Tehran, 29 October 2005 (CHN) - The exhibition of Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia held in the British Museum until 8 January 2006 has raised different reactions from experts, journalists, and public audience.
One not so positive article on the exhibition was that published in the Guardian on 8th of September entitled "The Evil Empire". The following paper has been written in response to that article by Aman Gharaei Moghadam, sociologist and professor of Tarbiat Modares University of Tehran.
Aman Gharaei Moghadam
"Jonathan Jones, Guardian reporter, after his visit from the exhibition "Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia" in the British Museum, London, wrote an article on 8th of September 2005 issue of the newspaper, entitled as "The Evil Empire", describing the ancient Persian empire the Empire of Evil and ancient Persians as history's original villains, while naming Alexander, who slaughtered millions of people in his conquests throughout the world in China, Indian, Syria, Middle East, etc, and set fire to the Persepolis, as Alexander the Great and savior of democracy.
In his article, following the trend of Herodotus, the prejudiced pro- Greece historian, Jones has written that democracy was born on the grounds of the battles of Alexander against the Persian dictatorship, and comparing Iranians with the Sheriff of Nottingham, and General Custer, he mentions that if the Greeks had not gained victory, dictatorship and barbarism would have spread throughout the world.
The article is a reflection of Anglo-Saxons' hostility and prejudice, a reactionary attitude and insufficient knowledge towards the ancient world of Persia and the world; Jones has repeated the same words uttered by Herodotus, Nietzsche, Hitler, racists and Neo-Nazis such as Count de Gobineau, Gostav Ratzenhofer, Oswald Spengler, and Sir Edward Brent Taylor about the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon culture over others; those who considered themselves of higher rank, regarding other nations as barbarians and backward people who should have paid "charges for their savagery".
They are unaware of the fact that Iran enjoys a 9,000-year-old civilization which, based on historical accounts and what historians believe, shines so brilliantly in the world that such false talks have no effect on, or as Ebn-e-Xaldun puts it such "Blind Followers" can not ruin such a glorious reputation.
Author of the article quotes Herodotus who has not only censored the true information of the ancient culture and civilization of Persia due to his prejudices, but also due to his feelings of hostility towards Persia, has on purpose distorted the realities about the Persian grandeur and civilization called Persians barbaric.
Jonathan Jones has not paid attention to the fact that at the same time Herodotus talked such words, the Greek historian, Xenophon, who was more familiar with the culture and history of Persia, free from any prejudiced beliefs, told the truth about the Persian culture, civilization, humanity, peacefulness with a clear conscience. As a result, the prejudiced Herodotus's views about Iran are different and sometimes in complete contrast with those of his countryman, Xenophon, especially whenever Herodotus has put aside the realities of history, ignoring the rules of writing history and implying his personal prejudice and attitudes in writing. And that's when his beliefs clearly disagree with those of other historians such as Xenophon.
Regarding the ancient civilization of Persia, disagreements are seen among other western orientalists as well. While some have gone out of the scientific path and with their national prejudice and injustice followed the beliefs of their predecessors, have denied the spread of ancient Persian civilization to the west, introducing Greece as the cradle of civilization in the west, some others, after detailed studies and research, have shown great respect towards the Persian civilization and regarded it righteously as the "Mother" of many civilizations around the world.
The French philosopher, Count de Gobineau, despite the prejudice he has for the west, has described the ancient Persia as such, "Persians are a very old nation, maybe the oldest nation in the world, who from the ancient times enjoyed a systematic government. I insist that Persia is the source of everything in the world. Whatever found there could not have been found elsewhere. The origin of everything goes back to Iran; everything from there was then improved, changed, developed, or became limited."
Contemporary archaeologists and orientalists, who are fair enough, even those who previously followed the path of their ancestors, now confess to the glory and antiquity of the Ancient Persian civilization and its effect on the ancient world.
The American Professor Pop for instance says, "There is no doubt that the plateau of Iran enjoyed a developed civilization toward the end of the Stone Age, the 5th millennium before the Christ."
"Techniques of agriculture, metal works, the knowledge of writing numbers, mathematics and astronomy, and the basics of religion and philosophy, all have originated from a region which today is being called Iran. Many of these have their sources in the cultural plateau of Iran," Pop says.
