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Everywhere we were well received and compelled to drink undiluted wine, out of gold and glass cups...
- Aristophanes, The Acharnians (72-3).
Cyrus the Great

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae. Being the tomb of the founder of the first Persian Empire, located at its first capital, makes this UNESCO World Heritage site a quintessential symbol of Persian culture and influence.

The role which Iran played on the world stage is simply one that cannot be overlooked by any serious student of history, for the Persians left one of the greatest footprints of any people in history, managing to create several empires that would influence the development of both Eastern and Western civilizations.

Originally one among many Indo-Iranian peoples, whose presence began to be felt in the Iranian Plateau by the 10th century BCE, the ancient Pārsa people were calling themselves by that name (where the modern ethnonym "Persian" comes from) since at least 850 BCE, their shifting territory at first situated beside Lake Urmia, where they paid tribute to the Neo-Assyrian Empire. By at least the 7th century BCE, they would conquer the ancient Elamite city of Anshan, and from there rule a territory that roughly encompassed, and eventually became, Persia Proper, modern-day Fars Province, Iran. After the fall of Assyria, Persia became subject to a closely related fellow Indo-Iranic people; the Māda, or Medes, and their powerful empire. Then came Kūruš II , commonly known as "Cyrus the Great", who achieved independence from the Median empire by 550 BCE, overthrowing it in the process. From a minor king in Anshan to the great lord of a vast empire, Cyrus the Great inherited the leadership of the Medes along with their fellow Persians, and all their combined might. After Media would come most of the known world, and the Achaemenid Empire was to become the largest in all of Antiquity; the period of this "First Persian Empire" the most regarded in traditional history and popular culture, as Rise of Nations demonstrates.

By 330 BCE, after a long period of turmoil and instability, the Achaemenid empire was dismantled by the Greeks under Alexander III of Macedon, "the Great" (Called "The Accursed Alexander" by the Persians themselves), And the first period of direct foreign rule followed. By the 2nd century BCE, another nomadic Iranian people, the Parthians under the Arsacid Dynasty were to strip the Hellenic colonists of their conquests, and form an Empire on the roots of both their Greek and Persian predecessors, although the Iranian character of the empire would flourish later on, paving the way for future dynasties. On April 28, 224 CE, Ardashir I, rebel king of Pārs, brought Western Asia under Persian rule once again by sucessfully rebelling against, and decisively defeating the Parthian Arsacids, and the Sasanian, or Second Persian Empire, was born; this was the last period of Persian rule before the advent of Islam from Arabia in the form of the Rashidun Caliphate, which destroyed a fatally weakened Persian empire in 651 CE. Afterwards Persia would be intermittently ruled by Arabs, Turks, Mongols, and native Iranian dynasties. But the influence of Old Persian civilization would live on through art, architecture, philosophy, science, history, sporting and military matters, up to the present day.

Persia before the Persians (3400–800BCE)Edit


The Zagros Mountain Range was the home of many peoples in ancient history. From this region, groups such as the Gutian and Kassite peoples invaded the rich lowlands of Mesopotamia, which at certain points they even conquered; being regarded as the rough and savage harbingers of chaotic times by the invaded. It was not only a matter of emigration however—Indo-Iranian speaking tribesmen, the Persians among them, would later call the Zagros their new home.

Excavations reveal that humans have inhabited the Iranian Plateau since at least the Middle Paleolithic, 100,000 years ago. Many peoples inhabited he land identified as modern Iran such as the aboriginal Guti, Kassites, Elamites, Mannaeans and Marhashi.

The region that would become Persia, in modern Southwest Iran, was under Elamite dominion since at least the late fourth millenium BCE. This dominion was centered at the city of Anshan, the eastern seat of Elamite power, firmly within the Iranian highlands and counterpart to their western lowland capital of Susa. During the late 10th or early 9th centuries BCE, the growing Neo-Assyrian empire turned its sight to its East, and subjugated a long-decaying Elamite empire; it was around this time that several Indo-Iranian tribes, part of a group of peoples who identified themselves collectively as Aryans (meaning "noble"), and followed an equestrian nomadic lifestyle in the Northern and Western steppes of Eurasia, migrated southwards into the Iranian Plateau, the Persians and Medes among them. But the Persians' finest hour, by which they would forever mark their name in world history, was still yet to begin.

Birth of a World Empire: The Achaemenids (800–330 BCE)Edit


Map of the Achaemenid Empire throughout its history.

The Achaemenid empire, on which the game's nation takes almost all of its inspiration from, was the largest empire of its time, and for several centuries after it; at its height stretching from the Indus river in the East to Macedonia in the West; from the Caucasus mountains and the river Jaxartes in the North, to Egypt and Oman in the South. When the Persians first consolidated their kingdom, the city of Anshan, a former seat of power of their Elamite predecessors, became the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty. When the kingdom became an empire, it had as many as five capitals at a time across its inmense territory: The main administrative capital of Babylon, the "Summer Capital" of Ecbatana, the old Elamite capital of Susa, the "Western Capital" of Sardis, the "Ceremonial Capital" of, for a brief time, Pasargadae; later and most famously followed by Pārsa, known by the Greeks as Persepolis, meaning "city of the Persians". But even the greatest empire of the ancient world had to start somewhere smaller; in this case, quite humbly and inconspicuously.

The history of the Persians as a separate entity from other Indo-Iranian peoples begins in the 8th century BCE, when the first mention of them in recorded history is done by their new Assyrian neighbours, who called them Parsua or Parsuash, and mentions them dwelling in the area around the southeastern shore of lake Urmia in 844 BCE. They, along with the Medes, were tributaries of the Neo-Assyrian empire to the West since their arrival, and for most of the first three centuries after it. This was, arguably, beneficial for both Assyrians and the Iranian newcomers, in the form of mutual protection against the raiding of the Cimmerians and Scythians, the former a people of unclear origin; the latter a collective name for several Indo-Iranian peoples of the Eastern branch, which kept living in the steppes. Raiders of both origins would terrorize almost every known land south of their steppe homeland; the first known among such waves of seemingly unstoppable equestrian invaders that would echo for so many centuries afterwards.

Kingdom: Dynastic Origins Edit

The Achaemenid dynasty, who led the destiny of Persia, traces its origins to the mythical, or semi-mythical, Haxāmaniš, or Achaemenes, where the dynasty's name originates. Wether he truly did exist nobody can say for certain, but if he did, he would've ruled around this time. Achaemenes' son, and first fully attested historical king of the Persians, Čišpiš, or Teispes, would begin the formation of Persia into a proper kingdom in the 7th century BCE. Probably aided by the unstability brought by the civil war in Assyria around this time, Teispes captured the former eastern Elamite capital of Anshan, installing his seat of power there, and conquering the region that would eventually become Persia proper. This small kingdom was still a nominal subject of Assyria, however.

