International Community Celebrates the Iranian Poet Sa’adi

The article “International Community Celebrates SA’ADI an Iranian Poet” was originally written by Dr. Mohammad Ala for the OpEd News outlet on May 27, 2020. Dr. Mohammad Ala, is the winner of  the 2019 Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine Creativity Award, the 2019 World Wildlife Film Award, the 2018 Cinema Vérité Awardthe 2018 Panda Award and the 2013 Grand Prix Film Italia Award.

Kindly note that the version printed below has been significantly edited by Kavehfarrokh.com from the original version.

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The following poem composed by the classical Persian poet Sa’adi (c.1184-1292) in 1258 CE is from his book, the  Gulistan/Golestan (chapter 1, story 10):

بنی‌آدم اعضای یک پیکرند
که در آفرينش ز یک گوهرند
چو عضوى به‌درد آورَد روزگار
دگر عضوها را نمانَد قرار
تو کز محنت دیگران بی‌غمی
نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی

One of the translations into English from the above Saadi poetry is as follows:

Human beings are members of a whole,

In creation of one essence and soul.

If one member is afflicted with pain,

Other members uneasy shall remain.

If you have no sympathy for human pain,

The name of human you cannot retain

An evening view of Saadi’s tomb in Shiraz, Iran (Source: ITTO). Saadi was born and passed away in Shiraz.

This poem has been displayed at United Nations’ entrance hall since late 1960s, in addition to a large Persian carpet, a gift given by the Iranian people in 2005 to the world body.

An exemplary Persian carpet situated in the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York; as noted by Huffinton Post the carpet is “… located along the interior walls of the North Delegates Lounge …” in the UN building. The Persian carpet which features the Persian poetry Saadi, was presented to the United Nations in 2005, (Photo credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten in Huffington Post). Despite the non-political nature of the Iranian populace – who are distinct from the theocratic system currently ensconced in Iran – Western media and political outlets routinely (and simplistically) conflate the political system with the populace who remain targeted by draconian economic and cultural sanctions.

Saadi’s poetry has been translated into multiple languages; below is an Italian translations of Saadi’s original Persian poetry:

“Gli esseri umani sono membri di un tutto, In creazione di un’essenza ed un’anima. Se un membro è afflitto dal dolore, Gli altri membri saranno a disagio. Se non hai compassione per il dolore umano, Non puoi mantenere il nome di essere umano”.

A Mughal manuscript (c. 1645) of Saadi’s literary text the Gulistan, portraying the Iranian poet (Saadi at the right) in a Rose garden (Source: Public Domain).

It should be noted that Iranian poets, among other Iranian contributions to world civilization are routinely ignored and distorted due to the long-standing biased views taken by several Western countries towards Iran, a process that has been in place since the post-renaissance era … for more on this, consult the following sources:

As the international community celebrates the humanistic legacy of Saadi Shirazi , the below video by Alireza Ghorbani (علیرضا قربانی) is shared with the global populace, especially as humanity now confronts, as a collective, the menace of the Covid-19 pandemic (it is also hoped that politicians and religious leaders of all persuasions around the world will also watch the video):

The video by Alireza Ghorbani (علیرضا قربانی) provides an international appreciation of Saadi’s immortal verses celebrating the unity of humanity. All of humanity and human civilization in turn, needs to cast aside its petty political differences in this critical time in order to unify and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mithradates VI Eupador

The article below by Brian McGing: Mithradates VI “Eupador” of the Pontus Kingdomwas originally posted in the Encyclopedia Iranica. Kindly note that the images, videos and accompanying descriptions below do not appear in the Encyclopedia Iranica original version. See also Kaveh Farrokh article: Eastern Anatolia: Heir to an Irano-Greek legacy

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Mithradates VI Eupator Dionysos (r. 120-63 BCE), last king of Pontus, the Hellenistic kingdom that emerged in northern Asia Minor in the early years of the 3rd century BCE. He is noted primarily for his opposition to Rome. Of the three wars he fought against Rome, the first (89-85 BCE), in which his armies swept through Asia Minor and Greece, eventually only meeting defeat at the hands of Sulla, identified him as Rome’s most determined foreign enemy since Hannibal. His massacre in this war of tens of thousands of Roman and Italian civilians (the ‘Asian Vespers’) helped to establish his legendary notoriety as an exotic and cruel Oriental, a formidable but ultimately unsuccessful challenger to Rome’s Mediterranean supremacy.

