Photo of the bust of Atossa, daughter of Cyrus the Great, wife of Darius the Great, mother of Xerxes the Great. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Iran has been home to some of the world’s oldest civilisations, with the first recorded being that of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millenium BC. In the sixth century BC the Achaemenid Persian Empire was founded and became a superpower, being one of the largest empires in history. It fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC before rising as the Parthian Empire in the third century BC. From the third century AD the Sassanid Empire ruled over the region until its conquest by Arab Muslims in the seventh century AD. Several dynasties emerged during this period, however none were successful in defending incursions by the Seljuk Turks and Mongols. By the fifteenth century, native Safavids established a unified Iran, and the country grew across several sectors. In the nineteenth century territorial losses threatened its stability, and by 1979 widespread desire for change saw the Iranian Revolution overthrow the last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, overthrown.

You can find out more about some of the significant female rulers in Iranian history below!


Daryaee, Touraj, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012

Ellerbrock, Uwe. The Parthians: The Forgotten Empire. Abingdon: Routledge, 2021

Jacobs, Bruno, and Robert Rollinger, eds. A Companion To The Achaemenid Persian Empire. 2 volumes. Oxford: Blackwell, 2021

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. “Harem politics: Royal women and succession crises in the Ancient Near East (c. 1400-300BCE).” In The Routledge History of Monarchy, edited by Elena Woodacre, Lucinda H. S. Dean, Chris Jones, Russell E. Martin, and Zita Eva Rohr, 534-550. Abingdon: Routledge, 2021

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. Persians: The Age of the Great Kings. London: Wildfire Books, 2022

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd, and Alexander McAuley. Sister-Queens in the high Hellenistic period: Kleopatra Thea and Kleopatra III. London: Routledge, 2022

Newman, Andrew J. Safavid Iran. Rebirth of a Persian Empire. London: Continuum, 2008

Potts, Daniel T., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013

Pourshariati, Parvaneh. Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: The Sasanian-Parthian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran. London: I. B. Tauris, 2008.

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