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Iranian or Persian?


Iran, or the “Land of the Aryans”, was officially founded in 1935. Despite resistance from residents who showed more inclination to refer to the country as “Persia”, the terms "Iran" and "Iranian" was incorporated into the nation’s common and official references. As a matter of fact, over the next two decades since its initial founding, all texts and literature made almost no reference to the terms “Persia” and "Persian".  This gave ground to an escalating and much heated scholastic debate over the use of this reference.

One of the chief reasons to debate is because of the deeply rooted historical significance of “Persia”, the cradle to perhaps the greatest civilizations over the last two millennia. The Hellenized Greeks referred to the Persian Empire as “Persis”. This term became coined to this Eastern civilization which evolved into “Persia” over time. 

The historical reference of Persia originated from the Kingdom of Anshan. This relatively small realm stretched over the present day province of Fars in Iran. These people, however, rose above obscurity during the reign of Cyrus the Great in 600 B.C. What is to be referred in the “known world” as Persian Empire was essentially founded through the Cyrus' subjugation of the neighboring dynastic empires of Media, Lydia, and Neo-Babylon. At his death, the empire extended over modern day Turkey, Israel, Armenia, parts of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and the borders of the Indian subcontinent in the East. The size and might of the king’s domain dwarfed any of its predecessors. 

In his lifetime, Cyrus the Great effectively founded the Achaemenid dynasty. He laid the foundations for an empire for which his later successor of Darius the Great was able to build upon. The latter Iranian king was able to further extend the territorial size empire and established a cohesive infrastructure over the entire empire. This control is perhaps the most momentous development with rippling significance. It through this very cohesion that the first true stable multiple ethnic community was ever created. As a matter of fact, the Persian kings were often referred to as the “Kings of Kings”. This title was made in reference to the Persian's rule over a vast range of ethic peoples living in harmony under one single king. This unity fostered an environment that promoted trade and strengthened commerce over a landscape that had never truly communicated until then. 

Darius the Great also commissioned the building of Persepolis. Persepolis was created to serve as the capital city of the Achaemenid dynasty – a city of unrivaled grandeur and splendor. The ruin today - in Iranian Plateau - 2,500 years since its founding, is still an awesome sight to behold. The fifty feet tall columns standing erect against the test of time and erosion serves as testament to the unrivalled power that Persians held. At the height of Achaemenid dynasty, the empire covered 7.5 million square kilometers spanning over three continents from Africa to Asia. This created the single largest and longest enduring empire, whose size was rivaled only 1,800 years later by Genghis Khan and the Mongolians. 

After a short period of turbulence following the fall of the Achaemenid Dynasty, Ardashir I founded the second great Persian empire known as the Sassanid Empire. This new Persian Empire was the archrival for supremacy with the Roman Empire in its entire Eastern front.  As a matter of fact, Shapur I, the second Persian king, posed such threat to the Romans that they captured Valerian, the only Roman emperor ever to be held in captivity by a foreign power.  

Despite the brutality and violence necessary in its initial founding, Persia under Sassanid rule ushered in an era of great cultural growth with the birth of Islam which laid grounds for today’s Muslim world. Economically, the Persians also brought about a period of great prosperity by connecting the Eastern and Western worlds through the Silk Road. It is during this period that many individuals within Aryan features lived within Iran. This is where the name “Iran” originated from. 

Due to the great historical heritage of Persia, in 1959, the scholars finally convinced the government to amend the constitution such that the terms "Persia" and "Iran" can be used interchangeably. In today's language, the terms "Persian" and "Iranian" is one of the same.

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