Mithradates’ ancestors may well have been an offshoot of the Achaemenid royal family (Bosworth and Wheatley, 1998). They were certainly Iranian nobility who took part in the Persian colonization of Asia Minor, and in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE ran a fiefdom on the shore of the Propontis (the Sea of Marmara) and western end of the south coast of the Black Sea. Shortly before 300 BCE the family became involved in intrigues at the court of Antigonos and they were forced to flee further east into Paphlagonia, where, accompanied by six knights in a manner surely meant to recall the circumstances in which Darius became king of Persia, Mithradates I Ktistes founded what came to be known as the kingdom of Pontus and the line of Pontic kings (Diod. 20.111.4). Greek-style diplomacy, including a consistent policy of intermarriage with the Seleucids, established the kingdom’s Hellenistic credentials, but there was no attempt to hide the family’s Iranian origins: indeed it was precisely the mixture of Greek and Persian background that Mithradates Eupator later publicized, when he claimed (with some justification) to be descended from Cyrus and Darius, and (less convincingly) from Alexander the Great and Seleukos (Justin, Epit. 38.8.1). Stories of his birth and early life—comets, lightning, riding a dangerous horse, retreat to the wilderness for seven years—reflect this mixed Persian and Macedonian lineage (McGing, 1986, pp. 43-46).

An interesting relief at the ruins of Arsameia, the capital of the kingdom of Commagene in 1st century BCE (Source: Klaus-Peter Simon in Public Domain). King Mithradates I Kallinikos of Commagene (100–70 BC) dressed as the Zoroastrian Magi (left) shakes hands with the Greek god Hercules.  Note that Hercules in Commagene also represented the Persian god Artagnes. Commagene like the Pontus was a small post-Achaemenid  Iranian kingdom in Anatolia situated between Parthia and Armenia to its east and the expanding Roman Empire to its west. Various versions of Mithradates’ crown continue to appear among various mystical sects of Western Iran, notably Kurdistan.

Eupator was about 13 years old when his father, Mithradates V Euergetes, was assassinated in 120 BCE. Once in sole control of his kingdom, having murdered his mother and brother (App., Mith. 112), he first turned his attention to conquest on the northern side of the Black Sea (Justin, Epit. 37.3.1, 38.7.4-5), where his grandfather Pharnakes had established diplomatic links in the first half of the 2nd century (IosPE I2 402; IG Bulg. I2 40). An opportunity for military intervention presented itself when the city of Chersonesos, under intense pressure from its barbarian neighbors, invited Mithradates to become its protector (Strabo, 7.4.3 C309). The resulting campaigns of his general Diophantos against the Scythians—recorded in a long inscription (IosPE 352)—ended with the conquest of the Crimea and annexation of the Bosporan kingdom of Paerisades (Strabo, 7.4.4 C310). This was the beginning of a highly successful policy that, by the time of his first clash with Rome, left Mithradates master of a network of subjects, allies, and friends incorporating almost the entire circuit of the Black Sea. While there were material benefits from this Euxine ‘empire’—the annual tribute from the Crimea and adjoining territories was 180,000 measures of corn and 200 talents of silver (Strabo. 7.4.6 C311)—the major significance of the Black Sea for Mithradates was military manpower. Time and again the literary sources emphasize the Euxine composition of his armies (e.g., App., Mith. 15; 69). Without this resource he could not have challenged Rome.

A 1st century CE Roman marble portrait of the Pontic king Mithradates VI as Hercules at the Louvre Museum (Ma: 2321; Source: Sting in Public Domain).

Whether he actually wanted to challenge Rome or was, rather, a compliant Hellenistic king dragged unwillingly into conflict by Bithynian and/or Roman aggression, is a matter of scholarly disagreement (e.g., McGing, 1986; Strobel, 1997). It would be difficult, however, to deny that he had some sort of imperial ambitions in Asia Minor. His first act in the area was to arrange, through his agent Gordios, the murder of his brother-in-law Ariarathes VI of Cappadocia (Justin, Epit. 38.1.1), with the purpose, presumably, of ensuring that his sister Laodice would be able to control the kingdom more easily as regent for her own young son, Ariarathes VII. His next major policy decision was the invasion and seizure of Paphlagonia (ca. 105 BCE), undertaken in cooperation with Nikomedes III of Bithynia (Justin, Epit. 37-38). At least initially, neither paid any attention to Roman demands for their withdrawal: Nikomedes placed his son on the throne, and Mithradates occupied part of Galatia. The alliance with Bithynia collapsed shortly thereafter, when Nikomedes invaded Cappadocia and married Laodike. Mithradates expelled them both, murdered his nephew Ariarathes VII, and installed his own eight-year-old son as Ariarathes IX, with Gordios as regent (Justin, Epit. 38.1). Mithradates’ diplomatic mission to Rome in about 101, just as Marius was winning great victories over the Teutones, Amrones, and Cimbri, may show him in more compliant form.

