DAily LIfe in the Persian Empire - History

DAily LIfe in the Persian Empire - History

Daily Life in the Persian Empire

The Persians had begun as a series of small kingdoms. Each king levied taxes and demanded service that was used to maintain an army. When iron was widely introduced, prosperity increased. Farmers tended to work small plots and an independant peasantry developed. Iranians also were breeders of horses, and this helped develop a brisk trade.

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Ancient Persia was one of the greatest ancient civilizations in history. At its height, Ancient Persia was inhabited by 50 million people out of a little over 100 million population worldwide. Persians also practiced Zoroastrianism as their primary religion popularized by Cyrus the Great, used a standard currency, and built essential structures that become a great source of information among historians.

See the fact file below for more information on the Ancient Persia or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Ancient Persia worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.

The Persian Empire

The Persian Empire was created by Cyrus II, known as Cyrus the Great (559-529 BC). Cyrus first defeated another Iranian people called the Medes, then in 547 Cyrus defeated the kingdom of Lydia (in what is now Turkey) at the battle of Pterya and he became the ruler of most of Asia Minor. Soon afterward Cyrus also defeated the Greek cities on the Turkish coast. (These had been founded by the Greeks as colonies many years before).

However, Cyrus adopted a policy of allowing conquered areas autonomy (a certain amount of independence) provided they paid their taxes. The Persians were also very tolerant of local religions. Later Persian rulers also followed this policy. Under Darius, the Persian Empire was divided into areas called satrapies and each was ruled by a man called a satrap.

In 539 BC the Persians conquered the rich and powerful city-state of Babylon. The king of Babylon had ruled Syria and Phoenicia (modern-day Lebanon) and both of these were now added to the Persian Empire.

Cyrus was followed by Cambyses II (529-522 BC). In 525 BC he conquered Egypt. He died in 522 BC and was replaced by Darius.

For the first part of his reign, Darius had to deal with rebellions in his empire. He then fought wars with Greece. In 499 BC the Greek cities on the coast of Turkey rebelled. Darius quickly crushed the revolt but in 490 BC he decided to invade Greece to punish the Greeks for assisting the rebels. However, the Persians were defeated by the Athenians at the battle of Marathon.

In 480 BC another Persian ruler, Xerxes, invaded Greece. This time the Persians captured Athens and they burned the Acropolis. However, their fleet was crushed at a naval battle at Salamis. In 479 BC the Greeks won a decisive battle at Plataea, which assured Greek independence. Xerxes was assassinated in 465 BC.

Despite its brilliance, the Persian Empire declined after 400 BC. For one thing, the empire suffered from its sheer size, which made it difficult to control. The empire suffered a series of rebellions. It also suffered from political instability. Another ruler, Artaxerxes III, was assassinated in 338 BC. Finally, the great Persian Empire was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 331 BC.

To deal with the arid climate the Persians developed an irrigation system. They built underground canals. These irrigation tunnels were often several kilometers long. They sloped slightly so gravity moved the water.

Persian farmers grew wheat, barley, olives, and wine. They raised cattle, goats, and sheep. Hunting and fishing were also important source of food. (Rich Persians also enjoyed hunting wild animals).

Moreover because of the vast size of the Persian Empire crops from one region were introduced to another. Rice and flax were introduced into Mesopotamia. Sesame was introduced into Egypt.

Rich Persians lived in palaces of timber, stone, and brick. They had comfortable upholstered furniture such as beds, couches, and chairs. Tables were overlaid with gold, silver, and ivory. The rich also owned gold and silver vessels, as well as glass vessels. They also owned tapestries and carpets. n Rich people in the Persian empire also had beautiful gardens. (Our word ‘paradise’ comes from the Persian word for garden).

For the ordinary people in Persia, things were quite different. They lived in simple huts made from mud brick. If they were quite well off they might live in a house of several rooms arranged around a courtyard. However poor people lived in huts of just one room. Any furniture was very basic.

The Persian Empire was followed by other empires. After the death of Alexander in 323 BC his Empire broke up. The Seleucid Empire was named after Seleucus I (c. 356 BC – 280 BC). In 312 BC he became ruler of Babylon. Seleucus founded an empire, which at its peak spanned from Afghanistan in the east to Syria and Turkey in the west.

However, in 190 BC the Seleucid ruler Antiochus III was defeated by the Romans. The Seleucid Empire lost territory and gradually shrank to a kingdom in Syria. Finally, in 64 BC, the Roman general Pompey annexed all that was left of the Seleucid Empire and formed it into the Roman province of Syria.

Meanwhile, the Parthian Empire arose. Parthia began as a kingdom in what is now northern Iran about 247 BC. Under King Mithradates I (171-138 BC) the Parthians expanded, taking territory from the Seleucids. They came to rule a great empire that stretched from what is now Iraq to parts of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

The Romans invaded the Parthian Empire but they were defeated at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC. But the Romans remained powerful enemies of the Parthians. However, the Parthian Empire was overthrown in the 3rd century AD.

The Sassanid or Sassanian Empire was founded by Ardeshir I in 224. It was a powerful enemy of Rome and later the Byzantine Empire. However, Arabs invaded the Sassanid Empire and they brought it to an end in 651.

Hammurabi: The King of Babylon

Hammurabi is known as one of the most impressive ruler of the Ancient Middle East. He is remembered most for the law he created popularly known as the Code of Hammurabi. This code is also one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length. He declared himself not only the ruler of Babylon but of the areas surrounding Babylonia too. Hammurabi skillfully used coalition and became more powerful than his predecessors. Nevertheless, after 30 years of his rule, he gave definite expression to the idea of ruling all of Southern Mesopotamia. The military power under Hammurabi was well disciplined.

The king of Babylon built a great palace in Babylon and several temples. His main contributions in agriculture were the canals. Everyone in his kingdom followed the same law which was laid out in detail. Military power and a strong belief system in God made Babylonia a powerful empire. During his reign, the south Mesopotamian god Marduk rose to supremacy and the honor was transferred to Babylon. The city of Babylon came to be known as the holy city and all legitimate rulers of southern Mesopotamia were crowned here. Hammurabi turned a minor administrative city to a major city.

Location of the Ancient Persian Civilization

The Persian civilization developed in what is current Iran. It is a plateau in Asia, neighbor to Mesopotamia, which was a witness to important historical events. This plateau, which occupies two million square kilometers, can be delimited :

  • To the West: the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates (from which they are separated by the Zagros Mountains)
  • To the East: the Indus River Valley
  • To the North: the Caspian Sea and Turkestan
  • To the South: the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The heart of its territory is a desert zone, surrounded by high mountains. The fertile lands, fit for cultivation and livestock, are found on the slopes and the valleys of these mountains. In the present, the region is occupied by the states of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

In ancient times, it was the site chosen by two peoples to settle and develop their civilization: the Medes and the Persians.

These peoples belonged to the linguistic family of the Indoeuropeans or Aryans also integrated by the Hittites, the Mitanni, the Kassites, the Ionians, the Eolians and the Achaeans among others. On comparing the characteristics of their languages, it was supposed that they formed a people which at one point was united. Their place of origin can not be precisely established: it could have been in the North of Europe (in the region of present-day Poland), the center of Asia or the zones near the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The first element which made them powerful was the domestication of the horse, which constituted a new and important military resource. Later on, the utilization of iron and war chariots would make them into fearsome warriors.

As they went on expanding, they settled in different areas and formed distinct nations. The Hittites, for example, settled in Anatolia the Ionians, Eolians and the Achaeans, in Greece the Indians, in the Indus and Ganges river valleys.

Towards the end of the second millennium B.C., the Medes and the Persians arrived in the fertile valleys of the Zagros Mountains.

In the area parallel to Assyria the Medes settled, and over the Persian Gulf, the Persians installed themselves.

The Medes

A people of Aryan shepherds, on settling they began to practice agriculture. Their organization was initially tribal, that is to say, they were divided into tribes which would unite, in the case of war, against a common enemy.

In the 9th and 8th Centuries B.C. they were subdued to tribute by their powerful neighbors in Mesopotamia: the Assyrians, who also dominated the Persians.

At the end of the 8th Century B.C., the Medes organized a state and subdued the Persians. They remained under Assyrian dominion just the sam until their king Cyaxares united with the Babylonian king Nabopolassar and together they planned to put and end to the Assyrian domination. This undertaking was successful.

At its end, Cyaxares and the Chaldean king divided the territories of the Assyrians for the Medes was left Upper Mesopotamia and western Iran.

Its hegemony ended in the 6th Century B.C. when a new power arose, that of their brothers the Persians.

The Persians

The ancient Persians would develop a new expansion policy which would turn them into the owners of the Near East.

In the beginning, they were divided into 10 or 12 tribes, whose chiefs had the title of King. There was no agreement between them to unify in one tribe, because of which they suffered the domination of the Medes. According to tradition, Achaemenes, who guided the Persians toward the South, founded the Achaemenid dynasty, to which the great kings who would come later belonged.

But it was Cyrus who achieved the unification of the distinct tribes into which the Persians were divided, to later overthrow the Medes and put and end to their supremacy. Cyrus converted the city of Susa into the capital of the new state in 550 B.C. and decided to begin a policy of conquests of the neighboring territories.

After imposing himself over the Medes, he directed himself against the Lydian kingdom. This kingdom, located on the coasts of Asia Minor, was famous for its richness and for being the vital center of communications, given that the routes of commerce with Greece passed through there.

