The coming of the Aryan tribes and Elam




        Landscape in the Fars Area  


  Aryan Horseman



The Persian Empire started in modern day Iran ( Land of the Aryans). Three of the major horse-riding , Indo-European speaking peoples who arrived from Central Asia into the Iranian plateau in the second millennium B.C. were the Medes , the Persians ( Parsa ) and the Scythians .


Homelands of the Medes, Persians and Elamites

in the Bronze Age ( Elamite empire in Red )


The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age

Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World

David W. Anthony Hartwick College anthropology professor Anthony

hypothesizes that a proto-Indo-European culture emerged in the

Ponto-Caspian steppes 4,000 years ago




The original homeland of the Persians is regarded to be in the Fars area of southern Iran. The Old Persian word for the area was Parsa, from which the word Persia is derived. The earliest appearance of the Persians in history is in the inscriptions of the Assyrian kings, which begin to notice them about the middle of the ninth century B.C. At this time Shalmaneser II found them in south-western Armenia, where they were in close contact with the Medes, of whom, however, they seem to have been wholly independent. Like the modern Kurds in this same region, they owned no subjection to a single head, but were under the government of numerous petty chieftains, each the lord of a single town or of a small mountain district. Shalmaneser informs us that he took tribute from twenty-five such chiefs. Similar tokens of submission were paid also to his son and grandson. After this the Assyrian records are silent as to the Persians for nearly a century, and it is not until the reign of Sennacherib that we once more find them brought into contact with the power which aspired to be mistress of Asia. At the time of their reappearance they are no longer in Armenia, but have descended the line of Zagros and reached the districts which lie north and north-east of Susiana, or that part of the Bakhtiyari chain which, if it is not actually within Persia Proper, at any rate immediately adjoins upon it. Arrived thus far, it was easy for them to occupy the region to which they have given permanent name; for the Bakhtiyari mountains command it and give a ready access to its valleys and plains.


Elamite Priest


In Search of the Indo-Europeans:

Language, Archaeology, and Myth

J. P. Mallory


The Persians would thus appear not to have completed their migrations till near the close of the Assyrian period, and it is probable that they did not settle into an organized monarchy much before the fall of Nineveh. The most people in Iran at this time was in western Iran, where Elamites ( who spoke a non- Indo-European language ) founded Susa around 4000 B.C. and had developed a cuneiform based script and had ziggurat temples similar to those Mesopotamia .


Divine Elamite figurine


Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq. The modern name Elam is a transcription from Biblical Hebrew, corresponding to the Sumerian elam(a), the Akkadian elamtu, and the Elamite haltamti. Elamite states were among the leading political forces of the ancient near east.  Situated just to the east of Mesopotamia, Elam was part of the early urbanization during the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age). The emergence of written records from around 3000 BC also parallels Mesopotamian history where writing was used slightly earlier.


Ruins of Elamite ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil , close to Susa


Elam was a major power in the Iranian Plateau and often made use of the nomadic Medes and Persians levies in their armies .


Assyrians sack an Elamite city


Elam was sacked by the Assyrians in 639  B.C.  The Mede and Persian tribes were able to grow tremendously without the checking influence of the Elamites and Mede and Persian chieftains took the titles of kings . The Assyrians were not able to conquer the nomadic Medes and Persians .





Cyrus the Great or Genii

wearing an Elamite robe


Elamite culture exerted a great influence Achaemenid Empire, where the Elamite cuneiform remained in official use. Under the Achaemenid Empire, Persian was written in cuneiform with its own distinct script

( Old Persian ). Most of the scribes who kept imperial records at Peresoplis were Elamites . Elamite gods were worshiped by the Persians and Elam transmitted many cultural ideas from Mesopotamia to the Persians. The Elamite capital of Susa remained an important administrative capital in the Persian Empire, many of the famous rock face inscriptions such as the Behistun inscription use Elamite and Old Persian cuneiform .








 The Median Empire