Hellenistic Period BC

In his world-conquering campaign, Alexander hoped for a fruitful union of the Europeans with the peoples of the Middle East. In the effort to reach this goal, Alexander married Roxana, daughter of the most powerful of the Bactrian chiefs, and commanded 80 of his top officers and 10,000 of his soldiers to marry Persian women in a mass wedding at Susa. However, his plans to consummate the union of the Greek and Iranian peoples ended when Alexander was struck with fever and died in Babylon. His generals began squabbling over rights to his extensive empire. They assassinated Alexander's widow and son, and all but

This depiction of a

Persian woman is incised on the

Arsacid WomanLeucos Nicator

one rejected their wives. Then they divided the empire among three of them. Iran passed on to Seleucus, the only officer under Alexander who had kept his Iranian wife whom he genuinely loved. He eventually became known as Seleucus I Nicator, or the "Conqueror". Under Seleucus's son, Antiochus I, many Greek colonists entered Iran. By establishing mixed Greek-Iranian colonies, the Seleucids tried to strengthen their power. A strong Seleucid monarch, Antiochus III, the sixth in the Seleucid line of kings, was successful in suppressing the threat of constant insurrection by local rulers, but in general he could not stem a tide of rebellion that arose in the Iranian provinces. Despite Selucid's strenuous efforts to introduce Greek culture in Iran, the Greeks remained strangers to the Iranian people. After approximately a century and a half of Greek rule in Iran, the Seleucids were completely overthrown by the Parthians.

Kashan Tidal

Bronze statuette of Dimethra completes the exposition of Seleucid objects at the Iranian National Museum in Tehran.

Bronze statuette of Dimethra completes the exposition of Seleucid objects at the Iranian National Museum in Tehran.

Seleucid Statue Hercules

Drinking cup in hand, club resting by his feet, a life-size Hercules lounges on a lion skin beside Bistun. A protective canopy casts a shadow across a corner of the Seleucid rock carving, which has been dated 148 BC by a Greek inscription found behind it (photo by Naser Mizbani).

Parthian Empire (247 BC-224 AD)

Under the Achaemenids, a satrapy named Parthava was annexed to the empire during Cyrus the Great's campaign south and east of the Caspian Sea. The Parthians were among the first to revolt against the Seleucids and were led by two brothers, Arsaces and Tiridates. Arsaces was proclaimed the first king, and his name became the honorific title used by all subsequent Parthian kings, who were generally known as the Arsacids.

Mithradates I is considered the founder of the Parthian empire. He is believed to have established his capital in

Drinking cup in hand, club resting by his feet, a life-size Hercules lounges on a lion skin beside Bistun. A protective canopy casts a shadow across a corner of the Seleucid rock carving, which has been dated 148 BC by a Greek inscription found behind it (photo by Naser Mizbani).

Important Parthian Kings:

Arsaces I - 250-247 BC Tiridates-247-211 BC Artabanus 1-211-191 BC Mithradates I - 161-138 BC Phrates II- 138-124 BC Mithradates II, The Great - 123-87 BC

Orodes II - 54-38 BC Phrates IV - 38-29 BC Artabanus V - 216-224 AD

250 BC - Parthians (Arsacids) capture Khorasan from the Seleucids

2nd century BC - The Silk Road "opens" for commercial trade of silk and other goods 129 BC - Phrates II finally defeats the Seleucids

92 BC - Mithradates II makes an alliance with Rome and invades Mesopotamia; Mithradates II concludes the first peace treaty in the history of Parthia and Rome 53 BC - The Roman legions under Crassus suffer a decisive defeat at the hands of the Parthians at Haran (ancient Carrhae) in Mesopotamia; this victory elevates the Parthians into a superpower of their era 46 BC - Caesar institutes the Julian calendar

36 BC - The Partians defeat Mark Anthony's troops in Azerbaijan

Revolt Ardashir

Map of the Partian Empire

23 BC - The Roman Emperor Hadrian averts a new war with the Parthians by meeting in person with the king of Parthia 222 - Succesful revolt of Ardashir, the ruler of Persia, against Artabanus V

Among the most important artistic remains from the Parthian period is a bronze statue of a prince, now kept in the Iranian National Museum in Tehran.
Hellenistic Prince

Not surprisingly, cloth is one of the rarest survivals of the past. However, in the case o/Sasanid textiles, history has been kind.