In time, the crushing power of the Neo-Assyrian empire brought the Medes, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Cimmerians, Scythians, and Elamites, along with the Persians and other minor tribes in the Zagros mountains, together against them; and in 612 BCE, the city of Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, was destroyed in a fierce assault by the Medes under Cyaxares, and Babylonians under Nabopolassar, along with Scythian and Cimmerian intervention. By 605 BCE, the once great Neo-Assyrian empire was no more, and a huge power vacuum was formed. By this period the Persians were now vassals of their richer and more powerful Mede cousins, who were quick to take advantage of the opportunity the fall of Assyria offered, and carved a vast empire stretching across almost the entire Iranian plateau.

Empire: Cyrus the Great Edit

Medes and Persians

Depiction of Medes and Persians united at the eastern stairs of the Apadāna (Columned hall) in Pārsa, known by the Greeks as Persepolis.

In 553 BCE, Kūruš II, petty king of Anshan, great-grandson of Teispes and later know as Cyrus the Great, led a revolt against the Medes. Through shrewd military leadership and sound sociopolitical policies, Cyrus would prevail against the odds, succesfully defending his homeland from attack, in turn overthrowing the unpopular and despotic (according to the account of Greek historian Herodotus) son of late Cyaxares and king of the Medes, Astyages. The Mede capital of Ecbatana followed soon afterward. By 550 BCE, and in one fell swoop, Cyrus had become both ruler of Persia and all of the former Median empire. This rapid change in the status quo after the fall of Assyria and the partition of its domain was to be heavily felt; for war between Cyrus and the remaining powers proved to be inevitable. The famous Croesus of the Lydian Empire in Asia Minor, and brother-in-law of Cyaxares, was the first to strike, taking the frontier city of Pteria and enslaving its inhabitants. Meanwhile, Cyrus tried to incite the Ionian Greek colonies of Western Asia Minor to revolt against Croesus. When this failed, he armed his men along the way and counterattacked the Lydians, which came to a stalemate. Croesus retired to Sardis and made use of his famed wealth to try and assemble a huge army from mercenaries and allies such as Egypt. But Cyrus struck before that could happen, and by 546 BCE, the Lydian capital at Sardis was taken, and its empire quickly absorbed into the new Medo-Persian polity.

Later came Elam and its capital of Susa, by at least 540 BCE, and soon after, the army of king Nabonidus of Babylon was crushed, and the great city taken peacefully and without resistance on October 29 of the same year. With the defeat of the Neo-Babylonian empire, all of the empires that followed Assyria's destruction had been integrated under one King of Kings: Cyrus The Great. All but one, Egypt, remained. But Cyrus had plans towards the East; and died under obscure circumstances shrouded in legend, and which vary according to the account.

Despite Cyrus' early and unexpected death, the Achaemenid Persian empire was there to stay, and was already well guided through the path of greatness; which would be continued under other famous rulers such as Darius and Xerxes , known for the influential era of the Greco-Persian Wars.

Conflict with Greece Edit

As the Achaemenid empire grew to encompass most of the known world, they weren't the only ones with ideas of conquering more land in their heads. Achaemenid rule allowed local ways of government accross the Empire, such the Greek sity-states under its domain in Ionia. But Persian authorities had a hand in choosing a head of state with apparent approval of imperial rule, with the intention to quell dissent. In the case of Ionia, the satrap of Sardis appointed the cities' rulers, called tyrants, a word whose meaning, it can be argued, took form with no little help from what happened after. These "Persian-sponsored" rulers, with the confidence of the empire's support, tended to become a totalitarian burden to their people, destroying the very purpose of their very appointment and in fact causing the opposite effect. The "straw that broke the camel's back" was the Ionian Revolt of 499–493 BCE, which resulted in the burning of Sardis, Western capital of the Empire. Furthermore, Athens and Eretria, Greek city-states outside of Persian rule, provided troops for the deed. In 498 BCE the Persians counterattacked and crushed the Ionian army, but the rebellion spread to Caria, and fighting on land and sea would persist until 493 BCE. However, the help of mainland Greeks to a rebellion inside the Persian Empire signalled a threat that the King of Kings could not, and would not overlook. Although the Persians sent two expeditions to "punish" the Greek troublemakers and even razed Athens to the ground, the Greeks would rally and counterattack, and with the battle of Salamis, Persian power in the western Mediterranean was broken forever. The Achaemenid emperors then chose a strategy of political interference in the Greek peninsula to destabilise the political structure and encourage defection, but in the long run, it was to influence the Empire's fall.

Later Period Edit

During the later period, the Achaemenid empire suffered dynastic struggles and frequent rebellion. Meanwhile, Philip II, King of Macedon, defeated the Thebans, then the most powerful city-state in Greece, in 338 BCE, and unified the whole of Greece under his rule, also annexing Thrace to his new empire. His son and successor, Alexander III of Macedon, was left with the highly-trained army and tactics that his father employed to achieve such a feat. Alexander would consolidate the whole of the Greek peninsula, and in turn would lead that army into the Persian homeland, in order to avenge, from the Greek point of view, the wrongs the Persians had done to them; also knowing from this time, after prolonged contact; that the Persian Empire, massive as it were, was by no means invincible, and its duly noted weaknesses were about to be exploited with ruthless efficiency.

Fall From The West: The Accursed Emperors (330–247 BCE) Edit

Alexander and the end of the Achaemenids Edit

NAMABG-Colored Alexander Sarcophagus 1 retouched

Colored reconstruction of a scene representing a battle between Persians (clothed) and Greeks/Macedonians (unclothed) seen on one of the short sides of the Alexander Sarcophagus.

Alexander's invasion of the Persian Empire would prove devastatingly effective. The main Macedonian army disembarked in Asia Minor in 334 BCE. By then, a Macedonian force sent in 336 was still holding the coastal town of Abydos of the Hellespont, which was part of the Persian Empire, while Darius III "Codomannus", had not yet fully mobilized the royal army against a danger which the Achaemenid authorities must have somewhat underrated at the time. The foolish tactics of the Persian satraps on the Granicos river in May, 334BCE, gave Alexander a quick victory in his first pitched battle and a clear road to the Anatolian coast.

Taking advantage of the goodwill of the Ionian Greek communities eager to be rid of their Persian-appointed tyrants, Alexander secured the Anatolian satrapies within a few months. In November 333BCE, at the battle of Issos, Alexander for the first time confronted Darius, who had taken personal command of the huge royal army, but was soundly defeated. Darius fled, letting the insignia of power (robe, shield, bow, chariot) and the ladies of the royal household fall into the victor’s hands. Iin the face of such unprecedented defeat, Darius offered to concede wide powers, albeit without relinquishing legal sovereignty over any territory but Alexander rebuffed him, for a unified empire was his goal. In any case, Issos was not followed by a collapse of the Achaemenid structures. Darius remained alive, and immense human and material resources had yet to be mobilized. Moreover fierce Persian counterattacks on Alexander’s rear in Anatolia took place in 332BCE.

