V. I. Abaev and H. W. Bailey: The Alans

This article on the Iranian speaking Alans by V. I. Abaev and H. W. Bailey first appeared in the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1984. The Alans were an ancient Iranian tribe of the northern (Scythian, Saka, Sarmatian, Massagete) group, known to classical writers from the first centuries CE.

Kindly note that a number of pictures displayed in the Compareti article below are from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006 and Farrokh’s textbook  Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا.
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Alansan ancient Iranian tribe of the northern (Scythian, Saka, Sarmatian, Massagete) group, known to classical writers from the first centuries A.D. (see, e.g., Seneca, Thyestes 630; Annaeus Lucan, Pharsalia 8.223, 10.454; Lucian, Toxaris 51, 54, 55, 60; Ptolemy, Geographia 6.14.3, 9, 11; and other sources below).

Saka Paradraya[Click to Enlarge] The Scythians or Saka Paradraya in Eastern Europe before the arrival into the region by another Iranian people: the Sarmatian-Alans (circa 4th century BCE). As noted by Newark: “They [Scythians] were Indo-European in appearance and spoke an Iranian tongue that bought them more closely to the Medes and Persians” (Source: Newark, T. (Historian) & Mcbride, A. (Historical Artist) (1998). Barbarians. London: Concord Publications Company, p.6; Color Plate p. 7).

The name of the Alans appears in Greek as Alanoi, in Latin as Alani or Halani. The same tribes, or affiliated ones, are mentioned as the Asaioi (Ptolemy 5.9.16), Rhoxolanoi, Aorsoi, Sirakoi, and Iazyges (Strabo 2.5.7, 7.2.4; 11.2.1, 11.5.8; 7.2.4). In early times the main mass of the Alans was settled north of the Caspian and Black seas. Later they also occupied the Crimea and considerable territory in the northern Caucasus.

Alan-Warrior[Click to Enlarge] Iranian-speaking Alan warrior circa 5th century CE. The descendants of the Alans are found in Western and northern Iran as well as the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. Large numbers of Alans also assimilated with Europe’s Germanic tribes, notably the Ostrogoths (Painting by the late Angus McBride).As noted by Professor Abaev and bailey in this article “The name “Alan” is derived from Old Iranian *arya-, “Aryan,” and so is cognate with “Īrān” (from the gen. plur. *aryānām)“.

The history of the Alans can be divided into three periods: (1) from the beginning of the Christian era to the great migration of peoples; (2) from that period to the Mongol invasion; (3) subsequent to the Mongol invasion. During the first period, the Alans appear as a nomadic, warlike, pastoral people who were professional warriors and took service, at various times, with the Romans, Parthians, and Sasanians. Their cavalry was particularly renowned. They participated in Mithridates’ wars with Rome (chronicled by Lucan), as well as in Roman campaigns in Armenia, Media, and Parthia in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. (see Josephus, Jewish Wars 7.244-51,Antiquities 18.97; cf. accounts in Moses of Khoren, History of the Armenians [Langlois, Historiens II, pp. 105-06, 125] and the Georgian Chronicle [Kartlis tskhovreba, in M. F. Brosset and D. I. Chubinov, Histoire de la Georgie I, St. Petersburg, 1849]). Ammianus Marcellinus (31.2) describes the Alans’ nomadic economy and warlike customs.

Iranian Sword Worship-Excalibur Lenged[Click to Enlarge] (left) A reconstruction by Brzezinski and Mielczarek (2002 ) of Iranian-speaking Sarmatian warriors paying their respects to a fallen comrade in Europe (circa 1st century AD) – note the ritual of thrusting the fallen comrade’s sword  into the earth. At right is a screenshot of the Excalibur sword of King Arthur thrust into the stone (Movie “Excalibur“, 1981, John Boorman). This is one of many parallels between the Arthurian legends and the mythologies of the ancient Iranians  (Pictures used in Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division).

The invasion of the Huns split the Alans into two parts, the European and the Caucasian. Some of the European Alans were drawn into the migration of peoples from eastern into western Europe. With the Germanic tribes of Visigoths and Vandals they passed into Gaul and Spain, some even reaching North Africa. The Alans fought on the side of the Romans in the battle of the Catalaunian Fields (A.D. 451), when Aetius defeated Attila, chief of the Huns. In 461 and 464 they made incursions into Italy. After Attila’s death they struggled, together with the Germanic tribes, to free themselves from Hun domination. Large Alan hordes settled along the middle course of the Loire in Gaul under King Sangiban and on the lower Danube with King Candac (the historian Jordanes sprang from the latter group). Another settlement is indicated by the name of the Spanish province Catalonia, which is but a slight deformation of Goth-Alania, “province of the Goths and Alans.” The French proper name “Alain” and English “Alan” are an inheritance from the tribe. The Alans also left an imprint on Celtic folk-poetry, e.g., the cycle of legends concerning King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table (see M. Hesse, “Iranisches Sagengut im Christlichen Epos,” Atlantis 1937, pp. 621-28; J. H. Grisward, “Le motif de l’épée jetée au lac: la mort d’Arthur et la mort de Batradz,” Romania 90, 1969, pp. 289-340). Part of the European Alans remained in the lands bordering the Black Sea, including the Crimea.

Alan at Orleans 451 AD[Click to Enlarge] Alan warrior in combat at Orleans (circa 451 CE). Many of these Iranian speakers settled in what is now modern France and assimilated into the local population. To this day their legacy resonates in Eastern Europe with names such as Alan, Alana, Irene, and Rita. The Alans are now believed to have introduced much of their folklore into the Arthurian legends of the British Isles. Painting by Angus McBride.

The Caucasian Alans occupied part of the Caucasian plain and the foothills of the main mountain chain from the headwaters of the Kuban river and its tributary, the Zelenchuk (in the west), to the Daryal gorge (in the east). They became sedentary and took to cattle-breeding and agriculture. Towns developed, elements of state organization appeared, and political and cultural ties were established with Byzantium, Georgia, Abkhazia [see Abḵāz], the Khazars, and Russia. Dynastic marriages were concluded with these countries. From the 5th century on, Christian propaganda was conducted, first by Byzantine, later also by Georgian, missionaries. The Alans adopted Christianity in the 10th century, and an Alan episcopal see was created.