Some 100 fragments exist today to represent this once-flourishing Sasanid industry.

Not surprisingly, cloth is one of the rarest survivals of the past. However, in the case o/Sasanid textiles, history has been kind.

Some 100 fragments exist today to represent this once-flourishing Sasanid industry.

Important Sasanid Kings:

Ardashir I, Babakan - 224-241 AD Shapur I-241-272 Shapur 11 - 309-379 Yazdgerd I - 399-420 Bahram V - 420-438 Qobad I (first reign) - 488-496 Qobad I (second reign) - 498-531 Khosrow I, Anushirvan - 531-579 Hormoz IV - 579-588 Bahram Chubin - 589 Khosrow II, Parviz - 588-628 Female monarchs, Purandokht and her sister Azarmidokht - 629-632 Yazdgerd III - 632-651

Miniatures Khosrow And Lion

have survived from the Parthian period, most of which exhibit the highest level of craftsmanship.

Nysa, near modern Ashkhabad, the present-day capital of Turkmenistan. The reign of Mithradates II was the most glorious chapter in the Parthian history. Under him, Parthian realm stretched from A great Armenia to India. number of i .t pottery and

Mithradates II moved his glassware capital from Ashkhabad to Heca-tompylos (modern Damghan in Iran), almost in the centre of Parthav. Trade between East and West thrived, and Iran provided the most convenient route that later came to be known as the Silk Road.

The Parthians were great fighters and wonderful horsemen. Their famous maneuver that became legendary as the "Parthian shot" was to pretend to gallop away from an enemy as if in retreat, and then turn in the saddles and shoot arrows at their pursuers, often defeating them by this ruse.

The Parthians had no strict hierarchy or strong centralized power. Although mainly followers of the Zoroastrian religion, they contributed to the dissemination of Buddhism in China, where a Parthian prince spread the word of Buddha near the middle of the 2nd century AD. The

Parthians spoke a language similar to that of the Achaemenids, used the Pahlavi script, and established an administrative system based on Achaemenid precedents. Talented architects, they invented the eivan, a feature later characteristic of Iranian Islamic architecture.

Following Mithradates's death, the empire \ fell into a state of chaos, with a short interlude only during the reign of Orodes II. Constantly menaced by the Roman Empire, the Parthians acted as a barrier to the eastern nomad hordes, and had it not been for the Parthians, these hordes would probably have over- Thefirst Parthian rulers referred to themselves as >lHellenophiles " (lovers of the Greeks). Although, as time went on, this title became true only in the sense that v f ( they were and-Roman, Parthian art was greatly influenced by Greek themes and techniques as obvious in

Parthian coins have offered modern scholars clues to many important events of the period, particularly the royal succession.

this statuette of Bachus.

run the Near East and even parts of Europe. Weakened by the internal dis-sention and exterior enemies, the Parthians were unable to resist a new power, the Sasanids. Still, they managed to rule for almost five centuries, and it was one of the most fascinating periods in Iranian history.

Sasanid Empire (224-651 AD)

The last Parthian king, Artabanus V, lost the final battle to the Sasanids around 224 AD near Hormozdegan (site unknown). A legend claims that Ardashir Babakan, a vassal of Artabanus V, provoked the encounter when he

King ArtabanusThe Shapur Plate

Hunting scenes are the most popular themes 0/ Sasanid silver plates.

Sasanid coins often shown fire altars on their reverse sides, as seen on one of Bahrain V's coins.

founded a city called Gur, or the "Glory of Ardashir", near Firuzabad. Ardashir traced his ancestry to Sasan, a Zoroastrian priest, who gave his name to the last native dynasty in Persia before the Arab conquest. A strong centralized government, a strict principle of dynastic legitimacy, and an official religion, which were quite contrary to the Parthian confederation and freedom of religious practices, characterized the Sasanid domain, which rapidly rose to rank among the world's largest empires.

Under Ardashir's successor, Shapur I, the Sasanid Empire extended from the Indian Punjab to the eastern border of Capadocia in Anatolia. The level of prosperity had risen so much that Shapur I was able to wage a war against Rome and even to take the Roman Emperor Valerian prisoner. In contrast to Ardashir, who claimed to be "king of kings of Iran", Shapur I assumed the title "king of kings of Iran and non-Iran", a title that was retained by his successors.

