The Symbols of Persia

Last Updated September 14, 2010

The Culture of Ancient Persia

The land of ancient Persia was located in the area now inhabited by the countries of Iran and Afghanistan. There is evidence of human habitation in as early as 1200 B.C. and the first state was created in Persia in 700 B.C. The history of this ancient land is filled with a succession of invaders, including the Greeks, Arab armies, Turkish tribes and the Mongols, and  the expansion of the empire through military conquest.

The ruins of the capital,  Persepolis, indicate the use of advanced mathematics, geometry and astronomy in their creation. The walls of the buildings were decorated with lions, bulls and flowers. The art of the time focused on geometrical shapes and very stylized representations of both real and imaginary creatures, including lions, elephants, peacocks, phoenixes and griffins. Along with carpet weaving, the Persians were famous for engraving, metal work, pottery, painting and calligraphy. The empire was a mountainous land traversed by caravans and at the trading center of The Silk Road.

The Religions of Persia

The religion of Zoroastrianism was founded in ancient Persia by the prophet and teacher Zoroaster in about 600 B.C. He helped to unite the empire by turning the people from their multiple gods to a single wise god named Ahura Mazda. The emphasis of the religion was on the battle between good and evil. A great portion of the population of these modern day countries is Muslim, although there are also Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians.

The Symbols of Persia

The symbols of ancient Persia indicate their fascination with mythical and imaginary creatures and their meanings.

Anahita, Persian Water Goddess

persian goddessAlso know as the Fertility Goddess, The Lady of the Beasts and the Goddess of Sacred Dance, Anahita ruled the waters, the stars and fate, and represents the female creative principle. She is depicted with wings, accompanied by lions and a jeweled diadem of stars. Anahita is sometimes depicted as the consort of Mithra. Anahita is associated with rivers, lakes and the waters of birth. She is a fertility goddess and the patroness of women as well as the goddess of war.

The Lion and the Sun

persia symbol lionSimilar to the astrological constellation of Leo, this symbol represents divinity, royalty, the lineage of the kings, and the symbol of the sun as the ruler of the heavens. As in many cultures, the lion is the ruler or king of the animals. This famous symbol has been used on banners by Persian rulers since ancient times.

The Huma Bird

huma bird symbolThis legendary bird from a Sufi fable is said to never land, but to live its entire life in flight, flying invisibly high above the earth. Also known as a bird of fortune, the Huma bird is known as a bird of compassion and happiness. In Sufi lore, if one catches a glimpse of this legendary creature, or even its shadow, happiness will follow for the rest of your life. The Sufi teacher Inayat Khan also added a spiritual dimension to this bird, saying that it represented the evolution of people’s thoughts to the level where they can break through all limitations.


Griffin

Griffin Animal SymbolismThis legendary creature has the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, representing the king of the animals and the king of birds. Griffins are traditionally known for guarding treasures and possessions, but also as a protector from evil, witchcraft and slander. The griffin is known in Christian symbolism, representing both the human and the divine and is found sculpted on some churches. In heraldry, the griffin represents courage, boldness, strength and leadership.

Mount Damavand

persian symbolsAn active volcano, this mountain is the highest peak in Iran and in the Middle East, and is represented in Persian mythology and folklore. In Persian poetry and literature, this mountain stands as a symbol of Iranian resistance against foreign rule. The mountain is said to have magical powers and has  thermal hot springs used in the treatment of chronic wounds and skin disease. Mount Damavand is represented on the reverse side of the Iranian 10,000 rials banknote. Photo courtesy of Magnus Manske, Wikimedia Commons.

More Information on This Website

Learn more on this website about Mythical Creatures Past and Present. Learn more about animal symbols in our article Find Your Animal: Traditional Animal Meanings. Read our other articles about animal symbols including Aesop's Fables, Animal Symbols in Dreams, Animal Totems: Symbols of Personal Power and Feng Shui Animals.

 

Recommended Amazon Books About Persia

Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia
The Persian Empire
Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem
Tales Of Persia: Missionary Stories From Islamic Iran

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