Timeline of Persian / Iranian History

Dynasty, Ruler or Event Begin End
Birth of Zoroaster Sometime between 10th and 7th century BCE
Achaemenian Dynasty
Cyrus the Great 559 BCE 530 BCE
First to extend Persian empire
Builder of Pasargad
Killed in battle by Queen Tomyris of the Massagetaes 530 BCE
Tomb at Pasargad
Cambyses (son of Cyrus) 530 BCE
Extended empire into Egypt
Darius I 521 BCE 486 BCE
28 year old royal spear bearer; branch of Achaemenian family
Married widow of Cambyses and daughter of Cyrus
Put down internal revolts; carved story in rock at Hamadan
Moved into Punjab, in present-day India. 517 BCE
Using chariots, drove into Libya
Persian army reached lower Danube -- height of Empire 512 BCE
Builder of Persepolis 500 BCE
Greek victory at Battle of Marathon 490 BCE
Tomb at Naqsh-e Rostam
Ganjnameh (Treasure Book) carvings near Hamadan
Xerxes 486 BCE 465 BCE
Brought foreign architects and artisans to work at Persepolis
Marched on Greece; defeated Spartans at Thermopylae 481 BCE
Conquered Athens and set fire to the Parthenon
Lost navy at Battle of Salamis 480 BCE
Xerxes murdered by a palace conspirator 465 BCE
Tomb at Naqsh-e Rostam
Ganjnameh (Treasure Book) carvings near Hamadan
Artaxerxes I 465 BCE 424 BCE  ?
Tomb at Naqsh-e Rostam
Darius II 425 BCE  ? 405 BCE
Tomb at Naqsh-e Rostam
Artaxerxes II 405 BCE 361 BCE
Tomb above Persepolis
Artaxerxes III 361 BCE 338 BCE
Tomb above Persepolis
Darius III
Defeated by Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great
Crossed Hellespont 332 BCE
Took, looted and burned Persepolis
Selucid Dynasty (founded by Alexander's generals) 312 BCE 44 BCE
Anahita Temple in Kangavar from Selucid or Parthian times
Parthian Dynasty 163 BCE 224 CE
Fought and kept Romans in check for 300 years
Developed larger, stronger horses mounted w/ armor and archers
Defeated Mark Anthony and killed 35,000 Romans in Azerbaijan 36 BCE
Fostered development of Persian miniature painting
Takht-e Soleiman (Solomon's Throne) used as Zoroastrian fire alter
Sassanian Dynasty 208 CE 637 CE
Renaissance of Persian culture
Dome and vault used later in Islamic architecture developed
Takht-e Soleiman (Solomon's Throne) used as Zoroastrian fire alter
Ruins on hill of Zoroastrian Fire Temple from Sassanian era outside Isfahan
Ardeshir I 208 CE 241 CE
Defeated Artabanus V (Ardavan), last Parthian king in hand-to-hand combat 224 CE
Depicted in carvings at Naqsh-e Rostam receiving crown from Ahura Mazda
   (Artabanus V and Ahriman, Zoroastrian god of evil, trampled underfoot)
Zoroastrianism becomes state religion
Shapur I 241 CE 272 CE
Roman Emperor Valerian taken prisoner at Edessa 260 CE
Carving at Naqsh-e Rostam, w/ Philip the Arab (kneeling) and Valerian
Prophet Mani (b. 216) spreads concepts of Manichaeism (duality of good and evil)
Bahram II 276 CE 293 CE
Depicted in carving at Naqsh-e Rostam, w/ family and dignitaries
Also at Naqsh-e Rostam on horseback in combat
Narseh 293 CE 302 CE
Depicted at Naqsh-e Rostam receiving crown from goddess Anahita
Hormizd II 303 CE 309 CE
Depicted at Naqsh-e Rostam on horseback toppling enemy w/ spear
Shapur II 310 CE 379 CE
Right cave, leaning on sword, at Taq-e Bostan, Kermanshah
Depicted in damaged carving at Naqsh-e Rostam leaning on sword
Shapur III 383 CE 388 CE
Right cave, leaning on sword, at Taq-e Bostan, Kermanshah
Ardeshir II 379 CE 383 CE
Depicted receiving crown from Ahura Mazda at Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah
Bahram V 420 CE 440 CE
Built small palace (or hunting lodge) at Sarvestan (near Shiraz)
Peroz 457 CE 484 CE
Killed by Hephtalite Huns out of central Asia
Khosroe (Khosrow) I 531 CE 579 CE
Moved capital to Cresiphon in Mesopotamia
"Spring of Khosrow," first known Persian carpet; 90' square
Khosroe (Khosrow) II 590 CE 628 CE
Depicted on horse (Shabdiz) in large grotto at Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah
Renewed empire building; drove into Byzantium in 602; Jerusalem in 614
Drove into Alexandria and Egypt in 619
Defeat by Byzantium; king abandons Cresiphon; beginning of end 626 CE
Yazdagird III 632 CE 651 CE
Battle at Qadisiya (on Euphrates); Gen. Rustam and 80,000 Persians lose 636 CE
Cresiphon falls to Arabs; Yazdagird in retreat 638 CE
Arabs win at Nihavand (near Hamadan) opening passes thru Zagros to Persia 642 CE
Persians lose at Istakhr (in Fars); 40,000 killed; Arabs take Persepolis 648-49 CE
Beginning of Arab (and Islamic) domination 651 CE
Persian culture led Islamic Empire to golden age of 8th to 10th centuries
Ali, son-in-law of Prophet, becomes caliph in Kufa (near Basra) 656 CE
Ali assassinated in Kufa; buried in Najaf (now in Iraq) 661 CE
Hussein, 2d son of Ali, challenges Umayyad rulers in Damascus
Hussein, with force of 72, slaughtered by Umayyad army in Karbala (Iraq) 680 CE
Battle of Karbala beginning of Shi'ism as separate sect from Sunnis
Abbasid Dynasty defeats Umayyad; moves capital to Baghdad 750 CE
Abbasid Dynasty much influenced by traditional Persian culture
Greek works translated by Persians into Arabic; also Persian scientific work 813 CE 833 CE
Eighth Imam, Reza, died of suspected poisoning (buried in Mashhad) 817 CE
Muhammad al-Muntazar, 12th or Hidden Imam, goes into "occultation" 873 CE
Buyids (adherents of Shi'ism) march into Baghdad 945 CE 1055
Buyids establish Qom as important center of Shi'ism
Ghaznavid Dynasty (Turkic speaking) 994 CE 1030
Persian culture flourishes
Ferdowsi (b. 935) writes Shahnameh (Book of Kings); created modern Persian 985 CE 1010
Gonbad-e Kavus (167 foot tomb tower) built 1007
Tomb/tower of Arsalon (10th century Turk, General of Tus) outside Mashhad
Seljuq Dynasty (and vizier Nizam al-Mulk (1020-1092) 1045 1092
Toghrul Beg 1038 1063
Alp-Arslan 1063 1072
Mailk Shah 1072 1092
Era of Omar Khayyam (and historical novel Samarkand)
Khayyam solved quadratic equation; reformed calendar
Seljuqs elevated Sufism as respected part of Sunni Islam
Dome of Gonbad-e Khaki (1088) in Friday Mosque in Isfahan
Gonbad-e Alavian built in Hamadan during Seljuq era
Gonbad-e Sorkh (Red Tomb) (1147) built in Maragheh
Gonbad-e Kabud (1197) built in Maragheh
Pol-e Shahrestan (12th century, Seljuq, bridge over river, Zayendeh-rud in Isfahan)
West evian of Friday Mosque in Isfahan w/ stalactites; Seljuq construction
North evian of Friday Mosque in Isfahan; Sejuq construction
Genghis Khan's Mongol Army captures Khorassan 1221
Every person in Nishapur beheaded; heads stacked in pyramids
Hulagu Khan (grandson of Genghis; d. 1265) subdues all of Persia 1256
Baghdad captured; caliph put to death; end of Abbasid Caliphate 1258
Massacred up to 800,000 in Baghdad
Iran becomes an "Ilkhanate," territory of Great Khan of China
Not until mid-20th century did Iran's population reach pre-Mongol levels
Ghazan Khan 1295 1304
Gonbad-e Khafariyeh (1328) built in Maragheh
Mausoleum of Sheikh Safi al-Din (1252-1334) -- important Sufi center
Shaking Minarets (menar-e Jonban); small 14th c. Mongol mosque; near Isfahan
Tamerlane (Timur the Lame; d. 1405) captures eastern Iran 1384 1405
Remainder falls a few years later; 70,000 killed in sack of Isfahan
Timurid Dynasty 1405 1517
Shah Rokh 1405 1447
Flourishing of arts, especially miniature painting
Jahan Shah 1436 1467
Mausoleum of Shah Nematollah Vali (d.1431) in Yazd
Mir Chakhmaq mosque (1437) in Yazd
Blue Mosque (masjed-e Kabud) built in Tabriz in 1465
Khanjor tower (Gonbad-e Khanjour?) -- 15th century; Timurid, near Mashhad
South evian ceiling (Timurid; 15th c.) at Friday Mosque in Isfahan
Safavid Dynasty 1502 1737
Arg-e Bam (Citadel) built during Safavid era
Shah Ismail 1501 1524
Origins go back to Sufi order centered around Ardabil
Shah Ismail declared Shi'ism as the official religion 1501
Over next 8 years subdued all of Persia; imposed Shi'ism thru "example, zeal
   massacre, pillage and torture."
