Art &  letteratura



Traces of Civilization in Iran Before the First Half of the Fifth Millenium B.C.

The scientific excavation and study of the ancient caves and mounds of Iran by archaeologists has placed at the disposal of scholars a great deal of information about man's past. The oldest artifact which has so far come to light on the Iranian plateau from the prehistoric period is a stone hand - axe found near Kermanshah which is approximately 100,000 years old.
After the <<food - gathering period>> man gradually discovered the secrets of how to grow plants and domesticate animals. Archaeologists call this new period that of the beginning of settled, agricultural society.
The prehistoric cultures of Iran are divided in to two main groups: the north and northeastern cultures and the south and southewestern cultures. The cultures of the north and northeast are as follows:

The Seyalk Culture

Artifacts of this culture were found for the first time in Seyalk Hills near Kashan, and thus the culture was called by this name. The deepest level of excavation of this hill brought to light relics and remains of elementary agricultural societies on the Iranian plateau. The deep levels of Cheshma - ye Ali hill have also revealed remains from this culture. The approximate date of the Seyalk Culture is the beginning of the fifth millenium B.C.

The Cheshma - ye Ali Culture

The first remains from this prehistoric culture were found in Cheshma - ye Ali hill in southeastern Tehran, thus given the period its name. The bone artifacts and stone ware of the period are beautifully made; the art of making pottery has reached quite an advanced stage of perfection and the their wares. This period begins from the middle of the fifth millenium B.C.

The Hesar (Hissar) Culture

Remains from this culture were first discovered in Hesar Hill near Damqan, from whence the name. In this period there was a great deal of interrelationship between the various areas of Iran and the other regions of the Middle East. Metal artifacts and pottery and stone ware of the beauty have been found from of the arts and crafts of this culture.
During the past ten years archaeologists have uncovered other ancient sites which indicate that human societies existed in Iran before the Seyalk culture. Among these one can mention the sites of Zagha on the Qazvin plain and Hajji Firuz on the Solduz plain.

The culture of the south and southwest

is known by the name of the Buff Ware culture, because of the particular kind of pottery which it produced. This pottery first appeared contemporary with the cultures of the Iranian plateau and gradually spread until it came to be found over the whole of the ancient world. The various periods of this culture are known by the names of Bakun, Jafar Abad, Jari and Shush.

 Traces of Civilization Iran in the Second Half the Fifth and Beginning of the Fourth Millenia B.C.

The Period of the Buff Ware Culture

The remains of the Buff Ware Culture have been found in many other areas besides the south and southwest of Iran, for in its period of expansion and at its height this culture existed throughout the whole breadth of the ancient world. It began in the first part of the fofth millenim B.C., living remains in the ancient mounds of the Khuzestan plain and the surrounding regions. Gradually the distribution of its artifacts, and in particular its pottery, underwent expansion, and in the latter parts of the fifth millenium and the beginning of the fourth millenium B.C. the Buff Ware Culture extended over all of Iran and the neighboring regions, that is, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus Valley. The influence of the pottery of this culture in the Iranian plateau manifested itself during the period of the Hesar Culture. Although the remains and artifacts of this culture have been found throughout the ancient world, to a degree they have been influenced by local artistis styles. The most beautiful examples of the pottery of this culture at its height have been found in the mounds of Shush Bakun, Seyalk and Saggez Abad. 

The Iranian Plateau in the Third and Second Millenia B.C.

The archaeological evidence which has thus far come to light shows that the people of Iran possessed an extremely advanced civilization as long ago as 7000 years. The western part of the Iranian plateau entered the historical era about 5000 years ago when the cuneiform script was invented. The people of the eastern sections of the plateau, however, remained without the advantages of this Elamite form of writing, and the only information we have about them is the remains founds in tombs. These show that the remains of Iran in the third and second millenia B.C. were people of a peace - loving, agricultural and artistic nature. evertheless, the number of tombs excavated until now is not sufficient to come to any exact and comprehensive conclusions. In many areas of Iran there are archaeological remains relevant to these two millenia which for various reasons have not yet come to light. Thus it must not be thought that the inhabited areas of the Iranian plateau in the third and second millienia B.C. were limited to those indicated on the map. It is probable that eventually the whole surface of the map will be covered by points which will gradually be discovered. From the middle of the third millenium B.C. the form, design and coloring of implements and the manner of burying the dead gradually changed, so that by the end of this millenium the appearance of graves and of the artifacts found within them had taken to itself a completely new aspect. We can conclude from these changes that new peoples had gradually entered Iran from the east, for in the east the intensity of these changes is greater than in the west, and farther we move from the northeast towards the central regions of Iran such as Kashan and Nahavand, the less is the intensity.
In the middle of the second millenium Iran was invaded from several directions by peoples from the north. First, groups of Aryans who had been occupied with grazing their flocks of sheep and goats in the wide pasturelands located to the northeast of the Iranian plateau entered the plateau itself. A number of these groups went with their flocks to the fertile areas around the shores of the Caspian Sea and settled in the rea between the peaks of the Alborz mountain range and the edge of the Caspian forests, which contained excellent pasteurage. In the beginning of the second millenium B.C. the Hittites crossed the Bosporus traits and entered Asia Minor, the Mitannis found their way through the Caucasus into the Anatolian Peninsula and the Kassites came Downward by the same route towards the Zagros Mountains and settled in the western regions of the Iranian plateau.

Other Aryan peoples also entered Iran from the northeast during the second half of the second millenium B.C. and gave their name to the land. In this way during the last parts of the second millenium B.C. the Iranian plateau was made ready for the great monarchy which came into being during the following millenium. Gradually all of the scattered centers which had come into being separately during the space of 3000 years were brought under the control of a central government.