Professor Grishman, French archaeologist, says, "Persians were the first nation who founded the World Empire, and extended the eastern boundaries of the civilized world to Oxus; preserving the valuable wealth of the ancient civilization of Persia is our great honor."
Grishman continues, "People of Sialk, near Kashan, were the most ancient plainsmen of the world, evidence from whose lives have been found over there. People of the time (the 5th millennium BC) were familiar with the textile industry, and all of them, both men and women, were interested in making and using ornamentations."
The British professor Enseman, said, "We can not find any branches of industries and arts from Europe's middle ages on which the influence of Persia is not seen .... The art from West, which is the honor of today's world, would not have flourished without the influence Persians."
The American professor Christy Wilson, writes, "Persia was a pioneer in the field of industry. The talent and leadership of Persia in the world of industry have been approved by scientists and technicians .... Industry was the key area of activity of the Persians and their most precious service to the world civilization.
"The latest discoveries in Iran reject the previous beliefs of scientists that the civilization of Mesopotamia was the mother of primary industries. Today, it is believed that civilization spread to the West and to Mesopotamia from Iran's plateau."
The German professor Von Lokok says, "At the time of Aryans' migration, a movement of civilization originated to Europe from Central Asia."
Diakonov, the famous Russian historian, says, "Historical studies of Iran's culture will create a sense of respect and admiration for a nation that could withstand difficulties throughout the centuries and maintain its nobility." Diakonov then adds, "The latest archaeological excavations and discoveries in Iran's plateau have helped a lot to put an end to the hesitations and differences between contemporary orientalists about the great Persian civilization. French and American discoveries in Iran after the Second World War, the excavations by the Soviet Union archaeologists in the Central Asia, discovery of some important documents, coins, architectural and dam constructions, carvings, paintings, and especially the famous inscriptions of the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sassanid dynasties, are all new light shed on the ancient history of Iran. All have caused changes in previously formed opinions."
Documents and evidence which Ezatollah Negahban, the famous Iranian archaeologist, represented from the Sagez Abad area in Qazvin plain (Boein Zahra) indicate that the remains of the area belonged to 7th millennium B.C.
As can be concluded by the afore-mentioned references, all historical evidence which date back to 9,000 years ago indicate that the civilization of Greece and the West originated in Iran, and ideas put forward by followers of the British diffusion school such as Gh. Perry, and Eliot Smith, who believe that the civilization spread from Greece to the west and then to the east, are not acceptable.
Professor J.H. Iliov, the British orientalist, says about the civilization of ancient Persia, "Referring to history, after Hebrews, no nation other than the ancient Persians has had such a great influence on forming the today's world civilization and thought trends.
"Regarding the important role of Aryans (Persian) in the history of civilization of the world, it is surprising that the people of the west, as descendants of this race, are so unfamiliar with their origins of this nation and the culture of the lands which were the cradle of their ancestors."
From childhood they get familiar with Roman, Greek, and Hebrew civilizations, while for most of them, the ancient history of Persia, where their ancestors originated from, is inaccessible.
For the westerners, the initial history of Aryans is limited to the accounts in Greek or Hebrew history. The destruction of the historical documents and libraries of Persia is one of the reasons behind these misunderstandings. All remaining sources and evidence are inevitably written from a Greek point of view.
Now I ask the author of Guardian article, Jonathan Jones, and editor of the newspaper, with regard to such vast evidence and documents how can one insult such a nation? And like Herodotus and Neo-Nazis describe Iran as an evil nation? Is it possible to call such a nation enjoying such a brilliant several thousand-year-old civilization, few historical references of which I have noted above, evil?!
Mr. Jonathan Jones, while half of the world including Huns, Germans, Wizigoths, Ostrogoths, Lombards, Anglo Saxons, Wandalos, Franks, and Normands, according to Greeks were savages and lived in ignorance, Iran was among the few developed countries whose people enjoyed a high level of education, science, technology, industry, and different branches of arts, founding the base of civilizations of other societies.
Among ancient nations, Persians are of the few who despite modern developments have maintained their ties with their ancestors' beliefs. Their mental, social, and moral characteristics have undergone changes slowly yet logically following a constant, normal trend and have never influenced by illogical and abnormal stream of changes.
Our today's youngster generation still feels proud of their national culture and their ancient great civilization. When hearing patriotic songs such as "O, Iran, my precious land" you can see the tears of happiness, pride, and dignity filling their eyes. You saw how bravely they defended their homeland during the 8-year war between Iran and Iraq. You should have taken a lesson that this country is home to the brave, to the dedicated, and you should not touch such a sensible issue.