Cyrus also incorporated the Greek cities of Asia Minor into his dominions. He directed himself next against the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which he conquered quickly he annexed thus Mesopotamia and its Syrian dependencies to the Persian dominions (1538 B.C.). On his death, his son Cambyses continued the expansive work, directing himself towards Egypt and conquering it easily (525 B.C.)

During his absence, the Magi Gaumata, representative of the sacerdotal clan, provoked a revolt and took the throne. Cambyses tried to return from Egypt but died suddenly on the journey. Darius, the husband of a daughter of Cyrus, organized a rebellion of nobles against the usurper of the throne, the Magi Gaumata, and overthrew him. Thus he became the new king of the Persians. He would be the true organizer of the empire, and with whom it would reach its greatest splendor.

The Borders of the Persian Empire

The borders then reached their maximum extension. Darius conquered to the East all the territories as far as the Indus River valley, and to the West, Thrace and Macedonia. Later, he tried to subdue the Greek cities, which provoked the First Greco-Persian War. This campaign, in 490 B.C., was Darius’s only failure. Ten years later, in 480 B.C., his son Xerxes again attempted the conquest of Greece, giving rise to the Second Greco-Persian War, but he failed just like his father.

The Persian Empire was sustained, in one way or another, for 150 more years, until in 330 B.C., it was incorporated by Alexander of Macedonia into his empire.

The primary objective of Persian politics was to achieve a universal hegemony: that is to say, the conquest of all the known territories of the time.

The superiority of their army was owing to the tactic of assault with archers on horseback. It was made up of 10,000 warriors called “The Immortals” because their number did not change in spite of losses, given that these were immediately replaced to keep the number constant.

Synthesis of Persian conquests

  • Cyrus: Media, Asia Minor (Lydia), Babylonia, Syria, and Palestine. Iran to India.
  • Cambyses: Egypt and expeditions to the surrounding areas (Ethiopia, Libya)
  • Darius: Territory to the Indus River Valley, Thrace, and Macedonia (to the west)

Organization of the Persian Empire: Unity in diversity

The great empire of the Persians had a well-organized structure different from other empires, like the Assyrians, who based their dominion only on terror.

Organization was a pressing necessity for the Achaemenid Empire. They managed with great ability the mosaic of countries of diverse races, religions, languages, traditions and economies which formed their State. They generally respected the leading class of each region, to which they added a Persian administrative apparatus controlled from the great capitals like Pasargadae, Persepolis, and Susa.

In addition, they tolerated the traditions and cultural manifestations of the subdued peoples. Their principal concern was the regular payment of tribute. Thus they divided the empire into twenty provinces or satrapies. Each one had to deliver yearly a determined quantity of its characteristic products: metals, precious stones, grains or livestock.

To facilitate communications they constructed the great royal road, which crossed all of the Near East from Anatolia to Iran. In its trace posts and relays were placed, by reason of the extent of its reach.

The Persians were the only ones exempted from the payment of tributes. They held the charges higher up in the hierarchy, as much on the administrative level as on the military.

At the top of the empire, the monarch was found. The power of the king was absolute nothing nor no one was able to compete with his authority. The Persians had the idea that the king received his authority from their god (Ahura-Mazda) by whom he was chosen. The monarch, in addition, should be the model for all his warriors: riding on horseback, shooting a bow and be the leader in physical exercises. He was called the Great King or the King of Kings.

The imperial administration was made up of various officials:

Satraps were Persian nobles who were at the head of a province or satrapy. They represented the king in the province and considered themselves united to him by a knot of fidelity in defense and administration of goods. They occupied themselves with the collection of tributes, the maintenance of permanent armies and with mobilizing the population to cooperate in public works. They were considered the highest judicial authority in the territories in their charge.

Secretaries completed the functions of royal advisers of the satrap. The king named them directly. Among their responsibilities was found that of investigating the governor of the province.

Inspectors formed a body of auditors who controlled the interests of the king, watching the satraps. They were called the eyes and ears of the king because they informed him of all that happened in the empire and if his orders were carried out. If the circumstances called for it, they could dismiss the satrap.

In synthesis, the imperial policy followed by the Persians tried to reconcile unity with diversity, respecting, on the one hand, the regionalisms in culture and traditions, and imposing, on the other hand, a centralization in the payment of tributes and the provision of military services, decisive elements for their survival.

Economy: the support of the colossus

As we saw, the economic organization of the colossal Persian Empire was tributary. All the provinces were subject to the payment of taxes, whether in kind or in ingots of precious metals, in accordance with their productions. Egypt sent wheat the region of Media, livestock (sheep, mules) the satrapy of the Indus, hunting dogs and auriferous sands. Other peoples, although not integrated into the empire, also sent gifts for example, Ethiopia sent gold, ebony wood, and elephant tusks.

The political and administrative unity which they imposed facilitated exchanges. The merchants had greater security and better systems of communication for their work. This implicated a great development in commerce, which was favored in addition to a new custom: the utilization of money. Conceived as an issued metallic piece, it was useful for facilitating exchanges and as a common measure for the price of objects. Its invention is attributed to the Lydians, who formed a State on the coasts of Asia Minor, where an important commercial route passed.

The Persians, on incorporating the Lydian kingdom into their empire, took the monetary custom and imposed it throughout all their State. That is to say, they spread the use of money throughout all of the Near East. In this way they made a great contribution to commercial development the difficulties which barter produced for the exchange of merchandise diminished and the transactions took on greater agility and speed.

The Persian Society

Society was divided into different hierarchies, in accordance with their privileges and occupations.

The highest class was made up of nobles. Within it, the priests and magi were very important. They directed worship and were political advisers of the kings or of the governors of provinces. They could also administer justice, based on the law of retaliation. Among the nobles, those who belonged to the Achaemenid family were more important. The king was obligated to choose a wife from among the women of this family. The inferior sector of society was made up of businessmen, artisans, and the peasants.

For decoration enameled bricks of various colors were utilized, which combined formed friezes. Lines of soldiers, figures of animals and scenes of payment of tributes were represented in relief. Regarding funerary architecture, they conceived graves and monuments more simple than those of the Egyptians. Some of them were created through the excavation of rocky slopes and mountains. In their interior, only a hall and a room without paintings nor sculptures were found.

Society and Daily Life

As in all of the nations of the era there always existed social inequalities: the society was very hierarchical, and the distinct social sectors were separated by very rigorous barriers. At the top of the pyramid was found, naturally, the king.

Immediately beneath the sovereign, we find the representatives of the great families of the Persian nobility. From the aristocracy of the Persians and Medes came the personnel of the court, and from its heart, the satraps were recruited. Some of the sovereigns of conquered countries were elevated, at times, to the rank of satrap without, however, being assimilated into the Iranian nobility. This aristocracy was occupied, above all, with war and hunting. The great mass of the population was made up of the peasants, who were free men, who could be landowners as we have already seen.

Between the nobility and the rural masses were found the priests or magi, who, in spite of the religious reforms realized by Zarathustra (also called Zoroaster), occupied a very important place in the empire. They never completely renounced their political ambitions, and the kings frequently tried to limit their influence.

In the secondary categories the artisans were included, sometimes confused with artists the architects, engineers, etc. Apparently, there are found in the Persian society elements of a social organization of castes, which is normal in an Aryan people, related to those who established the system in India after conquering it.

The Persian were not hostile to foreigners and received them gladly, but did not integrate them into their society. Their hospitality was proverbial they were, many times, the last refuge of the Greeks expelled from their country and persecuted by the longing for vengeance their compatriots had.

Of course, not all men lived in an identical manner according to their social rank. We are especially informed about the high classes of the society. It is know that the peasants were illiterate, as in the majority of ancient societies, and they were subject to the cycles of agricultural work.

Persian Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism exalted the rural life, and of working the ground said that it was the most pleasing to Ahura-Mazda. The peasants were called, periodically, to serve in the provincial contingents of the army.

In the other social classes children were instilled, from their most tender infancy, with the hate of lies, a sense of justice, honor, and respect for giving one’s word. Xenophon says that in school children learned justice like among us they learn their letters. In addition, the use of arms was taught to them, like the bow and spear their bodies were toughened through numerous physical exercises, races, etc.

With this it was attempted to temper, at the same time, the body and the spirit. The food given to the young people was frugal, and would always continue to be so, as the Persians, used to eating little during their youth, maintained this habit throughout their life.

The foods consisted of some biscuits made of grains, meat, according to the luck of the hunt, and fruits. They only drank, habitually, water. The sumptuous feasts, whose record obsessed the ancient writers, were infrequent, and in them only a very small part of the population participated: the sovereign and his guests, some satraps, above all those of the western provinces, like Lydia it was more about a pre-Achaemenid tradition than a custom introduced by the Persians.

Under the successors of Darius, and above all in the 4th Century, when the customs were relaxed and high classes lived in luxury and even licentiousness, the expression was born: Living the life of a satrap. The suit of the classic era was simple and nearly uniform. Only the richest classes added a note of variety, above all in the selection of cloth and greater luxury in ornamentation. In this also the times of Darius must be differentiated from those of decadence. The Greeks, on the other hand, spoke much of the fondness of the Persian for gold.

These, effectively, used the precious metal whenever they could, to adorn their suits and also those of their children. But it is necessary to see in this fondness not only a pleasure of an aesthetic nature, but also a religious fact: gold is the metal which evokes fire, the sacred element. It has been said also that the Persians were very modest and that they covered the greater part of their body. They wore a type of shirt of fairly fine cloth, over which they put on two tunics with long sleeves which, at times, covered their hands.

