On Thursday, 12 May 2011, Professor Touraj Daryaee presented a public lecture at AKU-ISMC entitled: “The Idea of Ancient Iran: Its Use and Abuse in Modern Iranian Discourse.” Professor Daryaee examined the way that the ancient Persian Empire has been regarded in Iran both before and after the 1979 revolution.
Professor Daryaee focused on the figure of Cyrus, the Achaemenid founder of the Persian Empire and argued that the fortunes of Cyrus and the Persian Empire changed depending on contemporary circumstances. Prior to the Revolution, there existed a tendency - in part as a result of racist theories of Aryanism which gained prominence in Europe during the 19th century - to glorify the idea of the Persian Empire, claiming that it was the greatest of the ancient civilisations and that the decline in Iranian fortunes had been a result of Macedonian, Islamic and Mongol invaders.
In this environment, even Alexander the Great’s destruction of Persepolis could be denied. However, after the Revolution, the tendency had been to associate Iran with the Arabic and Islamic world which led to attempts to diminish the ancient Persian Empire and to label Cyrus’s achievement as that of a murderous tyrant.
Professor Daryaee is the Howard C Baskerville Professor in the History of Iran and the Persianate World and the Associate Director of the Dr Samuel M Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at the University of California, Irvine. He is the editor of the Name-ye Iran-e Bastan: The International Journal of Ancient Iranian Studies and the creator of Sasanika: The Late Antique Near East Project. His books include: Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire (winner of the prestigious BRISMES prize) and Sasanian Iran (224-651 CE): Portrait of a Late Antique Empire.
The lecture was part of the AKU-ISMC Research Seminar Series that, this year, focuses on the construction of knowledge about Muslim cultures and societies, one of the two major research themes at the Institute. The talk was well attended by students and staff from AKU-ISMC as well as many visitors from other universities.
Coordinator, Planning & Academic Development
Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations