General Information About Isfahan
Isfahan is situated in the center of the country, 435 KM south of Tehran. Isfahan symbolizes the past and the present of Iran. Isfahan may be a complete manifestation of the Iranian-Islamic civilization, culture and arts that are as old as Iran herself.It was a former capital of Persian kingdom during the Safavid dynasty. Most of the landmarks and monuments in this city have remained from that period.
History and Culture
The history of Isfahan can be traced back to the Palaeolithic period. In recent discoveries, archaeologists have found artifacts dating back to the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages. The city emerged gradually over the course of the Elamite civilization (2700 - 1600 BCE) under the name of Aspandana also spelt Ispandana. During the Median dynasty, this commercial entrepôt began to show signs of a more sedentary urbanism, steadily growing into a noteworthy regional center that benefited from the exceptionally fertile soil on the banks of the Zayendehrud River. Once Cyrus the Great (reg. 559 - 529 BCE) unified Persian and Median lands into the Achaemenid Empire (648 - 330 BCE), the religiously and ethnically diverse city of Isfahan became an early example of the king's fabled religious tolerance. The Parthians (250 BCE - 226 CE) continued this tradition after the fall of the Achaemenids, fostering the Hellenistic dimension within Iranian culture and political organization introduced by Alexander's invading armies. Under the Parthians, Arsacid governors administered a large province from Isfahan, and the city's urban development accelerated to accommodate the needs of a capital city. The next empire to rule Persia, the Sassanids (226 - 652 CE), presided over massive changes in their realm, instituting sweeping agricultural reform and reviving Iranian culture and the Zoroastrian religion. The city was then called by the name Spahān in Middle Persian. The city was governed by "Espoohrans" or the members of seven noble Iranian families who had important royal positions, and served as the residence of these noble families as well. Extant foundations of some Sassanid-era bridges in Isfahan suggest that the kings were also fond of ambitious urban planning projects. While Isfahan's political importance declined during the period, many Sassanian princes would study statecraft in the city, and its military role developed rapidly. Its strategic location at the intersection of the ancient roads to Susa and Persepolis made it an ideal candidate to house a standing army, ready to march against Constantinople at any moment. One etymological theory argues that the name 'Aspahan' derives from the Pahlavi for 'place of the army.
In 1598 Shah Abbas the Great moved his capital from Qazvin to the more central and Persian Isfahan, called Ispahān in early New Persian so that it wouldn't be threatened by his arch rival, the Ottomans. This new importance ushered in a golden age for the city, with architecture, prestige, and Persian culture flourishing. From Abbas' time and on, the city was also settled by thousands of deportees from the Caucasus (Most notably Georgians) which Abbas and his predecessors had settled en masse in Persia's heartland. At the end of the 16th century the city is said to have at least 250 000 Georgian inhabitants. During the time of Abbas and on Isfahan was very famous in Europe, and many European travellers made an account of their visit to the city, such as Jean Chardin. This all lasted until it was sacked by Afghan invaders in 1722 during the Safavids heavy decline. The capital subsequently moved several times until settling in Tehran in 1795. In the 20th century the city was settled by very large amounts of peoples from south Iran, firstly during the population movements in the early 20th century, but also in the 1980s following the Iran-Iraq war.