In 244/857 Boḡā, a general of the caliph of Baghdad, invaded Transcaucasia and the northern Caucasus, devastating Georgia, Abkhazia, the Alan country, and the Khazar lands. The Alans soon recovered, however, and restored their state. They are often mentioned by medieval writers, both western (Procopius of Caesarea, Menander, Theophanes of Byzantium, Constantine Porphyrogenitus) and Arab and Persian. The latter use the name “Alān” or “Ās”; and in Russian chronicles and Hungarian sources the form “Yas” is found. In the 4th/10th century the Arab historian Masʿūdī indicates that the Alan kingdom stretched from Daghestan to Abkhazia. He describes its prosperity: “The Alan king (can) muster 30,000 horsemen. He is powerful, very strong and influential (among?) the kings. The kingdom consists of an uninterrupted series of settlements; when the cock crows (in one of them), the answer comes from the other parts of the kingdom, because the villages are intermingled and close together” (trans. V. Minorsky, A History of Sharvan and Darband, Cambridge, 1958, pp. 156-60). The anonymous Ḥodūd al-ʿālam (trans. Minorsky, pp. 83, 161, 318, 445) describes Alania as a vast country with 1,000 settlements; the people included both Christians and idol-worshipers, mountaineers and plain-dwellers. The text makes the important statement that, in the north, the Alans bordered on the Hungarians and the Bulgars (the ancestors of the Chuvash). In the east they gave their name to the Daryal gorge, called “Gate of the Alans” (Arabic Bāb al-Lān, Persian Dar-e Alān, hence Daryal).

Chester[Click to Enlarge] Sarmatian warrior clad in scale armor. Fluttering behind him is the distinctive Iranian battle standard, a dragon made like a windsock. Fragments of a funeral stele from the Roman camp at Chester, England. Chester Museum. Photo: Chester Archaeological Society. From The Sarmatians (New York, 1970), pl. 46.

The Mongol invasion of the 7th/13th century and Tamerlane’s wars in the 8th/14th proved fatal to the Alan state. Its organization was destroyed, and the population suffered heavy loss. Ebn al-Aṯīr reports: “The Tatars attacked the Alans; they massacred them, committed many outrages, plundered and seized prisoners, and marched on against the Qipchaqs” (XII, p. 252; for the events of 1221 A.D., seeCamb. Hist. Iran V, p. 311). The remnants of the Alans broke up into three groups. One retreated into the foothills and gorges of the central Caucasus and lives there up to the present [see Ossetes], numbering some 400,000. The people of their eastern branch call themselves “Ir”, those of the western branch “Digor.” The name “Alan” survives among them, in the form “Allon”, only in folklore. (Russian “Osetiny” is from Georgian Oseti, “Alania.” The Georgians had long called the Alans Os- or Ovs- and their country Oset-.) A second group of Alans migrated with the Qipchaqs (Comani) into Europe, settling in Hungary. The territory they occupied is to this day called Jászság, “province of the Yas;” and its capital is Jászberény. They preserved their language and ethnic identity until the 15th century, but gradually adopted the Hungarian language and became assimilated. The third group took service under the Mongol khans. According to the Chinese chronicle Yuan-shi, these “Asu” played an important role in further Mongol expansion. The Catholic missionary John de Marignolli, who spent five years in China, states that there were up to 30,000 Ās there (H. Yule, Cathay and the Way Thither III [Hakluyt Society, second ser., no. 37], London, 1914, pp. 180ff.). In the course of time they perished in warfare or were absorbed into the local population.

Osetia_woman_working[Click to Enlarge] A Russian photograph of Ossetian women of the northern Caucasus working with textiles in the late 19th century CE. Ossetians are the descendants of the Iranian speaking Alans who migrated to Eastern Europe, notably former Yugoslavia, and modern-day Rumania and Hungary (where their legacy remains in the Jasz region).

The name “Alan” is derived from Old Iranian *arya-, “Aryan,” and so is cognate with “Īrān” (from the gen. plur. *aryānām). The ancient Alan language may, to some extent, be reconstructed on the basis of modern Ossetic (after excluding the latter’s Turkic and Caucasian additions). The Alans created no writing, and no texts survive in their language except an inscription in Greek letters on a tombstone from the headwaters of the Kuban (Grund. Iran. Phil. I, Anhang, p. 31). A few sentences are recorded by the Byzantine author Tzetzēs (Gerhardt, “Alanen und Osseten,” pp. 37-51).

Modern-day Ossetian girls in traditional attire in Tskhinval (Source: Ossetians.com).

Various personal, ethnic, and place names are also known (see M. Vasmer, Die Iranier in Südrussland, Leipzig, 1923, pp. 25-29). This material at least indicates clearly the Iranian character of the Alan language.

Modern-day Ossetian boys in in Tskhinval attired in Kafkaz dress (Source: Ossetians.com). The Ossetians of the Caucasus speak an ancient Iranian language akin to modern Persian and Kurdish.

Bibliography 

Yu. Kulakovskiĭ, Alany po svedeniyam klassicheskikh i vizantiĭskikh pisateleĭ, Kiev, 1899.

Vs. Miller, Osetinskiye etudy III, Moscow, 1887, pp. 39-116.

W. Tomaschek, “Alani,” Pauly-Wissowa I/2 (1893), col. 1282-85.

E. Täubler, “Zur Geschichte der Alanen,” Klio 9, 1909, pp. 14-28.

Bleichsteiner, Das Volk der Alanen (Berichte des Instituts für Osten und Orient 2), Vienna, 1918.

G. Vernadsky, “Sur l’origine des Alains,” Byzantion 16, 1942-43, pp. 81-86.

Idem, “Der sarmatische Hintergrund der germanischen Völkerwanderung,” Saeculum 2, 1951, pp. 340-92.

V. I. Abaev, Osetinskiĭ yazyk i fol’klor I, Moscow and Leningrad, 1948, pp. 248-70.

D. Gerhardt, “Alanen und Osseten,” ZDMG 93, 1939, pp. 33-51.

Vaneyev, Srednevekovaya Alania, Stalinir, 1959.

Z. D. Gagloĭti, Alany i voprosy etnogeneza osetin, Tbilisi, 1966. V. Kuznetsov, Alania v X-XIII vv., Ordzhonikidze, 1971.

