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Iranian peoples

Diverse Indo-European ethno-linguistic group

Top 10 Iranian peoples related articles

Iranian peoples
Iranic peoples
Regions with significant populations
Western Asia, Anatolia, Ossetia, Central Asia, Western South Asia and Western Xinjiang
Iranian languages, a branch of the Indo-European languages
Predominately: Islam (Sunni and Shia) Minorities: Christianity (Eastern Orthodox, Nestorian, Protestant and Catholic), Irreligion, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Baháʼís, Uatsdin, Alevism, Yarsanism and Yazidism
(Historically also: Manichaeism and Buddhism)

The Iranian peoples[1] or the Iranic peoples,[2][3] are a diverse Indo-European ethno-linguistic group[1][4] identified by their use of the Iranian languages and other cultural similarities.

The Proto-Iranians are believed to have emerged as a separate branch of the Indo-Iranians in Central Asia in the mid-2nd millennium BC.[5][6] At their peak of expansion in the mid-1st millennium BC, the territory of the Iranian peoples stretched across the entire Eurasian Steppe from the Great Hungarian Plain in the west to the Ordos Plateau in the east, to the Iranian Plateau in the south.[7] The Western Iranian empires of the south came to dominate much of the ancient world from the 6th century BC, leaving an important cultural legacy; and the Eastern Iranians of the steppe played a decisive role in the development of Eurasian nomadism and the Silk Road.[8][5]

The ancient Iranian peoples who emerged after the 1st millennium BC include the Alans, Bactrians, Dahae, Khwarazmians, Massagetae, Medes, Parthians, Persians, Sagartians, Sakas, Sarmatians, Scythians, Sogdians, and probably Cimmerians, among other Iranian-speaking peoples of Western Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Eastern Steppe.

In the 1st millennium AD, their area of settlement, which was mainly concentrated in steppes and deserts of Eurasia,[9] was reduced as a result of Slavic, Germanic, Turkic, and Mongol expansions and many were subjected to Slavicisation[10][11][12][13] and Turkification.[14][15] Modern Iranian peoples include the Baloch, Gilaks, Kurds, Lurs, Mazanderanis, Ossetians, Pamiris, Pashtuns, Persians, Tajiks, the Talysh, Wakhis, Yaghnobis, and Zazas. Their current distribution spreads across the Iranian Plateau, stretching from the Caucasus in the north to the Persian Gulf in the south and from Eastern Turkey in the west to Western Xinjiang in the east[16]—a region that is sometimes called the Iranian Cultural Continent, representing the extent of the Iranian-speakers and the significant influence of the Iranian peoples through the geopolitical reach of Greater Iran.[17]

Iranian peoples Intro articles: 177


The term Iran derives directly from Middle Persian Ērān (𐭠𐭩𐭥𐭠𐭭) and Parthian Aryān.[18] The Middle Iranian terms ērān and aryān are oblique plural forms of gentilic ēr- (in Middle Persian) and ary- (in Parthian), both deriving from Old Persian ariya- (𐎠𐎼𐎡𐎹), Avestan airiia- (𐬀𐬌𐬭𐬌𐬌𐬀) and Proto-Iranian *arya-.[18][19]

There have been many attempts to qualify the verbal root of ar- in Old Iranian arya-. The following are according to 1957 and later linguists:

  • Emmanuel Laroche (1957): ara- "to fit" ("fitting", "proper").
    Old Iranian arya- being descended from Proto-Indo-European ar-yo-, meaning "(skillfully) assembler".[20]
  • Georges Dumézil (1958): ar- "to share" (as a union).
  • Harold Walter Bailey (1959): ar- "to beget" ("born", "nurturing").
  • Émil Benveniste (1969): ar- "to fit" ("companionable").

Unlike the Sanskrit ā́rya- (Aryan), the Old Iranian term has solely an ethnic meaning.[21][22] Today, the Old Iranian arya- remains in ethno-linguistic names such as Iran, Alan, Ir, and Iron.[23]<[18][24][25]

The Bistun Inscription of Darius the Great describes itself to have been composed in Arya [language or script].

In the Iranian languages, the gentilic is attested as a self-identifier included in ancient inscriptions and the literature of Avesta.[26][a] The earliest epigraphically attested reference to the word arya- occurs in the Bistun Inscription of the 6th century BC. The inscription of Bistun (or Behistun; Old Persian: Bagastana) describes itself to have been composed in Arya [language or script]. As is also the case for all other Old Iranian language usage, the arya of the inscription does not signify anything but Iranian.[27]

In royal Old Persian inscriptions, the term arya- appears in three different contexts:[22][23]

  • As the name of the language of the Old Persian version of the inscription of Darius I in the Bistun Inscription.
  • As the ethnic background of Darius the Great in inscriptions at Rustam Relief and Susa (Dna, Dse) and the ethnic background of Xerxes I in the inscription from Persepolis (Xph).
  • As the definition of the God of Iranians, Ohrmazd, in the Elamite version of the Bistun Inscription.