Issos gave Alexander the option to march either to the Euphrates or the Nile. He chose the second alternative in order to capture the whole Aegean front, where also lay Phoenicia, Palestine, and Egypt, the empire’s “soft underbelly,” so to speak, having several times rebelled in the 4th century BCE. Most yielded, but Tyre put up a long and fierce resistance which ended in its destruction. Gaza likewise remained loyal to the Achaemenids and suffered the same fate. In contrast, Egypt's annexation proceeded much more smoothly because of the Egyptian dislike for the Persians. Afterwards, Alexander marched by the same route by which he had come, towards the middle Euphrates. The diversion to the eastern satrapies gave Darius time to assemble a new army. Alexander successfully crossed the Euphrates despite the scorched earth tactics of Mazaios, satrap of Babylonia, and by October 331BCE, the two armies met at the village of Gaugamela. Once again Darius was defeated and put to flight; the two great capitals of Babylon and Susa surrendered without struggle; a Babylonian priesthood bitterly antagonized by policies of the last Achaemenid kings having a part on it. Again, inmense amounts of Achaemenid treasure were taken.

But the advance to Persepolis was to be more difficult. In January 330BCE, Alexander marched the royal road, guarded by Achaemenid garrisons. Strong resistance also came from the local Uxians (The people of the satrapy of Uvja, or Susiana). Ariobarzanes, the satrap of Persia, blocked the Persian Gates, the entrance from Susiana to Persia itself. The fierce battle that ensued quite ironically reminisces of the much-recalled Battle of Thermopylae. After a hard fight, Alexander fought his way through to Persepolis, which he burnt down in the spring of 330BCE, and hoards of treasure, like the Greeks had never seen, changed hands. Without delay he marched into Media, where Darius had begun to muster a new army at Ecbatana. But in July 330BCE, Darius III was murdered as a result of the conspiracy of Bessos, member of the royal family and satrap of Bactriana, who felt that he could fend the remnants of the Empire from the Macedonians himself. As soon as Bessos proclaimed himself king, under the name Artaxerxes, Alexander was able to present himself as the "avenger" of Darius’ death.

Alexander had maintained the Achaemenid model of administration, and was eager to adhere to aspects of Achaemenid culture, both for admiration of the great kings of the past and to assert himself a legitimate sucessor, but by 330BCE, Alexander’s adoption of Achaemenid court etiquette, royal robes, ceremonials, etc., quickened; an aspect of his broad strategy for securing the collaboration of the Iranian upper classes. This policy provoked strong opposition among the Macedonian nobles at a time (330-27BCE) when the Macedonian army, after its rapid advances since 334BCE, came temporarily to a halt because of the strength and extent of organized resistance in Bactria and Sogdiana. Later on the conquest of the eastern satrapies would continue with heavy and and formidable resistance throughout. Dozens of garrisons, citadels, and new towns under the direct authority of the provincial administration were established in Bactriana and Sogdiana to quell any future rebellion, as many as 23,000 Macedonian military colonists left in charge of preventing it. This allowed the Macedonian armies to reach the far corners of the known world: The Indus and the Jaxartes, and allowed Alexander to eye for the India beyond Persian borders, an exotic and virtually unknown land for the Greeks of the age, where he got involved. Afterwards Alexander would retire to Babylon, where he died the 10 or 11 June 323BCE.

From Conquest to Partition: The Sucessors Edit

After Alexander died, his empire fractured apart. The Diadochi, rival generals and friends of Alexander, formed several states and empires throughout the conquered territory. Seleucus, a Macedonian general, came to control m>ost of the former Achaemenid domain: the Iranian heartland, Mesopotamia, Syria, the Levant, and Southern Asia Minor, creating the Seleucid Empire.


Seleucus I "Nicator", founder of the Seleucid dynasty.

These were the richest parts of the late Alexander's empire, and for two centuries, the Persians were ruled by a Greek-speaking elite whose king stylised himself as a Persian monarch. It was during Seleucid rule that the propagation of Hellenistic culture throughout Asia took place. Although Seleucus did well in expanding his rule and ensuring the development of his state, his biggest problem was that he never could stabilise his western frontiers with the rival Ptolemaic Kingdom.

The Seleucids were in a state of constant war, specially in their struggle for the control of Syria, and the Macedonian Diadochi dynasties in general were slowly inducting various Greek polities into their sphere of influence (along with the Gauls who were beginning to migrate across Europe and had even raided Greece and Asia). These forced resources to be rerouted by the Seleucid kings and resulted in the breakaway of some of the Seleucid satrapies, most notably those of Armenia, Bactria and Parthia.

As the Seleucid kingdom buckled and fractured, so would it fall prey to two new powers: a resurgent Iranian empire under the Arsacid dynasty, which annexed the Iranian Plateau and Mesopotamia, and the nascent Roman civilisation which dismantled the rest following the Battle of Magnesia in 190BCE.

Iran Strikes Back: The Arsacids (247 BCE–224 CE)Edit

Arsaces and the Rise of Parthia Edit


A Parthian Iwan in the ruins of Hatra. The columned halls of Achamenid architecture, themselves derived from their nomadic past, were followed by the iwan and the domed hall, a new type of architecture that developed during the Parthian period. This Perso-Parthian architecture was the very foundation of what later would commonly be called "Islamic" architecture; also having a heavy influence on the Eastern Romans and their Byzantine Architecture.

The satrapy of Parthava, or Parthia, had existed since the days of the Achaemenids, named after the Parthians, a fellow Indo-Iranian people that settled in the region of northeastern Iran, just as the Persians themselves had done in former times, and in fact were among the first to recognize the rule of Cyrus the Great, a year after his defeat of Astyages. The allegiance of Parthia secured Cyrus' eastern flanks and enabled him to conduct the first of his imperial campaigns against the Lydians.

After 308 BCE, Seleucus I had conquered the eastern part of Iran. By 245 BCE, during the rule of Seleucus II, Parthia fell under the authority of Narisanka, or Andragoras ; an Iranian nobleman appointed by the Seleucids to govern under their name. Seleucus II was occupied in bitter fighting with the rival Diadochi forces of the Ptolemaic kingdom, and Andragoras seized the opportunity to make himself independent.

