The Golden Age of Persia

Considered by many scholars to be the period prior to 1,220 CE


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The Golden Age of Persia
by Arash Monzavi-Kia
29-Oct-2008
 

The Arab Islamic conquests of the seventh century were of the same magnitude as the Persian conquests of 500 BC, Macedonian’s of 300 BC, Rome’s in 100 BC and Sassanians of 200 CE. The united and faithful barbaric tribes of Arabia were able to defeat two glorious civilizations of Persia and Byzantine, and took over an immense empire stretching from Morocco to India. The Arabic language grew from a limited Semitic tongue to dominate the Middle East, and Islam reshaped the Eastern cultural and religious outlook.

Sadly, western Iran was decimated by the Arab invasion, but the Persian culture survived in the Eastern provinces (especially Khorasan), where there was less resistance from the general populace and the Parthian minded nobility. Khorasan soon became the cradle of a new version of Persian identity and language (Farsi), as well as an independent military and political power.

The vicious internal Arab power struggles, which quickly assassinated 3 of the 4 original Muslim caliphs (Rashedin) and created the Sunni-Shia schism, enabled the independent minded Iranians to rapidly play a determining role in the Islamic Empire. In 750 CE, the Khorasan garrison rioted and lead by Abomuslim Khorasani, defeated the Umayyad caliph in Baghdad and brought their rivals (the Abbasids) to power. This victory initiated the dominance of Farsi governments in Khorasan, including the Taheri, the Safari, the Bueyeh and finally the Samanians.

The Taheri rule (810 CE) was a governorship well under the Caliph of Baghdad, but the Bueyeh actually conquered Baghdad and turned the Caliph into their puppet (year 945). The Samanians built a completely independent nation in Khorasan, where the Farsi language and culture flourished, and provided the bedrock for a distinct Iranian identity that has survived to this day. The Samanian kings were avid supporters of the Farsi identity, and supported such Iranian poets as Rudaki and Daghighi.

Despite their cultural and political greatness, the Samanian kings as well as the Abbasid caliphs soon became inundated with a massive migration of the Turkish tribes from Central Asia. Those Turks, who first enrolled their armies in the services of the Farsi and Arab kings, through their physical and character merits, subsequently took over the governance of the entire Middle East!

Influenced by the Samanian Farsi society, the new Turk rulers surprisingly maintained an avid support for the Farsi culture and their method of government (Viziers and Dabirs). The Ghaznavi Turks overthrew the Samanians in 1,005 CE and established a powerful empire in central Asia. They quickly converted to Sunni Islam, adopted Farsi as their court language, and provided a magnificent support to such Iranian luminaries as Beeroni, Farrokhi, Manuchehri and Ferdowsi.

It should be noted that the ‘new Turkish blood’ not only infiltrated and strengthened the Arabic and Persian nations, but also influenced the growth of the Jewish faith in Euro-Asia. After conversion to Judaism, a major Turkic tribe (the Khazars) established a new key Jewish state in Eastern Europe, which later on, significantly contributed to the Ashkenazi population in Russia, Poland and Germany.

The Turkish waves of invasion, from Central Asia, did not cease. The Seljuk Turks took over Khorasan and Iran, and then even captured Baghdad in 1,055 CE. They too became Sunni Muslim and very Farsi oriented, with most of their bureaucrats and Viziers chosen among the Iranians. Amazingly, the Seljuk even exceeded the Ghaznavi in their support of the Farsi culture, and cultivated such luminaries as Anvari and Khayyam. Their legendary vizier (Nezam-al-molk) created the first Iranian universities (Nezamieh). The Seljuk kings soon dominated the Muslim world with an empire stretching from central Asia to Arabia, and later became the forefathers to the Ottoman Empire.

The main challenge to the Seljuk rule came from the Shia Arab rulers of Egypt (the Fatimid), who opposed both the Sunni Caliphs of Baghdad, and the domineering Turks of Iran. The Fatimid established a network of supporters in Iran, the Esmaeli, who soon developed a viciously militant tactic and became famous as the Hashashin (Assassins).