The Sa-sanids chose the Zoroastrian religion as the main means of unifying the diverse peoples of their expanded country. Shapur I, however, did not oppose Manichaeism, a teaching combining the beliefs of Zoroaster, Jesus, and Buddha. However, his successors suppressed other faiths severely, and the high priest, Kartir, was the most infamous instigator of this intolerance. Kartir certainly

A bird surrounded by a halo and had a hand jn killjng Manj wearing a necklace with oval i 1 • 1 r>

pendants, graces this 7th-century and this was the first mani-

Silver-gilt vase. In Sasanid art, such festation of religious Strife in halos and necklaces are often T • i • . •

associated with the king. Iranian history. Christians

Shapur's victory over Valerian was greatly replicated during the early Sasanid reign. The bas-relief in Naqsh-e Rostatn in Fars shows the victory scene with the utmost splendor.

244 - Roman Eemperor Philip the Arabian makes a disgraceful peace with the Persians 260 - Shapur I takes Emperor Valerian prisoner 242-276 - Preaching of Mani

297 - Nerseh (Narses), the Sasanid king, cedes Armenia and Northern Mesopotamia to Rome

301 - The kingdom of Armenia makes Christianity an official state religion, the first nation to do so

306-337 - Constantine the Great 337-361 - Persian-Roman wars 364 - Emperor Jovian signs an onerous treaty with the Persian Shah Shapur II, yielding the kingdom of Armenia and most Roman holdings in Mesopotamia 371 - Persian Empire reaches its height as the Romans and Persians renew their wars 376 - Peace is established with

Rome

421 - Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II sends his army against Bahram V

422 - Theodosius II concludes peace with Persia after 2 years of war 460 - A famine that will last for several years begins in the Persian Empire

524 - Rome and Persia renew hostilities to begin a war that will last for 7 years

525 - "Easter Tables" are issued by Roman theolo-

gian-mathematician Dionysius Exiguus, giving the birthday of Jesus incorrectly as December 25, 753 years after the founding of Rome, the error that will be standardized in all Christian calendars

528 - Mazdak advocates abolition of private property and the division of wealth - the world's first "communist/socialist" ideas

529 - The Academy founded at Athens by Plato in 347 BC is closed by Emperor Justinian, and many of the professors emigrate to Persia and Syria; Khosrow Anushirvan's famous prime minister, Bozorgmehr, reportedly invents the game of backgammon

532 - Justinian signs a "Perpetual

Peace" with Khosrow I to free his armies for operations in the West

539-562 - Persian-Byzantine war

540 - Persian forces take Antioch from the Byzantines

549 - Pctra falls to the Persians, who will hold the eastern outpost of Byzantium for 2 years

570 - Birth of Prophet Mohammad

572-591 - Persian-Byzantine war

589 - Bahram Chubin, a Persian military, deposes Khosrow II, who flees to Constantinople

591 - Byzantine Emperor Maurice restores Khosrow II to his throne and receives territorial concessions for his help

608-622 - New series of Persian-Byzantine wars

614-615 - Khosrow II captures Damascus and Jerusalem, bringing the True Cross to Ctesiphon

Byzantine Floor Patturn

Fragments of the mosaic that ornamented the floor and dados of the Sasanid palace in Bishapur is today in the National Museum.

Mosaics Bishapur

Four various patterns dividing the object into four separate parts (as seen on this Sasanid shield^ were among the most popular of late-Sasanid motifs.

Mongol Art

Old miniature illustration to the manuscript of Khosrow and Shirin by Nezami, shows the battle of Khosrow Parviz with Bahrain Chubin.

Khosrow Parviz

A Sasanid king thought to be Khosrow II is portrayed in relief at Taq-e Bustan near Kermanshah. He slays a leaping wild boar from a boat. He is accompanied by a large entourage, including a vessel filled with harp-playing musicians (photo by Naser Mizbani).