These tunics were of colors, different in summer and winter, and purple was the color preferred by the kings and the greats. They tightened these tunics at the waist with a leather belt. They wore, in addition, pants of cloth or sometimes leather. They were shod in sandals, which completely covered the foot and could go as high as the length of the leg. In winter they added to this a cloak. The women seem to have worn a suit very similar to that of the men, but certainty can not be had because there exist very few representations of feminine figures.

The richest adorned themselves with jewels, necklaces, bracelets and chest-pieces. The Persians, especially after Darius, and only in high society, employed abundant shaves, perfumes, and haircuts. These effeminate practices were shown to them by the Lydians. The daily behavior of the Persians was impregnated with moderation and urbanity, which contrasted violently with the conduct of the Greeks, who, nevertheless, called them “barbarians.”

They considered personal hygiene as a show of courtesy to their neighbors relations between people were ruled by a rigorous etiquette. Greetings were always deep and respectful, as much between equals as between inferiors and superiors.

All excesses in behavior were condemned. According to Herodotus, Xenophon and Strabo, the Persians did not eat in the street blowing one’s nose or spitting on the ground was proof of a poor education. The Persians were polygamous and had concubines, especially the great characters, as, for the rest, the maintenance of many women was too costly. The family was respected and tradition promoted the birthrate. Having a great number of children was considered a divine blessing.

Weddings were celebrated very early frequently during puberty, and were arranged by the families. The woman was never in inferior conditions she went about freely and could be a counselor greatly taken into account. It should be specified that in the last era, it was considered of good form among rich families to keep women closed in, which never happened with the other social classes.

They were innovators in religious matters, but their legacy was poor in the other fields of intellectual speculation. Only some fragments are conserved of their greatest written work, the holy book of Avesta. The Persians contented themselves, in this area, with keeping in check the peoples who were subdued by them the same happened with the sciences and with medicine, which they copied from Babylon and Egypt. The sovereigns surrounded themselves with Greek doctors. They knew and sometimes appreciated Greek literature and philosophy. Apparently, they had an important oral literature, but no vestiges of it have been left. In the area of the arts, things were very different. In the art of the Achaemenids numerous influences are detected, but so integrated that they ended up giving birth to a national art.

Religious aspect: “Thus spoke Zarathustra”

In contrast to other empires, the Persians were tolerant of the religions of the dominated. In no place did they impose by force their religion or their gods. This is not due to their political ability, but to their religious conceptions. This is found gathered in the Avesta, the sacred book with gathers the teachings of the preacher Zoroaster or Zarathustra.

Zoroaster was the founder of the religion called Zoroastrianism of Mazda-ism. According to the legend, he received revelations from the great god Ahura Mazda, supreme, immaterial god, creator of the universe.

According to Zoroaster, two spirits existed in conflict: that of good, in service to Ahura Mazda, and that of evil, or which fights. The spirit of good, called Hormuz, represented life, truth, and justice. It was the world of the great god, with light and happiness. The spirit of evil represented death and lies. It was the world of darkness, led by Ahriman.

Man also participates in this struggle, according to his good or bad behavior. If it is in accordance with the spirit of good, he is rewarded in his above-ground life. This religion with certain monotheistic characteristics of a supreme god was accepted especially by the leading classes of the empire. Although the greater part of the population kept Ahura-Mazda in the superior position, they surrounded him with other inferior divinities, personified by the natural forces.

As we see, this religion had a marked moral content: man can and should choose between good and evil. Man should work, collaborate with the community, have many children, promote a quiet social coexistence. Worship was essentially the fulfillment of these duties, complemented with the veneration of fire. Zoroaster condemned offerings and bloody sacrifices, although the magi practiced them anyway.

The Mazdaist religion remained as the national religion until the 7th Century A.D., in which Iran was conquered by the Muslims and these imposed their religion, Islam. In the present this religious practice is preserved in the area of Bombay, in India, thanks to the Mazdaists who fled from the Muslim persecution.

Agriculture and Livestock

As in the other countries of the ancient Orient, the problem of water was crucial in the Persian Empire, with the exception of a few rare, privileged regions. Because of this, the peasants put together perfected systems of irrigation. Canals were excavated for the conduction of water, as well as wells and subterranean galleries, similar to the “qanats” of present-day Iran, to avoid, in the aridest regions, excessive evaporation.

In this way, the ground was revalued and grains like barley and wheat were cultivated above anything else, but also vineyards, as on the great occasions, especially in the era of their decay, the Persians consumed wine and other alcoholic drinks. On the other hand, the raised great flocks of horses and bovines, as well as donkeys and camels.

Horses were nearly all for riding, while donkeys and oxen were used for working the fields: making the mill wheels turn, or pulling wooden plows, equipped with a metal point, which served for tilling. The lands belonged, sometimes, to independent peasants, who, in cooperative groups, worked the lands of various families. The other lands belonged to the nobility, who ceded its operation to settlers, being left with part of the harvest.

Because of the lack of water and vegetation in this country burned by the sun, the Persians gave great importance to gardens for recreation, whose supreme luxury consisted in being scored with innumerable small streams, sprinkled by fountains and full of flowers.

The tradition of gardens has been conserved, on the other hand, in this area of the world, not only throughout all of the ancient times, but also during the Middle Ages, in Muslim Persia, and in modern times. Important hunting preserves, favorite sport of the nobility, starting with the king, were likewise available, in the form of parks: they called them “paradises.” Although agriculture and the art of gardens had developed much in the empire of Darius, the same would not happen with industrial work. There were almost no artisans, as the Persians preferred to buy the manufactured products from their neighbors.

It is not impossible that religious factors originated this lack of interest in activities which produce the transformation of material. Commerce flourished, especially in the interior, thanks to the important system of roads. In addition to the royal road from Sardis to Susa, numerous highways crossed the Empire in all directions, as much in the Asian interior as in Afghanistan or in the Indian Provinces.

Of course, their trace had been made, above all, to satisfy the political, military and administrative necessities of the Empire, but they were also made use of for commerce as well. On these routes, whose distances were measured in Parasangs (each Parasang was equivalent to a little more than five kilometers), lodgings had been established which, according to Herodotus, impenitent traveler, were excellent.

The roads had, in addition, the advantage of being safe, a very rare thing in ancient times. “The royal roads, which they traverse continually, united the most distant capitals of the Empire, Sardis and Susa (2,500 km.), in a record time of approximately a week.”

Persian Art: An art for the monarchy

We cannot state that a Persian art existed, strictly speaking. In reality the artistic production was a conjunction of elements belonging to the different subdued cultures. For example, from the Egyptians they the construction of hypogeums from Mesopotamia, the use of brick, the figures of winged bulls and the custom of erecting palaces on elevated platforms from Greece, the harmony and slenderness of certain constructive elements.

By reason of the characteristics of the Achaemenid religion, they did not build temples dedicated to the worship of their god, nor was it materialized in relieves or sculptures. For this reason, the art of the Iranians was dedicated exclusively to the monarchy.

Persian Architecture

The Persians dedicated themselves fundamentally to the construction of palaces with monumental characteristics. The most important were those of Susa and Persepolis.

Among the diverse locales which made up these magnificent constructions, the most important was the Audience Hall. There could be found the throne of the king, and it was the place where he presented himself in public.

The walls of these buildings were of bricks, combined with elements of carved stone (frames for doors and windows, columns).

The columns, which supported the roofs, were of great height, of fluted shape, and at their highest end were found capitals formed of two bulls’ heads worked in stone, where the beams were supported.


The Persians utilized bas-reliefs in the Mesopotamian manner. Monumental inscriptions were dedicated to the king, carved into the sides of mountains, where military successes were related. They also sculpted the facades of the tombs dedicated to the kings, likening them to the fronts of palaces.

Legacy of the Ancient Persian Civilization

Politics: The idea of a universal empire, an objective recreated by many nations in the course of human history.

Economy: Generalization of the use of money in commercial transactions.

Intellectual Life: The idea of the struggle between good and evil and man’s freedom of choice in choosing between the two.

Arab Conquest of Persia – Sassanian Empire

The Arab conquest of Sassanian Iran took place in the middle of the 7th century and put an end to the existence of the Sassanid state in 644 and also led to the decline of the religion of Zoroastrianism in Iran, although the Sassanid dynasty finally fell in 651 when the last heir to the throne was killed. This conquest also led to a significant decrease in the influence of the Zoroastrian religion on the territory of the so-called Greater Iran and its almost complete disappearance later.

There is a true story that in 628 the Prophet Mohammed sent the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius I, the Iranian Shah Khosrow II Parviz and other rulers of the neighboring states letters asking to convert to Islam. The reaction of the Byzantine emperor is unknown, Khosrow was enraged by the inappropriate treatment of him (“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful…) and tore up the letter. When the prophet found out about this, he said that Allah would tear apart the kingdom of Khosrow just as Khosrow had torn this letter.

Muslims first appeared in the Sassanian territories in 633, when, under the leadership of the great commander Khalid ibn Walid, they invaded Mesopotamia, which together with Babylonia was the “apple of discord” between the Roman Empire and Sassanian Iran in the era of the Persian-Roman wars.

The first blow of the Muslims in 633, the Persians could not repel and suffered a series of defeats partly because they were weakened by the wars with Byzantium. Nevertheless, the Sassanid Empire still remained a great power, owning lands from Asia Minor to India.

