Overthrowing Oligarchy in the Athenian Revolution of 508-507 BCE

Athens had the largest and wealthiest city-state, but they also had a larger class of people excluded from political life by the nobility. Introduction and Background The Athenian Revolution (508–507 BCE) was a revolt by the people of Athens that overthrew the ruling aristocratic oligarchy, establishing the almost century-long self-governance of Athens in the form[…]

Saladin’s Conquest of Jerusalem in 1187 CE

The pulverizing defeat at Hattin had left most of the Crusader strongholds without enough soldiers to defend them. Introduction and Prelude Jerusalem, a holy city for the adherents of all three great monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) was conquered by the armies of the First Crusade in 1099 CE. The Muslims failed to halt their[…]

Ten Great Ancient and Medieval Persian Poets

These poets would affect the literary arts of cultures around the world and continue to inspire readers in the present day. Introduction Persian literature derives from a long oral tradition of poetic storytelling. The first recorded example of this tradition is the Behistun Inscription of Darius I (the Great, r. 522-486 BCE), carved on a[…]

Ancient and Medieval Persian Literature

The first evidence of Persian literature is usually dated to c.522 BCE with the creation of the Behistun Inscription of Darius I. Introduction Persian literature differs from the common definition of “literature” in that it is not confined to lyrical compositions, to poetry or imaginative prose, because the central elements of these appear, to greater[…]

The Glory of Ancient Persia in the Behistun Inscription of King Darius

The text of the inscription is a statement by Darius I of Persia, written three times in three different scripts and languages. Introduction The Behistun Inscription is to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs: The document most crucial in the deciphering of a previously lost script. It is located in the Kermanshah[…]

The Hittite Empire, 1680-1180 BCE

The Hittite civilization was one of the cradles of human culture. Introduction “Hittites” is the conventional English-language term for an ancient people who spoke an Indo-European language and established a kingdom centered in Hattusa (the modern village of Boğazköy in north-central Turkey), through most of the second millennium B.C.E. The Hittite kingdom, which at its[…]

Kings of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

The early Achaemenid kings may or may not have been adherents of Zoroastrianism but that religion would inform the Persian culture. Introduction The Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE) was the first great Persian political entity in Western and Central Asia which stretched, at its peak, from Asia Minor to the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia through[…]

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[…]