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Iran (Persian: ایرانIrān [ʔiːˈɾɒːn] (About this sound listen)), also known as Persia (/ˈpɜːrʒə/), officially the Islamic Republic of Iran (Persian: جمهوری اسلامی ایرانJomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān (About this sound listen)), is a sovereign state in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th-most-populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second-largest country in the Middle East and the 17th-largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. The country's central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country's capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center.

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BCE. It was first unified by the Iranian Medes in the seventh century BCE, reaching its greatest territorial size in the sixth century BCE, when Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire, which stretched from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, becoming one of the largest empires in history. The Iranian realm fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BCE and was divided into several Hellenistic states. An Iranian rebellion culminated in the establishment of the Parthian Empire, which was succeeded in the third century CE by the Sasanian Empire, a leading world power for the next four centuries.

Selected article

The Cyrus Cylinder, obverse and reverse sides

The Cyrus Cylinder (Persian: منشور کوروش‎) is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several fragments, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1879. It is currently in the possession of the British Museum, which sponsored the expedition that discovered the cylinder. It was created and used as a foundation deposit following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was invaded by Cyrus and incorporated into his Persian Empire. The text on the Cylinder praises Cyrus, sets out his genealogy and portrays him as a king from a line of kings. The Babylonian king Nabonidus, who was defeated and deposed by Cyrus, is denounced as an impious oppressor of the people of Babylonia and his low-born origins are implicitly contrasted to Cyrus's kingly heritage. The victorious Cyrus is portrayed as having been chosen by the chief Babylonian god Marduk to restore peace and order to the Babylonians. The text states that Cyrus was welcomed by the people of Babylon as their new ruler and entered the city in peace. It appeals to Marduk to protect and help Cyrus and his son Cambyses. It extols Cyrus's efforts as a benefactor of the citizens of Babylonia who improved their lives, repatriated displaced people and restored temples and cult sanctuaries across Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the region. It concludes with a description of how Cyrus repaired the city wall of Babylon and found a similar inscription placed there by an earlier king. The Cylinder's text has traditionally been seen by Biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of Cyrus’ policy of the repatriation of the Jewish people following their Babylonian captivity (an act that the Book of Ezra attributes to Cyrus), as the text refers to the restoration of cult sanctuaries and repatriation of deported peoples. This interpretation has been disputed, as the text identifies only Mesopotamian sanctuaries, and makes no mention of Jews, Jerusalem, or Judea. The Cylinder has also been claimed to be an early "human rights charter", though the British Museum and a number of scholars of the ancient Near Eastern history reject this view as anachronisticand a misunderstanding of the Cylinder's generic nature. It was adopted as a symbol by the Shah of Iran's pre-1979 government, which put it on display in Tehran in 1971 to commemorate 2,500 years of the Iranian monarchy.

Selected image

Satellite image of Iran in January 2004.
Credit: NASA

Satellite image of Iran in January 2004.

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Selected biography

Artaxerxes III of Persia (c. 425 BC – 338 BC) (Persian: اردشير سوم‎) (Old Persian: 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎠,transliterated as Artaxšaçā), was the Great King (Shah) of Persia and the eleventh Emperor of the Achaemenid Empire, as well as the first Pharaoh of the 31st dynasty of Egypt. He was the son and successor of Artaxerxes II and was succeeded by his son, Arses of Persia (also known as Artaxerxes IV). His reign coincided with the reign of Philip II in Macedon and Nectanebo II in Egypt. Before ascending the throne Artaxerxes was a satrap and commander of his father's army. Artaxerxes came to power after one of his brothers was executed, another committed suicide, the last murdered and his father, Artaxerxes II died at the age of 86. Soon after becoming king, Artaxerxes murdered all of the royal family to secure his place as emperor. He started two major campaigns against Egypt. The first campaign failed, and was followed up by rebellions throughout the western empire. In 343 BC, Artaxerxes defeated Nectanebo II, the Pharaoh of Egypt, driving him from Egypt, stopping a revolt in Phoenicia on the way. In Artaxerxes' later years, Philip II of Macedon's power was increasing in Greece, where he tried to convince the Greeks to revolt against Achaemenid Persia. His activities were opposed by Artaxerxes, and with his support, the city of Perinthus resisted a Macedonian siege. There is evidence for a renewed building policy at Persepolis in his later life, where Artaxerxes erected a new palace and built his own tomb, and began long-term projects like the Unfinished Gate. According to a Greek source, Diodorus of Sicily, Bagoas poisoned Artaxerxes, but a cuneiform tablet (now in the British Museum) suggests that the king died from natural causes.

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Did you know...

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  • ...that during the Shiraz blood libel, the first to start the pogrom of the Jewish quarter were the soldiers sent to protect the Jews against mob violence?





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Before the revolution I thought there are appropriate individuals who would do the job according to Islam, therefore I repeatedly said that clerics would go after their own job. Then I saw that most of them were inappropriate individuals and I found out that what I said was not true, so I came and clearly announced that I was wrong.

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