A Concise History of Iran
By: Saeed Shirazi
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Never before has a book of this caliber (brief but thorough) been printed in English regarding the entire history of Iran. Although the writer does not claim to be a historian, he realized the need for just such a timely book. A Concise History of Iran sheds light on the heretofore unfamiliar and often unrecognized relationship between Persia and the world; it is filled with information in a historical sequence with accurate and multiple references that may be used academically. Unlike the United States, where separation of church and state is a mandated fact of the Constitution, in Iran, wise Clericsreligious Magihave had and still have enormous political influence. These learned theologians and magistrates were respected for their religious wisdom and, therefore wisely and/or unwisely, trusted to be politically astute. While the Clerics may or may not outwardly run for the highest office, they judiciously choose who will run and, in some cases, they even appoint a succeeding ruler or influence the elections. The systems of choosing leadership in both The U.S. and Iran are vulnerable to mistakes. For example, the U.S. action in the Middle East has had some serious, unfortunate results, whatever the original intention wasfor example, loss of innocent lives from West and East (the new Viet Nam in Afghanistan and Iraq) and the imminent danger of World War III.
A few pages of the book
The Plateau of Pars
Coming back to the early Aryans and their gradual southward migration, one has to look at the elevated Plateau of Pars. Archeological evidence dating from 5000 to 3000 B.C. indicates massive settling of the regions all around Pars plateau. Early traveling tribes of Aryans slowly scattered in this plateau with an area of thousands of square miles (East to west from todays Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq and north to south from Russia and north Caspian sea to the south Persian Gulf). Throughout this vast green land, these Aryans had carried their language, rituals, crafts, and homes from one area to another in all conditions and terrain. Sometimes they had to find shelter from the elements, and on the other hand, they learned to cherish and respect its beauty and mild climate. Thus, love and respect for nature and its elements became the pivotal foundation for Aryans.
But what is noteworthy is that although these Aryans were growing fast, they were not the only traveling tribes. Around the same period, village life as well as tribal gatheringsat a slower ratewere also introduced in other areas in the world, such as North America, Africa and the Far East. Ruins of structures made by Yang Shao people in China and old city of Jericho near todays Jordan are a few substantial evidences of other civilizations. Writing, however, had not appeared in China until around 2800 B.C. (The Sumerians had discovered the early alphabets around 3200 B.C.)
As time went by, some
tribes of farmers and herders living in the plains of Pars detached
from their Aryan relatives around 2500 B.C.
All these civilizations neighbored one another for thousands of years. Of course there are similarities in beliefs and myths of different cultures in different territories. Naturally, in many shapes, they must have influenced one another. In Joseph Campbells The Mythic Image in pages 118-121, there are references made to the similarities between Tao-tieh mask in China around 1300 B.C., and The Kirttimukha of India around 800 A.D. It is only logical to wonder about their possible connections. On the other hand, the Mexican Olmec culture and the Chavin culture of Peru in about 800 400 B.C. show similarities about the jaguar-man mythic figure that resembles the Kirttimukha.
As mentioned in the next chapters, Persian myths also mention about Deev or Ghoul as human-beast cannibal. For unknown reasons, Joseph Campbell does not cover the old mythology of Persians in his book. Nevertheless, the mythic figures of Deevs have an ancient root in the Persian culture going back to the time of creation. Are these images a result of pure chance? Did different people and cultures have a way of affecting one another?
Still, the study of Myths clarifies many archeological mysteries, including the ancient languages. There are many excavated findings and ancient texts, forming a historians consensus, that tell about these traveling tribes language and faith. Through artifacts and pictographic objects belonging to Indus civilization, one may see similarities in the language, myths and religion of original Aryan Settlers in Pars Plateau. As mentioned before, Farsi language that Iranians speak today is based on Mikhi Language immortalized by cuneiforms and pictographs left on clay and stone. The history of Farsi goes back to over 3000 B.C., and the languages of Medes, Sakkas, Sumerians and Zarathustras Avesta gradually helped to shape this language.
