Iran Zamin 2

This weblog contains personal views on the history of Iran in comparison with other ancient countries and information on Iran for those interested to learn about our heritage. (this is part 2 of Iran Zamin)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Marlik Culture

Marlik culture was discovered in the green and fertile lands of Northern Iran just South of the Caspian Sea. The amazing archeological founds on this site are associated with 10th-12th century BC. Some researchers believe that Marlik has attained its name from the innumerable snakes that have inhabited it. (As 'Mar' means snake in the Persian language). Whereas, some believe that, Marlik, the name the local villagers gave to the mound, is 'Marda-lik' (place of the Marda or Amarda), and the Greek historian Strabo describes the Marda as living in this part of Ancient Persia. There are some significant similarities between the metalwork at Marlik and some of those found at Sialk near Kashan, and as the finds at Sialk are dated as slightly later than those of Marlik, it is suggested that the Amarda around Marlik and the Sepid Rud, relocated to the central Iranian plateau near Sialk where they were eventually assimilated into the general Median population. In the excavations performed on this site, a large number of broken earthenware pieces can be noted. Moreover, two tiny statues of cows in admiralty metal, two cylindrical seals, fourteen gold buttons and other unique objects have been discovered. In this hillock, there is the remnants of a quadrangular structure with an approximate area of 30 sq. m. the same probably being a tomb or temple.
This hillock was also a site where the local commanders or princes who ruled in the 2nd or 1st millennium BC. were laid to rest. According to the tradition of the times, the dead were buried along with their treasures. About 25 tombs have been discovered, in some of which are human carcases, besides which, articles such as earthenware and bronze vessels, decorative buttons, arrows, swords, spears, bronze and earthenware statues, daggers, hemlets and etc. have been discovered. Fabrics from this site determine the fact that weaving was a progressive technology in Iran thousands of years ago, and more so in Gilan. About 11 seals have been discovered in these excavations, and these have interesting designs and patterns on them. There is a seal engraved in the Cuneiform script. The people who buried their dead at Marlik remain something of a puzzle for history. They seem not to have left any written records, and aside from the cemetary at Marlik there is not very much in the archaeological record to fill out their history.
If the original population abandoned the valley soon after the burials, this may explain why the cemetary was forgotten and not looted in the intervening years. This theory still remains unconfirmed, and it remains true that little can be said with any certainty about the people who buried their royalty atop the mound at Marlik. The artifacts recovered at Marlik contain many unusual items which have helped to develop current thinking on the chronology of metal working in late bronze age cultures. It is significant to note that without scientific excavation procedures, it would have been impossible to date and locate these items, and it would have been impossible to appreciate their unique and important place in the archaeological record.
After all their trials and travails, the archaeologists at Marlik were ordered to abandon the site in November of 1962 after a change in government which brought the allies of the smugglers and antique dealers, some of which were in the family of the Shah, to power. Forced to abandon the excavation, there was little that could be done other than return to Teheran to appeal the decision. When a team was permitted to return to the mound one year later, it was clear that little more could be done as the entire area had been ravaged by illegal digging. A brief survey showed some 2000 holes had been haphazardly dug around the valley, and everything that had been despoiled was now lost to history. It is difficult to say what was destroyed, and to this date the only material of the Marlik people to be available to science is the collection from the excavation which is housed at the Muzeh Iran Bastan (Archaeological Museum in Teheran).
Recently Archaeologists have gone back to this site for new excavations. Their efforts have led into new developments in our understanding of Marlik architecture and new artifact discoveries.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Xerxes Canal

In 480 B.C., King Xerxes,(khashayar), of Persia ordered his men to build a canal a mile and a quarter long through a peninsula in Northern Greece- conceivably one of the biggest engineering assignments of it's time. The canal was critical to Xerxes' plan of invading Greece, a goal that his general, Mardonius, had unsuccessfully attempted 12 years earlier. Mardonius's fleet was destroyed in a storm while sailing around the tip of the peninsula, and Xerxes wanted to avoid a similar setback by building the canal. Xerxes went on to invade Greece, starting a brief period of Persian conquest in Europe. In the 2,500 year since, historians have debated whether the famed canal of Xerxes was really dug all the way from Coast to Coast. Some have doubted its existence, pointing to a rocky plateau that they argue would have made the construction an impossible task for workers of those days. Now, scientists from Britain and Greece have come up with what they say is conclusive evidence that the canal was indeed built. The structure now lies buried and a map has been drawn detailing the canal's dimensions ans courses. The findings confirms the description given in an account by the ancient Greek histiruan Herodotus, which some scholars have long regarded with skepticism. Buried under centuries of silt and alluvium, the structure is testament to remarkable military strategy, work-force management and civil engineering. It also tells of an eager king who was in such a hurry to conquer the World that he never thought of preserving the canal as a perminent waterway.Spanning about 100 feet at the surface, the canal was just wide enough for two war galleys to pass. Its sides sloped inward, forming a width of roughly 50 feet at the bottom, about 45 feet below the surface. The construction was as much of a feat of management as it was of engineering. Upon the completion of the canal, the Persian fleet made it safely to the Agean Sea, where it was joined by troops that had taken the land route from the North. The ships sailed on to Greece. Xerxes's soldiers stormed the Coast and advanced deep into Greek territory. They destroyed Athenes but eventually lost to Athenians in a battle that ended the Persian's fleeting imperial presence in Europe.

