Inspiration

The Battle That Inspired The Marathon

The Battle of Marathon was a pivotal battle in the Graeco-Persian Wars. This battle took place in August or September 490 BC. During the battle, the Athenians and their Plataean allies successfully repelled the invading Persians, despite being outnumbered. The victory of the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon was significant as it brought an end to the first Persian invasion of Greece. Additionally, the Persians did not return to Greece until a decade later. It is also thanks to this ancient battle that we have the marathon today. This sporting event is a modern invention that was inspired by an amazing feat performed by one of the Athenian soldiers who participated in the battle.

 

Preamble to the Battle of Marathon

The Graeco-Persian Wars broke out in 492 BC and the first Persian invasion of Greece was launched that year by Darius I. A year before that, the Ionian Revolt , which began in 499 BC, was finally crushed by the Persians. This was a revolt by the Greek colonies in Asia Minor that were under Persian rule .
The Greek rebels sought aid from mainland Greece and Athens, and Eretria responded by sending them a small fleet of ships. Thus, the involvement of these two city states in the Ionian Revolt was used by the Persians to justify their invasion of Greece once the revolt was put down. According to Herodotus, “These places [Athens and Eretria] were the ostensible targets of the expedition, but in fact the Persians intended to conquer as many Greek towns and cities as they could”.

The Persian expedition against the Greeks involved a combined land and sea force and overall command was given to Mardonius, the son of Gobryas, “a young man who had recently married Darius’ daughter Artozostra”. Using their fleet, the Persians conquered the island of Thasos, while the land army subdued the Macedonians. After this, however, the Persians experienced some setbacks.

From Thasos, the Persian fleet sailed westwards to the mainland where it hugged the coast and sailed up to Acanthus. As the ships set out to round the headland at Athos they were caught in a storm and many were destroyed. Herodotus reported that about 300 ships were destroyed and over 20,000 men lost their lives.

The ancient historian even spares a few lines to report the ways in which the shipwrecked men lost their lives, “The men died in various ways: some were seized by the sharks that infest the sea around Mont Athos , others were dashed onto the rocks, others drowned because they did not know how to swim, and others died of cold”. The Persian land army did not fare so well either.

According to Herodotus, while the Persians were encamped in Macedonia the Brygi, a Thracian tribe, launched a night attack against them. Many men were killed and Mardonius himself was wounded. The Persians responded by subduing the Brygi. Once this was accomplished, however, Mardonius pulled his forces back to Asia thus bringing the Persian expedition of 492 BC to an end.

In the following year, Darius sent heralds throughout Greece with orders to “demand earth and water for the king”. This was meant to see if the Greeks would submit to the Persians or resist them. At the same time, instructions were sent to the coastal states which were already part of the Achaemenid Empire to build long ships and transport ships for horses, so as to prepare for another invasion.

Many of the Greeks submitted to Darius’ demands, including one of Athens’ rivals, Aegina. The Athenians accused the Aeginetans of being traitors of Greece and used it as a pretext to start a war with them. While this war was being fought, Darius’ forces were ready.

Answer of the Athenian Aristides to the ambassadors of Mardonius: "As long as the sun holds to its present course, we shall never come to terms with Xerxes”.

Mardonius was relieved of his command and two new commanders, “a Mede called Datis and Artaphrenes, the son of Artaphrenes, who was Darius’ nephew” were appointed. Their mission, according to Herodotus, was to “reduce Athens and Eretria to slavery and to bring the captives before him [Darius]”.

Unlike the previous expedition, the land and sea forces were not separated. Instead, it was an amphibious operation and the land forces boarded the ships at Cilicia. Herodotus reported that a fleet of 600 triremes was sent against the Greeks.

This fleet first sailed to the island of Samos, off the Ionian coast, and thence across the Aegean Sea by sailing from island to island. This was different from the route taken by Mardonius whose fleet sailed along the Ionian coast to the Hellespont, so as to join up with the land army at Thrace.

The first place that Datis and Artaphrenes planned to attack was the island of Naxos. Instead of staying to fight the islanders fled into the hills. The Persians razed the sanctuaries and the town to the ground and enslaved anyone they caught. The next stop for the Persians was the neighboring island of Delos.

The Delians, having heard of the Persian approach, fled to another island, Tenos. Herodotus reported that Datis had no intention of destroying the island. Instead, after finding out where the Delians were hiding the commander sent a herald to inform them that he would harm neither the island nor its inhabitants and urged them to return to their homes. Before leaving the island, Datis “heaped up 300 talents of frankincense on the altar and burnt it as an offering. Datis then sailed away with his army”.

The next target of the Persian invaders was Eretria. When the Eretrians received news of the Persian fleet they requested for assistance from Athens and received it. Unfortunately, the Eretrians were divided into two factions, those who wanted to abandon the city, and to flee to the Euboean hills on the one hand, and those who wanted to surrender the city to the Persians on the other.

One of the Eretrian leaders, Aeschines the son of Nothon, saw that there was no way to save the city, explained the situation to the Athenians who arrived and begged them to leave. The Athenians heeded Aeschines’ advice and left Eretria, thus saving themselves. In the meantime, the Eretrians resolved not to abandon their city and prepared to be besieged.

After several days of intense fighting, the city fell to the Persians through treachery. The city was plundered, burnt to the ground, and the population reduced to slavery. A few days after the destruction of Eretria, the Persians left for Attica, and were confident that they would be able to deal with the Athenians easily too.

The Persians Head for Marathon

Following the advice of Hippias, the son of Pisistratus (the former tyrant of Athens), the Persians chose to land at Marathon, as it had “terrain that was admirably suited to cavalry maneuvers” and was close to Eretria. Herodotus’ claim of the former, however, has been contradicted by a scholium (a marginal comment made by an ancient commentator) found in Plato’s Menexenus, which states that the terrain of Marathon was “rugged, unsuitable for horses, full of mud, swamps and lakes”.

Instead, it is speculated that the site, being a relatively poorer region of Attica, was more sympathetic towards Hippias, hence the former tyrant’s choice for the Persian landing. When they heard of the Persians’ arrival the Athenians marched to Marathon as well.

Before leaving for Marathon, however, the Athenian commanders dispatched a professional courier by the name of Philippides to Sparta in order to request their aid during the upcoming battle with the Persians. Although the Spartans agreed to provide assistance to the Athenians, they “could not do so straight away, because there was a law they were reluctant to break. It was the ninth day of the month, and they said that they would not send an army into the field then or until the moon was full”.

From this passage, scholars were able to determine the date of the Battle of Marathon, i.e. on the 12th either of August or September 490 BC in the Julian calendar. In any case, the Spartans did not make it to the Battle of Marathon and the only Greeks who came to Athens’ aid were the Plataeans.

Meanwhile, the Athenian commanders were divided as to how to proceed. On the one hand, there were those who wished to avoid fighting, arguing that they were outnumbered by the Persians. On the other, there were those in favor of engaging the enemy. Both sides were supported by five commanders and it was up to the War Archon, Callimachus of Aphidnae, to cast the deciding vote.

In Herodotus’ account, a rousing speech was made, at the mouth of Miltiades, by one of the commanders who favored engaging the Persians, which won Callimachus over. The Athenians, however, did not engage the Persians immediately.

Herodotus reported that “when each of the commanders who had inclined towards engaging the enemy held the presidency of the board of commanders for the day, he stood down in favor of Miltiades. While accepting the post each time, Miltiades waited until the presidency was properly his before giving battle.” Although not reported by Herodotus, other ancient historians wrote that on the day of battle, the Athenians learned that the Persian cavalry was away and therefore seized the opportunity to attack the invaders.

The Day of the Battle of Marathon

Herodotus reported that the right wing of the army was under the command of the War Archon, which was in accordance with Athenian customs at that time, while the Plataeans were placed on the left. Between the two, the Athenian tribes were arranged one after another in their usual order. Herodotus also tells his readers that the Athenian army was extended over the same length as the Persian army.

Although the center was only a few ranks deep and therefore the weakest, the two wings were at full strength. After the battle lines were drawn and favorable omens obtained from the sacrifices, the Athenians attacked by charging the Persians at a run. This was a remarkable feat and Herodotus asserted that “They were the first Greeks known to charge enemy forces at a run, and the first to endure the sight of Persian dress and the men wearing it”.

During the battle, the Athenian center was broken by the Persians, who pursued them inland. The left and right wings of the Athenians, however, were victorious in their battle against their respective opponents. Therefore, they combined into a single fighting unit and attacked the Persians who had broken through the center.

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The Persians were defeated and retreated back to their ships anchored along the coast. The Athenians gave chase and killed any Persian they were able to overtake. In addition, seven Persian ships were captured by the Athenians. Herodotus does not give the strength of the Athenian and Persian armies that fought at the Battle of Marathon, but reports that 6,400 Persian soldiers were killed, while the Athenians lost 192 men.

Although the Athenians won the Battle of Marathon, the Persian army had not been completely defeated and their fleet was still a threat to Athens. In fact, following the defeat at Marathon the Persian fleet began to sail around Cape Sounion, hoping to arrive at Athens before the army returned.

According to Herodotus, “The Athenians raced back as quickly as possible to defend the city, which they managed to reach before the Persians got there…. The invaders hove to off Phalerum, which was Athens’ naval harbor in those days, but then after riding at anchor there for a while they sailed back to Asia.” The Persians didn’t returned to Greece until 10 years later.

The First Marathon Runner

Finally, a popular legend that has survived till this day is that it was a messenger, Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon back to Athens to announce the victory over the Persians. Right after he delivered his message, Pheidippides died of exhaustion. Although the story is commonly attributed to Herodotus, it is not actually found in his writings.

Herodotus does report that a herald by the name of Philippides was sent by the Athenians to seek aid from the Spartans and the two stories might have been conflated. In any case, the story inspired the creation of the marathon. In 1896, the first modern Olympics was held in Athens and the founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Coubertin, organized the first official marathon.

This race started from the Marathon Bridge to the Olympic Stadium in Athens, a distance of about 24.85 miles (40 kilometers) and was won by Spiridon Louis, a Greek postal worker, who finished the race in 2 hours 58 minutes. During the 1908 Olympics, which was held in London, the marathon began at the lawn of Windsor Castle and finished in front of the royal box at White City Stadium. The total distance between the two points was 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers). Although this would become the standard distance for future marathons it was only formally adopted in 1921.

By Wu Mingren - Ancient Origins

Ghorbany Carpets
www.ghorbany.com


Dr Eugene Chesrow

His nephew wrote that he was born in 1894 in Chicago to Francesca and Francesco Caesario . At some point the name was changed to Chesrow.

In June 1940, an article from the L'Italia newspaper reported that a ceremony was being held awarding honors to a Doctor Eugene Chesrow and others for collecting funds for the Italian Red Cross. Eugene Chesrow, a one-time colonel in the United States Army Medical Reserves had been discharged from his commission as a result of his activities with the Italian Army in Ethiopia. His commission, however, was restored 1937.

Eugene Chesrow was better known for being a physician for the old Capone gang during prohibition. As a reward for his services, he was given a belt buckle studded with 23 diamonds from Al Capone himself. It was reported, that the collections were being carried out in a secret way. Only wealthy families and sympathizers for the Italian cause were being approached. The collections were being collected mostly in cash and not all of the money collected was making its way to the Italian Red Cross.....This mysterious Italian Doctor residing in Chicago had a great taste for so called Azerbaijani embroideries ....Most of his collection came to sale in 2014 Sotheby’s Auction ...


The Ballard Collection

“INTRODUCTION in 1910-11,when the Metropolitan Museum held the loan exhibition of oriental rugs which first brought to public notice the astonishing wealth of many of our private collections in this class of material, the Museum itself owned only six oriental carpets of first-rate importance. Since then, however, our permanent collection has been greatly increased through the Altman and the Fletcher Bequests and the gift of the J. Pierpont Morgan Collection. Furthermore, the Museum has been privileged, since 1910-11 to exhibit as an in- definite loan from C. F. Williams the well-known treasures of the Joseph Lees Williams Memorial Collection of Oriental Rugs. And now, through the courtesy and public spirit of another great rug collector, James F. Ballard of St. Louis, Missouri, the Museum is exhibiting as a loan for three months, in the Gallery of Special Exhibitions, sixty-nine oriental carpets of unusual interest and importance selected from Mr. Ballard's remarkable collection of over three hundred rugs. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of seeing this collection in Mr. Ballard's private gallery in St. Louis will know how difficult was the task of restricting our selection to the comparatively small number of rugs which the size of our gallery permitted.”

This is an introduction to a booklet of that time published by MET ( I have put the link at the end) , James F Ballard in my opinion was one of the leading collector / scholar of the previous century , James Franklin Ballard (July 16, 1851 - April 23, 1931) was an American entrepreneur and art collector specializing in rugs from Asia and the Middle East, and medieval prints by such artists as Albrecht Dürer.According to Saint Louis Museum Library ,Ballard traveled the world in search of art to buy, but most especially rugs.He started collecting rugs in 1905 He traveled over 470,000 miles through Southeast Asia,China, the Caucasus Mountains, India, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and all over Europe.His travels found him in Egypt during the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.He was briefly imprisoned by the Greek government, and witnessed the Great Fire of Smyrna.

In 1922 Ballard presented (after 1910-11 exhibition)to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a collection of 126 oriental rugs that at the time was valued at half a million dollars.Later he brought an additional two rugs, one of which featured the coat of arms of Tamerlane(really?), the founder of the Timurid Empire.He also gave a substantial collection of rugs to the Saint Louis Art Museum. Ballard was born in Ashtabula, Ohio to James Ballard and Eliza (Heath) Ballard. His parents owned a large tract of timber land in northern Michigan near Lapere.
Despite the fact that his father had ample money from his timber farm, the younger Ballard chose to join the circus and travel the country at a young age. Later he started drug stores around the country and settled in Saint Louis, Missouri. While in Saint Louis, he became involved with the wholesale drug store chain, Richardson & Company.

In 1882 Ballard withdrew from Richardson & Company, and started his own business again, the Ballard Snow Liniment Company. This company manufactured one of the most widely advertised and distributed proprietary remedies of the time. It was the sales of this medicine that made his fortune. After 1923 his business was called James F. Ballard Incorporated of which he was the chief owner, and in later years the treasurer.Besides Ballard's Snow Liniment, he also sold: Swaim's Panacea, White's Cream Vermifuge, Campho Phenique, Smith's Bile Beans, Ozmanlis Nerve Pills, and Littell's Liquid Sulphur, all of which were advertised in his self-published book: Ballard's Book of the Great War.

Ballard also owned the Henry B. Platte company of New York. He was the director of the Mechanics-American National Bank, and of its successor, the First National Bank & Union Trust Company of Saint Louis. Please go through the booklet on https://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/…/c…/p15324coll10/id/15299 which I have added the photos and colorful ones courtesy many sources mainly Hali Magazine.


Nowruz - The Persian New Year and The Spring Equinox

Nowruz, known as the Persian new year, is one of the most ancient celebrations in history and has been celebrated for around 4000 years in what is now Iran and in the extended cultural area known as Greater Iran. It is an ancient celebration with the spring equinox as the main event occurring on 20 or 21 March every year. During ancient times, Persian kings greatly emphasized the importance of this event and invited people from around the empire who were of different ethnicities and followers of different religions, to the royal court for celebrations and receiving gifts. After thousands of years, Nowruz remains to be the most important celebration for Iranians as well as for around 300 million people in the neighboring countries of Iran, who together celebrate the arrival of spring and the rebirth of nature.

Mythical and Historical Origins of Nowruz

Nowruz is the Persian name of the Persian new year consisting of two words; Now or no meaning new and ruz or rooz meaning day, which when put together means new day . This celebration and its associated events has been celebrated for thousands of years by the people of Iran and the people of Central Asian countries, former parts of ancient Persian empires. Nowruz emerged as people of these areas of the world left the nomadic life and established settlements which started a new phase in human civilization. Today, it is the world's only event which is celebrated at the exact same moment throughout the world. The celebration is not connected to religion and is based on astronomical celestial events even though Nowruz is deeply rooted in Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion.

In 1725 BC, the world's first philosopher and prophet of the Zoroastrian religion named Zarathushtra, improved the ancient Indo-Iranian calendar. The Zoroastrian year starts with this date. Zarathushtra established an observatory in the modern day province of Sistan in southeastern Iran and with his knowledge in astronomy he was able to establish a solar calendar consisting of 365 days, 5 hours and 48 minutes.

