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After much drama, Cyrus Cylinder lands in Iran

Posted by Prince of Persia in Oct 02, 2010, under Art & Culture of Iran, Historic and Iranian Personalities

After much controversy and delay, a clay cylinder from the 6th century B.C. celebrating King Cyrus II the Great of Persia’s conquest of Babylon in cuneiform script has arrived in Iran to be displayed in the National Museum for the next 4 months.

The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered by a British Museum archaeologist in the ruins of Babylon in 1879 and has been on display at the museum ever since. It has only traveled twice, in 2006 to Spain, and one notable 2-week visit to Iran in 1971, where it was the centerpiece of Shah Reza Pahlavi’s celebration of 2,500 years of Persian monarchy.

The Shah was very keen to pain his regime as an unbroken continuation of that of Cryus the Great, and he promoted the Cylinder as the original declaration of human rights. In a 1967 book about the White Revolution (his 1963 program of reforms) he said: “the history of our empire began with the famous declaration of Cyrus, which, for its advocacy of humane principles, justice and liberty, must be considered one of the most remarkable documents in the history of mankind.”

The problem is there actually isn’t anything in the Cylinder text about human rights. The inscription details Cyrus’ royal genealogy and sings his praises for restoring local gods to their hometowns, freeing forced laborers (the Book of Ezra says this included the Jews who had been captured by Nebuchadnezzar 50 years earlier), rebuilding Babylon and just generally being so way more awesome than Nabonidus, the Babylonian low-born usurper he defeated at the personal behest of the god Marduk. It’s a classic piece of Mesopotamian style propaganda: praise the new guy and bury it in the foundations of the temple of Marduk. Nabonidus had done the same thing using similar language when he took over, as had his predecessors for a couple of thousand years.

Shah Pahlavi’s use of it to legitimize his own rule was quite congruent with its original intent, and in some ways it worked. The “first declaration of human rights” label stuck, for instance, and you’ll see it all over the articles today about the arrival of the Cylinder in Tehran. In 1971, there was a furor in the press at the time demanding the “return” of the Cylinder to Iran, despite the fact that it was found in what is now Iraq, is all about Babylon and was legally exported.

After the British Museum got it back — not without some difficulty — the board decided it would be unwise to lend it to Iran again. That’s where things stood until 2005, when the British Museum put on a major exhibition about the Persian Empire in collaboration with the Iranian government. Iran loaned the museum several important artifacts under a reciprocal agreement that the Cyrus Cylinder would be loaned back to them.

In early 2009, the British Museum announced the Cylinder would be loaned to Iran for 3 months later in the year. After the June protests and violence in the wake of the disputed reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the museum backtracked. They decided it would be safer to delay the loan.

Iran was less than pleased. The government threatened to cut off all ties with the museum unless they got the as-promised loan within 2 months. Another display date was set (January 2010) and that deadline too passed, this time ostensibly because the British Museum found some other fragments with the same text and wanted to compare them to the Cylinder. They rescheduled the loan for July, but Iran was not mollified.

In February, Iran announced it was making good on its threat and cutting off ties with the museum. In April, the National Museum of Iran demanded the British Museum replay them for the $300,000 cost of a special display case built to show the Cyrus Cylinder. That was the last I’d heard of the controversy until today when articles popped up all over the place announcing the arrival of the Cylinder in Tehran.

The British Museum sent a delegation of experts/babysitters along with it, probably to ensure they actually get it back.

Cyrus Cylinder, front
Cyrus Cylinder, back

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Posted by Prince of Persia in Aug 16, 2010, under Uncategorized

The images of the posts will be recovered soon

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The Origins of Aryan People

Posted by Prince of Persia in Jul 10, 2010, under Historic and Iranian Personalities

By: M. Sadeq Nazmi-Afshar

I am Dariush, the great king, the king of kings
The king of many countries and many people
The king of this expansive land,
The son of Wishtaspa of Achaemenid,
Persian, the son of a Persian,
‘Aryan’, from the Aryan race

“From the Darius the Great’s Inscription in Naqshe-e-Rostam”

The above scripture is one of most valid written evidences of the history of the Aryan race, and as can be seen, Darius I (Dariush in persian), the Achaemenian king, in the 5th century BCE, declares himself a Persian and form the Aryan race. Herodotus, the father of history, writes (in his book: “History of Herodotus“) at the same times: “In ancient times, the Greeks called Iranians “Kaffe”, but they were renowned as Aryans among themselves and their neighbors”. In another part of his book, Herodotus writes that the Medians were known as Aryans during a certain period. So in two of the oldest written human documents, the race of the Iranians have been mentioned as Aryan.

On the other hand, in many contemporary books, one reads that the Aryans were not original residents of the land of Iran, and that they migrated to Iran from Central Asia or somewhere in the north of Europe. The point is that if some of the oldest written records of the human history confirm that the residents of the Iranian Plateau were Aryans, why should some claim otherwise?

We will discuss the origins of the Iranian race, and we will try to shed light on some unknown corners of history, which has been mixed with ignorance and lies.

We want to extract the facts out of centuries and millennia and out of paleontological studies, old and new, to prove that Iran is the original land of the Aryan race, that this people has never migrated to any other land, and it has defended its homelands for centuries on end.

There are all numerous reasons that the Aryan race has undergone its evolution from the primitive man to the white man in the Iranian Plateau. These reasons can be categorized as historical, geographical, mythological, anthropological and linguistically.

Against the reasons we will discuss, no valid evidence has been produced to prove that the Aryans migrated from Central Asia or any other place to Iran. What European historians have written in this regard is based on unscientific and unproven hypotheses influenced by anti-Iranian and political ideas.

The reason for the migration of Aryans from Iran to other places of the world should be searched in climatic events. At the end of Ice Age, as a result of excessive rainfall on the Alborz and Zagros Mountains and the melting of the ice accumulated on the mountains, the rivers flowing through the Iranian Plateau were much larger than they are today. Therefore there was a large lake in the place where to day is the Central Desert. One of the most interesting mythological texts says in this regard:

“…In the second phase of the creation of the world, Ahura Mazda created the waters, and the waters flowed towards Farakhekrat Sea which covers one third of the world from the southern outskirts of Alborz.” With the continuous warming of the earth and the decrease in rainfall, this lake gradually dried up and the peoples living around it, who had a common language and Aryan culture, was forced to migrate from Iran. The routes of this great migration are an evidence for the central position of Iran, for the Aryan peoples have set Iran as the center and set out on migration in any direction.

As a matter of fact, many Western historians have declined to accept the politicized version of history, admitting that Iran was the origin of the Aryan race.

Hegel writes in his book The Philosophy of history: “The principle of evolution begins with the history of Iran”. Another prominent orientologist says that: A large part of our cultural and material legacy was unveiled in southwestern Asia the center of which was Iran.” Petri, in a famous speech, said that “When Egypt had only just begun the art of pottery, the people of Susa (in Iran) were painting beautiful pictures on ceramics.” this shows that the Iranian civilization was 3,000 years ahead of that of Egypt, dating back at least to 12,000 years ago. In other words, when Central Asia was totally buried under thick layers of ice, Iranians were creating pictures on earthenware, which indicates their art and creativity.

Considering the existence of this 12,000 years-old civilization in Iran, would it not be unlikely that 6,000 years ago, a group of people spontaneously crossed the ice covered Siberian lands, suddenly wiping such a civilization off the earth. The word Aryan has roots in world that Iranians called themselves by Ayria, meaning free, noble and steady. The world Iran is derived from this very root, having been transformed from to Ayran Iran, meaning the land of the Aryans. This is the most ancient term applied to the Iranian Plateau, and such a term has never been detected anywhere else in the world, e.g. Europe or Turkistan.

The myth of Aryan’s migration to Iran implies that a people have come to Iran from a remote land, giving their name to an already inhabited land which had no name, and that no trace of their name has been remained in their name has been remained in their original homeland. In historical records, Central Asia has been mentioned as the land of Sakas, Masagets, Touran, Soghd, Kharazm, Khiveh, and Turkistan, none of which words has any relation to the word Aryan.

Paleontology is one of the sciences that confirm the formation of the white race in Ian. The Homo sapiens evolved from its Neanderthal ancestors in a 30,000- year process between 50,000 to 20,000 years ago. In the Hutu and Kamarband caves near Behshahr, Iran, bones of men from different historical periods have been found, showing that a kind of human race has continuously dwelled in this area and evolved, meaning that there has been no migration.

In Babylonian and Assyrian sources, one of the largest ancient Iranian tribes has been mentioned as Kas Su, Kassi and Kashi, which in ancient languages and also in the modern language of the people of Gilan means fair-eyed and fair-faced. The name of central city of Kashan (Kassan) is a relic of this ancient Aryan tribe. Many relics of the Kassi tribe has also been found in the Khorramabad region, including paintings in the cave of Dusheh which date back to 15,000 BC. In these paintings, people can be seen riding horses. This is a very valid evidence against the erroneous theories which say that the Aryans brought the horse form Central Asia to Iran around 4,000 BC. Like its ancient riders, the horse is indigenous to Iran since at least 17,000 years ago.

Geology and meteorology confirm the evolution of man in the Iranian Plateau. The supporters of the theory of the migration of the Aryans from the north to Iran assume that with the fall in the temperature during the ice age, men were forced to migrate from the north (Central Asia) to the south (Iran). But the homo race was formed at the end of the third ice age, i.e. when the weather was gradually warming from the south to the north. Therefore, it would have been natural for people to migrate from south to north, and not the other way round. In fact, Central Asia was not habitable for men for thousands of years after the ice age, it only became so in the historic age as a result of the melting and receding of the arctic ice cap. Later groups of Iranians and Chinese migrated to these areas and formed the Turk race through cross breeding. The Indians are a hybrid of early Dravidians and the white Iranian race, a fact, which is evident from their dark skin.

So why have some European historians said that the origin of the Iranians is Central Asia? Because in 1833, an Oxford University professor used the term Aryan to describe a group of languages with common origins. Although he later admitted that parts of his theory were erroneous, the theory of an Aryan race was used by a group of romanticist writers and western historians in quest for an ancient identity.

The Germans, eyeing vast expanses of land in Central Asia, called themselves Aryans and cried for a return to the homeland. They used the Swastika, which, as a “wheel of Mithra (Sun/Fire)” used to be the arm of the Iranians since ancient times, as a Nazi symbol, to have an alibi to invade Russia.

The French, British, Russians and recently Americans found different reasons to call themselves Aryans.

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Religion in Iran

Posted by Prince of Persia in Jul 03, 2010, under Religions of Iran

In the early days, before the emergence of the empire of the Persians and the Medes, the Aryan inhabitants of Iran were polytheists, worshiping, as most other primitive people, natural phenomena such as fire, water, wind, the moon and the sun. However, about seventh century BC, the Zoroastrian religion appeared, descending it appears from Azarbaijan where Zoroaster himself was born, down to Parsa, then the home of the Achaemenids. The first Achaemenid king to convert to Zoroastrianism was Darius I (550-486 BC). Before him, Cyrus the Great and his son Cambyses, are believed to have followed the religions of their ancestors and the creeds of their subjects. When Zoroastrianism first appeared, it did so as a monotheistic religion with Ahura Mazda as its God, as has been mentioned by Darius in the inscriptions left by him in which he declares all his achievements to have been made possible through the grace of this deity.

The early Zoroastrians buried their dead as evidenced by the tombs of Zoroastrian kings of the Achaemenid dynasty. They had no use for statues to represent their deity; and had no altar for worship, but apparently they sacrificed to God on mountaintops; and they abhorred lies. Avesta is their book of scriptures with Gathas said to be the teachings of Zoroaster himself. Thus, the Persians were one of the first people on earth to adopt monotheism. Some historians in fact tend to believe that Zoroastrianism was a great source of encouragement and confidence in the development of Judaism, because it provided the right background and fostered the notion of monotheism.

Gradually, however, Zoroastrianism became adulterated by other old and new thoughts with Mithras and Anahita appearing as strong deities, though inferior to Ahura Mazda.

When the Greeks, led by Alexander, came to Persia they treated the Persians respectfully because they were impressed by the Persian manners, good taste, etiquette and traditions and under the Seleucids who ruled in Persia after Alexander’s death, the Persians were treated as equals to the Greeks and they were allowed to retain their own religion and traditions. Thus Zoroastrianism survived the Seleucids and the Parthians who followed them, though it lost its control as a state religion which it had enjoyed in the Achaemenid era. The Sassanids, who overthrew the Parthians, however, based their statesmanship on the Achaemenid model, developing a strong central government with a firm grip: a strong central government required a strong state religion and thus appeared Mazdaism: Zoroastrianism revived, but somewhat changed. It was no longer a monotheistic religion which it had been at the early stages of its emergence.

Now, Mithras, Anahita and other deities occupied firm places in the new Zoroastrianism which also possessed a powerful clerical hierarchy that dictated the law. Meanwhile, other religions were respected and everyone enjoyed religious freedom, except for Mani’s new faith which the Zoroastrian clergy, the Magi, found against their principles and interests and Mani was soon put to death (AD 273) and his followers were badly persecuted. Also, from time to time, depending on the political relations with Byzantium on the west, Persian Christians were persecuted until they broke away from Byzantine Rome and established the Nestorian Christian Church.

Such were the conditions in Iran when the Muslims were approaching: religious tolerance but a strong clerical hierarchy whose word was the law at the service of the kings and the nobles. There was a rigid class system in which the noble remained so through heredity, and the lower classes were forever denied the chance of social rise no matter how able or clever. And then came the Muslims, with a pure monotheistic faith, which promised equal opportunities to all, the most distinguished men being the most pious, honest and worthy. Here was a new way of life in which a man’s status was not based on his birth but on his virtues, which allowed the poor Bedouin Muslim to stand up after the Friday prayer and warn the caliph that if he went astray from “the right path” the barefooted Bedouin would answer him with his sword.

Shi’ism
However, the Okayed rulers forgot Islamic virtues and resorted to ethnic prejudices and a social hierarchy in which the Arab, not the Muslim, was the master by birth. A worthy Muslim, a great warrior and a brilliant scholar, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Imam (Leader) Ali, reminded the Muslims of true Islamic teachings and stood up to Moawyah who had claimed independence from the caliphate and had established a state in which just the appearance of Islam prevailed. Iranians appreciated Imam Ali, and Shiism was born.

“Shia” means friend or follower, and Shias are friends and followers of Imam Ali and the next eleven Imams who descended from him. The twelfth Imam, Mahdi, disappeared but will return one day to cleanse the world of sin and evil.

Imam Ali’s righteousness and sense of justice were too high for his contemporaries to understand and thus he was martyred in a mosque in Kufa while in prayer. His blood “watered the seed of Shiism” that had been freshly sown, and later his son’s blood-also martyred-was spilled in the deserts of Karbala, further watering the seed. And in this way developed a branch of Islam which was based on the love of the “ahl-ol-beit” (the people of the Prophet’s household) and Imams capable of correctly interpreting the words of God and the Prophet, their grandfather.

Shiism first developed and spread among Iranians but gradually extended all over the Muslim world, but most Muslims have always been Sunnis or “the people of the (Prophet’s) tradition” who base their interpretations of the laws on what has been passed on, from one generation to another, about the deeds and words of the Prophet and who claim that since the Prophet had allegedly not given precise instructions regarding his succession, the successor had to be chosen by the community which apparently chose Abu Bakr, a close follower and a staunch supporter of the Prophet from the early days of his rise to prophethood. To these people Abu Bakr is the first successor to the Holy Prophet; to the Shias it is Imam Ali. To the former, the leader of the Muslims, the caliph, is a temporal power; to the second, it is the Imam and holds spiritual powers.

Despite such differences, however, the Sunnis and the Shias agree on the basics of Islam, and remain brothers. Today, by far the largest part of the Iranian population, as well as about half that of both Iraq and Lebanon, plus minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and East Africa are Shias, followers of Duodecimal (from twelve Imams) Shiism.

As time passed there appeared subdivisions within the Shia sect as a result of disagreements amongst Shias over such matters as the Mahdi being Esmail, the seventh Imam and not the twelfth, which is the reason for dissension by the Ismailis or Ismailites. In fact there are quite a number of “isms” within he Shia sect, but the central idea, the righteousness of “the people of the house” and their power for interpretation of the words of God and the Holy Prophet, is common to all sub-sects for whom the Prophet; Fatima, his beloved daughter; Imam Ali, his cousin and son-in-law; Imam Hassan, Ali’s older son and Imam Hussein the younger brother, remain as the “five (holy) persons”, revered and adored. Furthermore, to Shias learning from their Imams, martyrdom for justice and truth is a basic principle.

Sufi Mysticism
Sufi Mysticism or “tassawof” is a discovery made by Iranians within Islam, derived from the Quranic verses. It concentrates on the highest spiritual aspects of Islam. According to Sufis, it is foolish to try to prove the existence of God through logic and reasoning only; God must be felt; He is a light that must shine in the believer’s heart and the heart must be pure enough to receive the light, in which case the two can become one; indeed the two are the same, but separated: Man’s soul is on exile from the Creator and is in anguish, longing to return “home” to lose himself again in Him. Here lies the crux of Sufism or Sufi Mysticism.

But to join the Creator, one has to be worthy; it needs conscious effort and strife. First, one must realize the transience the insignificance of material life and follow the path leading him towards higher and higher levels of spiritual life until one is pure enough to reach “home” and join Him again. But the path is a difficult one; the soul, while in mortal flesh, must suffer and yearn to be back.

Some of Iran’s greatest thinkers, poets and scholars have had more or less Sufi Mystic tendencies and the greatest of them are Sohrevardi, Ghazali, Mowlavi, Hallaj, Hafez and Saadi. Hafez, in one of his poems, likens man to a falcon which flies away from his “home” to the city of miseries and is called back all the time and he wonders why the falcon hesitates to return. Saadi says that his “Friend” is nearer to him than himself, yet is separated from him.

Unfortunately Sufism has been contaminated with stories about ridiculous miracles said to have been performed by the great Sufis, never claimed by them. It has also been used as an escape for negligence of Islamic rites and rituals. his is not the true nature of Sufism which seeks nothing but God’s satisfaction, and does not free a man from his duties as a Muslim.

Other Religions
Throughout history Iranians have shown great tolerance towards other peoples’ religious beliefs, and creeds; and since the adoption of Islam they have been particularly tolerant of Christians and Jews, who are “peoples of the book”. Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian scholars and scientists worked side by side their Muslim counterparts, as did for example Al-Masihi with Abu Ali Sina (Avicenna).

Today, Armenian, Assyrian and other Christians, as well as Jews and Zoroastrians enjoy complete religious freedom in Iran although they are expected to observe Islamic codes of public conduct. They are also represented at the Majlis (parliament). Furthermore, many members of these religions fought side-by-side Muslim Iranians in the Constitutional Uprising of the late 19th century, which finally resulted in the Constitution of 1906.

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The Art of Achaemenids

Posted by Prince of Persia in Jun 17, 2010, under Art & Culture of Iran

By: Edith Porada, with the collaboration of R. H. Dyson and contributions by C.K. Wilkinson

Achaemenid Golden Rhyton, 5th-4th Century BCE

Under the dynasty of the Achaemenid rulers the Persian empire comprised Iran, Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor with its Greek towns and some islands, Central Asia, Caucasus, Thrace and parts of India.[1] The founder of this, the largest empire of the ancient world, was Cyrus the Great (559-530 BCE), whose Persian father, Cambyses, king of Anshan,[2] had married the daughter of Astyages, king of the Medes (Median). Cyrus defeated his grandfather about 550 BCE and succeeded in welding Persians and Medes into an effective army with which he could undertake conquests beyond the frontiers of Iran.

In world history Cyrus is known as much for his victory over Croesus of Lydia (547 BCE) as for his generosity toward the Jews, to whom he reputedly granted permission to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and bring back to it the gold and silver utensils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon.

Similar restoration of local cults proceeded under his auspices throughout Mesopotamia. This political acumen in dealing with conquered peoples helped Cyrus in his political and military conquests of the wealthy Greek towns that were formerly under Croesus’ suzerainty. Only Miletus submitted voluntarily. The others were conquered one after the other, some by military force, others by treachery, for Persian gold was as powerful as Persian arms. Syria and Phoenicia fell to Cyrus by his easy conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE.

In north-eastern Iran Cyrus had to secure the frontiers against the ever-present pressure of nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes from Central Asia. In battles against these peoples the great king died in 530 BCE.

His son Cambyses conquered Egypt in 525 BCE, Only Darius I [522-486 BCE], however, who also deserved the epithet Great, consolidated the empire by an efficient administrative organization. Within little more than a year after the death of Cambyses he had succeeded in establishing his rule over the rebellious leaders of the Medes, Babylonians and other peoples whom Cyrus had conquered. The pictorial and written memorial of his victory was carved upon the steep cliff at Bisutun which looks down upon the road that leads even today from the Iranian plateau to the Mesopotamian plain. The actual height of the relief is eighteen feet, about as large as any ancient Western Asiatic stone-carver–used to relatively small reliefs–could possibly conceive. But as seen from the road, the relief seems quite small.

The inscription was rendered in Old Persian, Akkadian (the language of the Babylonians) and Elamite. Above the inscription Darius is portrayed in the traditional posture of the victor, his foot placed on his fallen enemy, Gaumata the Magian. Here the posture may have been copied from the ancient relief of [p. 142] Anubanini at Sar-i-Pul, not too far distant from Bisutun. In the relief of Bisutun eight of the rebels stand behind Gaumata with their necks joined by a rope and their hands tied behind their backs. A ninth rebel was added after Darius’ victory over the pointed-capped Scythians. Darius could truly call himself “Great King”, “King of Kings”, titles subsequently associated with the Achaemenids and assumed only by the most powerful rulers of later times.