The Medes

Ancient Media consisted of Azarbaijan (Atropatene), Kordestan, the region around Hamedan, the areas of

lake Hoz-e Soltan and the Salt Lake (Daryacha - ye Namak), the regions of the Qara - su and Qomrud Rivers,

the northern part of the Kavir Plain, Isfahan (Paraitekene), Kermanshah and Lorestan. The vassal countries of

the Median Empire included Pars, Armenia, a part of Assyria (Harran and northern Mesopotamia), Ilam,

Drangiana (Sistan, Kerman, part of Makran and western Afghanistan as far as Qandahar), Parthia, Hyrkania (

Gorgan), Areia, possibly Khwarazm and probably Soghd.

In the year 647 - 3 B.C. the Medes, the Cimmerians and the Mannaeans revolted against Esarhaddon, the

King of Assyria, under the leadership of Kashtaritu (Khshathrita). It is probable that Kashtaritu is the same

person whom Herodotus calls Phraortes, the son of Deioces (Dayukku). Kashtaritu ruled the year 652 B.C.

From 652 until 625 the Medes were ruled by the Scythians or Sakas. In 615 the tribes of Media united under

the leadership of Cyxares (Huvakhshathra), attacked the Assyrian Empire and entered Kerkuk (Arrapkha). In

the year 612 B.C. the Medes together with the Babylonians occupied Nineveh, and with the occupation of

Hrran in 610 B.C. the Assyrian Empire fell. Cyxares then occupied the western part of Asia Minor, and Media

came to possess a common border with Lydia. The ensuing war between these two powers continued several

years until the occurrence of a solar eclipse in 585 B.C., which caused the two sides to cease fighting. A peace

was concluded through the mediation of the kings of Babylonia and Cilicia according to which the Halys

Rivers was determined as the border between Media and Lydia. After Cyxares his son Astyges (Arshtivaiga;

553 - 550 B.C.) becames king. Cyrus II, the Achaemenid, revolted against him and in 550 captured Ecbatana,

thus bringing the Median Empire to an end.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971



The Achaemenids (559 - 330 B.C.)

The Achaemenid Empire included the following regions: Pars of Parsa, which probably included Kerman

(Carmania or Karmana); Media; Lydia of Sardis (Sparda); Cappadocia (Katpatuka); Ionia (Yavna); the land of

<<the Scythians from the other side of the sea>> (Saka paradarya), located on the northern plains of the

Black Sea; There (Skudra); the land of <<the Ionians wearing the Petasos cap>> (Yavna takabara), which

was probably the region of Phrygia near the Dardanelles (the Hellespont); Caria (Karka); Armenia as far as

the Black Sea; the lands of the Kushaya (Abyssinia); Lybia (Putaya); Egypt (Mudraya); Arabia (Arabaya);

Babylonia (Babaitush); <<the Assyria on the other side of the river (the Euphrates)>>, which included Syria,

Phoenicia, Palestine and Cyprus; the lands of the Saka homavrga (Amorges); the Indus valley (Hindush); the

lands of <<the Sakas with the pointed hats (or helmets)>> (Tigrakhoda or Orthokoybantioi); Qandahar

(Gandhara or Parvparaesenna: << the land on that side of the mountain>>); Sattagydia (Thatagush); Makran;

Arachosia (Harahuvatish: the valley of the Helmand River as far as Qandahar): Drangyana (Zaranka);

Choresmia (Khvarazmish); Sogdiana; Bactria (Bakhtrish), which also included the area of Marv (Margu);

Haraiva; Parthava; Hyrkania; the areas bordering on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea; and Ilam

(Huvaza or Huza = Khuzestan).

Cyrus II the Achaemenid revolted against Astyges (Arshtivaiga) in 553 B.C. and in 550 B.C. took him prisoner.

In 547 Cyrus occupied Sardis and captured Croesus, the King of Lydia, and then proceeded to occupy the

other parts of Asia Minor. In 539 - 8 B.C. he conquered Babylonia and gave permission to the Jews to return to

Palestine, their homeland. Then he turned to the conquest of the northern and eastern regions of Iran, and in

530 - 29 B.C. in a war with tribes to the east or northeast he was killed. In 525 Cambyses II conquered Egypt.

In 519 B.C. Darius attacked the lands of the Sakas to the east and in 513 those of the European Sakas.

In the year 331 B.C. Darius III was decisively defeated by Alexander the Great at the battle of Gaugamela,

from whence he fled to Bactria. In 330 he was killed by Bessus, and thus the Achaemenid Empire was brought

to an end.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971



The Seleucids (312 - 6 B.C.)

The Seleucid Empire at the time of its founder, Seleucus Nicator, included the greater part of both the

Achaemenid Empire and the territories of Alexander. Seleucus ruled over all of Iran. Babylonia, Assyria,

Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine, Asia Minor (with the exception of Armenia, Pontus, Paphlagnia and Bithynia) and

Alexander's European territories. Atropatene (Azarbaijan) was independent, and Chandragopta, the King of

India, had founded a kingdom to the east of the Indus River, the capital of which was Pataliputra (Patna).

The different nationalities possessing a variety of cultures and traditions within this extensive Seleucid Empire

made the continuation of its existence more difficult. For this reason the Seleucids continued Alexander's

policy of Hellenizing the conquered territoties. Greek and Macedonian immigrants were settled in many of the

cities of Iran, which were then given Greek names. Thus the city of Rhgae (Rey), for example, was called

Europus, today's Nahavand was called Laodicea (the Arabic Ladhiqiyya), and Haraiara (Harat) was called

Alexandria. Sometimes new cities were also built. These steps, however, did not produce the desired result

and in the third century B.C. the Seleucid Empire was attacked from both within and without. In the year 255

B.C. Bactria achieved independence under the leadership of Diodotus, from the years 250 to 248 - 7 B.C. the

province of Parthia gained its independence, and at the same time to the west the Seleucids lost the province

of Cappadocia.