Only a few years after this secession, Aršak, or Arsaces; leader of the Aparna a tribe of the Eastern Iranian Dahā Confederacy, saw an opportunity to be had as well. From their base around Nisa, the Aparna were eventually to grant Iran her first non-Greek rulers in centuries since the fall of the Achaemenid empire, ensuring her identity for posterity. The Aparna invaded the newly independent Parthia, and by 238 BCE Andragoras had been defeated and killed. Parthia fell under the rule of Arsaces, and the next year he was proclaimed king of Parthia at Asaak. The Seleucids did not mount a counter-campaign in the east until 231-27 BCE, by which time it was already too late. Unrest in Asia Minor soon forced Seleucus II to break off operations, and for two decades thereafter, the Arsacids would not see another Seleucid attempt to recover Parthia. With the foundation of this kingdom, later empire, the Aparna appear to have been assimilated to the Parthians: They adopted the latter’s name, bore Western Iranian—even Zoroastrian—names(for instance, the name of Arsaces’ father, recorded by the Greeks as "Phriapites", could be connected with an Avestan *Friya pitā “father-lover” = Greek Philopatros). On his coins, Arsaces wears Scythian dress but sits on a stool, bow in hand, as Achaemenid satraps, such as Datames, had done before. He deliberately diverges from Seleucid coins to emphasize his nationalistic and royal aspirations, and he calls himself Kārny (Greek Autocratos), a title already borne by Achaemenid supreme generals, such as Cyrus the Younger.

Around 209 BCE, the great Seleucid ruler Antiochus III made a renewed attempt to regain Parthia and the now Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, which had also independized from Seleucid authority, but this, too, was a failure. Although he was able to register a certain degree of success, in the end the warring parties concluded treaties, according to which the Parthians and Greco-Bactrians nominally recognized the Seleucids as overlords, although the letter conceded de facto independence to the two kingdoms.

Besides the consolidation of the Parthian kingdom, little is known of what happened after under the rule of the early descendants of Arsaces I. But the situation was to change.

Mithradates: Iran under Parthian Rule Edit

The next ruler, Mithradates I, ushered in that great and decisive epoch in the history of his people during which Parthia rose to become a major power in the Near East. This Mithradates and his successors achieved in a series of campaigns in the west against the Seleucids, and later the Romans; and in the east against the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and the nomadic peoples who again and again emerged from the steppes between the Oxus and the Jaxartes. More source materials are available for this period in Parthian history than for the initial phase, but the exact chronology of events is still in many ways unclear.

The first campaign of Mithridates I was probably directed against the Greco-Bactrian kingdom (between 160 and 155 BCE) with the aim of reconquering the territories that had been lost in that region during the reign of Arsaces I, especially the area around Nisa. What is certain is that the Parthians then conquered Media in the second half of 148 BCE (According to the Seleucid inscription of June 148 at Bīsotūn a Seleucid governor was at any rate still in office there at that point in time.)


Statue of a Parthian noble, often associated with the famous spahbed (general) of the Sūrēn clan—called Surena by the Romans—that brought a crushing defeat upon an unsuspecting Roman army at Harran, or Carrhae, on May 6, 53 BCE.

On the evidence of a cuneiform text it is also known that by 12 October 141, Mithridates’ power was recognized as far afield as the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia. Shortly before this he had had himself crowned king in Seleucia, the great capital of Babylonia, and the former heart of the now languid Seleucid Empire. It is also possible that the later Parthian capital of Ctesiphon, was founded during his rule. Strabo tells us that when the Parthian armies finally reached Seleucia, a camp on the opposite bank of the Tigris was established, "in order that the Seleucians might not be oppressed by having the "Scythian" folk or soldiery quartered amongst them". Pliny, on the other hand, reported that Ctesiphon was founded to actually draw the population away from Seleucia. In any case, this former camp would eventually grow to a large village winter residence of the Parthian king, who tended and cared for it, and from there would become a great city that eclipsed former Seleucia.

Like most Seleucid satraps, the Parthians inherited the Graeco-Iranic culture of the Seleucid domain and in their early days used Greek as the administrative language; coins in the Greek style were cast, many labelling kings as "Philhellenes" (admirers of everything Greek), while great temples such as those of Palmyra and Hatra exhibited an blend of Greek and Iranic elements in architecture and sculpture. Greek Theatre, in other times unknown, became a valued form of entertainment. In the later period, Parthian kings assumed Achaemenid descent, revived Achaemenid protocols, and Artabanus III, who named one of his sons Darius, laid claim to Cyrus’ heritage. At the height of its power, the empire straddled from the Indus Valley to Assyria, and with the coming of the Roman Empire to the Near East, they found in the Parthians the very limits of their expansion; an equal foe they could not overcome, Western historical tradition has oft repeated.

The End, and a New Beginning Edit

The overthrow of the Arsacid royal house in 224 CE was the outcome of the simultaneous decline of the Parthian state brought about by chronic civil strife, devastating epidemic of smallpox, repeated wars with Roman forces (who sacked Ctesiphon in 165 and 198), and the gradual ascendancy of a Persian family with religious and political bases of support. In its final period, the Arsacid empire was divided between two rival brothers: Walagash, or Vologeses VI, who ruled from Ctesiphon, and Artabanus V, who held Media and Khuzistan (Former Uvja or Susiana).

The Roman emperor Caracalla encouraged discord between the two, and himself trapped and massacred Artabanus' supporters and sacked Arbela and many Armenian forts in 217. Although Artabanus regrouped and even defeated the Romans in the same year, his authority was seriously weakened.

The formerly glorious Arsacid realm would be challenged under these circumstances by the rebel king of Pārs, the very kingdom of Persia Proper who long ago had rebelled against the Medes: Ardashir I, who founded the Sasanian, or Second Persian empire, decisively defeating the Parthians and seizing Ctesiphon in 226 CE. But the legacy of Parthia would live on: One of the vital elements that aided Ardashir in his restoration of a Persian Empire was the support of the Parthian clans, some of which supported the idea of an Iran under a Persian King of Kings, and had vast power across all of the decentralized former Parthian Empire. In a way the Parthians kept their empire, as their role of administrators and nobility continued under the new Persian rule.

The Flame of Rebirth: The Sasanians (224–651 CE) Edit

Ardashir I Unseats Ardavan V

Rock relief at Gōr (modern Firuzabad) depicting the decisive victory of the Persian forces over the Parthians. Here, Ardashir I is seen unhorsing Ardavān V in single combat.

The numerous troubles the Arsacids faced in the beginning of the 3rd century evoked political ambition in “Lord Sāsān, “a great warrior and hunter,” the custodian of the “Fire Temple of Anāhid at Estakhr, who married a princess of the Bāzarangid family, the vassal dynasty of Pārs. Their son Pāpak consolidated his power with the help of his own sons, Shāpur and Ardashir. Of the two brothers, Ardashir would soon prove the extent of his ambition. After making himself the argbed or castellan of Dārābgerd and goading his father into killing the Bāzarangid king of Estakhr, he rose in open rebellion in 212CE, claiming that he was heir to the ancient kings and destined to revive their glory and reunite all the peoples of Iran. Then began Ardashir's campaigns against the local rulers of Pārs.

