Archaeological evidences and modern researches in history of Iran show that from 100,000 B.C., various ethnic groups with similar cultures lived on the Iranian Plateau. But very little has been known about these cultures until the Aryan migration about 90,000 years later. Nonetheless, archaeological discoveries have shown that the people, who lived in that area before the Aryans, were people of peace-loving, agricultural, and artistic nature.
In order to make it easier to learn about the history of Iran and to be able to have a brief idea of Iranian history, Iran Safar present this historical information in chronological order.
Linguistically, Iran means the land of Aryans, the eastern branch of Indo-Europeans. A group of Aryans (or Indo-Iranians) who migrated to the Iranian plateau around 2000 BCE from Central Asia, are thought to be the direct ancestors of modern Iranians, This has encouraged many historians to start the history of Iran from the Aryan migrations or the establishment of the first Aryan political power, the Achaemenid Empire. At the same time, it is true that long before the influx of Aryans into Iran, different peoples with established civilizations and kingdoms inhabited the country. These dynasties that deteriorated before the arrival of the Aryans or were defeated by them had an extensive system of international trade and relations with other civilizations of their time, as far west as Egypt and maybe Southern Europe and to China in the east.
708 – 550 BC
The Medes were an ethnic group of Aryan descent who settled in the western part of the Iranian plateau. The land of the Medes included the western part of the Iranian plateau. The land of Azerbaijan in the northwest of the Iranian plateau was known as Little Media and the rest of the Zagros region was known as Great Media. The capital of the Medes was ancient Hegmataneh – Present Hamadan. Deioces founded the Median Empire. The exact date of the era of Deioces’ rule is not clear and probably covered most of the first half of the seventh century BC. According to Herodotus, Deioces governed for 53 years.
The Assyrian kingdom, considered the most ruthless power at the time, fell to the Medes. Medes were able to establish the first state in the history of Iran in the late 8th century BC.
The Mede’s government was abolished by Cyrus the Great in around 550 BC, and the Median rule passed to the Persians.
The Achaemenid Persian Empire
The Achaemenid empire was the largest that the ancient world had seen, extending from Anatolia (current Turkey) and Egypt across western Asia to northern India and Central Asia. The foundation of Achaemenids began in 550 B.C., when King Astyages of Media, who dominated much of Iran and eastern Anatolia, was defeated by his southern neighbor (in a word, his grand son) Cyrus I, a Persia ruler (r. 559–530 B.C.). This upset the balance of power in the Near East. The Lydians of western Anatolia and The Babylonian Empire who controlled Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean territories were later conquered by Cyrus the great.
In 539 B.C. Cyrus entered Babylon and presented himself as a traditional Mesopotamian monarch, restoring temples and releasing political prisoners. The one western power that remained unconquered in Cyrus’ lightning campaigns was Egypt. This task was left to his eldest son and crown prince Cambyses to rout the Egyptian forces in the eastern Nile Delta in 525 B.C. After a ten-day siege, Egypt’s ancient capital Memphis fell to the Persians.
A crisis at court forced Cambyses to return to Persia but he died mysteriously en-route and his commander in chief Darius was crowned as the new king (r. 522–486 BC). Under Darius the great, the empire was stabilized, with roads for communication and a system of governors (satraps) established. He added northwestern India to the Achaemenid realm and initiated two major building projects: the construction of royal buildings at Susa and the creation of the new dynastic center of Persepolis, the buildings of which were decorated by Darius and his successors with stone reliefs and carvings. These show tributaries from different parts of the empire processing toward the enthroned king or conveying the king’s throne. The impression is of a harmonious empire supported by its numerous peoples. Darius also consolidated Persia’s western conquests in the Aegean. However, in 498 BC, the eastern Greek Ionian cities, supported in part by Athens, revolted. It took the Persians four years to crush the rebellion, although an attack against mainland Greece was repulsed at Marathon in 490 BC Darius’ son Xerxes (r. 486–465 BC) attempted to force the mainland Greeks to acknowledge Persian power, but Sparta and Athens refused to give way. Xerxes led his sea and land forces against Greece in 480 BC, defeating the Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae and sacking Athens. However, the Greeks won a victory against the Persian navy in the straits of Salamis in 479 BC. It is possible that at this point a serious revolt broke out in the strategically crucial province of Babylonia. Xerxes quickly left Greece and successfully crushed the Babylonian rebellion. However, the Persian army he left behind was defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC Much of our evidence for Persian history is dependent on contemporary Greek sources and later classical writers, whose main focus is the relations between Persia and the Greek states, as well as tales of Persian court intrigues, moral decadence, and unrestrained luxury. From these we learn that Xerxes was assassinated and was succeeded by one of his sons, who took the name Artaxerxes I (r. 465–424 BC). During his reign, revolts in Egypt were crushed and garrisons established in the Levant. The empire remained largely intact under Darius II (r. 423–405 BC), but Egypt claimed independence during the reign of Artaxerxes II (r. 405–359 BC). Although Artaxerxes II had the longest reign of all the Persian kings, we know very little about him. Writing in the early second century AD., Plutarch describes him as a sympathetic ruler and courageous warrior. With his successor, Artaxerxes III (r. 358–338 BC), Egypt was reconquered, but the king was assassinated and his son was crowned as Artaxerxes IV (r. 338–336 BC). He, too, was murdered and replaced by Darius III (r. 336–330 BC), a second cousin, who faced the army of Alexander the Great. Ultimately Darius III was murdered by one of his own generals, and Alexander claimed the Persian Empire.