That Shia-Sunni rivalry decimated the Seljuk government, as the Esmaeli established themselves in several formidable castles (including Alamot) and spread fear and terror throughout Iran. Their biggest ‘achievement’ was the assassination of the Iranian vizier (Nezam-al-molk) in 1092 CE, which escalated into a series of instabilities and wars of succession among the Seljuk.

The destabilized Seljuk princes fought one another and the Esmaeli for decades, causing widespread destruction of the cities and populace. Finally, another warlike Turkish tribe from Central Asia (the Khwarizmi) exploited the Seljuk/Esmaeli conflict and fought their bloody way into the Iranian plateau. The Khwarizm Shah briefly (1210 to 1220) ruled over a decimated country with weakened resources and scarce manpower. A great misfortune was that the widespread Iranian and even Muslim discord and internal blood-shedding coincided with an unprecedented Mongol unification and revival.

Many scholars consider the period prior to 1,220 CE as the Golden Age of Persia and even the golden age of Islam. At that time the Persian and the Abbasid culture, science and arts established themselves at such a magnificent plateau that none of the contemporary nations of the world could rival it. Moreover, the grand achievements of that period carried over to Europe (through the crusades period) and caused a global influence over the entire humanity’s development.

As examples, the philosophical and medical works of Avicenna were taught in the European universities until the 19th century. The mathematical contributions of Khayyam and Khwarizmi became the cornerstone of modern mathematics and astronomy. Furthermore, the literary contributions of Ferdowsi, Rudaki and Sadie established our distinct Farsi identity to this day.

Reference: The Golden Age of Persia, by Professor Richard Frye.

 


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The ancient Parthians and Persians were mostly rivals and often at conflict. The best examples are the killing of Darius III by Parthians of Khorasan, the overthrow of Parthian dynasty by Ardeshir, the brief overthrow of Sassanids by Bahram Chobin of Parthia, and finally the killing of Yazdgerd in Khorasan. 

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by Arash Monzavi-Kia on

The cultural, intellectual and technological output of the post Islamic era (800-1200 CE) in Iran made it Golden. In comparison, that output was many times more than the combined Achaemenid + Sassanid periods, which themselves were two pinnacles of Iranian civilization. 

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Farsi vs. Persian

by Arash Monzavi-Kia on

To be accurate, the Persian language has not been the cultural backbone of Iran for 1,400 years. That language has mixed with Arabic and turned into Farsi. We should not be ashamed that our language is a hybrid one, just like English, which is a mix of many tongues.

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smhb

The important issue

by smhb on

Abarmard,

Fully in agreement with you, well said my friend. Personally I am amazed that some of our fellow Iranians have so much racist venom in them that it completely blinds them to the facts and realities.

There are no perfect societies. Never been and most probably never be attained. However as we grow, learn and mature hopefully we can build better societies on whatever foundation thats acceptable to those who make up that society.

Iran of today is not a symbol of perfection, however it is a clear manifestation of the will of a people to overcome historical misfortunes and make up the huge scientific and technological gap that led to its colonization.

In this process Iran has started to modernized at a much larger scale during the last 30 years that would have been impossible under his imerial majesties rule the little shah or his daddy. The reason is very simple and all you have to do is look without your hatred and biased point of views.

This process is very dynamic and deep rooted and has affected all spheres of life and the massive education of the young will accelerate it even more. Just a simple statistic is sufficient:

Illiteracy rate before the revolution with a population of 35 million was %70. Today with a population of 70 million its below %10 and thats after a revolution, civil war, war of aggression against Iran and an intense and ever increasing sets of economic santions. 

