Persian Empire

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Persian Empire in the Achaemenid era, 6th century BC Map of the Achaemenid Empire.jpg
Persian Empire in the Achaemenid era, 6th century BC
Tomb of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire (the first Persian Empire) in the 6th century BC Persia-Tomb-of-Cyrus-the-Great-Passargad-530BC.JPG
Tomb of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire (the first Persian Empire) in the 6th century BC
Taq Kasra (Arch of Ctesiphon), symbol of the Sasanian Empire, 3rd century AD Ctesiphon 01.jpg
Taq Kasra (Arch of Ctesiphon), symbol of the Sasanian Empire, 3rd century AD

The Persian Empire (Persian : شاهنشاهی ایران, translit. Šâhanšâhiye Irân, lit. 'Imperial Iran') refers to a series of imperial dynasties that were centred in Persia/Iran from the 6th century BC Achaemenid Empire era to the 20th century AD in the Qajar dynasty era.

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is a Western Iranian language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian subdivision of the Indo-European languages. It is a pluricentric language predominantly spoken and used officially within Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan in three mutually intelligible standard varieties, namely Iranian Persian, Dari Persian and Tajiki Persian. It is also spoken natively in the Tajik variety by a significant population within Uzbekistan, as well as within other regions with a Persianate history in the cultural sphere of Greater Iran. It is written officially within Iran and Afghanistan in the Persian alphabet, a derivation of the Arabic script, and within Tajikistan in the Tajik alphabet, a derivation of Cyrillic.

Romanization of Persian or Latinization of Persian is the representation of the Persian language with the Latin script. Several different romanization schemes exist, each with its own set of rules driven by its own set of ideological goals.

Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is the rendering of text from one language to another one word at a time with or without conveying the sense of the original whole.




The first dynasty of the Persian Empire was created by the Achaemenids, established by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC with the conquest of the Median, Lydian and Babylonian empires. [1] [2] It covered much of the then known Ancient world. [3] Persepolis, the most famous historical site related to Persian Empire in the Achaemenid era, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. [4]

Achaemenid Empire first Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great

The Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great. Ranging at its greatest extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 million square kilometers. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration, for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.

Cyrus the Great King and founder of the Achaemenid Empire

Cyrus II of Persia, commonly known as Cyrus the Great, and also called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Western Asia and much of Central Asia. From the Mediterranean Sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen. Under his successors, the empire eventually stretched at its maximum extent from parts of the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east. His regal titles in full were The Great King, King of Persia, King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, and King of the Four Corners of the World. The Nabonidus Chronicle notes the change in his title from simply "King of Anshan", a city, to "King of Persia". Assyriologist François Vallat wrote that "When Astyages marched against Cyrus, Cyrus is called 'King of Anshan', but when Cyrus crosses the Tigris on his way to Lydia, he is 'King of Persia'. The coup therefore took place between these two events."

Medes ancient Iranian civilization

The Medes were an ancient Iranian people who spoke the Median language and who inhabited an area known as Media between western and northern Iran. Under the Neo-Assyrian Empire, late 9th to early 7th centuries BC, the region of Media was bounded by the Zagros Mountains to its west, to its south by the Garrin Mountain in Lorestan Province, to its northwest by the Qaflankuh Mountains in Zanjan Province, and to its east by the Dasht-e Kavir desert. Its neighbors were the kingdoms of Gizilbunda and Mannea in the northwest, and Ellipi and Elam in the south.


