The people inhabiting the region between Mesopotamia and the Indus are a proud and dynamic folk with a strong sense of their common heritage, even given that they derive from diverse sources. An Indo-European people (their name for themselves, "Irani", is simply the local pronunciation of "Aryan" ), they have been a major civilization for very long time, and they have had a strong influence on the world at large, given their position as a vital link between East and West.

Currently there is a more-or-less complete succession from the Medes to the present day, and: Ahar, Anshan, Arabistan, Ardebil, Atropatene, (Iranian) Azerbaijan, Daylam, Drangiana, Ellipi, Elymais, Fars, Gilan, Hamazi, the Horde of the Black Sheep, the Horde of the White Sheep, Hamadan, Hormuz, Hyrcania, Idaj, the Isma'ilis, Jibal, Karalla, Lur-I-Burzug, Lur-I-Kuchik, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khoy, Khurasan, Kujur, Luristan, Maku, Mannai, Maragheh, Mazandaran, Media (Madai),Nur, the Parni, Persida, Sabzevar, Sagarta, Sakastan, Sarab, Shiraz, Sistan, Tabaristan, Tabriz, and Zarrinaal.


IRANA general survey of the entire region. If you are visiting here from other portions of the archive, here is an express to get you back to where you were:

Afghanistan, Amida, Antioch, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bokhara, Cappadocia, Characene, Chechnya, Commagene, Cyprus, Dagestan, Georgia, Egypt, Imereti, Israel, Jordan, Khakheti, Khwarazm, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lemnos, Lesbos, Libya, Lydia, Marida, Mesopotamia, Oman, Samos, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

An era of disunity follows, as competing local dynasts established spheres of influence from the 10th century onwards. From 900 to 999 the dominant power in the region was Bokhara, under the Samanids. From 1029 to 1194 the Seljuqs were supreme.

From 1194 to 1221 the great regional power was Khwarazm. See also the Ismaili Sect. Another period of disunity, as remnants of the Hordes competed with local dynasts for authority. This era ends with the sweep of conquests by Timur Khan (known in Western Europe as Tamburlane). A third period of fragmentation, as Timur's Empire loses cohesion and local rulers strive against each other. Yet a fourth era of fragmentation, followed by reunification under the Safavid Dynasty. See above for an express to various Persian conquests.


AHAR A town in far northwestern Iran, 55 miles (88 km.) east-northeast of Tabriz. It was minor and short-lived Turkic emirate in the Middle Ages.

'ARABISTAN A region in southwestern Iran, at the head of the Persian Gulf and encompassing part of the Zagros Mountains. Ethnically, the region has been more Arabic than Irani - but politically, socially, and religiously it has had much more connection with Persia-Iran than with the Arabs to the west.

ARDEBIL An ephemeral Khanate located in northwestern Iran about 70 miles (110 km.) east of Sarab, 35 miles (55 km.) west of the southwest corner of the Caspian Sea, and about 20 miles (33 km.) southwest of the modern frontier with Azerbaijan. It emerged (like many others) for a brief interval following the chaos ensuing after the death of Nadir Shah in 1747.

AZERBAIJAN  Northwestern Iran, within the hills and mountains adjacent to the Caucasus. For Northern Azerbaijan, see the Caucasus file. Having been the northern end of the old Median realm for many centuries, this region now became separate and distinct as the post-Alexandrian Kingom of Atropatene, or Media Atropatene. See the notes within Jibal for commentary on some of the ramifications of this division.

DAYLAM A region in northern Iran, just south of the Caspian Sea. It is centered on the Rudbar-Shah Rud valley and the city of Rayy, near modern Tehran. The Buyids who seized control of Mesopotamia in the 900s and 1000s hailed from this region, and the core of their army was composed of Daylami tribesmen.

Ellipi was an ancient kingdom located on the western side of the Zagros (modern Iran), between Babylonia  to the west, Media  to the north east, Mannae to the north and Elam to the south. The inhabitants of Ellipi were close relatives of the Elamites.

FARS (Persis) In ancient times, this south-central region was known as Persida, and was considered the core of Persian territory. The Salaghurids were vassals of Khwarazm from the beginning of the 13th century, and then of the Mongols from 1221.

GILAN A district lying on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea.

An ancient city-state of uncertain location, probably in the Zagros mountains to the east of Assyria.

HORDE of the BLACK SHEEP (Qara Koyunlu) A Turkman federation located in Northwestern Iran, Eastern Turkey and parts of Iraq. Capital at Tabriz, they held Baghdad from 1410-1468.

HORDE of the WHITE SHEEP (Ak Koyunlu) A Turkmani federation located in Eastern Turkey, and portions of Iraq, Iran, and the Caucasus. Capital at Tabriz from 1471, held Baghdad from 1468-1508.

HORMUZ A small island lying off the Iranian coast at the apex of the bend in the vital Straits of Hormuz connecting the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean - there are a number of islands here, of varying size on both sides of the straits; Hormuz, though quite small, is distinguished by it's absolutely commanding position in regards shipping approaching from either direction.

The ISMA'ILI SECT This was a group of Nizari Shi'ites (Sunni 1211-1221) who seized control of a fortress in the mountains south of the Caspian Sea, Alamut, around 100 miles northwest of modern Teheran. They practiced political terrorism throughout Iran, Iraq, and Syria, being known to westerners as "Assassins", from their supposed custom of dosing themselves with hashish before an attack. Remnants of the sect survived, and exist today, although they have long since ceased to practice murders and terrorist raids to further their interests. See also, their counterparts in Syria.

