History of Iran Before and During Islamic Era
History of Iran before the Islamic era
Special features of the country’s history
Regardless of Iran’s rather troubled recent past, the ‘own’ history plays a central role in the self- image of many Iranians today. The vast majority of them see themselves as part of one of the oldest civilized peoples on earth, and not infrequently as direct heirs of the ancient Persian empires, in view of the fact that civilization goes back thousands of years. Therefore, sooner or later many conversations with Iranians will focus on history – specifically the Iranian view of this history. If most Iranians have this attitude towards their own history in common, their ideological attitude is often reflected in which epochs of the past are given particular importance.
Iran in pre-Islamic times
Around 550 BC Chr. Established Cyrus the kingdom of Achaemenidae, commonly referred to as the first Persian United Kingdom. After the conquest of Babylon in 539 BC Large parts of what is now the Middle East fell to him. For at least a time, the empire he had created stretched from what is now Libya to the Indus and from the Upper Nile to the steppes of Central Asia. In this context, the disputes are particularly well known in Germanythe Achaemenids with the Greek city-states of Asia Minor and today’s Greece in the 5th century BC BC, which are also part of history lessons in this country. If they are dealt with there, however, the Persians only have the rather static role of the enemy of the Greeks; there is no more detailed study of the Achaemenid empire.
The Greek campaigns of the Achaemenid rulers, more precisely the way they were dealt with, even caused a diplomatic protest by the Iranian government at the United Nations in 2007. The reason was the (in fact unflattering) portrayal of the Persians in the Hollywood film 300, which caused protests in Iran far beyond the government camp.
The end of this empire came through Alexander the Great, who formed the Achaemenid army in 333 BC BC near Issus (in today’s East Turkey; many still known from the school “333 near Issus brawl”) defeated most of the former Achaemenid areas, including their most important cities Babylon, Susa, Ekbatana, Pasargadae and the capital within a few years Persepolis, incorporated into his empire.
The two later known dynasties of pre-Islamic Iran, the Parthians and Sassanids, to which the second Persian empire is ascribed today, both tried to build on the size of their predecessors, but this did not succeed (at least in retrospect).
The Islamic Epoch of Iran
After the defeat in the Battle of Qadisiyya (near the city of Hilla in what is now Iraq) in AD 636, the Sassanid Empire collapsed within just a few years. Today’s Iran became part of the Umayyad Caliphate and later their successors, the Abbasids. These originally Arab empires were more and more dominated in the course of the 11th century by Turkish nomads from the steppes of Central Asia, who had also brought the Persian-speaking areas under their control. At their courts, above all under the Seljuks, and at those of the Persian local dynasties in the east of today’s Iran, a revival of Persian court culture and language soon began.
The third Persian empire: the Safavids
The rulers of this dynasty were often said to have laid the foundation for what is now Iran. After Esmail I had himself proclaimed Shah in Tabriz in 1501, he established an empire in the following years, the extent of which roughly corresponds to the area of today’s Iran (an area, of course, that was already under the Mongols in the 13th and 14th centuries Was part of a common domain). Of even greater importance in the long term was Esmail I’s decision to make Shiite Islam the official religion of his empire (although the majority of the population remained Sunni for a long time). In addition to the first ruler of this dynasty, his great-grandson Abbas I.(r. 1587-1629) of importance. His military and economic reforms turned the rulers’ association of the 16th century, which was heavily dependent on the messianic charisma of the ruler, into a comparatively centralized empire of the early modern period; and its policies promoted both ancient Iranian heritage and Shiite Islam, uniting both in a form that continues to shape Iran to this day.
Iran under the Qajars
According to estatelearning, after several local dynasties split power in (today’s) Iran in the 18th century, Agha Mohammad Khan conquered the country from 1796 and founded the Qajar dynasty. He made a small town in the north, Tehran, his capital. A development began under the Qajars in the late 19th century that changed Iranian history for a long time and continues to occupy not a few Iranians today: the interference of the great European powers. While Iran was one of the few countries in the world that was never officially a colony, the English and Russians in particular got it so much influence on the fortunes of the country that the Qajar rulers could no longer pursue independent politics. For a long time, understood by the English as a spatial protection of the Indian colonies, Iran moved into the center of European interest when oil was found there at the beginning of the 20th century. The means of the Europeans to secure influence, among other things, were contracts, the European companies secured raw material rights in Iran. This also made it clear to many ordinary Iranians that European influence was damaging to their interests. Shiite religious and legal scholars soon took the lead in the protest movement that was establishing itself.