History of Iran

Introduction to History of Iran

Historians are still debating when the first inhabitants settled in what is now Iran, but archaeologists suggest that during Neolithic times small numbers of hunters lived in caves in the Zagros and Alborz Mountains and in the southeast of the country. The earliest archaeological findings from Persia date to the Paleolithic era, 100,000 years ago.

When it comes to the history of Iran, one has to consider whether it refers to the history of tribes and peoples who have lived on the political frontiers of modern Iran since the beginning of history or the history of peoples who have somehow called themselves Iranian who They lived in the geography of today’s Iran and the lands that historically were part of Greater Iran (Iranshahr). Occasionally, Iranian history begins with the arrival of the Aryans, also called Iran, on the Iranian plateau. But this does not mean that the Iranian plateau was devoid of civilization or civilization before the Aryans arrived. Prior to the arrival of the Aryans on the Iranian plateau, many ancient civilizations had flourished and faded, and some were still flourishing.

Iran’s history is basically divided into two general sections of pre-Islamic and post-Islamic Iran, which themselves are divided into smaller sections.

History of pre-Islamic Iran:

1. Prehistoric or Pre-Aryan Era in Iran

Before 100000 years ago – Lower Paleolithic Period

Only stone-made artifacts were found in three provinces: Khorasan, Azerbaijan and Sistan & Baluchestan (Acheulean Culture).

From 100000 / 80000 to 40000 years ago – Middle Paleolithic Period

Artifacts were found in the following Provinces: Luristan, Elam, Kermanshahan, Golestan, and Tehran.

From 40000 to 11000 years ago – Upper Paleolithic Period

Artifacts were found in the following Provinces: Luristan, Kermanshah and Ilam provinces.

From 20000 / 13000 to 7000 years ago- Epipaleolithic Period

Artifacts were found in Mazandaran province.

Since 8000 B.C.  Neolithic Period (including food-collecting, food reserving, food-producing and settling periods)

Artifacts were found in many historical sites, mounds, and caves.

Since 5000 B.C.

Artifacts were found in many historical sites, mounds, caves and rock shelters.

Since 5000 / 4000 B.C.

The flourishing period of techniques in such fields as pottery and metalwork. The invention of the pottery wheel and copper-made tools. Artifacts were found in many historical sites and mounds.

Since 3000 B.C.

Clay tablets in early and later Elamite writing systems; Gorgan culture, and Gian IV & III cultures In Luristan province. Artifacts were found in many historical sites and mounds.

Since 2000 B.C.

Qal’eh Shoga culture in Fars province. Artifacts were founding many historical sites and mounds.

Since 1400-1150 B.C.

The end of Bronze cultures and beginning of Iron cultures. Artifacts were found in many historical sites and mounds.

Since 2500 / 2600 B.C.

The beginning of Elamite dynasty- Awan kings, and a war against Mesopotamia.

Since 1450 / 1100 B.C.

Middle Elamites; the war between Elamites and Mesopotamia still went on.

2. Aryans’ Migration to Iranian Plateau


Some nations united in the latter half of the 7th century B.C. to form the Median kingdom. They were Lullubians, Galatians, Mauritanians, Kassian, Urartian, and Mannaians. Dioces founded the Median Empire. Assyrian kingdom, the most brutal power of the time, was put to an end by Medians.

3. Ancient Persia

550 B.C. Cyrus defeated the Medes at Pasargad, founded the dynasty and broadened the empire.

522 – 486 B.C. Darius I, the great, suppressed rebels, established the first civil society in Iran and broadened the Empire. He ordered the construction of Persepolis.

330 B.C. Alexander invaded Persia, destroyed the uncompleted Persepolis and took the Persian Empire.

323 B.C. Death of Alexander.

Seleucids & Parthians

312 – 281 B.C. Seleucid I Nicator founded the Seleucid Greek Dynasty in Persia.

250 B.C. The Arsacid from Parthian dynasty captured Khorasan, then under Seleucid’s control.

161 – 138 B.C. Mithridates I founded the Parthian Empire.

123 – 87 B.C. Zenith of the Parthian Empire.

87 B.C.-224 A.D. The decline of the Parthian Empire and the rise of Rome.


224 – 241 Artaxerxes I overcame the Parthians and founded the Sassanian Empire.

241 – 272 Shapur I invaded the Roman Empire (252-261) and arrested Emperor Valerian in 260.

242 – 273 Preaching of Mani, the prophet.

250 – 300 The conversion of Armenia to Christianity.

283_ The Emperor Garus took Ctesiphon. Armenia and North Mesopotamia were yielded to Rome.

363 Shapur II defeated Julian the apostate in a battle and regained Armenia and North Mesopotamia.

379 Peace was established with Rome.

425 White Huns raided Khorasan.

c489_ Nestorian church was founded.

499 – 531 The zenith of Sassanian power.

529_ Justinian closed schools. Scholars immigrated to Persia.

c570_ Birth of the prophet Mohammad. Yemen was under Persian control.

608_ Sassanians attacked Byzantium.

614_ Khosrow II captured Damascus and Jerusalem, bringing the true cross to Ctesiphon.

622_ Heraclius defeated Khosrow II. The year of the prophet Mohammad’s journey from Mecca (hijra).