The Iranians who live abroad still have some sort of nostalgia for their homeland, believing "this house is beautiful but not my house". They try to maintain their ancient traditions, traditions that make them one of the best immigrants of the world.
With all these descriptions, is it right to call the ancient Persian Empire the Evil Empire and the Persians the first villains of history? How do you let yourself talk of a nation with such prejudice and lack of knowledge?
Diakonov and Hersfeld believe that your Indo-European script and language has originated from Persia, belonging to 5000 B.C, even before the Hieroglyph script, for the cylindrical chips discovered in Marlik hill prove that Persia had its own handwriting previous to Arameans, Sumerians, Assyrians, and Egyptians, and it was from Persia that it spread to other parts of the world.
The inscriptions of Darius' palace and those of the Xerxes' in Persepolis, and Aryaman tablets in Hamadan and Zarin Sham tablet from the great ancestor of the Achaemenids, all are evidence to this claim.
Persians as one of the most civilized and developed nations of the ancient time, expanded their cultural heritage, opened the doors to science and art in all fields to other nations, and most importantly made them familiar with the righteous Persian disposition (based on the Zoroastrian belief of "good words, good thoughts, and good deeds"). Following this vocation, they tried their best to enjoy proper education and civilization, and getting familiar with different languages and handwritings of their time were their priorities.
How does Guardian allow itself to call the ancient Persian Empire evil and describe the Persians as history's first villains, while the first human rights declaration is that belonging to the Achaemenid King, Cyrus the Great - the cylinder of which is now on show in the exhibition of Forgotten Empire in the British Museum in London.
Now I ask you to judge yourself ...
While Assur-bani-pal, your ancestor, described his ferocious behavior proudly, "Within a month and a day, I destroyed Babylonia and Xuziyan completely. I myself slaughtered 3000 warriors and let some burn in fire. I took out many eyeballs, and then set fire to the city, massacred many and created a blood bath over there," Cyrus the Great said, "When I entered Babylon, I sat in the palace of the kings happily and joyfully. The Almighty God of Babylon, Mardouk, sent me the free inhabitants of Babylon, and everyday I set to worship him; my numerous soldiers entered Babylon calmly and peacefully. I forbade any hostile attitudes throughout Sumer and Aked. I released the people from the yoke of slavery. I rebuilt their houses and swept away the ruins. Mardouk, the great God, was satisfied with my good deeds and applauded me, Cyrus, the king who worships him, my son Cambyses, and all my soldiers kindly. And we all worshiped his holiness happily and sincerely."
Moreover it has come in Cyrus Cylinder that, "Thus says Cyrus King of Persia: the Eternal God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem which is in Judea. Who among you is all from his people, let him go up to Jerusalem and built the house of the Eternal God!"
The King's last words can be seen on the inscription of his tomb in Mashhad-e Murghab plain in Fars province, "Oh man, whosoever you are and wheresoever you come from, for I know that you will come, I am Cyrus, who founded this vast empire for the Persians. Grudge me not therefore for this little earth that covers my body."
Now Mr Jonathan Jones, you yourself decide whether the Persians are evil or other nations?!
Do you know that the Suez Canal from which today you are making profits was built by Darius, the Achaemenid king, whom today you are calling evil and villain?! By those governments which you like your ancestors call evil? The reason for this claim is the stone inscription which was found near Suez Canal, reading, "I am a Persian. Setting out from Persia, I conquered Egypt. I ordered this canal dug from the river called the Nile that flows in Egypt, to reach the sea that begins in Persia. The canal was dug as I ordered, then ships went from Egypt through this canal to Persia, as I intended."
In response to Guardian and to note the ethics of ancient Persians, it suffices to recall a saying of Xerxes, the Achaemenid king: "Ahura Mazda, the great God, who created happiness; who gave me Xerxes bravery and wisdom. According to his will, I love righteousness and hate badness. When anger overcomes me, with willpower I bring it under control. And I govern myself."
Mr. Jonathan Jones, Persians are the first nation who have celebrated Nowrouz from Jamshid's time. Based on studies and estimations by Professor Ahmad Birashk, the contemporary Iranian mathematician, the Persian calendar is the most accurate in the world. When others based their months and years on their emperor's moving from one house to another, Persians enjoyed an accurate yearly calendar.
