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Ancient World /
Ancient Iran

Countries and Regions
3rd millennium-550 BCE
8th century-550 BCE
10th-7th century BCE
3rd millennium BCE
3rd millennium-6th century BCE
3rd millennium BCE
7000-4th century BCE
Chogha Zanbil
Ca. 1250-640 BCE
Elamite religion

Most of the known history of Ancient Iran belongs to the Zagros mountains. Beyond that, where most of modern Iran lies, very little is known before the second half of the 1st millennium BCE, when Persia begins to form into a great empire.
The term Iran refers to the Iranians, Indo-European speaking peoples that immigrate into the lands now called Iran in the late 2nd millennium BCE. Ancient Iran is often referred to as Persia, but this is a discriminatory term, as many Iranians are not Persians (see the figures on ethnic groups in modern Iran). Also, the the first instances of Iran being referred to as Persia belong to a late moment in ancient Iranian history.
The oldest known form of civilization was in the lands of Elam, dating back to the 6th millennium BCE. Elam was in the mountains immediately east of Mesopotamia. It was in and around the Elamite city of Susa that the first complex civilizations of Iran emerge.
During the last centuries of the last centuries of the 2nd millennium, Iran was the arena of great migrations that would change the character of these lands forever: Indo-Iranian speaking peoples arrived here, mainly Schytians, the Medes and Persians. Over the following centuries these would absorb many of the original peoples of Iran.
Schytians settled in the north of Zagros mountains.
The Medes located across a wide region, from Tabriz in the north to Esfahan in the south, establishing their capital at Ectabana.
The Persians located themselves to the lands south of Orumiyeh lake, north and east of Elam. Their central land would become the region around Shiraz, which has come to known by the name "Fars".

Around 7000 BCE: Earliest traces of inhabitation in Iran, figurines of humans and animals near Kermanshah (far west of Iran), and other artefacts from Susa.
Around 3200: Elam emerges as a region of settled societies, but without a developed civilization.
3rd millennium: The civilization of Jiroft emerge, by many believed to be an independent culture.
Late 2nd millennium: Indo-European speaking nomads begin moving into Iran, at the beginning in the east, but they would eventually locate themselves across all regions.
1210: Emergence of the The Elamite Empire, which would at times emerge stronger than the Mesopotamian kingdoms.
7th century BCE: Media becomes a great power.
Around 600 BCE: Zarathustra lives in eastern Iran, establishing one of the first world religions with a monotheistic basic structure.
6th century BCE: Persians take control of whole of Iran and the Middle East (under kings like Cyrus 2 the Great, Cambyses 2, Darius 1). The Persian Empire rules from the capital Persepolis.

By Tore Kjeilen