The second invasion began in 636 under the leadership of Saad ibn Abu Wakkas, whose troops defeated the Persians in the “key” campaign of the Battle of al-Qadisiyyah, which became one of the most significant events in the history of the East and was actually the beginning of the transition from Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages.

The victory of the Muslims in the battle of al-Qadisiyyah led to the creation of a new Arab-Persian border – in the region of the Zagros ridge.

The Persians did not reconcile with the new status quo in the region and several times tried to return the Mesopotamia conquered by Muslims that is why caliph Umar launched a large-scale offensive in 642 with the goal of completely conquering Sassanian Iran. In 642, the decisive battle of Nahavand, in which the Persian army was defeated, took place.

The conquest of Sassanid Iran was actually completed in 652 with the death of the last Shah Yezdigerd III. Such a rapid conquest of Persia was the result of the defeat in the Iranian-Byzantine war in 628, which some historians call the “world war of the 7th century,” so much financially and economically affected almost all the states and territories of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Nevertheless, some Iranian historians, referring to Arab sources, paint a different picture of the conquest of Persia – with fierce resistance of the local population to the Arabs. Despite the fact that by the second half of VII century A.D. Islam became the dominant religion in Iran (although Zoroastrianism was never completely destroyed), the majority of the region’s population continued to be constituted by indigenous peoples, who were despicable of Arab culture.

The consequence of the Arab conquest of Persia is the further spread of Islam to the East: it was from there that it spread to the territory of the Volga Bulgaria, the Uyghurs, and then some countries of Southeast Asia.

Some southern regions of the former Sassanian state offered the most stubborn resistance to the Arab conquerors and were actually independent of the central government for a long time after 644.

4 comments on &ldquo Slavery in Persia? &rdquo

Although the internet has articles discussing Persia “enslaving” peoples they conquered, this was not true. The first Persian Empire started by Cyrus the Great in 559 BCE put an end to forced labor. The Achaemenid dynasty continued this policy until they were conquered by the Macedonians who did employ slaves. The only forced labor we know of from the Persians were prisoners of war who were put to work (something we do in prisons and something that was done in WWII). How do we know this? In fact the Cyrus Cylinder which sits in the British Museum states it. How do we know that the Persians continued it after Cyrus? From the records at Persepolis which was a nearly 200 year building project and there are extensive cuneiform records documenting payment to the laborers, including paying woman double because of childcare. There is no mention or depictions on any of the reliefs of forced labor. In fact the Persian kings went out of their way to credit the laborers, identifying the countries that worked there and what their work was (e.g. Ionian Greeks worked on the columns). Contrast that to the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks who usually credited only themselves.

Additionally the religion of the Persians which was Zoroastrianism specifically forbade slavery. The Kings declared themselves the representative of Ahura Mazda (Old Persian Zoroastrian for God) on earth and responsible for Justice on earth. The Kings always professed that they were empowered by the “favor of Ahura Mazda”.

Can anyone tell me the story of scylax and Darius that why he wanted to be free if they were treated equally then what was their problem that they revolted if there is any article or book or anything related to this kindly tell me

Ramiyar Karanjia

Practices reflect the living religion. They are based on the teachings and principles of the religion. All Religions have practices. For instance, the Hindus have Snan, Dhyan and Sandhya, the Christians have Mass and Lent, and the Muslims have Namaz and Roza.

Zoroastrian religious practices are generally referred to as TARIKATS “observances.” They aredisciplines and rules of ritual purity for daily life.

Zoroastrian practices are based on the main Principles of the religion, like: Power of thought, Positive and negative Energies (Khoreh), Protection against negativities, Cleansing, Energising, being in tune with nature, being ethical, and facilitating the path to spirituality.

Main daily life practices:

  1. The Kasti ritual performed at specified intervals and after/before specified acts. This practice is meant to regularly cleanse the etheric body, provide protection against negativities and relax the mind at regular intervals.
  2. Daily Farazyāt “obligatory prayers” to be recited. These are Khorshed and Meher Nyaish and related prayers for the day time and Sarosh Yasht Vadi after sun-set. This discipline is to quieten and cleanse the mind and enable the energy body to get its daily requirement of energy.
  3. Physical purity: it is achieved by bathing, washing hands and by taking care of disposing what comes out of the body like saliva and faeces as well as what separates from the body – like hair and nails.
  4. Ritual purity: Ritual purity means observing the special rules and regulations of purity especially meant for sacred places and purposes like prayers, rituals and houses of worship. The rules of ritual purity are meant to ensure the purity of Khoreh (Divine Energy) and facilitate the presence of divine beings. It is ensured in different ways:
    1. By hedging daily actions like eating, bathing, going to toilet, cutting hair and nail with special formula prayers, called Bāj.
    2. By temporary seclusion whenever necessary, for instance when dealing with a Corpse from women during menstruation and after child-birth, from Non-Zoroastrians at the time of rituals and prayers.
    3. By keeping away from Nasa “physical and spiritual putrefaction” (referred to as Druj-Parhez), avoiding contact with saliva which happens when one is biting nails, taking finger in mouth (Ajithu),
    4. By properly disposing cut nails and hair.
    5. By the use of taro/gaomez (bull’s urine) whenever required.
    1. Taro kasti: This is the practice of doing the first Kasti of the day with a specific prayer after applying drops of taro / gaomez “cow/bull’s urine” on exposed parts of the body.
    2. Bāj’ recited before and after certain acts, like eating, bathing, going to toilet, cutting hair and nail.
    3. To cover head, preferably at all times but at least at times of prayers, while participating in rituals and going the fire temple. Head covering consists of Māthā-bānā (a white cotton cloth) or scarf for ladies, topi pāgdi or phetā for gents.
    4. Wearing religious vestments of Sadra – Kasti sacred shirt and girdle and perform the Kasti ritual at specific times.
    5. Doing loban in the house: The custom of ‘lobān feravvu’ involves taking a charcoal/sandal wood fire on a small fire-vase (afarganyu) around the house, while putting incense (loban) on it. It is generally done twice a day in the mornings at dawn and evenings after sun set (divabatti). It is generally done by the lady of the house. This practice helps spread fragrance in the house, keeps out insects and purifies the air.
    6. Keeping fire / Divo (natural oil lamp) in the house: When it is not possible to have a fire 24 hours of the day in the house, a divo (oil lamp) is kept burning 24 hours. Having a fire or oil lamp in the house at all times, attracts good spiritual forces, draws positive energies and keep away evil energies and beings.
    7. Parheji (abstinence from non-vegetarian food): Zoroastrian abstain from eating Non-vegetarian food on certain days of the religious calendar month – Bahman. Mohor. Gosh and Ram – (days connected to Bahman Ameshaspand) and the month of Bahman. These days are known as an-rojā. In Iranian tradition these days are known as na-bor.
    8. Remembering the departed ones: The custom of remembering the departed ones on their month and death anniversary days is an important Zoroastrian religious injunction. Remembering the deceased in a pleasant manner and seeking blessings and help from them is an integral part of Zoroastrian devotional life. Their blessings are sought even on auspicious occasions by having rituals performed in their memory. The Bajis a general term to indicate the annual remembrance day of departed ones.
    9. Visiting fire-temple regularly: Fire temples are places which house sacred fires and in which rituals are performed and religious programmes may take place. It is beneficial to go there daily, or as often as possible. Sacred consecrated fires are store-houses of khoreh (divine energy) and hence it is essential to be in it presence in a state of physical and ritual purity. Zoroastrian tradition enjoins to go to a fire temple daily or at leaston days connected to fire in the religious calendar – that is, on roj Ardibahesht, Adar, Sarosh and Behram.
    10. Following the religious calendar, and remembering the Ameshaspands an Yazads on their respective roj (day) and māh (month).
    11. Celebrating religious observances which occur in the religious calendar, like the six Gahambars during the year, the Gathas and the consecration of Rapithwin.

    The duty list of a Zoroastrian is given in two texts Faraziyāt Nāmeh by Dastur Darab Pahlan of Navsari and Benedictions for Iranian Marriages. The requirements of a Zoroastrian are similar in both:

    1. Perform the six Gahanbars (seasonal festivals for thanksgiving of six creations) every year.

    2. Have the Rapithwin consecrated, or at least attend the performance (both).

    3. Perform regular worship of Sarosh Yazad

    4. Remember the Fravashi of the departed ones on the Farvardegan (Muktad) days. (both)

    5. Recite the Khorshed and Meher Nyāish thrice a day.(both)

    6. Recite the Māh Nyāish at least thrice a month. (both)

    7. Have monthly / annual rituals in memory of souls of dear departed ones. (Bened)

    8. To wear the Sudreh and Kushti and regularly perform the Kushti ritual (Bened)

    Customs and traditions:

    Customs and traditions form the outer layer of the practice of a religion and are necessary for a sense of identity. Many erroneously believe that most Parsi customs and traditions are of Hindu origin. This is not correct. Only a few have undergone minor changes on the basis of time and place.

    The following constitute the main customs and traditions of the Zoroastrian religion:

    Clothes: Men: Dagli, pagdi (black), pheta, sapat ( a special leather footwear)

    Women: Sari, matha banu (head covering), ijar sapat

    Children: Zablu Footwear: Sapat.

    Priests: Dagli, pagdi (white), jāmā, badan, ijār, sapāt.

    Decorating the house: Toran (flower garland on doors and gates) and hār (flower garland around photo frames) on doors and photo frames, chok (patterns of lime powder on the entrance and threshold).