During the 6th century BC, the magush who were the priests of the Zoroastrian fire temples, acted both as fire keepers and astronomers. These priests calculated the spring equinox of the northern hemisphere to occur on March 20 or 21 and this date marked the first day of the Persian solar calendar. The priests were closely associated with the events at the city of Parsa, also known as Persepolis. This city, founded by the Persian king Darius the Great in 515 BC, was the ceremonial capital city of the Achaemenid Persian empire and the spring residence of the kings. The kings invited noblemen from all of the provinces of the empire to Persepolis, regardless of ethnicity and religious beliefs, to celebrate Nowruz. During the morning hours, priests prayed and performed rituals which were followed by feasts and entertainments in the evenings and nights. Even to this day, one can see the ruins of the royal palaces with reliefs depicting governors and ambassadors bringing precious gifts to the King of Kings and paying homage to him.

During the reign of the Sassanid kings between 224 – 651 AD, preparations began 25 days before Nowruz. Craftsmen and builders of the royal court constructed twelve mud-brick columns and various seeds were sown on top of each column. Each column was symbolic and represented a month. By the time it was Nowruz, the seeds had grown into majestic decorative plants. The king held a public speech in front of a noble audience followed by greetings from the highest priest of the empire. Government officials also greeted the king. Every invited person gave a gift to the king until the sixth day of Nowruz, when members of the royal family visited the royal court. During Nowruz, an official amnesty was put in order for convicts of minor crimes. People throughout the empire celebrated this event for thirteen days.

Even though Nowruz is a celebration of a celestial event, it is deeply rooted in the mythology of the Persians. Nowruz focuses on the philosophical aspects of light conquering darkness, good conquering evil, the warmth of spring conquering the cold winter. According to ancient mythical stories written in the Persian epic Shahnameh, Nowruz was introduced during the reign of the mythical king named Jamshid. Jamshid defeated the evil demons and made them his servants as he captured their treasures and jewels. He then became the ruler of everything on earth except the heavens, while the world was devastated after the war between him and the demons. The trees were dead and had lost all their leaves. Earth had turned into a dark and lifeless place. For reaching the heavens, Jamshid ordered the demons to build him a throne made out of the jewels he had captured. When the throne was finished, he sat on it and commanded the demons to lift him high up into the sky. As he was sitting on his throne, sun rays hit the jewels of his throne and the sky was illuminated with all the world's colors. The rays beaming from Jamshid revived all trees and plants and turned them green and full of leaves. Life on earth began to thrive as Jamshid rose like the sun. People were amazed by the sight of Jamshid and overwhelmed him with even more treasures and jewels. This day of celebration was named Nowruz and it marked the first day of the year. Jamshid later rescued his people from a harsh winter that would have killed all creatures on earth. Mythological survival stories with Jamshid as the main character is considered to be mythical symbols regarding the historical events of when Indo-Iranian Aryans abandoned their neolithic lifestyles as hunters-gatherers and became settlers on the Iranian mainland. Settlements were profoundly dependent on their crops and in turn dependent on the outcome of the seasons. The spring equinox therefore marked an important event in the lives of ancient Iranians.

Traditional Practices Associated with Nowruz

On the night of the last Tuesday and the following morning of the last Wednesday of the year, a fire festival called Chaharshanbe Suri is arranged which translates as the red Wednesday. On this night, seven bonfires are lit and people gather around to jump over each bonfire as they say “my yellowness for you and your redness for me”, metaphorically meaning that one gives their sickness to the fire and receives health and warmth . People also sing and dance while lighting fireworks and eating food.

Prior to Nowruz, Iranian families start the yearly spring cleaning of their homes. This occasion is called khaneh-tekani in Persian, translated as house-shaking. After the household work is finished, the ceremonial Nowruz spread is prepared. This spread is called Haftsin, meaning seven S's . Symbolic items whose names begin with the letter “S” are put on the spread together with other complementary items. The number seven has a sacred meaning in Persian philosophy and permeates many elements of the culture. A description of the symbolic meaning of the seven items follows:

Sabzeh – Sown wheat symbolizes the rebirth of nature.
Samanu – Sweet pudding made of wheat sprouts symbolizes the sweet moments of life.
Sib – Red apple symbolizes beauty.
Senjed – Sweet silver berry symbolizes love.
Sir – Garlic symbolizes health.
Sumaq – The color of this Persian spice symbolizes the color of dawn prior to sunrise and the victory of light over darkness.
Serkeh – Vinegar symbolizes old age and patience.

Among the additional complementary items is either the epic book of Shahnameh, poetry of Hafez or the holy book of Zoroastrianism named Avesta all three symbolizing wisdom, a mirror symbolizing the sky and mindful self-reflection, candles symbolizing the good light and divinity, coins symbolizing wealth, goldfish symbolizing life and the last month of the Persian calendar, hyacinth flowers symbolizing a heavenly scent with the arrival of spring and painted eggs symbolizing fertility and creation.

On 20 or 21 March, all members of the family gather around the Nowruz spread and wait for the moment of the spring equinox which happens at the exact moment the sun crosses the equator of the earth. On this moment, hugs and kisses are shared and gifts are exchanged. Traditional food is prepared and eaten. Instruments are played and the home is full of joy. This year Nowruz is exactly at 5:49am on 20 March.

The Nowruz celebrations ends on the thirteenth day with an event called Sizdeh Bedar meaning the thirteenth outdoors . On this day, families arrange picnics and spend time in parks and in the nature while enjoying the arrival of spring. It is also tradition to bring the sown wheat of the Haftsin and throw it into a river or a lake while making a wish.

Nowruz highlights the fundamental contrasts of good and bad and the appreciation of good thoughts, good words and good deeds which are the holy words of Zoroastrianism. It is an ancient philosophical belief which has shaped the ethics and morals of mankind since the dawn of human civilization. Contrasts makes the world beautiful by allowing man to appreciate life when life itself is given. Nowruz Piruz!

By MAHBOD KHANBOLOUKI - Ancient Origins


SEPANDAR MAZGAN, PERSIAN LOVERS DAY + LOVE STORIES

Sepandar Mazgan is an ancient Iranian/Persian festival with Zoroastrian roots, the day for celebrating love, friendship and earth in the ancient Iranian culture. Dating back to the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian Empire. This festival is widely known as the Iranian Day of Love, although it is celebrated in its neighboring countries as well as Afghanistan and Tajikistan. According to Iranian tradition, the day of Sepandar Mazgan was held in the Great Persian Empire in the 20th century BC .

This day is registered on Bahman 29th in the Iranian Calendar, only 3 days After Valentine. The original Esfandegan (Sepandar Mazgan) was on the 5th day of Esfand equals to 23rd of February but some scholars believe it is on 29th of Bahaman or 17th of February. So why two dates for a single day? This 6 day gap refers to calculations of the modern Iranian Solar year which is 365.25 days and the months are not fixed 30 days. So this scholars decided to make corrections in the calendar and preponed Esfandegan to 6 days earlier. These corrections have caused bewilderment among people who like to retrieve this old tradition.

History of Sepandar Mazgan

Persians have a rich culture with many great feasts based on natural occasions that have been mixed up with happiness & joy. In the feast of Sepandar Mazgan , Earth was worshiped and women venerated. On this day, Women and girls sat on the throne and men and boys had to obey them and bring them presents and gifts. In this way, men were reminded to acclaim and respect women. Also Sepandarmaz is Earth Guardian Angel. It is the symbol of humbleness, it means modest toward the entire creation. These are the qualities attributed to Earth that spreads beneath our feet, thus the symbol of modesty and love.

As human beings, there are creatures that we find unpleasant and repulsive, but Earth is not like us. She embraces all creatures the same and loves them the same; like a mother who loves all children alike, even when they are ugly. In our ancient culture, mother is symbolized by Sepandarmaz or earth. Have you ever seen a Love more sacred than Mother’s Love to children?

Iran’s Famous Love Stories

Leyli & Majnun

Layla and Majnun is a classic story of love most notably expressed by the great poets Nizami Ganjavi and Muhammad Fuzuli. It has been presented in many Middle Eastern and sub-continental cultures; Muslim, Sufi, Hindu, and secular. Layla and Qays, are in love from childhood but are not allowed to unite. Qays (called Majnun, which means “possessed”) is perceived to be mad in his obsession with Layla. Layla is married off to another and Majnun becomes a hermit, devoting himself to writing verses about his profound love of Layla. Although they attempt to meet, they die without ever realizing a relationship.

Shirin & Farhad

These two illustrations feature scenes from the story of Shirin and Farhad. Their tragic love story is well known today, from Turkey to India and is especially popular in Iran. The encounter between Shirin and Farhad is part of a longer and much more tragic love story of Shirin and Khusrow. Farhad, was a humble engineer, artist and craftsmen famed for his skill at carving rock, who served Shirin, the Queen of Armenia. Farhad fell in love with Shirin.

In order to dissuade Farhad from his love for Shirin, Khusrow set him the impossible task of carving a tunnel through Mount Behistun. Before starting this arduous task, Farhad carved the likeness of Shirin into the rock face. Farhad’s story does not end well. He is tricked by Khusrow into believing that Shirin has died, after which he kills himself using the tools that he had used to carve her very image into the rock.


11 Reasons Why You'll Fall in Love With Iran's People

In recent years, tourists have been coming to Iran in droves to witness the breathtaking mosques, ancient history, and untouched nature. But time and time again, they’ll tell you that it’s by and large the people that leave the most lasting impression. Here are 11 reasons why you’ll fall in love with Iran’s locals.

They’ll take you under their wing

Iranians have the need to make anyone, from close friends to total strangers, feel comfortable. When a person is traveling to another city, one of their friends will inevitably have a relative or acquaintance there who will be entrusted with the duty of taking care of said person. This rings even more true when it comes to foreigners, particularly solo travelers and even more so for females. As long as you are visiting their city, Iranians feel a sense of responsibility for your wellbeing, and it’s not uncommon for families to “adopt” you during your stay.

Their hospitality is the stuff of legend

Imagine being offered accommodations with a local you’ve just met. Or being invited to a stranger’s wedding only to be treated as the VIP. That’s Iranian hospitality, a centuries-old tradition that has only intensified in recent years. It’s even reflected in the Persian language with phrases like ghadamet ru cheshm, literally “your footstep on my eye”. You are such a honored guest that you may step on my eye as you make your entrance – that’s how welcome you are! It’s truly inspiring.

They have a deep love of poetry

If there were ever a poetry battle, Iran would be a serious contender. A country that proudly proclaims the likes of Hafez and Sa’adi as its own and counts the many poets’ mausoleums as among the must-see sites is clearly rooted in poetry. And not only is there an original poet hidden within the depths of every Iranian soul, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who couldn’t recite at least a few verses from the masters by heart, a skill that comes in handy seeing as Iranians tend to solve their everyday problems by uttering a line of poetry.

They have a playful sense of humor

Mass media seems to have a fondness of depicting Iranians as an austere, humorless bunch in drab clothing, but that’s a terrible misconception. The truth is that Iranians have a razor-sharp, quick wit and are ready to turn absolutely anything into the butt of a joke. Satire and puns rank especially high on the list of beloved forms of humor. You will be pleasantly surprised.

They are friendly

And it’s not just with foreigners. Iranians will strike up a conversation with the neighboring person while standing in line at the bakery, waiting in an office, sitting in a taxi, and virtually any other scenario you can think of. Not only that, conversations tend to get pretty personal pretty quickly. But Iranians don’t mind, and besides, you might just end up finding your next best friend.

They live in the moment

A common Persian proverb says that the world is two days, of course meaning life is short, and it’s a phrase that Iranians take to heart. In many parts of the world, people eat on the go and refrain from making midweek social plans. Iranians, however, do not subscribe to this school of thought. Whether it is taking a few minutes to enjoy a cup of freshly brewed tea with friends, a midweek birthday party, or a quick day escape to the Caspian Sea, Iranians enjoy the moment because there’s no telling what tomorrow will bring.

They have a strong sense of family

Iran has an extremely family-oriented culture. Children stay at home until marriage, and even then, many extended families will live in the same apartment building on separate floors. Weekends are reserved for family time, and “alone time” is a foreign concept. This outpouring of love extends beyond kin, though, as anyone who has befriended or dated an Iranian will tell you, whether you’re just passing through or here to stay, they quickly take you in as one of their own.

They’re generous

We’re all familiar with the expression ‘what’s mine is yours’, but dial it up a few notches, and that’s the level Iranians are at. They’ll give you the very best of what they have even if it means that they are left with nearly nothing. What’s even more heartwarming is that they don’t expect anything in return. And when it comes to paying, there’s always an argument as to who will foot the bill. If you’re a foreign tourist, good luck winning that battle.

They’re incredibly diverse

If you travel all four corners of Iran, you’re bound to reconsider who you thought Iranians were. The majority are ethnically Persian, Persian is the official language, and Islam the official religion, but you’ll soon discover a multitude of other ethnicities, languages, and religions, each with its own unique traditions and culture, that co-exist. Perhaps greatest of all is that no matter their background, when all is said and done, the people are fiercely united in support of their home country.

They are resilient

Iran has spent many years isolated from the world under the burden of sanctions placed to cripple the economy and businesses. But it was precisely these sanctions that unintentionally made Iranians self-sufficient, forcing them to meet their own demands using domestic resources. And nowhere is this better illustrated than Iran’s booming tech industry. It’s their admirable spirit of resilience that has allowed them to not only survive through decades of adversity, but thrive.

They’re extremely creative and artistic

Art has a long history in Iran, a country that seems to have always been concerned with aesthetic beauty, as evidenced by the exquisite architecture and lush gardens. A quick stroll through the bazaar will bring you face to face with skilled artisans crafting their work with the utmost love and respect. Artists are even fusing the traditional with the modern to create truly unique pieces. In the realm of visual and performing arts, which face some limitations, it’s the people’s ability to work within the confines of these restrictions that has allowed them to hone their skills, rendering them even more creative, a rather laudable feat.

Article by Pontia Fallahi - Culture Trip


Ancient Persian Inscriptions Link a Babylonian King to the Man Who Became Buddha

Dramatic evidence has revealed the presence of Siddhartha Gautama, the man who became Buddha, as far west as Persia. Family seals and records found at Persepolis, the ancient capital of the fourth Persian Emperor, Darius the Great, have been identified and associated with the names of Siddhartha Gautama and his father, Suddhodana Gautama.

The Persepolis Seals identified royals and other important personages within the Persian ruling sphere. Guatama was the name of the royal family of the Saka kingdom.

Analysis of Seals PFS 79, PFS 796 and PF 250 found among the collection of important seals in Persepolis, the Persian capital of Emperor Darius I, are purported to be the Gautama family according to an interpretation by Dr. Ranajit Pal ( The Dawn of Religions in Afghanistan-Seistan-Gandhara and the Personal Seals of Gotama Buddha and Zoroaster, published in Mithras Reader: An Academic and Religious Journal of Greek, Roman and Persian Studies. Vol. III, London, 2010, pg. 62).

The family crest bore the etching of a crown-headed king flanked by two totems, each a standing bird-headed winged lion. The Seal of Sedda depiction of a Sramana (Persepolis Seal PFS 79), a Lion-Sun shaman, is based on information gathered from a number of other seals the name refers to Sedda Arta (Siddhartha), i.e., Siddha (Liberator of) and Arta (Universal Truth).

The twin guardians each had the body of lion and the head and wings of a mythic sunbird (i.e., Egyptian Sun-bearing falcon). The lion and falcon-gryphon motifs represented a pair of Sramana shamans. Therefore, the family seal associated with Gautama, described a royal person of the Arya-Vedic tradition.

A similar image of Buddhist iconography shows a Buddha seated on a “lion-throne” under a bejeweled tree with cosmic aides at his side. The Buddhist montage declares his enlightenment under the cosmic Sacred Tree of Illumination.

What would the family crest of the Gautama family be doing in Persia? Was Siddhartha Gautama connected to the Persian Empire?

The inscriptions of Darius the Great (Per. Darayavaush), the Persian emperor for thirty-five years, boast that the Zoroastrian God Assura Mazda (Per. Ahura Mazda ) chose him to take the throne (in 522 BCE) from a usurper named “Gaumâta.” Darius shrouds the short-lived reign of his predecessor in a power struggle involving deceit, conspiracy, murder, and the prize of the Persian throne. He characterizes “Gaumâta” as an opportunist who illegally grabbed the throne in Babylon while the sitting Persian Emperor Kambujiya was away in Egypt.

Written in Cuneiform Script on tablets at Mount Bisutun (aka Behistun) in three different languages: Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian (a form of Akkadian), the Bisutun Inscriptions may have echoed the name of Siddhartha Gautama, the man who became the Buddha, in the name of a little known King of Babylon.

The inscriptions refer to a religious figure named “Gaumâta,” from whom the Achaemenid Persian Emperor, Darius the Great, seized the throne in Babylon. Darius painted “Gaumâta” an imposter and illegal ruler, although the description does not seem to fit the highly educated and beloved leader. Darius identified him as a Magi (practitioner of esoteric knowledge), and sardonically labeled him as a “stargazer.” If the name “Gaumâta” referred to Siddhartha Gautama, this reference would mean that he held a key leadership position in the Magi Order. Moreover, as the headquarters of the Magi was in the temple complex of Esagila, home of the ziggurat tower dubbed “House of the Raised Head,” the designation of “stargazer” suggests that Gautama was involved with Babylon’s star observatory.

