Masterpieces of Persian Art

Masterpieces of Persian Art

Masterpieces of Persian Art

Masterpieces of Persian Art

Excerpt

In Western education, Persia has, since the days of Xenophon, been a blank page, or at most, a footnote to the history of ancient Greece. Yet various scholars now think that the Iranian plateau was probably the cradle, first of the human race and later of civilization itself. Independent considerations have led Sir Arthur Keith, Dr. Henry Field, and Professor Ellsworth Huntington, working separately, to the belief that man emerged as homo sapiens in the land of the Persians. That this land and the adjoining regions in the northwest produced the first civilized communities now seems to many scholars practically certain; and it is increasingly clear that from this center (especially the Van-Urumiya area in early prehistoric times) certain basic religious concepts with their appropriate ritual and iconography radiated throughout most of Asia and southeastern Europe, a movement that stated and sanctified elemental decorative themes which occupied the designers of all subsequent periods.

For sixty known centuries the Iranian plateau has contributed ideas and techniques which have helped to sustain and humanize mankind. Writing, numbers, the arts of agriculture and of working metals, the sciences of astronomy and mathematics, the beginnings of religious and philosophical thinking -- these all come from the Near East, and the fountain head of much of Near Eastern culture was on the Iranian plateau.

The three Wise Men from the East who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh at the birth of Jesus were probably Zoroastrian priests from Persia. Their gifts symbolized fundamental ideas which were contributed by their religion to Christianity -- notably the concepts of the Evil One as a positive force, the notion of the angels, of paradise, of the Last judgment, of the resurrection of the dead, and of the ultimate victory of good over evil.

Two other influential religions came out of Persia: Mithraism, which competed not unsuccessfully with Christianity for the first three centuries of our era; and Manichaeism, of which St. Augustine was a devotee before he was converted to Christianity. Buddhism was partially Iranized as it passed through the Far East on its mission of enlightenment. No important religion would now be what it is were the Persian . . .

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