Aryan is the name that an ancient people speaking Indo-Iranian languages gave to themselves. Descendants of the Aryans include speakers of Sanskrit and Avestan which are related to the Indo-European languages. Ancient Persians and Vedic peoples used the name Aryan to mean nobles. The name "Iran" itself means the Land of the Aryans.
The Avestan name Airiianəm vaēǰō "Aryan expanse", is a reference in the Zoroastrian Avesta (Vendidad, Fargard 1) to the Aryans’ mother country and one of Ahura Mazda's "sixteen perfect lands". Other Avestan names are airyō.šayana, the “Aryan people”, and airyā daiŋˊhāvā “the Aryan lands”. These names were known to old Greek writers as Ariana. Also the Sanskrit name Āryāvarta "abode of the Aryans", was a region in north of today's India. The Middle Persian name of the Sassanian Empire, an empire that ruled Persia from the 3rd century to the 7th century, was Eran-shar meaning the Aryan Empire. Today, the name Iran is simply the Persian word for Aryan.
Sanskrit is the oldest written language of the Indo-European family of languages. The Vedas are composed in this language. Some portions of the Rigveda are thought to be the oldest writing in any Indo-European language.
Aryan equated with Indo-European[change | change source]
In the late 18th century, Europeans began using the term Aryan to refer to the original prehistoric Proto-Indo-Europeans and their descendents up to the present day (i.e., the Indo-European peoples—those Caucasians who are speakers of the Indo-European languages). This was the most common definition of Aryan in the 19th century and early 20th century.
Nazism[change | change source]
In the late 19th century, some Europeans began to use the name Aryan for only the Nordic peoples of Europe (one branch of the Indo-European peoples), as a "pure," "noble" and "superior" race they claimed were descended from the original Aryans.
The theory that the Aryans first came from Europe became especially accepted in Germany. It was widely believed that the "Vedic Aryans" were the same people as the Goths, Vandals and other ancient Germanic peoples who brought the Western Roman Empire to an end. This idea was often mixed with anti-Semitic ideas. The Master Race theory became a main idea for Nazis. After the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933, these ideas led to horrible persecutions of the Jews which culminated in the Holocaust.
Modern view[change | change source]
The idea of racism that the Nazi theory means has been totally put aside by modern scientists, some of whom also disagree with the idea that the original Aryans ever lived in Europe. Most other scientists do maintain that the original Proto-Indo-Europeans did live about 5,000 years ago in the area in Europe east of Ukraine and north of the Caucasus Mountains and that the original Aryans (the Indo-Iranians or eastern branch of the Indo-European peoples) did migrate east to Iran and India from there, and the original ancestors of the modern European peoples (the western or European branch of the Indo-European peoples) did migrate west from there. This is called the Kurgan hypothesis.
Related pages[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
- Encyclopedia Iranica, ĒRĀN-WĒZ
- Encyclopedia Iranica, AVESTAN GEOGRAPHY.
- Encyclopedia Iranica, ARIA (2. Ariane)
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography, William Smith, 1870, pp. 210, Aria'na
- Wiesehofer, Joseph Ancient Persia New York:1996 I.B. Tauris
- Wells, H.G. The Outline of History New York:1920 Doubleday & Co. Chapter 19 The Aryan Speaking Peoples in Pre-Historic Times Pages 271-285
Further reading[change | change source]
- Aryans, Harvesters and Nomads (Thursday July 6 2.00 –5.00) Convenor: Prof. Asko Parpola: Department of Asian & African Studies University of Helsinki