A New Persian Empire Arises: Ardashir Edit

After the death of Pāpak, Shāpur, who was Ardashir's elder brother, succeeded his father in Estakhr, but was accidentally killed at Persepolis. Thereupon Ardashir reigned as the leader of the Sasanian house; and he went on to conquer, within 12 years, local dynasts of Pārs and neighboring regions, establishing his capital at the long-forgotten city of Gōr. Well acquainted with historical reality, he adopted the newer, more flexible mail armour of the Roman type, while the Parthians still used the older lamellar and scale armour. This increased flexibility would prove to be an edge in the traditional mounted fighting Iranians were adept at. On 28 May, 224, Ardashir vanquished Artabanus at the battle of Hormozdagān in Media, and assumed the title “King of Kings of Iran".

Afterwards, Ardashir captured Ctesiphon, annexed parts of Armenia and northwest Arabia, and reduced by force or political stratagem eastern Iran and the western provinces of the Kushan empire, an area which henceforth was ruled by Sasanian princes known as the “Kushanshahs”. Then he returned to the western front and took some Roman border towns and besieged one of the most powerful of them all: the former Parthian citadel of Hatra. This meant war with Rome, in line with the past Romano-Parthian conflicts, and Ardashir's vision of an empire to mirror the glories of Persian past. Ardashir, claiming to be the heir of the Achaemenids, laid claim to the eastern provinces of the Roman empire, fought with a good measure of success against Alexander Severus, and again invested Hatra, which fell in 240.

Ardashir succeeded in creating a “Second Persian empire” which was recognized for over four centuries as one of the two great powers in Western Asia and Europe. It also stood as a great shield in defense of the culture of Western Asia against the constant onrush of Central Asian nomads. He left a lasting memory for his sucessors and the empire at large, as a model king, a city-builder (no fewer than eight were said to have been founded by him), an administrative reformer, and a consolidator of the Zoroastrian religion. He did not, however, elevate Zoroastrianism to be the state religion, as Sasanian-based sources claimed; and the clerical hierarchy was not yet fully organized. He replaced vassal kings with his own sons and relatives, and he centralized the state revenue and authority by developing an efficient bureaucracy and by strengthening the military.

Ardashir continued the Arsacid tradition of entrusting high state positions to great noble families such as the Sūrēn, Mehrān, and Kāren, to the extent that Sasanian Ērānshahr was described as “the empire of Persians and Parthians”. Indeed, during the Sasanian period most of the Great Houses of Persia were Parthian, more specifically Arsacid. They intermarried with the Sasanian families and held the highest civil and military positions in the empire. A calendar reform is attributed to Ardašir, as is the introduction of the game of backgammon (Nard-Ardašir > nard). A political testament (ʿahd) ascribed to him remained the most respected manual on statecraft well into the Islamic period. Late Sasanian storytellers shrouded the rise of the dynasty and the career of its first kings in a series of legends.

Persia Strengthens: Shāpur I Edit

Shāpur I, The Great, Ardashir's son and successor, was to become one of the Persia's most capable rulers, and one of the greatest military strategists in history. Probably born in Gōr, c. 215 CE, He accompanied his father on his campaigns against the Parthians from early on. By 240 he was already acting as a co-ruler along with his father. Ardashir died in 241 and Shāpur took the throne the same year. The war against the Roman Empire had been renewed recently, and so he advanced into roman territory as the new king.

Naqsh i Rustam. Shapour

Relief at the site of Naqsh-e Rustam conmemorating Shapur's victories against Rome. In this relief, the defeated Emperor Phillip the Arab can be seen bowing in surrender, and Emperor Valerian, the only Emperor in Rome's entire history to be captured alive, is seen being held by the wrist by Shapur.

Throughout his life, he defeated no less than three Roman Emperors: Gordian III (225 – 244), Phillip the Arab (244 – 249) and Valerian (253 – 260), the latter being the only Roman Emperor in history to be captured alive. Not only the Romans were defeated, however. He lead a decisive war against the declining Kushan Empire, and by 248, in his seventh year as King of Kings and sole ruler, he deposed the Kushans from the western Punjab, expanding the Kushanshah territory. The weakened Kushan empire meant the rise of a new power in India, the Gupta dynasty, which would eventually be recognized as one of its "Golden ages". Sadly, there is a great scarcity of sources regarding this crucial period of Shāpur's military campaigns and Sasanian/Kushan history, and little more can be said with certainty. Shāpur was also a great builder and founder of many cities, the most famous being Bishāpur, a jewel of Roman architecture (It's said that a literal legion was deployed to build it), and Gondēshāpur, which would quickly become one of the leading centres of learning and medical science of late antiquity. He also ordered the construction of many dams and bridges, some with the help of defeated Roman manpower, much like in Bishāpur; many of them still extant and crossed in the modern era, and even today.

Organization Edit

Sasanian rule was characterised by considerable centralisation, ambitious urban planning, agricultural development, and technological improvements. Historians believe that society was divided into four classes: the priests, warriors, secretaries, and commoners. The royal princes, petty rulers, great landlords, and priests together constituted a privileged stratum, and the social hierarchy appears to have been fairly rigid. The Zoroastrian priesthood became immensely powerful, its head, the mobadan mobad ("priest of priests") along with the military commander, the eran spahbod and the head of the bureaucracy, being among the great men of the state. Warfare was a vital concern, as in previous dynasties, for Sasanian Persia faced almost constant conflict; first against rebellious Kingdoms within Iran and its outlying regions; then East with several nomadic peoples and West with the Roman empire.


A bust of Shapur II.

Yet unlike the Romans the Persians had the Elburz, Zagros and Hindu Kush mountains, efficient geographical barriers to enter the Iranian Plateau, well-manned by extensive defensive systems, such as the Great Wall of Gorgan, that held steppe incursions at bay, a frequent problem settled peoples faced through history, and intesified during this period, as the Romans would also witness. The Western frontiers were also densely dotted with forts and fortified cities on both Roman and Sasanian borders, and deterred both Empires to encroach too deeply into each other's heartlands. So ensconced thus, the Sassanian polity had sufficient protection from external threats as to monopolise trade along the Silk Road and so it can be argued that Persian civilisation had the security and prosperity to dedicate to the arts and sciences. On the Sasanian period, much was learnt and discovered, knowledge from both its Eastern and Western borders retrieved under a rich native tradition; although much of this development was to be taken by the Muslim Arab conquerors, extended throughout the lands they expanded upon, and eventually developed further on the subsequent Muslim dynasties. The Silk Road was to be extensively developed under Sasanian rule, agriculture flourished under extensive irrigation systems, as did infrastructure and the realm's defense under its great defensive projects, and and the Sasanian ways of war and kingship were also adopted by their enemies — most notably among them the extensive role of the Asbarān in Sasanian warfare: disciplined heavy cavalry trained in all sorts of weaponry and mounted combat, which was adopted in the Roman war machine, in the form of what the Romans knew as Cataphractii and Clibanarii, and several derivate units under their Byzantine or Eastern Roman sucessors for centuries afterward.

