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Archive for November 2011

Iranian history

Iranian history represents a rich blend of legend, mythology, recorded fact and living tradition. Several civilizations have risen in various parts of the country at different times, each leaving its own impression on the subsequent development of Iranian history. The oldest known civilization in Iran is that of Elam in the 10th century B.C. and the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C. Other major Iranian civilizations are Media, Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanians. Unfortunately, most of the landmarks of these civilizations were demolished during the Arab and subsequent Mongol and Tatar invasions. The 16th century Safavids civilizations that has the most lasting number of monuments has inherited from both Persian civilization and its invaders. Many other dynasties and monarchies succeeded the country until the Pahlavi, that was once again demolished by the Islamic Revolution under the leadership of Imam Khomeini, in a way similar to its predecessors. Iran has a long history of almost 7,000 years since the Aryans emigrated to the Iran Heights. Aryans gave their name to this land and called it “land of Aryans” or Iran. Achaemenid appeared in the 550 B.C. was the first unified dynasty and until it was conquered by Alexander of Macedonia (Eskandar e Maghdooni) in 330 B.C., Iran prospered as “The Great Persian Empire” for more than two centuries. Contributions of the Achaemenians to the worlds culture are numerous. Cyrus (Xerxes) The Great (550 B.C.) was the first emperor who conquered Elam and gave Jews freedom. He was also the first one who declared and practiced human rights. In the Great Persia Empire from East China to Libya, many nations were coexisting and all were declared free to pactice their own religion and follow their own traditions and customs. Daryush The Great (500 B.C.) was the first emperor who commited to digging the ancient Suez Channel, joining the Red and Mediteranian sea. There are many landmarks left from the Achaemenian period mostly in Persepolis and Naghshe-rostam near present Shiraz.






Mesopotamia and Elam


The cultural development or Sumer and Elam ran parallel. A script was in use in Elam (Kerman) simultaneous to the first pictorial writing in Ur (3000 B.C.). Temple structures in both areas had the same ziggurat form, the man-made mountain reminiscent of their highland origins. Many cultic and religious habits were the same throughout Mesopotamia; the snake cult of Elam however was distinct and foreign.

Elam controlled the plain between the Zagros Mountains and the swamps of the two rivers as well as the entire Iranian Plateau to the great salt desert. This gave the Elamites great advantages, as suppliers of gold, timber, stone and other basic raw materials which had to be imported by the civilizations in the alluvial plain. At times, when the lowlands of Elam were overrun by invaders from Mesopotamia, indigenous Elamite dynasties recovered the loss after weathering the storm by withdrawing to the mountains. While dynasties and population groups in Mesopotamia changed drastically, Elam retained continuity.

Metallurgy and the introduction of the chariot introduced revolutionary changes. Dependence on horses and metals from the mountains of Iran and Eastern Anatolia grew, and control of the source was vital. Larger armies could be formed and greater distances covered. The spoils accrued by successful war became ever more luring.

The basic policy however remained the same and the cruelty displayed in the magnificent relieves of Khorsabad and Nineveh bears mute witness: heaps of bodies floating down river, burning cities, enslaved populations, beasts loaded with loot underscore the terror. The king is glorified for his prowess with the chariot and his skill in killing lions.

Two important changes occurred after 1000 B.C. The rivers pushed the land further out into the Persian Gulf and fused to form the Arvand Rood. The swamps receded down river. This changed and weakened the strategic position of Elam.

By 850 additional small tribal groups of Aryan stock, including Persians and Medes, infiltrated the mountains of Kurdistan and Fars, ringing Elam. The pattern of their nomadic life centered around herding of animals from the warm winter pastures on the fringes of the plain to the rich green meadows of the mountains in summer, thus avoiding the parched land and heat of the lowlands of Mesopotamia and Elam in summer.

Internecine strife between small tribal bands over migration routes, water-holes and better pastures prevented any large-scale concerted action. However, groups banded together to raid the trade caravans bringing goods to the plains. Occasionally small settlements were robbed. The association with established cultures of Urartu, Elam, Babylonia and Assyria affected tribal life but little. Tribal manpower however was used as levies in the armies and the naturally truculent tribesmen learned the finer arts of warfare.

