Iran 2


Iran 3
Tomb of Cyrus the Great

Eventual conflict on the western borders began with the Ionian Revolt, which erupted into the Greco-Persian Wars and continued through the first half of the fifth century BC, and ended with the withdrawal of the Achaemenids from all of the territories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper.

In 334 BC, Alexander the Great invaded the Achaemenid Empire, defeating the last Achaemenid emperor, Darius III, at the Battle of Issus. Following the premature death of Alexander, Iran came under the control of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. In the middle of the second century BC, the Parthian Empire rose to become the main power in Iran, and the century-long geopolitical arch-rivalry between the Romans and the Parthians began, culminating in the Roman–Parthian Wars. The Parthian Empire continued as a feudal monarchy for nearly five centuries, until 224 CE, when it was succeeded by the Sasanian Empire. Together with their neighboring arch-rival, the Roman-Byzantines, they made up the world’s two most dominant powers at the time, for over four centuries.

The Sasanians established an empire within the frontiers achieved by the Achaemenids, with their capital at Ctesiphon. Late antiquity is considered one of Iran’s most influential periods, as under the Sasanians their influence reached the culture of ancient Rome (and through that as far as Western Europe), Africa, China, and India, and played a prominent role in the formation of the medieval art of both Europe and Asia.

Iran 4
Taq Kasra from the Sasanian Era

Most of the era of the Sasanian Empire was overshadowed by the Roman–Persian Wars, which raged on the western borders at Anatolia, the Western Caucasus, Mesopotamia, and the Levant, for over 700 years. These wars ultimately exhausted both the Romans and the Sasanians and led to the defeat of both by the Muslim invasion.

Throughout the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sasanian eras, several offshoots of the Iranian dynasties established eponymous branches in Anatolia and the Caucasus, including the Pontic Kingdom, the Mihranids, and the Arsacid dynasties of Armenia, Iberia (Georgia), and Caucasian Albania (present-day Republic of Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan).

Medieval Period:

The prolonged Byzantine–Sasanian wars, most importantly the climactic war of 602–628, as well as the social conflict within the Sasanian Empire, opened the way for an Arab invasion of Iran in the seventh century. The empire was initially defeated by the Rashidun Caliphate, which was succeeded by the Umayyad Caliphate, followed by the Abbasid Caliphate. A prolonged and gradual process of state-imposed Islamization followed, which targeted Iran’s then Zoroastrian majority and included religious persecution, demolition of libraries and fire temples, a special tax penalty (“jizya”), and language shift.

Iran 5
Abbasid Caliphate

In 750, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads, notably by the support from the “mawali” (converted Iranians). The mawali formed the majority of the rebel army, which was led by converted Iranian general Abu Muslim. The arrival of the Abbasid Caliphs saw a relative revival of Iranian culture and influence, as the role of the old Arab aristocracy was partially replaced by a Muslim Iranian bureaucracy.

Scroll to Top