Although the Sassanian empire managed to defeat the Roman emperor Valerian in 260CE and outlived the Western Roman empire, it was fated to become the first nation outside of Arabia to be destroyed by a nascent Islamic empire embodied in the Rashidun Caliphate in 651CE.

Fall Of The Old Ways: Islamisation of Persia (651–1037CE) Edit


This fresco from Qusair Amra, Jordan, was commissioned for an Umayyad nobleman (later Walid II). Done in the late Sassanian style, it reflects how nascent Islamic society was permeated by Persian culture.

By the end of the Sassanian dynasty, the Persians and the Romans had been involved in countless wars which sapped all semblance of stability throughout the Levant. War exhaustion and political instability had eroded the ability of the Sassanian court to effective impose its will, so once the first warriors of the Rashidun caliphate arrived, the Sassanian empire simply collapsed before the Muslim invaders. Those who could fled the Muslim invaders and went into exile in Central Asia and China, while the nobles who remained in Iran eventually converted to the beliefs of their new overlords, eventually becoming the scions of the new Muslim dynasties that were to rule Iran in the name of the Umayyad caliphs who supplanted the Rashideen.

Even so, Arab control of Iran proved to be tenuous. Insurrections eventually doomed the Umayyad empire (although Umayyad rule of Spain would continue until the close of the 10th century), and soon a new leader, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, a relative of the Prophet, was appointed as caliph. Abbas' rule now covered the eastern half of the original Umayyad empire but even his realm was to soon fall apart. Racked with internal unrest, racial tensions between Arab Muslims, non-Arab Muslims and non-Muslims, this empire broke apart into several ruling houses within the space of a few generations: the Idrisids and Aghlabids arose in Africa, while the Turkic Tulunids took Egypt; and the Buyids; Uqaylids; Samanids and Hamdanids took over and fought each other in Iran.

The first of the new Islamic dynasties to effectively rule Iran were the Samanids. Although they stylised themselves as "Emirs" (military commanders) and were eager proselytisers and zealous propagators of Islam, Samanid rule also witnessed the comeback and resurgence of native Persian culture. The Qur'an was translated into native Persian, and culture, arts and industries flourished throughout the Samanid kingdom, for it was during this period that some of the giants of the Islamic "Golden Age" such as Avicenna and Ferdowsi came to prominence.

Samanid rule too only lasted for a single century when it, like so many previous dynasties before it, succumbed to corruption, inertia and infighting. The Buyid emirs who succeeded them managed to hold on to Iran proper as well as many other areas (most notably present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan) but themselves collapsed by the 12th century CE, leaving Iran open to be ruled by another group of foreigners: the Turks.


Arg-e-Bam. Although it has existed well since Achaemenid days, the current layout of this mudbrick citadel dates from the Islamic Era.

The Coming of the Turks (1037–1256CE) Edit

When Islam began making inroads into the heart of the continent, it began to assimilate the fierce horse-riding tribes who haunted the Central Asian steppes, eventually converting many of them to Islam and recruiting them as mercenaries and then civil servants, much as in the same way the Romans towards the end of their empire tried to employ the Goths in the same fashion — with more or less similar results. In Iran, increasing dependence on this class in the Samanid empire would soon result in the decline of the same and the rise of the Turkic-born but Persian-influenced Ghaznavid Empire, centred around Ghazna in Iran and later ruled from Lahore in present-day Pakistan. Nonetheless, Persian culture not only thrived and survived, but was even dispersed far and wide throughout the Islamic world: until the late modern period, the Persian language occupied a niche in Turkic society not dissimilar to that of the French language in early modern Europe.

The first independent Islamic Turkic empire was the Kara Khanid empire in the 9th century. Centred around Kashgar in present-day western China near the border with Kirghistan, it would annex Samanid possessions in Central Asia, before it fell apart, and was divided again by the Mongols and the Khwarezmid and Selcuk sultans.


Malik Shah, son of Alp Arslan. His death foreshadowed the end of the Selcuk empire

Next in line were the Selcuks. Originally in the service of the Kara Khanids, Selcuk warriors defeated in battle against the Turco-Iranian Ghaznavids in 1025 would eventually rally and then seize Iran from the Ghaznavids (who would hold out in India until cut down by the Ghorids, another noble family descended from Turkic tribesmen), and would go on to expand their influence into Anatolia, Palestine and Iraq although the Selcuks were nominal vassals to the Abbasid caliph who then ruled in Baghdad. While the Selcuk made great contributions to Persian culture by perpetuating the cultural preservation policies of the Samanids, they however are better known for their depredations of the Byzantine empire, which eventually resulted in the Crusades. Selcuk power however didn't last very long. Under pressure from Kara Khanid survivors, the Selcuk empire also had to face depredations from the Khwarazmids, Qarluq and Ghorids in Asia, as well as the Fatimids and Crusaders in the Middle East. Engaged on two fronts, the empire simply fractured apart into several petty sultanates. One notable survivor was the Sultanate of Rum, which would become the power base of the Osmanoglu, who then founded the Ottoman Empire.

The end for the Selcuks came In 1218, when the khagan of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan, turned his attention westwards. He sent a general named Chepe to conquer the Kara-Khitai Empire, as a stepping stone toward Persia. The previous year, a band of Mongol merchants were murdered in a Khwarazmid city. Genghis sent an envoy to the Khwarazmid Shah to clear up the matter, who then put the Mongol envoy to death. Using the envoy's death as a pretext and with the Kara Khitai Empire under Mongol control, Genghis mounted what would be his largest military operation in 1219. Passing over extremely difficult mountainous terrain in the Himalayas, the Mongols would defeat the Khwarazmids in a series of battles, but with the Shah escaping each time. To put and end to this, Genghis Khan assigned his general Subedei and Chepe with a force of 20,000 men to find and kill the Shah. The Mongol marauders would level any cities they came across and massacred the population, and so the Khwarazmid Empire was literally wiped from existence, and within half a year of his escape, the former Shah died of leprosy, exhausted and in rags. However, Subedei and Chepe would go further. The Mongol detachment would turn north, making raids around the Caspian Sea, annexing Kartvelia and Armenia as Mongol client-states.