Could it be that Siddhartha Gautama was the mysterious King “Gaumâta”?

The name “Gaumâta” appears to be a variant of Gautama, the Buddha’s family name. In the ancient multilingual land of Babylonia, multiple names and titles with spelling variations referring to the same person were common.

Does evidence of the Babylonian Magi Order’s influences appear in Buddhist literature? Could we discover Mesopotamian references in the Buddhist scriptures?

The earliest mathematical systems, astronomical measurements, and mythological literature were initiated in the ziggurat tower-temples of the Fertile Crescent by the cultures of Sumer/Akkad and Amorite Babylonia. Both Magi and Vedic seers furthered knowledge of a cosmic infrastructure, well known in the Buddha’s time from the Tigris to the Ganges. Discovering this connection in the Buddhist sutras would challenge the prevailing view that Buddhism was born and developed in isolation exclusively in India. Although the oral legacy of the sutras were assembled and recorded later in India, a Babylonian finding would have major implications regarding the origin, influences, and intentions of the Buddha.

Described as a compassionate philosopher-cosmologist “Gaumâta” decreed freedom for slaves, lowered oppressive taxes across the board, and inspired neighbors to respect one another in a city known for its diverse ethnic groups and many languages. His espousal of liberty, human rights, and generosity supports the thesis that “Gaumâta” and Gautama were one and the same person.

Darius, a military strongman, and a member of the Achaemenid family, prepared for his coup with a propaganda campaign designed to legitimize his overthrow of “Gaumâta.” In his public inscription he referred to his cohorts as witnesses who would confirm the killing of the usurper.

While his story appears to be full of cunning deceptions, the real behind the scenes story of this episode has remained elusive to history. Certainly as Darius had good reason to write history in his own self-interest, what happened has gone undetected for thousands of years because historians know little to nothing about “Gaumâta.”

Of course, if “Gaumâta” was really Siddhartha Gautama, this assassination had to be a lie, because he did go on to become the Buddha. Either someone else was murdered in the name of “Gaumâta,” or Darius shrewdly produced a disinformation campaign designed to cover up what really happened. With the “death of the imposter” the new emperor wanted to send a message to supporters of “Gaumâta” that he would not tolerate rebellions and suppressed any hope for the return of this popular leader. But in the wake of the coup nineteen rebellions arose throughout the empire. It would take Darius more than a year of brutal military action to crush the liberation-minded communities inspired by “Gaumâta.”

The above article is an extract from ‘ The Buddha from Babylon: The Lost History and Cosmic Vision of Siddhartha Gautama ’ by Harvey Kraft


Persian Love Cake - By YASMIN KHAN

Total Time: 1 HR Serves : One 8-inch Cake

 

“This enchanting cake reminds me of a Persian garden in the late spring, adorned with the floral scent of rose water and citrus, and decorated with bright green pistachios,” says cookbook author and blogger Yasmin Khan. “If it is not devoured in one sitting, the oil in the ground almond base ensures a moist, densely textured cake that will keep well for a couple of days, covered in foil. A sprinkling of dried rose petals looks ever so pretty for special occasions, but don’t worry if you can’t get hold of any. It’s still a cake to win hearts.” Slideshow: More Cake Recipes

Ingredients

CAKE:
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
4 large eggs
12 cardamom pods
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 3/4 cups almond flour
Zest of 1 lemon plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons rose water
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of fine sea salt

ICING:
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Chopped pistachios and dried rose petals (optional), for garnish

How to Make It

Step 1
Make the cake Preheat the oven to 320°F and grease an 8-inch spring form pan and line it with parchment paper.

Step 2
In a large mixing bowl and using a hand mixer, beat the butter and 2/3 cup of the sugar until fluffy. Then beat in the eggs 1 at a time until incorporated.

Step 3
In a mortar and using a pestle, crack the cardamom pods to release the seeds. Discard the pods and grind the seeds to a fine powder. Beat them to the cake batter, along with the flour, almond flour, lemon zest, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the rose water, baking powder and salt until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a baking rack and let cool slightly.

Step 4
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon of rose water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Poke holes all over the cake and pour the warm syrup over the cake. Let the cake cool completely, then remove from the pan and transfer to a cake platter.

Step
Step 5
Make the icing Wisk the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of cold water until smooth. Spoon the icing over the cake and garnish with pistachios and rose petals, if using; serve.

ENJOY!


The 1,500-Year-Old Love Story Between a Persian Prince and a Korean Princess that Could Rewrite History

More than a thousand years before the first European explorer reached Korea’s shores, the Persian Empire was writing love stories about Korean princesses. It’s a little-known story that could change the way we see our history. Recently, historians took a second look an old Persian epic written around 500 AD and realized that, at the center of the tale, was the unusual story of a Persian prince marrying a Korean princess.

It’s an incredible discovery. Up until recently, we weren’t sure that the Persians of that time even knew Korea existed. This new revelation shows Persia didn’t just make contact with Korea – these countries were intimately connected. And it might just call for a total rewrite of history. The story is called the Kushnameh, and, in itself, it’s hardly a new discovery. It’s one of the most popular stories to come out of the Persian Empire, one that’s been told and retold countless times in the 1,500 years since it was written.

The Kushmaneh is a massive, epic poem about an evil creature with elephant tusks named Kus who terrorizes a Persian family throughout the generations. The whole story spans across hundreds of years and thousands of lines of poetry – but the really interesting part is somewhere around the middle. There, the author sat down and dedicated an incredible 1,000 lines of poetic verse to describing life in Korea during the Silla dynasty.

Korea comes into play when the story starts to focus on a young, noble prince of Persia named Abtin. For his whole life, Abtin has been forced to live in the woods, hiding from the evil Kus the Tusked. He has only one thing to keep him safe: a magic book that tells him his future. It’s almost like breaking the fourth wall – Abtin has a copy of the book we’re reading, and he’s not above flipping ahead a few pages to see how it all ends. In fact, that’s just what he does. He reads the next chapter and finds out that he’s supposed to go to the Silla kingdom of Korea, and – after briefly getting confused and going to China – he winds up being welcomed with open arms by the king of Silla.

From here, the story is just page after page of lavish descriptions of how beautiful Korea is. Admittedly, some of it seems a little over-the-top. It says, for example, that Korea is so overflowing with gold that even the dogs are kept on golden leashes. But on the whole, the description is so accurate that modern historians are sure the author must have visited it himself .Abtin is mesmerized by the beauty of the country, and, soon after, by the beauty of its princess Frarang. He falls madly in love with Korean princess, begs the king for her hand in marriage, and she soon becomes his wife and the mother of his firstborn son.

It’s unlikely that any of this really happened, of course. For one thing, there’s limited evidence that Persia spent 1,500 years being terrorized by an immortal monster with elephant tusks, and even less that any early Persian princes had magic books that could tell them the future. But the symbolism of having a Persian prince take refuge in Korea and fall in love with a Korean princess is undeniable. This is hard proof that Persians didn’t just know about Korea 1,500 years ago; they had a deep, profound admiration for their nation.

What happens next, though, is what makes it a really big deal. Frarang’s son isn’t just a minor character. His birth is a turning point in the whole story. The fully Persian prince spends his whole life in hiding and, when he finally returns to his homeland, ends up getting killed by Kus’s men. But it’s his half-Korean son who turns things around. Frarang and Abtin’s son ends up raising up an army and leading the revolt against Kus. For centuries, in this story, Persia gets tormented by an evil, tusked monster. It’s only under the command of a half-Korean boy and his mother that Persia finally wins its freedom.

For 1,500 years, people have been reading this story without any idea what they were looking at. For a long time, we assumed that the story was just about China. In the story, the Korean Silla kingdom is referred to as “Chin”, a name that could refer to either China or Korea. It’s even a plot point in the story, in fact. At first, Abtin, like most historians, misreads the “Chin” in his magic future-telling book and thinks he’s supposed to go to China. And, just like modern historians, it takes him years before he realizes that it’s actually talking about Korea.

Recently, though, historians have taken a look at those descriptions again and realized just how perfectly they really do match up with Korea . The descriptions in this book don’t sound anything like China, but they’re a perfect, vivid description of 6 th-century Korea – a place where, believe it or not, they really did keep their dogs on leashes of pure gold. This really might completely change the way we see history. For a long time, Korea has seemed an isolated, distant place from the Western world; but this story suggests that the east and west may not have been so disconnected after all.

It took until 1653 before the first European explorer reached Korea. That’s more than 1,100 years after Kushnama was written. We’ve always known that Persia had some kind of contact with Korea. They were both a part of the Silk Road, and we’ve known for some time that Persian goods somehow ended up in Korea. Generally, though, it was assumed that they were just part of a bigger trade network. In this story, though, Korea isn’t a trade partner. They’re a trusted ally, and they’re so important to the Persians that they literally can’t overcome evil until they trust the leadership of a half-Korean, half-Persian prince. It’s an incredibly symbolic marriage of cultures.

It puts other relics under a new light, as well. In an ancient tomb in Gyeong-Ju, for example, there is an old monument to a Korean war hero who looks an awful lot more like a Persian soldier than a Korean one. Now, some people are starting to wonder if this might really be the monument to a forgotten Persian hero who fought for Korea. There’s no telling how far this could go. It could change everything about how we see the history of these countries. After all, this is far more than a love story between two people. It’s a love story between two nations.

By Mark Oliver - Ancient Origins


Birds and Cintamani

(Fiction - By Karel Capek, 1929)

Now, you know, once a fellow gets it into his head that he wants something, he can’t get it out again. And when he’s a collector, he won’t even stop short of murder if necessary. That’s what makes collecting a truly epic pursuit.

Ehem, said Doctor Vitasek. I know a thing or two about Persian carpets, Mrs. Taussig, and I can tell you, they’re not what they used to be. Today those idlers in the orient aren’t going to put themselves to the trouble of dying wool with insect reds, with blues from indigo plants, or with extracting yellow from saffron, much less to working with camel urine and wood extracts to get any of the other noble organic colors. Not even the wool is what it used to be. And, if I start talking about patterns and motifs, well, that’s enough to make anyone weep. It’s all lost, all that art of the Persian carpet. It is only the old pieces, the ones made before the 1870s, that have any value now, and you can only manage to buy one of them when some old family which has been passing one down, generation by generation, lets it go for what they call “family reasons,” as they like to term their debts. Listen, once I was visiting Rozemberg castle and there I saw a genuine Transylvanian – one of those little prayer carpets the Turks were weaving in the 17th century when they were conquering everything. All over the castle there were tourists stamping around in hobnail boots -- all around that carpet! – and not one of them had the slightest idea of how valuable it was – now, isn’t that enough to make you cry? But do you know the strangest thing of all? One of the world’s most priceless rugs happens to be right here in Prague, and nobody even knows it exists!

It’s true. I know all the carpet merchants in our country, and sometimes I go around to see what they have in stock. You know, sometimes the agents in Anatolia and Persia get hold of an antique piece that’s been stolen from a mosque or somewhere, and they wrap it up inside some cheap material priced by the meter and then they sell the whole bundle, no matter what’s inside, by weight alone to slip it past customs. And I start thinking to myself, what if they’ve wrapped up a Bergama! That’s why, sometimes, I just drop in on carpet seller here or there, sit down on a mountain of carpets, have a smoke, and just watch how he sells his rugs – just like he's selling sacks of coffee – all the Bucharas, Sarouks, Tabrizes. And now and then I’ll just look down and say, so what have you got down here, this gold one? And, what do you know, it’s a Hamadan! And that was how I once dropped in on a certain Madame Severynova, who keeps a little courtyard shop in Old Town and who sometimes has some fine Karamans and kilims. She’s a round, jolly lady, very talkative, and she has a poodle so fat it makes you ill. You know, one of those pudgy mutts which are so testy and asthmatic and bark so crossly – I can’t say I like them much. Listen, have you ever in your life seen a young poodle? I haven’t and I’d even argue that every poodle, like every police inspector, accountant, and tax collector, is born old, it’s like they don’t even belong to the dog species! Still, I wanted to keep good relations with Mrs. Severynova, so I always sat in the same corner where Amina the fat poodle was wheezing and snoring on a big, folded-up carpet and I would scratch her back – that, at least, was something Amina liked. And one time I said, Mrs. Severynova, these must be bad goods that I’m sitting on, they haven’t sold for three years. And she said, that’s nothing. That carpet over there has been lying in the corner a good ten years, and it’s not even my carpet. Oh, I said, you mean it’s Amina’s now? And she smiled and said, not at all, it belongs to a certain lady who has no room for it in her home and so she keeps it here. It’s in my way but at least it’s something Amina can sleep on. Isn’t that right Amina, dear?

It was at that moment that I reached out my hand and lifted up the edge of what Amina was lying on, even though she immediately started snarling. So what kind of old carpet is it, I asked, can’t I have a look? Why not, Madame Severynova said, and she grabbed up Amina in her arms. Come on, Amina, sweetie, he’s only looking. But Amina growled again. Stop it Amina, she ordered. Quiet down, you silly thing.

All that time, I was staring at the carpet and my heart almost stopped beating. It was a white Anatolian, from around the 17th century, and worn through in places. But it was one of those antique bird carpets, one of those white Anatolians that are decorated either with a field of birds or with a field of Qintamani , but never both together. That's the rule, to keep separate the sacred from the profane -- because they say the Qintamani, that triangle of three dots floating on two wavy lines, is a religious symbol that goes right back to the Buddhist times of Central Asia. But on this carpet, I know it sounds impossible, there were BOTH birds and Qintamani at the same time! The whole thing gave off a feeling of something powerful, of a miracle or, at the very least, of something utterly forbidden ... whatever it was, I can tell you, this piece was an extraordinary rarity! And it was at least five by six meters in size, a beautiful white shade, with turquoise blue, cherry red ... I went to stand by the window so Madame Severynova would not see the expression on my face. And then I said, as casually as I could: what an old rag, Madame Severynova, it must really be in your way. You know, I could take it off your hands, since you don’t really have space for it here.

That’s going to be difficult, Madame Severynova replied. This carpet is not for sale, and the lady who owns it is always traveling, she’s in Meran or Nice, and I don’t even know when she is home. But I'll try to ask her. Oh, would you be so kind, I said as disinterestedly as I could, and I went home. Just so you know, it’s a point of honor for a collector to get something rare and valuable for just a song. I know one very esteemed and wealthy man who collects books, for example. He can pay several thousand dollars for a collectible without the slightest show of emotion. But whenever he is able to wrangle a first edition copy of the works of the poet Joseph Krasoslav Chmelensky from some rag picker for a just a few cents, he jumps for joy. That’s the kind of sport it is -- like hunting that most elusive of deer, the alpine chamois. And all that is how I got it into my head that I had to have that carpet very cheaply and that afterward I would bequeath it to a museum, because something so rare really doesn’t belong to anyone. Only I did want one thing out of it: a little memorial plaque with the inscription ‘the gift of Doctor Vitasek.' After all, doesn’t everyone have some ambition?

But I’ll admit, my head was spinning. It took all my efforts to keep myself in check and not run back to that shop the very next day to ask again about the Qintamani with birds. I couldn’t think of anything else. But every day I told myself, just hang on for one more day. I was putting myself through hell, but sometimes people love to torture themselves. And then suddenly – even worse – after about two weeks a horrible thought hit me, what if someone else discovered that bird carpet? And then I flew over to Madame Severynova. I literally burst through her door.

What on earth’s going on? the surprised lady asked me. But I replied, as casually as I could, that I just happened to be in the area and remembered about that old white carpet. Would the owner sell it? Madame Severynova shook her head. What do I know, she said, she’s is in Biarritz now and no-one knows when she will return. Meanwhile, I was trying to steal a look, is the carpet still there, and sure enough it was, with Amina lying on it, fatter and more scabious than ever, waiting for me to come scratch her back.

Sometime later, I had to make a trip to London, and as soon as I arrived I dropped in on Mr. Keith, you know, the Sir Douglas Keith who is today one of the greatest experts on oriental carpets. My good sir, I said to him, what value would you assign a white Anatolian with a Qintamani and bird design, with a size that exceeds a full five by six meters square? And Sir Douglas just stared at me though his thick glasses and then, almost in a fit of anger, blurted out, "Why nothing, my man!" "What do you mean? I asked dumbfounded. Why on earth would it be worth nothing?" And Sir Douglas was almost shrieking now: "Because the carpet you describe cannot possibly exist in that size! Dear fellow, you must know that the largest Qintamani and bird carpet that I have ever seen barely measures three by five meters!" I admit, I had to blush with joy. And now it was my turn: My dear man," I said, "let’s just imagine such a piece of that size did exist, what would be its price?" "But, I’ve already told you, nothing," Mr. Keith cried out again, "because that piece you describe would be absolutely unique and how can you put a value on something that’s unique? It could as well be worth 1,000 pounds as 10,000, how would one know? In any case, such a carpet does not exist, Good day, Sir!"