 

 


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Deciphering

by Basijionwelfare (not verified) on

Deciphering 'Abarmard-Speak':

"Leave the IRI alone, I can't bear to see them gone." I can't bear to see incompetent and uneducated mobsters not to set the agenda for the future of Islamistan". Iranians are too stupid to know what's good for them. Let them stay stupid and don't lift a finger to rock the status quo. Change is bad. Self-defeating and deeply systematically enforced Traditions trump prosperity, morality, humanity, and justice. It's too scary to deal with the real world...blah, blah ,blah

Abarmard: If you really cared about Iran, you would first examine your Islamic instincts and put them in check and then talk about what's good for Iran and not the IRI. Everyone can see right through you. You're a the liberal of wing of the mafia kleptocracy.


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The Myth of Golden Age of Islam

by Ommatist (not verified) on

"...The problem with turning this list of intellectual achievements into a convincing "Islamic" golden age is that whatever flourished, did so not by reason of Islam but in spite of Islam. Moslems overran societies (Persian, Greek, Egyptian, Byzantine, Syrian, Jewish) that possessed intellectual sophistication in their own right and failed to completely destroy their cultures. To give it the credit for what the remnants of these cultures achieved is like crediting the Red Army for the survival of Chopin in Warsaw in 1970! Islam per se never encouraged science, in the sense of disinterested enquiry, because the only knowledge it accepts is religious knowledge."


Abarmard

The important issue

by Abarmard on

We must not fall in to a trick of great past but the lessons of the past, regardless of great or not so great.

Please keep in mind that social growth in the recent history is more complex than just a country or a nation not being able to adopt. More history reading and investigation would certainly benefit our understanding that lasting greatness for an era is not accidental. No religion alone, external forces alone can shape the history of any nation for hundreds or even thousands of years, hence foolish to blame one thing or another. Realities are not always as visible as the perceptions.

Today in Iran, with all the backlashes and difficulties, we as a nation have an opportunity to modernize our society. I believe that we are doing just that. (Not talking about government)

Sitting in a corner and feeling sorry, losing hope is the illness that can harm more than the current regime!

No great nation has ever given up or has asked another foreign nation to come and fix their problems. Our problems are not impossible to fix. Reading history carefully and following the success stories that has kept Iranian sovereignty and its society intact gives us this lesson.

I believe it is impossible for our nation to reach a higher level of civility and modernization without our hard work and continuous contributions to Iran and Iranians. Having a short sight and believe that we can never recover, stand up, develop, on our own with peace with the world is the bigger enemy than any government or ruling system.

Finally, we should not take our past to think that our race made us better then, or it is our race making us worse now! Race, Iranian or Arab is irrelevant but the will and hard work is what counts.

We functioned well in a traditional, merchant society, we need to adjust and find our ways. Unlike some, I don't believe that our problems are with the government alone. We have many social shortcoming that needs to be addressed openly. Try and error is a must for any society that wants to find its own way, the way that keeps the positive traditions alive while gradually kills the unjust and outdated ones.

If you truly care, don't leave Iran alone, and work to contribute to the future of our society. Economy, Power, and contributions are limited to time and era. None is eternal. Once gaining a momentum (or losing one) doesn't conclude that we will always be on that stage. In society there is no retirement option...


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Dr. Kaveh Farrokh's recent book on Iran

by Shia Khalifeh (not verified) on

Two excellent book reviews on Dr. Farrokh's new book, "Shadows in the Desert", who has received threatning emails from angry unknowns!!!Islamic republic' agents, perhaps?

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1846031087/...

Reveiw by Joey Howard:
[...]

Perhaps this book is the true backbone of scholarship, minus the bias. Of course there are subtle hints that point to sympathy for the Do-Gooder empire that Persia at times tried its hardest to be, but this should not come as a surprise, since a great deal of modern scholars such as ancient military historians like Peter Wilcox, Nick Secunda, Tim Newark, or Prof. Frye, Dr. Marry Boyce, Prof. C. Littleton who is an expert of Arthurian lgends linking the tales to old Iranian mythical heroes in his book "From Scythia To Camelot"), British Museum currator John Curtis, Nigill Tallis, A.T. Olmstead etc, all seem to give us a dramatically different view of the world`s first Super-Power [Iran].