Video of the First Mithradatic War -Battles of Chaeronea (86 BC) and Orchomenus (85 BC) Mithridatic Wars (Source: Kings and Generals).

The 90s BCE, a period of chronological difficulty (de Callataÿ, 1997, pp. 186-214), are witness to firmer Roman action in Asia. In 99 or 98 Rome’s leading general Gaius Marius led an embassy to the east and issued a stern warning to Mithradates: “be stronger than the Romans or obey their commands in silence” (Plut., Mar. 31.2-3). He seems to have heeded Marius’s warning for a time. He reacted with diplomacy alone when Nikomedes, determined on causing trouble, put forward a false pretender to the Cappadocian throne. This forced a counterclaim, through Gordios, as to the legitimacy of Ariarathes IX (Justin, Epit. 38.2.5). When the Senate ordered the complete evacuation of Pontic and Bithynian forces from these lands, Mithradates complied, and had to stomach the loss of all Pontic influence in Cappadocia, when the ineffective Ariobarzanes was declared king. It was at this moment in 95 BCE that Eupator began to mint coins in earnest, with the first issues of his dated royal tetradrachms. If this was a hint of future defiance, it was soon followed by clearer recalcitrance: when Tigranes came to the throne of Armenia in the same year, Mithradates married his daughter Kleopatra to him and got him to invade Cappadocia and expel Ariobarzanes (or possibly, prevent him from taking his throne).

A late-19th century portrait of Tigranes II (The Great) by Ohan Gaidzakian (1837-1914) in the text book “Illustrated Armenia and the Armenians” (1898). Tigranes II had adopted the Achaemenid title “King of Kings” (Source: Public Domain).

The Senatorial response, in the past a mostly desultory diplomacy when it came to the intrigues of the Anatolian kings, was uncharacteristically forceful: the praetorian governor of Cilicia, C. Cornelius Sulla, was ordered to restore, or install, Ariobarzanes; and he did so at the head of an army which met opposition from Cappadocians, Armenians, Gordios, and even Mithradates’ own general, Arkhelaos (Plut., Sulla 5; App., Mith. 57; Front., Strat. 1.5.18). While this may have stopped short of direct military defiance by Mithradates, it was something very close. The message from Rome must have been clear: Mithradates could have been under no illusions that, if at a future date he attempted to use military force in Asia Minor, he would encounter Roman military opposition. So when, probably in 91, he again sent armies to annex both Bithynia and Cappadocia, no doubt taking advantage of the Social War in Italy, his ambitious aggression and readiness to defy Rome, are revealed. The Senate despatched Manius Aquillius at the head of an allied army to restore the kings, but he overstepped his orders and forced Nikomedes IV of Bithynia to invade Pontus, wishing, Appian says (Mith. 11), to stir up a war. Aquillius’s ineptitude in the negotiations that followed enabled Mithradates to present himself as the innocent victim of Roman and Bithynian aggression. In 89 BCE Aquillius got his war, but could hardly have foreseen the consequences. Mithradates crushed and scattered the allied and Roman forces facing him; he then occupied Bithynia, and his armies fanned out across Asia Minor; once master of Asia, he invaded and overran much of Greece too (Sherwin-White, 1984, pp. 121-48). These do not look like the actions of a king taken by surprise and forced reluctantly into a military struggle.

A map of the Pontic Kingdom at its greatest extent (Source: Javierfv 1212 in Public Domain).

