In a number of important ways, Iran
is the 'odd man out' in the Middle East. First, it was an imperial power in ancient times. The first Persian Empire, Cyrus
the Great, found it in 550 B.C.
Second, Iran differs ethnically its immediate neighbors.
The Iranians are not semantic, nor do they belong to the family of Turkic peoples. They are, as the name of their country
indicates, of Aryan origin.
Third, Iranians speak a language, which is different
from that of most of their immediate neighbors. Indeed, the term 'Aryan' is used more often these days to denote a language
family than a family of peoples. Modern Persian and its cognate Iranian languages and dialects, together with the Indian languages
like Hindi and Bengali, which stem from Sanskrit, derive from a common Indo-Iranian parent language. By contrast, the other
principal languages spoken in the Middle East, Arabic and Turkish, belong to quite different language families.
After the advent of Islam, Arabic replaced Pahlavi,
the Middle Persian language used by Persians during the Sasanid period. For some five centuries, the majority of the
works written by Persians in the field of theology, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, philology, mathematics and even history,
were written in Arabic. The reason is simple. Until the downfall of the caliphate in 1258, the Iranian world was part of the
Islamic empire, and Arabic was the 'lingua franca' of that empire from Spain and Morocco to South-East Asia.
The Iranian Contribution
Literature and Science
Each of these subjects needs a separate chapter in
a book, but we only give a brief outline here.
There was an intimate alliance between Persian mysticism
and Persian literature. The ecstasy of the soul with the Creator has never been more beautifully expressed that in the very
famous work of Jalal-al-Din Rumi. Ranking close to him in sublimity are Farid-al-Din Attar and Hafiz-e-Shirazi, who brought
allegorical mystical expression to its highest pitch of refinement.
Other poets, of whom Umar Khayyam is the best known
(though his principal claim to fame is as a mathematician, and without the genius of Fitzgerald it is doubtful whether he
would have obtained much renown in the West), reveal another strain, which is characteristic of the Persian mind.
The part played by Persia in the development of Islamic
science again needs no introduction. In the pre-Mongol period at least three names stand out: Kharazmi who gave us the words
algorithm and algebra; Umar Khayyam (the famous Persian astronomer-mathematician-poet) who classified the forms of cubic equations,
is the creator of the Jalali Calendar and contributor to Non-Euclidean Geometry and at last Biruni who did pioneering work
in empirical physics.
The Persian contribution to medicine consisted of
advances in treatment rather than diagnosis. Persia led the world in pharmacy. Without question, the greatest Persian physician
and one of the greatest physicians of the medieval world, was Razi who discovered alcohol, known to the West as Rhazes. His
chief encyclopedic Hawi, became a standard tesxtbook in European universities.
From the book The World of Islam, the Article Land
of the Lion and the Sun by Roger M. Savory
The Persian New Year
Noruz -- that is a Persian name and literally means
New Day -- begins on the vernal equinox and lasts 13 days. Noruz is a the most important Persian celebration that celebrates
life, happiness, health, prosperity and the abundance of nature.
Prior to the celebration, families clean their homes,
bake pastries and plant seeds and bulbs to grow new plants as a sign of renewal. They set ceremonial tables decorated with
seven symbolic items -- haft-seen -- each beginning with the Persian letter seen "s".
During the celebration, people visit friends and family,
share gifts and enjoy a feast. At the end of the celebration, on the morning of the 13th day -- sizda-be-dar -- friends and
relatives gather for a picnic at a park to show appreciation for nature.