    Connected to people (Sagan): Tili (a red vermilion mark on the fore-head), hār (flower garland for people), Ses (See below), ovarna achhu michhu.

    Food for auspicious occasions: Breakfast: Sev (Vermicelly), ravo (Semolina), curd, boiled egg Lunch: Dhan dar, cooked fish.

    Food for sombre occasions: Dhansak

    Reciting devotional songs (Monajats) and Shahnameh (the poetic Persian epic): Zoroastrians families devoted time to singing Monajats (devotional songs in Gujarati or Persian) and reciting Shahnameh. This practice gave the all important knowledge of religion and Iranian history to children, and also helped to impart moral and ethical teachings and develop faith in the religion.

    Ses: It is a metallic tray (either silver or German-silver) with a collection of auspicious metallic wares like Paro (a conical container with sweet items like khadi sākar and batāsā-rounds made of sugar powder), Pigāni (a small container with Kanku-vermilion for the tili-red mark/tikā) and gulābāz (a sprinkler for rose water). Also placed in the tray are symbolic auspicious edible items like a few grains of rice, a shorn coconut, khārak (dried dates), almonds with shell, betel leaves (pān) and betel nut (sopāri).Ses: It is a metallic tray (either silver or german silver) with a collection of auspicious metallic wares like Paro (a conical container with sweet items like khadi sakar and kharak-dried date), Pigāni (a small container with Kanku-vermilion for the tili-red mark/tika) and gulabaz (a sprinkler for rose water). Also place in the tray are symbolic auspicious edible items like a few grains of rice, a shorn coconut, kharak (dried dates), almonds with shell, betel leaves (paan) and betel nut (sopari). <

    The Persian Empire: Culture and Society

    Because the Persian Empire (often called the Achaemenid Empire) embraced many nations and cultures, each with its own distinctive social structure, it is impossible to speak of “society” in the singular. However, there were some trends within the empire which were felt throughout the empire.

    The first was the spread of a Persian or Iranian landowning class. When the Persians conquered a kingdom, some of the vanquished kings’ and nobles’ estates were confiscated and taken over by the Persian king. He kept much for himself and the royal family, but he also distributed much of it to his high officials and members of the Persian nobility. The extensive estates of the Persian ruling class thus came to be scattered throughout the empire, from Egypt and Asia Minor to Bactria.

    Mesopotamia in particular seems to have been the location for vast estates. With its very productive agriculture and comparative proximity to the Iranian homeland, this region must have been regarded as highly attractive for Persian landowners.

    Another social development was the expansion, already seen under the late Babylonian kings, of the merchant classes. This was the result of the expansion of trade and banking (see below). Some merchants and bankers became very wealthy indeed, and became large landowners. Linked to this development was the spread of urban settlement outside those regions such as Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor which had experienced this for millennia. Iran itself, the imperial homeland but hitherto on the margins of the civilized world, became much more urbanized than before, as did the lands to its east.

    The vast majority of the population of the empire lived by farming, as in all pre-modern societies. It is hard to compare the condition of the peasantry with that in other periods of ancient history. For the most part they were spared the upheavals that war brings, and taxation was probably no heavier than in other periods. In the less settled times of the later Persian empire, however, the irrigation systems of Mesopotamia seem to have experienced some neglect, and this will have led to the condition of the peasantry there deteriorating.


    Agriculture provided the economic base of the Persian empire, and this benefitted from improvements under the Achaemenids. The empire was covered with huge estates, owned by the monarchy and Persian nobility, and in some parts, the temples and even business houses. These estates were farmed by tenants, or worked directly by hired labour. In some places gangs of slaves worked the land.

    By no means all the land was in the hands of large landowners. Individual peasant farmers also owned much of the land. Their numbers may well have been boosted by time-expired soldiers being allotted land, and some state land was also given over to soldiers serving in military garrisons, to enable them to be self-sufficient.

    Irrigation, on which much agriculture depended within the empire and especially in Mesopotamia and Iran, received much attention from the government, at least under the early kings. The kings took seriously the Mesopotamian royal tradition of looking after the irrigation system in which agriculture there depended, and this period also seems to have seen a major spread of irrigation in Iran. This largely resulted from the increased use of the qanat, an underground water channel which carried water from hills to plains and which allowed large areas of land in arid landscapes to be irrigated and turned over to productive cultivation. The Achaemenid government encouraged the construction and restoration of qanats through generous tax incentives. Where previously only nomads could graze their herds, sizeable farming settlements were now able to develop.

    So far as trade was concerned, the Achaemenid empire probably provided more favourable circumstances than any before it. The huge size of the empire meant that millions of people lived generally in peace together, under one rule. A single legal and administrative framework meant that commercial transactions between members of different nationalities could be undertaken with confidence that, if any disputes arose, they could be dealt with by the same courts operating the same law. International business houses could operate on a larger scale than hitherto. Furthermore, in the Zagros mountain passes, through which major trade routes passed, brigandage was suppressed to a degree never before achieved, at least under the firm government of the early Achaemenids.

    Specific policies of the Achaemenid kings, particularly Darius the Great, also favoured trade. He standardized weights and measures across the empire, and also introduced a single monetary system, based on a two-tier gold and silver coinage. The impact of this development was limited somewhat by the habit of later Persian kings to hoard gold and silver in their treasuries, which constrained the amount of metal coinage in circulation. In fact it was only the Mediterranean provinces, which were most exposed to Greek commercial practices, which became truly monetized at this time. The eastern parts of the empire continued to use units of silver in commercial transactions. However, the standardization of such units throughout the empire allowed banking to expand considerably, and become more international. Some firms in Babylonia, which already had a long history of banking, became enormously wealthy, and were able to use their capital to branch out into large-scale land ownership and tax farming.

    International conditions were increasingly favourable to long distance trade at the time of the Persian empire, especially in the Middle East. One common language, Aramaic, now covered the region, and the universally-understood Aramaic alphabetical script would have made communications between members of different races easier. Also, the rise of the empire coincided with the expansion of urban civilization in northern India. This certainly stimulated international trade within the Persian empire, and east-west trade routes, both maritime (see below) and overland, became much more important than they had been before. Using such routes was made safer and easier for merchants by the fact that western areas of the Indian subcontinent were in Persian hands. This not only meant that they enjoyed effective protection, but they also benefitted from the Persian kings’ road-building programme.

    Darius ordered the construction of new roads, and the upgrading and maintenance of existing ones. The backbone of the empire’s road network was the “Royal Road”, which connected Susa with Sardis and Ephesus, in Asia Minor, and ran through Assyria and Armenia. Other roads linked Persepolis and Susa with Babylon, then on up to Syria, and then south through modern-day Israel to Egypt yet others connected Babylon to Ecbatana, Bactria and India.

    This road construction was aimed primarily, as we have seen, at ensuring communications could be as swift as possible between the centre and provinces, and at facilitating the movement of troops about the empire. However, good roads act as a major boost to trade. The roads were well constructed, all-weather ways with grooves for wheeled vehicles (carts and chariots). They were protected by patrols and furnished with inns. The network of these Achaemenid roads survived long after the fall of the empire.

    Maritime trade was stimulated by Darius’ completion of an ancient version of the Suez Canal, linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. The canal allowed ships to sail from India to the Mediterranean (it was broad enough for two triremes to sail along side by side), and could be passed through in four days. It encouraged the development of a valuable trade route along which the spices of southern Arabia and India were brought to the west. This canal had a tendency to silt up, and required continual dredging to keep open. In the later period of the Persian empire this was not able to be carried out (mainly because Egypt was in constant revolt), and it fell into disuse.

    The royal household also had a direct impact on the economy. It formed a huge economic unit in its own right, a state-within-a-state. As well as owning large estates scattered throughout the empire, embracing more than a hundred towns within Iran, it owned and managed multitudes of industrial enterprises. These were on the whole small craft workshops, but between them they employed thousands of workers. The royal properties and enterprises were managed as a unified organization which spanned the entire empire. Its must have required a major bureaucracy to run it.


    The Achaemenid kings’ religious policy was characterized by tolerance towards their subject peoples’ beliefs and practices. The most famous instance of this is their dealings with the Jewish exiles who they found in Babylon and other Mesopotamian cities after their conquest of that region. Cyrus allowed them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. Darius funded the restoration of the Jewish temple and Artexerxes I sent the Jewish priest Ezra to Jerusalem to reintroduce temple worship and the old Mosaic Law back into Jewish life. Later he sent a Jew who had risen high in his service, Nehemiah, to enhance the security of the people of Jerusalem by rebuilding the walls of the city.

    Darius made sure that his officials respected the religious practices of his subjects, as is shown in a letter to his official, Gadatas, ordering him to restore a Greek sanctuary. When in Egypt both Cambyses and Darius were careful to observe traditional Egyptian rites related to kingship.

    As for the kings themselves, they held firmly to their devotion to Ahura Mazda, the chief god of the Iranians. Whether the kings were loyal to the ancestral polytheism of the Iranians, or were followers of the newer faith of Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic creed which had grown up in Iran and which worshipped Ahura Mazda alone, is not clear. Some of their expressions seem to contain Zoroastrian sentiments, but there is no mention of Zoroaster (the founder of the religion) himself. Whatever the case, Zoroastrianism certainly spread around their empire, particularly in Armenia, Asia Minor, and Mesopotamia.