At the beginning of this first war with Rome, Mithradates had two years to advance his cause almost unchecked, while the Senate sorted out its problems with the Italian allies. In this time the limited resistance he encountered was local, and most of it easily overcome; his only substantial rebuff was his failure to capture Rhodes (App., Mith. 24-25). However, there was more to his success than the absence of a Roman army (although that must have been a powerful incentive for waverers to take his side): he seems to have been welcomed at such places as Kos, Magnesia, Ephesus, and Mytilene; and when he ordered the famous massacre of Romans and Italians in 88, the Greeks of Asia were on the whole obligingly enthusiastic (App., Mith. 22-23). Mithradates undoubtedly exploited the widespread dislike of Rome in Asia (Kallet-Marx, 1995, pp. 138-48), but was in himself an attractive and convincing champion. On one side, his royal Persian background gave him great prestige amongst an Anatolian population heavily influenced by Iranian culture; and he was not slow to behave like his Achaemenid forbears. He gave all his sons Persian names; he kept a harem and appointed eunuchs to positions of power and responsibility; he offered sacrifices on mountaintops in the grand manner of the Persian kings at Pasargadae (App., Mith. 66, 70); he organized his empire into satrapies (App., Mith. 21-22). He also came with a leading reputation as a civilized benefactor of the Greek world (McGing, 1986, pp. 88-108). Dedications on Delos demonstrate the high regard in which he was held there and at Athens; he competed in equestrian games at Chios and Rhodes; he cultivated Greek learning, and his court, which in most respects was structured on standard Hellenistic lines and in its senior levels was manned largely by Greeks, became a center for philosophers, poets, historians, doctors; his coins depicted a new Alexander; and militarily he had already won great victories for the protection of the Black Sea Greeks. When faced with a choice between this proven winner and a very distant Rome, many of the cities of Asia Minor must have found the king of Pontus a good option. So too did many Greeks of the mainland, where, as in Asia, any opposition was fairly swiftly overcome. Astonishingly, given their consistent policy of loyalty to Rome for many generations, the Athenians went over willingly to Mithradates’ side: he was mint magistrate at Athens in 87/86 and may well have been Eponymous Archon the year before (Habicht, 1997, pp. 303-21).

A Coin of Mithradates VI (Source: Public Domain).

When Sulla landed in Greece with five legions in the summer of 87, all Mithradates’ successes proved illusory. His support rapidly deserted him, and he found himself besieged in Athens, which fell to Sulla’s forces on 1 March 86. The three main Pontic army groups then came together for the decisive battle of the war: at Chaironeia Sulla triumphed, and a little later at Orchomenos he destroyed another Pontic army dispatched from Asia. This was the end of the war in Greece. In Asia Minor Mithradates’ supporters, willing and forced, all now realized that they were backing the loser, and Pontic control began to disintegrate. Mithradates’ brutal treatment of the individuals and cities that deserted his cause merely hastened the end. After further defeat at the hands of the Roman general Fimbria, he accepted the lenient terms offered by Sulla, which amounted to little worse than a return to the pre-war status quo. Having devastated Asia and Greece, and murdered thousands of Romans and Italians, he was lucky, as Sulla’s troops complained, to get off so lightly. Terms may have been agreed at the Peace of Dardanos in 85, but many Romans must have suspected there was unfinished business with the king of Pontus.

In 83 and 82, L. Licinius Murena, whom Sulla had left in charge of Asia with two legions, launched a series of raids into Pontus that have come to be called the Second Mithradatic War (App., Mith. 64-66). When Mithradates finally responded by inflicting a heavy defeat on Murena, the stage was set for another major conflagration in Asia. However, Mithradates declined the opportunity: clearly he was not ready to challenge Rome again, and Sulla called off Murena, thus bringing an end in 81 to this particular round of hostilities. Eupator’s subsequent determination to set down in writing what had been agreed verbally at Dardanos (App., Mith. 67) may signify a genuine attempt to regularize his relations with Rome. At any rate, with one of his armies suffering a heavy defeat against the Achaian tribes in the northeast corner of the Black Sea, and with Cilicia designated as the province of P. Servilius Vatia, consul for 79, Mithradates was ready to agree to all Sulla’s conditions. When his second embassy to Rome arrived, however, in 78, they found Sulla had just died and the Senate was too busy to receive them. The royal anger is clear: Eupator immediately persuaded his son-in-law Tigranes of Armenia to invade Cappadocia. Tigranes did on this occasion withdraw, but the Senate realized who was behind the operation, and it is hardly surprising to find prominent Romans admitting that another war with Mithradates was looming ahead (Sallust, Hist. 1.77.8; 2.47.7 Maur.).

A map of the Mithradatic Wars fought in 87-86 BCE (Source: Cristianio64 in Public Domain).