JIBAL The Arabic name for north-central Iran; roughly the equivalent of ancient Media. At this point, the ancient lands of Media diverge. While the core of the Median realm continues as indicated below, first within the Seleucid Empire and later to Parthia directly, northern Media (which had been the center of the very ancient Kingdom of Mannai) becomes the heartland of a separate post-Alexandrian Kingdom, Atropatene - founded (as mentioned just above) by a former Median Satrap, Atropates. Controversy is present regarding Atropates even to this day - it is claimed by some, particularly Iranians of separatist sentiments, that the name "Azerbaijan" is an evolved form of "Atropatene", that it should be spelled "Azarbaijan" rather than the more Turkic way using "e" as the first vowel, that Greater Atropatene was a stronghold of Zoroastrian belief (as opposed to darkly Pagan Magian culti), that the Quran supports the notion of treating Zoroastrians as a legitimate precursor to Islam, and that, ultimately, the Republic of Azerbaijan should extend it's authority to include northwestern Iran as well, Needless to say, the Iranian government is not amused. In any case, the separation between northern Media (Atropatene-Azerbaijan) and central Media (Jibal) continued after the hegemony of the Caliphs broke asunder - the north coming under the sway of the Sajids, Rawwadids, and Ildeguzids, while Jibal was controlled by the Dulafids, Buyids, and finally the Kakuyids. Reunited under Mongol and then Timurid rule, the two regions have normally been within the same polity ever since, although the northern end of Azerbaijan has become distinct and separate in and of itself as a Caucasian state.

A city-state of uncertain location - it was most probably beside Lake Zeribor, deep in the Zagros Mountains about halfway between Sulaymaniyah (northeastern Iraq) and Sanandaj (western Iran).

KERMANAn important town and province in southeastern Iran, the largest carpet producer in the region.

KERMANSHAH (Qarmasin) Not to be confused with Kerman, the carpet-weaving center in eastern Iran. Kermanshah is a city in northwestern Iran, not far from the Iraqi frontier. It was the site of a Kurdish Principality in the Middle Ages.

KHOY An ephemeral Khanate located in far northwestern Iran, north of Lake Urmia, between Tabriz and Lake Van (in Turkey). It emerged (like many others) for a brief interval following the chaos ensuing after the death of Nadir Shah in 1747.

KHURASAN Northeastern Iran, adjacent to Turkestan and Afghanistan.

LUR-I-BURZUG (Greater Luristan) The sourthern part of Luristan, a mountainous region in western Iran west of Isfahan inhabited by the Lurs, a group of mixed Iranian and Semitic tribes speaking a dialect related to Kurdish. The most prominent tribal group in the area are the Bakhtiari, a nomadic people famous for their rugs.

LUR-I-KUCHIK (Lesser Luristan) The northern and more rugged portion of Luristan, inhabited by the Feili Lurs, who are divided into the Pishkuh sub-tribes in the east and Pushtkuhs in the west.

MAKU An ephemeral Khanate located in the extreme northwestern tip of Iran, about 60 miles (100 km.) northwest of Khoy, and 60 miles (100 km.) due south of Yerevan, Armenia. It emerged (like many others) for a brief interval following the chaos ensuing after the death of Nadir Shah in 1747.

MARAGHEH A city in northwestern Iran, about 20 miles (32 km.) east of the southeastern corner of Lake Urmia, and 50 miles (80 km.) south of Tabriz.

MAZANDARAN A portion of the mountainous region south of the Caspian Sea.

PARNI A Scythian tribe living in northeastern Iran (Parthia) - a successor tribe to the earlier Dahae. In 247 their leader expelled the Seleucids from Parthia and established the empire that would eventually rule all of Persia.

SARAB An ephemeral Khanate located in northwestern Iran about 70 miles (110 km.) east of Tabriz. It emerged (like many others) for a brief interval following the chaos ensuing after the death of Nadir Shah in 1747.

SHIRAZ Largest city and capital of the Fars region, in south-central Iran.

SISTAN A wetlands region straddling the frontier between Iran and southwestern Afghanistan, it is centered around two transient lakes (Hamun-i-Helmand and Gaud-i-Zirreh), and is nourished by the spring floods from the Helmand River and associated streams. In Mediaeval times the region was prosperous, but Mongols destroyed the irrigation infrastructure in 1383, and the place has been in precarious circumstances since then. Access to watering rights still provides a major source of contention between Iran and Afghanistan to this day, especially during the frequent droughts.

TABARISTÁN A part of the mountainous region south of the Caspian Sea. The people here are rugged and independent, and only converted to Islam in 854. Their leaders used the title "Lord of the Mountains" from about 772.

TABRIZ An important city in northwestern Iran, the fourth largest city in the nation, and capital of Iranian Azerbaijan.

ZARRINAAL (Zarrinkafsch) A Kurdish tribe and sometime principality in northwest Iran. The House of Zarrinaal claims descent from the Parthian Arsacid dynasty as well as the Sassanid governors of Kurdistan. There is also a mythological content to their ancestry, according to which they are descended from Prince Tuz Nozar, a demigod hero from the Shah-Nama, the national epic of Iran. The Zarrinaal chieftains (entitled Shahzadehgi Zarrinkafsch ol Sinneh) were intimately involved in the politics of the Safavid, Afshar, Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties of Iran.