Shah Abbas I 1588 1629
Signed treaty ceding Azerbaijan to Ottoman Turks to neutralize external threat 1590
Encouraged contacts and trade w/ Europe; another "golden age"
Abbas furthered secured Shi'ism as state religion
Fearing a conspiracy to overthrow his throne, Abbas murders own son 1615
Another son suspected of conspiracy is blinded 1621
Abbas also blinded and imprisoned his 5th son, his father and two brothers
Capital moved to Isfahan, away from Ottomans; massive rebuilding of city
Ali Qapu Palace, small Timurid palace enlarged by Shah Abbas in Isfahan
Si-o-Se pol (Bridge of 33 Arches, aka Allahverdi Khan Bridge) (c. 1600)
Mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah (built, 1602-1619) in Imam Square, Isfahan
Imam Mosque (started in 1611) in Imam Square, Isfahan
Mausoleum of Khaje Rabi (built 1617-1622 by Shah Abbas) near Mashhad
Chehel Sotun (40, really 20, columns) finished 1647 in Isfahan
Pol-e Khaju (bridge built in 1650; 24 arches) over river in Isfahan
Bagh-e Fin gardens in Kashan, designed for Shah Abbas (buildings now Qajar)
West evian of Friday Mosque in Isfahan; Seljuq construction; Safavid redecoration
Succession of weak and disconnected rulers
Afghan army invades Khorassan and captures Isfahan; rules eastern Iran 1722 1729
Ashraf Shah (2d ruler) overthrown by Nader Shah
Nader Shah 1736 1747
Briefly restored Tahmasp to Safavid throne before taking power himself in 1736
Conquered Afghanistan, New Delhi, Bukhara and Khiva (Jewels from India)
Cruel and dictatorial, he was assassinated in 1747
Karim Khan (and Zands) establishes rule in Shiraz 1750 1779
Civil wars rip Iran apart along ethnic lines 1779 1795
Last Zand surrenders to Agha Muhammad Khan 1795
Qajar Dynasty 1795 1925
Agha Muhammad Khan 1796 1797
In youth, hostage of Zands; castrated and caged
Unified Persia under his control; crowned Shah in Tehran in 1796
Assassinated by own servants 1797
Fath Ali Shah 1798 1834
Restored Persian elegance and grandeur to the court
Portrait painted in large grotto at Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah
Iran loses first war to Russia and Armenia, Georgia and N. Azerbaijan 1813
Iran loses second war to Russia and cede southern Caspian shore 1828
Muhammad 1834 1848
Qajar king lays claim to Herat in Afghanistan; trounced by Great Britain 1838
Mirza Ali Muhammad declares himself Mahdi; creates Bahai faith 1844
Bahais considered Shia heresy; deny Muhammad as last prophet and Koran
   as the final revelation; Mirza executed as heretic in 1850
Naser od-Din Shah 1848 1896
Visited Europe several times and started "modernization" of Iran
Tried to reclaim Herat for Iran; Britain forces entry into Iran w/ Treaty of Paris 1857
Began selling "concessions" to European companies 1890
Religious fatva against tobacco concession sold to Britain 1891
Shah assassinated in mosque by Muslim objecting to Western influence 1896
Muzzaffar ed-Din Shah 1896 1907
Pledged Iranian customs receipts as collateral for Russian loan 1900
Shah gives British right to Iranian oil 1901
Riots; 13,000-20,000 take refuge in British Embassy 1906
Constitution and inauguration of Majlis, parliament 1906
Muhammad Ali Shah 1907 1909
Russian troops defeat protestors at mosque and Majlis; end of parliament 1908
Sultan Ahmed Shah (corpulent 12 year son of Muhammad) 1909 1925
W. Morgan Shuster attempts to reorganize Iranian finances; ousted by Russians 1911
Shah's cabinet backed by 12,000 Russian troops overthrows Majlis 1911
British Admiralty converts to oil; controls much of southern Iran 1913
Pahlavi Dynasty 1925 1979
