Iran or Persia? What is the actual name of the Country?
In this post, I will answer another confusing question regarding the country of Iran meaning its name. I have been asked many times questions such as: What is the country really called? Is it Iran or Persia? Is there a difference between the two terms? Why two names? Why a change of the name? Here, all these questions and more will be answered. But I have to start from the beginning.
Iran or Persia? Where Does the Name Persia Come from?
The Great Migration: Escaping the Cold
In the second millennium B.C., a group of Indo-European people left their ancestral land in the hope of finding a better climate and more fertile land. As they headed south, they gradually began settling down whenever a good location was found. Naturally, they had many clashes and struggles with the original dwellers of the land they invaded. Nevertheless, whether it was through defeat or selling their sword and horsemanship, they slowly mingled with the dwellers and eventually take them over. These tribes of Indo-European were the Aryans that came to the country that today is known as Iran.
A New Empire is Here
The most powerful, populated, and famous of Aryan tribes were Medes or Media and Pars. Medians were in the northwest areas of current Iran. They made a union with other neighboring tribes to strengthen their powers against Assyrian. Pars tribe were further south, in the current Fars province.
In the sixth century B.C., the tribe of Pars that called themselves the rulers of Anshan, began conquering other tribes and lands. The first to be conquered were the Elamites. They were an advanced civilization and we see how influential they were at the new court created by the Pars conquerors. The conquests continued with the defeat of Medians, Lydia, Babylon, and many others, the Achaemenid Empire came to being. An Empire that reached the Sand in the east and the Mediterranean in the west.
The Incredible Greeks Get an Opinion too
One of the kingdoms that Achaemenians tried to conquer was Greece. Although they couldn’t take the whole country, in continuous battles, parts and cities of Greece were sieged and taken. That’s how Achaemenian entered Greek history; naturally, as barbarian villains. The name that entered the history book was taken from the name of the tribe. Since Achaemenians were from Pars tribe, the land became Persia, and the people who lived there were known as Persian.
Iran or Persia? Where does the name Iran Come from?
Although Greeks decided to call the country Persia, that wasn’t the name the Achaemenians used for their land. That is true, the name of the tribe was Pars; however, they were first Aryans and then Pars. In another word, Pars was a tribe that belonged to a greater category or Aryan. The problem is the lack of documentation. We don’t have that much before the Sassanid Era (224 – 642 A.D.).
The Emergence of the name Iran
In the Avesta, however, the holy book of Zoroastrianism, we read about the migration of a race from a very cold place. Here, we see the name of Ayrianam-Vaejo as the original land where the Aryans came from. This is how we came to understand the name of the original land. Consequently, after migration, the Aryans call the new land something similar. Now, we know that the name changed in the passing of time and turned to Ayrian then Eirian and then Iran.
a Time of Demise and Revival
In the Sassanid time, the term Iran or Iranshahr is commonly used and known and the name of the country. Interestingly, there is a contrasting term or Aniran which means anyone that is not Iranian. In this time, Iraq is said to be the heart of Iran. After the advent of Islam, the Islamic rulers tried to vanish the Sassanid traces and following the Greek example called the country Fars which is the Arabized version of Pars and Ajam meaning “not Arab”. However, with a rising nationalistic feeling and a return to ancient identity, the name of Iran resurfaced. Especially in the works of literature and poems of the 5th and 6th-century poets like Ferdowsi.
Iran or Persia? The Official name changing
The western countries, following the Greeks, used the term Persia as the name of the land and Persian as the nationality. Early 20th century, another wave of nationalism and return to the pre-Islamic time shook the country. Mostly on the part of the ruling government and not the people. As a result, some changes happened. In 1935, Reza Shah, the king of the time, officially asked all foreign nations to use Iran as the name of the country and Iranian as the nationality. From then, it was mandatory to use the mentioned titles in all correspondence and official businesses. And that’s how Iran became Iran in the world map and everywhere else.
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