From 247 BC to 224 AD, Persia was ruled by the Parthian Empire, which supplanted the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, and then by the Sassanian Empire, which ruled up until the mid-7th century. [5] The Persian Empire in the Sasanian era was interrupted by the Arab conquest of Persia in 651 AD, establishing the even larger Islamic caliphate, and later by the Mongol invasion. The main religion of ancient Persia was the native Zoroastrianism, but after the seventh century, it was slowly replaced by Islam. [6]

Parthian Empire Iranian empire ruled by Arsacids

The Parthian Empire, also known as the Arsacid Empire, was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran. Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia who, as leader of the Parni tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast, modern-day Turkmenistan and north-western Afghanistan. Then a satrapy (province) under Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire; Mithridates I of Parthia (r. c. 171–138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to western Afghanistan and north-western Pakistan. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

Seleucid Empire Former Hellenistic state

The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic state ruled by the Seleucid dynasty which existed from 312 BC to 63 BC; Seleucus I Nicator founded it following the division of the Macedonian Empire vastly expanded by Alexander the Great. Seleucus received Babylonia and from there expanded his dominions to include much of Alexander's near-eastern territories. At the height of its power, the Empire included central Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what is now Kuwait, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

Caliphate Islamic form of government

A caliphate is an Islamic state under the leadership of an Islamic steward with the title of caliph, a person considered a political-religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire ummah. Historically, the caliphates were polities based in Islam which developed into multi-ethnic trans-national empires. During the medieval period, three major caliphates succeeded each other: the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661), the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) and the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258). In the fourth major caliphate, the Ottoman Caliphate, the rulers of the Ottoman Empire claimed caliphal authority from 1517. During the history of Islam, a few other Muslim states, almost all hereditary monarchies, have claimed to be caliphates.


Abbas the Great, the most powerful king of the Safavid dynasty Shah Abbas I engraving by Dominicus Custos.jpg
Abbas the Great, the most powerful king of the Safavid dynasty

The Safavid Empire was the greatest Iranian Empire established after the Muslim conquest of Persia. From their base in Ardabil, the Safavid Persians established control over parts of Greater Persia/Iran and reasserted the Persian identity of the region, becoming the first native Persian dynasty since the Sasanian Empire to establish a unified Persian state. [7]

Ardabil City in Iran

Ardabil is an ancient city in northwestern Iran, and the capital of Ardabil Province. Located in the northeastern part of Iran's historic Azerbaijan region, at the 2011 census, Ardabil's population was 564,365, in 156,324 families. The dominant majority in the city are ethnic Iranian Azerbaijanis and the primary language of the people is Azerbaijani.

Greater Iran Cultural region

Greater Iran is a term used to refer to the regions of the Caucasus, West Asia, Central Asia, and parts of South Asia that have significant Iranian cultural influence due to having been either long historically ruled by the various imperial dynasties of the Iranian Empire, having considerable aspects of Persian culture due to extensive contact with the various imperial dynasties of Iran, or are simply nowadays still inhabited by a significant amount of Iranian peoples who patronize their respective cultures. It roughly corresponds to the territory on the Iranian plateau and its bordering plains. The Encyclopædia Iranica uses the term Iranian Cultural Continent for this region.

Literature, art and architecture flourished in the Safavid era once again, and it is often cited as the "rebirth of the Persian Empire". Safavids also announced Shia Islam as the official religion in the empire versus the Sunni Islam in the neighbouring Ottoman Empire. The Safavid Empire was the first Muslim Iranian state to be a match for the Ottomans and Mameluks. [8]

Shia Islam Denomination of Islam which holds that Muhammad designated Ali as his successor and leader (imam), whose adherents form the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain

Shia Islam is one of the two main branches of Islam. It holds that the Islamic prophet Muhammad designated Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor and the Imam (leader) after him, most notably at the event of Ghadir Khumm, but was prevented from the caliphate as a result of the incident of Saqifah. This view primarily contrasts with that of Sunni Islam, whose adherents believe that Muhammad did not appoint a successor and consider Abu Bakr, who they claim was appointed caliph by a small group of Muslims at Saqifah, to be the first rightful caliph after the Prophet.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as Rome (Rûm), and historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was thoroughly Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.