Some of these lost territories were recaptured by Antiochus III; but he was forced to recognize officially the

independence of Pergamum, Bactria and Parthia. As a result of the Treaty of Apamea in 188 B.C. all of Asia

Minor north of the Taurus Mountains was lost by the Seleucids. In the year 145 B.C. Ptolemy VI captured

Lebanon and Palestine from them and in 140 B.C. the Parthians occupied Babylonia and southern

Mesopotamia. The last Seleucid kings ruled only in Syria and a part of Mesopotamia.

The city of Seleucia on the Tigris River, founded in the year 312 B.C. by seleuces I, was for a time the capital

was Antioch, located on the Orontes River.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971



The Parthians

In the first half of the third century B.C. a confederation of nomadic tribes called the Dahae lived in the northern

plains of Hyrcania (Gorgan). One of these tribes, an Iranian people called the Parni, separated from the

confederation under the leadership of two brothers, Arsaces and Tiridates, and set out for the valley of Tejend

(Ochus). Diodotus, the Satrap of Bactria, blocked their path, and they were forced to head for Hyrcania -

Parthia. The Satrap of this province, Andragora, was killed in a resulting war. Arsaces and Tiridates are

considered the founders of the Parthian (or Arsacid) dynasty. The <<Arsacid Era>>, which began on April 1,

247 B.C., was apparently calculated from the coronation of the first of the Parthian kings.

The Parthians took advantage of the weakness of the Seleucids and gradually conquered the latter's

territories as far as the Euphrates River. The Parthian Empire was made up of the following regions: Hyrcania,

the capital of which was Zadrakarta; Astavene, whose capital was Asaak mear present - day Quchan;

Parthyene whose capital was Mithradakert near today's Eshq Abad, the Nisa of the Islamic period;

Apavarcticene, or the Abivard of the Islamic period; Margiane, the Marv of the Islamic period; Aria, the Islamic

period's Harat; Anauoa, along with the cities of Farah, Bust and Neh; Darangiane; Sakestan or Parctacene;

Arachosia or the later Qandahar; Rhaga or Rey; Choarene or Khwar; Comisene, or the Qumes of the Islamic

period, in which was located the city of Hecatompylis; Seleucia, located on the Tigris River, along with

Ctesiphon, the later capital of the Parthians; Dura - Europus, on the Euphrates; al - Hazr or Hatra; Artemita;

eastern, western and upper Media; Tapuria and Traziana; the country of the Mardians in the Alborz

Mountains; and the southern and eastern shores of the Caspian Sea.

Vassal states of the Parthians included the following: the kingdom of Mesene, located south of Babylonia and

also known as Characene; the kingdom of the region of Elam, known as Elymais, which included Khuzestan

and a portion of Lorestan, and the capital of which was near Izeh or Malmir; the kingdoms located in the

provinces of Pars and Kerman; the kingdom of Osroene in northwestern Mesopotamia, whose capital was

Edessa; the kingdom of Adiabene, or ancient Assyria, whose capital was Arbela on the Zab River; the

kingdom of Gordyene of Cordyene,or the land of the Kardush, in south Armenia; the kingdom of Azarbaijan

(Atropatene); the kingdom of Armenia; and the Indo - Parthian dynasty, which was located in the Indus valley

and among the important cities of which was Taxila.

The important centers of Parthian governmet during various periods were the cities of Dara, in the region of

Abivard; Nisaye of Parthaunisa, where the first Parthian kings were buried; Hecatompylos, in Qumes between



Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971



The Sassanids (226 - 651 A.D.)

Ardashir I, the first of the Sassanids, was the son of Babak, the king of Estakhr. In the year 208 A.D. Ardashir

succeeded his father and went on to occupy all of Persis (Fars) and Carnania (Kerman), afterwards taking

Susiana (or Elymais), Mesene (or Characene) and Isfahan. In the year 224 a battle took place at Hormozdgan

between Ardashir and Artabanus V, the Parthian King. As a result Artabanus was killed and Ardashir

henceforth considered himself the legitimate heir to the Parthian Empire and the king of kings of Iran.

According to Noldeke's calculation Ardashir was officially coronated in the year 226. In the following year he

occupied Ecbatana (Hamedan), Atropatene (Azarbaijan), Hyrcania (Gorgan), Abrashahr (Khorasan) and

Margiana (Marv), and extended his territories to the neighborhood of Balkh and Khwarazm. In addition the

kings of Kushanshahr and Turan (in present - day Baluchestan) acknowledged his sovereignty. Thus it was

that the Sassanid Empire, which was to last more than 400 years, took its initial form.

According to the trilingual inscription of Shapur I at the Kabah of Zoroaster (Kaba - i Zartusht), which has been

called by European scholars res gelase divi saporis (The Book of Deeds of the Emperor Shapur), Shapur's

territories consisted of the following: Persis, Susiana, Mesene, Asuristan (Iraq), Adiabene (northern

Mesopotamia: the present - day region of Erbil), Arabia, Armenia, Atropatene, Iberia (Georgia), Makhelomia,

Albania, Balasagan (Barasajan, in the north of Iranian Azarbaijan), Patishkhwargar (the mountainous region

of Mazandaran), Media (the Jebal of the Arab geographers), Hyrcania, Margiana, Harat, Abrashahr,

Carmania, Sistan, Turan, Makuran (Makran), Paratan, Hind (the Indus River delta), Kushanshahr (as far as

Peshavar and Tashkand), Soghd (as far as Kashghar) and Mazun (the region of Oman). It is possible that the

inclusion of some of these areas, especially Kushanshahr and Soghd, as being among Shahpur's territories is

an exaggeration.