The armies of Darius sustained reverses only in Scythia and, in Greece, at Marathon (490 BCE). The epic resistance of small, disunited Greece against the most powerful empire of its day had begun. In the time of Alexander resistance became aggression, finally ending in victory over the last Achaemenid king, Darius III.[p. 143]

Achaemenid Gold Earing with inlays of turquoise, carnelian,
and lapis lazuli, 5th-4th Century BCE

Greek writers who reported on Persia knew of the first residence of Cyrus at Pasargadae, of Susa as the principal seat of subsequent Achaemenid rulers, and also of royal residences at Ecbatana and Babylon. None, however, spoke of Persepolis, founded by Darius near Pasargadae, deep inside the empire. This may have been due to the character of the site, which appears to have been not an administrative centre but rather a religious one, where the Achaemenid kings went for ceremonies of inauguration at nearby Pasargadae, where their bodies were brought for burial in the rock-chambers of the valley of Naqsh-i Rustem near Persepolis or later in the cliffs around the Persepolis Terrace–and where the New Year’s festival, the greatest religious event of Iran, was probably celebrated every year.[3]

We may assume that the delegations of all the countries of the empire came to this festival bringing to the King of Kings their ‘gifts’, which were probably stored in the local treasuries. The geographical position of Persepolis in the centre of the country would have added to the safety of these treasuries and of the armouries connected with them. The stress on quarters for the military at Persepolis, which became obvious from Godardصs excavations, indicates extensive preoccupation with the security of the buildings on the terrace.[4]

Pasargadae, the residence of Cyrus the Great, some 43 kilometres by air from Persepolis, probably also had as one of its principal functions the safeguarding of the king’s treasures. There was a well-defined citadel there, covering a huge area of about two hundred metres in length and up to one hundred and thirty metres in width. In addition, a small enclosed valley immediately to the north of the citadel platform was ‘guarded by a continuous mud-brick fortification wall with square towers at regular intervals’. Schmidt suggested many years ago that the treasury should be shut in this fortified area. Excavations at present under way in Pasargadae may eventually provide information on that point.[5]

From the citadel a road led toward the south to the walled palace area. The first important building encountered in this area–and enclosed within its own precinct–was a stone tower which will be discussed below in connection with a similar tower at Nagsh-i Rustem. The principal remains of the palace area belonged to three buildings interpreted by Herzfeld as a gate structure, a palace called the audience hall of Cyrus, and another called the residential palace.[6] These buildings, which lie quite far apart, may have been separated by the shady trees and the clear watercourses of a park.

The gate structure was assumed to have been similar to the well-preserved gate of Xerxes at Persepolis. A pair of colossal winged bulls facing outside was thought to have guarded the opening of the gate and a pair of human-headed bulls to have faced toward the palaces. A columnar hall is said to have formed the middle room of the structure, which seems to have had a side room in the north-east. One jamb of the doorway of this room had the figure of a four-winged genius carved upon it. An inscription above the figure read in three languages: ‘I, Cyrus the king, the Achaemenid [built this].’ It was still there to be copied by visitors to the site in 1840-41, but today it has disappeared.

The audience hall was reconstructed with a rectangular columnar hall in the centre, surrounded on all four sides by porticoes, enclosed at the ends by a wall or a tower. The so -called residential palace had two similar porticoes but also small rooms built with mud brick, presumably living quarters.

A comparison of these halls and their porticoes with the massive brick architecture of Elam as exemplified at Tchoga Zanbil shows the strikingly different [p. 144] architectural concepts which guided the builders of Pasargadae. The façade is not a solid wall; it is opened up. Literally speaking, the visitor is no longer kept out but invited into the cool shade of noble porticoes. Probably there were several reasons for this difference in architectural ideas: climate, building materials and social structure.

The form of the porticoes however, was not developed in Iran but may be due to Urartian tradition, whereas the interior hall with a ceiling supported on columns is reminiscent of the columnar halls of Hasanlu.

The combination of different influences assumed for the plan of the buildings is also evident in the columns. They show considerable influence from the Ionic columns of Asia Minor, although proportions were never correctly observed at Pasargadae. But the idea of a stone column with some standard relations between base and shaft as well as the general form of the base–square plinth and horizontally fluted torus–is surely due to Ionic prototypes. The colour contrast produced by the use of black limestone together with white limestone for the two blocks of the base, and black limestone for niches and door-frames in buildings otherwise made of white limestone, can also be paralleled by a few Ionic examples.[7] Derivation of the alternating colour effects from Urartian architecture, however, has also been suggested, and it is not impossible that this desire for strong colour contrasts owes its ultimate origin to Near Eastern tradition, even in the Ionic examples.

Original Iranian elements can be found also on the top of the Persian column, which had the form of a gigantic clamp and held a ceiling beam such as one can still see in modern Iranian peasant houses, where simple forked branches hold the rafters of the roof. At Pasargadae–perhaps even earlier–this simple device was transformed into a capital consisting of a double protome of leonine [p. 145] monsters or bulls; a fragmentary head of a horse belonging to a column protome was also found. In Persepolis most of the capitals had protomes of bulls or human-headed bulls. Forms of other creatures such as griffins were tried out and then discarded, obviously because they were unsuitable.[8]

Still further to the south than the palace area stands the tomb of Cyrus, a far more impressive structure than one would expect from the photographs and drawings of the gabled house-shape on the stepped platform. The total height of the structure is 11 metres and the well-dressed building blocks are a most as tall as a man. In typically Achaemenid manner the blocks were held together by swallow-tail clamps of lead and iron, of which only those in the hollow roof have remained in place. Trees of different kinds are said by classical authors to have surrounded the tomb of Cyrus. We may assume them to have been planted at some distance from the tomb and to have been shorter than the total height of the structure, thus making it seem even more imposing …. [p. 146]

Elevation above the plane of ordinary human beings, for which Darius obviously strove in his rock relief at Bisutun and in his tomb façade, is also manifested in his choice of the high terrace of Persepolis for his treasury and his palace–an effective setting for the New Year’s ceremonies. In the selection of the site he may have also been influenced by the existing terraces of the early Achaemenid period[9] which have been found at various sites, including Pasargadae, and which may have added some religious significance to the increased security that they afforded the citadel at Pasargadae and the palaces at Persepolis.

At Persepolis, where Darius may have begun to build in 520 BCE, the fortifications and military quarters were erected first and, almost at the same time, the [p. 147] storehouses for treasure, weapons and supplies, the building complex called the Treasury by the American excavators. In its main features the entire layout of the great halls on the terrace seems to have been planned from the beginning, although it took about sixty years to complete. The functions of these different halls in the ceremonies of the New Year’s festival were reconstructed vividly and for the most part convincingly by Chrishman, who used not only the remaining ruins of the building and the contents of their reliefs but also his knowledge of Iranian tribal meetings, in which many ancient customs are preserved.[10]

Stairway of Apadana Palace at Persepolis, Achaemenid Ceremonial Capital, 5th-4th Century BCE

Probably delegations from all parts of the empire streamed to Persepolis long before the great festival. Around the town, which lay at the foot of the terrace, tents with gay pennants would have spread far into the plain. On the day of the festival the king’s guests, the greatest dignitaries of the empire, Persians and Medes, ascended the broad stairs to the terrace. The stairs were designed as for a stage. Made of beautiful white limestone–the same material that was used for the walls–but carefully smoothed to resemble marble, two gently rising flights of steps led in opposite directions to intermediate landings where the direction was reversed and the stairs turned and converged toward the top landing[1].[11] After the completion of the Gate of Xerxes[2] [described above on p. 144] in connection with the supposed gate structure at Pasargadae], visitors passed through the Gate before entering the square in front of the great audience hall or Apadana of Darius and Xerxes. In turning toward the hall, the visitor faced one of the noblest structures of the ancient world[5].