W. Barthold and V. Minorsky, “Alan,” EI2 I, p. 354.

B. S. Bachrach, The History of the Alans in the West, Minnesota, 1973.

Additional Notes

An inscription of A.D. 238-44 was set up in Ribchester, Lancashire, England, by the local Sarmatian veterans who had been sent to Britannia in 175 by Marcus Aurelius (161-80). He had defeated Sarmatians in 175, taken some of them into the Roman army, and adopted, as victor, the name Sarmaticus. The inscription reads “numerus equitum Sarmatarum Bremetennacensium Gordianus” (N. EQQ. SARM. BREMETENN. GIORDANI). It is published with a commentary by I. A. Richmond, “The Sarmatae, Bremetennacum veteranorum, and the Regio Bremetennacensis,”Journal of Roman Studies 1945, pp. 15-29. The road through Rheims was called the Via Sarmatarum. The Poles at one time meditated calling their country Sarmatia. T. Sulimirski published The Sarmatians in London in 1970. The earliest reference to the Sarmatians is in the Avesta, Sairima-, which is in the later epic Slm *Sarm and Salm.

Tamar (r. 1184-1212), queen of Georgia in its golden age, was daughter of King Georgi III and his consort Burduḵan, the daughter of the Ossetic prince Ḵuddan. Tamar’s consort, Soslan, was an Ossete.

Konstantinos VII Porphurogennetos entitled the ruler of Alania exousiokratōr(De administrando imperio 11.11, ed. Moravcsik and Jenkins, 1949), andexousiastēs (Book of Ceremonies 2.48).

The Gate of the Alans (not Albanians) is named in the inscription of Šāpūr I, Parthian 2 (the Persian and Greek are lacking) TROA ʾlʾnn, and in the Kartīr inscription BBA ʾlʾnʾn, that is Dar Alānān (with the two Aramaic words TROAand BBA “gate”).

The Archbishop of the Alans in the 13th century was named Theodoros (Kulakovskiĭ, Alany, p. 58).

Masʿūdī’s ʾrsyh *arsiyah is discussed by T. Lewicki, “Un peuple iranien peu connu: les *Arsīya ou *Orsīya,” Hungaro-Turcica, Studies in Honour of Julius Németh, Budapest, 1976. The Ās, Āṣ are cited by Minorsky, Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, pp. 445, 481. The modern Ossetes use Āsi, with the adjective āsiāg, of the neighboring Balkar (who speak Turkish). Similarly the Megrel (Mingrelians) call the Karačai, who speak Turkish, Alani. In Megrel also alani kʾoči is “heroic man” and alanuroba is “tournament.”

The Mongols used As, plural Asut, adjective Asutai, of the Ās of the Caucasus, of whom they took part to act as Qubilai Khan’s Imperial bodyguard in Khan-baliq, Ta-tu “Great City” (the later Peking). From there these As (Alans) wrote letters to Rome for Christian teachers (see A. C. Moule, Christians in China before the year 1550, London, 1930, pp. 196, 253-54, 260-63).

The Alans in the West are well documented by B. S. Bachrach, The History of the Alans in the West, Minnesota, 1973.

The name Ās was changed in Slavonic and Hungarian to Iās (Yās, Jász). The Iaskiy Torg “Iās Market” is the modern Jassy. In Hungary the Jász settled east of Budapest in the Jászsag district, with their chief city Jász-berény, and other places with the name Jász. A manuscript of A.D. 1422 contains a short vocabulary Jász-Latin in which the words are clearly near to modern Ossetic. There is a facsimile and full study by J. Nemeth, Eine Wortliste der Jassen, der ungarländischen Alanen, Berlin, 1959; see further R.-P. Ritter, Acta orientalia hungarica 30, 1976, pp. 245-50.

The Jász loan-words in Hungarian were treated by H. Sköld Die ossetischen Lehnwörter im Ungarischen, Lunds Unversitets Årsskrift 20, 1925.

The region Alaneṭʿi is briefly cited by the Prince Vakhušt, Geograpʿiuli aγcʾera, Description géographique, 1842, p. 413.

Iohannēs Tzetzēs (ca. 1110-1180) wrote of himself as of a pure Hellenic father and of an Abasgian mother. Among citations of foreign phrases he had one in Alanic. This reads tapanchas (glossed kalē hēmera sou), mesphili (authenta mou), chsina (archontissa), korthin . . . (pothen eisai), to pharnetzi kintzi (ouk aischinesai), mesphili (authentria mou), kaiterfoua(sm)ougg (not glossed). Earlier interpretations are in D. Gerhardt, ZDMG 93, 1939, pp. 33-51. It may be explained thus: dä bon xuarzmeʾfsinäi (vocative singular); äxsinäku . . . (not clear); du farnäd`in kindä äi “you have been made happy;” for the final unglossed phrase possibly: käi de ʾrfua *äm uingä “that your blessing is fully felt.”

Farroukh Jorat: Iranian Elements in the Culture of the Ancient Slavs

The article below has been written by Farroukh Jorat and first appeared in Fravahr.org. Kindly note that the images and accompanying captions do not appear in the original posting in Fravahar.org. For readers interested in articles highlighting links between ancient Iranian civilizations and Europe, consult the link below:

Europa and Eire-An (ancient Persia or Iran)

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In the early Middle Ages (III-X centuries AD) Eastern Slavs contacted with Baltics in the north, with Germans in the west and with Eastern Iranians in the south-east. Interaction of the Eastern Slavs to the Iranians left their mark on the languages and in the religious culture of the East Slavic peoples (Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians). Let us consider some of the elements of the ancient culture of the Eastern Slavs with Iranian origin.

Semargl (Simurgh)

In 980 in the “Tale of Bygone Years” (Povest vremennykh let) in the list of gods, which were revered in Kiev, was noted deity Semargl. Researcher Vasily Abaev believed that the name of this deity origin from Zoroastrian Simurg. Word Semargl borrowed into the Old Russian language from the Scythian and had the original form Senmarγ [1].

Simurg is the mythological character, combining the traita of dog and bird (Old Iranian Saena mərəγo, “dog-bird”). Russian historian Boris Rybakov believed that the images of winged hounds in the art of ancient Russia represent the image of Semargl [2].

[LEFT] Coat of Arms of Semargl used by the ancient dukes and leaders of ancient Russia (Sarmatia) [RIGHT] Green and yellow Iranian silk decorated with the Sassanian Senmurv motif – this sample was once used for wrapping the relics of St Lupus of Troyes (Picture and caption from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and were also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006; Simargl image also available in J.H. in Pinterest – Simurgh image from Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris). After the arrival of Christianity in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine, the Simargl symbol and its cult was denounced as “evil” and “Satanic”.

In 1873 in Glazov county of Vyatka province was discovered a silver dish with the image of Simurg. It was manufactured in the VIII century AD in Iran or Central Asia. After the adoption of Christianity in Rus in 988 image of Semargl has been replaced and forgotten.

