In contemporary Iran, what are the effect of pre-Islamic Persian cultural heritage that are not linked to Islamic culture, religion and literature?

In a previous question, I asked about Zoroastrianism. This question is more general.

  • 1
    arab culture and Islamic culture are different. Iranians have Islamic culture and not arab culture. Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 16:24
  • By "inheritance" I think you mean "heritage". Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 17:49
  • As Ahmadi said, ethnically Iranians are majority ethnically Persian (with strong Kurd and turcic ethnic minorites, ~20% each IIRC). Arabs constitude a very minor minority, along with Armenians.
    – DVK
    Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 17:18

2 Answers 2


Like virtually every other country, Iran values having a culture that is not simply defined by its predominant religion. Iran, therefore, has a close attachment to its pre-Islamic (or better, non-Islamic) civilisation. Besides being a source of pride in its own right, this heritage also serves to differentiate the country and people from its surrounding Turkic and, especially, Arab peoples.

This pride in Persian heritage encompasses several different spheres:

  • pre-Islamic art is treasured and one can find museums which specialise in ancient Persian artifacts as well as pre-Islamic archaeological sites, such as Persepolis, and even Zoroastrian ones
  • Persian architecture (Si-o-se, mosques, etc)
  • Persian as a historical language of poetry and statecraft, stretching from Turkey to India, is a source of pride (note the continued popularity of traditional Persian poetry even today)
  • the name "Iran" was chosen to emphasise the pre-Islamic civilisation
  • Iranians are very passionate about their being attached to geographies which are traditionally within the Persianate world (notably the Persian Gulf naming controversy)

Of course, the Iranian brand of Shi'ism also is something that is something that many Iranians are attached to as something culturally significant and differentiating from most of their neighbours, but it is by no means the only one.


A few more answers:

  1. Backgammon is a very old Iranian game and is commonly played throughout Iran.
  2. Norooz, or the celebration of the new year is pre Islamic and is celebrated throughout Iran by all Iranians. It carries with it the haft-seen, a ceremonial spread to celebrate the new year.
  3. Iranian months have old Iranian names that hearken back to old Iranian religions.
  4. The ruins at Persepolis and to a lesser extent at Pasargadae, Susa, and Tisphon (among thousands of others) and various mountain tombs and especially Cyrus's tomb are highly regarded and very influential in the Iranian Psyche.
  5. Iranians still regard Cyrus the Great (~550BC) as the founder of the country and probably its most influential ruler. He and the Achaemenid dynasty have had a profound effect on defining Persian identity. Many Iranians choose names from this dynasty.
  6. Sassanian universities, especially the one at Ghondishapur, formed the backbone of Iranian education and later were hugely influential on Islamic and European universities.
  7. The shahnameh, though written after Islam, is an epic poem purely devoted to pre Islamic Iranian mythology and kingship and has had large influence on the Farsi language and revival of Iranian literature which was largely banned and destroyed at the start of Islam in Iran.
  8. Zoroastrian moral ideology (Goftare Neek, Pendare Neek, Kerdare Neek) has affected Iranian character deeply.

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