The Afsharid dynasty was an Iranian dynasty that originated in Khorasan from the Afshar tribe. The dyansty was founded by Nader Shah. Nader rose to power during a period of chaos in Iran after a rebellion by the Hotaki Pashtuns had overthrown the weak Sultan Husayn, while the arch-enemy of the Safavids, the Ottomans, as well as the Russians had seized Iranian territory for themselves. Nader reunited the Iranian realm and removed the invaders. He became so powerful that he decided to depose the last members of the Safavid dynasty, which had ruled Iran for over 200 years, and become Shah himself in 1736. The Afsharids ruled Iran from 1736 to 1796.

Nader Shah ruled as Shah of Iran

Nader Shah Afshar was one of the most powerful Iranian rulers in the history of the nation, ruling as Shah of Iran (Persia) from 1736 to 1747 when he was assassinated during a rebellion. Because of his military genius as evidenced in his numerous campaigns throughout Middle East, Caucasus, Central and South Asia, such as the battles of Herat, Mihmandust, Murche-Khort, Kirkuk, Yeghevard, Khyber Pass, Karnal and Kars, some historians have described him as the Napoleon of Persia, Sword of Persia, or the Second Alexander. Nader Shah was an Iranian who belonged to the Turkmen Afshar tribe of Khorasan in northeastern Iran, which had supplied military power to the Safavid dynasty since the time of Shah Ismail I.

Pashtuns ethnic group belonging to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India

The Pashtuns, historically known as ethnic Afghans or Pathans are an Indo-Iranian ethnic group native to South-Central Asia, who share a common history and culture. A substantial majority of ethnic Pashtuns shares Pashto, an Eastern Iranian language in the Indo-European language family as the native language.

Sultan Husayn King of Iran

Sultan Husayn, reigned 1694–1722; was a Safavid Shah of Iran (Persia). He ruled from 1694 until he was overthrown in 1722 by rebellious marauder Mahmud Hotaki, an Afghan of Pashtun ethnic background. His reign saw the downfall of the Safavid dynasty, which had ruled Persia since the beginning of the 16th century.


The Zand dynasty was an Iranian dynasty of Lak a branch of Lurs [9] origin founded by Karim Khan Zand that initially ruled southern and central Iran in the 18th century. It later quickly came to expand to include much of the rest of contemporary Iran, as well as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, [10] and parts of Iraq and Armenia.


In 1796, after fall of Zand and Afsharid dynasties, Agha Mohammad Khan of Qajar dynasty was the sole ruler of Iran. But soon after, in 1797, he was assassinated by his servants. Since he had no children, the shah was succeeded by his nephew, Fath-Ali Shah. [11] Reign of Fath-Ali Shah saw huge and irrecoverable territorial loss for the Persian Empire after wars against the Russians in 1804–13 and 1826–28. [12] Fath-Ali died in 1834 and was succeeded by his grandson, Mohammad Shah. [13]

During his short reign, Mohammad Shah tried to modernize the Iranian army and recapture Herat. However, his attempts were unsuccessful. He died at the age of 40 in Mohammadieh Palace in 1848. After death of the Mohammad Shah, his son, Naser al-Din Shah, ascended to the Sun Throne. He ruled for 50 years, and became the third longest reigning monarch in Iranian history after Shapur II and Tahmasp I. Many events took place during his long reign, including wars with the British Empire and rebellion of Babis, the assassination of Amir Kabir and Tobacco Protest.

After the assassination of Naser al-Din Shah, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah ascened to the throne. The first Iranian revolution, the Constitutional Revolution, took place during his reign. [14] Mozaffar ad-Din Shah was the last shah who died in Iran. Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar succeeded his father in 1907. He dissolved the parliament and declared the Constitution abolished [15] and bombarded the Majles. [16] However, he abdicated after the Triumph of Tehran by pro-Constitution forces and re-establishment of the constitution. [17]

Following the abdication of the shah in 1909, the Majlis placed his 6-years-old son, Ahmad Shah on the Iranian throne. [18] The World War I took place during his reign and Iran declared neutrality. However, it didn't stopped the British forces and they occupied many parts of Iran, which caused the Great famine of 1917–1919 and death of 2 million Iranians. [19] [20] [21]

With 1921 Persian coup d'état, Reza Pahlavi took control of the country. [22] Ahmad Shah left Iran for health reasons In 1923 and with the official end of the Qajar dynasty in 1925 and rise of the Pahlavi dynasty, his tour became an exile. He died in 1930 in Paris.