Terror from the Steppes: The Ilkhans (1256–1511CE)Edit

Once the Kwarazm campaign was completed, Genghis Khan decided wisely to return home to take care of the administrative tasks of his empire, but it would not be the last the Persians would have seen of the Mongols. The Shah's son, Jalal-ud-Din, returned from exile in India and attempted another comeback, but was assassinated, and his vassals were swiftly subjugated by the Mongols under Hulagu, who did not merely stop there but even destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate and put the Caliph to death. Only a defeat in Palestine (1260CE) at Ain Jalut at the hands of the Bahrid Egyptians stopped the Mongol advance in the Middle East, but by then Persia was now effectively under Mongol rule.

For his services in aid of Kubilai Khan, Hulagu was rewarded with the title of Ilkhan or "sub-Khan", and was confirmed as the ruler of the Mongol Empire's Middle Eastern regions — now centred around Persia. Despite being of Mongol origin, the neo-Mongol rulers who would come to call themselves the Ilkhanids would continue the process of Persian cultural revival even as they became effectively Iranicised and converted to Islam. So the Ilkhanate would continue to prosper until the reign Abu Said, but upon his death, civil war wracked the Ilkhanate until Tamerlane, who while being Muslim and only part Mongol tried to reunify the Mongol Empire. He had managed to conquer the remnants of the Ilkhanate along with the Chaghatai khanate, but he died in 1405 without fully realising his ultimate goal of reunification, Tamerlane's methods were so brutal and cruel that within a generation or two of his death, his empire too had collapsed into civil war.

During Tamerlane's conquest of Persia, many cities were destroyed when they resisted him, and their inhabitants were put to the sword. However, there were many other petty sultans and emirs who realised that it was more profitable to feign obedience. One of the few in Iran who saw the light was an order of Shi'ite sufis based in northwestern Iran, who when the time was right, asserted their independence as the Safavids.

An Iranian Renaissance: The Safavids (1511–1736CE) Edit

The Safavids represented the first truly native empire to rule the Iranian heartland after almost a millenium of foreign domination by Arab and Turkic rulers since the fall of the Sassanians. This empire, through its central location between Europe and Asia, and attempts at creating a modern military and society, would achieve hegemony over not only present-day Iran (rougly around 1511CE) but over Iraq, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia as well, but would collapse due to a variety of pressures, giving rise to the Afsharids and the Zands in the 18th century who would then give way to the Qajars towards the 19th century. The Safavids originally hailed from Azerbaijan, and spoke both Turkic Azeri - a Turkic language - and Persian. In contrast to previous Muslim dynasties in the region, the Safavids were Shiites and legitimised their authority by claiming descent from the Prophet.

Ismail I (1487-1524CE) was the scion of the Safavids, and its ruling House of Ismail. He was born to a Sufi sheikh, Haydar, and could also trace his lineage back all the way to the Greek rulers of 15th century Trebizond on his mother's side. Prior to his own death, Haydar had organised his own religious sect into a fighting force which would be later known to the world as the Qizilbash (or "Red Heads/Turbans" in Ottoman Turkish). Ismail I would subsequently come to inherit his father's holdings and using this fighting force, inspired by religion, to make war and unite the petty Iranian city-states under his rule by 1510CE. Ismail would be succeeded by his own son, Tahmasp, under whose reign Iran was to enjoy renewed prosperity and cultural influence.


Battle of Damghan (1729CE), in which a smaller Safavid army under Nader Afshari (later Nader Shah) defeated a larger Afghan host by pitting firearms against cavalry.

Although Tahmasp I like his father was a gifted commander and not only repelled the Ottomans from his territory and even expanded Iran's borders into the Caucasus, his greatest achievements were cultural ones. In response to the disruption of trade during the invasions of the Ottoman Turks, he encouraged the production of rugs and carpets, for which Iran would be famous for to this very day. Another important event was the arrival of the fugitive prince Humayun from India. Tahmasp accepted Humayan cordially and when he left, Humayun was also escorted by a number of Persian retainers. It was this contact with Safavid Iran that would eventually give rise to Mughal culture and architecture in India.

Tahmasp's grandson Abbas was a fairly enlightened ruler. Ruling from Esfahan, Abbas would establish contact with the European nations (who saw Iran as a vital partner in the struggle against power-hungry Turks) and modernise the army. In an attempt to curtail the power of the Qizilbash, Abbas introduced ghilman or ghulams (who functioned like the Ottoman janissaries in that they swore fealty to the Shah) and equipped his army with gun-armed infantry, known as tofangchis.

Iran Eclipsed (1736–1945CE) Edit

Despite the general appearance of wealth, power and security, the Safavid court was weak and fractured. Shahs were often weak rulers who came under the power of their ministers, which often resulted in court intrigues and corruption. Additionally, the prolific output of New Spain's mineral wealth also resulted in inflation for nations which still depended on precious metals as a currency, and Iran was not spared.

Thus, by the mid-18th century CE, the Iranian empire was poised on collapse. The Afghan provinces declared independence as the Hotaki empire in 1709CE, while a military officer named Nader Afshar eventually usurped the Peacock Throne in 1736CE, crowning himself as Nader Shah of the Afsharids and then proceeding to put the House of Ismail to the sword. Nader Shah would prove to be the last greatest conqueror in the world well until Napoleon, and expanded his empire from Iran all the way to Delhi. While he was a gifted tactician, Nader Shah was like Tamerlane (who was his own personal hero) a poor administrator and soon his own empire would collapse.

Once more, history would repeat itself again and Iran was embroiled in civil war. A general, Karim Khan Zand, would defect from Afsharid service, take Isfahan and establish the Zand dynasty by 1760CE. The new dynasty was even more ephemeral than the Safavids, lasting only a tenth as long. Despite the general benevolence of Zand rule compared with the Afsharids, fate cursed the Zands with weak monarchs and internecine conflict, leaving them open to other pretenders to the throne. In 1789CE, the very same year of the French Revolution Lotf Ali Khan proclaimed himself as the new Zand king and took energetic action to put down a rebellion led by Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar that had begun at Karim Khan's death. Outnumbered by the superior Qajar forces, Lotf Ali Khan was finally defeated and captured at Kerman in 1794CE. His subsequent brutal death in captivity marked the final eclipse of the Zand dynasty, which was supplanted by that of the Qajars.

The next century to follow after the Zands was not kind to the Iranians. Although the Qajars would re-assert Iranian supremacy over the Caucasus, they were neither as prosperous as the Safavids nor did they enjoy any power or expansion as the Afsharids under Nader Shah did. Instead, the Qajar dynasty would be known as an era of political infighting and backwardness. Attempts by the Shah to modernise his country would often backfire, or set the Shah against the religious conservatives, who had held sway in the wake of the weak rule of previous dynasties. The rise of Babism and Baha'ism angered the Muslim clergy even as it threatened the monopoly the Shah held over religious authority since the days of the Sassanians. Various foreign powers would also interfere with politics, while the Russians would repeatedly harass Iran in 1804CE and again in 1826CE. During the Great War (1914-1918CE), Iran was effectively occupied by Entente forces. With a decrepit economy, political instability and virtually no prestige left, a palace coup in 1925 replaced Ahmad Shah, the last Qajar ruler, with Reza Pahlavi, a military officer, while Ahmad Shah was away in Europe. The ex-Shah never set foot in Iran again and died in 1930, while the Pahlavis would rule Iran until they were toppled in the Revolution of 1979.

