Wikijunior:Ancient Civilizations/Persians

Persians were an ancient people living in western Asia. They founded the Achaemenid Empire, one of the bigger empire of the ancient world.

What country did they live in?

The Persian, Achaemenid Empire at its greatest

The Persian Empire started in the south of what is now Iran. It grew through military conquest to cover a huge region that roughly encompasses today's Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Bulgaria, many parts of Greece, Egypt, Syria, much of what is now Pakistan, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Caucasia, Central Asia, Libya, and northern parts of Arabia. The empire eventually became the largest empire of the ancient world.

Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of Persia, the ruins of which is remaining today. Susa and Pasargadas were capital cities at different times in Persian history. They were all in what is now Iran. Another capital was Sardis, an ancient city in what is now south west of Turkey.

What did they eat in Persia?


Persians were mostly eating meat and bread. Their main meal was simple, but they had many snacks or confectioneries. The bread was made from wheat or barley. Lamb and goat were the primary meats eaten by Persians. They were also consuming herbs and spices, and ate stews made from meat and fruit with herbs.

Apricots, artichokes, eggplants, lemons, lime, oranges, pistachios, spinach, saffron and tarragon all came to Europe through Persia. Other condiments and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, coriander, dill, nutmeg, paprika, pomegranates, saffron, sumac, turmeric, as well as orange-flower water and rose water were used in Persian food.

What did their buildings look like?


The ruins of one of their capitals, Persepolis, is remained today. It was made of huge stones connected by metal clamps, and covered by wooden roofs. The roofs was supported with tall columns made of stones or high-quality wood. Their buildings were grand and were created by skillful workers from all over the empire, such as Egypt and Babylon. They also decorated the walls of their palaces with lions, bulls, flowers, as well as beliefs of people from various nations of the empire. Later, Persians created buildings using mudbricks, with huge domes and barrel-vaulted chambers.

Persian tombs were carved into mountains.

What did they wear?

Persians and Medians in a court ceremony

The Persian king wore a robe of honor that was a large piece of fabric that was draped around him. For the king and other aristocracy, their clothes were often decorated with golden clothing ornaments. Some of these are in the form of roundels, while others are gold plaques with loops or rings on the back so they can be sewn onto the cloth. Rich people also liked to wear gold jewellery such as bracelets with animal head carvings.

Common people wore coats and pants made out of leather. Men's coats reached from their shoulders down to their knees and were fastened with a girdle. Their sleeves were somewhat tight and went down to their wrists.

Originally woman's clothing was quite similar to men's clothing but as time went their style changed. Initially their clothes were short and tight but when the style changed their clothes were made longer, more voluminous and were made out of softer materials.

Persian shoes were usually were pieces on plants that were wrapped around their feet and were tied up on the top. These would have look similar to moccasins. Persians also wore red clothes to show respect to their husbands

What did their writing look like?

An Old Persian writing.

Old Persian was written from left to right in Old Persian cuneiform script. Old Persian cuneiform script was supposedly invented by King Darius I, one of ancient Persia's famous kings. There were 36 letters in their alphabet, although some of them essentially represented different syllables. For example, they had one symbol for "ka" and another symbol for "ku". They used these symbols even though they also had symbols that represented "a" and "u".

A clay tablet with Babylonain writing

Persians used to write administrative documents in Aramaic and Babylonian. Aramaic script was an early Semitic script. Babylonian was written in cuneiform.

What did they believe?

Carving of Faravahar, a symbol of Zoroastrianism

The Persian civilization spawned three major religions: Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and Manichaeanism.

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religions of the world. Its prophet was Zoroaster, who lived around 18th century BC (although some believe as recent as 6th century BC). He rejected the old gods and introduced that a single wise god, Ahura Mazda, ruled the world. However, Ahura Mazda was often in battle with Ahriman (or Angra Mainyu), who was the prince of evil, lies, and destruction. On Earth, each person had to choose which side to support. It said that Ahura Mazda would conquer over the forces of evil, Ahriman, at the end. On that day, all the people would be judged for their actions. Those who did good would enter paradise. Those who did evil would be condemned to eternal suffering.

Zoroaster's teaching were later written in a book, the Avesta.

Are some of them famous even today?

Cyrus the Great monument at Sydney Olympic Park

Perhaps the most famous Persian of all time is Cyrus the Great who founded the Persian Empire. He is known not simply because of his military accomplishments, but his leadership, and his treatment of his people, who used to call him "the Father". He respected the religions of the lands he conquered, and treated people equally. For example, after conquering Babylon, he freed the Jewish people who were captivated there, and helped them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple, and therefore he is praised in the Bible.

Other famous Persian kings were Cambyses and Darius the Great, who according to himself, "fought 9 battles and took prisoners 9 kings" in one year, almost re-conquering the whole empire which was in chaos.

What is left of them today?


Persians are one of the few ancient civilizations who have made significant contributions to humanity from prehistoric times by their Persian empire all the way through to the modern day in their country Iran. Many Persians are now Muslims, although there are Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians still living and practising their religion in Iran.

Achaemenid Persians were the first to divide their land into smaller states or provinces (called "satraps") and appointing a governor for each of them, who were under command of the king. They also created a postal system, a road system, a professional army, and chose an official language for communication throughout their empire. All of these were adopted in later empires and eventually remains in modern countries today.