    The literature, art and architecture of the Persian empire is essentially that of its constituent peoples. In Babylonia, for example, traditional Mesopotamian temples and ziggurats were constructed and refurbished, and temple life went on much as before. In fact, the Achaemenid period saw Babylonian astronomy continue to develop, with new observations being made and calculations refined. In Egypt, temples and statues continued to be erected in the age-old style, and official and priestly texts stood firmly in their ancient tradition. The newly rebuilt temple in Jerusalem was designed to resemble its predecessor which had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army, and the Jews committed much of their scriptures to writing at this time. The Greek cities of Asia Minor participated fully in the cultural developments taking place on the Greek mainland at that time they produced eminent thinkers such as Heraclitus of Ephesus, who was a major figure in the advancement of Greek philosophy.

    Nevertheless there was a distinctive Persian art and architecture which appeared at this time. This was the imperial art of the Achaemenid kings, and was embodied in the magnificent palaces and royal tombs which they ordered to be constructed in their capitals at Pasargadae, Persepolis and Susa. It was solemn and dignified, designed to awe visitors by displaying the mighty power of the kings.

    The early Achaemenid kings in particular, Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Artexerxes I, were prolific builders. Their typical edifices were huge palaces, adorned with giant reliefs typically depicting the king with multitudes of subjects bringing tribute. At the centre of these complex of buildings and courtyards, laid out with a spaciousness not found in Babylonian buildings, lay many-pillared audience halls, still impressive today, even as ruins.

    The design of the buildings and the sculptured reliefs are essentially based on Babylonian and Assyrian forms, which themselves were the culmination of thousands of years of Mesopotamian stylistic tradition. However, the Persians added elements of their own. For example, the palace-complexes tended to rest on terraced platforms, a feature not found in traditional Mesopotamian design. Another important architectural feature was the many-pillared hall, which probably derived from the wooden halls of Iranian kings and chiefs but was reproduced on a grand scale in the imperial palaces of Susa and Persepolis.

    The fact that these buildings were constructed by teams of skilled craftsmen drawn from all over a multinational empire resulted in them embodying a diversity not seen anywhere else before. Living and working together as they did, these workers introduced new elements into the Babylonian framework, from widely varying traditions. The result was a unique syncretism, in which the influence of Greek masters can be seen in the way the formal style of Babylonian figurative design is modified with a more human, more fluid quality, or the slender columns in the audience halls show Egyptian and Greek motifs.

    The overall result is a unique fusion. This is reflected in the range of materials used, which came from all over the empire. One inscription says that, whereas previous buildings had previously been constructed mostly of clay bricks, the new palaces used stone from Elam for the columns, and cedar timber from Lebanon for the roofs and they incorporated gold from Lydia and Bactria (i.e from opposite ends of the empire), lapis lazuli, carnelian and turquoise from central Asia, silver and ebony from Egypt, dyes for the wall-reliefs from Ionia, and the ivory from Nubia and India. It emphasises that the work of crafting these materials into fine objects was done on the spot, by stonemasons from Asia Minor (Greeks and Lydians), goldsmiths from Medea and Egypt, woodcarvers from Lydia and Egypt, brick layers from Babylonia, and wall-painters from Medea and Egypt. The only fragment of sculpture in the round so far found shows strong Greek influence – was in fact probably the work of a Greek sculptor.

    To the northwest of Persepolis are four majestic tombs of Achaemenid kings. These are carved into a rock face in the Zagros mountains, to exactly the same design. Their huge (22 metres high) fronts depict the sculptured facade of a palace with tall columns, above which the kings are shown before a fire altar. They stand on platforms supported by the representatives of the thirty nations belonging to the empire.

    One final piece of Achaemenid art must be mentioned, the great relief and inscription which Darius the Great had carved into the rock face at Behistun, high above the road that passes through the Zagros mountains from Babylon to Ecbatana. This monumental relief, located 66 metres above the road, shows Darius, accompanied by two attendants, with his foot on the body of his rival for the throne, Gaumata. Other rebels are shown with their hands tied behind their backs and a rope around their necks above the whole is the symbol of the chief god, Ahura Mazda.

    Large numbers of beautiful small objects have been found: metal tableware (vessels, plates, cult utensils) in gold and silver, jewellery (earrings, bracelets), weapons (daggers), seals and gems cut in the old Mesopotamian manner but with Iranian figures.

    One cultural feature, which the Persians inherited from previous Mesopotamian cultures and spread around their empire, was landscaped gardening. The Assyrians had laid out extensive parks and gardens around their royal palaces, and the famous “Hanging Gardens” of Babylon were probably just such an artefact. In the Persian period, such pleasure grounds were created around their empire. The Greek word for them was the same as our word “paradise”, which aptly sums up their role as places of beauty and relaxation. They were designed to enable Persian kings and nobles could take their ease.

    Cultural Life during the Mughal Period | Indian History

    All the Mughal emperors were great patrons of learning and gave their full encouragement to the spread of education in their dominions.

    Babur was himself a great scholar and public works department (Shuhrat-i-Am) established by him, which, also continued to exist under later Mughal emperors, was on trusted along with other responsibilities to that of building the schools and colleges.

    Image Source: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Darbarscene.jpg

    His son, Humayan had great love for study of books especially in astronomy and geography. He constructed a Madarsa at Delhi and converted the pleasure-house built by Sher Shah in Qila Kohana also called Purana Qila into a library.

    The reign of Akbar, well known for improvement in various other domains, also constitutes a new epoch in the growth and improvement of education. He established a number of colleges for high learning at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri and also attempted to revise the curriculum of education.

    Abul Fazal writes, “All civilized nations have schools for the education of youth but Hindustan is particularly famous for its seminaries”. Akbar also encouraged the Hindus to join the madarsa and learn Persian, the court language.

    Jahangir was himself a great scholar of Turki and Persian and had written his memories known as the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri. It is stated that soon after his sitting on the throne, he got repaired many old madarsa, which had ceased to function for quite a long and filled them with pupils and their teachers.

    Towards the close of his reign, he also promulgated an order that if a rich person or traveller died without heirs, his property would escheat to the crown and be spent on the construction and maintenance of madarsa and monasteries, etc.

    Shah Jahan had great fascination for study of the Turkish language and had a regular habit of study at night for a short while. He repaired an old institution called Dar-ul-Boqa (Abode of Eternity) and found a new college at Delhi. His son, Dara Soukoh, also patronized every educational activity. Aurangzeb encouraged the education of the Muslims and founded colleges and schools” (Keene).

    Education: A Private Affair:

    Dr. Srivastava writes, “The Mughal government did not consider it to be its duty to educate the people. It had no department of education and did not allocate a portion of the public revenue for the spread of literacy. Education was thus in Mughal India a private affair, a hand-made of religion and if the Mughals took interest in it, it was to earn religious merit and not to advance the welfare of the people.

    The public made their own arrangements for the education of their children and considering the age and circumstances of the time, the arrangements were fairly satisfactory.” Both the Hindus and the Muslims had their separate institutions for education of their children.

    The Hindus sent their children to the school usually at the age of five but the Muslims performed the maktab ceremony at the auspicious day of the child completing four years, four months and four days. The syllabi and curriculum of studies as well as the medium of instruction used by the communities were different. Obviously, their institutions of higher learning were also located separately and the subjects of their research and higher studies were also different.

    Hindu Education:

    The Hindus had their primary schools attached to the temples. These schools were maintained by grants or endowments and no fee was charged from the pupils. There were no printed books and the children wrote the alphabets on wooden boards or on dust of the ground with fingers.

    Classes were usually held under the shade of a tree. The students were taught the religious scriptures after they finished their alphabets and these were usually, according to Bernier, the Puranas. The centers of higher learning or universities were scattered all over the country, largely near the places of pilgrimage. These were Banaras, Nadia, Mithila, Mathura, Tirhut, Paithan, Karhad, Thatte, Sirhind and Multan.

    Bernier states, “Banaras is kind of university but it has no college or regular classes as in our universities, but resembles rather the school of the ancients, the masters being spread over different parts of the town in private houses”. Nadia was the second great centre of Hindu learning after Banaras.

    Vasudeva Sarvabhauma founded a school of Nyaya there in the sixteenth century which even out rivalled Mithila. The University of Mithila, however, continued to be a prominent centre of learning during the Mughal period. Mathura was another famous centre of learning with its specialization in Hindu philosophy and there were more than ten thousand students.

    Thatte was equally important and had, according to Hamilton, four hundred colleges. The subjects of theology, philology and politics were taught there. Multan was well known as a centre of specialization in astronomy, astrology, medicine and mathematics. Sirhind had an important school of medicine.

    The subjects of study in all these Hindu centers of study were grammar, logic, philosophy, history, poetry, astronomy, astrology, medicine including veterinary science and mathematics also including study of physics and chemistry.

    Muslim Education: Madarsah and Maktabs:

    The Muslims sent their children to Maktabs located in the mosque and these schools, according to the Italian traveller Delia Valle, existed in every town and village. The basic course of study at the primary standard was the Quran which every child had to learn by rote. After completing their study of Quran, the pupils were taught Gulistan and Bostan of Sheikh Sadi and poems of Firdausi.

    The institutions of Higher learning called Madarsahs where at Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Jaunpur, Gujarat, Sialkot and Ahmedabad. Agra was the biggest centre of learning were there were numerous Madarsahs including the college of Jesuits. Delhi was the second largest centre of education.

    It had also a number of madarsah, the prominent being Humayun’s madarsah, Maham Anaga’s madarsah, called Khair-ul- Manzil and Darul Bana built by Shah Jahan. The Khan-ul-Manzil was big residential college where students lived in the rooms of both the storeys and classes were conducted in the main hall.