The building was over twenty metres high and even further raised by a socle [p. 148] 2.60 metres tall. The square main hall, which was enclosed by thick mud-brick walls, had a side length of 60.50 metres, to which should be added the porticoes on three sides and the store-rooms in the back. At all four corners of the building stood towers enclosing stair-wells leading to the roof. At the entrance to each tower were guardian figures of great dogs or other animals.

From the square before the Apadana two monumental stairways led up to the porticoes, one in the east[4], the other on the north[6]. The parapets of these stairways were crowned by four-stepped battlements, used in the same way throughout the terrace. Battlements are presumed to have been used also for decoration of the roofs, but this cannot be proved. To judge by the use of battlements in the crown of Darius at Bisutun and in the blue head of a prince, discussed on page 160, they had a symbolic protective meaning in addition to their decorative value.

The façades and parapets of the stairways were covered with reliefs. “Each of the two stairways shows essentially the same scenes: a procession of twenty-three tribute-bearing delegations of the empire and lines of guards, dignitaries, horses, chariots and attendants, in addition to other motifs.”[12] These reliefs are thought to show in an abbreviated manner the sequence of the first phase of the new Year’s festival, which will be described here as it can be read from the reliefs.

Before the stairs stood the king’s guards, called the Immortalsbecause their number of ten thousand was immediately re-established after every loss. On the sides of the stairs were the Persian guards, attired in a flowing robe, candys, and fluted cap, or tiara. Everyone was turned toward the entrance of the audience hall in which the king was present.

Guests and dignitaries who were admitted to the audience in the Apadana probably went in through the two northern entrances, while the king himself doubtless came through an entrance on the east side[4]. After the audience the king and his entourage would take their places on the western portico and its narrow forecourt, which extended to the edge of the terrace and permitted an excellent view of the happenings below.

Achaemenid Vase Handle, carnelian, Silver and gold, 6th-5th Century BCE

The order of groups in the procession pictured at the back of the stairs on the socle of the audience hall indicated that the Susian guards in their brilliantly [p. 151] coloured robes came first. We know the beautiful colours and the patterning of these robes from the reliefs of glazed brick discovered at Susa. At Persepolis none of the original colour has been preserved. The garments from Susa show scatter patterns of rosettes, stars, squares, each inscribed with a city gate, and borders of lotus flowers, all in different colour combinations. The guards carry bows and great quivers with arrows and set the globular end of their spears on the forward foot, a gesture which corresponds to that of setting the bow on the foot, seen on the façades of the royal tombs.

The Susians were followed by three groups of royal grooms, horses of the royal stable, and chariots, all led by ushers. After them came interminable rows of Susian guards, followed by a group of Persian and Median nobles or dignitaries in which the Persians seem to have had precedence over the Medes. The Medes wore a tall, rounded felt cap with a ribbon hanging down in the back, a long tight coat which reached to slightly above the knees and was tied by a belt, and long trousers probably made of leather, as well as laced shoes. Most of them have a coat with empty sleeves hanging over their shoulders, as at Qyzqapan. Persians and Medes wear the same type of jewelry, a twisted or plain torque, ear-rings and bracelets. On the reliefs most of the persons in this group carry a blossom. It may have been one of those sweet-smelling flowers which are often used instead of perfume in the Near East and which preserve their fragrance for days.

To judge by the reliefs, the March of the Nations must have begun after these groups of Susians, Persians and Medes had passed. First came the Medes with their fine horses, then the Susians, who brought with them a lioness and her cubs, as well as bows and daggers, the later surely of precious metal. After a few more delegations, all led by ushers, followed the Lydians. They wore short-sleeved long gowns with a wavy pattern, perhaps suggesting wool. Over the left shoulder was draped a scarf with tasseled corners, and on the head they wore a tall turban-like head-dress below which hung a very stylized braid, perhaps no longer made of hair but of ribbon. They had low boots with slightly upturned toes, the age-old characteristic footwear of Asia Minor. Their tribute consisted of two metal vessels with handles ending in winged bulls, two low metal bowls, and two oblong rings each ornamented with two griffins. Finally there was a chariot with a plain body drawn by two stallions led by turbanless grooms.

Other delegations which presumably created much interest were the Sogdians with their broad-tailed Karakul sheep and lamb-skins, probably valuable furs, then the Indians, bare-chested, which was most unusual, though their leader wore a flowing Indian dress which was surely of gay colours and must have been striking. One of the Indians carried a pair of baskets containing pots presumably full of gold dust.[13] The Arabs with their dromedary and the crinkly-haired Ethiopians with an okapi would have delighted the onlookers.[14] After the conclusion of this long procession the king probably left the Apadana and may have passed through the so-called Tripylon on this way to the banquet, the second phase of the festivities. The Tripylon has also been called the ‘Central’ building or Council Hall. It is a beautiful little building with three monumental doorways which probably indicate its function as “the main link of communication between the northern area of open courts and spacious public buildings and that portion of the site which was occupied by the residential palaces of the kings.”[15]

The reliefs on the jambs of the northern and southern doorways show the king [p. 152] followed by two attendants, one of whom carries the royal parasol, while the other holds a fly-whisk over the king’s head and carries a towel. The banquet probably took place in the principal hall of the palace of Xerxes [24], once that structure was completed. Whether or not it could have been held earlier in the much smaller palace of Darius [18] is difficult to say.

The third and perhaps most important symbolic phase of the festival appears to have been the carrying of the king on his throne by the representatives of the nations from the Tripylon to the Hall of a Hundred Columns.[16] There, perhaps on the large square before the hall, one may reconstruct as a fourth phase an impressive military parade of the Immortals before their king.

This interpretation has been deduced in large part from the reliefs, some of which admittedly come from the time of Darius’ grandson, Artaxerxes (465-423 BCE). Yet it seems likely that changes occurred only in details and that the ceremonies portrayed corresponded to those instituted in the time of Darius and continued until his last successor.

An exceptional representation is found only in the reliefs on the jambs of the eastern doorway of the Tripylon. These show King Darius and the Crown Prince Xerxes in the same relief, protected by a canopy over which floats the god Ahura Mazda in the winged disk. Nowhere else is there such an expression of a close relationship between father and son.

The plate on page 157 renders the relief on the left jamb of the eastern doorway of the Tripylon. For reasons that are difficult to explain, every motif at Persepolis had a counterpart.

The colours of the Ahura Mazda symbol on the Tripylon can be reconstructed after those of a similar symbol discovered by Herzfeld in the Hundred Column Hall and sketched by him before they disappeared.[17] They showed turquoise blue, light scarlet red, golden or orange yellow, deep purple, lapis-lazuli blue and a few touches of emerald green, all on a black background. Additional colour in these reliefs would have been provided by the gold or heavily gilded material with which the royal insignia were covered. Traces of such covering can be seen in the damaged Tripylon reliefs, which show slits on the side of the crowns in which metal fittings had been fastened.

To this description of the colours originally used in the decoration of Persepolis may be added that of the glazed reliefs of Susa–given on page 152. This evidence gives us some idea of the blaze of colours presented by the Achaemenid court, especially at the time of the New Year’s festival.