You can imagine in what a mood I returned home. Good God, I had to have this rug with the Qintamani now! What a catch it would be for any museum! And now, just imagine my situation. I couldn’t just go and beg for it, because that would not be sporting for a collector. And Madame Severynova had no particular interest in selling this old rag when it was so dear to her Amina. And that cursed woman who owned the carpet was always in motion, from one health spa to another, from Meran to Ostend, from Baden to Vichy – that woman must have had a whole medical catalogue of symptoms at home to inspire her and keep her in perpetual movement.

By this time, I was going about once every fortnight to Madame Severynova’s shop just to peek in and make sure that carpet with all its birds was still in its corner, as well as to rub down that odious Amina until she whimpered with joy. And just so that all this didn’t become too noticeable, each time I went I also purchased a little carpet. Certainly, I already had at home more than enough Shirazes, Shirvans, Mosuls, Kabristans, and all kinds of other by-the-meter stuff – and I even had a classic Derbent that you wouldn’t exactly find every day plus one beautiful antique blue Khorosan. But what I experienced for two years trying to get this Qintamani, well only a collector would understand. You know, the agony of love is nothing compared to the agony of collecting, and the only thing that is really strange is that, as far as I know, no collector yet has taken his own life. Instead, most live to ripe old ages. So, at least it must be a healthy passion.

One day Madame Severynova suddenly said to me: you know, Mrs. Zanelli, who owns that carpet, she was here. And I told her I might have a buyer for her white elephant that’s been cluttering things up so long. And she said, she wouldn’t think of it, it’s a family heirloom, and I should just leave it right where it is.

That is when I decided to run over to see that Mrs. Zanelli myself. But if I thought she was going to be a lady of the haut monde, well, in fact she was one of those nasty grannies with a purple nose, a wig, and some kind of strange tick, so that her mouth was constantly twitching up her left cheek all the way up to her ear. Your Grace, I said -- and all the time I couldn’t stop looking at how her mouth was dancing up her cheek -- I would be prepared to purchase that white carpet of yours; even though it is a poor specimen, it would go nicely in my ... my foyer, you know. And as I paused for her reply, I had the strange sensation that my own mouth was beginning to jerk and jump up on the left side. Whether her tick was infectious, or whether it was from excitement, I don’t know, but I couldn’t stop mine either.

How dare you! That dreadful woman squealed. Go! Go this instant! That carpet is a family heirloom ... from Grand Papa. If you don’t leave, I’ll call the police. I don’t sell carpets, here. I am a Zanelli! Hail Mary, let this man be gone! Listen, I ran down the stairwell from her apartment like a little boy, my eyes burning with sorrow and rage, what else could I do? For another whole year, I went by Madame Severynova’s and during that time Amina learned to grunt, she was already as fat as a sow and almost completely bald. Then, finally, after a year had passed, Mrs. Zanelli returned to town once more. This time I surrendered and did something of which, as a collector, I shall be ashamed of to the day I die. I sent my friend to see her, the lawyer Mr. Bimbal – he’s one of those kindly, whiskered fellows who inspires unbounded confidence among the ladies. My thought was that this sensitive soul could persuade Madame to part with her bird carpet for some reasonable amount of money. In the meantime, I waited downstairs, as excited as a fiancé waiting for an answer from his beloved. Three hours later, out came Bimbal, wiping the perspiration off his cheeks. You scoundrel, he hissed at me, I’ll throttle you! How did I ever agree to suffer three hours of listening to the entire family history of the Zanellis? And just so you know, he shouted, you’re never going to get that carpet! Seventeen Zanellis, all buried in Olsansky cemetery, would spin in their graves if their family relic went to a museum. Jesus and Mary, you owe me! And with that he left me.

Now you know once a fellow gets it into his head that he wants something, he can’t get it out again. And when he’s a collector, he won’t even stop short of murder if necessary. That’s what makes collecting a truly epic pursuit. And that is how I decided that I would simply have to steal that carpet with the Qintamani and birds. First, I staked out the surroundings, and I learned that the entranceway to the courtyard that housed Madame Severynova’s shop did not get locked up at until nine at night. And that was good, because I didn’t want to use a crowbar when I didn’t even know how to. From the entranceway, you could slip into a cellar where a fellow could hide until they closed up the whole place. Inside the courtyard, there was also a little overhang, and if you could get up onto the roof of that you could climb over to the neighboring courtyard, which belonged to a pub, and from there you could easily make your getaway to the street again unnoticed. It all looked quite easy, the only problem was how to actually break into the shop. For this, I bought a diamond, and at home I started practicing how to carve through glass windows.

Now please, don’t think that stealing is some simpleton’s business. I can tell you firsthand that it’s harder than operating on someone’s prostate or pulling out his kidney. The first thing is that nobody must see what you are doing. And the second thing, which is tied to that, is that there is plenty of waiting and other inconvenience. And the third thing is lots of uncertainty, you never know what might happen. I can tell you, this is a tough and underpaid profession. If I ever catch a burglar in my own apartment, I will take him by the hand and tell him gently, my man, why are you going to all this trouble? There are plenty of other, much easier ways to part people from their money.

I really don’t know how other people steal, but my own experiences aren’t very favorable. On the critical evening, as they say, I slipped into the courtyard in question and hid myself midway down the stairs leading to the cellar. At least that’s how you might describe it in a police report; in reality, it looked more like this: for a half-an-hour I loafed about in the rain near the entranceway, probably very conspicuously. Finally, I decided in desperation, a bit like someone decides to go and have a tooth pulled, to come out of my hiding place and then, straightaway, I nearly ran into a servant girl who was going out to the pub next door to fetch some beer. To calm her down, I muttered something endearing, like ‘you little rosebud,’ or ‘nice kitten,’ or something like that, and this had the unfortunate effect of startling her so badly that she took to her heels. I ran back down into the stairwell to hide, but those slovenly people in the building had put a trashcan full of ashes or some other rubbish where it was right in the way; so that the main event of my stakeout was the huge racket the trashcan made as it crashed over. At that moment, the servant girl returned with her order of beer and began shouting almost hysterically to the doorkeeper that some stranger had crept into the building. Fortunately, this stalwart fellow didn’t let himself be disturbed and announced loudly that it must be some drunk who had gotten lost going out of the pub. A quarter-of-an hour after that, spitting and yawning, the fellow locked up the courtyard door and all was quiet except for, somewhere up above, loud and lonely, the servant girl hiccupping. It’s strange how loudly some of these girls can hiccup; maybe it’s out of homesickness, who knows? I was starting to get cold and, besides that, the stairwell smelled sour and moldy; I groped around and found everything I touched was slimy. Then, oh my God!, I realized that our respected Dr. Vitasek, the specialist in diseases of the kidney and urinary tract, had just put his esteemed fingerprints all over the place. By the time I thought it must surely be midnight, it still was just barely 10 o’clock. I had firmly resolved that I wouldn’t begin my cat-burglary until midnight but by 11 o’clock I couldn’t hold out any longer and I set off to steal. You wouldn’t believe how much noise a man can make when he starts creeping around in the dark but, somehow, the whole house remained blessedly asleep. Finally, I got to the window I was aiming for and with a horribly loud scraping sound I began to cut the glass.

Suddenly, there was an explosion of barking. Jesus and Mary, Amina was in there!

Amina, I whispered, you monster, keep quiet, I’m only coming to scratch your back. But you can’t conceive how hard it is, in pitch blackness, to manipulate a tiny diamond so that it cuts twice in the same groove. Instead, mine was slipping all over the pane and it seemed to be making no progress until, all at once, I pressed a little harder and the whole glass shattered. Now everybody’s going to come running, I thought, and I looked around desperately for somewhere to hide. But, amazingly, nothing happened. Then I began to grow a lot calmer, to the point finally that I simply smashed in the next glass pane and opened the window. Inside, Amina was still letting out a half-hearted bark every now and then, but it was clear that she was only pretending to fulfill her duty. I crawled through the window and rushed over to that abominable creature. Amina, I half cooed, half hissed, where’s that damn back of yours? My love, it’s your dear friend! You monster, you like this, don’t you?

Amina squirmed with delight, that is if an overstuffed sack can be said to squirm. So, I whispered to her in a very friendly way, alright, you wretch give to me. And I tried to pull that priceless carpet out from under her. But now Amina must have suddenly understood I was talking about HER property. She started growling; it wasn’t barking it was really growling. Jesus and Mary, Amina, I said to her quickly, be quiet you beast. Just wait a second, I’ll make you a bed of something much better. And rip! I pulled down a dreadful, shiny Kirman which Madame Severynova kept hanging on the wall and which she considered the rarest piece in her shop. Look, Amina, I whispered, now here’s something to really sleep on. Amina looked at me with interest but just as soon as I stretched out my hand for her carpet there was another growl so loud it could be heard clear across town. There was nothing to do but start scratching that monster again, this time with a special, luxurious rubdown that put her into ecstasy. Then I grabbed her up in my arms. But as soon as I reached for that white, one-of-a-kind Qintamini and Birds, she gave off an asthmatic wheeze and then, I swear, began cursing me. By God, you monster, I said, almost beside myself, I’m going to have to murder you!

Now listen, I don’t understand this myself. I looked down at that vile, fat, repulsive thing with the wildest hatred I have ever felt, but I couldn’t bring myself to act. I had a good knife, I had a belt around my waist, I could have cut that monster’s throat or I could have strangled it, but ... instead I just sat down next to her on that divine carpet and scratched behind her ears. You coward, I muttered to myself, with just one motion, maybe two, she would be out of the way; you’ve operated on so many people and seen so many of them off, in agony and in pain, why can’t you dispatch a poor, simple dog? I gnashed my teeth, trying to work myself up to it but in the end I just broke down in tears, maybe out of shame. And Amina just whimpered happily and licked my face.

You miserable, swinish, good for nothing carcass! I patted her mangy back and then I crawled back out the window. You could call it a strategic retreat, or a complete rout. My escape plan had been to hop up on the roof of the shed and use that to get over to the adjoining yard and then out through the pub, but I didn’t have an ounce of strength left, or maybe the roof was just higher than I’d originally thought. So, I slipped back down that stairwell leading to the cellar and stayed there till dawn, half-dead with exhaustion. What I fool I am! I could have slept comfortably in the shop on top of all those carpets, but it didn’t occur to me. At daybreak I heard the portiere opening up the gate. I waited a moment and then I headed out. The doorkeeper was still there, lingering in the entryway, and when he saw a stranger slipping out past him he was so surprised he forgot even to make a fuss.

A couple of days later I visited Madame Severynova. Bars had been put on the windows of her shop but otherwise everything was as before. That dreadful toad of a dog was wallowing all over the holy Qintamini and when she spotted me she started wagging that fat sausage that is politely called her tail. My dear Sir, Madame Severynova beamed at me, just look at our priceless Amina, she’s worth every bit of her weight in gold. A treasure! Do you know that the other night some thief crept through the window and Amina chased him off? I wouldn’t give her up for anything in the world. But she likes you, doesn’t she, Sir? You know an honest gentleman when you see one, don’t you Amina?

And that is all there is to it. That one-of-a-kind carpet is still lying there today. It is, I’m certain, one of the rarest carpets in the world. And right to this day, that hideous, mangy, stinking Amina is on it, grunting with bliss. I’m sure one day she will finally suffocate under the weight of all her fat and then I'll try again. But first I’ll have to learn to file through iron bars.

Excerpt from Tea and Carpets blog
(Karel Capek, the well-known Czech journalist and novelist, published ‘Birds and Qintamani’ in his collection of short stories “Tales From Two Pockets” in 1929.)


Responsible fashion @ Ghorbany Carpets

Ghorbany Carpets is proud to present a new and upcoming fashion brand “With love, from hell”. The brand was founded by Luca Crystal Naude and it highlights two major problems our world faces today:

1- the mental disorder epidemic of the 21st century - the brand name itself represents the anguish and daily struggles faced by those who suffer from mental disorders and the knowing that happiness can still be found in the darkest of places if one remembers that there is always love and light. Mental health issues are still not given the proper attention it deserves and with a growing number of young people being diagnosed annually with some form of mental disorder, it really is a cause that must be attended to in earnest. The brand seeks to visually highlight these issues in the hope to bring awareness to this epidemic.

2- the fast fashion pollution - the brand repurposes previously loved clothing into trendy new designs and original hand painted art. A less known fact today is that all our unwanted clothing that we donate eventually ends up in third world countries that have been turned into the clothing garbage dump of the world and are left with mountains of unwanted clothes to dispose of. All our good intentions becomes a major environmental and health risk in these countries who cannot consume it all and are left to burn tons of clothes daily to make space for the “new arrivals”. The brand seeks to show that by becoming creative with your clothes and purchasing less new clothing, we can all make a difference to our environment. The less we buy, the better off our planet will be.

Follow the brand on Instagram: @withlovefrom_hell

Congratulations to this amazing brand. We are excited to see what you bring next.


Collectors: Alfred Cassirer

Louis Cassirer was the eldest son of ten children of Marcus Cassirer (1809-1879) and his wife Jeannette, nee Steinitz (1813-1889). He married Emilie Schiffer (May 10, 1847-31 January 1879) and had with her a total of six children, including the chemist Hugo Cassirer, the neurologist Richard Cassirer and the art dealer Paul Cassirer and Alfred Cassirer.

Louis from 1866 together with his brother Julius opened Marcus Cassirer & Co. Liqueurfabrik in Wroclaw. He also had his own business from 1861 and built a weaving and textile factory at the central Blücherplatz. The father of them retired from Liqueurfabrik also as the partner and died on October 20, 1879 in Wroclaw and left his possession evenly to his nine surviving children.

his time together with his another brother Isidor Cassirer he moved his loom and textile manufactory to Görlitz. At the beginning of the 1880s, Louis moved to Berlin, where due to the construction activity there was a great need for timber, and became timber trader and supplier this time with the Gebr. Cassirer in Naturholzhandlung.They also came into the possession of numerous apartment blocks in Berlin, which gained considerable value, especially until 1900. Gradually, the brothers Eduard, Salo and Isidor and Max came to Berlin and settled in Charlottenburg, which was still independent at the time. Louis later also became a partner in Kabelwerke, founded in 1896. Cassirer & Co., founded by his sons Hugo and Alfred and his brother Julius.

Alfred Cassirer (born July 29, 1875 in Görlitz, † 1932 in Berlin)

was the son of Louis Cassirer and a brother to Paul, Hugo and Richard Cassirer which as mentioned came from the industrialist family Cassirer. Together with his brother Hugo Cassirer and his uncle Julius Cassirer, he was the owner of Kabelwerke Dr. Ing. Cassirer and Co. in Berlin-Hakenfelde.

Alfred Cassirer was an art collector like his brother Paul and had testamentary that his entire collection was to be given to the city council of Berlin, to bring them to the Märkisches Museum as a permanent loan. As of March 1933, it was presented on the first floor of the Ermelerhaus, a branch of the Märkisches Museum, Breite Straße 11 in Berlin-Mitte, in five rooms. The exhibited works included drawings by Adolph von Menzel, works by Max Liebermann and Max Slevogt, sculptures by Ernst Barlach, Georg Kolbe and August Gaul. The main works of the collection included paintings by French artists such as Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Paul Cézanne.

Besides Art and Paintings Alfred had also special interest for Persian carpets and he acquired 40 carpets and by advice of curator of Berlin Museum Mr Ernst Kuhnel he wanted to show his collection in The Museum of Islamic Art and to remain there after his death.His collection after his death in 1932 was moved away to USA but later by efforts of his daughter Eva moved from Detroit Institute of Art (were mostly kept as loan from 1949-2000) back to Berlin till 2012 .One of the most famous ones was a Safavid eight medallion tapestry (kashan? 16th century?) silk and metal thread 2.22x1.41 which Alfred bought in Agay ,Paris for 45000 marks from Mathieu Thierry-Miegle (1826-1905) which is illustrated in this post.


How taming horses spawned the Silk Road - courtesy of Dr Carr

Nomads were travelling around Central Asia probably by 50,000 BC or so. By 24,000 BC, if not earlier, these nomads had split into at least two different groups that spoke different languages – one group spoke proto-Indo-European and the other group spoke proto-Altaic. DNA analysis shows that some of the proto-Indo-Europeans, who we call the Yamnaya, married East Asians, and their descendants crossed over to the Americas, either over a land bridge or in small boats, or both, about 20,000 BC. They become the Native Americans.

