Timeline and Maps

People have lived in the area we call Iran for tens of thousands of years. We have divided their history into the following time periods:

  • Prehistory (100,000 - 3,400 BC) - The first evidence of human occupation in Iran dates to this period. Hunters and gatherers are gradually superseded by pastoral and agricultural communities.
  • Early Iran (3,400 - 550 BC) - The Elamites in southwestern Iran dominate the area and provide a cultural foundation for later empires. Bronze and iron metallurgy develop throughout the region.
  • The Achaemenid Empire (550 - 330 BC) - The first Persian empire arises, quickly growing to embrace much of the Middle East from Egypt to the Oxus River.
  • The Seleucid Empire (330 - 200 BC) - Conquest of the Achaemenid Empire by Alexander the Great leads to a Hellenistic empire and the influx of Greek colonists in Mesopotamia and the Iranian world.
  • The Parthian/Arsacid Empire (250 BC - 224 CE) - A rebellion in northeast Iran establishes an empire under Iranian control that incorporates Near Eastern and Greek communities.  
  • The Sasanian Empire (224 - 651 CE) - Led by a former Parthian vassal, a new dynasty ushers in a revival of Zoroastrianism and Persian culture, but also incorporates Christians, Jews, and other communities.

The menu on the left presents a map of each of these phases of Ancient Iran and a broad summary of major events. While inevitably simplified, these surveys seek to offer useful orientation.