Thus, amid countless books shoving down our throats the same-old-same-old narrations on Greece and the merciless Rome, such endeavors by the likes of Dr. Farrokh are a refreshing change of pace, that serve to balance things a bit. (Note that Dr. Farrokh who was born in Greece gives it to both sides equally, e.g. he mentions the cruel treatment of captured Arab War Lords by some Sassanian kings while praising Greece for her magnificent accomplishments, so this book may not please some Persian chauvinists, as it certainly does not please Greek or Roman ones).

Just to mention also, before I read this book, I actually had read articles and one book by the Irish scholar Michael McClain giving extensive mentions of the link between ancient Indo-Iranians and their Indo-European kin, the Celts, so Dr. Farrokh`s discoveries were not that new to me, but were nonetheless shocking.

Overall, however, the images in the book are beautifully illustrated and almost all of them contain useful captions -- the narration of the wars, types of armour used, geographical locations and NEW DISCOVERIES unravelled by Farrokh himself, such as Iranian influences on Gothic architecture makes the book worthy of read. On a different note, I read somewhere in an online post how Dr. Farrokh receives threatening emails from angry unknowns, which is a shame.

Why?

At any rate, the thrilling achievments of Persia is right up there with the gorgeous art and proud cultures of Greece and Rome, and this book points them out. Unlike the triumphant Greeks though, the saga of the Persians seem to be a tragedy.

Perhaps Dr. David Khupenia of the University of the Republic of Georgia was right, "Persia has given so much to the world and is appreciated so little". """


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Persia had a golden age despite of Islam not because of it!

by Ommatist (not verified) on

smhb or xerexes:

"To be fair, the myth of the golden age of Islam does have a partially valid starting point: there were times in the past when Moslem societies attained higher levels of civilization and culture than they did at other times. There have been times, that is, when some Moslem lands were fit for a cultivated man to live in. Baghdad under Harun ar-Rashid (his well-documented Christian-slaying and Jew-hating proclivities notwithstanding), or Cordova very briefly under Abd ar-Rahman in the tenth century, come to mind. These isolated episodes, neither long nor typical, are endlessly invoked by Islam’s Western apologists and admirers.

This "golden" period in question largely coincides with the second dynasty of the Caliphate or Islamic Empire, that of the Abbasids, named after Muhammad’s uncle Abbas, who succeeded the Umayyads and ascended to the Caliphate in 750 AD. They moved the capital city to Baghdad, absorbed much of the Syrian and Persian culture as well as Persian methods of government, and ushered in the "golden age."

This age was marked by, among other things, intellectual achievement. A number of medieval thinkers and scientists living under Islamic rule, by no means all of them "Moslems" either nominally or substantially, played a useful role of transmitting Greek, Hindu, and other pre-Islamic fruits of knowledge to Westerners. They contributed to making Aristotle known in Christian Europe. But in doing this, they were but transmitting what they themselves had received from non-Moslem sources.

Three speculative thinkers, notably the three Persians al-Kindi, al-Farabi, and Avicenna, combined Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism with other ideas introduced through Islam. Greatly influenced by Baghdad’s Greek heritage in philosophy that survived the Arab invasion, and especially the writings of Aristotle, Farabi adopted the view — utterly heretical from a Moslem viewpoint — that reason is superior to revelation. He saw religion as a symbolic rendering of truth, and, like Plato, saw it as the duty of the philosopher to provide guidance to the state. He engaged in rationalistic questioning of the authority of the Koran and rejected predestination. He wrote more than 100 works, notably The Ideas of the Citizens of the Virtuous City. But these unorthodox works no more belong to Islam than Voltaire belongs to Christianity. He was in Moslem culture but not of it, indeed opposed to its orthodox core. He examples the pattern we see again and again: the best Moslems, whether judged by intellectual or political achievement, are usually the least Moslem.