By about 5000 BC, the Yamnaya (The children of Yam or Jam ...the Legendary Persian Jamsheed) seem to have lived mainly in the south, around the Caspian Sea (modern Georgia and Armenia or Greater Iran), while the Altaic speakers lived further north (modern Russia and Mongolia). Around 3000 BC, the Yamnaya figured out how to tame horses and use them to pull chariots. Chariots and horses made the Indo-Europeans much more powerful, and richer – they could take care of more cattle, and they could conquer other people by shooting arrows and throwing spears from their chariots.

Some of the Yamnaya left their homes and settled far to the east, in what is now western China. Others travelled west and settled Europe as the Celts. Meanwhile, the Altaic speakers also learned how to use chariots and horses, and began a long series of raids on China to their south. Around 2000 BC, another set of Indo-Europeans left Central Asia. Some went west again, and became the Greeks and the Romans and the Germans. Others went south and became the Hittites. By 1200 BC, some Indo-Europeans moved south into what is now Iran, where they became known as the Persians, and still further south into India. Some went further east and became the Sogdians. Some of them seem to have ended up in China, where they brought their chariots and horses to the Shang Dynasty emperors.

About 800 BC, people in Central Asia figured out how to ride horses in war and formed the first cavalry units. Horse-riding Indo-Europeans in Central Asia began to call themselves the Scythians. We hear about the Scythians (SITH-ee-uns) from the Greek historian Herodotus, who describes how they used their horses to keep sheep and cows in the area north of the Black Sea (modern Ukraine and Russia). Two other Indo-European groups, the Medes and the Persians, used their horse-riding skills to form the world’s first big empire: the Persian Empire.

Further east, horse-riding Altaic speakers began to attack northern China. In order to defend China against these attacks, Eastern Zhou emperors also formed cavalry units. It was hard to breed enough good horses in China, so the Chinese emperors started buying a lot of horses from the Sogdians in Central Asia. Chinese traders exchanged bolts of silk cloth for the horses (and probably for good iron weapons too), and the Sogdians sold some of the silk to the Persians to their west. This helped to get the Silk Road started about 400-300 BC.


Luca Pignatelli's "Senza Data" @ The Bardini Museum, Florence

There are artists who look at the past with nostalgia and develop strong bonds with specific art periods and movements, but Italian artist Luca Pignatelli is not interested in borrowing from the past, but in creating chronological disruptions and contaminations with the present, keeping an eye on the possibilities that the future may offer.

In his latest works - showcased earlier this year at the Stefano Bardini Museum in Florence as part of the exhibition "Senza Data" (Undated) - Pignatelli attempted a sort of journey through time and space.

He came up with a series of prints on railway tarpaulin, wood, paper and metal sheets, but also recreated paintings of classical statues on Persian carpets.

These images from classical times are summoned from the past, like ghosts trying to dialogue with the other works on display in the museum, from Tino da Camaino's 14th century "Charity" to Donatello's Madonna of the Apple and Madonna of the Ropemakers, Bernardo Daddi's Crucifixion, Antonio del Pollaiolo's St. Michael Archangel and "Atlas" by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri.

Pignatelli's carpets are the most interesting pieces of his latest production: apart from going well with the museum carpet collection and with the colours of the walls in the museum trademark "Bardini blue" (a shade the art dealer and collector brought back from one of his trips to Russia and that later on became the symbol of the museum), these new pieces allow the artist to look at the concept of time via sculptures, paintings and textiles, and create a sort of stratification of techniques, times and cultures (it is worth noting that, in some cases, the artist incorporated his stratified textiles into the tapestry of chairs or integrated them inside a wooden cabinet).

The historical time of the creation of the statues replicated on the carpets and the time of the creation of the carpets overlap to provide visitors with new collective memories. In a way Pignatelli's "undated" carpets are to be interpreted as mobile and nomadic artworks: they can be taken off the wall, rolled and easily transported somewhere else.

Excerpt: Irenebrination: Notes on Architecture, Art, Fashion, Fashion Law & Technology


Handwoven Carpets - still one of the TOP environmentally friendly products on the market

2020 is just around the corner and the emphasis for next year's interior design and decor is on sustainable products. With so many home decor products on the market, it is tough to know which ones fit that requirement, but luckily one hugely popular interior decor item towers head and shoulders above others in the sustainability department - HANDWOVEN CARPETS. The fact that it has been made in the same way for over 2,500 years, already testifies to its' sustainability, but here are some more reasons why handwoven carpets is still one of the top environmentally friendly products available :

1 - It is biodegradable:
Since handwoven carpets are made from natural materials: wool, cotton, silk and hemp (to name but a few), they are biodegradable and non-toxic. A large number of weavers also use vegetable dyed materials (i.e. plant based dyes: flowers, leaves, roots, bark, etc).

2 - It is long lasting
Each single handwoven carpet has the ability to become an antique carpet (surviving well over 100 years) because of the method of weaving and the materials used, which means one carpet can serve many generations if it is well maintained; or it can be sold to a new owner who can also enjoy it for decades before passing it down or reselling it.

3 - It doesn't use electricity
They are handwoven and require no electricity to produce in any of the stages of production. Also, because of the materials used in making them they serve as insulation which could reduce electricity costs during cold months.

4 - It is economically sustainable
Weaving carpets is a skill that provides an income to millions of weavers (regardless of gender, culture, race, class, level of education or religion). It is a skill that can be passed down to future generations. Moreover, it is an industry that provides an income to millions of wool producers, cotton growers, silk producers, dye makers, carpet designers, weavers, carpet markets, carpet retailers, carpet cleaners & repairers, etc.

5 - It's maintenance is environmentally friendly
Handwoven carpets are hand washed with organic soap and dried in the sun, so its maintenance footprint is practically non-existent. Even though water is used in the cleaning process, handwoven carpets only require a washing every 3 - 5 years. Other than that "spot cleaning" with foam requires minimal water.

6 - It is recyclable
The wool of fragmented and worn carpets are used by carpet repairers and restorers to restore old and antique carpets, in order to maintain its authenticity Many old carpets are also re-purposed to make cushions, chairs, handbags, shoes, covers, etc.

7 - It is educational
Many antique carpets find their way to museums where we and future generations can view them. They show us what textile weavers in previous centuries did and how design evolved over time. It gives us a tangible history of civilizations, that would otherwise only be available in writing. Modern weavers continuously use the ancient library of carpet designs in their work. It is also highly effective as sensory, colour and shape stimulation tool for children.

8 - It is sustainable art
None of the natural resources or environments used are destroyed or damaged in the making of a handwoven carpet. In fact, a concerted effort is made by all parties concerned to ensure the well being of animal and plant life used in the production process. Weavers historically were very important members of society and today still benefit the economies of their respective countries. It is an art form that encourages patience, resilience and creativity and it brings endless joy to its end-users.

9 - It is a product that gives back
It is an investment, some more substantial than others, but every handwoven carpet becomes an asset that can be traded if ever need be. It is very versatile. It is not just a beautiful piece of art, but it can be a floor cover, a couch cover, a box cover, a table cloth, a bed cover, a wall hanging or a roof hanging. There is not a single room that it is NOT suitable for and wherever it is placed, it will most certainly enhance the aesthetics and bring in joy.

The bottom line is: you can buy that handwoven carpet with a clean conscience, knowing that you are contributing to sustainable art and environmentally friendly products!


Persian Empires: Chapter 5

Safavid Dynasty: 1501 - 1722AD

After the fall of the Sasanid Empire it would take 850 years before Iran came into Persian hands again, with the ascend of the Safavid Dynasty. The Safavids ruled from 1501 to 1722  and, at their height, they controlled all of what is now Iran, Azerbaijan Republic, Bahrain, Armenia, eastern Georgia, parts of the North Caucasus, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Turkey, Syria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Despite their demise in 1722, the legacy that they left behind was the revival of Iran as an economic stronghold between East and West, the establishment of an efficient state and bureaucracy, their architectural innovations and their patronage for fine arts. The Safavids have also left their mark down to the present era by spreading Twelver Islam in Iran, as well as major parts of the Caucasus, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia.       

The history of the rise of the Safavid Order to political power is a long and interesting one. Persia was invaded and ruled by various Islamic and Monghol Dynasties after the fall of the Sasanid Dynasty, and the biggest change that occurred during this time was the conversion of Persians to Islam. Various Sunni factions and mystic orders arose inside Persia and one of them was the Safavid Order. Its founder was Safi-ad-din Ardabili, a Sufi mystic (1252 - 1334) who assumed the leadership of the Zahediyeh, a significant Sufi order in Gilan, from his spiritual master and father-in-law Zahed Gilani. Due to the great spiritual charisma of Safi al-Din, the order was later known as the Safaviyya.  Much about the early Safavid Order remains unclear. One point of uncertainty is the precise nature of their religious beliefs. Originally, they seem to have harbored Sunni convictions, but under Ḵᵛāja ʿAli they are said to have gravitated toward Shiʿism under the influence of their main supporters—Turkmen tribes who adhered to a popular brand of Shiʿism. After the death of Safi-ad-din Ardabili the leadership of the Safavid Order passed through his descendants, always retaining its spiritual objectives, but in 1447 Sheikh Junayd assumed the leadership and he had material power aspirations.  The Safavid Order had become a very powerful spiritual influence in the region, but the two most powerful and opposing tribal dynasties that held the material power were: the Qara Qoyunlu ("Black Sheep) and the Aq Qoyunlu ("White Sheep"). The leader of the Qara Qoynlu, Jahan Shah, realized that Sheikh Junayd had plans to take over power in his region and to avoid instability and destruction, ordered him to leave. Sheikh Junayd sought refuge with the opposition, the Aq Qoyunlu ruled by Khan Uzun Hassan. He cemented the relationship by marrying the Khan's sister and from that assured position started building up his position of power. He had his eye on the Shirvan region (Azerbaijan) but was killed after an incursion. His son Haydar Safavi assumed leadership of the Safavid Order and married Uzun Hassan's daughter,  Martha 'Alamshah Begom, who gave birth to Ismail I, founder of the Safavid dynasty. After Uzun Hassan's death, his son and successor, Ya'qub, felt increasingly threatened by the Safavid influence in his tribe and decided to align himself with the Shirvanshah and killed Haydar in 1488. By this time, the bulk of the Safaviyya were nomadic Oghuz Turkic-speaking clans from Asia Minor and Azerbaijan and were known as Qizilbash "Red Heads" because of their distinct red headgear. The Qizilbash were warriors, spiritual followers of Haydar, and a source of the Safavid military and political power. After the death of Haydar, the Safaviyya gathered around his son Ali Mirza Safavi, who was also pursued and subsequently killed by Ya'qub. According to official Safavid history, before passing away, Ali had designated his younger brother Ismail as the spiritual leader of the Safaviyya. In order to avenge his father's and brother's deaths, Ismael invaded neighboring Shirvan  in 1500 and in so doing, started the Safavid Dynasty.

Afterwards, Ismail went on a conquest campaign, capturing Tabriz in July 1501, where he enthroned himself the Shāh of Azerbaijan, proclaimed himself Shahanshah of Iran and minted coins in his name, proclaiming Shiʻism the official religion of his domain. The establishment of Shiʻism as the state religion led to various Sufi orders openly declaring their Shiʻi position, and others to promptly assume Shiʻism. Although Ismail I initially gained mastery over Azerbaijan alone, the Safavids ultimately won the struggle for power over all of Iran, which had been going on for nearly a century between various dynasties and political forces. A year after his victory in Tabriz, Ismāʻil claimed most of Iran as part of his territory, and within 10 years established a complete control over all of it. The expansionist policies of Ismail was highly disturbing for the powerful neighboring Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans, a Sunni dynasty, considered the active recruitment of Turkmen tribes (predominantly Shi'ite) of Anatolia for the Safavid cause as a major threat. To counter the rising Safavid power, in 1502, Sultan Bayezid II forcefully deported many Shiʻite Muslims from Anatolia to other parts of the Ottoman realm. In 1511, the Şahkulu rebellion was a widespread pro-Shia and pro-Safavid uprising directed against the Ottoman Empire from within the empire. The Ottomans led a large-scale incursion into Eastern Anatolia by Safavid ghazis under Nūr-ʿAlī Ḵalīfa. Even though they won major territory and the capital of Ismail, Tabriz, the Ottoman soldiers refused to spend the upcoming winter in the cold and the army returned back. This invasion was the first of a 200+ year long war fought between the Ottomans and the Persians that had major consequences for both sides.

After the death of Shah Ismail, his young son, Shah Tahmāsp, took the throne.  Iran was in a dire state, but in spite of a weak economy, a civil war and foreign wars on two fronts, Tahmāsp managed to retain his crown and maintain the territorial integrity of the empire (although much reduced from Ismail's time). During the first 30 years of his long reign, he was able to suppress the internal divisions by exerting control over a strengthened central military force. In the war against the Uzbeks he showed that the Safavids had become a gunpowder empire. His tactics in dealing with the Ottoman threat eventually allowed for a treaty which preserved peace for twenty years. In cultural matters, Tahmāsp presided the revival of the fine arts, which flourished under his patronage. Safavid culture is often admired for the large-scale city planning and architecture, achievements made during the reign of later shahs, but the art of Persian miniature, book-binding and calligraphy, in fact, never received as much attention as they did during his time. Another big change Tahmasp brought to the Safavid Dynasty was that of ruling classes. During his reign he had realized while both looking to his own empire and that of the neighboring Ottomans, that there were dangerous rivaling factions and internal family rivalries that were a threat to the heads of state. Not taken care of accordingly, these were a serious threat to the ruler, or worse, could bring the fall of the former or could lead to unnecessary court intrigues. For Tahmāsp the problem circled around the military tribal elite of the empire, the  Qizilbash , who believed that physical proximity to and control of a member of the immediate Safavid family guaranteed spiritual advantages, political fortune, and material advancement. Despite that Tahmāsp could nullify potential issues related to his family by having his close direct male relatives such as his brothers and sons routinely transferred around to various governorship in the empire, he understood and realized that any long-term solutions would mainly involve minimizing the political and military presence of the  Qizilbash  as a whole. To solve this dilemma Shah Tahmāsp started the first of a series of invasions of the Caucasus region, both meant as a training and drilling for his soldiers, as well as mainly bringing back massive numbers of Christian Circassian and Georgian captives, who would form the basis of a military slave system (a system  introduced by the Abbasid Caliphate during the reign of al-Mu'tasim (r. 833–842)), as well as at the same time forming a new layer in Iranian society composed of ethnic Caucasians. This was the starting point for the corps of the royal slaves, who would dominate the Safavid military for most of the empire's length. As non-Turkeman converts to Islam, these Circassian and Georgian soldiers were completely unrestrained by clan loyalties and kinship obligations. Many of the transplanted women became wives and concubines of Tahmāsp, and the Safavid harem emerged as a competitive, and sometimes lethal, arena of ethnic politics as cliques of Turkmen, Circassian, and Georgian women and courtiers vied with each other for the shah’s attention. After Tahmasp's death a 12 year period of political turmoil reigned between his sons and successors, until Shah Abbas took over in 1588.

At only 16 years of age, Shah Abbas had to navigate his way and empire whilst solely relying on the support of the Qizilbash, yet over the course of ten years Abbas was able, using cautiously-timed but nonetheless decisive steps, to affect a profound transformation of Safavid administration and military, throw back the foreign invaders, and preside over a flourishing of Persian art.   Abbas was able to begin gradually transforming the empire from a tribal confederation to a modern imperial government by transferring provinces from mamalik (provincial) rule governed by a Qizilbash chief and the revenue of which mostly supported local Qizilbash administration and forces to khass (central) rule presided over by a court appointee and the revenue of which reverted to the court. Particularly important in this regard were the Gilan and Mazandaran provinces, which produced Iran's single most important export; silk. With the substantial new revenue, Abbas was able to build up a central, standing army, loyal only to him. This freed him of his dependence on Qizilbash warriors loyal to local tribal chiefs.

What effectively fully severed Abbas's dependence on the Qizilbash, however, was how he constituted this new army. In order not to favor one Turkic tribe over another and to avoid inflaming the Turk-Persian enmity, he recruited his army from the "third force", a policy that had been implemented in its baby-steps since the reign of Tahmasp I—the Circassian, Georgian and to a lesser extent Armenian ghulāms who (after conversion to Islam) were trained for the military or some branch of the civil or military administration. The standing army created by Abbas consisted of 10,000–15,000 cavalry ghulām regiments solely composed of ethnic Caucasians, armed with muskets in addition to the usual weapons (then the largest cavalry in the world); a corps of musketeers, mainly Iranians, originally foot soldiers but eventually mounted, and a corps of artillerymen. Both corps of musketeers and artillerymen totaled 12,000 men. In addition the shah's personal bodyguard, made up exclusively of Caucasian ghulāms, was dramatically increased to 3,000. This force of well-trained Caucasian ghulams under Abbas amounted to a total of near 40,000 soldiers paid for and beholden to the Shah. Abbas also greatly increased the number of cannons at his disposal, permitting him to field 500 in a single battle. Ruthless discipline was enforced and looting was severely punished. Abbas also moved the capital to Isfahan, deeper into central Iran. From this time the state began to take on a more Persian character. The Safavids ultimately succeeded in establishing a new Persian national monarchy.