The Status Of Science In Ancient Iran

Who says we Iranians have no Plato, Oghlidous or Apolinious? In my mind I always percieved the vanishment of the discoveries of Iranian scholars as a fault of the persian community and the fact that they dont appriciate what they have and always take it for granted. What is evident though is that our country has been percieved as a golden land, plundered by many conquerers such as Alexander the Great and Changeez The Moghol whose goal was to destroy the ever growing Persian civilization. You would be surprise to learn some of the famous philosophers whom you might have thought to be greek were actually persian or the fact that most earned their scholarship through Persian Scientists or philosophers. Arabs alone did serious damege to our Scientific heritage and that is one of the reasons why Persian philosophers like Estans-e- Razi are unknown to the world while an undergraduate student like myself can borow Arsitotle's gatherings at the university library. It has been documanted that when the Arabs invaded Persia they massacred Iranians and confiscated their belongings. All Persian cities were looted repeatedly. They destroyed everything in order to inplant their ideas in peoples minds. For example in "kharazm" they asked for 4000 educated people among the population and beheaded all of them. In "kerman", they asked people to bring their ancient books as a form of tax or else they would be deeply punished. The citizen presented their mathematics and philosophy books in order to save their lives. The same fate repeated with the Mogols attacks. The truth is that there were both scientists and scientific books in ancient Iran, many volumes of which were looted and burnt.

Some Important Notes to Remember:

  • I could proudly claim we Iranians have used the solar calendar ever since we reckoned the need to keep track of our days. While even today there are many cummunities that use a lunar calendar despite the fact that urban and agricultural societies need a solar calendar to be able to function sceintifically. Even Omar Khayam has cited that he used ancient sourses for designing his "Jalali Calendar", which is a more accurate calendar than the "Gregory Calendar" which was designed 200 years after the "Jalali Calendar" and todays Christian calendar is based on it.
  • While "Plutarch", a Roman historian-army commander, was traveling in Persian in 700 BCE, he passed through a city called "Hekmatane", (todays Hamedan). In "Hekmatane", he came across a school (university) whome he discribed as to have a head faculty and 100 students. In the school they learned astronomy, medicine, philosophy and mathematics. Very many of the world's greatest scholars and physicians visited them at the university. "Plutarch" mentioned of similar schools in all Iranian cities. If science did not prevail in Iran, then what were these people studying? what happened to that knowledge?
  • "Plotinus", a Greek historian who visited Iran in 100 BCE, wrote, "when I was in Iran, they were measuring the radius of the Earth and its curvature". Other refrences to the spherical shape of the Earth can be found in "Yasht's". To measure the Earth's radius you have to be familiar with astronomy and mathematics. This was when the Greeks still assumed that the Earth was a flat land sorrounded by water.
  • "Phisaghorous", (Pythogarus) the Greek philosopher and mathematician spent 20 years of his life in Iran and "Babylon", (which was a part of the acient Persian Empire), accurding to his biography. During this time he learned the knowledge of the "Moghan", (Magi). His philosophy of light was under the influence of Persians who believed in spherical Earth rotating around the central Sun. There has also been doubts about the famous theory of right angle triangles. Today, it is a know fact that the theory did not belong to "Pythogarus" but was named after him later on. Towards the end of "Ghajar" era, French archaeologists found some documents in "Elam" which was published in France. Among the findings were 17 cases of the right-angle triangles with different dimensions and calculations similar to those of "Pythogarus". Apparently, they were looking for a single solution and its possible that they found it.
  • There is an ancient Greek thesis from somebody named "Paapoos". He cited "Estaans" the Moughan as a naturalist philosopher believing in "self management and self-recycling power of nature provided that humans do not destroy it". This philosophy is still valid and we have to take care of our environment.
  • "Oghladous" was an Iranian who was born in Asia Minor and migrated to "Eskandarieh" (Alexandria) to work and never lived in Greece.
  • While the Greeks had no progressive calculation and mathematics and nothing to offer in Algebra, Babylonians were using a numaric system and had even invented 0. At this time Greeks used alphabets for numbers. "Araashmidous" the greatest mathematician in ancient Greece, wrote a book to represent a big number, and called it his masterpiece. However, thousands of years before the Greeks, Elamians had a numaric system similar to what we have today.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

