Ancient civilizations of the world have been spread in different areas, and according to their geographical territory, they have unique properties. Their lifestyle has been deeply affected by the traditions and beliefs of these civilizations. Since the civilization of China which still has features of a peasant community, till the civilization of Greece that modern western urbanization is a branch of it.
However, in considering ethnic diversity and variety of local culture, maybe it is not exaggerating if we say the civilization of Iranian plateau is unique because this community is formed based on the coexistence of different ethnics.
Since the time that Elam was part of the early urbanization in history, until now that the majority of Iranian people are urbanized, the keyword for comprehending this country has been “culture.”
Culture is the social behaviors and norms found in human societies. In other word, people live with culture. Before the Aryan migration to the Iranian plateau, people who lived in this country had their own culture, religion, and rituals, and the influence of Mithraism in religious beliefs of people was evident.
The main cultural elements that we can consider as the bases of Iranian culture consist:
- Persian language and its different dialects
- National celebrations like Nowruz, Yalda night and Lunisolar calendar
- Islam and especially branch of Shia
- Eulogize the philosophy and wisdom
- Iranian art like poem, literature, music, Persian and Islamic architecture, Persian foods and dresses
- Local and ethnic cultures
- Persian art including Persian poetry and Persian literature, Persian music, Iranian and Islamic architecture, Persian cuisine, Iranian costume.
If we consider the culture as the infrastructure of society, civilization is its superstructure. Therefore, everything remained of civilization over centuries, such as architecture, book, handicrafts, and antiquities, are of high significance because they can reveal different aspects of a civilization.
Iranian civilization is an ancient one which lived in all these years on the bases of multi ethnicity culture and identity of races and freedom of thoughts; so, it is natural to see the effects of other civilizations and a variety of ethnics in it.
According to extensive studies on the civilizations in Iranian plateau, we can set historical periods:
Before Aryan's civilization
There is no exact information about this period because there was no historiography in this time, and the writing was not invented yet.The oldest civilization dating back to Assyrian period was living in an area near to Mashhad, and it was for Old Stone Age.
But certainly, the civilization of Elam was the first civilization that had the writing and urbanization, and from the architecture and handicrafts that remained of this civilization,we can conclude that this civilization had a central government and administrative force.Iran is the first country in the history where the metal has been extracted from the mine and the oldest extracted mineral was copper, and there are still big mines of copper in this territory.
Aryan people were the immigrants from the north of contemporary Russia that migrate to the south. They migrate to India, Iranian Plateau and Europe and each one of them built a new civilization in that era. The Medes were the first Aryan people who organized a central government and founded bureaucracy and administrative policy.
Remained cities of this civilization are Noushijan Tappe, Malayer and Ecbatana are, and Ecbatana is the first model of urbanization on the rock in the world.
After the Medes, the Achaemenid dynasty took power; they were Persians. They succeeded to found a great empire which was extended from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east.
The architecture of Perspolis, Shush, and Pasargadae shows us trace of an authoritarian government and an advanced civilization which was ruled by well-known emperors like Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great and Xerxes
The Achaemenid dynasty was extinct by Alexander the Macedonian, and when he passed away, the Seleucid Empire emerged, which were alexander’s successors, and it introduced the elements of Greek culture into Iranian culture. The architecture of the temple of Anahita in Kangavar is for this period.
Then, the Parthian took power. There is nothing much left from their dynasty, but when we study on handcrafts of this period, it can be concluded that they went back to the ancient Iranian culture.
And Sasanian Empire was the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the rise of Islam. Sasanian recognized the Zoroastrianism as official religion of Iran and founded their civilization based on religious beliefs. Taq-e Bostan is an example of Sasanian’s architecture.
When Arabs attacked Iran, Most of the Iranian people convert their religion to Islam, and a new era began; a rich multi-culture civilization created that we can see its influence in science, art, and policy of this period.
In a different period like Abbasid Caliphate, Safavid dynasty, Buyid dynasty, Seljuq dynasty, and Khwarazmian dynasty the Art noticeably improved and unique science book was written, and all of them prove the intellectual and scientific maturity of this multi-culture civilization.
Safavid dynasty was the first empire after Islam that established the Twelver school of Shia Islam as the official religion of the empire. Historic sites and buildings like the Shah Mosque and Imam Reza shrine prove the cultural conversion of this dynasty to Shia Islam.
The dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the architectural masterpieces of Iranian architecture that was built during the Safavid Empire.
Rituals and Traditions
If we want to give a perspective on Iranian rituals and traditions, we should direct your attention to the importance of respect to wisdom and nature in Iran. Iranian people always cherished nature.
Nowruz is one of the greatest Iranian traditions that start at the beginning of spring. It is celebrated with Haft-Sin which is a tablecloth including the seven signs of nature that all of them begin with “s” in Farsi such as Apple (Sib), garlic(Sir), Sumac(Somagh), green grass (Sabze), vinegar (Serke), Russian Olive (Senjed) and Hyacinth (Symbol). Families gather together around Haft-Sin and celebrate the arrival of spring.
The second most significant tradition in Iran is the Yalda Night or Shab-e Yalda, which is roughly coincident with the Christian Christmas. Its philosophy is to honor the longest night of the year, which promises to end the fall and cold, and is in some way a symbol of the birth of the sun, and has remained a relic of Mithraism.
There are some traditions like proposal, engagement, dowry, hana’bandan, and initiation that we can’t eliminate from an Iranian marriage.
This ceremony in an official announces about tow person who wants to live together and Iranian people celebrate their new life and accompany them to their new house with music and dance.