To the buildings described in the course of the hypothetical reconstruction of the New Year’s festival may be added the unfinished gate opposite the Hundred Column Hall; this gate may have been intended to assure an impressive entrance to the military groups thought to have paraded on the square north of [p. 154] the hall, which measure four thousand s quare metres in area. Furthermore, there was the so-called harem, now identified more convincingly as additional storage facilities.[18]

In its loose grouping of single halls, Persepolis resembles Pasargadae, whereas at Susa, where another Achaemenid palace was excavated, the ancient Near Eastern palace plan seems to have influenced the arrangement of rooms around courts so that the palace was reconstructed–albeit not very reliably–as a coherent complex.[19][p. 156]

 

Notes:

  1. For the history of the period Olmstead’s History of the Persian Empire [Chicago, 1948] still provides the most extensive documentation from cuneiform sources. H. Bengston, Griechische Geschichte von den Anfلgen bis in die rَmische Kaiserzeit [Handbuch der Altertumswissen-schaft. Dritte Abteilung, vierter Teil. Munich, 2nd ed., 1960], has been used for the relation between Persians and Greeks.
  2. Anshan may be assumed to have been located in the Bakhtiari mountains of western Persia; see Hinz, Persia, p. 6.
  3. This interpretation of the significance of Persepolis ws summarized by Erdmann in ‘Persepolis: Daten und Deutungen,’ Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-Geselschaft 92 [1960], p. 47.
  4. See Godard, ‘Les Travaux de Persepolis,’ Archaeologica Orientalia in Memoriam Ernst Herzfeld [Locust Valley, N.Y., 1952], especially pp. 122-126, and Godard, L’art de l’Iran, pp. 123-125.
  5. For the first preliminary report on the excavations at Pasargadae, see D. Stronach, Iran I [1963], pp. 19-42. On p. 27 Stronach describes the Citadel Area and mentions [Ibid., note 20] Schmidt’s speculations about the purpose of the fortifications in Persepolis I, p. 21.
  6. A sketch plan of Pasargadae, Stronach, op. cit. in note XII/5, p. 25, Fig. 2, gives a good idea of the layout of these buildings in relation to the other structures of Persepolis. Herzfeld described the remains of these buildings in Archaeologishe Mitteilungen aus Iran I [1928], pp. 4-16.
  7. Boardman, ‘Chian and Early Ionic Architecture,’ The Antiquaries Journal XXXIX [1959], p. 217, points to the difference between colour contrasts in individual structural members and in alternating slabs in a frieze or in courses of a wall. For the colour contrast in individual structural members, he cites examples from Old Smyrna, ‘and more than once on Chian buildings’: for the simple alternation of slabs, he gives North Syrian and Urartian examples [ibid., note 4]. He does not believe that the latter influenced the achitecture of Pasargadae. Urartian architecture, however, also seems to have sought a colour contrast in structural elements, as is shown by the parapet of dark stone on walls of different colour seen at Karmir Blur; cf. K.L. Oganesian,Karmir Blur IV [Akademia Nauk Armianskoi SSR, 1955], reconstrution on p. 103, Fig. 61. Admitttedly the entire parapet is constructed there in a different colour, not only parts of it.
  8. The derivation of the uppermost part of the Achaemenid capital from predecessors in wood was demonstrated by Herzfeld, Iran, pp. 210-211. On Pl. XXXIX [above, right] of the same book he reproduced part of a horse protome from Pasargadae. The griffin protome was published by Godard in ILN [Jan. 2, 1954], p. 18, Figs. 5-8. A protome with lion dragons was also discarded, this one because it had a flaw in the stone, due to which the capital was not only ungainly but also unsafe, though the workmen tried in vain to improve on this condition by applying iron clamps, the traces of which can still be seen in the stone [Ibid., p. 1 9, Figs. 9, 11]. See also Godard, L’art de l’Iran, Fig. 61. These protomes are also reproduced in Ali Sami, Persepolis [3rd ed., Shiraz, 1958], unnumbered plates following p. F.
  9. Terraces of the early Achaemenid period were discussed by Ghirshman in ‘Masjid-i-Solaiman: résidence des premiers Achéménides,’ Syria XXVII [1950], pp. 205-220, and also by Erdmann, Bibliotheca Orientalis XIII [1956], pp. 58, 59.
  10. R. Ghirshman, ‘Notes iraniennes: VII, A propos de Persépolis,’ Artibus Asiae XX/4 [1957], pp. 265-278. The present description, however, also relies on the occasionally varying reconstruction by Erdmann, ‘Persepolis: Daten un Deutungen,’ cited in note XIII 3 above.
  11. This and the following descriptions of architectural features and of the reliefs are taken, often verbally, from E. F. Schmidt in Persepolis I, although quotation marks are occasionally omitted for easier reading. Numbers in parentheses refer to the numbers of the rooms in the plan, Fig. 78, reproduced from Ghirshman’s article cited in note XII 14.
  12. Quoted from Persepolis I, p. 82.
  13. For the description of the Indians, Lydians, and Sogdians, see Barnett, ‘Persepolis,’ Iraq XIX [1957], pp. 68-70.
  14. For the Arabian delegation with its dromedary, see Persepolis I, Pl. 46; for the Ethiopian delegation, see Persepolis I, Pl. 49.
  15. Quoted from Persepolis I, p. 107. Schmidt called the building Council Hall; Erdmann refers to it as ‘Zentralgebٹude’ [see the article cited in note XII/3]; I retain Herzfeld’s term, Tripylon.
  16. Here we begin to substitute Erdmann’s reconstruction for Ghirshman’s.
  17. The description of the colours of the Ahura Mazda symbol was given by Herzfeld in Iran, p. 255, where he referred to his water-colour sketch reproduced, ibid., in Pl. LXIV, above. Herzfeld also stated: ‘The excavations of the covered parts of the sculptures of the Tripylon also revealed their original colours unchanged: purple red and turquoise blue, with application of metal, possibly gold.’ Today no trace of the colours remains.
  18. Godard, L’art de l’Iran, pp. 123, 124.
  19. For the questionable authenticity of the plans and reconstructions of the palace complex at Susa, see the remarks by Franfort, Art and Architecture, p. 218 and note 54.
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Iranian Recipes

Posted by Prince of Persia in Jun 16, 2010, under Art & Culture of Iran

Kebab is a persian word

Food in Iran is a fundamental part of Iranian heritage. Their ingredients reflect the geography of Iran, while the savor and colors accent the aesthetic tastes of Iranians. The cuisines are associated with so many social events -births, weddings, funerals; and many other ceremonies and rituals- that culinary traditions are intertwined with a country’s history and religion.Iranian food is a very important and integral part of Iranians’ life and culture, so important that its ingredients are very frequently used as metaphors for describing beauty. For example: “Moon-faced beauties have almond-shaped eyes, peachy complexions, pistachio-like mouths, pomegranate colored lips, hazelnut-like noses, red apple cheeks, and lemon-like breasts.”