Even though Shah Abbas signed treaties with some Christian European empires against their common enemy, the Ottomans, it was ultimately his relationship with the English that proved most fruitful. Abbas was able to draw on military advice from a number of European envoys, particularly from the English adventurers Sir Anthony Shirley and his brother Robert Shirley, who arrived in 1598 as envoys from the Earl of Essex on an unofficial mission to induce Iran into an anti-Ottoman alliance. The Shirley brothers helped reorganize the Iranian army, which proved to be crucial in the Ottoman–Safavid War (1603–18), which resulted in Ottoman defeats in all stages of the war and the first clear pitched Safavid victory of their arch-rival. The English at sea, represented by the English East India Company, also began to take an interest in Iran, and in 1622 four of its ships helped Abbas retake Hormuz from the Portuguese in the Capture of Ormuz (1622). This was the beginning of the East India Company's long-running interest in Iran.

The growth of Safavid economy was fueled by the stability which allowed the agriculture to thrive, as well as trade, due to Iran's position between the burgeoning civilizations of Europe to its west and India and Islamic Central Asia to its east and north. The Silk Road which led through northern Iran was revived in the 16th century. Abbas I also supported direct trade with Europe, particularly England and The Netherlands which sought Persian carpet, silk and textiles. Other exports were horses, goat hair, pearls and an inedible bitter almond hadam-talka used as a spice in India. The main imports were spice, textiles (woolens from Europe, cottons from Gujarat), metals, coffee, and sugar. In the late 17th century, Safavid Iran had higher living standards than in Europe. According to traveler Jean Chardin, for example, farmers in Iran had higher living standards than farmers in the most fertile European countries.

Under the governance of the strong shahs, especially during the first half of the 17th century, traveling through Iran was easy because of good roads and the caravansaries, that were strategically placed along the route. Thévenot and Tavernier commented that the Iranian caravansaries were better built and cleaner than their Turkish counterparts. According to Chardin, they were also more abundant than in the Mughal or Ottoman Empires, where they were less frequent but larger. Caravansaries were designed especially to benefit poorer travelers, as they could stay there for as long as they wished, without payment for lodging. During the reign of Shah Abbas I, as he tried to upgrade the Silk route to improve the commercial prosperity of the Empire, an abundance of caravanseries, bridges, bazaars and roads were built, and this strategy was followed by wealthy merchants who also profited from the increase in trade. To uphold the standard, another source of revenue was needed, and road toll, that were collected by guards (rah-dars), were stationed along the trading routes. They in turn provided for the safety of the travelers, and both Thevenot and Tavernier stressed the safety of traveling in 17th century Iran, and the courtesy and refinement of the policing guards.

A new age in Iranian architecture began with the rise of the Safavid dynasty. Economically robust and politically stable, this period saw a flourishing growth of theological sciences. Traditional architecture evolved in its patterns and methods leaving its impact on the architecture of the following periods. Indeed, one of the greatest legacies of the Safavids is the architecture. In 1598, when Shah Abbas decided to move the capital of his Iranian empire from the north-western city of Qazvin to the central city of Isfahan, he initiated what would become one of the greatest programs in Iranian history; the complete remaking of the city. The Chief architect of this colossal task of urban planning was Sheikh Bahai , who focused the program on two key features of Shah Abbas's master plan: the Chahar Bagh avenue, flanked on either side by all the prominent institutions of the city, such as the residence of all foreign dignitaries. And the Naqsh-e Jahan Square ("Examplar of the World"). The ingenuity of the square was that, by building it, Shah Abbas would gather the three main components of power in Iran in his own backyard; the power of the clergy, represented by the Masjed-e Shah, the power of the merchants, represented by the Imperial Bazaar, and of course, the power of the Shah himself, residing in the Ali Qapu Palace. Distinctive monuments like the Sheikh Lotfallah (1618), Hasht Behesht (Eight Paradise Palace) (1469) and the Chahar Bagh School (1714) appeared in Isfahan and other cities. This extensive development of architecture was rooted in Persian culture and took form in the design of schools, baths, houses, caravanserai and other urban spaces such as bazaars and squares.

The demise of the Safavid Dynasty was caused by the ongoing threat of external forces such as the Ottomans, the Uzurks and the new rising Russian Muscovy; as well as internal upheaval by various tribes unhappy with the forced mass resettling of  Qizilbash Turkic tribes in Khakheti to repopulate the province. The overseas trade routes run by European powers also hampered trade although Persia managed to maintain and grow the Silk Route over land. The Dutch and English continuously drained the Persian government from precious metals and thus took much needed funds out of the country. Bad management and reckless spending by the rulers following Shah Abbas II eventually led to Persia not being able to defend her borders and opened the way for the Hotak Dynasty, of Afghan Pashtuni descent, to take over power for a  short period of time. Thanks to the bravery of the founder of the Afsharid dynasty, Nader Shah Afshar, the Hotaks were defeated in 1738 and he started the reestablishment of Iranian suzerainty over all regions lost decades before against the Iranian arch-rival, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire.
 


The Persian fridge

Persians may have been the first civilization to build and use "refrigerator buildings" to store ice and refrigerate food. Yakhchāl (yakh meaning "ice" and chāl meaning "pit") is an ancient type of evaporative cooler.

Above ground, the structure had a domed shape, but had a subterranean storage space. It was often used to store ice, but was also used to store food as well. The subterranean space coupled with the thick heat-resistant construction material insulated the storage space year round. These structures were mainly built and used in Persia.

By 400 BC, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of using yakhchāls to create ice in the winter and store it in the summer in the desert. In most yakhchāls, the ice is created by itself during the cold seasons of the year; the water is channeled from the qanat (Iranian aqueduct) to the yakhchāl and it freezes upon resting inside the structure. Usually a wall is also made along an east-west direction close to the yakhchāl and the water is channeled from the north side of the wall so that the shadow of the wall keeps the water cool to make it freeze more quickly. In some yakhchāls, ice is also brought in from nearby mountains for storage or to seed the icing process.


Iran's "other" black gold - caviar

When it comes to Iranian exports, a few things come to mind: oil, rugs, pistachios, and caviar. With the finest sturgeon coming from the waters of the Caspian Sea, caviar is one of the country’s main exports. From the Persian word khâviyâr, caviar refers to the roe from wild sturgeon, and the earliest records date back to the 4th century B.C.

It is said that the people of the Persian Empire were the first to taste caviar, believing it had medicinal properties and was a source of energy (a widely-held belief still today). It also made an appearance during the Roman Empire, but the heaviest consumers of caviar were arguably the czars of old Russia. It’s perhaps for this reason that even though the Persians are credited with preparing caviar by salting the roe, it was the Russians who defined it as a luxury.

Today, Iranian caviar comes from the northern Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan provinces bordering the Caspian Sea. Along with other species of sturgeon, the bottom-dwelling beluga sturgeon thrive especially well in these icy brackish waters, which give the caviar a unique taste. With some amazing survival instincts, beluga have a lifespan of up to 100 years, reaching maturity at around 20 years. The best quality caviar, known as “Iranian diamond,” comes from this particular species.

Excerpts: culture trip


Persian Festivals: Mehregan - Fall Festival

In ancient Iran, Mehrgān was celebrated in an extravagant style at Persepolis. Not only was it the time for harvest, but it was also the time when the taxes were collected. Visitors from different parts of the Persian Empire brought gifts for the king all contributing to a lively festival.

During pre-Islamic and early Islamic Iran, Mehrgān was celebrated with the same magnificence and pageantry as Nowruz. It was customary for people to send or give their king, and each other, gifts. Rich people usually gave gold and silver coins, heroes and warriors gave horses while others gave gifts according to their financial power and ability, even as simple as an apple. Those fortunate enough would help the poor with gifts.

Gifts to the royal court of over ten thousand gold coins were registered. If the gift-giver needed money at a later time, the court would then return twice the gift amount. Kings gave two audiences a year: one audience at Nowruz and other at Mehregān. During the Mehregān celebrations, the king wore a fur robe and gave away all his summer clothes.

After the Mongol invasion of Iran, the feast celebration of Mehrgān lost its popularity. Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kermān continued to celebrate Mehrgān in an extravagant way.

In present time for this celebration, the participants wear new clothes and set a decorative, colorful table. The sides of the tablecloth are decorated with dry marjoram. A copy of the Khordeh Avesta ("little Avesta"), a mirror and a sormeh-dan (a traditional eyeliner or kohl) are placed on the table together with rosewater, sweets, flowers, vegetables and fruits, especially pomegranates and apples, and nuts such as almonds or pistachios. A few silver coins and lotus seeds are placed in a dish of water scented with marjoram extract.

A burner is also part of the table setting for kondor/loban (frankincense) and espand (seeds of Peganum harmala, Syrian rue) to be thrown on the flames.

At lunch time when the ceremony begins, everyone in the family stands in front of the mirror to pray. Sharbat is drunk and then—as a good omen—sormeh is applied around the eyes. Handfuls of wild marjoram, lotus and sugar plum seeds are thrown over one another's heads while they embrace one another.

In 1960s the Postal Service in Tehran issued a series of stamps to commemorate Mehrgan Festival.


Persian Empires: Chapter 4

Persian influence in Islamic art & philosophy: 651AD - to date

When Iran was taken during the Arab Conquest the Persians were resistant to the new rulers of their land. The Arabs found an empire rich and well developed during the golden era of the Sasanid Dynasty and thus the Persians attempted to retain as much of that as they could. For starters, they resisted converting to Islam as most of them were Zoroastrian (a religion practiced in Iran from 1700BCE) and it was only during the Middle Ages that most of the conversions took place. They also resisted Arabic as their lingua franca but compromised by translating the Arabic alphabet into Persian and adding four more letters to the alphabet to accommodate their language.

There is an old saying in Iran: "Instead of Persians becoming influenced by invaders, they Persianize the invaders" and that is exactly what happened. The Persian arts was the single most influential force in Islamic arts as we know it today. A key form of Islamic art that is world renowned is calligraphy. This is an art form that they learned from the Persians who have already developed it during Achaemenid times 500BC. The Persian miniatures (done before the Sasanid Empire) were also incorporated into Islamic texts and paintings. Persian metalwork, carpets, silk, glass work, ceramics, tiles, poetry and architecture were all used and adapted by the various different Islamic empires that ruled Persia.

Persian architectural designs that were used and modified were paradise garden, courtyards, hypostyle halls, arches, vaulting, squinches, muqarnas, iwans and pishtaqs. Islamic geometric patterns, such as the girih tiles, were also derived from Greek, Roman and Sasanid influences, with many great examples in mosques and buildings in Iran.

The intellectual tradition in Persia continued after Islam and was of great influence on the further development of Iranian Philosophy. In the Islamic Golden Age, due to Avicenna's successful reconciliation between Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism along with Kalam, Avicennism eventually became the leading school of Islamic philosophy by the 12th century. Avicennism was also influential in medieval Europe, particularly his doctrines on the nature of the soul and his existence-essence distinction, along with the debates and censure that they raised in scholastic Europe.

Rumi, one of Iran's foremost philosophers, was also active during the Islamic Golden Age. Rumi's poetry forms the basis of much classical Iranian and Afghan music. To many modern Westerners, his teachings are one of the best introductions to the philosophy and practice of Sufism. Today Rumi's poems can be heard in churches, synagogues, Zen monasteries, as well as in the downtown New York art/performance/music scene.

Another Persian philospher is Al-Khwarizmi, His popularizing treatise on algebra (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing, c. 813–833 CE) presented the first systematic solution of linear and quadratic equations. One of his principal achievements in algebra was his demonstration of how to solve quadratic equations by completing the square, for which he provided geometric justifications. Because he was the first to treat algebra as an independent discipline and introduced the methods of "reduction" and "balancing" (the transposition of subtracted terms to the other side of an equation, that is, the cancellation of like terms on opposite sides of the equation), he has been described as the father or founder of algebra. The term algebra itself comes from the title of his book (specifically the word al-jabr meaning "completion" or "rejoining"). His name gave rise to the terms algorism and algorithm.

Omar Khayyam was another Persian mathematician, astronomer and poet active during the Islamic Golden Age. As a mathematician, he is most notable for his work on the classification and solution of cubic equations, where he provided geometric solutions by the intersection of conics. Khayyam also contributed to the understanding of the parallel axiom. As an astronomer, he designed the Jalali calendar, a solar calendar with a very precise 33-year intercalation cycle.
There is a tradition of attributing poetry to Omar Khayyam, written in the form of quatrains.This poetry became widely known to the English-reading world in a translation by Edward FitzGerald (Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1859), which enjoyed great success in the Orientalism of the fin de siècle.

Hafez was a Persian poet during the 14th century who "lauded the joys of love and wine but also targeted religious hypocrisy". His collected works are regarded as a pinnacle of Persian literature and are often found in the homes of people in the Persian-speaking world, who learn his poems by heart and still use them as proverbs and sayings. Hafez is best known for his poems that can be described as "antinomian" and with the medieval use of the term "theosophical"; the term "theosophy" in the 13th and 14th centuries was used to indicate mystical work by "authors only inspired by the holy books" (as distinguished from theology). Hafez primarily wrote in the literary genre of lyric poetry, or ghazals, that is the ideal style for expressing the ecstasy of divine inspiration in the mystical form of love poems. His influence on Persian speakers appears in "Hafez readings" and in the frequent use of his poems in Persian traditional music, visual art, and Persian calligraphy. Adaptations, imitations and translations of his poems exist in all major languages.

Al-Biruni is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist. He studied almost all fields of science and was compensated for his research and strenuous work. Royalty and powerful members of society sought out Al-Biruni to conduct research and study to uncover certain findings. He lived during the Islamic Golden Age, in which scholarly thought went hand in hand with the thinking and methodology of the Islamic religion. In addition to this type of influence, he was conversant in Khwarezmian, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, and also knew Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. In 1017 he travelled to South Asia and authored a study of Indian culture (Tahqiq ma li-l-hind...) after exploring the Hinduism practised in India. He was given the title "founder of Indology". He was an impartial writer on customs and creeds of various nations, and was given the title al-Ustadh ("The Master") for his remarkable description of early 11th-century India.

Ferdowsi was a Persian poet during the Islamic Golden Era and the author of Shahnameh ("Book of Kings"), which is the world's longest epic poem created by a single poet, and the national epic of Greater Iran. Ferdowsi is celebrated as the most influential figure in Persian literature and one of the greatest in the history of literature.


The Persian Empires: Chapter 3

Sasanian Empire 224 - 651AD

The Sasanian Empire (also recorded as the Sassanian, Sasanid and Sassanid) or the Neo-Persian Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians was the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the rise of Islam. Named after the House of Sasan, it ruled from 224 to 651 AD. The Sasanian Empire succeeded the Parthian Empire and was recognised as one of the leading world powers alongside its neighbouring arch-rival, the Roman-Byzantine Empire for a period of more than 400 years.

The Sasanian Empire was founded by Ardashir I, after the fall of the Parthian Empire and the defeat of the last Arsacid king, Artabanus V. At its greatest extent, the Sasanian Empire encompassed all of today's Iran, Iraq, Eastern Arabia (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatif, Qatar, UAE), the Levant (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan), the Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Republic of Azerbaijan, Dagestan), Egypt, large parts of Turkey, much of Central Asia (Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), Yemen and Pakistan. According to a legend, the vexilloid of the Sasanian Empire was the Derafsh Kaviani.

The Sasanian Empire during Late Antiquity is considered to have been one of Iran's most important, and influential historical periods and constituted the last great Iranian empire before the Muslim conquest and the Islamization of Iran. In many ways, the Sasanian period witnessed the peak of ancient Iranian civilisation. The Sasanians' cultural influence extended far beyond the empire's territorial borders, reaching as far as Western Europe, Africa, China and India. It played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian medieval art. Much of what later became known as Islamic culture in art, architecture, music and other subject matter was transferred from the Sasanians throughout the Muslim world.

The Sasanian kings were patrons of letters and philosophy. Khosrau I had the works of Plato and Aristotle, translated into Pahlavi, taught at Gundishapur, and read them himself. During his reign, many historical annals were compiled, of which the sole survivor is the Karnamak-i Artaxshir-i Papakan (Deeds of Ardashir), a mixture of history and romance that served as the basis of the Iranian national epic, the Shahnameh. When Justinian I closed the schools of Athens, seven of their professors went to Persia and found refuge at Khosrau's court. In his treaty of 533 with Justinian, the Sasanian king stipulated that the Greek sages should be allowed to return and be free from persecution.