Irey

In the “Instructions” (Pouchenia) of Vladimir Monomakh (1053-1125) is a mention about mythical southern country Irey, where the birds fly away in winter and identified with paradise. The most convincing etymology of the word irey is from Old Iranian *airuā-(dahyu-) “Aryan land”. Apparently, this word was borrowed by the Eastern Slavs from Sarmatian tribes. A similar parallels also observed in the language of the Sami, one of the Finno-Ugric Peoples of Russia: Årjel “south”, år’jān “far to the south”, Old Sami *orja “South”.

A copper-engraved map printed in London (approximately in 1770, unknown publishers) based on ancient Greek sources displaying “Sarmatia Europæa” and “Sarmatia Asiatica” by the River Don (Source: Public domain). Colchis and Iberia are now approximatley in modern-day Georgia, with the region Albania renamed as “Azerbaijan” in May 1918. The historical Azerbaijan (Azarbaijan) has been located in northwest Iran below the Araxes River as seen partly in the region of Media at bottom right of the map.

Div

In the “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign” (Slovo o polku Igoreve) (end of XII century) mentioned div as demonic character, sitting on a tree and his whistle presaged the failure of the campaign of Prince Igor at Cumans. The image associated with the Devas — the servants of Ahriman from Zoroastrian mythology.

Dahl VI in his Explanatory dictionary … noted about one of the meanings of Russian word div: “ominous bird, probably an owl”. From this we can conclude that the prototype image of div in the Eastern Slavic culture is owl with a sinister reputation of foreboding.

A reconstruction by Cernenko and Gorelik of the north-Iranian Saka or Scythians in battle (Cernenko & Gorelik, 1989, Plate F). The ancient Iranians (those in ancient Persia and the ones in ancient Eastern Europe) often had women warriors and chieftains, a practice not unlike those of the contemporary ancient Celts in ancient Central and Western Europe. While this topic is often ignored in the media, news outlets, education and academic venues, Ancient Iran has had a profound influence on Europeans and their cultural development. For more on this, see the Dissertation of Dr. Sheda Vasseghi (2017), Positioning Of Iran And Iranians In Origins Of Western Civilization. PhD Dissertation, University of New England, Academic advising Team: Marylin Newell, Laura Bertonazzi, Kaveh Farrokh.

Footnotes

[1] Abayev VI. Scythian-European Isogloss. At the crossroads of East and West. (Skifo-evropeyskie izoglossy. Na styke Vostoka I Zapada). In Russian.

[2] BA Rybakov. Paganism of Old Slavs. (Yazichestvo drevnikh slavian). In Russian

Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia

The article below is the Introduction section of the textbook “Warriors of Ancient Siberia” (edited by St John Simpson of the British Museum and Svetlana Pankova of the State Hermitage Museum) written for the BP Exhibition organized with the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia, the British Museum and Thames & Hudson. The Introduction is also available for download at Academia.edu … For more information on this book consult: Amazon.com and Thames & Hudson.

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The Scythian nomads controlled a vast area stretching from the edge of northern China to the northern Black Sea region. Originating in southern Siberia, they dominated the Eurasian steppe for centuries until they were displaced by other Eurasian nomad tribes at the beginning of the second century bc. Although the Greeks referred to them as ‘barbarians’, this term was applied to all non-Greeks, and the nomads developed a rich material culture with a strong visual language involving fierce contorted animal designs known as ‘Animal Style’ art. This is found on the decorated ends of torcs, bangles and dagger pommels, gold and bronze belt buckles, saddle covers and even body tattoos. The Scythians were skilled at working metals and softer materials such as bone, horn and wood, which were sometimes highlighted with paint, appliqués or colourful sheet-metal overlays; this allowed sparing use of precious metal yet the appearance was spectacularly like solid metal. As pastoral nomads they kept large herds and had plentiful supplies of leather, wool and hair, which not only provided the basis for clothing and soft furnishings but were also easily traded resources in constant demand from their sedentary neighbours. There was regular contact with these: the fifth-century bc historian Herodotus met Scythians in Greek colonies on the northern Black Sea coast; Greek and Assyrian histories record that they fought their way into Anatolia; and they proved a constant threat to the Achaemenid Persian Empire on its eastern frontier in Central Asia. These contacts, whether through conflict, trade or marriage, explain why Achaemenid silver, gold and even carpets ended up in nomad tombs, how Scythian-related goldwork forms part of the Oxus Treasure found near the river Amu darya (Oxus) in its eastern province of Bactria, and why many design motifs are shared by both the Scythian and Achaemenid worlds.

Ancient authors described these peoples where they encountered them at the fringes, but one of the regions where this early nomadic lifestyle first developed was Tuva (fig. 1), at the junction of the Siberian taiga and the Altai-Sayan mountains. It is here that the earliest manifestations of the so-called ‘Scythian triad’ of weapons, horse harness and Animal Style art emerges in the ninth and eighth centuries bc, and archaeological excavations at Arzhan reveal burials of elite individuals interred with their wives or concubines, attendants, and horses. This area is at the heart of southern Siberia and connected by a continuous corridor of grassy pasture to northern China and the Black Sea region. This biome (ecological area) is wider than the vast empire of the Achaemenids, which united the Near East between the sixth and fourth centuries bc, and the Scythians outlasted them, as they had their Late Assyrian and Median predecessors. The Scythians were finally overwhelmed and dissipated by later tribal groups. Roman and Byzantine authors continued to refer to their nomad successors in the Black Sea region and Central Asia as Scythians, but the cultures were changing, and Iranian was replaced by Turkic languages. China was now the dominant political power and there were stronger links with that culture than previously. Deep in the resource-rich but isolated Minusinsk basin, the so-called Tashtyk culture developed during the early centuries ad; this is the focus of the conclusion to the exhibition.

The story behind the objects presented here begins with chance finds made deep in southern Siberia during the eighteenth century. The Russian conquest of Siberia had begun in 1581/82 during the reign of Ivan IV, ‘the Terrible’ (1530–1584), with the defeat of the Tatar khan, Khimchum, by the Cossack commander Yermak. The numerous local tribes were required to pay heavy tribute in furs, a process known as the yassak.

Fig. 1: Landscape view showing Scythian burial mounds in Tuva, southern Siberia.