During the reign of Chosroes I Anusharvan, Sassanid territory was extended to the shores of the Black Sea,

that is, Lazika (present - day Lazestan, the capital of which is Kutais). In addition the city of Antioch and

southern Arabia (the Yemen) were taken by the Sassanids and the region of Bactria as far as the southern

part of the Oxus River was also annexed to their empire. The conquests of Chosroes II Aparvez (590 - 628) in

Syria and Asia Minor were of a temporary nature.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971












The Tahirids

In 205/820 al - Mamun, the Abbasid caliph, appointed Tahir ibn Husayn ibn Masab to rule over a large portion

of the Abbasid caliphate. According to the historian, Tabari, the area of this rule extended from Baghdad to the

regions of the caliphate farthest to the cast. After Tahir's death the Abbasid caliphs left his descendants in

control of important sections of Iran, the center of their rule begin the province of Khorasan. Finally, in the year

259/872 Yaqub ibn Layth Saffari entered Neishabur and imprisoned the Tahirid ruler of Khorasan, Mahmud

ibn Tahir ibn Abdallah ibn Tahir.

During the whole period of their rule, the Tahirids remained obedient to the Abbasid caliphate, sending to

Baghdad the taxes which they collected from the regions under their control and going to war against the

enemies of the Abbasid regime on orders received from the capital. In the year 207/822 it did happen that

Tahir ibn Husayn purposefully left al - Mamun's name out of the Friday sermon (in effect declaring his own

independence), but by coincidence he died on the same night. After hearing of Tahir's death al - Mamun

appointed Talha ibn Tahir to be his father's successor, or, according to other sources, he appointed Abdallah

ibn Tahir to succed his father, but since Abdallah was in Raqqa, he sent his brother Talha to rule as his


When Abdallah ibn Tahir died in 230/844 he ruled over Khorasan, Rey, and Samanid princes in Transoxania

were his vassals, Oshrusana had been conquered during his rule and Maziyar had been taken by his


The reasons that the Tahirids are considered the first Iranian dynasty of the Islamic period are apparently that

first, Tahir was an Iranian - his geneology has even been traced back to Minuchihr, the mythical Iranian king;

second, in the war between al - Mamun and al - Amin, which was in fact a war between the Iranians and the

Arabs, Tahir was al - Mamun's general and the leader of the army of Khorasan; and third, the Abbasid caliphs

left the rule of Khorasan in the hands of Tahir's descendants, by reason of the influence of the Tahirids in that



Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971








The Samanids

In the year 261/874 Nasr ibn Ahmad ibn Asad was appointed ruler of Transoxania by al - Mutamid, the

Abbasid caliph. Nasr established Samarqand as his capital and sent his brother Ismail to Bokhara as

governor. After Nasr's death Ismail assumed the rule of all Transoxania. In 270/883-4 he coquered territories

beyond the Jaxartes River and in 287/900, after capturing Amr ibn Layth, he was given the rule of Sistan and

Khorasan by al - Mutamid, so that his territory to the southeast extended to the Indus River. Ismail also

conquered Gorgan and Mazandaran from Muhammad ibn Zayd Alawi and in the area of Eraq - e - Ajam

advanced as far as Rey and Qazvin. Thus Samanid territory during Ismail's rule included Transoxania,

Khorasan, Sistan as far as the western branches of the Indus River, Gorgan, Tabarestan, Rey, Qumes,

Qazvin, Abhar and Zangan. It also included to the northeast Torkestan and the borders of China, During the

rule of Nasr ibn Ahmad ibn Ismail Kerman was occupied by Muhammad ibn Ilyas and thus was added to the

Samanid domains. It was in fact at this time that these domains reached their greatest extension.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971









The Buyids

The origins of the Buyid (Bawayhid) dynasty go back to the time when Abu Shuja Buya and his three sons, Ali,

Hasan and Ahmad joined the forces of Makan Kaki. Afterwared the three sons enterd the service of Mardawij,

by whom Ali, the service of pointed governor of Karaj (between Hamedan and Borujerd). Several years laters

Ali added Isfahan to his domain and his brother Hasan gained control of Shiraz, while the third brother,

Ahmad, became ruler of Kerman. In the same year, 334/945-6, Ahmad set out for Khuzestan which along with

Baghdad he subsequently conquered. The caliph, al - Mustakfi Billah, gave the title Muizz al - Dawla to

Ahmad, Imad al - Dawla to Ali and Rukn al - Dawla to Hasan.

It should be mentioned that it was from this time that the Baghdad caliphate was under the control of the

Persian Buyids; and it was not long before Muizz al - Dawla blinded al - Mustakfi and removed him from the

caliphate, replacing him with al - Muti Lillah, the son of the caliph al - Muqtadir.

The most famous of the Buyid sultans was Adhud al - Dawla Fana Khusraw, the son of Rukn al - Dawla, who

ruled in Fars from the year 338/949 and extended his domain to the southern region of the Persian Gulf and

Oman. Among his famous monuments are the Amir Dam on the Kur River in Fars, the remains of which are

still to be seen, and the Adhudi hospital, which he founded in Fars in 368/978-9.

The Buyids had four main centers of government. The first was Baghdad, where the following members of the

dynasty ruled in succession from 334/945-6 to 440/1048: Muizz al - Dawla, Izz al - Dawla, Adhud al - Dawla,

Samsam al - Dawla, Sharaf al - Dawla, Baha al - Dawla, Musharrif al - Dawla, Jalal al - Dawla, Abu Kalijar

Marzban and al - Malik al - Rahim Khusraw Firuz.

The second was Fars and Khuzestan, where Imad al - Dawla, Adhud al - Dawla, Sharaf al - Dawla, Samsam

al - Dawla, Baha al - Dawla, Sultan al - Dawla, Mushrrif al - Dawla, Abu Kalijar and al - Malik al - Rahim ruled

from 322/934 to 440/1048.