The immediate causes of the Third Mithradatic War (73-63 BCE) are disputed, but Appian (Mith. 70) and Sallust (Hist. 4.69 Maur.) both admit that Mithradates made no attempt to deny his responsibility for what he regarded as merely a resumption of hostilities started by the Romans. Probably in 76 or 75 he entered negotiations with the Roman rebel in Spain, Sertorius. He could not have thought that the Senate would see his treaty with Sertorius, concluded in 74, as anything other than a declaration of war. An explosion of activity in the Pontic royal mint from February 75 also points to his martial intentions (de Callataÿ, 1997, p. 46). The immediate impetus for war was probably provided by the Roman annexation of Bithynia: according to Eutropius (6.6) it was in 74 that Nikomedes IV died and bequeathed his kingdom to Rome. Whether it was the realization that Mithradates would not accept Roman control of Bithynia, or that they had just got news of the Pontic-Sertorian alliance, by late 74 even the Senate knew that war was imminent: the consular provinces of Lucullus and Cotta were changed, and both consuls were dispatched to the east. In the spring of 73 Mithradates overran Bithynia and invaded the Roman province of Asia. The whole region had suffered terribly in the aftermath of the First Mithradatic War (Plut., Luc. 20) and there was widespread disaffection with Rome, but this time, in contrast to what happened in 89, two Roman proconsuls and an army awaited Mithradates’ onslaught. He made his main objective the capture of Cyzicus on the Propontis, but was outwitted by the superior strategy of Lucullus and forced to withdraw in disorder (App., Mith. 72-76). This was the last serious threat Mithradates could muster. Lucullus pursued him slowly across Asia Minor into Armenia, where Tigranes reluctantly received him. In 68 and 67 political conditions in Rome caused the Roman advance to stall, allowing Mithradates to slip back into Pontus and defeat the occupation forces. In 66, however, Pompey succeeded to the Mithradatic command and drove him out of Asia to his last remaining stronghold in the Crimea. Here in 63 BCE he succumbed to the treachery of his son, Pharnakes, who in negotiating with the Romans was no doubt trying to salvage something from the wreckage of his father’s empire. Rather than face the humiliation of capture, Mithradates, having failed to do away with himself by poison, asked an obliging Celtic bodyguard to run him through with a sword (App., Mith. 111).

Video documentary outlining the Second and Third Mithradic Wars (Source: Kings & Generals).

Mithradates Eupator presented himself as heir to the empires of Darius and Alexander the Great. Imperial conquest was central to this identity. Many of the ancient sources assume that the king’s ambitions included plans from an early stage for war with Rome. While this looks very much like hindsight, it is also probable that by the mid 90s, it was clear to Mithradates that even limited aggression in Asia Minor would be thwarted by Rome; and he spent the remaining thirty years of his life trying to balance the realities that an independent king must face when confronted by a superior power. Although he failed to be stronger than Rome, his failure was a grand one, and he was long remembered as a symbol of uncompromising defiance. On hearing of his death, Pompey ordered a full royal burial at Sinope, “because he admired his great deeds and considered him the best of the kings of his time” (App., Mith. 113).

Bibliography

Appian, “The Mithridatic Wars,” in Roman History, tr. H. White and E. I. Robson, 4 vols., LCL, Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1912-13, II, book 12.

E. Badian, “Rome, Athens and Mithridates,” American Journal of Ancient History 1, 1976, pp. 105-28.

L. Ballesteros Pastor, Mitrídates Eupátor, rey del Ponto, Granada, 1996.

R. Bernhardt, Polis und römische Herrschaft in der späten Republik (149-31v. Chr), Berlin, 1985.

L. Boffo, “Grecità di frontiera: Chersonasos Taurica e i del Ponto Eusino (SIG 3 709),” Athenaeum 67, 1989, pp. 211-59, 369-405.

A. B. Bosworth and P. V. Wheatley, “The Origins of the Pontic House,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 118, 1998, pp. 155-64.

F. de Callataÿ, L’histoire des guerres mithridatiques vue par les monnaies, Louvain-La-Neuve, 1997.

M. D. Campanile, “Città d’Asia Minore tra Mitridate e Roma,” Studi ellenistici 8, 1996, pp. 145-73.

Diodorus of Sicily, tr. C. H. Oldfather, et al., 12 vols., LCL, Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1933-67.