Tsar Peter I, ‘the Great’ (1672–1725), began sending scientific expeditions to the region; it was during one of these that the strait separating Siberia from Alaska was discovered in 1728 and named after its finder, Vitus Bering (1681–1741). The exploration of Siberia was marked by amazing antiquarian discoveries as large burial mounds (kurgans) attracted the attention of engineers and grave robbers (bugrovshchiki). News of the discovery of fantastic gold ornaments in completely unfamiliar styles soon reached St Petersburg as a collection formed by one Demidov was presented to Peter in 1715. The Tsar issued an edict that any such finds, especially those ‘that are very old and uncommon’, should be sent to St Petersburg, and ordered that drawings be made ‘of everything that is found’. After his death they were transferred to the Kunstkamera (‘Cabinet of Curiosities’), which he had founded in 1714, the first museum in the country. In 1690 the Dutchman Nicolaas Witsen published the first map of Siberia, and two years later the first edition of his account entitled Noord en Oost Tartarye. In the same year one Andrei Lyzlov, said to be either a priest from Smolensk or a courtier from Moscow, wrote an account entitled History of the Scythians, and there was considerable academic interest in Russia into how these finds connected with the ancestral origins of the Slavs and other peoples, and therefore with the early formation of Russia itself (fig. 2).

Fig.2: Frontispiece of the History of the Scythians by A. Lyzlov. London Library.

During the second half of the eighteenth century, in the reign of Catherine II, ‘the Great’ (1729–1796), Russia occupied the northern coast of the Black Sea from the mouth of the river Dniester to the area around Kuban, and achieved its aim of obtaining a warm-water port with access to the Mediterranean (fig. 3).

Fig.3: Print showing the advance of Russia towards the Black Sea during the reign of Catherine II.
Simon François Ravenet I after Nicholas Blakey, 1753 (H. 22.4, W. 17.1 cm, British Museum, London, 1978, U.1663).

As part of its so-called Greek Project – according to which Russia intended to oust the Turks from Europe and as self-styled heirs of the Byzantine Empire found an Empire of Constantinople – cities were given Greek names. In 1787 Catherine visited the area, and antiquarian travellers began to record sites and note the presence of ancient Greek inscriptions. The first kurgan was excavated in 1763 by General Alexey Melgunov (1722–1788), the governor of the Novorossiisk province. It was found to be a seventh- century bc Scythian tomb and proved accounts that the Scythians were active in this region from this early date. Within a year Herodotus’ Histories were translated into Russian for the first time, and a copy of a gold scabbard found by Melgunov was presented to the British Museum (fig. 4).

Fig.4: The Scythian gold scabbard known as the Melgunov scabbard. Seventh century BC (L. 60 cm, State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Dn 1763 1-19, 20).

Other generals excavated a burial mound near the Black Sea port of Phanagoria, and initiated excavations at Olbia and Kerch at the eastern end of the Crimean peninsula. In 1830 a large kurgan at Kul’ Oba, near Kerch, began to be quarried for construction. Excavations immediately followed under the direction of Paul Du Brux, a French antiquarian who owned a private museum and was the chief customs officer in Kerch, and Ivan Stempkovsky, the governor of Kerch. An intact stone tomb measuring 20 sq. m was found to contain the bodies of what are believed to be a Scythian king and queen with numerous gold objects, a groom with a horse, armour, cauldrons, amphorae and drinking vessels. These objects were immediately acquired by the Imperial Hermitage and formed the beginning of the museum’s archaeological collection. On 3 June 1837 an imperial decree stated that the Ministry of Internal Affairs be informed with ‘the appropriate accuracy and detail’ of all architectural finds, and the minister of internal affairs, Count Lev Perovsky, directed the first excavations of royal Scythian burial mounds in this region during the early 1850s. Further excavations, mainly on the Kerch and Taman peninsulas, were generously funded by the Ministry of the Imperial Court, and the finds inspired arts and crafts (fig. 5) and even the interior decor of the New Hermitage, which was intended as a museum and completed in 1851. The collection from the Kunstkamera was transferred to the Hermitage, where it was, and still is, known as ‘Peter I’s Siberian Collection’. In 1854 an album was published containing the most important finds and an Archaeological Commission was founded in 1859 with the following remit:

(1) the search for antiquities, primarily those relating to Russian history and the life of the peoples who once inhabited the territory that is now occupied by Russia; (2) the collection of information on national and other antiquities located within the state; (3) the scientific study and evaluation of the antiquities discovered.1

Fig.5: A gold Scythian bracelet found in 1869 in the fourth-century bc burial mound of Temir-Gora, near Kerch in the northern Black Sea region. Bracelets like this inspired Russian jewelers to make and exhibit copies, and these were copied again by continental European and English firms (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, TG-6).

Royal burial mounds and major sites continued to be the focus in the northern Black Sea region, and large numbers were explored (figs 6–7). The 20-m-high Alexandropol burial mound (also known as the Meadow Grave) was the first to be completely excavated, though most of the finds were lost during bombing in 1941. Other mounds were excavated between 1859 and 1863 by the historian Ivan Zabelin (1820–1908), including the Great Twin Barrow on the Taman peninsula and the famous burial mound of Chertomlyk. The latter stood 20 m high and up to 120 m across, with a massive outer stone wall and a complex tomb with side chambers at the centre: although the central chamber had been robbed in antiquity, valuable finds had been overlooked, and the side rooms still contained the remains of female and warrior burials with rich grave goods.

Fig.6: The interior of a large burial mound known as the ‘Tomb of Mithridates’ near the Lazaretto of Kerch;  Edmund Walker in 1856, after a view by Carlo Bossoli, H. 18.4, W. 28.5 cm; British Museum, London, 1982,U.687 Donated by Westminster City Council)

The exact find-spots of the earliest discoveries made during Peter’s reign remain unclear but are known to have been at different sites between the Ural and Altai mountain ranges in southern Siberia; this was supported by the discovery of typical Scythian objects during excavations in 1865 by academician V. V. Radlov at two large burial mounds (Berel, Katanda) in the Altai region. In 1889 the Archaeological Commission was given exclusive excavation rights and it was agreed that, while the most important finds should be sent to the Hermitage, other pieces could be distributed to local museums. The academician and professor at St Petersburg University Nikolai Veselovsky (1848–1918) led a series of highly successful expeditions to the northern Caucasus and Black Sea region, where he excavated the major burial mounds Oguz (1891–4), Kostromskaya (1897), Kelermes (1904, 1908), Ulsky (1908–10) and Solokha (1912–13); it was in this last mound that he found some of the most spectacular examples of Greco-Scythian goldworking, including a comb topped with a battle scene, a golden phiale (a shallow drinking vessel) with animal designs, an overlay for a bow case with a scene from a Scythian epic and a silver cup depicting a Scythian hunting scene (see Chapter 1).2

Fig.7: Ruins of ancient Chersonesos. Jonathan Needham in 1856, after a view by Carlo Bossoli H. 18.8, W. 28.3 cm (British Museum, London, 1982,U.699 Donated by Westminster City Council).

