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Persian Ancient Art by Behzaad Bahreyni


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Persian Art , Persian History , Ancient Persia

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Persian Ancient Art by Behzaad Bahreyni

  1. 1. Bahreyni , Behzaad Dec 2013 Adamson University – Manila , Philippines
  2. 2. Persian History The Achaemenid Persian empire was the largest that the ancient world had seen, extending from Anatolia and Egypt across western Asia to northern India and Central Asia. Its formation began in 550 B.C., when King Astyages of Media, who dominated much of Iran and eastern Anatolia (Turkey), was defeated by his southern neighbor Cyrus II ("the Great"), king of Persia (r. 559–530 B.C.). This upset the balance of power in the Near East. The Lydians of western Anatolia under King Croesus took advantage of the fall of Media to push east and clashed with Persian forces. The Lydian army withdrew for the winter but the Persians advanced to the Lydian capital at Sardis, which fell after a two-week siege. The Lydians had been allied with the Babylonians and Egyptians and Cyrus now had to confront these major powers. The Babylonian empire controlled Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean. In 539 B.C., Persian forces defeated the Babylonian army at the site of Opis, east of the Tigris. Cyrus entered Babylon and presented himself as a traditional Mesopotamian monarch, restoring temples and releasing political prisoners. The one western power that remained unconquered in Cyrus' lightning campaigns was Egypt. It was left to his son Cambyses to rout the Egyptian forces in the eastern Nile Delta in 525 B.C. After a tenday siege, Egypt's ancient capital Memphis fell to the Persians.
  3. 3. Ancient Persia The name Persia (from the ancient province of Persis; modern Fars, Iran) was given by the Greeks to the entire land occupied by various Iranian tribes from which the Achaemenid dynasty arose. It is the land of present-day Iran and Afghanistan, geographically the Iranian plateau. The earliest inhabitants of this area are only known, at first, from their stone artifacts and, later, their pottery. Paleolithic and Neolithic sites have been found in various parts of the plateau, but distinctive painted pottery appears only in the Chalcolithic Period, about 3000 BC. In sites such as Tepe Sialk, Tepe Hissar, and Tepe Giyan similar painted pottery has been found, indicating early connections among the inhabitants. More is known about the material culture of the peoples on the plateau in the 3d millennium BC, but the various groups assume an historical identity only with the advent of written records in cuneiform. In the south were the Elamites, whose principal city, Susa, was on the plain of Mesopotamia. The Elamite language has not been fully deciphered, but it was unlike any of the later languages of the region. In the 2d millennium BC the Elamites were found throughout southern Iran. To the north in the mountains lived Kassites who also descended onto the plains of Mesopotamia. In present-day Azerbaijan province lived people called Manneans. South of the sea that bears their name lived the Caspians.
  4. 4. Some of Persian Symbols that we can find in historical places in Iran Anahita, Persian Water Goddess Also know as the Fertility Goddess, The Lady of the Beasts and the Goddess of Sacred Dance, Anahita ruled the waters, the stars and fate, and represents the female creative principle. She is depicted with wings, accompanied by lions and a jeweled diadem of stars. Anahita is sometimes depicted as the consort of Mithra. Anahita is associated with rivers, lakes and the waters of birth. She is a fertility goddess and the patroness of women as well as the goddess of war.
  5. 5. HUMA The Huma bird is a legendary mythical creature from the Sufi fables. It is said to never land and live its entire life during flight. It flies invisibly high above the earth, impossible to spot through the human eyes. Also referred to as the bird of fortune, the Huma bird is a compassionate creature and symbolises happiness. According to the Sufi lore, once you catch a glimpse of Huma or its shadow even, happiness will ensue for the rest of your life. The prominent Sufi preacher Inayat Khan portrays the spiritual dimension of this bird. According to him, it represents the evolution of a thought to the zenith where it breaks all limitations. “Huma” in Persian language stands for fabulous bird. It was believed in the olden times that if this legendary creature sat on the head of an individual, then it was an omen to the person becoming a king. In the word Huma, “hu” represents spirit and the word “mah” is Arabic which represents “water”. In the olden traditions, it was believed that the Zoroaster was born of the Huma tree which speaks for the bible verse “Except a man be born of Water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”
  6. 6. The following pictures show the subject nations in the Achaemenid empire, as they are depicted on the southern wall of the eastern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis. The photos look a bit pale, but you must imagine that everything was once painted in bright colors. These people are Medes, which were related to the Persians. They are the first in the procession. They wear a horseman's dress and cloaks.