Eutropius, Brevarium ab urbe condita, ed. C. Santini, Leipzig, 1979; The Breviarum, tr. H. W. Bird, Liverpool, 1993.

J.-L. Ferrary, Philhellénisme et impérialisme: Aspects idéologiques de la conqûete romaine du monde hellénistique, de la seconde guerre de Macédoine à la guerre contre Mithridate, Rome, 1988.

Frontinus, The Stratagems, tr. C. E. Bennett, LCL, London and New York, 1926.

D. Glew, “Mithridates Eupator and Rome: A Study of the Background of the First Mithridatic War,” Athenaeum 55, 1977, pp. 380-405.

Idem, “Between the Wars: Mithridates Eupator and Rome, 87-73 BC,” Chiron 11, 1981, pp. 467-95.

C. Habicht, Athens from Alexander to Antony, tr. D. L. Schneider, Cambridge, Mass., 1997.

H. Heinen, “Mithradates VI. Eupator und die Völker des nördlichen Schwarzmeerraums,” Hamburger Beiträge zur Archäologie 18-19, 1991-92, pp. 1-15.

J. Hind, “Mithridates,” CAH 2 IX, pp. 129-64.

IG Bulg. I 2: G. Mikhailov, Inscriptiones graecae in Bulgaria repertae, I: Inscriptiones orae Ponti Euxini, 2nd ed., Sofia, 1970.

IosPE I 2: V. V. Latyshev, Inscriptiones antiquae orae septentrionalis Ponti Euxini graecae et latinae I: Inscriptiones Tyriae, Olbiae, Cherosnesi Tauricae, 2nd ed., St. Petersburg, 1916.

Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, tr. J. C. Yardley, Atlanta, 1994.

R. Kallet-Marx, Hegemony to Empire: The Development of the Roman Imperium in the East from 148 to 62 BC, Berkeley, 1995.

A. Keaveney, Lucullus: A Life, London, 1992.

G. Kleiner, “Bildnis und Gestaltdes Mithridates,” Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 68, 1953, pp. 73-95.

D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor: To the End of the Third Century after Christ, 2 vols., Princeton 1950.

C. Marek, “Karien im ersten mithridatischen Krieg,” in Alte Geschichte und Wissenschaftgeschichte: Festschrift für Karl Christ zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. P. Kneissl and V. Losemann Darmstadt, 1988, pp. 285-308.

B. C. McGing, The Foreign Policy of Mithridates VI Eupator, King of Pontus, Leiden, 1986.

Idem, “Appian’s Mithridateios,” in ANRW II.34.1, pp. 496-522.

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D. B. Selov, “Le royaume pontique de Mithridate Eupator,” Journal des savants, 1982, pp. 243-66.

A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Foreign Policy in the East: 168 B.C. to A.D. 1, London, 1984.

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K. Strobel, “Mithradates VI. Eupator von Pontos: Der letzte große Monarch der hellenistischen Welt und sein Scheitern an der römischen Macht,” Ktema 21, 1996, pp. 55-94.

A View of Russian Emigres to Iran

The report Fleeing 1917 Revolution: Orthodox church in Tehran maintained by Russian émigré descendant” was originally made by RT news (November 5, 2017).

Readers are also encouraged to see the following post as well … Evangelos Venetis: Greeks in Modern Iran

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Hundreds of thousands fled Russia after the 1917 Revolution. Some of them found a new home in Iran. RT talked to a descendant of these immigrants, who takes care of an Orthodox Church in Tehran and the first home for the elderly in the country.

One hundred years ago, the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin took over the power in Russia in the October Revolution of 1917. With the end of the monarchy and the dawn of the Soviet Union, the events led to changes too dramatic for many to stay.

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Tehran, Iran (Source: RT News).

The Russian Civil War, which lasted from 1918 to 1922, forced out many who could not find a place under the new regime. Over one million emigrants went looking for a new home in Europe, the US, and around the world. RT found descendants of the ‘white émigrés’ in Iran.

Emanoel Shirani, 51, has been maintaining the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church for almost 20 years. It was built in the Iranian capital in 1945 from donations by Russian emigrants.

Emanoel Shirani, at age 51 in 2017 (Source: RT News).