In October 1917 Russia was convulsed by revolution and the Hermitage was stormed. Huge social changes began to be implemented, and in the first few months the Soviet authorities established a Committee of

the North in order to protect twenty-six ethnic groups in Siberia who were considered at greatest risk: they were exempted from military conscription and taxation, offered basic social amenities, and an attempt was made to teach in native tongues, acknowledging their nomadic existence by schooling in tents. There was also a huge increase in the number of local history societies and museums across the country. However, these measures were short-lived and the individuals concerned were soon accused of supporting local patriotism over national interests.3 In 1929/30 communist collectivization of food production began to be imposed across Russia, nomads were settled, owners of large herds were deported, shamans were outlawed and children were put into Russian boarding schools. It was immediately afterwards, in 1931,

that a detailed census was carried out, which formed the basis for a landmark study by S. Vainshtein of the disappearing nomad economy of the Tuva region.4 During the 1960s local collective farms reorganized into larger enterprises, and the integration of local and Russian populations increased.

In the meantime, on 18 April 1919 the Imperial Archaeological Commission had been dissolved and replaced by the Institute for the History of Material Culture (Lenin personally added the word ‘history’ to its founding edict), and money poured into archaeological projects from the 1930s onwards.5

The Hermitage created three new departments – one that became the Oriental Department in 1920, the Department of Prehistoric Societies (now the Department of the Archaeology of Eastern Europe and Siberia) in 1931, and the Department of the History of Russian Culture in 1941 – and it enjoyed an almost unbroken sequence of directors who were themselves archaeologists. During this period archaeology became politicized and seen as an opportunity for the Soviet authorities to find evidence for Marx’s classification of society into developmental stages, beginning from a pre-class stage through stages of slave-owning, feudalism and capitalism before attaining a classless society with communism as its climax. The superiority of Slavs over Germanic peoples was emphasized while Russia and Germany were at war; cases of ethnogenesis, or the emergence of ethnic groups, were sought within the Soviet Union, and the definition of archaeological cultures and their relationship to linguistic boundaries and peoples were debated.

The origins of the Scythians continued to attract different views. Some Russian scholars saw them as originating in the northern Black Sea region, in the area where they were described by Herodotus. Academician Mikhail Rostovtzeff (1870–1952) interpreted them as a feudal military power, and was the first to begin defining them as an archaeological culture on the grounds of the standard appearance of their burial mounds and other features.6 The Moscow professor Boris Grakov (1899–1970) was the first to excavate large numbers of simple burial mounds belonging to ‘the common people’, in contrast with the previous focus on ‘royal’ mounds; he also thoroughly explored a hill fort at Kamenka, interpreted the Scythians’ social development in Marxist terms as a stage of transition from military democracy to a slave-owning society, and saw the spread of the so-called ‘Scythian triad’ as evidence for the Scythianization of the indigenous forest-steppe population.7 The coexistence of two different Scythian cultures, on the steppe and in the forest-steppe, was instead advocated by Mikhail Artamonov (1898–1972), who later became director of the Hermitage. He wrote extensively on how much Scythian art showed Near Eastern inspiration and emphasized that the Scythians were Iranians rather than Slavs.8 His successor, B. B. Piotrovsky (1908–1990), went on to find dramatic evidence for Scythian military activity in the Caucasus during his excavations of an Urartian fortress at Karmir Blur in Armenia, which had been violently sacked, but distinguishing between objects made by Scythians and the Cimmerians, their early northern rivals in the northern Black Sea region, proved to be a long-running issue.

These and other debates rumbled on for decades, and as late as 1979 the head of Soviet archaeology for thirty years, Boris Rybakov (1908–2001), stated in a book entitled The Scythians of Herodotus that the land- tilling Scythian tribes in the northern Black Sea region were the possible ancestors of later Slav tribes, making a tenuous philological link between the Skolotoi (a name given by Herodotus for other Scythian tribes) and the Sklavins (the Greek for Slavs). However, during the 1920s an ethnological expedition began work in Altai and had already challenged the idea that Scythians originated in the Black Sea region. In 1927 the Russian Museum in Leningrad excavated another burial mound in the central Altai region at Shibe and found it to be very similar to those previously excavated by Radlov. Three years earlier Sergey Rudenko (1885–1969), head of the ethnography section of the Russian Museum in Leningrad, had discovered a group of burial mounds at Pazyryk, and he excavated the first in 1929 with his Siberian-born student Mikhail Gryaznov (1902–1984). Conditions were tough. There were no roads or nearby food supplies, the team had to employ children as labourers, horses were used to drag away the heaviest boulders and water had to be boiled by the side of the trench to melt the permafrost (pp. 98–99; fig. 8).

Fig 8: Excavations in progress at the burial mound of Pazyryk-2 in 1948 (Archive of the Institute for the History of Material Culture, St Petersburg, I-32719).

In the meantime there were serious political problems in Leningrad as Stalin began the ‘Great Terror’ in 1934 with a purge of the intelligentsia as well as the political and military command. A witch-hunt was instigated against individuals who had used ‘bourgeois’ classifications, such as Bronze or Iron Age; ‘archaeology’ was replaced by ‘Marxist history of material culture’; over fifty curators at the Hermitage were deported or executed; and the leading Leningrad archaeologist Aleksandr Miller (1875–1935) was sent to Siberia for ‘writing long drawn-out reports on things he had excavated’, as this was condemned as ‘empiricism’.9 Moreover, collaboration with Russians working abroad, particularly in Germany, was banned and scholars were arrested as spies. Rudenko himself was arrested in 1933, accused of pointless investigations and ethnographic idealism, and spent years working in the northern labour camps (although ironically he was promoted because of his knowledge of hydrology and proved invaluable for his ‘ice forecasts’ during the Soviet supply of the besieged city of Leningrad across the frozen Lake Ladoga in the Second World War). His colleague Gryaznov was also charged with being an underground fascist working with Ukrainian and Russian nationalists, and was exiled internally for three years. In 1941 the Pazyryk collection was transferred from the Russian Museum to the Hermitage, but from September that year until January 1944 Leningrad was besieged by the German army, and it was not until 1947 that Rudenko and Gryaznov returned to Pazyryk, where over three more seasons they excavated the four remaining mounds under the auspices of the Institute of the History of Material Culture, which retains the archives, and the Hermitage, where the finds were deposited.

