Tehran ( pronunciation (help·info)) (تهران – Tehrān) is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With a population of around 8.4 million in the city and 14 million in the wider metropolitan area, Tehran is Iran’s largest city and urban area, and one of the largest three cities in theMiddle East (along with Istanbul and Cairo).
In pre-Islamic times, part of the area of present-day Tehran was occupied by Rey. It was destroyed by the Mongols in the early 13th century. In 1796, Agha Mohammed Khan chose Tehran as Iran’s new capital, in order to remain in close reach of Iran’s territories in theCaucasus, at that time still part of Iran, and to avoid vying factions of previous Iranian dynasties. Throughout Iran’s history, the capital has been moved many times; Tehran is the 32nd national capital of Iran.
Large scale demolition and rebuilding took place beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, and Tehran has been the subject of mass migration of people from all over Iran up until the present. The city is home to many historic mosques as well as several churches, synagoguesand Zoroastrian fire temples. However, modern structures, notably Azadi Tower and the Milad Tower, have come to symbolize the city. Tehran is ranked 29th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area. Although a variety of unofficial languages are spoken, roughly 99% of the population understand and speak Persian.
The majority of the inhabitants of the city are Persians, but there are also populations of other Iranian ethnicities such as Lurs, Armenians, Kurds, and Azerbaijani Turks who speak Persian as of their second language. The majority of people in Tehran identify themselves asPersians.
There has been a desire to relocate Iran’s capital from Tehran to another area at some point in the future, because Tehran is prone to earthquakes. Shahroud, Esfahan and Semnan have been suggested as alternative sites.
Settlement of Tehran dates back over 7,000 years. An important historical city in the area of modern-day Tehran, now absorbed by it, is known as “Rey”, which is etymologically connected to the Old Persian and Avestan “Rhages”. The city was a major area of the Iranian speakingMedes and Achaemenids.
In the Zoroastrian Avesta’s Videvdad (i, 15), Rhaga is mentioned as the twelfth sacred place created by Ahura-Mazda. In the Old Persian inscriptions (Behistun 2, 10–18), Rhaga appears as a province. From Rhaga, Darius the Great sent reinforcements to his fatherHystaspes, who was putting down the rebellion in Parthia (Behistun 3, 1–10).
The Damavand mountain located near the city also appears in the Shahnameh as the place where Freydun bounds the dragon-fiend Zahak. Damavand is important in Persian mythologicaland legendary events. Kyumars, the Zoroastrian prototype of human beings and the first king in the Shahnameh, was said to have resided in Damavand. In these legends, the foundation of the city of Damavand was attributed to him. Arash the Archer, who sacrificed his body by giving all his strength to the arrow that demarcated Iran and Turan, shot his arrow from Mount Damavand. This Persian legend was celebrated every year in the Tireganfestival. A popular feast is reported to have been held in the city of Damavand on 7 Shawwal 1230, or in Gregorian calendar, 31 August 1815. During the alleged feast the people celebrated the anniversary of Zahak’s death. In the Zoroastrian legends, the tyrant Zahak is to finally be killed by the Iranian hero Garshasp before the final days.
In some Middle Persian texts, Rey is given as the birthplace of Zoroaster, although modern historians generally place the birth of Zoroaster in Khorasan. In one Persian tradition, the legendary king Manuchehr was also born in Damavand.
During the Sassanid era, Yazdegerd III in 641 issued from Rey his last appeal to the nation before fleeing to Khorasan. Rey was the fief of the Parthian Mihran family, and Siyavakhsh, the son of Mihran the son of Bahram Chobin, resisted the Muslim Invasion. Because of this resistance, when the Arabs captured Rey, they ordered the town to be destroyed and ordered Farrukhzad to rebuild the town.
There is also a temple in Rey, which is said to be one of the temples of Anahita, the Iranian goddess of waters. But after the Muslim invasion, it got dedicated to Bibi Shahr Banou, eldest daughter of Yazdegerd III, and one of the wives of Husayn ibn Ali, the fourth leader of the Shia faith.
In the 10th century, Rey was described in details in the work of Islamic geographers. Despite the interest of Baghdad displayed in Rey, the number of Arabs there was insignificant, and the population consisted of Persians of all classes. The Oghuz Turks laid Rey to waste in 1035 and in 1042, but the city recovered during the Seljuq dynasty and Khwarazmian era. The Mongols laid Rey to complete waste and according to Islamic historians of the era, virtually all of its inhabitants were massacred. The city is mentioned in later Safavid chronicles as an unimportant city.
The origin of the name “Tehran” is unknown. Tehran was well known as a village in the 9th century, but was less well-known than the city of Rey which was flourishing nearby in the early era. Najm ol Din Razi, known as Daya, gives the population of Rey as 500,000 before the Mongol invasion. In the 13th century, following the destruction of Rey by Mongols, many of its inhabitants escaped to Tehran. In some sources of the early era, the city is mentioned as “Rhages’ Tehran”. The city is later mentioned in Hamdollah Mostowfi‘s Nozhat ol Qolub (written in 1340) as a famous village.