The written history of Iran begins with the early Achaemenids, some 2,500 years ago, but since then till the dawn of Islam in Iran, all that is available on the Iranian history has been written by the ancient Greeks, who were then Iran’s greatest enemies. So, the pre-Islamic historical sources are not completely reliable although there are indications that Greek historians often faithfully recorded the facts.
Was there no Iranian Herodotus or Xenophon, or were Iranian historical records destroyed in the many invasions that followed? The answer is not clear. But of the ancient past, certain mythological stories have survived which had been collected during the Sassanid era; and once the Persian language emerged in the Moslem Iran, these were turned into verses, sixty thousand of them in all, by one of Iran’s greatest poets, Abulghassem Ferdowsi. He compiled these verses into a book and named it “Shahnameh”, the book of kings. Parts ofthese verses have been translated into English, French, Cerman and a few other languages. The book makes excellent epic reading, but for the ancient history we have to rely on Greek writings, and archaeological findings.
Iranians are said to be Aryans and this is in part true. Though predominantly Aryan, they are in fact a mixture of many nations and races: the Old Asian people who lived on the Iranian plateau before the arrival of the Aryans; the Aryans who moved to the plateau mostly in the first millennium BC ; and finally the descendants of the later conquerors: Arabs, Turks, and Mongols.
Archaeological findings indicate that before the Ary ans moved to Iran, a race of people who were neither Semitic nor Aryan lived on the Iranian plateau. These men and women belonged to a certain race which inhabited western Asia, a region extending from the present republic of Turkestan to the Mediterranean. In Iran the Old Asians formed a settlement which gradually spread over the western parts of the plateau running into the Zagros mountains. Apparently this people discovered agricultural cultivation specially growth of barley and wheat and the art of pottery which began with the primitive sun-baked brick. Gradually they had to face other neighboring peoples and civilizations quite different from their own. From the north tribes came peacefully, mixed with the natives and settled on their land. But on the west there was a different story. There, relations developed between the natives of Iran and the Semites of Mesopotamia who were developing an urban, agricultural civilization with well planned political and military structures. The Old Asians were still more or less nomadic but were beginning to show some sod of identity as various civilizations: the Elamites, the LuIlubi, the Guti, and the Kassites occupying the western pads of present Iran from Khouzistan northwards to the end of Luristan. One would think that these two people the Old Asians living in mountainous regions that were rich in raw materials such as ores; and the other, a wealthy people with abundance of food and manufactured goods should have lived in peaceful coexistence with prosperous trade. But in fad, the two people fought for centuries and although the Semites were generally superior and often victorious, it was the less civilized people of the mountains that overcame the Semites. Eventually the Elamites took over the whole of the Tigris Valley from Assure to the Persian Gulf. But soon they were overthrown by the Babylonians: Nebuchadnezzar I more or less destroyed this admirable civilization.