Iranian culture is one of the oldest in the Middle East and in the world. This ancient culture has influenced cultures like Italy, Macedonia, Greece, Russia, the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of Asia.


Iranian Culture

Iranian culture is one of the oldest in the Middle East and in the world. This ancient culture has influenced cultures like Italy, Macedonia, Greece, Russia, the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of Asia.

"The glory of Iran has always been its culture," said Richard Nelson Frye, professor emeritus at Harvard University, having concentrated many of his academic research on the history of Iran.
Admired for centuries, Iranian culture is today a great misunderstood: we quote Darius or Xerxes without knowing them, the Persian miniature is only an imprecise image, one confuses the Arabs and the Persians, and a civilization multimillenary, one readily retains only the blurred images of an immediacy too immediate. Yet Iran - Persia - was a cradle of the oldest urban cultures of humanity in the Neolithic era, the center of the first universal empire in history (the Achaemenids), the major and radiant culture of the Muslim East, a place of birth, fulfillment or encounter of religions, mystics and philosophies.

The civilization of ancient Persia was at its peak in the time of Darius. It was this sovereign who first organized the empire and brought together in some twenty provinces or satrapies, some 120 small governments that counted the empire of Cyrus. Each province was governed by a satrap, chosen by the king, and assisted by a royal secretary and a general commanding the troops; the satrap had the most complete civil and judicial power and collected the tax as he pleased. Inspectors were sent every year by the king, supported by a body of troops, to examine the management of the satraps. The Persian proper was exempt from tax, but the other provinces paid tribute on account of their extent and wealth. At the time of Darius belongs the creation of the gold coin called daric, bearing a figure of king armed with bow or javelin.

In antiquity, the Persians professed the magic or religion of Zoroaster.

Family

In Iran, family is very important, and it is considered as one of its culture. Women are to be protected usually by men and it is not common to ask questions to a man about his wife or other female relatives. Their loyalty to the family comes before everything.

Wedding rituals in Iran occur in two stages:

- The first stage: Aghd, represents the legal aspect of marriage in Iran, where the bride and groom sign a marriage contract.

- The second phase:  Jashn-e Aroosi, is the wedding reception, where feasts and celebrations are held.

Aghd Ceremony

Iranian Arts

Initial contacts with the Western world

Ancient Persia was the first Asian power to establish contact with the cradle of Western civilization, Greece. After the conquest of Persia by the army of Alexander, Persian culture underwent the influence of Greek civilization for two centuries; nevertheless the arsacid and sassanid dynasties ensured the renaissance of Persian culture, so that Persian culture and art became once again a source of inspiration for the Western world before and after the Islamization of Persia.

However, from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 15th century (Aq qoyunlu dynasty), the Iranian world and the Western world knew each other relatively little and their image of each other was often mingled with exaggerations and of fabulous anecdotes, due to a lack of obvious knowledge. Before the Renaissance, Eurasia was rather dominated by the economic, cultural and even political supremacy of the Asian continent in relation to Europe, the European Renaissance having its roots in the development of contacts with the continent where the oldest civilizations were born of the world.

The process of contact between Persia and the West accelerated from the 16th century, during the Safavid dynasty, especially during the time of the greatest Emperor of this dynasty, Shah Abbas I. Its capital, Isfahan, became the focus of political, economic and commercial relations with the great European powers of the time. With its magnificent bridges, architectural masterpieces, sumptuous mosques and beautiful palaces, the Safavid Isfahan was an important cultural and economic center for three centuries, bringing together merchants, travelers and artists from all over the world, Europe, as well as the ambassadors of European courts and Christian missionaries. In this context, the terrain was once again favorable to the influence of Iranian art on Western modern art.

Iranian Music

5000 years ago, or according to other historians, 7000 years of Iranian civilization left a legacy of musical treasures, recreated and revived in the last century by the most famous masters. The traditions of Iranian music have continued to be enriched over the centuries, but they have been dependent on the political evolution of the country.
Recent archaeological discoveries have uncovered a stone showing what is believed to be the oldest orchestra in the world, at least 5000 years ago. An artist has engraved on a clay support the image of an orchestra playing his instruments. The creation of an orchestra is an important step in the evolution of music.
Until the sixth century, musical art was rapidly developing in the region. Persian music was found in Iranian, Arabic and Turkish musical traditions. The palaces of the kings were open to musicians of all origins: Indians played in Greece and Persian musicians performed in Cairo, Samarkand, or the court of the Moghul Akbar emperor. The music of the Arabs, which had a primitive character at the time of their geopolitical domination of Iran, was strongly influenced and rebuilt under the influence of Iranian musicians, especially by the Mouseli family.

The Arab conquests propagated this music to Spain and maybe to Americas throughout the conquistadors.
Between the sixth and fifteenth centuries, some of the most important writings on music theories were produced by eminent personalities such as Farabi, Avicenna (or Ibn Sina), Safioddin Urmawi, Abdolghader Maraghei, etc. ...
Before the 13th century, music was mainly used for the entertainment of princes and kings or for ritual ceremonies in the Royal Palace. Preference was given to small groups of musicians with compositions based on complex rhythms. A great part of the repertories of Persian music (Radif), played on these occasions date back to the Sassanid dynasty in the XIII century. Subsequently, the interpreters began to use scores to interpret the music. But, learning was still essentially taught orally to their disciples by the great masters of music (Ostad).


The Ottoman empire of the eighteenth century saw the rise of classical music which is played in closed circles, often with strict Sufi obedience. In this period of confusion and political change, the rise of puritanism caused a general cultural decline. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that a renaissance of classical music was born with Mirza Sattar, a great artist, and then Ali Akbar Farahani, a virtuoso of the Tahr (typical Iranian instrument) whose music was always an inspiration for musicians . This period was full of instrumentalists, composers and singers of the highest quality. Some musicians have played an essential role in the preservation and transmission of this musical heritage, in the evolution of instruments, the style of interpretation and in the development of new musical techniques.

Blown by historical and political events, reached the highest level and then lost in oblivion because of political issues, the traditional Iranian music experienced a certain renewal thanks to artists after Islamic Revolution.