The third was Kerman where Muizz al - Dawla, Adhud al - Dawla, Samsam al - Dawla, Baha al - Dawla,

Qiwam al - Dawla, Abu Kalijar and Abu Mansur Fulad Sutun ruled from 324/936 to 440/1048.

The fourth was Jebal (Rey, Hamedan, Isfahan and part of Azarbaijan), where Imad al - Dawla, Rukn al -

Dawla. Muayyid al - Dawla, Ala al - Dawla, Kakuya, Fakhr al - Dawla and Majd al - Dawla ruled from 320/932

to 420/1029.

The Buyid government in Jebal was transferred to the Ghaznavids in 420/1029 after the conquest of Rey by

Sultan Mahmud Ghaznawi, while in Fars, Khuzestan and Baghdad the Buyids were overthrown in 447/1055

by Toghril Beg the Seljuk. In Kerman the Buyid princes surrendered their rule to Malik Qavurt Seljuki in the

year 444/1052-3.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971




The Ghaznavids

Sebuktigin, the son - in - law of Alptigin, became ruler of Ghazni in the year 366/977. From there he occupied

the surrounding regions, such as Zamin Davar, Qosdar, Bamiyan, Tokharestan and Ghur, and founded a

small state in southeastern Iran. After his death in 387/997, his son Sultan Mahmud was able to establish a

state relatively worthy of respect. By conquering Sistan, Gharjestan and Jozjanan, Mahmud extended his

father's territory, and with the signing of a treaty with Ilek - Khan, the ruler of Transoxania,he established the

Oxus River as the border between the two states. Afterwareds, in 408/1017 - 8, Mahmud conquered

Khwarazm and in 419/1028 he annexed Gorgan. In addition his son, Sultan Masud, conquered Tabarestan in


To the southeast Sultan Mahmud invaded India sixteen times, conquered the Punjab and Kashmir and

advanced on the one hand to Qannuj and Kalanjar and on the other to the peninsula of Gojarat. But these

invasions can not be considered among Mahmud's permanent conquests, for in each case after defeating the

garrisons and plundering the temples he returned to Ghazni without appointing a governor for the defeated

regions. Hence the border remains the Indus River and its western branch, which passes near Peshavar.

During Sultan Mahmud's reign, southern Iran was in the hands of the successors of Adhud al - Dawla. The

various branches of this family in Kerman, Fars and Khuzestan for the most part warred among themselves to

gain ascendancy over the others.

Towards the end of his reign, Sultan Mahmud turned attention toward western Iran and in 420/1029 he took

Rey from Abu Talib Rustam ibn Fakhr al - Dawla, entitled Majd al - Dawla, and turned the government of this

city and of Isfahan over to his son Masud. Masud also extended his territory to the west by capturing Qazvin

and Hamedan.

At this time the Rawwadi dynasty was ruling in Azarbaijan while Iraq and the western lands of Iran such as

Kordestan, Kermanshah and Lorestan were under the domination of the Abbasid caliph.

After the death of Sultan Mahmud the Seljuks came to power in northern Khorasan and Sultan Masud was not

able to hold his ground against them. In 432/1041 he was killed on his way to India. Masud's successors lost

Ghazni and the southeastern sections of Iran to the Seljuks and the Ghaznavids came to an end in 582/1186-7

when the Ghurids captured their last capital city, Lahore.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971







The Khwarazm - Shah

Malik - Shah bestowed the provincial governorship of Khwarazm on Anush - Tegin Gharchal. Until Sultan

Sanjar's death, the rule of Anush - Tegin's successors was limited to Khwarazm itself. After his death

however, Sultan Ala al - Din Tokesh gained control of Khorasan and in 590/1194 put Toghril III, the last of the

Seljuk kings of Iraq, to death and annexed his territory.

Sultan Muhammad, Ala al - Din's son, conquered Mazandaran in the year 606/1209 - 10 and also wrested

Kerman from the rule of the successors of Malik Dinar. When the Ghurids fell in 612/1215 - 6 Sultan Muhammad occupied the lands of Ghur, Gherjestan, Sistan and Zabolestan and extended his southeast frontier to the Indus River. He also took Transoxanian from the Qara - Khitais and extended his territory in that direction to the borders of Kashgher. By forcing Sad ibn Zangi, the Atabeg of Fars, and Uzbak, the Atabeg of Azarbayjan, to accept his authority, he added these two provinces as well to the sphere of his influence.

Because of the Mongol invasion, however, Sultan Muhammad was not able to carry out his intention of attacking Baghdad and occupying the territories of the Abbasid caliph. And although Jalal al - Din, Sultan

Muhammad's son, resisted the Mongols bravely for ten years and extended his father's domain to include

Georgia, his death in 628/1231 brought the rule of the Khwarazm - Shahs to an end, and thus Iran fell into the

hands of the Mongols.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971



The Il - Khans

Chingiz - Khan divided the lands he had conquered among his sons during his own lifetime. Iran, however, he

did not bestow upon any of them, and until 651/1253 it was administered by governors sent from Mongolia. In

that year Hulegu - Khan was sent by his brother Megu - Qaan to conquer the fortresses of the Ismailis,

overthrow the Abbasid caliph and occupy the territories which had not yet been taken by the Mongols. His

successors in Iran made up the independent Il - Khanid dynasty.

To the northeast the domain of the Il - Khans bordered on the territory occupied by the successors of

Chaghatai, the son of Chingiz, which included Transoxania and eastern and western Torkestan. The Oxus

River always remained the border between the territories of these two families.

To the southeast the border of the Il - Khanid territory was the Indus River and the Punjab, which had been

occupied by the Mongols at the time of Chingiz.