You should know that you should never say a word without enough study and investigation and merely following your ancestors and some of today's leaders who call Iran "Axis of Evil", or those like the author of the completely false book of "Never without My Daughter". You should watch your mouth whenever you want to talk about Iran, bow your head in respect for such a glorious culture and civilization, and use such words about your own ancestors.
You should be aware of the fact that the Persian culture and civilization is a treasure of art, wisdom, ethics, morality, and traditions from our ancestors, a culture and civilization that has formed throughout the ages. And it is exactly this ancient culture that has saved us against the harms of the enemies and the various events during the history and till the end of the world Iran and Iranians will keep their heads up proudly.
Although we have been defeated in several wars such as that with Alexander, our rich culture and civilization has not only stayed undefeated but also brought its enemies to their knees, just as it did with the successors of Alexander.
Ancient Persians were unfamiliar with weakness and unfairness. They were always looking for ways to serve the society, so they wished to have and grow fair children: "Oh, Ahura Mazda! Offer me a child who is wise and well behaved and entering the society, fulfill his duties; a brave and respectable child who could fulfill the needs of others; a child who could strive for the progress and happiness of his family and society.
During the time you described Persians as evil and villain, the country had more than 110 fire temples which were being used as centers of training and education, and were managed by numerous teachers.
So it was the way of that time, teachers in the fire temples, says Nezami the famous Persian poet.
A teacher was someone who studied day and night and his mind was not busy with earning his life.
"Oh, holly Zoroaster! Regard him as a teacher who is studying all night long, he who learns from the wise so that his mind is free."
While in your modern and civilized Europe (except for ancient Greece), training and education started from the time of Emperor Charlemain, in the 9th century and from the churches in a limited form. The same Persians you call villains and barbarian, established education centers wherever they occupied and through them they spread science and education, art, honesty and justice, peace and love, and fight against injustice.
We can name Roha and Tasibin schools from Achaemenid era with about 800 students, which enjoyed equipped and systematic organizations.
Furthermore, there were technical schools, philosophy centers of the Mani, Mazdak, Zoroastrian, and Hebrew traditions, scientific schools in areas of medicine, mathematics, astronomy, literature, etc, which paved the way toward the establishment of Gondishapur University in 345 A.C at the time of Shapur II, the Sassanid King.
At the beginning of the Achaemenid era, Sedeh schools were established in Ekbatan, Sared, and Samarqand, in which students of medicine, teaching, and preaches were trained. People were cured in Ekbatan School which is one of the oldest schools of Iran, established 100 years after Zoroaster by one of his students, training some 100 students.
Floterches, one of the students of Sedeh school of Ekbatan has explained that philosophy, astronomy, medicine, and geography were taught in the school which had 100 students.
During Achaemenid era, in addition to a medicine school in Sais city of Egypt, several other schools were also established in Borsippa, Milletu, and Orchee cities.
Ancient Persians were the first ones establishing an administrative system and governorship in the 4th millennium B.C and it was the Medes who first divided their troops in different categories of sling men, spearmen, and bow men.
In the history of our country, Cyrus, the Achaemenid king, has been one of the people whose management and planning system in governing and capturing the countries led to the development of such systems throughout the world. He was the first governor who had accurate plans for his moves and benefited communications in his management.
Cyrus the Great believed in pre-planning, that one should think of what to do in the morning while it is still night and what to do during the night while it is still morning.
He is furthermore known as one of the pioneers in allocating duties based on abilities and of benefiting an accurate scheme of time and place. In other words, management systems were implemented in the administration of Ancient Persia, registered in the history of management development.
Mr. Jonathan Jones, those whom you called evil, were the first nation who founded the postal system in the world and sent official letters from Antakya in Minor Asia (today's Turkey) to Sared near Hamedan, capital of Iran at that time just in 6 days. While you know that even in the 21st century, such a fast delivery is impossible except with DHL services.
Those whom you have called evil founded the first control, supervision and communication organization of the world in their administrative system, which is the base of scientific management. Two individuals who were called "eye & ear" supervised matters in each of the thirty satrap or provinces of the country. During the Achaemenid era, there were some organizations for managing financial issues and accountings. The discovered bills in Sialk Tepe and Partkand belonging to the third millennium B.C are evidence to this claim, and the first coins were minted by Persians for business exchanges.
