Iran also known as Persia is a vast territory located in western Asia and the Middle East. Iran consists of numerous fascinating ancient monuments with history of more than 12000 years. Iran is heir to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of Elamite Kingdom in 3200 BC, so it is worthy to be called as the Cradle of History, Culture and Civilization.
Studying during many years indicate that the first man living in Iran plateau was in the north east, in Khorasan near Kashafrood around 800 thousand years ago. The means which were made by stone are found in that region and according to archeologists they belong to Paleolithic era.
Iran’s first organized settlements were established 3rd millennium BC in Elam, the lowland zone in south west which is now called Khuzestan very close to Mesopotamia. Susa was their main city which contains the enormous and the marvelous ziggurat, Chogha Zanbil. This ziggurat was a five story building dedicated to the foremost of gods. Shahre Soukhteh is also considered to be one of the significant cities of that era. It is thought to be a center of culture, economy and policy. Some clay tablets are found during the excavations which belong to 3200 BC. First animation in the world painted on a bowl with image of a running goat, first artificial eye was made and the first skull operation occurred there. A huge fire took place in this city but the main reason of its abandonment and evacuation is still unknown. Elamites’ supremacy was ended in 646 BC by the invasion of Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.
Achaemenid Empire (650-330 BC)
About the time of Elamites, the indo European Aryan tribes entered Iran from north, including Medes who settled in northwest, Persians in south near Shiraz and Parthians who chose northeast to settle. The Medes established their capital in Ecbatana near Hamedan, Deioces the median ruler accompanied with the Babylonian king could put an end to the Assyrian cruel kingship. Cyrus the Great, a noble peace lover man rose from Persians and took up the control of median lands and established the greatest empire in the world. Pasargadae was the first capital of achaemenid Empire and capital of Darius I successor of Cyrus the great was at Susa. He built Persepolis including many palaces near Shiraz which represents the glory of Persian architecture.
Achaemenid Empire has been named as the greatest and the most extensive Empire of the world. In Darius’s inscription, it is said that after removing the riots, Darius the Great divided the whole territory in 30 states (Satrapi). In this period 23 countries were dominated by Achaemenid Empire. From Indus valley in India to the Nile River in Egypt and Libya, also from Danube River in Europe to Central Asia, all were part of Iran’s territory.
Seleucid Empire (312-263 BC)
After the burning of Sard temple in todays’ Turkey which was colony of Iran by the Hellenic army, Cayaxeres, Darius I’s son instead decided to take his army to Greece and burned the Parthenon temple in Acropolis. After this event Alexander came to revenge and burned the glorious Achaemenid capital Persepolis. The last king of Achaemenid Empire, Darius III was defeated by Alexander, therefore, his generals took the control of Persia. After a while Alexander died and Seleucus I became the ruler of Persia. At this time Greek language, philosophy and art came with the colonists.
Parthian Empire (248 BC-224 AD)
Parthians were a part of Aryan tribes living in the north east. They fought against Seleucids and eventually they could put an end to the Greek Empire. They established Arsacid dynasty reuniting and ruling over the Iranian plateau. Strength point of Parthians was their army and the cavalry which fought many times against the Roman army. Parthians were considered as the archenemy of Roman Empire. At their time the official religion of Persia was Mithraism which is considered as the basis of Christianity in the west. All were free to be on their own religion and belief in this era. The Parthian Empire lasted five centuries and is recognized as the longest dynasty which ever ruled over Persia and the East.
Sassanid Empire (224 AD-651AD
After defeating Ardavan V, Ardeshir I established Sassanid Empire and set his own palace in Firouz abad near Shiraz. He started reforming the country both militarily and economically. The Empire’s territory encompassed all of todays’ Iran, Armenia, Syria, Pakistan, Central Asia, eastern Turkey, India, Caucasia, Arabia and some other parts of the Middle East. They called their own Empire Eranshahr meaning “dominion of Aryans”. Ctesiphon near Baghdad was their capital. They fought against Roman Army over 300 years. Their official religion was Zoroastrianism and made lots of fire temple. They spoke in Pahlavi language which is the root of modern Farsi. Persian architecture reached its apex in Sassanid period. Many impressive and magnificent industries such as stucco work, metal working remained from Sassanians. The great wonderful Vault of Kasra in Ctesiphon and the city of Bishapour in Fars province are the most magnificent examples of this great Empire.
The Arabs and Islam
A crucial chapter in Persian history started when Arabs defeated sassanians after many wars. Sassanid army was too exhausted of consecutive wars against Roman army and eventually yielded to Arabs. Many Zoroastrians in Iran found plenty to like in Islamic religion but some other in Kerman and Yazd remained in their own old religion. Saffarids, Tahirids, Samanids and Seljuks were some of the dynasties formed in Iran after Arabs conquest. These dynasties could revive Persian language and literature. The most significant point about Iran after Arabs conquest is that although Arabs got the control of Iran and ruled over it about 200 years, they couldn’t arabize the Iranians. Iran indeed was islamized but not arabized, so that Persians remained Persians. So many countries under control of Arabs lost their own language such as Egypt, Syria, Africa and Iraq, but Iran was an exception and its brilliant civilization, literature and art could be the satisfying reasons for surviving Persian language.
In 13th century, Seljuk Empire came to a final and bloody end when the rampaging Mongols under leader ship of Genghis khan swept across the Iranian plateau on their horses, beheading and dismembering lots of Iranians. They tragically destroyed many cities and great libraries. They took control of Iran around 100 years. They left some monuments including dome of Sultanieh in Zanjan province.
Persia underwent a revival under the Safavid dynasty. Shah Abbas I was the most prominent figure who fought with Uzbeks, Ottomons and expanded Irans’s borders. He dislodged the Portuguese from Bahrain and also the English army from Persian Gulf. Persian architecture flowered during this era. Isfahan was their main capital which represents the majesty and glory of Persian art.
The Qajar dynasty was an Iranian royal dynasty which ruled Persia from 1785 to 1925. The establisher of this dynasty was Agha Mohammad Khan. The Qajar family took full control of Iran in 1794. The Qajar dynasty permanently lost many of Iran’s integral areas to the Russians over the course of the 19th century, comprising modern-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Reza Khan finally put an end to this dynasty.
Pahlavi Dynasty and Islamic Revolution
The Pahlavi dynasty was the ruling house of Iran from 1925 until 1979, when the monarchy was overthrown and abolished as a result of the Iranian Revolution. The dynasty was founded by Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925, a former Brigadier-General of the Persian Cossack Brigade, whose reign lasted until 1941. He was succeeded by his son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.
The Pahlavis came to power after Ahmad Shah Qajar, the last ruler of the Qajar dynasty. The National Assembly, known as the Majlis, convening as a Constituent Assembly on 12 December 1925, deposed the young Ahmad Shah Qajar, and declared Reza Shah the new monarch of the Imperial State of Persia. In 1935, Reza Shah instructed foreign embassies to call Persia by its ancient name, Iran, so the official name became the Imperial State of Iran. Faced with growing public discontent and popular rebellion throughout 1978, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi went into exile with his family in January, officially ending the 2,500-year-old tradition of monarchy in Iran. Demonstrations against the Shah commenced in October 1977, developing into a campaign of civil resistance that included both secular and religious. Ayatollah Khomeini was invited back to Iran by the government and returned to Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians. The royal reign collapsed shortly after on February 11 when rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting, bringing Khomeini to official power Iran voted by national referendum to become an Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979 and to approve a new theocratic-republican constitution whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country. After Imam Khomeini passed away in 1989, Ayatollah Khameneyi became the Supreme Leader of Iran till now.