To the west the Mongols reached the borders of Syria, which was occupied by the Egyptians, at the time of

Hulegu - Khah, and in fact the Euphrates River made up the western border of Il - Khanid territory. Although

the Mongols were sometimes able to conquer parts of Syria, they were always forced to retreat to the regions

east of the Euphrates by the strong Egyptian resistance.

After the fall of the Seljuks of Asia Minor, the Il - Khans extended their northwestern borders to the edges of the

Byzantine Empire. To the north the Il - Khanid territory included Darband and Georgia and bordered upon the

areas occupied by the successors of Jochi, another son of Chingiz.

Although the Mongols gained control over all of Iran, in some provinces local dynasties ruled semi -

independently under their sovereignty. These included the Kart Dynasty of Harat, Ghur and Gharjestan, which

continued to rule even after the death of Sultan Abu Said Bahadur Khan, the last of the Il - Khans, and the Qara

- Khitai of Kerman, whose rule was put to an end in the year 703/1303 - 4.

The province of Fars was under the financial administration of the Il - Khans from the time Hulegu - Khan

onward, but it continued to possess a degree of independence until the year 684/1285 - 6, when Abish Khatun,

the last of the Atabegs of Fars, was still alive. In southwesten Iran or the present - day Bakhtiyari region and

Lorestan, the Great and the Little Atabegs of Lor continued their political life under Mongol sovereignty.

The local rulers of Hormuz on the islands and shores of the Persian Gulf, the Shabankara kings of eastern

Gars and the rulers of Lar in the city of Lar in Fars also administered small local governments, for the most

part under Mongol control. Sistan was in the hands of local rulers who were the successors of the Saffarids. In



Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971


Local Dynasties Between the Mongols and Timur

After the death of Abu Said Bahadur in 736/1335, the last of the Il - Khans of Iran, a number of local dynasties

came to power in various parts of the country:

1. The Chupanids in Azarbaijan, Arran and Eraq - e - Ajam, from 738/1338 to 758/1357. Their capital was


2. The Jalayirids or Ilakanids in Iraq, Eraq - e - Ajam, Azarbaijan and Sharvan, from 740/1239 - 40 to 838/1434

- 5. Their capital was Baghdad and Tabriz.

3. The Muzaffarids in Fars, Kerman, Isfahan and Khuzestan, from 718/1318 to 795/1393. Their capital was

Shiraz. The Atabegs of Yazd, the Al - i Inju in Shiraz, the Shabankara kings, the kings of Hormuz, the rulers of

Lar and the Great and Small Atabegs of Lor were either overthrown by the Muzaffarids or continued to rule as

their vassal states.

4. The Karts, who came to power in 643/1245 - 6 in the eastern part of Khorasan and retained their position for

some time.

5. The Sarbadars, who ruled from 737/1337 to 783/1381 in the western part of Khorasan.

6. Taghatimur and his descendants, who were in possession of Gorgan and a part of northern Khorasan and

for a time Damqan, Semnan and Firuzkuh and who ruled from 737/1337 to 812/1409 - 10.

7. Amir Arghun - Shah, who ruled for a time over the cities of Tus, Nesa, Abivard and Sarakhs.

8. Various local princes, known as the Paduspanids, the Ispahbads of Bawandids, the Marashi Sayyids, the

Kiyas and the Ishaqwand family, ruled over Mazandaran, Rostamdar, Lahijan and Gilan.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971



The Timurids the Period of Shahrukh

Although Timur had chosen Pir Muhammad ibn Jahangir as his successor, after his death in 807/1407 Khalil

Sultan, another of his grandsons and the son of Miran Shah, occupied Samarqand, the capital city, with the

backing of the princes of the realm, declared himself king. At this time Shahrukh, the fourth son of Timur, has

consolidated his position in Khorasan, the center of his rule, and added Gorgan and Mazandaran to his

domain. As a result of differences among the princes, Khalil Sultan was deposed in 812/1499, Shahurkh

conquered Transoxania as well. Thus he ruled for nearly a half century (from 807/1404 to 850/1447) as

Timur's successor in Iran and Transoxania. In the southeast his territory reached to the Indus River and the

Soleyman Mountains and in the northeast to the farther side of the Jaxartes River, In the West Azarbaijan,

Arran and Mesopotamia were ruled by Jahan - Shah Qara - Qoyunlu under Shahrukh's aegis.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971


The Successors of Shahrukh and the Aq - Qoynlus

After the death of Shahrukh, differences arose among the various Timurid princes. As a result Jahan - Shah

Qara - Qoyunlu achieved independence in Azarbaijan and Arran. In 857/1453 he conquered Eraq - e - Ajam,

Fars and Kerman and extended his territory as far as the Oman sea. In 861/1458 he occupied Harat, the

Timurid capital. Afterwards he concluded a treaty according to which he entrusted the rule of Khorasan,

Gorgan and trusted the rule of Khorasan, Gorgan and Kerman to Sultan Abu Said, the claimant to the Timurid

throne, and went to Tabriz. At this time his territory included all of Azarbaijan, Arran, Eraq - e - Ajam, Iraq, Fars

, Kerman and Armenia. But at the same time Uzun Hasan Aq - Qoyunlu, known as Uzun Hasan, had gained a

degree of power, and in a war that occurred between him and Jahan - Shah the latter was killed. Thus Uzun

Hasan took possession of Jahan - Shah's territories and became the immediate neighbor of the Timuird


Sultan Abu Said, who governed all of Transoxania as well as the provinces of Kabol, Zabol, Khorasan and

Mazandaran, invaded Iraq and Azarbaijan in 872/1468 to war against Uzun Hasan. However in the following

year he was killed in battle. His successor, Sultan Husayn Mirza, found no opportunity to win back his

inherited territories from Uzun Hasan because of the opposition of the Timurid princes to his rule. After Sultan

Husayn's death in 911/1506 the Timurid dynasty came to an end.