The Moslem mainstream of this time, on the other hand, emphasized rigid Koranic orthodoxy and deployed Greek philosophy and science solely to buttress its authority. "They were rationalists in so far as they fell back on Greek philosophy for their metaphysical and physical explanations of phenomena; still, it was their aim to keep within the limits of orthodox belief." But when the thinkers went too far in their free inquiry into the secrets of nature, paying little attention to the authority of the Koran, they aroused suspicion of the rulers both in North Africa and Spain, as well as in the East. Persecution, exile, and death were frequent punishments suffered by the philosophers of Islam whose writings did not conform to the canon."


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An Engineering Feet: The Persian Empire

by sickoflies (not verified) on

Please watch these documentaries made by Canadain Broadcast Company. Five Parts:

---Engineering an Empire - The Persians - Part 1of5

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aukC8GBEsU

***Part 2 of 5:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSm68TxRBRo

***Part 3 of 5:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5mwOovpetA

***Part 4 of 5:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaV42Se3yq4

***Part 5 of 5:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8H-jYYnkt0


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Islamists have plunged to a new depth

by Aghazadeh (not verified) on

This relentless cyber attacks by the IRI's propaganda Operation here in the US and Canada is despicable and easily refutable if one only uses google.

For the actual history I highly recommend Tom Holland’s “Persian fire : the first world empire and the battle for the West”.

http://www.amazon.com/Persian-Fire-First-Empire-Ba...

"A very good book not only on wars but also on persian empire. In a time when cultures of East and West seemed farther apart than ever, Holland concentrates on explaining the mighty Persian culture which, from the time of the victorious Greeks to our own day, was mocked, denigrated, and underestimated. He makes a fairly clear argument that this kind of cultural misapprehension, after the famous Greek victory, led to an alienation between East and West which had not really existed prior to the Persian invasions, and which affects our understandings even today. This book goes beyond these events, and covers much territory concerning the founding of the Persian Empire, and early Greek city-states, and the inevitable clash that resulted from their proximity.

In a world where the East rubs up against the West he can fill in the historical blanks that still bedevil us to this day. And today it still seems to me that we are living in the same battle of the past (East) versus the future (West). PERSIAN FIRE sets todays headlines, in some respects, against a 2500 year old backdrop. As we might watch the CBS news, the Athenians, in the shadow of their burned and gutted Acropolis, would watch the young buck playwright, Aeschylus, stage THE PERSIANS one year after the exhausted Greeks had won the war and returned to the abandoned Athens. Spartans, that weird and long-haired race of warriors, get their fair share of exposure but lose some of their mystique in Holland's re-telling of Thermopylae and the Spartan king's last stand.

He shows just why the Persian culture - in many ways, far superior to that of the more primitive Greeks - deserved respect for its own accomplishments, as well as how and why the Greeks came to blow up their honest victories and denigrate their Persian foes. All these points give PERSIAN FIRE a peculiarly modern resonance, as well as telling some of the greatest stories of antiquity with clarity and flair."


smhb

The Golden Age of Persia

by smhb on

Darn history, aint it a bitch. Only if we could revise it without anyone noticing.

Some of the greatest contributions of Persians to humanity was after the so called "savage muslim Arabs" invaded Persia. Which seems to bother a lot of royalists. But then again who cares.

One thing doesnt seem to be clear to some of my fellow countrymen. All through out history we have invaded other lands and in return have been invaded ourselves. We have mixed and inter married with hole range of races and people as do other people all over the planet. Just the way things work out I guess.

All through out we have retained our culture and identity as best as we could and others who invaded Iran over time adopted and changed.

Now, that identity can be the point of some disagreement but one thing is very clear and thats Islam is a major part of that identity and there is nothing you can do about that.