  7. 7. The eastern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis show a procession of people bringing tribute to the Achaemenid king, Darius the Great (r.522-486). The relief consists of three parts: the northern wall, with representations of Achaemenid dignitaries; the center, with eight soldiers; and the southern wall, showing representatives of all subject nations. The relief miraculously survived the sack of Persepolis by the soldiers of Alexander the Great in 330.
  8. 8. The central scene of the relief. There are eight soldiers, dressed like Medes and Persians. Between them is an empty space, and above them is a traditional representation of a winged sun, flanked by two sphinxes. It is not a very striking image and the simple truth is that it does not belong on this place. It replaces an older relief.
  9. 9. It symbolizes (probably) eternity. The same message is more or less implied in the representation of the sun. It is an excellent theme for this place. The people who visited the Apadana offered tribute to the great king and received presents in return. This reciprocity strengthened the ties between the ruler and the subjects, and contributed to the continuation of the empire.
  10. 10. The original relief makes it possible to interpret the entire monument. What we see is the king, receiving representations of the various nations in the Achaemenid Empire. Behind him are the crown prince, the aristocrats, and the most important courtiers (northern wall); in front of him is the mayor of the palace, who announces the arrival of the visitors (southern wall).
  11. 11. Animals in Ancient Persian The symbols of ancient Persia indicate their fascination with mythical and imaginary creatures and their meanings. Dove: Doves were highly regarded in Persian culture. For Muslims (as for Christians) they had a religious valence, as they are revered for once helping Muhammad by distracting his enemies during one stage of the Hijrah from Mecca to Medina, enabling him to escape. They were also romantic symbols, as doves were supposed to act as messengers between sailors lost at sea and their sweethearts, bringing them their final words of love, a tradition that may have arisen from the white doves Greek sailors are supposed to have witnessed escaping from sinking Persian ships during a naval expedition of 492 (Waterfield 32). This idea
  12. 12. Ass (Donkey) Because they were generally associated with and owned by the lower classes--hence they do not feature heavily in Persian art-- and thought to be slow-witted, asses were regarded with some contempt. However, Persians also seem to have found in that same contemptibility a great capacity for humor, wisdom, and moral lessons. Muhammad's Hadiths frequently mention asses, and religious figures associated with them to emphasize the value of humility. But even religious figures' associations with asses can take a definite comedic turn.
  13. 13. Scorpions: Scorpions have various colloquial and symbolic meanings in Persian culture. The saying “you are (like) a scorpion under the μoor mat” (tu ga dom-e zir-e buria hasti), evokes slyness, accusing the person in question for stinging like a scorpion and then quietly retreating under the mat or carpet. Another strand of folklore material deals with the acceptance that it is simply in the nature of the scorpion (and, by extension, a vile human being) to be harmful. The Persian proverb “the scorpion doesn’t sting out of malice, it is its nature to do so” (nish-e ‘aqrab na az rah-e kin ast, tabiyyat-ash in ast) is used in everyday situations if one feels hurt by somebody else. Due to the ubiquitous presence of scorpions in the region, the scorpion was feared for its poisonous sting, leading to the popular Muslim imagination that particularly dangerous scorpions inhabit hell.
  14. 14. Ox - BULL The Ox is not featured heavily in Persian culture and mythology- however, an animal of close association to it, the bull, is. A god called Mithra, a god from pre-Christian paganism, was first worshipped during the Roman Empire and spread to ancient Persia as well. In ancient Persian writings, Mithra slays a bull, in a symbolic act of 'salvation.' Mithra symbolized the Sun, or a celestial being, and the bull symbolized the earth and mankind.
  15. 15. Peacock The symbol of Persian/Iranian monarchy. This symbolism originates from the Peacock Throne, a famous golden throne stolen from India by the Persians in 1739. The peacock is a popular motif in Persian designs. An ancient Persian recipe (see below for link) even illustrates how to cook a roasted or barbecued skewered peacock, indicating its popularity among the ancient Persians. One example of a Persian community who worshipped the peacock were the Yezidis, who inhabit the Armenia, Kurdistan and Caucasus mountains. The Yezidis worshipped Malik-e-Taus, a redeem devil in the semblance of the peacock. The common motif of two peacocks symmetrically disposed on either side of the Cosmic tree or hom—a feature taken from Persia —denotes the psychic duality of man (related to the myth of the Gemini) drawing its life force from the principle of unity.
  16. 16. Falcon The Faravahar, a winged disc bearing similarities to the shape of a falcon, is one of the best known symbols of Zoroastrianism. The falcon was a popular pet during the ancient Persian period, leading to several historical theories stating that the practice of falconry originated from Persia.
  17. 17. Horses The Persians were famous for breeding horses famous for their beauty, grace and strength. Horses did not have any significant symbolic meaning in Persian culture, but they were prized for their invaluable function for transportation and travel. A bequeath of a horse was both a symbolic gesture of favor and a practical gift- due to the beauty of the gift and functionality of the gift itself.