The nation whom you have described as dictator and undemocratic were the first nation who founded a federal government during the Parthian dynasty, a government which was somehow similar to today's governments in Germany and the United States.
Ancient Persians made the first electric battery 1800 years before Galvani invented it in 1786.
Recently on 15th of September 2005, the official Iranian news agency announced the discovery of a clay bowl with pictures of a goat from the Burnt City; the bowl is considered as the first sample of animation in the world, which means Iranians were the first nation who invented animation.
Regarding clothing and rugs, the discovered Pazirik rugs and clothes which have pictures of the Persian queen and women in the Achaemenid era clearly show the style of clothing of Persian women at that time.
Mr. Jones, do you call the Persian ancient empire, which dates back to 2550 years ago when the people of the world were living in ignorance, barbarity, and battles, the Evil Empire?! While this characteristic is more proper for the 19th and 20th centuries colonists who plundered the properties and natural resources such as oil and diamond of their colonies throughout the world, from Africa to South America, and set up wars in Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Libya, India, and killed the innocent people, taking them as slaves, an indecent demeanor that can never be traced in the history of Iran.
I wonder how could you call Persians evil and villain, while you forget about the massacre of the people in Indonesia, China, the killing of thousands of innocent Indians demanding liberty and freedom from the exploitation of the British government at the time of Gandhi, the massacre of thousands of Africans and putting in jail of Nelson Mandela, the great liberal leader of the South Africa for 30 years, the spread of drug addiction in the world, and sexual violations of the people of your colonies; do you regard such dreadful events as just and civilized?!
What do you think of the massacre of Spanish people in Southern America, and killing of king Athahualllpa and the innocent civilized people of Inca?
You don't consider incinerating 7 million innocent people in human ovens of Bochenwald and Dachau as vicious, but you regard killing soldiers during the wars of 2550 years ago as villain.
You are making a mistake and accusing others of what is of yourself; the wise words of Montesquieu fit you well. He tells the story of a Turk man who met a cannibal and said to him, you are cruel creatures because you eat your war prisoners! The cannibal asked the Turk, What do you do with your war prisoners? And the Turk replied, we kill them but don't eat them after killing them! Montesquieu continues, it seems that we can not find a nation without its specific trend of cruelty.
Montesquieu word is a reality, because human beings close their eyes to their own deeds and just want to find fault with others. Just like Hebrews who call Germans wild for massacring them, but they themselves kill and destroy Arabs.
Americans called the Japanese, who killed them during the Second World War as nonhuman beings or as you say evils, but they made valid excuses for themselves massacring the Vietnamese, producing several movies and books in this regard. Russians called the French who attacked them at the time of Napoleon and Germans who killed their people during the war as nonhuman beings, but they believe their killing the people of Hungary and Czechoslovakia by bullets and tanks at the time of Dubcek praiseworthy.
Mr. Jonathan Jones, you accuse others of what are characteristics of your own ancestors and contemporary generation. You justify the blooding and slaughtering and taking the innocent people as slaves by your ancestors,; you consider accounts such as Attila, Huns, Germans, and Wisigoths under the leadership of Alarik in 410, Ostrogoths, who killed a lot of people and destroyed north of Italy, Lombards, who after the death of Yustiniyanuf, slaughtered the people of Italy, Anglo-Saxons, who were the British ancestors, Wandalos, who under the supervision of Generic, destroyed most of France, and then through Spain reached to north of Africa, Franks, who are today's French, Normans, who during the 8th to 10th centuries attacked a lot of European countries and killed people and destroyed everything, and the crusades massacres, just, humanistic and ethical, and then regard Persian battles with other countries as barbaric and cruel?! I ask you to judge yourself which one is evil?
The concept of a poem from the famous Iranian poet, Ms. Parvin Etesami, is appropriate to be mentioned here: "One day a garlic made fun of an onion, that you poor have a bad odor; the onion replied "you are unaware of your own defaults, finding faults only with the others!"
At the end I wish you the best and pray to the God to inspire you with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds which are appropriate for a journalist; to guide you to be honest and to reflect the truth and I hope you write another essay to apologize.
Dr. Aman Gharayi Moghaddam, September 2005
Guardian Reporter Questions BM View on Ancient Persia
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