Reza Shah 1925 1941
Little known military officer, Reza Khan, seizes power 1921
In negotiations, clergy rejects republic; agrees to Reza as Shah 1925
Declared "Reza Shah" by Majlis 1925
Forced "westernization" of Iran
Country's name changed from "Persia" to "Iran" 1935
Various moves against religious authority; wearing of veil banned in 1935
Shah's troops massacre hundreds of protestors in Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad 1935
Britain and Russia depose Reza; install weak, playboy son as new Shah 1941
Muhammad Reza Shah 1941 1979
Muhammad Mossadeq and second constitutional revolution 1951 1953
Shah flees to Rome, but is reinstalled with American CIA help 1953
SAVAK (secret police) formed w/ CIA assistance. 1957
"White Revolution" incenses clergy; Ayatollah Khomeini is jailed for first time 1963
Iran accepts U.S. "Status of Forces Agreement," immunity for US citizens in Iran 1964
Khomeini released from jail; promptly resumes criticism of Shah and SOFA 1964
Khomeini exiled to Najaf, in Iraq -- continues criticism w/ leaflets and cassettes 1964
Shah's grandiose celebration of 2,500 years of empire at Persepolis 1971
Nixon arms Iran to counter Soviet influence in region; Iran buys $4B US arms 1972 1976
Mid-70's 50,000 Americans living in Iran; "ugly American" incidents protected by SOFA
SAVAK increases spying, repression, torture and killing thru 1970's
SAVAK arrests, interrogates and tortures Rafsanjani, Montazeri and Khamenei 1974
Economic hardship; inflation; lower oil revenue; spending on arms; budget deficit 1975 1977
Khomeini's 49-year old son dies suddenly; SAVAK suspected 1977
Shah's police kill hundreds of protestors in Qom, Tabriz, elsewhere 1978
Khomeini's exile moved to Paris; gains access to international press 1978
Shah flees Jan 16; Khomeini arrives Feb. 1; Islamic Revolution begins 1979
Islamic Revolution and Establishment of Islamic Republic 1979
First seizure of US Embassy: Feb. 14, 1979 -- militants retreat 2/14/1979
Seizure of US Embassy: Nov 4, 1979 after Shah admitted to US for treatment 11/4/1979
Khomeini used seizure to unify country around adoption of constitution
Saddam Hussein and Iraq invade Iran 9/22/1980
American hostages released 1/20/1981
During 1981, Mujahedin assassinates more than 1,000 gov't officials
1985-1986 Iran and US engage in "arms for hostages" deals
July 3, 1988 USS Vincennes shoots down Iran Air 655; 290 die 7/3/1988
Iran agrees to UN resolution to end war with Iraq; 750,000 Iranians died 7/18/1988
Khomeini issues fatva against Salman Rushdie 2/14/1989
Ayatollah Khomeini dies; Khamenei becomes new Supreme Leader 6/4/1989
     The Iranians -- Book Cover The Iranians: Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation, by Sandra Mackey (Plume 1998):  A detailed and very readable account of Iranian history from the Achaemenians up through the Islamic Revolution and beyond. In addition facts and dates, the book places Iranian history in the context of its culture and the often conflicting influences that have shaped its destiny.  The book offers particularly useful insights into the period of American influence in Iran under Muhammad Reza Shah and reasons behind the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Shah's eventual ouster in 1979.
     Iran -- Book Cover Iran, by Helen Loveday (1999).  An excellent travel guide, filled with beautiful photographs.  This was the preferred book of our Iranian guide.
  Related Page: Under A Persian Moon, a detailed account of our three weeks in Iran during October 2000.