Although all the tombs had been robbed and there was therefore virtually nothing of intrinsic value remaining, the frozen conditions stemming from the percolation of water into the tomb promoted exceptional preservation of the organic remains, which revolutionized the appreciation of Scythian everyday life.10

Rudenko and Gryaznov shared the same building but parted academic ways and never spoke to each other again. Rudenko established a laboratory of archaeological technology in his institute and championed the application of natural sciences in archaeology. Gryaznov went on to head the Central Asia and Caucasus section: he maintained that archaeological cultures were stages or phases in local development rather than evidence of separate cultures, but his excavations at the early Scythian burial mound at Arzhan-1 overturned earlier views and showed that what was now known as the ‘Scythian triad’ already existed in the Tuva region by the late ninth or early eighth century bc, and that this was not a development of the Black Sea or Iran.11 Although there are similarities in the material culture and pastoral economy, there are also differences in detail of dress, burial customs, pottery and other aspects of lifestyle, and it is better to regard these as evidence for a shifting confederation of powerful tribes united within a Scythian cultural world.

Archaeological research on Scythians is continuing, with excavations each year across the Eurasian steppe, extending from Mongolia through Kazakhstan and Russia to Ukraine. A Ukrainian–German expedition returned to Chertomlyk between 1979 and 1986 and added considerable new evidence for how the mound was built.12 Between 2001 and 2004 a Russian– German expedition directed by K. Chugunov, H. Parzinger and A. Nagler fully excavated another burial mound at Arzhan in Tuva, and proved that the Black Sea tradition of interring large quantities of gold did extend to this region.13 During the 1990s archaeologists from Novosibirsk excavated more ‘frozen mummies’ at unrobbed burial mounds on the Ukok plateau, next to the Chinese border (fig. 9), and in neighbouring Kazakhstan the burial mound of Berel-11 was explored by a Kazakh–French expedition and shown to belong to the same culture as Pazyryk (see pp. 100–103). Concerns that global warming will lead to the melting of the permafrost, which has been the sole reason why these tombs have yielded such exceptional finds, means that these excavations are as much rescue as research.14 Other expeditions are recording the rich rock art traditions, and large areas that include later period sites such as Oglakhty have been designated nature reserves (see p. 342).

Collaborative research and the use of scientific techniques are now common: dendrochronological and radiocarbon dates are refining the dating of sites,15 advances in bioarchaeology are adding information on the genetics, diet and health of both horse and human populations,16 and detailed analyses of metalwork and textiles are throwing new light on technologies.17 This book of the exhibition is intended to show some of these results and how far we have progressed beyond the writings of Herodotus and the first antiquarian discoveries during the reign of Peter the Great.18

Fig.9: Excavations of a ‘frozen mummy’ at Ak-Alakha-3 on the Ukok plateau.

Toyoko Morita: Iranian arrivals to ancient Japan

The article below is by Toyoko Morita and originally appeared in the Encyclopedia Iranica. Morita’s article was originally published in print on December 15, 2008 and last updated on April 10, 2012. This article is also accessible in print Vol. XIV, Fasc. 5, pp. 558-560 and Vol. XIV, Fasc. 6, p. 561). The version published below has embedded photographs, paintings and accompanying captions that did not appear in the original Encyclopedia Iranica publication/posting. these a combination of lecture slides from Kaveh Farrokh’s Fall 2014 course at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies course entitled: “The Silk Route: origins & History“, previous postings as well as a single image from the public domain.

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The first mention of Iranians (Persians) coming to Japan can be found in the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), one of the earliest Japanese historical sources, completed in 720 C.E. It records that in 654 C.E. several people arrived in Japan from Tokhārā (Aston, pp. 246, 251, 259). Though there is some controversy about the location of Tokhārā, some scholars have claimed the name to be a shortened version of Toḵārestān, which was part of the territory of Sasanian Persia (Itō, 1980, pp. 5-10).

Fresco along the Tarim Basin, China depicting an Iranian-speaking Buddhist monk (Kushan, Soghdian, Persian or Tocharian?) [at left] instructing a Chinese monk [at right] on philosophy (c. 9th-10th Century). Iranian peoples of Central Asia were the link between Asia as a whole and the civilizations of ancient Iran, notably Sassanian and post-Sassanian culture(s). Open and tolerant, the Soghdians, Kushans, Tocharians, etc. established a sophisticated literature and urban culture (Lecture slide from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures from the course “The Silk Route: origins & History“).

Elsewhere in the Nihon Shoki, it is mentioned that in 660, when an Iranian (Persian), whose name was Dārā, returned to his country, he left his wife in Japan and promised the Emperor that he would come back and work for him again (Aston, p. 266; Imoto, 2002, pp. 58-60).

One of Kaveh Farrokh’s  lecture slides at UBC (University of British Columbia) outlining the influence of Sassanian arts on Japan (Source: Lecture slide from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures from the course “The Silk Route: origins & History“).

In the 7th to the 9th centuries, foreigners—then known in Japanese as toraijin—were coming to Japan mainly from Korea and China, bringing with them technology, culture, religion (Buddhism), and ideas. Eastern Asia, especially the Tang Dynasty of China (618-907), had socio-economic networks with many regions of the world, including southern and western Asia.

An enduring Sassanian legacy in Japan: the Biwa and its ancient Iranian ancestor, the Barbat (Source: Lecture slide from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures from the course “The Silk Route: origins & History“).

Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), the capital of the Tang Dynasty, was an international city with people from various countries, including Iranians (Persians), some of whom traveled further to Japan. Iranian names are to be met with in historical documents, and one can find some influence of Persian culture in the architecture, sculptures, and also in the customs and old Japanese rituals at that time. For example, some scholars have claimed that there is some influence of Persian culture in the Omizutori ritual held every February at Tōdaiji temple in Nara (Itō, 1980, pp. 125-33).

A photo of the Omizutori ritual held on March 9, 2007 in Nara, Japan (Source: “ignis” in public domain). Note that these are monks carrying torches across the balcony of the structure. This may perhaps bear echoes of ancient Zoroastrian or related mythological influences bought over by Iranian-speaking arrivals to ancient Japan.

