Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: Medieval Persia

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The Arabs invaded Sassanid Persia in the mid 7th Century AD bringing the Islamization of the region and the gradual decline of Zoroastrianism. Despite this, Persian culture would have a great influence on these and all subsequent conquerors, with mediaeval Persia producing some of the greatest works of architecture, art, science and poetry in the Islamic world. The 17th Century Safavid Dynasty converted Persia from Sunniism to Shiism and produced stunning examples of art and architecture, exemplified by their capital Isfahan. Persian power declined slowly during the 19th Century as neighbouring states took control of the periphery. The Pahlavi Dynasty ruled Persia in the 20th Century down to the Islamic revolution of 1979.


At the completion of this history course, participants should be able to:

  1. Understand the difference between Sunni and Shiite Islam
  2. Examine the evolution of medieval Persian architecture
  3. Explore some of the medieval Farsi poetry of Omar Khayyam, Hafez and Saadi
  4. Understand the chronology of medieval Persia.


This history course will cover the following topics:

From the Arab Invasions to the Seljuks (AD 633 – 1219)

The Arab invasions of the early 7th Century AD ended the Sassanid Empire and brought Islam to Persia. The region came under the control of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs. The 9th and 10th Centuries saw the blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, science and art exemplified by the epic poem the ‘Shahnameh’ of Ferdowsi. Persian culture would be revived with the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the 11th Century.

The Mongol and Timurid Period (AD 1219 – 1507)

The Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan invaded Persia in 1219 with devastating consequences. Genghis’s grandson Hulagu established himself in the region and created the Ilkhanate state. This was an era of Persian revival typified by the work of the poets Saadi and Hafez. In 1381 Timur (also known as Tamerlane) invaded Persia and his successors the Timurids would control the area till 1452 when Turkish nomads briefly took power.

The Early Safavid Period (AD 1501 – 1629)

The Safavid Dynasty was founded by Shah Ismail I who converted Persia from a Sunni to a Shiite nation. He ruled from the northern city of Tabriz but his successor Tahmasp moved the centre of the administration to the more secure location of Qazvin. Shah Abbas I (AD 1587-1629) consolidated the Empire and transferred the capital to Isfahan where he created some of the world’s most stunning medieval Islamic architecture.

The Late Safavids to the Zand Dynasty (AD 1629 – 1796)

The death of the last great Safavid Shah, Abbas II, in 1666 saw the gradual decline of the Safavid state. In 1722 an Afghan army invaded Persia and captured Isfahan, indicative of decreased control. Persia’s integrity was restored by Nader Shah who in 1736 he deposed the Safavids and made himself Shah; he re-established the Persian state, going on to invade India and sacked Delhi. In the late 18th Century Karim Khan founded the short-lived Zand Dynasty which ruled from the Arg Citadel in Shiraz.

The Qajars (AD 1796 – 1925) and Pahlavis (AD 1925-1979)

The Qajar Dynasty, of Turkish origin, ruled Persia from the late 18th Century down to 1925. During this time the kingdom slowly lost territory to its neighbours, the Ottomans and Russians. The Golestan Palace, built in Tehran, was the main Qajar royal residence. In the 20th Century Iran was ruled by the Pahlavi Dynasty until the last Shah was deposed in the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

Delivery Style

This history course in Sydney will be delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussions will be encouraged.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • This course provided a sound history from a most knowledgeable tutor. Students readily interacted which gave the course a good dynamic. Informative and beautifully prepared handouts were also provided.

What others say.

  • This course provided a sound history from a most knowledgeable tutor. Students readily interacted which gave the course a good dynamic. Informative and beautifully prepared handouts were also provided.