I grew up in this church. I feel that somebody has to look after it,” he told RT. Emanoel’s father was Iranian, but he’s an Orthodox Christian, thanks to his “very religious” grandmother. He said he never missed a single service until the age of 13. His grandmother took him to church even if he was sick. Saying in perfect Russian:

“People used to gather here [at St. Nicholas Church] for big holidays. We had about 60-70 children. They played here altogether. We all visited each other. Life was calm, kind.”

Emanoel’s family escaped to Iran in 1923, as it wasn’t safe for them to stay longer. “My grandmother and mother came here from Saint Petersburg.” His father and grandfather, “they were all in the White Army. They were all shot. Nobody was left,” he said. The man said his grandma always “hated that red flag[ of the USSR] and waited to see it fall. She wasn’t lucky enough” as she passed away before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Christians are respected in Iran,” but life for the Russian immigrants wasn’t always easy, the 51-year-old remembered. There was a lot of suspicion towards them before the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, with fears that even the descendants of those who fled the Bolsheviks were Soviet spies.

The interior of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Tehran, Iran (Source: RT News).

They could only engage in craftsmanship or trade, as it was impossible to get a good government job with a Russian name, he said. Like many others, Emanoel himself had to change his name to ‘Akhmat,’ but he restored his papers after the Iranian Revolution.

St. Nicholas Church is also famous for opening the first home for the elderly in Iran back in 1945. It initially hosted Russian immigrants, but now it’s open to non-Christians and has many Muslim inhabitants. Maintaining the senior home is a “complicated affair,” as most of its residents stay there for free, Emanoel said. Another problem is that St. Nicholas Church currently lacks a permanent Orthodox priest, but Emanoel expressed hope that it will soon change.

The 1,500-Year-Old Love Story Between a Persian Prince and a Korean Princess that Could Rewrite History

The article The 1,500-Year-Old Love Story Between a Persian Prince and a Korean Princess that Could Rewrite History” written by Mark Oliver was originally posted in Ancient Origins on May 8, 2018. The version printed below has been slightly edited from the original version that appeared in the Ancient Origins venue.

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More than a thousand years before the first European explorer reached Korea’s shores, the Persian Empire was writing love stories about Korean princesses.

It’s a little-known story that could change the way we see our history. Recently, historians took a second look an old Persian epic written around 500 CE (during the time of the Sassanians) and realized that, at the center of the tale, was the unusual story of a Persian prince marrying a Korean princess.

It’s an incredible discovery. Up until recently, we weren’t sure that the Persians of that time even knew Korea existed. This new revelation shows Persia didn’t just make contact with Korea – these countries were intimately connected. And it might just call for a total rewrite of history.

The Kushnameh: A 1,500-Year-Old Persian Epic About Korea

The story is called the Kushnameh, and, in itself, it’s hardly a new discovery. It’s one of the most popular stories to come out of the Persian Empire, one that’s been told and retold countless times in the 1,500 years since it was written.

The Kushmaneh is a massive, epic poem about an evil creature with elephant tusks named Kus who terrorizes a Persian family throughout the generations. The whole story spans across hundreds of years and thousands of lines of poetry – but the really interesting part is somewhere around the middle. There, the author sat down and dedicated an incredible 1,000 lines of poetic verse to describing life in Korea during the Silla dynasty.

King and Queen of Silla. South Korea, Seoul National Folk Museum – Traditional Korean Costumes of Silla Kingdom (57 BC – 935 AD) (Source: Ancient Origins).

A Love Letter to Korea

Korea comes into play when the story starts to focus on a young, noble prince of Persia named Abtin. For his whole life, Abtin has been forced to live in the woods, hiding from the evil Kus the Tusked. He has only one thing to keep him safe: a magic book that tells him his future.

It’s almost like breaking the fourth wall – Abtin has a copy of the book we’re reading, and he’s not above flipping ahead a few pages to see how it all ends. In fact, that’s just what he does. He reads the next chapter and finds out that he’s supposed to go to the Silla kingdom of Korea, and – after briefly getting confused and going to China – he winds up being welcomed with open arms by the king of Silla.

From here, the story is just page after page of lavish descriptions of how beautiful Korea is. Admittedly, some of it seems a little over-the-top. It says, for example, that Korea is so overflowing with gold that even the dogs are kept on golden leashes. But on the whole, the description is so accurate that modern historians are sure the author must have visited it himself .

Abtin is mesmerized by the beauty of the country, and, soon after, by the beauty of its princess Frarang. He falls madly in love with Korean princess, begs the king for her hand in marriage, and she soon becomes his wife and the mother of his firstborn son.