The oldest document in Persian, which is preserved in Japan, was procured by the Japanese priest named Kyōsei (1189-1268) from Iranians (Persians) during his trip to southern Asia in 1217. Thinking they were Indians, the priest asked them to write something for him as a keepsake. However, after his return to Japan he found out that they were not Indians, because no one could understand what the writing meant. This document—a single page—was discovered in the late 20th century, when it was established that it is written in Persian and contains a line from Abu’l-Qāsem Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma (qq.v.), a line from Faḵr-al-Din Gorgāni’s Vis o Rāmin (qq.v.), and a quatrain of unknown authorship (Okada, 1989).

Scientists have used infrared imaging technology to analyze carvings on a piece of wood from – century Japan. The writings on the wood appears to name a Persian mathematics lecturer who worked at a facility in a millennium ago Japan where government ministers were trained in the former Japanese capital of Nara for more on this click here

Sheda Vasseqhi PhD Study: Positioning of Iran And Iranians In Origins Of Western Civilization

Sheda Vasseghi has completed her PhD Dissertation at the University of New England entitled:

Positioning Of Iran And Iranians In Origins of Western Civilization. PhD Dissertation, University of New England (download this at Academia.edu …)

Sheda Vasseqhi

Vasseghi’s PhD academic advising team were composed of the following members: Marylin Newell, Laura Bertonazzi and Kaveh Farrokh.

Her study explored a number of widely taught college-level history textbooks in order to examine how these positioned Iran and Iranian peoples in the origins of Western Civilization. As noted by Vasseghi in her abstract:

“Western Civilization history marginalizes, misrepresents, misappropriates, and/or omits Iran’s positioning. Further, the mainstream approach to teaching Western Civilization history includes the Judeo-Christian-Greco-Roman narrative.”

Vasseghi used a multi-faceted theoretical approach—decolonization, critical pedagogy, and Western Civilization History dilemma—since her study transcended historical revisionism. This collective case study involved eleven Western Civilization history textbooks that, according to the College Board’s College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), are most popular among American college faculty. Vasseghi reviewed and collected expert opinion on the following five themes:

(1) terminology and definition of Iran, Iranians, and Iranian languages

(2) roots and origins of Iranian peoples

(3) which Iranian peoples are noted in general

(4) which Iranian peoples in ancient Europe are specifically noted

(5) Iranians in connection with six unique Western Civilization attributes.

Vasseghi selected experts specializing in Iranian, Western Civilization, and Indo-European studies in formulating a consensus on each theme. She then compared expert opinion to content in surveyed textbooks. Vasseghi discovered that the surveyed textbooks in her study overwhelmingly omitted, ill-defined, misrepresented, or marginalized Iran and Iranians in the origins of Western Civilization.

Readers are encouraged to visit Kaveh Farrokh’s Academia.edu profile cited in the introduction of this post to download Sheda Vasseghi’s Dissertation. Here is one of the quotes from her study:

“The researcher recommends that textbook authors and publishers engage experts in the field of Iranian studies in formulating content. A caveat for engaging those in the field of Iranian studies when writing Western Civilization history textbooks involves making a distinction between a native Iran and post-Islamic invasion and colonization of Iran in early Middle Ages (7th century onwards). That is, in the Age of Antiquity, Iran was under an Iranian governance and ancestral beliefs such as Zoroastrianism and Mithraism.”

This is an important observation given Western Media and academic outlets using sweeping (if not simplistic) terms such as “Middle East”, “Muslims”, etc. without acknowledging the context of Iran’s unique background, ancient history and language(s). Put simply, terms such as “Middle East” are not scientific but geopolitical in origin. The term “Muslim Civilization” for example serves to dilute (or even blur) the critical role of Iranian and Indian scholars in the preservation and promotion of learning, sciences and medicine. Arab historians such as Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) who in his Muqaddimah (translated by F. Rosenthal (III, pp. 311-15, 271-4 [Arabic]; R.N. Frye (p.91) has acknowledged the role of the Iranians in the promotion of scholarship:

“…It is a remarkable fact that, with few exceptions, most Muslim scholars…in the intellectual sciences have been non-Arabs…thus the founders of grammar were Sibawaih and after him, al-Farisi and Az-Zajjaj. All of them were of Persian descent…they invented rules of (Arabic) grammar…great jurists were Persians… only the Persians engaged in the task of preserving knowledge and writing systematic scholarly works. Thus the truth of the statement of the prophet becomes apparent, ‘If learning were suspended in the highest parts of heaven the Persians would attain it”…The intellectual sciences were also the preserve of the Persians, left alone by the Arabs, who did not cultivate them…as was the case with all crafts…This situation continued in the cities as long as the Persians and Persian countries, Iraq, Khorasan and Transoxiana (modern Central Asia), retained their sedentary culture.”

[For more see: Farrokh, K. (2015). Pan-Arabism and Iran. In “The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism” (Immanuel Ness & Zak Cope, Eds.), Palgrave-Macmillan, pp.915-923.]

Sources such as Ibn Khaldun are now rarely mentioned in many modern-day “Islamic Studies” in Western history textbooks which may explain in part the numerous errors uncovered in Vasseghi’s study. She further avers:

“Critical pedagogy is important in transformational leadership in education. Educators are obligated to point out errors or problems in content and mainstream narratives. In regards to teaching history of Western Civilization, one should recall the warnings of its looming demotion by Ricketts et al. (2011) because unfortunately teaching it “had come to be seen as a form of apologetics for racism, imperialism, sexism, and colonialism” (p. 14). It appears that in perceiving that something is missing from or fragmented in Western Civilization history content, educational institutions are now marginalizing and omitting it from their curriculum in America, a Western nation. Therefore, the significance of this study is the need for authors and educators to shift the currently flawed narrative on the history of the West. Iran’s positioning is a key component in the study of Western Civilization. The researcher argues that Iran and Iranians not only influenced the making of the West; they are part of the West. By placing Iran and Iranians where they belong, historians may also address concerns about teaching the history of the West (Ricketts et al., 2011).”

In her final PhD defense session with her research committee (Marylin Newell, Laura Bertonazzi and Kaveh Farrokh) on Monday, March 20, 2017, Vasseghi noted that she plans to author books tailored to Western audiences to help educate with respect to the role of Iranians in the formation of European civilization. Vasseghi’s books would also be geared towards a lay (non-academic) audience.