Alexander of Macedonia, in battle against Darius III
312 – 63 BC
After Alexander’s death (323 BC), his conquered regions were divided among his generals, and most of his Asian conquests, of which Iran was the core, reached Seleucus I. Thus Iran came under the rule of the Seleucids (330-250 BC). Seleucids ruled over large parts of western Iran for eighty years, but there was almost no peace in their territory. After a while, the Parthians expanded their influence and finally they were able to destroy the Seleucids.
247 BC – 224 AD
The Parthian Empire, also known as the Arsacid Empire, was a great Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes from its founder, Arsaces I, who led the Parni tribe in conquering the region of Parthia in Iran’s northeast, then a province under a Seleucid governor called Andragoras, in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. Later, Mithridates I (r. c. 171–132 BC) expanded the boundaries 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 present-day Afghanistan and 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.
The Parthians valued the Greek civilization that had emerged in Iran during the Seleucid period. Some Parthian kings were well acquainted with Greek literature, and some Greek games were performed at the court of the Parthian kings. At that time, there was a parliament called Mahestan, which itself consisted of two parliaments, one was the aristocratic parliament and the other was the religious parliament of the Zoroastrian priests, which had a consultative aspect and did not have much influence in affairs.
The name “Sasanians” is derived from a Persian priest named Sasan, the ancestor of the dynasty. Sasan’s grandson Ardashir I defeated the last Parthian king Artabanus IV in 226. He took Ctesiphon, the capital of the Parthian empire and ended Parthian dynasty, Ardashir accepted the title of “king of kings”, which had until then been used by the Parthian kings and – centuries before – the Achaemenid rulers of Persia.
In the Sasanian rock reliefs and inscriptions, we often see “investiture scenes”, in which the god Ahuramazda, seated on a horse, hands over power to a king. These “Mazda-worshiping kings”, or believers in the supreme god Ahuramazda conferred many privileges to the Magians, the religious specialists of Zoroastrianism, who gained great political power by playing a role in the inauguration ceremony in Ctesiphon, served as judges and tax collectors.
As a consequence of this religious ideology, there was little room for alternative ideas. Christians were persecuted, and the prophet Mani (216-276), who had tried to combine Christianity, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism, was crucified.
The conflict with Rome, which had started in 231 with some fighting on the Euphrates, escalated under Ardashir’s son and successor Shapur I (r.241-272). According to Roman sources, he made territorial claims: he wanted to restore the Achaemenid Empire and demanded all Roman territories in Asia, a claim that was implied in his title “king of Iran and non-Iran”.
The Arab Rule
After the establishment of Islam in Iran, which occurred as a result of the victory of the Muslim Arabs over the Sassanids and their conquest of Iran, many changes in the social, religious and political spheres took place in the history of Iran.
Muslim domination of Iran was not easy. The cities soon accepted Muslim rule, but the countryside simply did not submit to their rule. The eastern parts of Iran, as well as Tabarestan and Gilan, were later occupied by the Muslims. They had to conquer a place many times.