Dr. M.J. Mashkoor explains
that the traditions and lifestyles of early Aryans were preserved
through ancient historical writings. The prophet Zarathustra (Zartosht
in Farsi) formed the Book of Vedas or Sacred Writings. These writings
were commonly used among Aryans of Indu Valley. Book of Vedas is the
oldest source of such historical facts about AryansIt is interesting
to know that in rewriting Vedas an older root of Farsi writings is
used called Din-Dabireh. By referring to the facts mentioned in Vedas,
it is understood that Aryans, at some point in time,
In addition to the above,
the western historic documents reflect the same information. The fact
that Aryans paid tribute to the elements of nature, Sun, Moon and
Stars, has remained intact in the history. This explains why the Father
of History, Herodotus, has also mentioned in his ancient Greek
notes that Iranians never worshipped statues or idols as gods. Interestingly,
Greeks, however, made statues of their gods in their
In other words, messages in the texts of Veda existed before Zarathustra. So did the religion of Mithra, common between Aryans of Pars and Indu. There are only two references in Avesta about Andra (only as an agent or angel), however there is a reference to Andra in the mythological tale of Rostam in Shah Nameh. Actually the Persian warriors received their strength from this agent of war, which was common in both Indu and Persian mythology. So were the two Ashvins, the two gods, (Khordad and Amordad in Avesta) who heal the sick and bring lovers close together.9 Khordad and Amordad are also the names for two months in spring and summer from the Persian calendar and respectively mean Perfect in all and Immortal.
Therefore, many of these
ancient beliefs are based on common history between Indus and Persians.
Yet, Zarathustra is uniquely Persian. Interestingly, the exact birth
date of this great prophet is not set, some historians, such as Voltaire
and Plato, set this date much earlier and to about 6500 B.C.10 It
seems that the ancient beliefs of Aryans regarding Mithra (going back
to over 7000 B.C.) had been the basis for Plato and Voltaires
assumption of the birth date of Zarathustra.
The extent of the popularity of Mithraism does not end at the East. This Persian religion had penetrated the West until mid-4th Century A.D.; the remainders of numerous caves or underground shrines are still found in many European countries. Philip K. Hitti believes that these caves were secret places of gathering for earlier believers of Mithra. However, the construction of such underground tunnels or wells had to do with the underwater springs in the Plateau of Pars they still doas a source of drinking water for peasants in the Middle East. The believers of Mithra celebrated Sol Invictus or The immortal Sun on the 25th day of December. This date was marked as the rising cycle of the Sun in the sky showing the arrival of longer days. Hitti believes that Europeans actually borrowed this date from the religion of Mithra and used it as the birth date of Prophet Jesus, because of the existing popularity of such date among their people.
Also, William Culican testifies to the fact that the history of this periodabout 2500 B.Cevolves through the cultural development of this branch of Indo-Europeans on the Plateau of Pars who believed in the natural elements as their guardians or gods. But Culican also believes that they gradually divided into two different groups. Some continued southeast to Indu Valley and Panjab and some towards western and southern fields of todays Iran later forming bigger civilizations respectively called Medes and Pars.
The pivotal myths and ideologies of Aryans have affected the worldviews of their descendants up to the present time. The role of the individual in nature as well as in the society was of great importance to these Aryans. All members of the tribes believed they could assist the elements in nature to do their jobs. Sacrificing animals or crops did help this. Ancient writings also show how the early Aryans respected family and valued its members as the vital units of their society. This basic idea has been kept throughout history up to the present. Man was the head of the family and was named Pati which meant protector or Pitri which meant feeder. The name Father is a derivative of these words. The lady of the house was Matri or Mother, which meant maker of home. These details can be found in Veda texts.
Even in old age, the
head of the family , men and women, gained more respect as well as
wealth among their tribes. This trend of life in pastoral and horticultural
societies is referred to as Gerontocracy,...