Under Khosrau I, the Academy of Gundishapur, which had been founded in the 5th century, became "the greatest intellectual center of the time", drawing students and teachers from every quarter of the known world. Nestorian Christians were received there, and brought Syriac translations of Greek works in medicine and philosophy. Neoplatonists also came to Gundishapur, where they planted the seeds of Sufi mysticism. The medical lore of India, Persia, Syria and Greece mingled there to produce a flourishing school of therapy.

The main exports of the Sasanians were silk; woolen and golden textiles; carpets and rugs; hides; and leather and pearls from the Persian Gulf. The Baharestan Carpet is the most famous late Sasanian royal carpet, now lost, but known from historical accounts. It most likely covered the floor of the great audience hall of Taq Kasra, an iwan in the Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon. The carpet was 27m long and 27m wide. Woven of silk, gold, silver, and rare stones, the carpet depicted a splendid garden akin to paradise, and for this reason makes No 2 on our list of the most legendary carpets of all time. When Ctesiphon was captured by the Arab Conquerors in 637 the carpet was seized and sent to the Rashidun caliph Umar, who was in Medina. There the carpet was cut into small fragments and divided among the Arabs. One of the Arabs who received a piece of the carpet was Ali who, although he did not receive the best piece, managed to sell it for 20,000 dirhams.

There were also goods in transit from China (paper, silk) and India (spices), which Sasanian customs imposed taxes upon, and which were re-exported from the Empire to Europe.It was also a time of increased metallurgical production, so Iran earned a reputation as the "armory of Asia". Most of the Sasanian mining centers were at the fringes of the Empire – in Armenia, the Caucasus and above all, Transoxania. The extraordinary mineral wealth of the Pamir Mountains on the eastern horizon of the Sasanian empire led to a legend among the Tajiks, an Iranian people living there, which is still told today. It said that when God was creating the world, he tripped over the Pamirs, dropping his jar of minerals, which spread across the region.

Sasanian culture and military structure had a significant influence on Roman civilization. The structure and character of the Roman army was affected by the methods of Persian warfare. In a modified form, the Roman Imperial autocracy imitated the royal ceremonies of the Sasanian court at Ctesiphon, and those in turn had an influence on the ceremonial traditions of the courts of medieval and modern Europe. The origin of the formalities of European diplomacy is attributed to the diplomatic relations between the Persian governments and the Roman Empire.

Important developments in Jewish history are associated with the Sassanian Empire. The Babylonian Talmud was composed between the third and sixth centuries in Sasanian Persia and major Jewish academies of learning were established in Sura and Pumbedita that became cornerstones of Jewish scholarship. Several individuals of the Imperial family such as Ifra Hormizd the Queen mother of Shapur II and Queen Shushandukht, the Jewish wife of Yazdegerd I, significantly contributed to the close relations between the Jews of the empire and the government in Ctesiphon.

The collapse of the Sasanian Empire led to Islam slowly replacing Zoroastrianism as the primary religion of Iran. A large number of Zoroastrians chose to emigrate to escape Islamic persecution. According to the Qissa-i Sanjan, one group of those refugees landed in what is now Gujarat, India, where they were allowed greater freedom to observe their old customs and to preserve their faith. The descendants of those Zoroastrians would play a small but significant role in the development of India. Today there are over 70,000 Zoroastrians in India. The family of Freddie Mercury, late front man of the world renowned band Queen, are descendants of these Zoroastrians.

The Muslim conquest of Persia, also known as the Arab conquest of Iran, led to the fall of the Sasanian Empire of Iran (Persia) in 651 and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion. The rise of Muslims coincided with an unprecedented political, social, economic, and military weakness in Persia. Once a major world power, the Sasanian Empire had exhausted its human and material resources after decades of warfare against the Byzantine Empire. The internal political situation quickly deteriorated after the execution of King Khosrow II in 628 AD. Subsequently, ten new claimants were enthroned within the next four years. With civil war erupting between different factions, the empire was no longer centralized.

The abrupt fall of the Sassanid Empire was completed in a period of just five years, and most of its territory was absorbed into the Islamic caliphate; however, many Iranian cities resisted and fought against the invaders several times. Islamic caliphates repeatedly suppressed revolts in cities such as Rey, Isfahan, and Hamadan. Conversion to Islam was gradual and incentivized over period of centuries with some never converting still to this day, however, there were cases of Zoroastrian scriptures being burnt and some priests being executed, particularly in areas that experienced violent resistance. However, the Persians began to reassert themselves by maintaining Persian language and culture. Islam would become the dominant religion late in the Middle Ages.


#enoughisenough

“And since we all came from a woman

Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman

I wonder why we take from our women Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?

I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up"
- Keep Your Head Up - Tupac Shakur

Why should I be scared to be a woman?
Why should I be scared my body will be taken
For someone else's gain?
Why should I be scared that my mind could
Be under attack?

Why should I be afraid to walk alone?
Why should I be afraid to go to the bathrooms Alone?
Why should I be afraid every time someone looks at me slightly too long?

Why can I not wear what I want because of the
Fear of being violated?
Why can I not say what I want in fear of being
Silenced?

Enough is enough
Our voices will be heard
I will not be silenced

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH - Crystal Clear

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Collectors: Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller

The Swiss collector and museum founder Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller died in December 2016 at the age of 86. His wide involvement and generous support for the visual arts included the foundation of the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva in 1977 and, 20 years later, the Barbier-Mueller Museum of Pre-Columbian Art in Barcelona. His literary patronage included setting up the Barbier-Mueller Foundation for the Study of Italian Renaissance Poetry at the University of Geneva in 1997. Below is Susan Moore’s 2010 interview with Barbier-Mueller for Apollo, focusing on his passion for, and knowledge of tribal art.

It is tempting to believe that there is a collecting gene. Certainly the Barbier-Mueller clan would seem to present a convincing case for one. For each of the past four generations of this Swiss family has produced passionate collectors. Over the last century and more they have honed and created what can only be described as a collection of collections, the breadth and quality of which are astonishing.

As I sit with Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller in the salon of his 17th-century, Mansart-designed hotel particulier in Geneva, it seems appropriate that the presence of his father-in-law should dominate the room. For Josef Mueller is the founder of this dynastic collection. Hanging here is not only Ferdinand Hodler’s portrait of him but also, wrapped around the walls, is the artist’s mesmerising, monumental frieze Die Liebe or Love. The 22-year-old Mueller spent an entire year’s income to secure it in 1909. He lived frugally in order to gather – by 1918 – seven Cézannes (including the Portrait of the gardener Vallier), five works by Matisse and five Renoirs, as well as Picassos and Braques. Hit by the economic depression of the 1930s, he shifted his focus to the powerful African tribal art that was astounding avant-garde artists and poets in Paris.

In 1955, his daughter Monique married Jean Paul Barbier, who had already begun to amass a distinguished library of the finest editions of French renaissance poetry but subsequently became intrigued by his father-in-law’s antiquities and tribal art. Over the years, she acquired the likes of Giacometti, Tinguely, Stella, Warhol, Bacon and Jeff Koons. Their eldest son Jean Gabriel has, with his wife Ann, formed the finest private collection of Samurai arms and armour in the world, and they are due to open the world’s first Samurai museum, in Dallas, Texas, this autumn. ‘It is about time he opened a museum,’ laughs his father, ‘he is 53; I was 47 when I opened mine!’

Of Jean Gabriel’s two brothers, Stéphane’s interest is coins and antiquities while Thierry’s is German contemporary art. The fruits of the fledgling fourth generation’s acquisitiveness are already apparent in the dazzling mineral collection of their nephew, Alexis.

While many of the Barbier-Mueller collections have remained very private entities, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller has always been committed to exhibiting, researching and publishing the tribal art collection that he has assiduously expanded and refined over the decades. There are more than 7,000 pieces in the inventory, even after various constituent parts have been sold to, or donated to, other museums. ‘I did not imagine that I would open a private museum and, believe me, I did not imagine that one day there would be four Barbier-Mueller museums in the world,’ reflects this most courteous and civilised of men, ‘but I always had the idea of showing my pieces.’

Initially he created a private display space in a barn at his former home, and then in an office building. ‘I started to have visits almost every day from enthusiasts who had heard about the collection by word of mouth. This barn gave me the idea of making a private, but public, museum.’ After he moved to different headquarters which did not have appropriate space for the collection, he searched for a year for suitable premises until an employee in his property company pointed out that they already owned the perfect building, in the rue Jean-Calvin, in the heart of Geneva’s Old Town.

The museum of the now combined tribal collection opened in 1977, three months after Josef Mueller’s death. Mueller did not buy primitive art with the same discrimination that he bought paintings, and masterpieces jostled with the workaday. Jean Paul and Monique Barbier-Mueller took the decision to sell around 1,500 minor objects at Christie’s, reinvesting the proceeds in further acquisitions. ‘We have never stopped acquiring new pieces,’ Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller says, adding: ‘In this market you have minor pieces which are sold for high prices and you have very important pieces sold for a little, and also important pieces which are sold for a tremendous amount. Nobody can explain why.’

While he has proved a more systematic and scholarly collector than his father-in-law, he similarly places aesthetic value above ethnographical significance. It is telling that in the museum’s small, exquisite exhibition space each object is accorded an individual display case and a dramatic presentation that unashamedly encourages wonder and awe.

Crucially, the exhibitions generated by the museum have never been confined to Geneva. ‘My goal always was to organise travelling exhibitions,’ Mr Barbier-Mueller explains. ‘I think we have made more than 80 major shows in 32 years, all with huge catalogues.’ Indeed, the current show is the first to open here – ‘often they come to Geneva last, after 15 or 16 museum venues in the US.’ This exhibition, ‘Man-Made Jewels, Jewels of the Earth: Jean Paul & Alexis Barbier-Mueller Collections’, presents the extraordinary collection of ethnic jewellery embracing every era and almost every corner of the world, and materials ranging from gold, silver and jadeite to ivory, feathers and shells. Each piece is artfully complemented by the no-less-exuberantly structured minerals drawn from Alexis’s collection.

Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller describes his Damascene conversion as a collector striking in 1967. Up until then, he recalls, he had bought decorative, pleasant pieces, nothing worthy of a museum. ‘I had been working so hard I did not realise that I could now afford to go up a gear.’ He was on business in New York, and went to see a great primitive art dealer every day after work and each time reserved a statuette or a little mask. On the last day, the dealer showed him a large wooden ceremonial platter with a figure which had been collected by the Reverend Yates in the Melanesian Espiritu Santo in the early 19th century, and told him that was what he should be buying. With a discount, it was only $200 more than the sum of all the ‘trinkets’ he had reserved. ‘I owe him an immense debt of gratitude,’ he smiles.

The tragedies of the Biafran war proved an opportunity to buy more masterpieces. The chance discovery in Amsterdam of a statuette from the remote and tiny island of Nias, west of Sumatra, sparked a new adventure. Overwhelmed by the piece, he travelled there with Monique, began a photographic survey of the megalithic stone sculptures on the island, made over six voyages, and wrote a book. He also bought all the stone sculpture he could lay his hands on. His unique Indonesian collection of some 500 pieces was sold to the Musée du quai Branly in Paris in 2001, and 500 other works from South-East Asia were also donated.

Through the Tibetan dealers in New Delhi he was also able to form another outstanding and revelatory collection. This was of pieces made by the isolated Naga, tribes of former head- (and, peculiarly, foot-) hunters living in territories annexed by India in the 1920s and still largely closed to foreigners. Among them are extraordinary royal jewels and bronze sculpture made using the lost-wax method. Looking for an author, he tracked down the only known expert, Baron Von Furer-Haimendorf, who was then 88, so the collector wrote the book himself, using the Baron’s manuscripts and unpublished photographs. This collection was another gift to the Musée du quai Branly.

When I ask him what attracts him to these widely differing cultures, he replies: ‘It is the man who is behind each work. I am fascinated by the diversity and the capacity for creation of our species. When I discover a form of creativity I do not know, I am intrigued, astounded and want to know more. That is why I set up a foundation to research ethnic groups which have been neglected.’ He draws an analogy with music. ‘Until recently, everyone wanted to play J.S. Bach but no one was interested in the minor musicians around him. It is the same on the Ivory Coast. Everyone wants to study the Senufu – their secret initiation societies, their masks and fetishes, social organisation … But my wife and I made a lot of expeditions in the bush and discovered a little ethnic group of itinerant bronze casters next to them, the Lorhon, who have never been studied. It drives me crazy when I look at auction catalogues and see a lot of Lorhon bronzes which they wrongly describe as Senufu. I am sending an ethnologist.’

If he judges a collection to be complete, he is happy to see it go to a new home. When the South African mining company AngloGold Ashanti asked him if they could purchase his collection of gold artefacts and jewellery from Mali, Senegal, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, he agreed. ‘I had considered the collection complete for a long time – I had all the types of rings, pendants, fly whisks and scepters – and it had been travelling for 17 years.’ He continues: ‘It is not a question of price, I do not need money, it is a question of how you will treat it, how you will show it.’

Their idea was to open a museum to preserve the artistry of African goldsmithing and inspire modern jewellery design. It opened in an old colonial house in Cape Town in 2001. Last December, he signed a 10-year, renewable contract with the museum to send them annual loan exhibitions, starting with the current jewellery exhibition. ‘The museum has not changed since it installed the collection. Our new collaboration is a way of bringing it to life,’ Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller enthuses. He marked the occasion by donating the gift of an important and very early wooden ancestor Bambara statue from Mali. The institution is now the Gold of Africa Barbier-Mueller Museum.

In contrast, the Pre-Columbian collection is not complete, so it remains on long-term loan to Spain in ‘a jewel of a palace’ opposite the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Since the loan began in 1997, he has added 300 more pieces, shipped to Barcelona immediately. He is not one to fill any perceived holes with unworthy examples.

After 43 years of seriously collecting tribal art, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller’s passion has not abated. In fact, he believes it is this evident passion which has allowed him to succeed in his various projects. ‘The important thing for me is that I want people to understand that I am trying to establish a connection between the unknown people who are the authors of the works that I own and other unknown people who are the visitors coming to see them. I am in the shadows trying to organise this contact in the hope that these encounters will be a revelation–and in the dark the authors of these works are smiling in silence and probably happy to see that the objects that they did not make as works of art are important. By accident, out of a hundred craftsmen, one was an artist. Yes, I have tried to find the one that is the artist.’

Susan Moore is associate editor of Apollo.

This interview originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Apollo.


The Persian Empires: Chapter 2

The Parthian Empire 247 BC - 224 AD

After Alexander the Great invaded Persia, the Achaemenid Dynasty came to an end. Alexander's reign also only lasted from 336 BC - 323 BC and after his death (and lack of an heir) his entire empire was divided and finally succeeded by the Seleucid dynasty which existed from 312 BC to 63 BC, founded by Seleucus I Nicator. During the time of the Seleucid rule, however, the Parthian satrapy was conquered by Arsaces I who was the first king of Parthia, as well as the founder and eponym of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia, ruling from 247 BC to 217 BC. The leader of the Parni, one of the three tribes of the Dahae confederacy, Arsaces founded his dynasty in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the satrapy of Parthia (now shared between Turkmenistan and Iran) from Andragoras, who had rebelled against the Seleucid Empire. He spent the rest of his reign consolidating his rule in the region, and successfully stopped the Seleucid efforts to reconquer Parthia. Due to Arsaces' achievements, he became a popular figure amongst the Arsacid monarchs, who used his name as a royal honorific. By the time of his death, Arsaces had laid the foundations of a strong state, which would eventually transform into an empire under his great-grand nephew, Mithridates I, who assumed the ancient Near Eastern royal title of King of Kings. Mithridates I of Parthia (r. c. 171–138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to eastern Iran. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce.

The Parthians largely adopted the art, architecture, religious beliefs, and royal insignia of their culturally heterogeneous empire, which encompassed Persian, Hellenistic, and regional cultures. For about the first half of its existence, the Arsacid court adopted elements of Greek culture, though it eventually saw a gradual revival of Iranian traditions. The Arsacid rulers were titled the "King of Kings", as a claim to be the heirs to the Achaemenid Empire. There is unfortunately very limited historical records available on the Parthian Dynasty's inventions, but it is clear from remains that they maintained significant Greek cultural influences throughout the dynasty's existence. There are however a few "inventions" that were made famous by the Parthians.

One of their military branches was the light cavalry who was recruited from among the commoner class and acted as horse archers.They used composite bows and were able to shoot at enemies while riding and facing away from them; this technique, known as the Parthian shot, was a highly effective tactic While in real or feigned retreat their horse archers would turn their bodies back in full gallop to shoot at the pursuing enemy. The maneuver required superb equestrian skills, since the rider's hands were occupied by his composite bow. As the stirrup had not been invented at the time of the Parthians, the rider relied solely on pressure from his legs to guide his horse.