Uzun Hasan extended his domain west to the borders of the Ottoman Empire, Qaraman (ancient Cilicia) and

the territory of the Mamluk dynasty and north to Georgia, and at the same time he made the king of Shirvan his

tributary. After Uzun Hasan's death in 882/1478 the Aq - Qoyunlu dynasty gradually weakened. It was finally

overthrown by Shah Ismail the Safavid.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971


The Safavids

Shah Isma'il I, the founder of the Safavid dynasty, mounted the throne at Tabriz in the year 907/1502. In

908/1503 he conquered Hamadan and in 909/1504 Shiraz and Kerman. In 914/1508-9 the city of Baghdad

and the surrounding areas fell into his hands. These continued to be under Safavid control until the year

941/1534-5 when Sultan Sulayman Khan Qanuni occupied the city. In 1033/1623-4 Shah 'Abbas I retook

Baghdad from the Ottomans but in 1048/1638-9 Iraq fell into Ottoman hands once and for all.

In the year 913/1507-8 Deyar-e Bakr and Arzanjan were occupied by Shah Isma'il, but these two provinces

were lost by the Safavid in 921/1515 and continued under Ottoman control. The ,local rulers of Sharvan were

subservient to Safavid rule from the first appearance of the dynasty until 945/1538-9 when Shah Tahmasb I

took over absolute control of the province. Sharvan fell into Ottoman hands in 985/1577 but Shah 'Abbas

reoccupied it in the year 1016/1607-8. Baku, Darband, Ganja, Qarabagh, Chukhursa'd (Iravan) and part of

Georgia were Safavid territory, although several times they came under the control of the Ottomans during

their invasions of Iran. From 913/1507-8 to 939/1532-3 Bedlis of Betlis and from 913/1507-8 to 955/1548 Van

were occupied by Iran. Bahrain was Iranian territory and even Basra was sometimes under Iranian control.

Khorasan fell into Sahah Isma'il's hands in 916/1510-11 and in addition the ruler of Balkh and Marv, who also

governed Andakhud, Shebarghan, Jijaktu, Meymana, Faryab and Gharjestan, was appointed by him. In

916/1510-11 the Oxus River was defined as the border between Iran and the Uzbaks. In 922/1516 Balkh and

in 932/1525-6 Marv were taken from the Safavid but in the year 1007/1598-9 Marv once again came under

their control. Harat was in Safavid hands from 916/1510-11 and although it fell to the Uzbaks many times

during the Safavid control. Qandahar come under Safavid rule during the reign of Shah Tahmasb and from

965/1558 to the end of the Safavid period it continued in Safavid hands, although from 1000/1591-2 to

1031/1622 and 1047/1637-8 to 1059/1649 it was under the control of the Mogul dynasty of India.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971


Nadir Shah Afshar

Nadir Quli, the son of Imam Quli, was a member of the Qarakhlu clan of the Afshar tribe. He was born in

Muharram 1100/ November 1688. The details of his childhood years are not known, but from the time he was

a young man he occupied himself with the life of a soldier. At the age of 31 he married and afterwards he

established himself as ruler over the stronghold of Kalat, a natural fortress in Khorasan. At 39 he joined the

service of Shah Tahmasb, the son of Shah Sultan Husayn, who was attempting to win for himself the crown

which had been worn by his father. In this period, during four years and four major battles (those of

Mehmandust, Damqan; Sardara - ye Khar, Tehran; Murcha - khurt, Isfahan; and Zarqan, Fars) Nadir

exterminated the Afghans, and during at least three other great campaigns and small battles he forced the

Ottomans, who were in possession of the major part of the west and northwest of Iran, to evacuate their

occupied territories.

As a result of the influence of the king and his own genius, Nadir gained for himself a tremendous degree of

power. In 1145/1732 he deposed his benefactor and in the year 1148/1736 at the Council of the Plain of

Moghan, at the junction of the Kor and Arax Rivers, he was elected by the nobles of Iran to the kingship; on 24

Shawwal March of the same year he was crowned.

From the plain of Moghan Nadir headed for eastern Iran with the aim of conquering Qandahar, and after

accomplishing this he set out for India. In Dhu'l - Qi'dah 1151/February 1739 he defeated Muhammad Shah

the Mogul at the Kernal Plain and on 3 Safar 1152/15 May 1739 he called together as assembly of the nobles

of India and bestowed the rule of India once again upon Muhammad Shah. In return for this noble gesture, the

Indian emperor presented his treasuries to Nadir and in addition entrusted to him the kingdoms on the other

side of Tibet and Kashmir to the point where the latter river joins the Indian Ocean as well as the provinces of

Tatta and the ports and fortresses of Batu.

After returning from India and arriving at Kabol, Nadir set out in pursuit of Khudayar Khan 'Abbasi, the ruler of

Sind, and went as far as Omarkut. Then he turned towards Transoxania, and on 19 Jumada'l - thani 1153/11

September 1740 Abu'l - Fadhl Khan, the ruler of Bokhara, surrendered to him without resistance and turned

over to his control the lands on the left side of the Oxus River. In Sha'ban 1153/November 1740 Nadir

defeated Ilbaris Khan, the ruler of Khwarazm, and annexed the whole of that province. From this date until 11

Jumada'l thani 1160/20 June 1748, the day of his death, Nadir was a great king, one who also realized naval

bases on both the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971


the zand

When Nadir was killed, a situation occurred similar to what had happened at the death of Alexander the Great.