Some Persian Food:



Salad-e Shirazi
Torshi-e Gol-e Kalam
Torshi-e Makhloot

Adas Polow
Kateh
Meigo Polow
Morasah Polow
Polow (Chelow)
Shirin Polow
Zereshk Polow

Haleem Baademjan
Kabab Barg
Kabab Chenjeh
Kabab Hosseini
Kabab Koobideh
Khoresht-e Baademjan
Khoresht-e Baamieh
Khoresht-e Karafs
Khoresht-e Loobia-Sabz
Khoresht-e Qormeh Sabzi
Khoresht-e Reevaas
Kotlet
Taas Kabab

Jooje Kabab
Khoresht-e Aaloo
Khoresht-e Fesenjan
Khoresht-e Qaarch

Maahi Kabab
Meigo Polow


Aabgoosht
Aash-e Aab Limoo
Aash-e Aaloo
Aash-e Anaar
Aash-e Gandom
Aash-e Gojeh Farangi
Aash-e Reshteh
Aash-e Shalgham
Aash-e Sholeh Qalamkar

Borani Esfenaaj
Kashk-e Baademjan
KooKoo-e Baademjan
KooKoo-e Gol-e Kalam
KooKoo-e Sabzi
Mirza Qasemi
Naaz Khatoon
Nargesi Esfenaaj

Baagh-lava
Fereni
Halva
Naan-Berenji
Qotaab
Ranginak
Samanoo
Shir Berenj
Sholeh Zard
Sohaan-e Asali
Yakh Dar Behesht

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Jiroft Inscription, Oldest Evidence of Written Language and culture in the world

Posted by Prince of Persia in Jun 13, 2010, under Art & Culture of Iran, Historic Periods & Events

Archeologists believe that Jiroft was the city in which script appeared for the first time.
Tehran, 12 January 2006 (CHN) — Studies by five linguists from the United States, France, Russia, Denmark, and Iran on a discovered inscription in Jiroft indicate that this Elamit script is 300 years older than that of the great civilization of Susa. Archeologists believe that Jiroft was the origin of Elamit written language in which the writing system developed first and was then spread across the country and reached Susa. The discovered inscription of Jiroft is the most ancient written script found so far.The city of Jiroft is situated close to Halil Rud historical site. Halil Rud, located on the basin of Halil Rood River enjoyed a rich civilization. Many stone and clay objects as well as other historical evidence belonging to the third millennium BC have been discovered during the archeological excavations and also the illegal diggings by the smugglers in this area. 120 historical sites, including that of Jiroft, have been identified in the basin of the 400 kilometer length of Halil Rud River.

According to archeological studies, the history of Halil Rud area goes back to some 3000 years ago. The discovered stone dishes in the area belonging to the first half of the third millennium BC point to the developed art of carving on stones at that time.

“Five Elamit professional linguists from different countries have studied the brick inscription discovered in Jiroft. According to the studies, they have concluded that this discovered inscription is 300 years older than that found in Susa; and most probably the written language went to Susa from this region. However, more studies are still needed to give a final approval to this thesis,” said Yousof Majid Zadeh, head of archeological excavation team in Jiroft.

“This inscription was discovered in a palace. Although it is not yet known which Elamit king this inscription belongs to, it is definitely an Elamit inscription. More studies are needed to determine the exact time in which it was inscribed, but most probably it is the most ancient written language. Further excavations are being carried out to find the rest of the inscription. However, what is obvious about this discovered inscription is that it is older than the Elamit inscription of Susa,” explained Majidzadeh.

The inscription was carved on a brick, and only the lower left corner of it has been remained. Although only two lines with a few words are remained intact on this inscription, there is no doubt that it is an Elamit written script.

The most famous Elamit script is the Susinak inscription which was unearthed during archeological excavations in Susa. This inscription is most probably left from the reign of Susinak, Elamite king who ruled during the second half of the first millennium BC. .

Elamit language is only partly understood by scholars. It had no relationship to Sumerian, Semitic or Indo-European languages, and there are no modern descendants of it. After 3000 BC the Elamits developed a semi-pictographic writing system called Proto-Elamit. Later the cuneiform script was introduced.

Archeological excavations are being carried out in north and south shores of the Halil Rud River in order to discover different dwellings and cemeteries in the region.
The wide plundering of the historical and archeological relics by the smugglers led to the lost of a lot of these invaluable evidences. Most of these historical relics were taken out of the country. Although Iran is trying to redeem them, some of those who have collected these relics refuse to give them back claiming that these articles were not made in Iran and thus don’t belong to this country. Iranian archeologists are trying to discover more evidence to prove Iran’s possession over these historical objects.
Soudabeh Sadigh

From ©CHN(Cultural Heritage News Agency)

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The Iranian Art of Painting

Posted by Prince of Persia in Jun 12, 2010, under Art & Culture of Iran

From early days till Safavid era

Kamal-od-Din Behzad Of Herat School,
“Khamseh Nezami”

The history of the art of painting in Iran, goes back to the cave age. In the caves of Lorestan province, painted images of animals and hunting scenes have been discovered. Paintings discovered by W. Semner, on the walls of buildings, in Mallyan heights, in Fars, belong to 5,000 years ago. Paintings discovered on earthenware in Lorestan, Sialk and other archaeological sites, prove that the artists of this region were familiar with the art of painting.

From the Parthian era, few mural paintings, most of them discovered in the northern parts of Euphrates river, have been uncovered. One of these paintings is a display of a hunting scene. The position of riders and animals, and the style in this work reminds us of the Iranian miniatures. But in the paintings of Achaemenids era, profile work was preferred by the artists. The proportion and beauty of colors of this era, are remarkable. The colors are shadeless, and have the same tune. In some cases, black stripes limited the colorful surfaces.

Mani, the Iranian painter, who lived about the 3rd century, was a skilled and expert painter. His paintings were thought to be part of his miracles. The paintings of Torfan, discovered in the desert of Gall, a region situated in the Turkestan province in China, belong to 840 to 860 AD. These mural paintings exhibit Iranian scenes and portraits. Imagines of tree branches also exist in these paintings.

The most ancient paintings of the Islamic periodic, are quiet scare, and were created in the first half of the 13th century. Iranian miniatures (fine and small drawings) came to Fife after the fall of Baghdad (1285 AD). Since the beginning of the 14th century, handwritten books were adorned by the scenes from battle fields, feasts and hunting. China, perhaps since the 7th century, as an artistic center, has been the most important incentive for the art of painting in Iran. Ever since, a relation has been established between Buddhist Chinese painters and, Iranian artists. From the historic viewpoint, the most important evolution in Iranian art, has been the adoption of Chinese designs and coloring which were mixed with the specific conception of Iranian artists. The extreme beauty and skill of Iranian paintings are laid to describe.

Shiraz School,
“Khamseh Nezami”

In the first centuries, after the emergence of Islam, Iranian artists began adorning books. The preface and the margins of books were adorned with. These designs were passed on, through on to the next centuries, together with precise principles and rules, which is known as the “Art of Illumination”. The art of illumination and adoring books made its path of progression under the Saljouk era, Mogol and Timourid’s reigns.

Paintings from the beginning of the Islamic period had the reputation of belonging to Baghdad school. Miniatures of Baghdad School, have totally lost the style and methods of the usual paintings of the pre-Islamic period. These primitive and innovative paintings do not possess the necessary artistic stress. The miniatures of Baghdad school are not proportional. Portraits show the Semitic race and light colors are used.

Artists of the Baghdad school, after years of stagnancy, were eager to create and innovate. The particular views of this school, is in drawing animals and illustrating stories. Although the Baghdad school, considering the pre- Islamic art, is to some extent, superficial and primitive, but the art of Iranian miniature, in the same period, was widespread in every region in which, Islam was propagated: Far East, Africa and Europe.

Among illustrated books in the Baghdad style, “Kelileh and Demneh” can be named. Images are painted larger than normal and are not proportional. Only few colors are used in these paintings. Most of the handwritten books of the 13th century are enriched with images of animals, vegetables and illustrations from fables and stories.

There remains two valuable illustrated books from the reign of Baisongor. One, being the Kelileh and Demneh and the other, Baisongor’s Shahnameh (epic of kings). In the drawings of Shahnameh, painted in 1444 AD in Shiraz, interesting examples of Iranian miniature art can be seen. One of these drawings represents a beautiful scene from an Iranian court, painted in the Chinese style. White and blue tiles and Persian carpets are drawn in geometrical shapes.

