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The Great Contributions of Ancient Persia to the World

The Great Contributions of Ancient Persia to the World

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Considering the past and culture of the Persians, there is a great deal of which to be proud of and which continues to captivate and amaze. Science, literature, art, and mathematics all benefitted greatly from the development of Persian culture and society. Here is a much longer (and maybe unexpected) list of some of the many outstanding contributions to humanity, of which the world may know just a handful that immediately springs to mind.


The System of Canal Irrigation and Agricultural Growth:

In many respects, Iran has been at the forefront of the agricultural world. The Persians were the first people to succeed in taming the wild animals and flora that had previously only existed in the open wide forests that were located in different parts of the plateau. The people of the Persian era were also known for qanat irrigation techniques which they developed in earlier ages to collect water and channel it to certain locations. Gonabad, an ancient city in Iran, is home to the world’s oldest qanat, which has been operating successfully for over 2,700 years, supplying the city’s residents with water for domestic use and agricultural purposes.


Algebraical Mathematics:

Modern Algebra is credited to the Persian mathematician Khwarizmi. He is best known for his contributions to algebraic algorithms and algebraic formulas. The term “algorithm” is a Latinization of his name. The remarkable work of the man in his book named ‘Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing’ (Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wal-muqabala) was a groundbreaking record in mathematics that provided real-world solutions to problems including equitable land allocation, inheritance laws, and equitable salary distribution.


The Glorious Architecture:

There is no break in Iran’s architectural history, which originates from at least 5,000 B.C. and continues till the current day. The ancient forms of Persian architecture show the use of symbolic geometrical figures, symmetrical layouts for courtyards, and rectangular features for halls. Similar types of architectural designs and layouts are still used in some Central Asian countries as well as in China and other Asian countries.

Historic House in Kashan, Iran
Historic House in Kashan, Iran


Astronomical Developments:

The field of astronomy has always had a significant place of importance in Persian culture. Throughout the history of astronomy in Iran, several well-known astronomers were born who worked days and nights to discover several astronomical aspects. Some renowned scholars were Al-Beruni and Khayyam whose contributions are still studied in the modern era. Similarly, in the 13th century, Tusi made instrumental developments in his respective field of astronomy which is considered a ‘knowledge stream’ for researchers and scientists. In a similar vein, astronomy colleges such as the Maragheh Observatory (which was founded in the 13th century) were previously considered some of the most important research organizations in the field of astronomy anywhere in the world.


The Persians and the Backgammon:

One of the first known board games, the famous game of backgammon originated in Iran about 3000 BC. These days, it’s usually played by two people, and the dice decide which way the pieces go. To win, a player must get rid of all of his or her pieces from the board before the other player does so. When archaeologists dug up a board game in Iran’s Shahr-e Sukhteh, they unearthed two dice and sixty checkers. Backgammon has been played by Iranians for hundreds of years, and you can still see them playing it in parks and cafés all around the nation today. Modern versions of the game, which is known as “nard,” use different starting locations and game goals than their ancestors’ versions.


The Modern Banking System:

The Achaemenian era saw the beginning of the establishment of private banks. The most well-known of these financial institutions were the Bank of Egibi, which dealt in the business of pawnbrokers and accepted deposits along with floating loans. Its funds were put into residential real estate, agricultural land, and livestock, as well as vessels for transporting goods to market. There was activity in current accounts, as well as the usage of checks. Later on, in Nippur’s history, the Bank of Murashshu and Sons was established there. It also gained monopolies in industries like brewing and fishery, which it than farmed out for a profit after holding leases, digging canals, and selling water to local farmers.


Electric Batteries:

Persians are credited with being the first humans to invent and manufacture batteries. This battery was straightforward and could provide a current of 1.5 to 2.0 volts. Even though it only produces a little amount of electricity, this was a significant breakthrough in technology back then. It was comprised of a pot, a comprehensively designed metallic rod, and a set of round-formed metal wires that utilized a cell for its power source. These were its three primary components.

The idea was extremely straightforward as it consisted of a vessel that held liquid electrolytes and a rod that served as the cell for the device. The Persians are credited with inventing the battery, and other civilizations improved upon this basic idea to achieve greater success. In practically every aspect of modern life, we can now find a use for batteries in their most refined form. We can confidently assert that the Persian civilization deserves all of the credit for the invention of the battery.


