Iran and Iranians: The Historical Contributions to Humanity
by Pirouz Azadi
Mon 26th Dec 2016
Archeological and historical evidence supports the idea that the current plateau of Iran (spanning from northern India to central Asia, through the Caucasus Mountains, southern Russia, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and then stretching across down to the southern shores of the Persian Gulf) has since antiquity (at least 200,000 years ago) served as the African-Asian crossroad for Homo sapiens and other Asiatic human species to propagate. It must be noted, however, that Neanderthals never crossed into Asia but went straight to Europe from the horn of Africa, and were later mixed with Home sapiens that later emigrated westbound from the Iranian plateau. That is why most Europeans today possess 4-7 % Neanderthal genes, whereas those of us from the southwest Asiatic side have none.
Our earliest ancestral Homo sapiens, who settled on the greater plateau of Iran, were by 1,500 years BCE mixed with the new arrivals of Medians and Persians, moving south from east of the Caspian Sea. In fact, we have archeological evidence such as human settlements and remains, artifacts, military hardware, potteries and figurines at the London and Louvre Museums among other major collections, dating from as far back as 20,000 years ago. Through a politically arranged intermarriage between Mandana, the daughter of Astiage the Median King, and Cyrus, the Persian King of the Achaemenes dynasty who inaugurated the first giant world empire (The Persian Empire) over 2,500 years ago, the first post Neolithic era civilization commenced and continues ever since. Thence, such kings and dynasties emerged and disappeared into the oblivion of history. Nonetheless, peoples, places, and their integrated psyches have persevered and evolved (at times devolved) since.
A form of organised central government in one form or another, as ruled by over 30 dynasties, each comprised of a few to a dozen kings or queens ruling from 43 major metropolis capitals, has governed Iran since antiquity. Some kings were just but most were absolute monarchs, who declared themselves living gods. In fact, one cannot casually overlook the pivotal contributions of the indigenous and later arrived Iranians (Persians) during the past 10,000 years. Namely, some of the most fundamental discoveries, including the roots of many modern Indo-European derived languages, writing scripts, mathematics and astronomy, literature, arts and architecture, aesthetics, as well as the concepts of religiosity and faith, first through Persian Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Mazdeism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and later integrated with Judaism, Christianity and finally Islam. Very few surpassed the first just King in history, Cyrus the Great, who declared the first codes on Human Rights and dignity, and allowed the conquered lands and nations, today constituting over 30 sovereign countries, to preserve and practice their own identities, autonomies, religions and cultures, unlike Alexander of Macedonia who went pillaging and rampaging in a futile struggle Hellenising these Eastern cultures.
Modern Iran and its neighbors in southwest Asia
Fast forward through to 1,000 years of European dark ages and waves of bloody crusaders into the orient. Europe was first awoken by the Magna Carta in 1215, and later the Renaissance in the 14th - 17th centuries which yielded enlightenment. The East, including Iran, was also inflicted with its own dark ages and only healed by spiritual Sufism, mysticism, and melancholic music and poetry. For instance, after the first camera was gifted to Nasser-eddin Shah Qajar in 1842, followed by the moving camera circa 1875, most Iranians, less than 10 million at the time, were illiterate, serfs and poor due to heavy taxes levied on them, and forced to give up in droves their Jewish, Zoroastrian, Christian and Baha'i faiths and become Shiite Muslims. In retrospect, it was ironic that the majority of Iranian Muslims, comprising half the population in the 15th Century, were Sunnis. Instigated by Europeans colonialists, especially the Vatican, who feared the re-occupation of Europe with the second Islamic wave driven by the new Ottomans, and through giving guns and cannons, training and persuading the newly converted Persian Sunni Safavid dynasty Kings, Iranians were forced by sword to converting to Shi'ism, adopting many Catholic rituals, passion plays and processions, thereby opening up a lethal eastern front against the Ottomans so as to divert and deter them from overrunning Europe, as had occurred back in the 7th century.
After waves of Iranian doctoral students returned home from France and Austria, and later Germany in the 19th century, modernisation and reforms led to the 1907 Constitution Revolution to replace the absolute monarchy. The rest of the 20th century, witnessed a rapid transformation of the modern nation, as narrated (watch). The homegrown process of reformation, secularisation, and modernisation, fast approaching 200 years in the making, still continues today.
In closing, please watch the attached nostalgic video, recorded in 1956 and computer color enhanced. It captures the daily lives of a still famous Tehran downtown quarter, Lalehzar (the tulip prairies). I was born in Shemrian a few miles north, (off Niavaran Avenue, on Haghighat alley behind the still standing Firehouse in Dezashib) and grew up in Evin (outside the tall impassable walls) along the Parkway before emigrating “to the promised land…” The rest is history.
The above notwithstanding, humanity is a universal phenomenon and as such has no boundaries. As in this illustration, it is true most, if not all of us, physically resemble Darwin on the upper right corner next to the pink flamingo. However, the 64 quadrillion dollar question is that we must each decide in life where we truly fit on this stratified diagram in terms of our behavior, (mis-) conduct and psyche.
The Evolution of Living Species