A signature feature of Parthian architecture was the iwan, an audience hall supported by arches or barrel vaults and open on one side. Use of the barrel vault replaced the Hellenic use of columns to support roofs. Although the iwan was known during the Achaemenid period and earlier in smaller and subterranean structures, it was the Parthians who first built them on a monumental scale. The earliest Parthian iwans are found at Seleucia, built in the early 1st century AD. Monumental iwans are also commonly found in the ancient temples of Hatra and perhaps modeled on the Parthian style. The largest Parthian iwans at that site have a span of 15 m (50 ft).

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the Parthians was an eager revival of the Persian culture that was nearly lost during the Hellenic times. Because of their desire to return to Iranian traditions, they gave rise to the Sassanid Dynasty who would end their reign, but lead Persia back to her roots for nearly 400 years. The Parthian Empire, weakened by internal strife and wars with Rome, was followed by the Sassanid Empire. Indeed, shortly afterward, Ardashir I, the local Iranian ruler of Persis (modern Fars Province, Iran) from Estakhr began subjugating the surrounding territories in defiance of Arsacid rule. He confronted Artabanus IV at the Battle of Hormozdgān on 28 April 224 AD, perhaps at a site near Isfahan, defeating him and establishing the Sassanid Empire. The Sassanians would not only assume Parthia's legacy as Rome's Persian nemesis, but they would also attempt to restore the boundaries of the Achaemenid Empire by briefly conquering the Levant, Anatolia, and Egypt from the Eastern Roman Empire during the reign of Khosrau II (r. 590–628 AD). However, they would lose these territories to Heraclius—the last Roman emperor before the Arab conquests.


The Toms Collection

The Toms Collection is one of the most important ancient tapestry collections privately assembled during the second half of the twentieth century. Bequeathed to the State of Vaud by Mary Toms in 1993, it comprises more than one-hundred wall tapestries and decorative tapestry pieces, representing major early sixteenth- to late nineteenth-century European manufactories.

In 1958, having amassed a fortune in real estate, the English property developer Reginald Toms (1892-1978) and his wife Mary (1901-1993) settled in the Château de Coinsins, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. They discovered a passion for ancient tapestries and, in the sixties, made the acquisition of some one hundred pieces.

More than fifty of the tapestries in the Toms Collection were woven in the workshops of Flanders, mostly in the Baroque period and the eighteenth century. Beautiful tapestries from English, Italian and French workshops, as well as English embroidered pieces, complete this prestigious ensemble which is noteworthy not only for its geographical, chronological and thematic diversity, but also for its remarkable condition.

Since the 1994-2002 restoration campaign conducted by Manufacture royale De Wit, in Mechelen, Belgium, the treasures of the Toms Collection have been admired at the Abbey of Payerne, Switzerland, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne, the Palacio Real in Madrid, the Cité de la Tapisserie in Aubusson, and the Musée Rath in Geneva”

But for me the most interesting part of the Toms story is that Reginald and his wife Alice Mary were extremely good at collecting Persian carpets and they lived in South Africa from 1947 selling cold harbor wood and bought General Botha’s house in 1952 in Standerton where they bred horses. I assume they were buying great antiques and Persian carpets while residing in South Africa or maybe they bought the house of General Botha with furniture and carpets included.

Later on they moved to America and then settled in Switzerland. After the death of Reginald in 1995 Sotheby’s sold most of the carpets including this Northwest Medallion carpet (this carpet sold for £42200 with warp depression, 3 shoots of wefts, Asymmetrical open to left) to get funds for restoring the tapestry collection. The entire collection was moved to a small museum after the death of his wife.

Was this carpet once in General Botha’s house in South Africa? On 24 Oct 2007 the carpet once again came to Sotheby’s and sold for only £23300. Such a low price for such a rare carpet belonging to a rare category very similar to Medallion carpet of Calouste Gulbenkian foundation. A 16th century badge is definitely well deserved for this carpet.


The woman who ended king Cyrus’ reign

The details of Cyrus's death vary by account. The account of Herodotus from his Histories provides the second-longest detail, in which Cyrus met his fate in a fierce battle with the Massagetae, a tribe from the southern deserts of Khwarezm and Kyzyl Kum in the southernmost portion of the steppe regions of modern-day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, following the advice of Croesus to attack them in their own territory.

The Massagetae were related to the Scythians in their dress and mode of living; they fought on horseback and on foot. In order to acquire her realm, Cyrus first sent an offer of marriage to their ruler, the empress Tomyris, a proposal she rejected.

He then commenced his attempt to take Massagetae territory by force (c. 529), beginning by building bridges and towered war boats along his side of the river Jaxartes, or Syr Darya, which separated them. Sending him a warning to cease his encroachment (a warning which she stated she expected he would disregard anyway), Tomyris challenged him to meet her forces in honorable warfare, inviting him to a location in her country a day's march from the river, where their two armies would formally engage each other. He accepted her offer, but, learning that the Massagetae were unfamiliar with wine and its intoxicating effects, he set up and then left camp with plenty of it behind, taking his best soldiers with him and leaving the least capable ones.

The general of Tomyris's army, Spargapises, who was also her son, and a third of the Massagetian troops, killed the group Cyrus had left there and, finding the camp well stocked with food and the wine, unwittingly drank themselves into inebriation, diminishing their capability to defend themselves when they were then overtaken by a surprise attack. They were successfully defeated, and, although he was taken prisoner, Spargapises committed suicide once he regained sobriety. Upon learning of what had transpired, Tomyris denounced Cyrus's tactics as underhanded and swore vengeance, leading a second wave of troops into battle herself. Cyrus the Great was ultimately killed, and his forces suffered massive casualties in what Herodotus referred to as the fiercest battle of his career and the ancient world. When it was over, Tomyris ordered the body of Cyrus brought to her, then decapitated him and dipped his head in a vessel of blood in a symbolic gesture of revenge for his bloodlust and the death of her son. However, some scholars question this version, mostly because Herodotus admits this event was one of many versions of Cyrus's death that he heard from a supposedly reliable source who told him no one was there to see the aftermath.


The Persian Empires: Chapter 1

The Achaemenid Dynasty: 500 - 330BC

 The Achaemenid Dynasty is the first of the Persian Empires and its creator was Cyrus the Great. It is widely regarded as the largest empire to ever exist encompassing 40% of the worlds population at its vastest moment. It stretched from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. Its structure was copied by many of the great world empires, including the Greeks and Romans.

It was the first successful model of a centralized bureaucratic administration through satraps under the king. It brought us building infrastructure such as road systems, the postal system, use of an official language across all territories, development of civil services and a large professional army. The legendary "Immortals" were part of this great army. According to Herodotus the Immortals consisted of a steady force of 10,000 highly trained soldiers (men and women, as both sexes enjoyed equality under the Achaemenids). The force was kept steady by replacing dead, injured or ill soldiers immediately and it was only disbanded in 1979 with the Revolution, at which time it was only 5,000 men strong, lasting an astonishing 2,500 years!

Its' founder, Cyrus the Great, was the son of Cambyses I, king of Anshan, and Mandane, daughter of Astyages - king of Media. According to legend Cyrus' grandfather, Astyages, had two dreams in which a flood and then a series of fruit bearing vines emerged from his daughter's pelvis and covered his entire kingdom. This happened while Mundane was pregnant and his advisers interpreted this as a foreboding sign that his coming grandson will dethrone him. So Astyages summoned Mandane back to Ecbatana and ordered the baby to be killed upon birth. The task was given to Mithradates, a shepherd, who instead passed off his own stillborn infant as the dead baby and raised Cyrus as his own son. At the age of 10, however, Cyrus was reunited with his real family when the truth was revealed. After his father's death Cyrus inherited his throne. Astyages wanted to overthrow Cyrus but after key figures of his army defected to the side of Cyrus, a 3 year war ensued that saw Cyrus as the victor and for the first time the Achaemenid kingdoms were united.

Cyrus had to defend the borders of his newly founded kingdom and in so doing conquered more lands. He was a just king and demanded tolerance and respect towards all races and religions inside the borders of his kingdom. He wrote the first human right's charter (contained in the Cyrus cylinder) of which the original is held in the British Museum and a replica in the United Nations headquarters. He was called "the father" by all inhabitants of the empire and is still called that by all Persians. As part of his empire's expansion he encountered the Massagatae, a tribe from the southern desserts of Kwharezm and Kyzyl Kum. During one of the battles he was fatally wounded by an arrow and buried in his capital city, Pasargade, where his tomb stands to this day. The translated ancient Roman and Greek accounts give a vivid description of the tomb both geometrically and aesthetically; the tomb's geometric shape has changed little over the years, still maintaining a large stone of quadrangular form at the base, followed by a pyramidal succession of smaller rectangular stones, until after a few slabs, the structure is curtailed by an edifice, with an arched roof composed of a pyramidal shaped stone, and a small opening or window on the side, where the slenderest man could barely squeeze through.

Within this edifice was a golden coffin, resting on a table with golden supports, inside of which the body of Cyrus the Great was interred. Upon his resting place, was a covering of tapestry and drapes made from the best available Babylonian materials, utilizing fine Median worksmanship; below his bed was a fine red carpet, covering the narrow rectangular area of his tomb. Translated Greek accounts describe the tomb as having been placed in the fertile Pasargadae gardens, surrounded by trees and ornamental shrubs, with a group of Achaemenian protectors called the "Magi", stationed nearby to protect the edifice from theft or damage.

After his death various successive kings expanded on his empire until it was finally brought to an end by Alexander the Great. A part of the empire survived in the Pontic Empire, founded by the Persian, Mithridates. It is believed that it was directly related to Darius the Great and the Achaemenid dynasty. The kingdom was proclaimed by Mithridates I in 281 BCE and lasted until its conquest by the Roman Republic in 63 BCE. It reached its largest extent under Mithridates VI the Great, who conquered Colchis, Cappadocia, Bithynia, the Greek colonies of the Tauric Chersonesos, and for a brief time the Roman province of Asia. After a long struggle with Rome in the Mithridatic Wars, Pontus was defeated; part of it was incorporated into the Roman Republic as the province Bithynia et Pontus, and the eastern half survived as a client kingdom.

Here are some key innovations, inventions, and contribution of the ancient Persian Empire: the Persians were the first people in history to give men and women equal rights, abolish slavery and write the very first human and animal bill of rights. They also built in 400s BC the very first stadium, the Apadana in Persepolis (later burnt down by Alexander). The Apadana was able to seat 15 (fifteen thousand) people in it, with space left for a grand ceremony. This massive building was roofed. Unlike the Colosseum, the architectural and worth of this single building, if it lived through the fire Alexander put it through, would have dwarfed the city of Rome. Persian emperors of the 6th century BC are among the first to make a display of lavish floor coverings. Carpets became one of the characteristic art forms of people living on the high plateau of West Asia, from Turkey through Iran, where winters can be extremely cold.

The Achaemenids built an efficient infrastructure of roads and ports. They bought water to remote areas throughout the empire through the use of qanats, (underground irrigation system). Darius the Great, had a canal built to link the Nile to the Red Sea (an early precursor of the Suez Canal). Embroidery was first invented by the Scythian people (a branch of Persians). The first travelers Inns called caravansaray (Inns of caravan) some of which still exist along the Silk Road, were built in Persia. The largest mud-brick structure is the citadel of Bam, in Kerman Province of Iran. King Cambyses II, of Persia, was the first person that examined the dead bodies of the mummies of Egypt, after conquering the Egyptian City of Memphis.


The Prehistoric Mound Of Tall-i-Bakun - 4200-3800 BC

Tall-i Bakun or Tall-e Bakun (in modern Fars Province, Iran) was a prehistoric site in the Ancient Near East about 3 km south of Persepolis. It was inhabited around 4000-3500 BC.

Additional work was done at the site in 1937 by Erich Schmidt leading the Persepolis Expedition of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Some limited work was done at Tall-i Bakun by a team from the Tokyo University led by Namio Egami and Seiichi Masuda in 1956. The most recent excavations were by a joint team of the Oriental Institute and the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation. The site was active from circa 6th millennium BC to circa 4th millennium BC.

Three kilometers south of Persepolis, in the plain of Marv Dasht, lies the prehistoric site of Tall-i-Bakun, consisting of two flat hillocks. Here in 1928, Ernst Herzfeld, of the University of Berlin, decided to undertake a trial excavation of the western mound, where he had previously discovered many prehistoric sherds Iying about on the ground. Later, in 1932, he conducted more extensive excavations, subsequently continued by Erich F. Schmidt (1935–37).

The main deposits of the western hill produced a large quantity of ceramics with unusually beautiful painted patterns dating mostly to the fourth millennium B .C. Unexpectedly, many rooms of the settlement contained a substantial number of unbroken vessels, many of them standing on the floors of the houses, sometimes nested one in another. A great wealth of designs and variations are seen in this cream-colored ware. Many show different geometrical patterns, some simple, some intricate. Fewer have beautifully stylized animal designs depicting either ibexes or mouflons. These vessels manifest a remarkable artistic balance between geometric ornament and animal design. Large jars, usually made in two parts, show distinct markings characteristic of a vessel turned by hand.

Besides these pottery vessels, numerous painted clay figurines of humans and animals were discovered. Other ceramic objects consisted of scrapers, in the form of stirrups, which were used for smoothing and decorating vessel surfaces before the vessels were fired. These scrapers—although made of clay—were so strong, and their scraping edges so sharp, that they were also used for scraping hides. In addition to this vast amount of pottery, there were large quantities of knives, blades, and copper daggers. There were also many button seals, mostly made of green stone, showing beautifully incised designs. Finally, some well-preserved clay labels and seal impressions were excavated.

Tall-i Bakun phase A was inhabited c. 4000-3500 BCE. Four layers can be distinguished. Layer III was the best preserved and shows a settlement in which the residential buildings were built close together with no roads or paths. Individual houses consisted of several rooms. Remains of mural paintings and of wooden columns suggest a once rich interior.

Richly painted pottery was produced. There were also ceramic female figurines and those of animals. There were also cylinder seals, which indicates some type of administrative activities.

Artifactual remains from the site include objects made of copper, pottery and stone.

The wealth and variety of material items at Bakun and the evidence of large workshop areas point to the existence of local industry and connection/trade with distant regions such as the Persian Gulf, the central plateau, Kerman, and northeastern Iran whence goods like shells, copper, steatite, lapis, and turquoise were procured. If my inferences are correct, we have a settlement that is spatially arranged according to its functional needs and socio-economic organization.

Bakun culture

The Bakun culture flourished in the Fars Province of Iran in the fifth and early fourth millenniums BC. It had a long duration and wide geographical distribution. Its pottery tradition was as sophisticated as that of Susa I. Nevertheless, it was mostly a nomadic culture, and its settlements were typically much smaller than those of Susa.

Bakun pottery is known in the Fars region in the form of bowls and jugs with green, reddish brown or deep brown bands and stripes.

Outside Fars this pottery has been found in northern Khuzestan, in the Bakhtiari mountains, and in the Behbahan and Zuhreh regions.

In the late fifth and early fourth millennia BC, Bakun A settlements were at once manufacturing sites and centres for the administration of production and trade. Their painted pottery featured some unusual specific motifs, such as large-horned mountain sheep and goats, that were rare or unique elsewhere.

After the decline of Bakun, Lapui period followed. In recent publications, Bakun period is dated 4800-4100 BC, and the Lapui period is dated to 4100-3500 BC.

Source of images:The Oriental Institute of
The University of Chicago

#ghorbanycarpets #ancienthistory #ancientpersia #history #prehistoricpersia #throwbackthursday #thursday #persia #ancientcivilizations #interestingfacts


The Abegg-Stiftung

The Abegg-Stiftung is committed to the collection, conservation and study of historical textiles. It is based just outside the village of Riggisberg in the foothills of the Bernese Alps, which is where the museum of textiles and applied art, the research library and the Villa Abegg, the Abeggs’ former home that is now a museum, are situated.

The studio for textile conservation and restoration is also a training centre for budding young conservators. The Abegg-Stiftung publishes books and papers in which it shares its research findings with fellow historians and conservators as well as a lay readership. Year after year, its annual exhibitions shed new light on a material that has served humanity for thousands of years, whether made up into objects of everyday use or in the form of exquisite works of art.

Pictured here: Griffin

This wall hanging is patterned with circular medallions containing winged horses, each with rigorously geometrical coat markings and fluttering white ribbons attached to the neck and fetlocks. Both the pattern itself and the individual motifs were derived from existing silks, especially those made in Persia in Late Antiquity. The Sasanid Dynasty that came to power in the 3rd century presided over the ascendancy of a great empire, whose arts and culture made waves throughout the Orient.
Egypt or the eastern Mediterranean, 4th–6th century, wool tapestry, h. 250 cm, w. 158 cm, inv. no. 2191

https.abegg-stiftung.ch/en/

#ghorbanycarpets #mondaymuseums #collection #ancienthistory #sassanid #textiles #monday #love #fun