Marriage of Abtin and Frarang (Source: Ancient Origins).

The Story of a Korean Hero

It’s unlikely that any of this really happened, of course. For one thing, there’s limited evidence that Persia spent 1,500 years being terrorized by an immortal monster with elephant tusks, and even less that any early Persian princes had magic books that could tell them the future.

But the symbolism of having a Persian prince taking refuge in Korea and falling in love with a Korean princess is undeniable. This is hard proof that Persians didn’t just know about Korea 1,500 years ago; they had a deep, profound admiration for their nation.

What happens next, though, is what makes it a really big deal. Frarang’s son isn’t just a minor character. His birth is a turning point in the whole story.

The fully Persian prince spends his whole life in hiding and, when he finally returns to his homeland, ends up getting killed by Kus’s men. But it’s his half-Korean son who turns things around.

Frarang and Abtin’s son ends up raising up an army and leading the revolt against Kus. For centuries, in this story, Persia gets tormented by an evil, tusked monster. It’s only under the command of a half-Korean boy and his mother that Persia finally wins its freedom.

This 14th-century Persian painting portrays a scene from the Kushnameh in what scholars believe could be the betrothal of prince Abtin (kneeling) and Silla princess Frarang (sitting) (Source: Ancient Origins).

A Secret Hidden in Plain Sight

For 1,500 years, people have been reading this story without any idea what they were looking at. For a long time, we assumed that the story was just about China.

In the story, the Korean Silla kingdom is referred to as “Chin”, a name that could refer to either China or Korea. It’s even a plot point in the story, in fact. At first, Abtin, like most historians, misreads the “Chin” in his magic future-telling book and thinks he’s supposed to go to China. And, just like modern historians, it takes him years before he realizes that it’s actually talking about China.

Recently, though, historians have taken a look at those descriptions again and realized just how perfectly they really do match up with Korea . The descriptions in this book don’t sound anything like China, but they’re a perfect, vivid description of 6th-century Korea – a place where, believe it or not, they really did keep their dogs on leashes of pure gold.

A Total Rewrite of History

This really might completely change the way we see history. For a long time, Korea has seemed an isolated, distant place from the Western world; but this story suggests that the east and west may not have been so disconnected after all.

It took until 1653 before the first European explorer reached Korea. That’s more than 1,100 years after Kushnama was written.

We’ve always known that Persia had some kind of contact with Korea. They were both a part of the Silk Road, and we’ve known for some time that Persian goods somehow ended up in Korea. Generally, though, it was assumed that they were just part of a bigger trade network.

In this story, though, Korea isn’t a trade partner. They’re a trusted ally, and they’re so important to the Persians that they literally can’t overcome evil until they trust the leadership of a half-Korean, half-Persian prince. It’s an incredibly symbolic marriage of cultures.

It puts other relics under a new light, as well. In an ancient tomb in Gyeong-Ju, for example, there is an old monument to a Korean war hero who looks an awful lot more like a Persian soldier than a Korean one. Now, some people are starting to wonder if this might really be the monument to a forgotten Persian hero who fought for Korea.

There’s no telling how far this could go. It could change everything about how we see the history of these countries. After all, this is far more than a love story between two people. It’s a love story between two nations.

Preserving the Buddhist Stupa Structure in Topdara, Afghanistan

The article below was originally published as “Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Afghanistan” by the World Cultural Heritage Voices (CHV) outlet on October 17, 2018. Note that the photo and the accompanying caption do not appear in the original CHV outlet.

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The site of Topdara near Charikar in Parwan province, was built around the 4th century CE. Since 2016 the Afghan Cultural Heritage Consulting Organization (ACHCO) has been restoring the sites massive stupa (a holy structure from the Buddhist era). This stupa at Topdara has a diameter of 23 meters and would have originally been covered in white plaster.

The Buddhist stupa structure at Topdara, Parwan province in Afghanistan (Source: The Buddhist Forum). The CHV outlet traces the origins of the site to the 4th CE, during the Sassanian era – the Buddhist Forum states that the site originates in the 1st to 2nd centuries CE, making this contemporary to the Kushan and Parthian empires.

With support from the United States Embassy, ACHCO and the Archaeological Institute of Afghanistan will continue their valuable work to restore this important heritage site for Afghanistan and to continue archaeological excavations to better understand the site’s significance for Asia.