So much so that in many places, minimum education requirements often mean you learn only the smallest slice of history, and that mostly focussed on your own native or local history – people make snide comments about American tourists who seem wide-eyed in amazement that a world exists outside of the USA, but this is a common problem around the world. There’s just so much history that when you talk about it, you have to narrow things down a bit. In my translation services work I do this all the time – most recently narrowing my reading down to Iranian history as I studied Persian for fun.
The area today known as Iran has had as exciting and interesting a history as any nation in the world. Back in the 6th Century BCE, a tribe of people known as the Parsa began conquering the surrounding areas, quickly forming the Persian Empire. The Persian Empire was vast, reach as far east as Egypt on two separate occasions, and very rich.
In the 4th Century, however, the Persian Empire as immovable object met an unstoppable force in the form of Alexander the Great, who swept through the empire and destroyed it just in time to die at a very young age, leaving behind a fragile empire that was probably falling apart before his body was cold. For some time chaos ruled as Alexander’s generals fought to establish themselves in petty kingdoms, and eventually successor empires (the Sasanid Empire, Abbasid, and the Ottoman Empires) rose up to rule over the area.
The Modern Day
After World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Western Powers (the British and the Americans, mainly) rushed in to fill the void. In old Persia, a Shah (King) was established who would be friendly towards Western policies, and in the 1930s the Shah changed the name of the country to Iran, a reference to the ancient Aryan people who were believed to be the ancestors of the Iranian people. The monarchy in Iran last until the late 1970s when a Muslim revolution cast the Shah out and established a theocracy which still exists today.
Iran today is a curious country. Ruled by a fundamentalist religious government, it still hold elections and has democratic trappings. It has a strong secular population and middle class and has a fairly modern infrastructure. After centuries of invasion, the people of Iran are quite mixed in ethnicity. However, despite mixed racial backgrounds, Iranians have a lot of national pride and most think of themselves as Iranian first and their ethnic background second. In culture and language, Iran represents an almost unbroken link back to the ancient Persian Empire. There is a lot of history. It can be overwhelming. The worst part of it is, more and more history keeps happening, so what you knew yesterday is replaced by things you don’t know today – it can be exhausting. ...