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  • 12/12/2011

Iran, a Brief History

part 2


Cyrus’s Cylinder, 6th century BC. British Museum

The Macedonian domination of Iran lasted until the Mid-Second Century BC, when simultaneous pressure from the east (Parthia) and the west (Rome) weakened their rule and they were defeated by the Next Iranian dynasty, the Parthian or Arsacid, named after Arsaces, the founder of their dynasty. Originally, from Parthia in Northeast Persia, they ruled over a great multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society and exerted great influence over Armenia, Syria and Asia Minor.

Achaemenid and the following dynasties, Seleucid and Arsacid (Parthian), did not create theocratic states, though they did encourage religious institutions, build magnificent temples and introduce major changes with respect to calendar and scripture. This was first attempted by the Sasanian, but was completed and achieved by the later Muslim dynasties. From the Sasanian times onwards, Iranian culture became increasingly religious. These people were the hereditary guardians of a great temple of Anahita (Nahid, a major female deity) at the city of Istakhr in Pars. Ardeshir, the first major king from this dynasty made great use of religious propaganda as a mean to establish his rule over the vast Empire he conquered in the Third Century AD.

The result was the establishment of a single Zoroastrian church, under the direct and authoritarian control of Persia. A single canon of Avestan texts ‘Dinkard’ was established and replaced by the fraternity of regional texts and communities. A strong, unified and growing body of disciplined priests strengthened the church and implemented the religious codes and observances with great efficiency. Gradually these priests managed to dominate many aspects of the private and public lives of the ordinary citizens.

The conquest of Persia by the Muslim forces from Arabia in the 7th century introduced many changes. Politically the country became fragmented; the powerful centralized state was lost. For centuries the country was ruled by different feudal and warlords from Arab, Turkish, Mogul and occasionally Persian origins. Semi-autonomous kingdoms were formed, with the Muslim caliphs in Damascus in Syria or Baghdad as the ultimate source of authority. Wars for Independence were fought and lost. Culturally, significant attempts were made to preserve the language, heritage and the national identity. Through the unprecedented translation movement of the 8th to 10th centuries AD, a great variety of books on sacred and secular sciences were translated from Persian, Syriac, Greek and Indian sources into Arabic to preserve ancient knowledge and national identities throughout the Muslim Empire.

The advent of Islam slowly but drastically changed the religious character of the country. Some of the most important doctrines of Islam – such as belief in Heaven and Hell, the end of the world and the Day of the Judgment – were derived indirectly but ultimately from Zoroastrianism. As a result, they were disarmingly familiar, as were certain Muslim practices: the five times of daily prayer (also adopted from Zoroastrianism), and the injunction to give alms. However, there were major changes in doctrine, and use of Arabic for all religious and administrative functions and the new fate could have meant the loss of national identity altogether. Persians survived by adopting the Arabic script (Aramaic in origin) while maintaining the phonetics and thus saving the ancient language from extinction.

Conversion meant changes not only in doctrine but also in practices and rituals. The many kindly deities (eyzads) to whom the Zoroastrians had turned for help had to be renounced. Instead of the celebration of holy days””with many joyful observances, feasts, music, plays and parties””there were Friday prayers at the mosques, confronting a stone facing ‘qibla’ (direction to Mecca) instead of a bright leaping flame. There were no public dancing or music, theaters were closed down, and the veiling and segregation of sexes was introduced.

by: Massoume Price

Source: cultureofiran.com

Other Links:

Jade in Iran (part 4)

History of Iranian-Georgian Reations (part 1)

History of Iranian-Georgian Reations (part 2)

History of Iranian-Georgian Reations (part 3)

History of Iranian-Georgian Reations (part 4)

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