Dissatisfied with the class discrimination in their country, the Iranians embraced Islam and sought to spread it, but they never hid their opposition to Umayyad and Abbasid rule in Iran, and formed independent movements that formed Governments such as Taherians (881-826 AD) and Saffarids (866-903 AD) can be considered as their results.
The Seljuk Empire (also Seljuqs or Seldjuks) , was a high medieval Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim empire. The Seljuks were a group of nomadic Turkish warriors from the Qiniq branch of Oghuz Turks from central Asia who established themselves in the Middle East during the 11th Century as guardians of the declining Abbasid caliphate. After 1037, they founded the great Seljuk Sultanate; an empire centered in Baghdad and including Iran, َAfghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
At the time of its greatest extent, the Seljuk Empire controlled a vast area, stretching from western Anatolia and the Levant in the west to the Hindu Kush in the east, and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf in the south.
The Seljuk empire was founded in 1037 by Tughril (990–1063) and his brother Chaghri (989–1060). From their homelands near the Aral Sea, the Seljuks advanced first into Khorasan and then into mainland Persia, before eventually conquering Baghdad and eastern Anatolia. The Seljuks won the battle of Manzikert in 1071, and then conquered most of the rest of Anatolia, wresting it from the Byzantine Empire. This was one of the impetuses for the First Crusade (1095–1099). The Seljuk empire began to decline in the 1140s, and by 1194 had been supplanted by the Khwarazmian Empire.
The Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of several nomadic tribes in the Mongol homeland under the leadership of Genghis Khan (c. 1162–1227), whom a council proclaimed as the ruler of all Mongols in 1206.
Under Genghis Khan, the Mongols first conquered northern China and then the eastern Islamic lands. The empire grew rapidly under his rule and that of his descendants, who sent out invading armies in every direction.
After Genghis Khan died in 1227, this golden dynasty passed to his family.
The Timurid Empire, self-designated as Gurkani, was a Persianate Turco-Mongol empire comprising modern-day Iranو Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, the southern region of the Caucasus, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, much of Central Asia, as well as parts of contemporary Russia, India, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey.
The empire was founded by Timur (also known as Tamerlane), a warlord of Turco-Mongol lineage, who established the empire between 1370 and his death in 1405. Timur acquired the title Gurkan, Mongolian term for ‘royal son-in-law’ because of his marriage to a Genghis Khan’s descendant.
Timeline of Iranian history
100,000 Evidence of man habitation in Zagros
8000E Development of settled village in Zagros
5500 The oldest settlements in Sialk, Central lran
4200 Susa is founded in southwestern Persia
3200-2700 Proto-Elamite period
2700 Elamite Kingdom with Susa as capital
2700-1600 Old Elamite period
1500-1100 Middle Elamite period
1100-539 Neo-Elamite periods
1000 birth of Zoroaster, Iranian prophet
708 Deioces founds Median Kingdom in Ecbatana
633 Scythian Invasion of Media
624 Medians defeat and oust the Scythians
558 Cyrus the Great moves the capital to Susa
546 Cyrus invades Lydia
539 Cyrus captures Babylon
539 Cyrus allows exiled Jews return to Jerusalem
529 Death of Cyrus the great
525 Cambyses conquers the conquet of Egypt
521 Death of Cambyses, son of Cyrus
521 Darius ascends the throne
514 Darius invades Scythia, Caucasus
494 Invasion of Greece by Darius
490 Defeat of Persians at the Battle of Marathon
486 Death of Darius I, Accession of Xerxes
484 Xerxes suppresses the revolt in Babylon
479 Battle of Plataea, Greek defeat of the Persians
405 The Persian Empire loses Egypt
404 Accession of Artaxerxes II to the throne
359 Accession of Artaxerxes III
342 Egypt is re-conquered
336 Darius III, ascends to the throne
334 Alexander the Great defeats the Persian army
330 Assassination of Darius III
327-326 Alexander invades India
323 Alexander returns to Babylon, and dies at 33
320Seleucus I (Nicator) founds the Seleucid Empire
247 Arsaces I (Arashk) founds the Parthian dynasty
214-17Birth of the prophet Mani
224 Establishment of the Sasanians by Ardashir I
241 Accession of Shapur I.
259 Emperor Valerianus is defeated by Shapur I.
274 or 277 Execution of Mani.
