Iran: the Empire of the Mind Facts about emergence and evolution of the concepts of state, territory, and boundary in ancient Iran

Document Type : Original Article


-Associate Professor of Political Geography, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran


Many political geographers treat the concept of vertical organization of state with territory as its horizontal feature defined within the concept borders as a product of the peace treaty of Westphalia in 1648 (Glassner and de Blij, 1989, 46-59). While this may be true in the case of state within the modern sense of the term in Europe, certainly the concept of state as a vertically organized political structure with its territorial identity is much older than any idea of nation state when measured with Gottmann’s iconography (Jean Gottmann, 1964). This is in deed old with its foundation rooted in more ancient civilizations.
There are indications that ancient civilizations were familiar with the notion of state. Ancient texts reveal that this basic principle existed in ancient Persian literature. Similarly, the likelihood exists that these Persian notions could have influenced Roman civilization.
It is widely believed that a combination of ancient Greco-Roman and Persian civilizations is a major contributor to what culturally constitutes ‘West’. On the other hand, considering that 'justice' formed the foundation on which the idea of Iran emerged and her territorial identity began to take shape, the idea that ancient Persian spatial arrangement might have contributed to the evolution of the concept of democracy in the West may not be too difficult to contemplate. This is to say that the Iranian tradition of statehood, flourished on the basis of justice enshrined in its socially oriented territorial identity might have contributed to the emergence of the notion of nation state in the West that emerged in the political evolution of space after Westphalia.