Contributions in the Field of Environmental Studies:

The Persian culture has always had a deep reverence for nature, particularly for flowers, plants, and trees. From untold ages till the present, Persians have pushed for the planting of trees. There is even a specific day called Derakht Kari (which translates to “tree planting”), on which thousands of trees are planted around the nation. The ruins of Persepolis, an Achaemenid palace that dates back 2,500 years, have several bas-reliefs depicting flowers and cypress trees, which is another indication that trees hold a significant place in Persian culture. These bas-reliefs can be seen everywhere around the palace.


Face Masks for Protection Against Pollution:

The Banu Musa Brothers of Persia are credited with developing an early version of a crude gas mask sometime around the 9th century. The gas mask that the brothers devised was intended to protect personnel who were doing their jobs in dirty wells. The book “Book of Ingenious Devices,” which details one hundred different innovations, includes a discussion of the gadget.


Musical Guitar:

Heavenly as it may seem, music has always been around, and even in prehistoric times, people have employed a wide variety of musical instruments. The Persians are said to have had a deep appreciation for music throughout their history. One of the numerous things that the Persians gave to the world that contributed to its development is the guitar, which is now one of the most prominent and extensively utilized musical apparatuses. This unique and worldly admired melody tool was given the name of ‘Tar’. Strings and a wooden box were the tools used to make it. It was developed at a period in history when the availability of musical instruments was extremely limited. This is one of the most important discoveries that came out of Persian culture. It was adored by the rulers of the day and has had a significant impact on Persian music.

Musician Playing a Kamancheh Bowed String Instrument in Iran

Scientific Research in Medicine:

The people of ancient Persia took a keen interest in scientific research. Many renowned persons contributed to the field of medicine by experimenting with various forms of natural herbal products. The Persian polymath Ibn Sina is often recognized as the “founder of modern medicine.” His medical compendium, Canon medicinae, was adopted as a curriculum staple at numerous medieval institutions and was still being used in 1650, more than 650 years after his death.


Modern Attire and Clothing Styles:

A heritage from the Persian culture is the pair of pants that we wear today with jackets, which was the tradition in Europe up until fairly recently. Except for the Iranians, the people of the ancient world did not wear pants and instead wore long tunics that reached down to their knees. Pants that were originally known as Sharval in ancient Persian and are now known as Shalvar in modern Persian were eventually adopted by the Greeks and given the name Saraballa in Greek and Sarabara in Latin. Arabs adopted it and gave it the names “Serbal and Serval”. In Spain, this attire is widely recognized as Ceroulas, while in Turkish wearing style, it is called Sharval.


Concept of Courier Services:

According to Herodotus, a Greek historian, the Achaemenid Persians were the ones who first established the mail service and the courier service. His words: “The whole scheme is a Persian invention” indicates that the old Persian people possessed creative and innovative skills. A large number of rest areas were built along all routes to offer shelter for caravans and new mounts for administration messengers traveling across the vast Persian Empire. These rest places served as the terminal-to-terminal courier services named Post stations. Royal dispatches traveled up to 1600 kilometers in a single week on the backs of strong, skillful men astride quick, powerful horses. Amazing to Herodotus, “These messengers can go places no mortal human can go in a short amount of time. They won’t let the weather (snow, rain, heat, or darkness) slow them down from covering the required distance as quickly as possible.” Before the invention of the telegraph, this method of communication was unparalleled in speed.


Textile and Garments:

The history of textiles in Iran dates back to the earliest Neolithic period. The Iranian plateau, according to Professor Pope, is the birthplace of the textile industry. Woven sheep’s wool and goat hair were discovered during excavations in a cave near the Caspian Sea in the early 1950s and dated to about 6,500 B.C. using the carbon 14 technique.

The French Mission at Susa discovered remnants of beautiful, simple linen fabric dating back to the 4th or 5th millennia B.C., as well as evidence of tablet weaving from the late 4th or early 3rd millennium B.C. (Shoosh). A specimen of a small weaving tablet was discovered in the centuries-old Susa temples, as stated by Pierre Amiet in his book Elam. There is also evidence of a loom used in the ancient world, as a sealed tablet from the 2nd century BC depicts a loom being used to weave cloth.


Edited by Sharon Rosenberg




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