In-Depth Episode 1.1

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Episode 1.1 – Why study the Sasanians?

In this episode I will provide a short background of the Sasanians and answer two questions: 1) Why should we study the Sasanians? and 2) Why haven’t scholars studied the Sasanians to the same extent as other ancient civilizations have been studied?

I’m providing you with three maps. The first shows the geographical features of West Asia, the region that is our focus during the podcast. The second provides the approximate location of regions and kingdoms. The last map provides the approximate location of the major cities in our story.


Here’s a list of person/place/thing names of relevance to this episode:

– Achaemenid Empire: The first major empire in West Asia, founded by Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BCE.

– Anatolia: Home of the modern day Turkey, also called Asia Minor.

– Artaxerxes: The 5th Achaemenid emperor, son of Xerxes. The name Artaxerxes is the Old Persian form of the Middle Persian Ardashir.

– Arthur Emanuel Christensen: Early 20th Century Danish scholar of Iranian history.

– Cambyses: The 2nd Achaemenid emperor, son of Cyrus the Great.

– Cyrus the Great: The founder of the Achaemenid Dynasty, the man credited with putting forth the concept of Iran as a distinct political entity.

– Darius the Great, the 3rd Achaemenid emperor. Darius was not in the family of Cyrus and took power in a military coup. During his reign Iranshahr reached the greatest territorial extent in its history.

– Ernst Herzfeld: German archeologist who at the start of the 20th Century began the systematic study of the Iranian ruins.

– Hakim Abolqasem Ferdowsi Toosi, or Ferdowsi for short: a poet in 11th Century CE who penned the Shahnameh, or the Book of Kings, a fantastic history of Iran in verse.

– Jamshid: Mythical first king of Iran.

– Levant: the area between Mesopotamia and Mediterranean.

– Mesopotamia: Region between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in modern day Iraq.

– Mohammad Reza Shah: The 2nd and last monarch of the Pahlavi Dynasty and the last monarch of Iran, who was deposed in 1979.

– Naqali: Art of storytelling based on Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh.

– Oxus river: It flows from the Hindu Kush Mountains north through Turkmenistan to empty into the Aral Sea. It traditionally marks the northeastern border of Iranshahr throughout the ages.

– Parthians: A group of people who lived in the Khurrasan region.

– Pasargadae: Eastern capital of the Achaemenid Dynasty, near the modern city of Shiraz.

– Qarb zadegy: “Smitten by the West,” a cultural phenomenon described in the 1950s where Iranians believed the supremacy of the West.

– Qeshm Island: The largest island in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. It sits on top of the Strait of Hormuz.

– Safavids: The dynasty that ruled Iran between 1502-1736. They ushered in modern Iran.

– Sasan: Allegedly Ardashir’s grandfather.

– Shahpur: Literally “Son of the King,” name of Ardashir’s brother and son.

– Strait of Hormuz: The narrowest passage between the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

– Transoxiana: The steppes to the west of the Oxus River. A lot of troublesome people came at the Iranians from this region throughout the ages.

– Xerxes: The 4th Achaemenid emperor, son of Darius the Great and Atossa, daughter of Cyrus the Great.

– Zoroastrian: The predominant religion of Iranshahr, found by the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathushra/Zardosht).


Map of West Asia showing geographical features.

Map of West Asia showing important regions or kingdoms.

Map of West Asia showing important cities.

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