616 - Persian forces overrun Egypt and subjugate its people

620 - Khosrow II captures Rhodes and restores the Persian Empire as it existed in 495 BC under Darius the Great

621 - The year of the Islamic Prophet's flight from Mecca (Hegira) - the starting point of the Islamic calendar; Khosrow II is defeated by Heraclius

627 - Heraclius gains a decisive victory over the Persians in the Battle of Nineveh

628 - Khosrow II is imprisoned and murdered after a mutiny by the military; his son Hormoz IV makes peace with the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius; the True Cross is returned to Jerusalem

632 - Death of Prophet Mohammad; Abu Bakr succeeds him as the first Islamic caliph

633 - Muslim forces attack Persia

634 - The first caliph, Abu Bakr, is succeeded by Omar

636 - Arabs defeat the Sasanids at Qadisia

637 - Arabs take Ctesiphon

642 - Arabs defeat the Sasanids at Nehavand; Persia is formally annexed to the Arab Caliphate

Four various patterns dividing the object into four separate parts (as seen on this Sasanid shield^ were among the most popular of late-Sasanid motifs.

A Sasanid king thought to be Khosrow II is portrayed in relief at Taq-e Bustan near Kermanshah. He slays a leaping wild boar from a boat. He is accompanied by a large entourage, including a vessel filled with harp-playing musicians (photo by Naser Mizbani).

were also persecuted, particularly after the Roman Empire, the archenemy of the Sasanid Empire, had become Christian.

Shapur II, the next important ruler after Shapur I, is credited with the longest reign in Iranian history - 70 years. His period was darkened only by perennial wars with Byzantium over the newly Christianized Armenia. Shapur had several unsuccessful successors until Yazdgerd I initiated a relatively peaceful era. Yazdgerd I left the country to his son, Bahram V. Sur-named Gur (Wild Ass), Bahram became the favorite of Persian popular tradition, which exuberantly celebrated his prowess in hunting and love. Bahrain's descendant, Qobad, was an unusual king in Iranian history in the sense that he actually cared more about the opinions of the common people than of the highly-placed courtiers. He moved away from official religion and greatly welcomed Mazdak and his teaching. His son Khosrow I (Chosroes), an orthodox Zoroastrian, however, destroyed the Mazdakites in a great massacre. Nonetheless, this act has not prevented him from being entitled the Just. Khosrow's grandson, Khosrow II, was surnamed Parviz (the Victorious). He was immortalized in Persian literature for his devotion to his wife, an Armenian ZZZhVfa tiny

Christian called Shirin, panther and hold-

who kept her husband ^ a^oweJ' f, r . woman undulates entranced during her on this siiver-giit whole lifetime, a remark- late-Sasanid ewer. Three similar

11 r j. • s~\ ■ * i i • , dancers grace its other sides.

able tact in Oriental history. During Khosrow's rule, the Persian Empire occupied the largest area in its history and was marked by the highest level of civilization. At this time, a message was brought to the king from Medina, bidding him acknowledge Mohammad as the Prophet of God. The king treated the missive with contempt, little thinking that before many years had passed the followers of the Prophet would have swept away the Sasanid line. Instead, he ordered his agent in Yemen called Bazan to capture the Prophet and bring him before the king. However, this mission was never accomplished because of Bazan's conversion to Islam.

At Khosrow's death, eleven rulers succeeded one another to the vacant throne, two queens among their number - the first women who had

Old miniature illustration to the manuscript of Khosrow and Shirin by Nezami, shows the battle of Khosrow Parviz with Bahrain Chubin.

Fragments of the mosaic that ornamented the floor and dados of the Sasanid palace in Bishapur is today in the National Museum.

Early Islamic glassware is represented by this pale-amber jar, today on display in the Ceramics and Pottery Museum in Tehran.

ever held the scepter in Persia - but their united reigns amounted to only five years. After a succession of short-time rulers, Khosrow's grandson, Yazdgerd III, took the throne. His story is reminiscent of the story of Darius III Achaemenid. Like Darius, Yazdgerd was not destined to rule. A new force was coming from the Arabian deserts, a force that changed both the state and the religion. In 650, only a few years after the death of Prophet Mohammad, the Muslim armies attacked the southern provinces of the Sasanid Empire. Soon afterwards, Ctesiphon, the Sasanid glorious capital and the largest city in the world, was invaded and sacked by the Muslim armies. At the battle of Nehavand, the Arabs utterly defeated the Persians and gained possession of their national standard, the blacksmith Kaveh's leather apron. Yazdgerd sought refuge in one province after another, until he was assassinated near Merv.

Brain Travela

Bowl from the early-Islamic period is today on display in the Ceramics and Pottery Museum in

Tehran.

The Koran in Kufic script from the early-Islamic period is preserved in the National

Museum in Tehran.

The Koran in Kufic script from the early-Islamic period is preserved in the National

Museum in Tehran.

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