The awe in which Nadir was held had destoryed the halo of reference surrounding the royal family of the

Safavids. Each of the leaders of Nadir's army took the forces under his command and estabilshed himself in

one of the provinces, where he proceeded to set up a government. The most important claimants to the Iran at

this time were the following:

1. Ahmad Khan Durrani, one of the leaders of the Abdali tribe and a favorite of Nadir, who after Nadir's death

went to Qandahar and declared himself king. He first established his rule over eastern Afghanistan and the

areas of the Punjab and Sind. Then he turned his attention towards Khorasan, but finding the other claimants

to the throne more poweful than himself he was content to occupy Sistan and a part of Khorasan, that is,

Harat. To the east he invaded India repeatedly and in addition to the provinces of Sind and the Punjab took

possession of Kashmir.

2. At Nadir's death his family fell to battling among themselves, and in fact, they have bequeathed nothing but

a bloody page to Iranian history. Finally Shahrukh, the grandson of Nadir and the son of Ridha Quli Mirza, the

latter of whom had been blinded during the struggles for power, was able to rule over portion of Khorasan until

Aqa Muhammad Khan Qajar came to power.

3. Heraclius, the governor of Georgia and one of Nadir loyal lieutenants, returned to Georgia and declared his


Other important claimants to the throne include Muhammad Hasan Khan Qajar in Gorgan, Ali Mardan Khan

and Abul - Fath Khan, two leaders of the Bakhtiyari tribe in Isfahan, Azad Khan Afghan in Azarbaijan and

Karim Khan Zand near Malayer.

The stuggle for power continued for ten years, from 1162/1748 to 1172/1757. During the numerous wars

which took place Karim Khan Zand emerged victorious and all of his above named rivals were put to death by

his powerful and fortunate sword. The duration of Karim Khan's rule was 21 years. His territory which had

became more extensive than that of the other men ruling in various parts of Iran, included the province of

Basra, which he conquered and ruled over until the end of his reign. His capital was Shiraz.

During this period the khans of Khwarazm, Bokhara and Balouchestan took advantage of the situation in other

to declare their own independence.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971


The Qajars

On the very day that Karim Khan died, 13 Safar 1193/2 March 1779, Aqa Muhammad Khan Qajar set out to

seize the throne of Iran. Aqa Muhammad Khan was the son of Muhammad Hasan Qajar, the rival of Nadir

Shah and Karim Khan Zand, of the Ashaqabash clan of the Qajar tribe. In the course of eighteen years he

attained his goal, eradicating the feudal system which had dominated during the Zand period and extending

the borders of the country approximately what they had been in the Safavid period.

The war between Aqa Muhammad Khan and Lutf Ali Khan, the last king of the Zand dynasty, lasted for six

years, from 1203/1788 tp 1209/1794. In Ramadan 1209/April 1995 Aqa Muhammad Khan invaded Georgia

and occupied the northwestern ,lands of Iran as far as the Caucasus Mountains. He chose Tehran as his

capital and in 1210.1796 was coronated in that city. In the same year he occupied all of Khorasan as well as

Balkh. In 1211/1796 he set for the Caucasus to war against the Russians but on 21 Dhul' Hijja/18 May of the

same year he was killed near the stronghold of Shishi.

During the reign of Fath Ali Shah, Aqa Muhammad Khan successor, a completely new situation was brought

about because of the French Revolution and the appearance of Napoleon, the rule of Alexander I in Russia

and the imperialistic policies of the British East India Company in India. Iran was suddenly thrown into the area

of international politics, although Fath Ali Shah and the members of his court were completely unaware of the

nature of those politics of what was happening in the world at large. As a result Iran continued to suffer severe

political and territorial losses.

In this period, two great wars were fought with Tsarist Russia. The first of these, which lasted ten years (from

1218/1803 to 1228/812), led to the Treaty of Golestan, the third article of which reads as follows: "His

Highness ... the king of Iran considers the provinces of Qarabagh and Ganja; the khanates of Shakki,

Shirvain,Qobba, Darband and Baku; all areas of the provinces of Talesh which are now occupied by Russia;

all of Daghestan and Georgia; the areas of Shura - gol, Achuqbash, korna, Monkril and Abkhaz; all of the

areas and lands between the Caucasus and the present determined borders; and the lands and people of the

Caucasus adjoining the Caspian Sea to be belonging and attached to the Imperial State of Russia."

The second war lasted two years (from 1241/1826 to 1243/1828) and resuled in the Treaty of Torkomanchay,

the third aritcle of which reads as follows: "His Highness the Shahanshah of Iran entrusts on the part of

himself, his descendants and his heirs the Khanates of Irvan situated on both sides of the Arax River as well

as the khanates of Nakhjavan to the absolute ownership of Russia."

Fath Ali Shah was succeeded by his nephew Muhammad Shah, who reigned for fourteen years. During this

period Iran's borders underwent no changes, and only the Treaty of Erzerum (16 Jumada'l n- thani 1262/13

June 1846) is worthy of mention. As a result of this treaty, the border disputes between Iran and the Ottoman

Empire were partly settled.

After Muhammad Shah his son Nasir al - Din Shah came to power and ruled for 49 years. By means of the

Treaty of Paris (Rajab 1273/ March 1857) England forced Nasir al - Din Shah to abandon any claim to the

region of Harat or the provinces of Afghanistan, and subsequently through various arbitrations it turned over to

Afghanistan part of Sistan. The Russians, who had begun to penetrate into Iran's northeastern provinces

during the reign of Peter the Great, moved swiftly forward during this period and finally, by means of the treaty

of 23 Muharram 1299/9 December 1881, they reached their present borders. Again, Great Britain did not

remain idle but during the course of these events, by political means and by establishing relations with the

Baluchi khans, proceeded to annex a portion of Balouchestan to its own territories.


Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran, Institue of Geography - 1971