California Multicultural Society

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Persia vs. Iran

Is it Persia, or Iran?

Often the words “Persia” and “Iran” are used interchangeably, but they mean different things.

The word Persia comes from the Greek word Pars, which was used to describe the lands that stretched from the Indus Valley in present day India and Pakistan to the Nile River in today’s Egypt. The Ancient Greeks called the people who lived in these areas ”Persians”.

The word ”Iran” comes from Aryan, which was an ethnic label given to ancient peoples who migrated from the Indus Valley area towards Central Asia.

In 1935, the state of Persia officially changed its name to Iran. Therefore, Iran is used to describe the contemporary country and its people, while Persia refers to a broader culture, many ethnic groups and an ancient history that some say goes back 3000 years. Persian is also the name for the language spoken by Iranians.

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