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Wednesday, 2 July 2008

DIA 243 - A Very Short History of Iran

Shiraz - Dequanan Dd = 96 Km Dt = 8616 Km

Iran has a very long and distinguished history - difficult to do justice in a few words. But here goes... The Medes, Archaemenids, Sassanids, and Safavids have all created empires on Iranian soil, not to mention invaders such as the Arabs and Mongols. Iran has been a superpower in its time - for example, the Archaemenids created one of the biggest empires the world had ever known from 550-330 BC, and gave Ancient Greece a run for their money. The Archaemenids built an awe-inspiring city, now near Shiraz, which the Greeks called Persepolis, or city of the Persians. On behalf of the Greeks, Alexander the Great set fire to Persepolis in 330 BC. Nice work Alexander: soldiers are such appreciators of fine architecture. At their zenith, 28 nations paid homage to the Archaemenids, coming every year to Persepolis at the beginning of spring to give a gift to the reigning king (Darius, Xerxes, Kurosh etc). The Archaemenids were Zoroastrian, and the Sassanids (around 300 BC - 600 A.D.) carried on this religious tradition.

Although the Islamitisation of Persia started with the Arab invasion in the mid seventh century, it was not until the ninth and tenth centuries that Islam really took over. The Moslems even managed to assimilate the Khans - well, maybe not Genghis but his descendant Khans, at any rate. The next big empire to unite Iran was the Safavids who were Shiite Moslem (the Arabs were Sunni) in 1551. The intervening time was filled with all sorts of shortlived dynasties - both native and foreign. The Mongol invasion is rather conspicuous as an interesting event during this time. Genghis apparently did not intend to invade the Moslem world in 1219, but when two diplomatic missions were executed, that was it. Enough was enough.

Shahs ruled Iran from 1551 until 1979 - the Safavids were over in 1736 but the shah tradition still continued. One of my favourite shahs was a Safavid - Abbas I (1587-1629). He was so paranoid he was going to get assasinated that he either killed or blinded family members. Because he killed two sons and two died before him, he was left with no heirs. Now there's thinking!

Since the revolution in 1979 Iran has been an Islamic Republic. So goodbye to the shahs with all their material indulgence and paranoia and hello to the new regime with all their religious indulgence and paranoia. Long live the powers that be!

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