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Forgotten Empire Leaves Britain for Spain


10 January 2006



LONDON, (CAIS) -- The exhibition of “Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia” finished its work in the British Museum last Sunday after five months with 150,000 people who visited this exhibition during this time, a number that was twice what the British Museum organisers had anticipated.


Following some negotiations between Spanish and Iranian officials, the collection will head for Spain in 15 days time to display the dignity of Persian Empire during the Achaemenid era.


The exhibition have traced the rise and fall of one of the ancient world's largest and richest empires. Encompassing a rich diversity of different peoples and cultures, ancient Iran's Achaemenid Empire flourished between 550 and 331 B.C. The empire originated with Cyrus the Great (559-530 B.C.) and expanded under his successors, who ruled from the Imperial capitals of Susa, Persepolis, Ecbatana, and Sardis, until at its peak it stretched from the Indus Valley to Greece and from the Caucus to Egypt. The Achaemenids acted as a bridge between the earlier Near Eastern cultures and the later Classical world of the Mediterranean and had a profound influence on Greece in political, military, economic, and cultural fields.


Forgotten Empire was created in association with the British Museum, which is mounting the most comprehensive exhibit ever staged on the Achaemenids.

Although many Iranian visitors have found the exhibition insulting and questioned the motives behind the exhibition, but in general it was success in reminding the British public about Iranian civilisation, which opened a window onto the wealth and splendour of ancient Iranian society--its rich palaces, exquisite craftsmanship, and sophisticated culture.


A content visitor written: "After visiting the exhibition, I was certainly persuaded that the Persian empire was impressively rich and powerful. The palace at Persepolis had columns 20m tall, apparently. That's about the height of a seven-storey building"; -while a disappointed visitors said: "the exhibition hall was cramped and claustrophobic, we had difficulties walking around, let alone viewing the exhibition properly; -the texts accompanied the artefacts was inadequate in explaining their iconographic and cultural background." 


""The first man in the world's history who deservedly had gained the title of "the Great", the one who issued the first decree of human rights in 6th century BC, in this exhibition became just "Cyrus", while 4th c. BC Macedonian warlord-conqueror and murderer has become "the Great". The most appalling of all was text accompanied Cyrus the Great' Cylinder, which was unfair; -the composer of the text has hopelessly tried to give a distort version of history. It is sad when we witness archaeologists and historians have become politicians in this day-and-age."" said an Iranian archaeologist.


"Today I have witnessed the bad-intentions and hatred towards Iranian culture especially at the end of the exhibition. It was absolutely disgusting when I saw they have glorified a savage-Macedonian, and then few steps away they mention the name of father of Iranian nation as someone like John who works in a grocer shop; -It is shameful that Iranian authority care about Arabs and Islam, than Iranians and Iran, otherwise they should have not permitted British Museum organisers to distort the history and insult the father of Iranian nation", another Iranian visitor furiously added.


Forgotten Empire was divided into sections such as the expansion of the Persian Empire, arms and warfare, trade and commerce, writing, luxury dinner services, jewellery, religious and burial customs, and the rediscovery of ancient Persia. All the articles were collected and displayed in a way to project the splendour of Iran during ancient times and to obliterate the wrong imaginations about ancient Iranian as portrayed by her enemies, formed under the influence of writings by some historians such as Herodotus. 


"Western world is biased and contrived to make the Europeans the heroes. If the Iran was in Europe rather than in the Middle East, this amazing race would be idolized above and beyond the extent of that which the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, etc are today" said a visitor.


Achaemenid dynastic era is one of the most honourable ones, not only in Iranian but the world history, which left a unique legacy in the world culture and art. The exhibition started with Darius the Great' Statue, and finished with Cyrus the Great' Cylinder the first charter of human rights, as symbols of Iranian identities.


The exhibition, “Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia” was held in the British Museum from 9 September 2005 – 8 January 2006 with the cooperation of National Museum of Iran, Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, and Iran Heritage Foundation.




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