Survival of Iranian Culture
P Nakisa,

The history of Iran is full of stormy, wondrous and tragic events, like no other. There have been other ancient civilizations such as those of the Egyptians, Chinese and Indians, whose history might be longer than ours
but none has been as diverse as the history of Iran.

The country we know as Iran today, was initially occupied by some indigenous people of uncertain race, before the Aryans moved to it and settled down in peaceful coexistence with them. Then the Aryans established two kingdoms, that of the Medes in the central, northern and western parts of present Iran, and that of the Persians in the southern parts.

Cyrus the Great, a Persian, united the two kingdoms to create the kingdom of the Persians and the Medes, more usually known as the Persian Empire. He conquered Lydia and Babylon and treated the kings, generals, nobles and commoners of these lands magnanimously...

The Persian Empire was the greatest political and military power of the world till Alexander the Great overthrew it at a time when it had fallen into decadence. The Greeks and Macedonians ruled over the country for about 100 years.

They mingled with Persians as equals and learnt their way of life and many other things just as Persians learnt from them. Then the Parthians took back the country from the Greeks and they in turn were toppled by Sassanids or Sassanians. And again foreign forces invaded Iran, this time bringing a new faith, Islam. Later the Turks, the Mongols, the Tatars... overran the country each time leaving massacres behind...

The real reason behind this diverse and tumultuous history is Iran’s geographic location, on the crossroads of ancient civilizations and on a bridge that links the East and the West, and as a result it has become the center of trade, cultural exchanges and, alas, the scene of many invasions, battles and massacres.

From the North and East came nomadic tribes such as the Huns, Tatars, Uzbeks… all known for their savagery; from the West four powerful nations made repeated assaults on it. First the Assyrians, and later the Greeks and Romans and finally the Ottomans, all attempted to invade this ancient land. And then in the recent times there were aggressions from the colonial and imperialistic powers of the West. In such an atmosphere, Iran again and again defended itself and its identity, and survived. Three thousand years of history full of unforeseeable events has taught a lesson to this nation: to be aware, agile, and ready to overcome hardships and dangers.

From the very beginning, this country had insecure borders. People had to have watchful eyes, but even this did not help much, as Iran has always been the center of conflicts, always struggling to keep its independence and identity. Iran’s geographic situation compelled it to adopt two different policies depending on the times. Either it was a powerful empire keeping its borders secure, as during the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid, and part of the Safavid eras, or it had to coexist with the occupying people such as the Mongols, Ghaznavis, and Seljuks. (At the time of Macedonian or Arab domination, for example, the latter policy was adopted.)

This nation has often had to choose between military-political or cultural domination or survival through patience, tolerance and flexibility.After the emergence of Islam and the fall of the Sassanid dynasty Iran chose to gradually overcome the Arabs by accepting Islam, but absorbing the conqueror through a superior civilization and culture.

Soon after the Moslem Arab conquest of Iran a new language emerged called Farsi-Dari (third century) and with this new tongue Iranian schools of philosophy, culture and civilization spread and dominated many lands that the Arabs occupied under the banner of Islam. With the emergence of Farsi-Dari, Iranians separated themselves from the literature and language of other Moslem nations.

Through Iran, Islam found its way into such countries as India, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and other parts of the East. Iranian culture, combined with Islamic ideology, traveled to and dominated many countries.

This realm of thought by far extended beyond geographical borders and an Islamic-Iranian blend of culture spread from Caucasia to the Persian Gulf and from the Indus to the Mediterranean. Countries like Tajikistan are in the category that were directly affected and others such as Indian Kashmir, Caucasia, China, Asia Minor and even Egypt have a long history of cultural exchanges with Iran.

As mentioned before throughout Iranian history, many invaders notably Macedonian, Arab, Mongol and Tatar armies overran Iran. But, with dignity and pride the nation always found a way to preserve the core of its civilization, language, and culture although it often had to accept some aspects of the culture of the conqueror as well. An Iranian of today, naturally, is not like an Iranian of the Achaemenid era or of the Sassanid period.

Iran has been a melting pot of different races. It is because of cultural strength that Iran has kept its identity, and not for racial reasons. A nation with such complex and yet colorful history, intermingled with so many civilizations, races and religions, and yet always keeping its core of identity, is unique among all nations of the world.

In brief, all those nations that occupied this land forcing their will and language, have been absorbed into the context of the Iranian civilization through a superior culture and this land has always kept its identity and independence throughout history.


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