List of the dynasties described as a Persian Empire

See also

Related Research Articles

History of Iran aspect of history

The history of Iran, which was commonly known until the mid-20th century as Persia in the Western world, is intertwined with the history of a larger region, also to an extent known as Greater Iran, comprising the area from Anatolia, the Bosphorus, and Egypt in the west to the borders of Ancient India and the Syr Darya in the east, and from the Caucasus and the Eurasian Steppe in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the south.

Iranian monarchy may refer to:

Golestan Palace palace

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Flag of Iran National flag

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Qajar dynasty Iranian royal dynasty of Turkic origin

The Qajar dynasty was an Iranian royal dynasty and empire of Turkic origin, specifically from the Qajar tribe, from 1789 to 1925. The Qajar family took full control of Iran in 1794, deposing Lotf 'Ali Khan, the last Shah of the Zand dynasty, and re-asserted Iranian sovereignty over large parts of the Caucasus. In 1796, Mohammad Khan Qajar seized Mashhad with ease, putting an end to the Afsharid dynasty, and Mohammad Khan was formally crowned as Shah after his punitive campaign against Iran's Georgian subjects. In the Caucasus, 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, Dagestan, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar Shah of Persia, Founder of Qajar dynasty

Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, also known by his regnal name of Agha Mohammad Shah, was the founder of the Qajar dynasty of Iran, ruling from 1789 to 1797 as king (shah). Originally chieftain of the Qoyunlu branch of the Qajar tribe, Agha Mohammad Khan was enthroned as the king of Iran in 1789, but was not officially crowned until March 1796, having deposed Lotf Ali Khan of the Zand dynasty in 1794. Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar was famously the eunuch Monarch, being castrated as a young adult upon his capture by Adel Shah Afshar, and hence was childless. He was assassinated on 17 June 1797, and was succeeded by his nephew, Fath-Ali Shah Qajar.

Karim Khan Zand

Mohammad Karim Khan Zand was the founder of the Zand Dynasty, ruling from 1751 to 1779. He ruled all of Iran (Persia) except for Khorasan. He also ruled over some Caucasian lands and occupied Basra for some years.

Zand dynasty Iranian royal dynasty, 1751–1794

The Zand dynasty was an Iranian dynasty of Lak a branch of Lurs origin founded by Karim Khan Zand that initially ruled southern and central Iran in the 18th century. It later quickly came to expand to include much of the rest of contemporary Iran, as well as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, and parts of Iraq and Armenia.

Shahrokh Shah King of the Afsharid dynasty

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King of Kings title

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Afsharid dynasty

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Iran (Persia) has had numerous capital cities and royal centers throughout its history.