632_ The death of the prophet Mohammad.

632 – 651 Yazdegerd III, the last Sassanian monarch.

635 – 641 The Arabs took Damascus and Ctesiphon. They defeated Persians and Persia was formally annexed to the Arab Empire.

651 The death of Yazdegerd III.

Post-Islam Era in Iran
Local Dynasties

661 – 750 Umayyad Caliphs ruling from Damascus.

750 – 1257 Abbasid Caliphs ruling from Baghdad.

756 – 1031 Western caliphate of Cordoba was founded on the flight of the last Umayyad.

861 – 872 Tahirid dynasty in Khorasan.

872 – 903 Saffarid dynasty in Khorasan.

903 – 999 Samanid dynasty in Khorasan.

935 – 1055 The rise of the Buwayhids near Shiraz.

962 – 1044 Ghaznavid dynasty rose in the east challenging the Samanids.

Seljuks and Mongols (Ilkhanids)

1037 – 1055 Seljuq Turks invaded Iran under Tughril beg. Buwayhid ruling ended by Abu Moslem, Iranian commander of Abbasid army.

1073 The zenith of Seljuq power.

1090-1257 Ishmaelite society, later named assassins, mainly based in northern Iran, the valley of Alamut.

1117 – 1157 Sultan Sanjar. The end of Seljuq rule in Iran.

1219 – 1227 Chengiz khan devastated Iran.

1256 – 1265 Hulagu, grandson of Chengiz Khan, founded the Ilkhanid dynasty at Maragheh.

1295 – 1304 Ghazan Khan and his final conversion to Islam.

1334 The end of the Ilkhanid dynasty.


1380 – 1393 Timur conquered Iran. The suspension of the Nestorian church.

1397 – 1447 Timur invaded India. Then, he died. His successor, Shahrokh conquered Oxus region.

1408 – 1453 The rise of the Qara Qoyunlu Turkmen.

1461 The Ottoman Turks entered the northwest and pushed the Timurids to the east.


1502 – 1524 Shah Ismail founded the dynasty. The conversion of Iran to Shiite Islam.

1587 – 1628 Shah Abbas I defeated the Turks in the north, conquered Baghdad and declared Esfehan as his capital.

1722 – 1724 Afghans invaded Iran and captured Esfehan. Shiraz was captured afterward. The massacre of Safavid princes.

Post Safavid Iran

1729 – 1739 Nader Qoli founded Afshar dynasty, expelled Afghans and conquered Afghanistan and India.

1750 – 1795 Zand dynasty ruling from Shiraz.

1795 – 1925 Qajar dynasty ruling from Tehran.

1812 The treaty of Golestan. Iran cedes territories to Russia.

1827 Russia seized Tabriz.

1896 – 1906 The constitutional revolution.

1906_ The promulgation of the constitution.

1908_ Nationalist uprisings.

1909_ The Anglo-Iranian oil company (later British Petroleum) was formed.

1909– 1923 Ahmad Shah was the last Qajar king. Reza Khan was appointed as Prime Minister.

1924_ Qajar dynasty was overthrown.

1925 – 1941 The proclamation of Reza Khan as Reza Shah, founder of Pahlavi dynasty.

1941_ The invasion of the allied forces. Reza Shah abdicated in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza.

1943_ Tehran conference (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin). Territorial integrity was regained by Iran.

1951_ Dr.Mosaddeq became the prime minister and pressed for the nationalization of the oil industry.

1955_ Iran joined the Baghdad Pact.

1959_ Iran signed a defense agreement with the USA.

1963_ Ayatollah Khomeini held religious nation-wide uprising in protest to the shah.

1967_ The coronation of Mohammad Reza and the queen Farah.

1969_ Tension was renewed between Iran and Iraq on the Arvand Rud (Shat al-Arab) issue.

1971_ 2500th anniversary of the Iranian monarchy was celebrated.

1978 – 1979 The escalation of peoples uprising against monarchy caused shah to flee from the country.

Islamic Republic of Iran

1979_ Islamic Republic of Iran. The nation voted for the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran government under the leadership of the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

1980_ Iraq attacked Iran.

1988_ Both parties accepted 1988 UN resolution 598. A final cease-fire proclaimed by Iran. (An 8-year-long war).

1989_ Ayatollah Khomeini passed away and Ayatollah Khamenei was elected as the new spiritual leader of the country.

Brief Overview of the History of Iran

Throughout much of early history, the land known today as Iran was known as the Persian Empire. The first great dynasty in Iran was the Achaemenid which ruled from 550 to 330 BC. It was founded by Cyrus the Great. This period was followed by the conquest of Alexander the Great from Greece and the Hellenistic period. In the wake of Alexander’s conquests, the Parthian dynasty ruled for nearly 500 years followed by the Sassanian dynasty until 661 AD.

In the 7th century, the Arabs conquered Iran and introduced the people to Islam. More invasions came, first from the Turks and later from the Mongols. Starting in the early 1500s local dynasties once again took power including the Afsharid, the Zand, the Qajar, and the Pahlavi.

In 1979 the Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown by revolution. The Shah (king) fled the country and Islamic religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini became the leader of the theocratic republic. Iran’s government has since been guided by Islamic principles.

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