363 Julian killed in a war against Persia.
376 Peace established between Rome and Persia.
531 Massacre and suppression of the Mazdakites.
531 Administrative, military, and social reforms.
533 Peace with Byzantium.
570 Conquest of Yemen.
570 Birth of the Prophet Moḥammad.
611-16 Ḵosrow II’s conquest of Syria and Egypt.
622 Moḥammad’s move from Mecca to Medina,
632 Death of Prophet Moḥammad.
632-34 Abu Bakr’s caliphate.
633 Yazdegerd III succeeds to the Persian throne.
636 Persians are defeated by Arabs at Qadesiya.
637 Muslims capture Ctesiphon, the Sasanian capital
637 Arab Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia.
642 Defeat of Persians by Muslims at Nehavand.
651 Murder of Yazdegerd III; end of the Sasanians
656 Murder of Othman; Ali is chosen as caliph.
680 Revolt of Ḥusain b. Ali, the third Shiʿite Imam.
680 Death of Hussein at the battle of Karbala.
749 Abu Moslem’s army attacks the Omayyads.
750 Establishment of the Abbasid dynasty.
755 Murder of Abu Moslem by caliph Manṣur.
813 The pro-Persian Maʾmun is elected caliph.
820 Ṭaher establishes the Taherid dynasty.
833 Death of Maʾmun.
878 Mahdi, the twelfth Shiʿism disappears.
903 Rise of the Samanid dynasty.
925 Death of Abu Bakr Moḥammad Rāzi
935 foundation of the Buyid dynasty
940 Death of Rudaki “father of Persian poetry,”
977 Foundation of Ghaznavid dynasty.
999 Ferdowsi completes the first draft of Šāh-nāma.
1019 or 1025 Death of Persian poet, Ferdowsi
1037 Rise of the Saljuqids.
1037 Death of Avicenna, Persian physician.
1078-87 foundation of Ismailis by Ḥasan Ṣabbaḥ
1132 Death of Omar Khayyam
1157 End of Saljuks, rise of the Ḵharazmshahians
1209 Death of Neẓāmi Ganjavi, prominent poet.
1220 Genghis Khan overthrows the Ḵharazmshah
1221 Death of Farid-al-Din Aṭṭar, mystic poet.
1227 Genghis Khan dies
1258 End of the Abbasid caliphate
1271 Marco Polo journeys through Persia
1273 Death of Jalal-al-Din Rumi, poet
1313-93 Mozaffarid dynasty in Yazd and Fars
1370 Timur becomes head of Ulus Chagatai, and begins to develop Samarkand as his capital
1385-6 Timur conquers western Iran; beginning of conflict with his protégé, Tokhtamysh, whom he had helped become Khan of the Golden Horde.
1393 Timur defeats the Mozaffarids
1397 Timur invades India
1405 Death of Timur
1500-06 Overthrow of the Timurids
1501 Esmaʿil I establishes the Safavid dynasty
1502-24 Esmaʿil I establishes Shiʿite official religion.
1507 Portuguese fleet occupies Hormuz.
1508 Safavid forces capture Iraq.
1514 Chaldoan battle;Selim I defeats Esmaʿil.
1514-20 Ottoman economic boycott of Persia.
1548 Ṭahmasb transfers his capital to Qazvin.
1585 Ottomans invade Persia and occupy Tabriz.
1588 Accession of Abbas I (the Great).
1590 Shah Abbas makes peace with the Ottomans.
1598 Shah Abbas’ victory over the Uzbeks.
1600 Shah Abbas transfers his capital to Isfahan.
1601-03 Shah Abbas occupies Bahrain.
1603 War with Ottomans; Abbas retakes Tabriz.
1603-04 deportation of Armenians to New Julfa.
1622 Persians oust the Portuguese from Hormuz.
1629 Death of Shah Abbas I.
1630 The Ottomans capture Hamadan.
1638 The Ottomans capture Erevan and Tabriz.
1664 First Russian mission sent to Isfahan.
1664 A French trade mission is sent to Persia.
1697-1701 The Safavids control Basra.
1722 The Afghans under Maḥmud invade Isfahan.
1722-30 The Afghans occupy much of Persia.