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  2. Briant 2002, p. 15.
  3. Kleber, Kristin (2015-11-12). "Taxation in the Achaemenid Empire". doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935390.013.34. The Achaemenid (or First Persian) Empire (538–330 b.c.e.) stretched from Libya to modern-day Afghanistan and from Greece to India, covering a surface of approximately 8 million square kilometers.
  4. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Persepolis". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  5. "SASANIAN DYNASTY – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2019-06-10. SASANIAN DYNASTY, the last Persian lineage of rulers to achieve hegemony over much of Western Asia before Islam, ruled 224 CE–650 CE.
  6. "CONVERSION ii. Of Iranians to Islam – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2019-06-10. Iranians were among the very earliest converts to Islam, and their conversion in significant numbers began as soon as the Arab armies reached and overran the Persian plateau. Despite some resistance from elements of the Zoroastrian clergy and other ancient religions, the anti-Islamic policies of later conquerors like the Il-khanids, the impact of the Christian and secular West in modern times, and the attraction of new religious movements like Babism and the Bahai faith, the vast majority of Iranians became and have remained Muslims.
  7. Roemer, H. R. (1986). "THE SAFAVID PERIOD". The Cambridge History of Iran. Retrieved 2019-06-11. Whether we think of this event as marking the beginning of modern Persian history or not, it certainly heralds a new era. The historical achievement of the Safavids was to establish a strong, enduring state in Iran after centuries of foreign rule and a lengthy period of political fragmentation.
  8. Roemer, H. R. (1986). "THE SAFAVID PERIOD". The Cambridge History of Iran. Retrieved 2019-06-11. Not until the Safavid era did Iran witness the rise of a state similar in importance to the Ottoman empire or the empire of the Egyptian Mamlūks.
  9. Muhammad Karim Khan, of the Zand clan of the Lur tribe, suc- ceeded in imposing his authority on parts of the defunct Safavid empire, David Yeroushalmi, The Jews of Iran in The Nineteenth Century: Aspects of History, Community, and Culture, BRILL, 2009, ISBN   978-90-04-15288-5, p. xxxix.
  10. "A Brief History of Bahrain".
  11. Cyrus Ghani (6 January 2001). Iran and the Rise of the Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power. I.B.Tauris. pp. 9–. ISBN   978-1-86064-629-4 . Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  12. Dowling, Timothy C. (2014). Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. ISBN   978-1-59884-948-6., page 728
  13. "Index Fa-Fi". Rulers. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  14. Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar, 'Mohammad Ali Shah: The Man and the King', in: Qajar Studies. Travellers and Diplomats in the Qajar Era. Journal of the International Qajar Studies Association, volume VII, 2007.
  15. Donzel, Emeri “van” (1994). Islamic Desk Reference. ISBN   90-04-09738-4. p. 285-286
  16. "BBC Persian". Retrieved 2017-05-18.
  17. Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar, 'Mohammad Ali Shah: The Man and the King', in: Qajar Studies. Travellers and Diplomats in the Qajar Era. Journal of the International Qajar Studies Association, volume VII, 2007.
  18. History of Iran: Qajar Dynasty
  19. Abrahamian 2013 , pp. 26–27: "A contemporary Iranian historian recently made the wild accusation that British food exactions to feed its army of occupation during World War I resulted in 10 million dead—half the population. He accuses the British government of "covering up" this "genocide" by systematically destroying annual reports. In fact, no annual reports on Iran were written from 1913 until 1922; the British expeditionary force of some 15,000 would not have required that much grain; and although as many as 2 million may have lost their lives in these years, the vast majority died not because of food exactions but from cholera and typhus epidemics, from a series of bad harvests, and, most important of all, from the worldwide 1919–20 influenza pandemic."
  20. Katouzian 2013 , p. 1934: "Russian Revolution of 1917 brought much relief to Iran after a century of imperial interference and intimidation. But it was followed by severe famine and the Spanish flu pandemic which, combined, took a high toll of around two million, mostly of the Iranian poor."
  21. Rubin 2015 , p. 508: "Despite Iran's official neutrality, this pattern of interference continued during World War I as Ottoman-, Russian-, British-, and German-supported local forces fought across Iran, wreaking enormous havoc on the country. With farmland, crops, livestock, and infrastructure destroyed, as many as 2 million Iranians died of famine at the war's end. Although the Russian Revolution of 1917 led to the recall of Russian troops, and thus gave hope to Iranians that the foreign yoke might be relenting, the British quickly moved to fill the vacuum in the north, and by 1918, had turned the country into an unofficial protectorate."
  22. Cyrus Ghani; Sīrūs Ghanī (6 January 2001). Iran and the Rise of the Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power. I.B.Tauris. pp. 147–. ISBN   978-1-86064-629-4.