The White Revolution (1950s–1979CE)Edit


British and Soviet troops in Iran. During the Second World War, Iran was invaded to forestall it from falling to the Axis Powers and to enable the British to supply Soviet forces in the Caucasus, who were then under heavy assault by Nazi Germany.

With the end of the Second World War and the fall of Nazism and Fascism, a new and terrifying chapter was now set to be written in the world ..... and would change the Middle East like never before: the Cold War, the struggle between the forces of individualism and liberty against collectivisation and communism, and none of the nations in Rise of Nations were so heavily affected as Iran. In the Industrial Era, there was one resource which few nations had which could be found in abundance in the Middle East — oil.

The age of mechanisation in the Industrial Era, and the experience of the World Wars of the 20th century CE showed that the new wars to be fought were now about the new realities of logistical supply — and for armies worldwide becoming increasingly dependent on the use of self-propelled vehicles, oil was now a sine qua non resource, as much as it was for daily activities and industry. This fact wasn't lost on the Allies and the Soviets, and the Americans and Russians did all they could in order to influence the largest producers, but their activities in Iran resulted in resentment towards them, as well as the Shah who seemed incapable of resisting them.

Mossadeh time

Mohammed Mossadegh as depicted on by Time magazine. Despite being nominated "Man of the Year", he alienated Western oil industry interests who then launched a coup to oust him in Tehran.

The Pahlavid rulers, having had ties to the West, knew the value and geopolitical significance of their oil wealth and efforts were made to harness this resource, but the major powers of the period wouldn't give up. When the Shah began to exhibit pro-German sentiments during the Second World War, the British and the Soviets launched Operation Countenance, invading Iran and forcing the pro-German Reza Shah Pahlavi to abdicate in favour of his more pro-Western son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. This however didn't dissuade the Iranians from seeking to retake their oil birthright. In 1951CE, Iran held elections and elected Mohammed Mossadegh as Prime Minister. Mossadegh immediately attempted to nationalise Iran's oil wealth, but Britain ratcheted up the pressure on him. A riot broke out in Tehran in 1953CE, giving the Shah an excuse to dismiss Mossadegh, who was subsequently imprisoned and died 14 years later.

Subsequently, whether out of personal hubris or concern, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi began a very aggressive campaign of modernisation and reform. The most notable of these was in education and literacy, women's rights and redistribution of land. At the height of Mohammed Reza Shah's rule in the late 60s, Iran could now boast a democratic system that extended suffrage to women, the development of an industrial economy and even forays into nuclear scientific research. However, as benign as these developments were, more heavy-handed measures by the Shah were waiting in the wings. The first was the suspension of multiparty democracy, as the Shah replaced all political parties with a single one, the Rastakhiz Party. So many other issues, especially corruption and the old order of landed gentry and domination by a clerical elite, also could not be easily surmounted by the Shah's so-called White Revolution, and these social classes began to feel threatened by the Shah's reforms, especially with regards towards gender equality against which the clergy or ayatollahs were unsurprisingly dead set, even as the new generation of Iranians who had hope of higher standards of living and employment in the new Iran were frustrated by the amount of corruption which depressed these prospects for them. Thus social policies, intended to modernise Iran and consolidate the Shah's power, then began to backfire. 


To legitimise his rule, Shah Mohammed Reza held a massive ceremony in the ruins of the old Achaemenid capital of Parsa to legitimise his rule and increase Iran's global prestige. Sadly, he was deposed eight years later during the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

The Shah too also followed a foreign policy line which in hindsight would to us today seem set for failure. Ever since his de facto acession during the Second World War, Mohammed Reza Shah was considered by the West as an indispensible ally of the Western powers, and for most of his reign, toed this line, but his desire for national self-assertion in the age of superpowers would alienate even his staunchest allies, whilst emboldening his foes. The Shah would often manipulate American dependence on oil into armtwisting concessions from the United States, and against the advice of the Americans engaged in a more interventionist policy with regards to Iran's neighbours, particularly the increasingly problematic Baathist republic of Iraq. The increasingly brutal behaviour of SAVAK, the Imperial secret police to crack down on dissent, especially the communist Tudeh party certainly didn't improve relations with the Soviet Poltburo, who were only eager to overthrow the "reactionary, anachronistic and feudalistic regime" of the Shah.

The Republic (21st century CE)Edit

With the Shah now alienating foreign powers abroad and now facing greater dissent at home, it was now clear that his days were numbered. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 saw the violent overthrow of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1919-1980CE), and the replacement of his pro-Western government by a radical Islamic regime, known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, profoundly reactionary and anti-Western in nature, and led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989CE).

The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who lived in exile in France, called for riots against the Shah. He promised press freedom and the equality of women after the government would be overthrown.

Islamist students in Iran used violence against the military. The shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi escaped on January 16, 1979CE into the USA. Khomeini returned to Iran and employed Mehdi Bazargan as his prime minister. In March 1979 the Iranians voted on a "referendum" for an Islamic republic. The people could only decided between monarchy and Islamic republic. Khomenei called democracy "western" and banned opposition parties.

In response to the Shah being brought to America for medical treatment, members of the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line occupied the American embassy. This event is called the Iran Hostage Crisis.

The success of the Iranian Revolution had had profound ramifications for the world. It has encouraged and supported the violent expression of Islamic radicalism through terrorism across the globe, and has brutalised and oppressed its own people.

The 1979 Islamic revolution and the 1980-88 war with Iraq transformed Iran's class structure politically, socially, and economically. During this period, Shia clerics took a more dominant position in politics and nearly all aspects of Iranian life, both urban and rural. After the fall of the Pahlavi regime in 1979, much of the urban upper class of prominent merchants, industrialists, and professionals, favored by the former monarch, the shah, lost standing and influence to the senior clergy and their supporters. Bazaar merchants, who were allied with the clergy against the Pahlavi shahs, also have gained political and economic power since the revolution. The urban working class has enjoyed somewhat enhanced status and economic mobility, spurred in part by opportunities provided by revolutionary organizations and the government bureaucracy.


Borg-e-Azadi, a landmark in present-day Tehran, Iran.

Though the number of clergy holding senior positions in the parliament and elsewhere in government has declined since the 1979 revolution, Iran has nevertheless witnessed the rise of a post-revolutionary elite among lay people who are strongly committed to the preservation of the Islamic Republic.

External References Edit

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