In one of the manuscripts of the book of “Khamseh Nezami”, exist 13 excellent miniatures, drawn by Mirak, the famous painter and calligrapher. The sensitive and artistic spirit of Baghdad’s paintings are represented in the drawings of another volume among the works of Khamseh Nezami. This precious work is preserved in “British Museum”. One of the liveliest paintings of this book, shows the construction of Jozanag palace. In this painting, masters and architects are busy building the palace. This miniature was painted in 1494 in Herat.

Behzad, the greatest painter of the Herat School, expanded the delicate art of miniature. He invented new patterns for natural facts and portraitist which did not exist before his time. One of the masterpieces of the Iranian art of painting is an illustrated book of Shahnameh, preserved in the library of Golestan palace in Tehran. This Shahnameh was also illustrated under Baisongor, the Timourian prince, and belongs to the Herat School. The paintings of this book, from the view point of coloration and proportion of the components in the images are at the highest degree of beauty and firmness.

A work by Reza Abbasi

During the Safavid era, the artistic center was moved to Tabriz. A few artists also settled in Qazvin. But the Safavid School of painting was established in Esfahan. The miniature of Iran, in the Esfahan of Safavid era, was detached from the influence of the Chinese out and stepped on a new road. The painters were then more inclined towards naturalism. Reza Abassi, founded the “Safavi School of painting”. The art of design during the Savafids subjected to a brilliant transformation. The design, which is one of the most elegant Iranian designs, was made possible by the talent of the artists of the Safavid School. Miniatures created under the Safavi School, were not exclusively aimed for adorning and illustrating books. The Safavi style is softer in form than those of the Timourid School, specially the Mongolian.

Human images and their behavior are not vain and artificial, in the contrary quiet natural, and close to reality. Safavid painters also manifested a special expertness in humeral paintings. The most magnificent example of the paintings of this period exists in the palaces of “Chehel Sotoun” and “Ali Qapoo”. In Safavid paintings, the splendor and the grandeur of this period is the main attraction. The themes of the paintings are about the life in the royal court, the nobles, beautiful palaces, pleasant goodness, scenes of battles and banquets. Humans are drawn in sumptuous garments, handsome faces and elegant statues colors are glowingly bright.

The art of painting, during the Safavid era expanded both in quantity and quality. In the works of this period, a greater freedom, skill, and power can be seen.

The Iranian paintings, through their richness, offer a special joy unlike anything else. They keep a vast connection with the epic stories. In Iranian paintings, the nude body of a human is not a way of expression. Iranian painting is considered as one of the greatest schools of Asia. Splendor and luminosity have not been better expressed in any other culture. Bright skies, astonishing beauty of spring blossoms, and among them, humans with splendid garments who hate and love, are jovial or melancholic, form the general themes of the Iranian painting.

“Iran has offered a particularly unique art to the world which excellent in its kind.”
Basil Gray
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Molana Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Molavi Rumi

Posted by Prince of Persia in Jun 09, 2010, under Historic and Iranian Personalities, Persian Language & Literature

By: Shahrzad Rouzrokh

Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Molavi Rumi

Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Molavi Rumi was born in 1207 CE at Balkh in the north-eastern provinces of Persia (present day Afghanistan), to a Persian-speaking family. His father Baha al-Din was a renowned religious scholar. Under his patronage, Rumi received his early education from Syed Burhan-al-Din. When his age was about 18 years, to avoid the Mongol invasions, the family moved westward through Iran, Iraq, and Syria, meeting famous writers and mystics, such as the revered poet Attar, who authored the finest spiritual parable in the Persian language, “The Concourse of the Birds.” The family’s flight ended in 1226 in the Anatolian city of Qonya�capital of the Seljuk Turkish sultanate of Rum, from which the poet’s name derives. Rumi settled, taught, and composed here until his death in 1273. Although Konya’s sultans were forced to pay tribute to the Mongols in 1243, the city remained a safe haven for Islamic culture, gathering outstanding minds from far horizons in a tormented age.

Rumi was sent to Aleppo (present day Syria) for advanced education and later to Damascus. He continued with his education till he was 40 years old, although on his father’s death Rumi succeeded him as a professor in the famous Madrasah at Konya at the age of about 24 years. He received his mystical training first at the hands of Syed Burhan al-Din and later he was trained by Shams-e Tabrizi. He became famous for his mystical insight, his religious knowledge and as a Persian poet. Rumi taught a large number of pupils at his Madrasah and also himself founded the Molavi Order of Dervishes in Tasawwof (Sufism) and instituted the ecstatic dance ritual for which the “whirling dervishes” are known to this day. He died in 1273 CE at Konya (present day Turkey), which subsequently became a sacred place for dancing dervishes of the Molavi Order.

His major contribution lies in Islamic philosophy and Tasawwof (Sufism). This was embodied largely in poetry, especially through his famous Masnavi. This book, the largest mystical exposition in verse, discusses and offers solutions to many complicated problems in metaphysics, religion, ethics, mysticism, etc. Fundamentally, the Masnavi highlights the various hidden aspects of Sufism and their relationship with the worldly life. For this, Rumi draws on a variety of subjects and derives numerous examples from everyday life. His main subject is the relationship between man and God on the one hand, and between man and man, on the other. He apparently believed in Pantheism and portrayed the various stages of man’s evolution in his journey towards the Ultimate.

Apart from the Masnavi, he also wrote his Divan (collection of poems) and Fihe-Ma-Fih (a collection of mystical sayings). However, it is the Masnavi itself that has largely transmitted Rumi’s message. Soon after its completion, other scholars started writing detailed commentaries on it, in order to interpret its rich propositions on Tasawwof (Sufism), Metaphysics and Ethics. Several commentaries in different languages have been written since then.

His impact on philosophy, literature, mysticism and culture, has been so deep throughout Central Asia and most Islamic countries that almost all religious scholars, mystics, philosophers, sociologists and others have referred to his verses during all these centuries, since his death. Most difficult problems in these areas seem to get simplified in the light of his references. His message seems to have inspired most of the intellectuals in Central Asia and adjoining areas since his time, and scholars like Alama Iqbal Lahori have further developed Rumi’s concepts. The Masnavi became known as the interpretation of the Quran in the Pahlavi language. He is one of the few intellectuals and mystics whose views have so profoundly affected the world-view in its higher perspective in large parts of the Islamic World.

Works of Molavi Rumi:

  • Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi
    Divan-e Shams is a masterpiece of wisdom and eloquence. It is often said that Rumi had attained the level of a “Perfect Master” and as such, he often dwelled in the spiritual realms that were rarely visited by others of this world. He attained heights that were attained by only a few before him or since.

    Few examples of Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi:
    1- Rumi 021            4- Rumi 065            7- Rumi 155
    2- Rumi 026            5- Rumi 082            8- Rumi 177
    3- Rumi 044            6- Rumi 134

  • Masnavi
    Masnavi or Masnavi-e Maanavi is the best known work of Rumi, and he himself defined his work as a work of destruction, destruction of the worldly for the sake of embracing the Divine. He warns the reader in advance to be prepared to let go of everything.

    Few examples of Masnavi:
    1- The Reed Flute
    2- Moses and The Shepherd
    3- Moses describing the 4 virtues resulting from faith

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    Masnavi-e Manavi (in English)
    By: Molana Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Molavi Rumi

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