The Famous Women of Persia
Women have played a tremendous and somewhat forgotten role in the history of Persia.
We might all be forgiven for assuming that history is totally male-dominated, because that’s how most of history is presented to us. The key players, the names we have to memorise as schoolchildren, are overwhelmingly male.
One of the key take-away lessons of a study of history, in fact, is that women have a very small role to play in the major events of the world. The few women who do leap out from the history books – Cleopatra, Joan of Arc and such – are typically presented as anomalies, and often have the beauty or sexuality (Cleopatra) emphasised, or are presented as quite mad (Joan of Arc).
It wasn’t always so, however, as a study of document translation will often bring this to light. Many ancient cultures were significantly more egalitarian than modern cultures, and some, like the ancient Persian Empires, celebrated women and regarded them as political and cultural equals. Here are some famous Persian women you may not have heard of!
Chista (1735 BCE)
Chista was a daughter of Asho Zarathushtra, who was a significant figure in the Zoroastrianism religion, once the dominant religion of the ancient Persian Empire. The name Chista means intelligent, and she was a major figure in the religious teachings of the ancient world.
Amitis Shahbanu ( 559 BCE)
Amitis Shahbanu was Queen of the Achaemenid Empire. She was the wife of Cyrus the Great, who was the first ruler of the Persians to attain the title of “Emperor” and who authored the first declaration of human rights in world history. The name Amitis means wise friend.
Esther (478 BCE)
Esther was Queen of Persia – the first Jewish Queen of that empire, and is the Esther in the biblical stories. Her story has become quite tangled between fact and fiction over the years, as many people believe her story in the bible to be quite different from the truth. The name Esther is derived from Farsi word for star.
Sura (213 CE)
Sura was the daughter of the last King of the Ashkanid Empire, and was in fact a high-ranking General in that empire, remembered to this day for her deft battlefield tactics and the rough soldier’s life she preferred, despite the fact that her name translates to “flower face.”
Princess Aspas (383 CE)
During the Sassanid Empire, Princess Aspas was a daughter of Emperor Ardeshir the Second. She became the Commander of the police force in the empire, in charge of keeping order and tracking down political enemies. She was born to it, as her name translates to guard of strength.
Apranik (635 CE)
The daughter of General Piran, Apranik became a famous general and leader of the resistance against the Arab invasion of the Sassanid (Persian) lands. Her military demeanour and skill was obvious from a very young age, but despite the efforts of people like her the Sassanid Empire had been weakened by centuries of infighting and invasion, and eventually fell to the Arabs.
The tale goes on and on – women have had a great role in Persian history that is often overlooked.
Image courtesy haghighatnomads.webs.com