortress of Bam, putting an effective end to the Zand


GHAJAR (1779-1924 A.D.)

The founder was Agha Mohammad Khan Ghajar. He declared Tehran as his capital. Fath-Ali Shah, Nasereddin Shah, and Mozaffareddin Shah are among the kings of this dynasty. The influence of powers such as Britain and Tsarist Russia was rising in Iran. These powers separated vast pieces of land in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and Khorasan from Iran’s soil by imposing treaties such as Torkamanchay, Golestan, and Paris on the Iranian government. As a result, some movements such as Tobacco revolt, Constitutional Revolution, Jungle movement, and the uprising by Mohammad Khiabani.


In 1924 A.D. Reza Khan took the throne after a coup attempt and established the Pahlavi dynasty. During the Second World War, the Allies entered Iran in 1941 in order to help the Soviet which was in a war against Germany. Reza Shah was ousted from Iran at the behest of the British government. His son, Mohammad Reza Shah, succeeded to the throne.  During the Pahlavi era, the oil industry of Iran was nationalized by the leadership of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh. Bahrain was separated from Iran in this period. In 1979 Iranians started a revolution, known as the Islamic revolution of Iran, in order to have a democratic and religious government.  After the revolution upon the call of Rouhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution, people voted for establishing the Islamic Republic of Iran.


In 1979, the Islamic revolution overthrew the monarchy. Two months later the Islamic Republic of Iran got to be the new name for the country’s government which was approved by 98% of voters. After the temporary government of Bazargan, Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy based on the word that it was acting as a nest of spies working against the fledgling Iranian government. Since then, the United States has cut off diplomatic relations with Iran. Because of the war crimes of Israel in Palestine, the Iranian government has never recognized Israel as an official government. However, it differentiates between the Jews in the world and the citizens of Israel. In 1980, with the help of Arabic and western countries, Saddam Hussein dispatched the Iraqi military to Iran in order to conquer this country. Eventually, the ceasefire after eight years of war and thousands of Iranians having being killed was called in 1988. Ayatollah Khomeini passed away in the same year. Iran’s Assembly of Experts chose Ayatollah Khamenei as the new leader of Iran. He is still holding the supreme authority of the Islamic Republic of Iran. After the revolution, several different events have happened in Iran. The study of the post-revolution history of gives you important tips of the recent years about in this country. In Iran, several presidents have come to power as the second authority in rank. Iranians have seen various models of planning and attitudes. Banisadr, Rajayee, Khamenei, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Mahmood Ahmadinezhad. The current president of Iran since 2013 is Hasan Rouhani. The most important event of the recent years is the talks between Iran and the six world powers and a historical agreement in the world to solve the atomic worries in relation to the peaceful program of Iran and lifting the sanctions.but in 2017 President Trump decided to exit from this agreement!


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