Wikijunior:Ancient Civilizations/Persians

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The Persian, Achaemenid Empire at its greatest from 648 BC to 330 BC

What country did they live in?[edit]

The Persian Empire started in the north west corner of what is now Iran. It grew through military conquest to cover a huge region that roughly encompasses today's Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Bulgaria, many parts of Greece, Egypt, Syria, much of what is now Pakistan, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Caucasia, Central Asia, Libya, and northern parts of Arabia. The empire eventually became the largest empire of the ancient world.

Persepolis was the ceremonial capitol of Persia. Susa and Pasargadas also were capital cities at different times in Persian history. They were all in what is now Iran.

What did they eat?[edit]


The food prepared for Persian kings is legendary. Persians ate stews made from meat and fruit with herbs. They ate rice and bread made with wheat. Yoghurt was also a staple in Persian food. Tablets from the time of these ancient peoples indicate that the inhabitants of Mesopotamia were using basil, cilantro, cumin and caraway in their food in 4,000 BC. Apricots, artichokes, eggplants, lemons, lime, oranges, pistachios, spinach, saffron or tarragon all came to Europe through Persia. Other condiments and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, coriander, dill, nutmeg, paprika, pomegranates, saffron, sumac, turmeric, as well as orange-flower water and rose water were used in Persian food. Lamb and goat were the primary meats eaten by Persians. Persians did not eat beef!

What did their buildings look like?[edit]

the ruins of Persepolis

Persians made very interesting buildings. The Ruins at Persepolis are an example of ancient Persian buildings. Persians were among the first to use mathematics, geometry, and astronomy in their building. Their buildings were grand and were created by skillful workers. Some Persian buildings had huge barrel-vaulted chambers. The Persians created huge domes of rock and clay and supported their roofs with tall columns. They also decorated the walls of their palaces with lions, bulls and flowers.

The Kharaghan twin towers and the Shah Mosque are two other old buildings built in a Persian style.

What did they wear?[edit]

Carvings in Persepolis

The Persian king wore a robe of honor that was a large piece of fabric that was draped around him. For the king and other aristocracy, their clothes were often decorated with golden clothing ornaments. Some of these are in the form of roundels, while others are gold plaques with loops or rings on the back so they can be sewn onto the cloth. Rich people also liked to wear gold jewellery such as bracelets with animal head carvings.

Common people wore coats and pants made out of leather. Men's coats reached from their shoulders down to their knees and were fastened with a girdle. Their sleeves were somewhat tight and went down to their wrists.

Originally woman's clothing was quite similar to men's clothing but as time went their style changed. Initially their clothes were short and tight but when the style changed their clothes were made longer, more voluminous and were made out of softer materials.

Persian shoes were usually just pieces of leather that were wrapped around their feet and were tied up on the top. These would have look similar to moccasins. Persians also wore red clothes to show respect to their husbands

What did their writing look like?[edit]

Detail of old Persian writing.

Old Persian was written from left to right in Old Persian cuneiform script. Old Persian cuneiform script was supposedly invented by King Darius I, one of ancient Persia's famous kings. There were 36 letters in their alphabet, although some of them essentially represented different syllables. For example they had one symbol for "ka" and another symbol for "ku". They used these symbols even though they also had symbols that represented "a" and "u".

What did they believe?[edit]

The Persian civilization spawned three major religions: Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and Manichaeanism.

The Persian thinker Zoroaster, an Aryan nomad,(who propagated Zoroastrianism) was the main religious movement leader. Living around 18th century BC (although some believe as recent as 6th century BC), he helped to unite the Persian empire. He rejected the old Persian gods and introduced that a single wise god, Ahura Mazda, ruled the world. However, Ahura Mazda was often in battle with the prince of evil and lies, Ahriman who is also known as Angra Mainyu. On Earth, each person had to choose which side to support. Ahura Mazda had a helper that secretly helped Ahura and Angra, his name was Eshmugeler.

Zoroaster's teaching were written in a book, the Zend-Avesta. It said that Ahura Mazda would conquer over the forces of evil, Ahriman, at the end. On that day, all the people would be judges for their actions. Those who did good would enter paradise. Those who did evil would be condemned to eternal suffering. Now most Persians are Muslims.

Are some of them famous even today?[edit]

Of course, but perhaps the most famous Persian of all time is Cyrus the Great who founded the Persian Empire. In fact, in 1992 he was ranked #87 on Michael H. Hart's list of the most influential figures in history. Other famous Persian kings were Cambises and Darius the Great.

Darius III is famous only because he suffered under the hands of Alexander the Great of Macedonia. During Darius' reign, the whole Persian Empire was destroyed by Alexander, who first attacked the Persians in what is now modern Turkey. He then moved on into the heart of the Empire where he captured the capital Susa. Darius ran away from battle against Alexander twice, but was murdered by his governor Bessus who wanted the throne for himself. Alexander was angry this happened and respected his dead opponent. He held a great funeral for the dead king. Later, Bessus was captured and executed.

What is left of them today?[edit]

Persians are one of the few ancient civilizations who have made significant contributions to humanity from prehistoric times by their Persian empire all the way through to the modern day in their country Iran. Many Persians are now Muslims, although there are Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians still living and practising their religion in Iran. There are also some Zorastrians, called Parsis, living in India with majority of the community in Mumbai.The Parsis practise the Zorastrian religion and fled from Iran when the Muslims invaded. Rather than convert to Islam a small group set sail from Iran and landed on the shores of India.