The supply of horses and metals from the mountains was so crucial that the superpower of the day (800-600 B.C.), Assyria, was forced to take steps to protect its trade routes. Attempts were made to control the entire axis of the Mediterranean harbors and the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Great successes were achieved by Assyria under great leadership. It is known from the clay-tablet records, with details often filled in by archaeological excavations, that the Babylonians and Elamites formed a defensive union and prolonged war started. Assyria, after successfully attacking Egypt, launched a large-scale amphibian invasion with a substantial fleet through the head waters of the Persian Gulf on the shores of Elam. This invasion was repelled (698), but a new attack was mounted two generations later, when there was serious internal strife and conflict over the royal succession in Elam. The Elamites army with its Persian tribal levies was decisively defeated in the battle of the Ulai River (652). Shortly thereafter Babylon was invested, Elam completely destroyed (639) and the Chaldeans of Ur were pushed into the swamps.

This did not overcome Assyria’s problem with the Iranian mountain tribes, the roving Sumerians and Scythes and Medes, nor with the urbanized Urartians. The trade routes through Asia Minor remained insecure. Assyrian armies assaulted the mountains, roaming far and wide, through Kurdistan, Armenia, to Mount Ararat. They destroyed the cities of the established highland civilizations, weakening especially Urartu.

The tribes eluded them completely, fading into the mountains on the news of the arrival of any large army. Tribal life however was markedly changed. A tribal leader was elected, the migration routes controlled, internecine strife quelled. The destruction of the controlling forces of urban-agricultural Urartu and Elam liberated the tribal Persians and the Medes from many restrictions and the nomadic population and power grew by leaps and bounds. Great areas which were until that time under intense cultivation are still today nomadic grazing grounds, and the political problem created by the decline of Elamites power is still being felt. The tribal leaders now accepted the title of Kings. (It is important to note that the king always had to be of royal family. The fate of the tribe, however, is so important that it cannot be handed to just any member of the family. The best possible man is selected by consensus from several royal candidates. This explains the rather startling shifts in family relationship amongst the early Achaemenian kings).

Achaemenes had become king of the Persians just prior to the showdown between the Assyrians and Elamites (700). The Assyrian commander who destroyed Elam (639) met with Cyrus I in the area of today’s city of Behbahan and accepted his son as hostage. The Persians were biding their time. Their enlarged kingdom was temporarily divided between two grandsons of Achaemenes - Cyrus I and Ariaramnes - as kings, respectively, of Parsumash and Parsa.

Assyria had extended its power to the limits. The Chaldean kings of Sumer revitalized Babylon. A Babylonian and Medic coalition attacked Nineveh and Khorsabad and destroyed the royal Assyrian cities and Assyrian power (612). Neobabylonia expanded, opened the sea route through the Mediterranean, fruitlessly attacked Egypt but did not attempt to force the mountains where Cambyses, son of Cyrus I, had inherited the crowns of Parsumash and Parsa and reigned as King of Anzan (600-559).


Zakariya Razi

Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi, known as Al-Razi, as Ar-Razi, as Ibn Zakaria (Zakariya) or (in Latin) as Rhazes and Rasis, (8641-930 AD) was an Iranian polymath who contributed much to the fields of medicine and chemistry.

He was also significant in the field of philosophy.

He was born in Rayy (Rages) (actually, in Persian language Razi means from the city of Ray), an ancient city located near Tehran, Iran, and pursued a great amount of his research there. Note that Avicenna also lived in Ray for a period of time.

Razi was placed in-charge of the first Royal Hospital at Ray, from where he soon moved to a similar position in Baghdad where he remained the head of its famous Muqtadari Hospital and observed clinical cases. Today his name is commemorated in the Razi Institute near Tehran.

Razi was a Hakim, an alchemist and a philosopher. Before becoming a physician Razi was interested in music, he was well versed in the musical theory and is said to have been an exceptional performer.