1723 The Russians occupy Rasht and Baku.
1723 Ottomans occupy Georgia and Hamadan.
1724 Maḥmud captures Shiraz.
1725 The Ottomans occupy Ganja and Tabriz.
1729 Nader defeats Afghans.
1733 Nader ends the Ottoman occupation.
1734 Nader invades the Caucasus,Baku, Erevan.
1736 Nader is proclaimed Shah; end of Safavids.
1738 Nader Shah occupies Qandahar.
1739 Nader invades India.
1740 Nader Shah conquers Bukhara and Ḵiva.
1747 Assassination of Nader Shah.
1758 Karim Khan becomes ruler of Persia.
1779 Karim Khan dies at the age of 80.
1783 The Persians are driven from Bahrain.
1794 Aqa Moḥammad Khan establishes Qajar.
1796 Coronation of Aqa Moḥammad Khan.
1797 Assassination of Aqa Moḥammad Khan.
1810 First Persian students are sent to Europe.
1812 Treaty of friendship between Persia and Britain.
1813 First war with Russia; Abbas Mirza is defeated.
1813 Treaty of Golestan; Persia cedes Georgia.
1826 Second war with Russia; defeat of Persians.
1826 Turkmenchay treaty with Russia.
1836 Rebellion of Aqa Khan against government.
1844 Foundation of Babi movement.
1848 Accession of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah.
1850 Execution of the Bab by order of Amir Kabir.
1850 Amir Kabir is exiled to Kashan.
1851 Inauguration of the Dār-al-Fonun College.
1852 Execution of Amir Kabir iby Naṣer-al-Din Shah.
1852 Massacre of the Babis by Naṣer-al-Din Shah.
1857 Shah recognizes independence of Afghanistan.
1860 Freemasonry is introduced in Persia.
1891 tobacco boycott by Mirzā Ḥasan Shirzi.
1892 Death of Baha Allah, founder of the Bahāis.
1896 Assassination of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah.
1904 Tea plant seed is imported from India.
1906 First formation of a national assembly.
1906 The first Majles opens on October 7.
1908 Excavation of oil at Masjed-e Solayman.
1908 movement of Sattar Khan and Baqer Khan.
1909 Execution of Shaikh Fażl-Allāh Nuri.
1909 Formation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company..
1915 Movement of Mirza Kuchak Khan in Gilan.
1915 British forces enter Bushehr.
1916 Russian forces occupy Qom and Kashan.
1920 Mirza Kuchak Khan occupies Rasht.
1921 Reza Khan defeats Kuchak Khan.
1921 Founding of the Qom religious center.
1923 Reza Khan assumes the premiership.
1923 Aḥmad Shah leaves for Europe,
1925 Parliament approves the deposing of Aḥmad Shah.
1925 Reza Khan is elected Shah.
1928 Formation of Bank-e Melli (National Bank).
1928 Bandar-e Anzali is renamed Bandar-e Pahlavi.
1930 Political relations established with Japan.
1934 Reza Shah visits Turkey and Kemal Ataturk.
1935 Inauguration of the University of Tehran.
1935 Adoption of Western-style uniform dress
1935 Uprising in the Gowharshad Mosque.
1936 Women are banned from wearing veil (chador).
1939 Prince Moḥammad Reza marries Fawzia.
1939 Iran declares its neutrality in the World War II.
1941 Reza Shah is overthrown
1943 Tehran Conference.
1944 Death of Reza Shah in Johannesburg.
1948 The Shah and Queen Fawzia divorce.
1950 Military agreement between Iran and US.
1951 Shah marries Sorayya Esfandiari.
1951 The Oil Nationalization Law is passed.
1951 Moṣaddeq is named prime minister.
1952 Moḥammad Moṣaddeq resigns.
1953 Dismission of Mosaddegh by Shah.
1957 Formation of SAVAK, Iranian secret police.
1959 The Shah marries Farah Diba.
1960 Inauguration of the Central Bank of Iran.
1962 Inauguration of Iran Air, the national airline.
1962 Formation of the Iran National Car Company.
1964 Ayatollah Khomeini is exiled to Turkey.
1966 National Iranian television begins broadcasting.
1967 Death of Moḥammad Moṣaddeq.
1971 Iran occupies Abu Musa Island.
1971 Celebrations of 2,500th anniversary of foundation of the Persian monarchy
1972 President Richard Nixon visits Iran.
1979 Islamic revolution