    Jaunpur as a great centre of learning was known as the ‘Shiraz of India’, where students came from far and wide. The Madarsah Faiz Safa and Langar-i-Den/vazda Imam (now called Bara Imam ka Kotla) located in Gujarat and Ahmedabad respectively were reputable centers of learning in the Western India.

    Lahore as an important centre of education attained its eminence during the reign of Aurangzeb. Kashmir was also a place of attraction for scholars because of its pleasant climate and beautiful environment.

    Among other places of education, Gwalior, Sialkot, Ambala and Thaneswar were quite famous. The courses of study in these institutions of learning consisted of grammar, rhetoric, logic, theology, metaphysics, jurisprudence and literature. Mathematics, medicine and astronomy were also studied under the impact of Hindu scholars. The medium of instruction usually was Persian or Arabic.

    The Aim of Education:

    “The aim of education” writes Prof. S.M. Jaffar, “was to bring out the latent faculties of students, to discipline the forces of their intellect and to develop their character, to equip them with all that was required for their material as well as moral improvement. Education was regarded as a preparation for life and for life after death and hence it was that religion was at the root of all study”.

    The education thus did not equip a student only to obtain his employment under the state but attempted at the development of his faculties of head and heart. These were no regular examinations for a student to be promoted to the next standard and the teacher was the sole judge to ascertain his suitability for promotion to the higher class.

    The educational institutions also did not award certificates or degree and it was enough for a student to have been taught at a reputed school or by a well known learned teacher. This made the admission to the reputed institutions a big burden and according to Dr. P.N. Chopra, it was with great difficulty that Mullah Shah Badakshi agreed to take Jahan Ara as his pupil.

    Course Content and Libraries:

    It cannot be said with certainty as to whether the duration of the courses in all the educational institutions was fixed according to a standard pattern. It seems that the study for ten to sixteen years was considered enough for education of a person equivalent to the degree examination in own universities.

    All those who wanted to adopt teaching profession or otherwise desired to pursue higher studies were placed under the specialists. There students also visited the other centers of learning both in the country and abroad as a part of their curriculum. There were big libraries for use of these students in every madarsa but certain libraries like that Madars Feiz Safa were highly reputed.

    The biggest library was, however, the Imperial library containing the Emperor’s collection of books. The Mughal princesses Salima Sultana and Zib-un-Nisa had built their own libraries. The high nobles and other courtiers also attempted to work on the royal work on the royal example. Faizi had a collection of 4,600 books in his library.

    Abdur Rahim Khan Khana employed ninety five persons to take care of his collection of books and rare manuscripts. The library of Maharaja Jai Singh contained all books on astronomy used by the Hindu Scholars. Bernier saw a big hall at Banaras University, which was full of books on philosophy, medicine, religion and history etc.

    Women Education:

    Along with the education of men, the education of the women did not obtain proper priority during the Mughal period. Most of the women did not get an opportunity to read beyond the primary standard and it was only the few nobles and rich people who were able to engage private tutors for education of their daughters at home.

    The institutions of education of females were, however, absent. According to Dr. Datta, regular training was given to the ladies of the royal household during the reign of Akbar. The ladies of the royal blood thus excelled themselves in education and statecraft.

    Gulbadan Begam, Salim Sultana, Zeb-un-Nisa and Zinat-un-Nisa excelled themselves in the literary field where Nur Jahan and Jahanara played an important part in politics.



    During this period Akbar brought Persian at the level of state language, which helped in the growth of its literature. Besides, all Mughal emperors, except Akbar, were well-educated and patronized learning. Babur was a scholar.

    He wrote his biography, Tuzuki-i-Babri, in Turki language and it was so beautifully written that it was translated into Persian three times. He also wrote poems both in Turki and Persian and his collection of poems Diwan (Turki) became quite famous. Humayun had good command over both Turki and Persian. Besides, he had sufficient knowledge of philosophy, mathematics and astronomy.

    He patronized scholars of all subjects. Akbar himself was not educated but he created those circumstances which helped in the growth of literature during the period of his rule. He gave encouragement to Persian language and famous works of different languages like Sanskrit, Arabic, Turki, Greek, etc., were translated into it. He established a separate department for this purpose. Many scholars rose to eminence under his patronage. Jahangir was also well-educated.

    He wrote his biography, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri himself by for the first seventeen years of his rule and got prepared the rest of it Mautmid Khan. Not much was done concerning translation work but a few original works of repute were written during the period of his rule. Shah Jahan also gave projection to scholars.

    His son Dara Shukoh was also well-educated and arranged for the translation of many Sanskrit texts in Persian. Aurangzeb was also a scholar though he hated writings of verses and books on history. During the period of the later Mughals, Persian remained the court-language till the rule of Muhammad Shah. Afterwards, it was replaced by Urdu. Yet, good works produced by many scholars in Persian even afterwards. Thus, Persian got the maximum incentive to grow during the rule of the Mughals and, therefore, made very good progress.

    Largest numbers of good books written in Persian were either autobiographies or books on history. Among writings on history, Tuzuk-i-Babri written by emperor Babur, Humayuna Nama of Gulbadan Begum, Akbarnama and Ain-i-Akbari of Abdul Fazl, Tabkhat-i-Akbari of Nizamuddin Ahmad, Tazkirautal-waqiat of Jauhar, Tauja-i-Akbarshahi alias Tarikh-i-Sher Shah of Abbas Sarwani, Tarikh-i- Alfi which covers nearly one thousand years of history of the Islam and was written by the combined efforts of many scholars.

    Muntkhba-ut-Twarikh of Badayuni, Tarikh-i-Salatin-Afghana of Ahmad Yadgar, Tarikh-i-Humayun of Bayaqzid Sultan and Akbarnama of Faizi Sarhindi were written during the period of the rule of Akbar except the first. Jahangir wrote his biography Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri.

    Mautmid Khan completed it and also wrote Ikbalanama-i-Jahangiri.Massara Jahangir of Khawja Kamgar Makazzam- i-Afghani of Niamatullah, Tarikh-i-Farishta of Muhammad Kasim Farishta and Massare-i-Rahini of Mulla Nanvandi were also written during the period of Jahangir. Among the famous work written during the period of reign of Shah Jahan were Padshahnama of Aminai Qazvini, Shahjahanama of Inayat Khan and Alam-i-Saleh of Muhammad Saleh. Aurangzeb discouraged writings of history.

    Yet a few good works were produced during his rule. Among them, the most famous ones were Muntkhab-ul- Lubab of Khafi Khan, Alamgirnama of Mirza Muhammad Qazim, Nuike-Dilkusha of Muhammad Saki, Fatuhat-i-Alamgiri of Iswar Das and Khulasa-ut-Tawarikh of Sujan Rai.

    Historical works were written under the patronage of the later Mughals as well as provincial ruler. Among them, the most reputed were Sidrul-Mutkharin of Gulam Hussain, Tawarikh-i-Muzaffari of Muhammad Aliand Tawarikh-Cahar- Gulzar-i-Suzai of Harcharan Das.

    Besides original work, books in other languages were translated into Persian. Among the Sanskrit text, Mahabharat was translated by the joint efforts of Naki Khan, Badayni, Abdul Fazal, Faizi etc.

    Badayuni translated Ramayana into Persian. He also started translating Atharvaveda while it was completed by Haji Ibrahim Sarhindi. Faizi translated Lilavati, Shah Muhammad Sahabadi translated Rajtarangini, Abul Fazl translated Kaliya Daman, Faizi translated Nal Damyanti and Maulana Sheri translated Hari-Vansha.

    All these works were translated during the period of rule of Akbar. During the reign of Shah Jahan, his eldest son, Dara Shukoh provided incentive to this work and got translated Upanishads, Bhagvata Gita and Yogavasistha.

    He himself wrote an original treatise titled Manjul- Bahreen in which he described that Islam and Hinduism were simply the two paths to achieve the same God. Many texts written in Arabic, Turki and Greek were also translated into Persian during the rule of the Mughal emperors. Bible was translated in it. Aurangzeb with the help of many Arabic texts got prepared a book of law and justice in Persian which was titled Fatwah-i-Alamgiri.

    Poems in Persian were also written during this period though this type of work could not achieve the standard of prose-writing. Humayun wrote a few verses. Abul Fazl named fifty nine poets at the court of Akbar. Among them Faizi, Gizali and Urfi were quite famous. Hahangir and Nur Jahan were also interested in poetry. Jahan Ara daughter of Shah Jahan and Jebunnisa, daughters of Aurangzeb were also poetesses.

    The letters written by the emperors and nobles also occupy important place in the Persian literature of that time. Among them, letter written by Aurangzeb, Abul Fazl, Munir, Raja Jai Singh, Afzal Khan, Sadulla Khan, etc. have been regarded as good literary value.


    Original good works in Sanskrit could not be produced during the rule of the Mughals. Yet as compared to the age of the Delhi sultanate, Sanskrit literature made good progress during the period. Akbar gave recognition to scholars of Sanskrit. Abul Fazal has named many scholars of Sanskrit who received the patronage of the emperor. A dictionary of Persian Sanskrit titled Farsi- Prakash was prepared during his rule.

    Besides many Hindu and Jaina scholars wrote their treatises outside the patronage of the court of the emperor. Mahesh Thakur wrote the history of the reign of Akbar, the Jain scholar Padma Sundar wrote Akbarshahi-Srangar-Darpan and the Jain Acharya Siddhachandra Upaddaya wrote Bhanuchandra Charita. Deva Vimal and many other also wrote their treatises in Sanskrit.

