Ctesiphon: Urban Trade Center in Ancient and Early Medieval Persia

The city became an important center for trade along the Silk Road. Introduction Ctesiphon was an ancient city and trade center on the east bank of the Tigris River founded during the reign of Mithridates I (the Great, 171-132 BCE). It is best known in the modern day for the single-span arch, Taq Kasra, which[…]

Inventions and Innovations of Ancient Persia

While these contributions may be understood as commonplace in the present day, they were entirely novel in their time. Introduction Ancient Persian culture contributed many of the aspects of the modern world which people simply take for granted as having always existed. The designation “Persia” comes from the Greeks – primarily standardized by the historian[…]

Ataskada: The Fire Temple in Ancient Zoroastrianism

Fire temples were firmly established by the time of the Parthian Empire. Introduction Fire Temples are places of worship in the Zoroastrian religion. They were known as ataskada (“house of fire”) by the Persians but are best known today by the name given them by the Greeks from their word pyratheia (fire temple). They are[…]

Twelve Great Women of Ancient Persia

Ancient Persian (pre-Islamic) women had almost equal rights with men and, in many instances, more freedoms and benefits. Introduction Women in ancient Persia had more rights and greater freedom than any other ancient civilization including, according to some scholars, even ancient Egypt which is famous for its respect for the feminine principle in religion as[…]

The Oxus Treasure from the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

The general consensus is that it is genuine, dates from the Achaemenid Period, and is representative of some of the finest art in metallurgy from that time. Introduction The Oxus Treasure is a collection of 180 artifacts of precious metal, dated to the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE), which were discovered on the north bank[…]

Ancient Persian Art and Architecture

Persian art and architecture was influenced early on by the older civilizations of Elam and Susiana. Introduction Persian art and architecture in the present day is associated with the nation of Iran and usually designated as beginning with the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE) but has an even longer history with its origins dating back[…]

Ferdowsi and the ‘Epic of Kings’ in Medieval Persia

He was the author of the Shāhnāmeh (Epic of Kings), the national epic of the Persian-speaking world. Introduction Hakīm Abū l-Qāsim Firdawsī Tūsī, more commonly transliterated as Ferdowsi (also Firdowsi), (935–1020) was a highly revered Persian poet. He was the author of the Shāhnāmeh (Epic of Kings), the national epic of the Persian-speaking world. He[…]

Cyrus the Great and Religious Tolerance in Achaemenid Persia

Cyrus was far different from other kings of his time in the ways he chose to rule. “Whenever you can, act as a liberator. Freedom, dignity, wealth–these three together constitute the greatest happiness of humanity. If you bequeath all three to your people, their love for you will never die.”[1] Vision and Motivation In 550[…]

Darius I: Revising the Administrative System of Ancient Persia

Darius thoroughly revised the Persian system of administration and also the legal code. Introduction Darius the Great (Darayawush I) (ca. 549 B.C.E. – 485/486 B.C.E.; Old Persian Dārayawuš: “He Who Holds Firm the Good”), was the son of Hystaspes and Persian Emperor from 522 B.C.E. to 485/486 B.C.E. His name in Modern Persian is Dariush,[…]

Zorvanism: Zorastrian Sect in the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

It is often referenced as a Zoroastrian heresy because it departed significantly from central Zoroastrian beliefs. Introduction Zorvanism (also given as Zuvanism, Zurvanism) was a sect of the Persian religion Zoroastrianism which emerged in the late Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE) and flourished during the Sassanian Empire (224-651 CE). It is often referenced as a[…]

Avesta: Scripture of Zoroastrianism

It was developed from an oral tradition founded by the prophet Zoroaster sometime between c. 1500-1000 BCE. Introduction The Avesta is the scripture of Zoroastrianism which developed from an oral tradition founded by the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra, Zartosht) sometime between c. 1500-1000 BCE. The title is generally accepted as meaning “praise”, though this interpretation is[…]

Zoroastrianism: Monotheism in Ancient Persia

Zoroastrianism was adopted by the Achaemenid Empire, the Parthian Empire, and found its fullest expression under the Sassanian Empire. Introduction Zoroastrianism is the monotheistic faith established by the Persian prophet Zoroaster (also given as Zarathustra, Zartosht) between c. 1500-1000 BCE. It holds that there is one supreme deity, Ahura Mazda (Lord of Wisdom), creator and[…]

Zarathustra: Zoroaster By Any Other Name

Introduction Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra) was an important religious figure in ancient Persia (present-day Iran and surrounding areas), whose teachings became the foundation of a religious movement named Zoroastrianism, a tradition that would largely dominate Persia until the mid-7th century CE, when Islam gained ascendancy in the region after the fall of the Sasanian[…]

Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Persia

Ancient Persia had the same interest in what happens after death as any culture in the present day. Introduction A vision of the afterlife is articulated by every culture, ancient or modern, in an effort to answer the question of what happens after death, and this was as true for the ancient Persian view of[…]

Ancient Persian Mythology

The ancient Persian religious tradition was passed down orally, and the only written texts relating to it come from after the prophet Zoroaster. Introduction The mythology of ancient Persia originally developed in the region known as Greater Iran (the Caucasus, Central Asia, South Asia, and West Asia). The Persians were initially part of a migratory[…]

Iran’s History and Culture from the Ancient World to Today

Developments here had a decisive impact on the progress of human history. Introduction Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and formerly known as “Persia” in the West, is one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations, and is one of the few states that comprise the Cradle of Humanity. The history of Iran covers[…]

The Ancient Roots and Modern Forms of Traditional Persian Music

Iran’s traditional music carries messages of beauty, joy, sorrow and love to the world. Introduction Weaving through the rooms of my Brisbane childhood home, carried on the languid, humid, sub-tropical air, was the sound of an Iranian tenor singing 800-year old Persian poems of love. I was in primary school, playing cricket in the streets,[…]

Ancient Persian Silk Spinning Still Practiced in Iran

There are silk makers in different parts of Iran who still practice the trade their ancestors did some 3,000 years ago. For more than three millennia, silk thread produced in Iran has been used to make clothing fabric and for weaving Persian rugs. In many of these small villages along the Iran-Afghanistan border, families receive[…]

The Safavid Empire of Early Modern Persia

The Safavid dynasty had its origins in a long established Sufi order, called the Safaviyeh. Introduction The Safavids were a native Iranian dynasty from Azarbaijan that ruled from 1501 to 1736, and which established Shi’a Islam as Iran’s official religion and united its provinces under a single Iranian sovereignty in the early modern period. This[…]

The Early Medieval Persian Sassanid Empire

Although often engaged in conquest, the Sassanids also entered into peace treaties and engaged in widespread trade. Introduction Sassanid Empire or Sassanian Dynasty is the name used for the third Iranian dynasty and the second Empire. The dynasty was founded by Ardashir I after defeating the last Parthian (Arsacid) king, Artabanus IV Ardavan). It ended[…]

Architecture of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

The Achaemenid Empire was a period of artistic growth that left an extraordinary architectural legacy. Introduction Achaemenid architecture includes all architectural achievements of the Achaemenid Persians manifesting in construction of spectacular cities used for governance and inhabitation (Persepolis, Susa, Ecbatana), temples made for worship and social gatherings (such as Zoroastrian temples), and mausoleums erected in[…]

Persepolis: Capital of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

Persepolis has a long and complex history, designed to be the central city of the ever expanding Persian empire. Introduction Persepolis was an ancient ceremonial capital of the second Iranian dynasty, the Achaemenid Empire, situated some 70 km northeast of modern city of Shiraz. It was built by Darius the Great, beginning around 518 B.C.E.[…]

Key Elements of Persian Architecture since Ancient Mesopotamia

Iran has inherited numerous architectural traditions over the course of history. Introduction From the Islamic period the architectural achievements of the Seljuq, Il-Khanid, and Safavid dynasties are particularly noteworthy. During that time Iranian cities such as Neyshabur, Isfahan, and Shiraz came to be among the great cities of the Islamic world, and their many mosques,[…]

The Immortals: Ancient Persia’s Elite Fighting Force

Introduction The Ten Thousand Immortals were the elite force of the Persian army of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE). They formed the king’s personal bodyguard and were also considered the shock troops of the infantry in Persian warfare. Their name comes from the policy of always keeping their number at exactly 10,000; if one[…]

Ancient Persia’s Behistun Inscription of Darius I

The relief is accompanied by text in three languages – Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian. Introduction The Behistun Inscription is a relief with accompanying text carved 330 feet (100 meters) up a cliff in Kermanshah Province, Western Iran. The work tells the story of the victory of the Persian king Darius I (the Great, r.[…]

Ancient Greece, from the Persian Wars to the Athenian Empire

The most famous series of wars in ancient Greek history broke out with a revolt against Persian control by the Greek city-states of Ionia. Introduction An Athenian blunder in international diplomacy set in motion the greatest military threat that the ancient Greeks had ever faced and put the freedom of Greece at desperate risk from[…]