Iran is back on its path to those glorious days and the fact we produce scientists of the highest caliber in Iran who work and produce high quality work in chemistry, physics, nano-tech, aviation and etc.... Not to mention arts and cinema and music should be very difficult for some to swallow but its ok you will get used it. 


Anonymous Observer

Here We Go Again!!!

by Anonymous Observer on

Arash, brother, learn some history first before you pretend to be an expert on Iran's history.  I'll quickly correct you on two subjects (which you could have probably found out if you had looked up Wikipedia), and will perhaps later on, time permitting, correct you on other things.

First, there was really not that much separation between the Parthian and Persian nobility during the Sassanid period.  It was rather a confederacy of the two powers.  In fact, the most celebrated and trusted Persian General and the commander of the Persian army in the Qadissiyeh battle, Rostam Farrokhzad, was a Parthian.  The Parthia ruling class was abosorbed into the Sassanid court after Ardeshir established his rule.  So, there was no such thing as a separate "Parthian' nobility class which made decisions on its own.

Here, read this book on the subject by Parvaneh Pourshariati:

http://www.amazon.com/Decline-Fall-Sasanian-Empire-Sasanian-Parthian/dp/1845116453/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225386687&sr=8-1

Second, not all three of the first Arab Caliphs were killed due to internal conflict.  Omar was killed by Pirouz Nahavandi, a captured Persian POW who had nothing to do with the ongoing Arab power struggle.  Here's Omar's page on Wikipedia:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_ibn_al-Khatt%C4%81b

and here's Pirouz's page on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu-Lu'lu'ah

C'mon man...please do some research bfeore you write this stuff!!!

  

Persia is Eternal.


eroonman

Thanks for the validation, Now I'm positive...

by eroonman on

I appreciate your help in validating what was an opinion, but now I can safely say it is a firm belief. That the good old days, haven't amounted to their promise, whatsoever. For if everything was so great, it certainly hasn't had any kind of lasting power. Possibly because every Persian accomplishment was a result of "Rule" of some kind or another. Either the Moslems ruled us, or the king, in your well documented piece, apparently on more than one occasion by Iranian Moslem rulers (Two for one?)

Nope! I was right, none of this "grand history" has been worth spit, given it has not led to either the moderation of this church of eslam, nor has it handed over power to the people, as it should have by now, were we truly civilized.

Apparently though, it is enough to merely admire the pages of the photo album of our history, not get the slightest irony of any of it, and simply continue on, ever-deluded as before, like sheep herded into the sun as it sets behind Pasargarde.


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Persia is alive, and we

by mazi (not verified) on

Persia is alive, and we continue to speak Persian, and continue to contribute to humanity thorgh rich Persian cultue.
By the way what does "Farsi" means in English?

maz


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Love

by Lars SAh (not verified) on

Is this golden age returning??


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PERSIA forever

by Izzy (not verified) on

Hey MR.

The Romans were defeated in 20 battles by Pathians and Sassanians. The Greeks carved Persia into Seleucis Dynasty. The Safavids brought Persian Renaissance and Shiite Muslim as state religion. The Nexus Magazine wrote an article called Persian Trade Organization that does not allow foreigners to interfere into Iranian business. Love Live Iran!


samsam1111

Golden age of Persia? heh

by samsam1111 on

nahhh . justa hoax. get over it. Iran ceased to exist as of 637AD . What was left was Arab Subjugated V-ran as it continues to be today . .The correct title;

Golden age of Ommatism .

btw* The only exception in this 14 centuries of waste was Ferdowsi.


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be consistent

by Anonymous1020405 (not verified) on

Persian Culture/language is the correct term, not Farsi culture. Farsi is the name of the language in Persian but not in English. Any Encyclopedic source will say Ghaznavids, Seljuqids supported Persian culture and were Persianized. It will not say they supported Farsi culture.
Thanks.


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Richard Frye, Harvard Professor

by Shah Rajab (not verified) on