    Jahangir and Shah Jahan maintained the tradition of Akbar and gave protection to scholars of Sanskrit. Kavindra Acharya Saraswati received patronage of Shah Jahan and Jagannath Pandit who wrote Rasa Gangadhar and Ganga Lahri was also at his court. Aurangzeb stopped court protection to scholars of Sanskrit. Of course, Sanskrit continued to receive patronage from Hindu rulers, yet, its progress was checked later on.

    Regional Languages:

    During this period, regional languages were developed due to the patronage extended to them by local and regional rulers. They acquired stability and maturity and some of the finest lyrical poetry was produced during this period.

    The dalliance of Krishna with Radha and the milkmaids, pranks of the child Krishna and stories from Bhagwat figure largely in lyrical poetry in Bengali, Oriya, Hindi, Rajasthani and Gujarati during this period. Many devotional hymns to Rama were also composed and the Ramayana and the Mahabharata translated into the regional languages, especially if they had not been translated earlier.

    A few translations and adaptations from Persian were also made. Both Hindus and Muslims contributed in this. Thus, Alaol composed in Bengali and also translated from Persian. In Hindi, the Padmavat, the story written by the Sufi saint, Malik Muhammad Jaisi, used the attack of Alaudddin Khilji on Chittor as an allegory to expound Sufi ideas on the relations of soul with God, along with Hindu ideas about maya.

    Medieval Hindi in the Brij form, that is the dialect spoken in the neighbourhood of Agra, was also patronised by the Mughal emperors and Hindu rulers. From the time of Akbar, Hindi poets began to be attached to the Mughal court.

    A leading Mughal noble, Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, produced a fine blend of Bhakti poetry with Persian ideas of life and human relations. Thus, the Persian and the Hindi literary traditions began to influence each other. But the most influential Hindi poet was Tulsidas whose hero was Rama and who used a dialect of Hindi spoken in the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh. Pleading for a modified caste system based not on birth but on individual qualities, Tulsi was essentially a humanistic poet who upheld family ideals and complete devotion to Rama as a way of salvation open to all, irrespective of caste.

    In south India, Malayalam started its literary career as a separate language in its own right. Marathi reached its apogee at the hands of Eknath and Tukaram. Asserting the importance of Marathi, Eknath exclaims: “If Sanskrit was made by God, was Prakrit born of thieves and knaves? Let these earrings of vanity alone. God is no partisan of tongues. To Him Prakrit and Sanskrit are alike. My language Marathi is worthy of expressing the highest sentiments and is rich, laden with the fruits of divine knowledge.”

    Fine Arts:

    Major Schools of Painting:

    Mughal period was the golden period for the development of painting in India. This period practiced the arts of different schools of painting which are as follows:

    1. School of Old Tradition:

    Here old tradition is referred to the ancient style of painting which was flourished in India before sultanate period. After the eighth century, the tradition seems to have decayed, but palm-leaf manuscripts and illustrated Jain texts from the thirteenth century onwards show that the tradition had not died. Apart from the Jains, some of the provincial kingdom, such as Malwa and Gujarat extended their patronage to painting during the fifteenth century.

    2. Mughal Painting (School from Persian Influence):

    This school had been developed during the period of Akbar. Jaswantand Dasawan were two of the famous painters of Akbar’s court. The school developed centre of production. Apart from illustrating Persian books of fables, the painters were soon assigned the task of illustrating the Persian text of the Mahabharata, the historical work Akbar Nama and others.

    Indian themes and Indian scenes and landscapes, thus, came in vogue and helped to free the school from Persian influence. Indian colours, such as peacock blue, the Indian red, etc., began to be used. Above all, the somewhat flat effect of the Persian style began to be replaced by the roundedness of the Indian brush, giving the pictures a three-dimensional effect.

    Mughal painting reached a climax under Jahangir who had a very discriminating eye. It was a fashion in the Mughal school for the faces, bodies and feet of the people in a single picture to be painted by different artists. Jahangir claims that he could distinguish the work of each artist in a picture.

    Apart from painting hunting, battle and court scenes, under Jahangir, special progress were made in portrait painting and paintings of animals. Mansur was the great name in this field. Portrait painting also became fashionable.

    Under Akbar, European painting was introduced at the court by the Portuguese priests. Under their influence, the principles of fore-shortening, whereby near and distant people and things could be placed in perspective was quietly adopted.

    4. Rajasthan School of Painting:

    The Rajasthan style of painting combined the themes and earlier traditions of western India or Jain school of painting with Mughal forms and styles. Thus, in addition to hunting and court scenes, it had paintings on mythological themes, such as the dalliance of Krishna with Radha, or the Barah-masa, that is, the seasons, Ragas (melodies).

    5. Pahari School of Painting:

    The Pahari School continued the Rajasthani styles and played an important role in its development.


    During Mughal Period music was the sole medium of Hindu-Muslim unity. Akbar patronized Tansen of Gwalior who is credited with composing many new melodies (ragas). Jahangir and Shah Jahan as well as many Mughal nobles followed this example. There are many apocryphal stories about the burial of music by the orthodox Aurangzeb.

    Recent research shows that Aurangzeb banished singing from his court, but not playing of musical instruments. In fact, Aurangzeb himself was an accomplished veena player. Music in all forms continued to be patronized by Aurangzeb’s queens in the harem and by the nobles.

    That is why the largest number of books on classical Indian music in Persian were written during Aurangzeb’s reign. But some of the most important developments in the field of music took place later on in the eighteenth century during the reign of Muhammad Shah (1720-48).

    Architectural Developments during Mughal Era:

    Mughal period was the period of glory in the field of architecture. They also laid out many formal gardens with running water. In fact, use of running water even in their palaces and pleasure resorts was a special feature of the Mughals.


    Babur was very fond of gardens and laid out a few in the neighbourhood of Agra and Lahore. Some of the Mughal gardens, such as the Nishal Bagh in Kashmir, the Shalimar at Lahore, the Pinjore garden in the Punjab foothills, etc., have survived to this day.

    A new impetus to architecture was given by Sher Shah. His famour mausoleum at Sasaram (Bihar) and his mosque in the old fort at Delhi are considered architectural marvels. They form the climax of the pre-Mughal style of architecture, and the starting point for the new.


    Akbar was the first Mughal ruler who had the time and means to undertake construction on a large scale. He built a series of forts, the most famous of which is the fort at Agra. Built in red sandstone, this massive fort had many magnificent gates. The climax of fort building was reached at Delhi where Shah Jahan built his famous Red Fort.

    In 1572, Akbar commenced a paiace-cum-fort complex at Fatehpur Sikri, 36 kilometres from Agra, which he completed in eight years. Built atop a hill, along with a large artificial lake, it included many buildings in the style of Gujarat and Bengal. These included deep caves, balconies, and fanciful kiosks.

    In the Panch Mahal built for taking the air, all the types of pillars used in various temples were employed to support flat roofs. The Gujarat style of architecture is used most widely in the palace built probably for his Rajput wife or wives. Buildings of a similar type were also built in the fort at Agra, though only a few of them have survived. Akbar took a close personal interest in the work of construction both at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri.

    Persian or Central Asian influence can be seen in the glazed blue tiles used for decoration in the walls or for tiling the roofs. But the most magnificent building was the mosque and the gateway to it called the Buland Darwaza or the Lofty Gate, built to commemorate Akbar’s victory in Gujarat. The gate is in the style of what is called a half-dome portal.

    What was done was to slice a dome into half. The sliced portion provided the massive outward faade of the gate, while smaller doors could be floor meet. This devise, borrowed from Iran, became feature in Mughal buildings later.


    With the consolidation of the empire, the Mughal architecture reached its climax. Towards the end of Jahangir’s reign began the practice of putting up building entirely of marble and decorating the walls with floral designs made of semi-precious stones. This method of decoration, called pietra dura, became even more popular under Shah Jahan who used it on a large scale in the Taj Mahal, justly regarded as a jewel of the builder art.

    Shah Jahan:

    The Taj Mahal brought together in a pleasing manner all the architectural forms developed by the Mughals. Humayun’s tomb built at Delhi towards the beginning of Akbar’s reign, and which had a massive dome of marbles, may be considered a precursor of the Taj. The double dome was another feature of this building.

    This devise enabled a bigger dome to be built with a smaller one inside. The chief glory of the Taj is the massive dome and the four slender minarets linking the platform to the main building. The decorations are kept to a minimum, delicate marble screens, pietra dura inlay work and kiosks (chhatris) adding to the effect. The building gains by being placed in the midst of a formal garden.

    Mosque-building also reached its climax under Shah Jahan, the two most noteworthy ones being the Moti Masjid in the Agra fort built like the Taj entirely in marble, and the other the Jama Masjid in the Agra fort built like the Taj entirely in marble, and the other the Jama Masjid at Delhi built in red sandstone. A lofty gate, tall, slender minarets, and a series of domes are a feature of the Jama Masjid.


    Although not many buildings were put up by Aurangzeb who was economic-minded, the Mughal architectural traditions based on a combination of Hindu and Turko-lranian forms and decorative designs, continued without a break into the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

    Thus, Mughal traditions influenced the palaces and forts of many provincial and local kingdoms. Even the Harmandir of the Sikhs, called the Golden Temple at Amritsar which was rebuilt several times during the period was built on the arch and dome principle incorporated many features of the Mughal traditions of architecture.

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