He is considered one of the greatest alchemist of all time and his work remained in use for over 10 centuries. Inter alia he discovered alcohol, the use of alcohol in medicine, and he also discovered Sulfuric acid. Many also claim that he was the first to say that the world is round, but this was known much earlier, e.g. see Ptolemy.

Razi wrote 184 books and articles, in several fields of science. His books and articles are named by Ibn Abi Asi’boed.

Ibn an-Nadim identifies five areas in which Razi distinguished himself:

1. Razi was recognized as the best physician of his time who had fully absorbed Greek medical learning.

2. He traveled in many lands. His repeated visits to Baghdad and his services to many princes and rulers are known from many sources.

3. He was a medical educator who attracted many students, both beginners and advanced.

4. He was compassionate, kind, upright, and devoted to the service of his patients whether rich or poor.

5. He was a prolific reader and writer and authored many books.


Norooz History - New Years Roots

The word Norooz meaning New Day, is the most anticipated and favorite celebration for Iranians. It occurs exactly on the Spring Equinox. This occasion has been renowned in one form or another by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. Sumerians, 3000 BC, Babylonians, the ancient kingdom of Elam in Southern Persia and Akaddians in the second millennium BC, all celebrated this festival. What we celebrate today as Norooz (Also spelled Now Ruz, Norooz or Norouz) has been around for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrians of the Sassanian period.

The concepts of Hell, Heaven, Resurrection, the coming of the Messiah, individual and last judgment are the foundation for the » Read more


Zoroastrianism was the religion of Iran before the conquest of Islam in the seventh century AD. The architect of this religion, Zoroaster created many feasts and celebrations to pay homage to many deities and yazata (Izads) who symbolized all forces beneficial to humans. Amongst all these festivals seven were regarded as feasts of obligation. They are known as ‘gahambars’ and are dedicated to Ahura Mazda, the lord of wisdom and the six holy immortals, i.e. Amesha Spentas, protectors of the seven creations (sky, waters, earth, fire, plants, animals and humans). The other important festivals are devoted to the major Izads such as Mihr, at Mihregan and Tiri at Tiragan.  » Read more

Foreign trade

Petroleum dominates Iran’s exports, making up 85 percent of export earnings. In 2002 Iran exported 765 million barrels of crude oil per day. Major nonoil exports include carpets, chemicals, steel, fresh and dried fruits, nuts, and animal hides. The country’s leading purchasers are Japan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Italy, and China. Since the value of Iran’s imports generally is less than the value of its exports, the country maintained a favorable balance of trade for most years since the 1980s. Principal imports include machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, iron and steel, and food products. Primary suppliers of imports are Germany, South Korea, UAE, Italy, and France. » Read more


In the 1980s and 1990s Iran built several new natural gas, combined cycle (using both gas and steam), and hydroelectric power stations, dramatically increasing electric power output. Thermal plants supply 93 percent of the country’s electricity, and hydroelectric facilities provide most of the rest. In 1975 the government began building a nuclear power plant at Būshehr, on the Persian Gulf coast. The partially completed plant was bombed during the war with Iraq. In 1995 Russia signed an agreement to finish construction of the plant. » Read more

Iran-Iraq war

Iran-Iraq War, armed conflict that began when Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 and ended in August 1988 after both sides accepted a cease-fire sponsored by the United Nations (UN). The war was one of the longest and most destructive of the 20th century, with likely more than one million casualties. Despite the conflict’s length and cost, neither Iran nor Iraq made significant territorial or political gains, and the fundamental issues dividing the countries remained unresolved at the end of the war.


Currency and banking

Iran’s unit of currency is the rial. The official exchange rate averaged 9,171 rials to the U.S. dollar in 2006. However, rials are exchanged on the unofficial market at a much higher rate. In 1979 the government nationalized all private banks and announced the establishment of a banking system whereby, in accordance with Islamic law, interest on loans was replaced with handling fees; the system went into effect in the mid-1980s. The banking system consists of the central bank, which issues currency; several commercial banks that are headquartered in Tehrān but have branches throughout the country; two development banks; and a housing bank that specializes in home mortgages. The government began to privatize the banking sector in 2001, when it issued licenses to two new privately owned » Read more