Iran (formerly known as Persia) is the second largest country in the Middle East, and its culture reaches back through the millennia. About 2500 years ago, the Persian Empire stretched from Greece to India, and its impact is still felt in the world today.
Persia was the world’s first superpower. Its leader Cyrus the Great allowed kings to continue to rule the areas he conquered, earning him the moniker ‘King of Kings’ and laying the foundation for our next remarkable fact:
Persia was the first multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual empire.
Persian leaders envisioned a world in which religion was not the basis for strife and division. As long as people paid taxes, they were free to believe as they wished. And speaking of being free: the Persian empire didn’t have slavery. A bold notion in 500 BCE!
So how did this society based on equality — and wildly passionate about civic improvements, art, philosophy, food, and poetry — become the theocracy we know today?
That’s a long and interesting story that we explore in our podcast and the books we’re recommending, including a memoir of an epic trip to Iran, a graphic novel about living through the Iranian Revolution, and three novels that blur the lines between fiction and autobiography to weave irresistible tales of human resilience.
For a complete roundup of all the books we recommend, plus a full transcript and the other cool stuff we talked about, visit the Episode 18 show notes.
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Top image courtesy of Mostafa Meraji/Unsplash.
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