How Arabs Changed Iran's Fate

I have always been wanting to figure out the reasons for which the lizard eating Arab tribes succeeded in conquering the Persian Empire and forcing them to give up their religion and rituals while they had been standing against the more powerful Roman Empire for all those centuries. Well, in fact, the defeat of the Persian Empire had little to do with the Arab armies being too strong. Arabs moved towards Iran with the purpose of popularizing their new religion, Islam and destroying Zoroastriasm. At this time Persia was under the influence of Sassanian royal family whom in a little while became extremely weak. "Ghobad II", had killed all the members of the royal family, hence, there where no strong rulers left to role the Empire, (in a pariod of 3 years 10 rulers gained power and got exterminated).
To introduce to you the reasons for our loss, I will put them in point forms below:
  • the disability of the royal family to perform their duty and to keep the Empire toghether as a result of their conflicts.
  • the lose of faith in the Mazdiyasma religion since it required people to spend a good part of their days performing the rituals and limiting their behaviours accordingly (one of the rituals was to keep everything clean at all times). These somewhat hard to fallow rituals resulted in people getting tired and look for something different.
  • the sensetized population of the Western part of the Empire, ( Semitic race whom lived in todays Iraq).
  • the unhuman like treatment of the citizens of the Iranian cities by the invaders (Arabs).
There has been many evidances of the harsh treatment of Persians by Arabs when they conquered their cities. Forexample, in "kazeroun", the birth place of "salman-e-Parsi", the invaders beheaded one thousand non-Muslims everyday! How much do u think the over all population of "kazeroun" was in those days to have 1000 people killed everyday? In "kharazm", they band people from speaking Farsi ordering their soldiers to cut off the tongue of anyone who dared to speak Farsi. That is how people of "Kharazm" stopped speaking their mother tongue and the popular "kharazmi" dialect vanished. This is why in Arabic, Iranian people are called "Ajam", meaning mute!


Have you ever heard the name Mitra before? As Mitra is a popular name among us Iranians these days, the roots of the name goes back as far as 1735BC. In ancient Persia, before the time of the prophet Zarathushtra, the worshiping of the sun god Mithra and of the water goddess Anahita,was popular among not only persians but all around the world. This ancient religion was referred to as Mithraism, the life savior and guirdiance of the ppl of pre_christ era. The story of Mithraism somewhat reflects that of the christ. Iranian scholar Dr.Behrooz, in the course of his research has found evidance that supports the existance of a personality claiming to be the Messiah who called himself Mehr or Mithra. Legends about Mehr claim that he was conceived by a young virgin named Anahita or Nahid. It is claimed by the cult that Nahid became empregnated magically while bathing in the waters of Lake Hamun in Sistan. Mithra the god of love represents all the male energies. On the other hand Anahita represents all of the female energies and feminine forces of nature. Like the Yin and Yang of the Tao religion, Mehr and Nahid are depicted inevery fibre of the cosmos, dancing with one another and thereby moving the universe forward towards perfection and immortality. The era of Mithraism continued all the way to the time of Sasanian who strognly favoured Zorastrianism hence destroyed most belongings of the Mithraism in the Persian Empire. A similar fate destroyed Mithraism in the west when the birth of christianity took over Mithraism. The Romans feared being taken over by the Persians and tried to become independent. The Roman Empire was in constant conflict with the Persian Empire becaouse they regarded Iran as the birth place of Mithraism and feared the Persian influences on their idiologies. Consequently, they felt the need for an independent government and that was the base for growth of christianity.

Today we can get a glimce of the remainders of Mithraism in "Taghe Boostan" in a cave like cunstruction, or "fire-temple" in Bishapur in Iran and in Milan, Italy or Basilca of Trajan. Some reminders of Mithraism has even been depicted in the poetry of the famous Persian poet, Hafez.

Some Important Notes:

  • the word "Metropolitan", means the city of Mitra or the city of the Sun and was known to mean the capital city!
  • the name of the city Milan, Italy comes from the word Mehrayns or Mirans which were the centers of Mithraism in the ancient world.
  • the names of the days of the week in English have their roots in the Mithraism and the Persian language, eg:

* Mahshid (god of moon), Monday

* Bahramshid (day of TeeVis), Tuesday

* Titshid (the Vedin day), Wednesday

* Berjisshid (Tour day), Thursday

* Nahidshid (god of firtility), Friday

* Keyvanshid (day of Saturn), Saturday

* Mehrshid (day of Sun), Sunday