Persis (Greek: Περσίς), better known as Persia (Old Persian: Parsa; Persian: پارس, Pars), or "Persia proper", was originally a name of a region near the Zagros mountains at Lake Urmia. The country name Persia was derived directly from the Old Persian Parsa. Over time, the area of settlement shifted to the southwest of today Iran (now Fars).
The ancient Persians were present in the region from about the 10th century BC, and became the rulers of the largest empire the world had yet seen under the Achaemenid dynasty which was established in the late 6th century BC, at its peak stretching from Thrace-Macedonia, Bulgaria-Paeonia and Eastern Europe proper in the west, to the Indus Valley in its far east. The ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae, two of the four capitals of the Achaemenid Empire, are located in Fars.
The Achaemenid Empire was defeated by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, incorporating most of their vast empire. Shortly after this the Seleucid Empire was established. However it never extended its power beyond the main trade routes in Fars, and by the reign of Antiochus I or possibly later Persis emerged as an independent state that minted its own coins.
Babak was the ruler of a small town called Kheir. Babak's efforts in gaining local power at the time escaped the attention of Artabanus IV, the Arsacid Emperor of the time. Babak and his eldest son Shapur managed to expand their power over all of Persis.
The subsequent events are unclear, due to the sketchy nature of the sources. It is however certain that following the death of Babak around 220, Ardashir who at the time was the governor of Darabgird, got involved in a power struggle of his own with his elder brother Shapur. The sources tell us that in 222, Shapur was killed when the roof of a building collapsed on him.
At this point, Ardashir moved his capital further to the south of Persis and founded a capital at Ardashir-Khwarrah (formerly Gur, modern day Firouzabad). After establishing his rule over Persis, Ardashir I rapidly extended the territory of his Sassanid Persian Empire, demanding fealty from the local princes of Fars, and gaining control over the neighboring provinces of Kerman, Isfahan, Susiana, and Mesene.
Artabanus marched a second time against Ardashir I in 224. Their armies clashed at Hormizdegan, where Artabanus IV was killed. Ardashir was crowned in 226 at Ctesiphon as the sole ruler of Persia, bringing the 400-year-old Parthian Empire to an end, and starting the virtually equally long rule of the Sassanian Empire, over an even larger territory, once again making Persia a leading power in the known world, only this time along with its arch-rival and successor to Persia's earlier opponents (the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire); the Byzantine Empire.
The Sassanids ruled for 425 years, until the Muslim armies conquered the empire. Afterwards, the Persians started to convert to Islam, this making it much easier for the new Muslim empire to continue the expansion of Islam.
Persis then passed hand to hand through numerous dynasties, leaving behind numerous historical and ancient monuments; each of which has its own values as a world heritage, reflecting the history of the province, Iran, and West Asia. The ruins of Bishapur, Persepolis, and Firouzabad are all reminders of this. Arab invaders brought about a decline of Zoroastrian rule and made Islam ascendant from the 7th century.
- Richard Nelson Frye (1984). The History of Ancient Iran, Part 3, Volume 7. C.H.Beck. pp. 9–15.
- David Sacks, Oswyn Murray, Lisa R. Brody; Oswyn Murray; Lisa R. Brody (2005). Encyclopedia of the ancient Greek world. Infobase Publishing. pp. 256 (at the right portion of the page). ISBN 978-0-8160-5722-1.
- The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3 (1), p. 299
- The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3 (1), p. 302
- Kaveh Farrokh (2007). Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War. Osprey Publishing. pp. 176–9.