Ancient tribe Persians
The Persians were first mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions from the year 843 B.C., when they invaded the northeastern part of Assyria. The Persians, who call themselves the Artaioi, were the direct descendants of the Aratti, an Aryan people from the east of ancient Iran (likely the region of Kurdistan, in the border region of the modern day Iran and Afghanistan). Approximately 1000 B.C. , the Aratti migrated into Pesis (from which the modern name Persia is derived). After they settled, they conquered the kingdom of Elam and took the place of the Median Empire around 550 B.C. The Persian Empire developed into one of the most important civilizations of the Near East and shaped the history of the human race. After their defeat against the Macedonians under Alexander the Great, they were Hellenized, but retained their immense cultural influence over the course of many centuries.
The Persians speak an Indo-European language and are descended from nomadic herdsmen who migrated to southwest Asia from Eurasia in multiple waves between 2000 and 1000 B.C. Ancient Persia was home to many tribes, but they were already united under the Persia Empire and by the Zoroastrian religion in the sixth century B.C. Only in the seventh century A.D. did invading Arabs propagate Islam in the region, which then replaced the ancient religion.
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In spite of the many foreign invasions that the land suffered, Persians have maintained their own language, culture and group identity. Their unique character is in part strengthened by their religious convictions: they are the largest group of Shiite Muslims in the world, contrasting with the Sunnis, who dominate the rest of the Middle East. Small minorities of Persians still practice Parsism, which can be traced back to Zoroaster, and there are small communities of Jewish and Christian Persians as well as followers of the Bahai religion. The members of all religious groups celebrate the Persian New Year Festival.
Today Persians are the majority population in Iran (51%) but are also numerous in Afghanistan (25–30%), Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, many Persians have emigrated to Western Europe and North America. Worldwide the number of ethnic Persians is more than 60 million. The Persians of today however are not identical with the ancient Persian people. The history of the Persians cannot be reduced to that of a single people.
At the time of the Islamization of Persia a considerable number of Persians fled to central Asia, China and the Indian Sub-Continent, where they exist yet today as an individual ethnic group (Parsi) and where the Persian religion, customs and language have been better preserved than in their actual core territory, which today has been completely Islamized.
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