In the Dna and Dse, Darius and Xerxes describe themselves as "an Achaemenid, a Persian, son of a Persian, and an Aryan, of Aryan stock".[28] Although Darius the Great called his language arya- ("Iranian"),[28] modern scholars refer to it as Old Persian[28] because it is the ancestor of the modern Persian language.[29]

The trilingual inscription erected by the command of Shapur I gives a more clear description. The languages used are Parthian, Middle Persian, and Greek. In Greek inscription says "ego ... tou Arianon ethnous despotes eimi", which translates to "I am the king of the kingdom (nation) of the Iranians". In Middle Persian, Shapur says "ērānšahr xwadāy hēm" and in Parthian he says "aryānšahr xwadāy ahēm".[22][30]

The Avesta clearly uses airiia- as an ethnic name (Videvdat 1; Yasht 13.143–44, etc.), where it appears in expressions such as airyāfi daiŋˊhāvō ("Iranian lands"), airyō šayanəm ("land inhabited by Iranians"), and airyanəm vaējō vaŋhuyāfi dāityayāfi ("Iranian stretch of the good Dāityā").[22] In the late part of the Avesta (Videvdat 1), one of the mentioned homelands was referred to as Airyan'əm Vaējah which approximately means "expanse of the Iranians". The homeland varied in its geographic range, the area around Herat (Pliny's view) and even the entire expanse of the Iranian Plateau (Strabo's designation).[31]

The Old Persian and Avestan evidence is confirmed by the Greek sources.[22] Herodotus, in his Histories, remarks about the Iranian Medes that "Medes were called anciently by all people Arians" (7.62).[22][23] In Armenian sources, the Parthians, Medes and Persians are collectively referred to as Iranians.[32] Eudemus of Rhodes (Dubitationes et Solutiones de Primis Principiis, in Platonis Parmenidem) refers to "the Magi and all those of Iranian (áreion) lineage". Diodorus Siculus (1.94.2) considers Zoroaster (Zathraustēs) as one of the Arianoi.[22]

Strabo, in his Geographica (1st century AD), mentions of the Medes, Persians, Bactrians and Sogdians of the Iranian Plateau and Transoxiana of antiquity:[33]

The name of Ariana is further extended to a part of Persia and of Media, as also to the Bactrians and Sogdians on the north; for these speak approximately the same language, with but slight variations.

— Geographica, 15.8

The Bactrian (a Middle Iranian language) inscription of Kanishka (the founder of the Kushan Empire) at Rabatak, which was discovered in 1993 in an unexcavated site in the Afghan province of Baghlan, clearly refers to this Eastern Iranian language as Arya.[34]

All this evidence shows that the name Arya was a collective definition, denoting peoples who were aware of belonging to the one ethnic stock, speaking a common language, and having a religious tradition that centered on the cult of Ohrmazd.[22]

The academic usage of the term Iranian is distinct from the state of Iran and its various citizens (who are all Iranian by nationality), in the same way that the term Germanic peoples is distinct from Germans. Some inhabitants of Iran are not necessarily ethnic Iranians by virtue of not being speakers of Iranian languages.

Some scholars such as John Perry prefer the term Iranic as the anthropological name for the linguistic family and ethnic groups of this category (many of which exist outside Iran), while Iranian for anything about the country Iran. He uses the same analogue as in differentiating German from Germanic or differentiating Turkish and Turkic.[35]

Iranian peoples Name articles: 47

History and settlement

Indo-European roots


Archaeological cultures associated with Indo-Iranian migrations (after EIEC). The Andronovo, BMAC and Yaz cultures have often been associated with it. The GGC (Swat), Cemetery H, Copper Hoard and PGW cultures are candidates for the same associations.

The Proto-Indo-Iranians are commonly identified with the Sintashta culture and the subsequent Andronovo culture within the broader Andronovo horizon, and their homeland with an area of the Eurasian steppe that borders the Ural River on the west, the Tian Shan on the east.

The Indo-Iranian migrations took place in two waves.[36][37] The first wave consisted of the Indo-Aryan migration through the Bactria-Magiana Culture, also called "Bactria-Magiana Archaeological Complex," into the Levant, founding the Mittani kingdom; and a migration south-eastward of the Vedic people, over the Hindu Kush into northern India.[38] The Indo-Aryans split-off around 1800–1600 BC from the Iranians,[39] whereafter they were defeated and split into two groups by the Iranians,[40] who dominated the Central Eurasian steppe zone[41] and "chased [the Indo-Aryans] to the extremities of Central Eurasia."[41] One group were the Indo-Aryans who founded the Mitanni kingdom in northern Syria;[42] (c. 1500–1300 BC) the other group were the Vedic people.[43] Christopher I. Beckwith suggests that the Wusun, an Indo-European Caucasian people of Inner Asia in antiquity, were also of Indo-Aryan origin.[44]

The second wave is interpreted as the Iranian wave,[45] and took place in the third stage of the Indo-European migrations[38] from 800 BC onwards.

Sintashta-Petrovka culture