The history behind residence in Tehran dates back to 5000 BC. In the year 2015, the skeleton of a man, belonging to 5000 BC was unearthed in the Molavi District of Tehran. Previously, it was thought that men had took up residence in the present day city of Tehran as of 3000 BC, based on the discoveries made in Qaytarieh district. Prior to these discoveries, it was believed that the history of Tehran dates back to Parthian era, nearly 2000 years ago. At that time, Tehran was a village, north of the developed and important city of Rayy. The Achaemenian Iranian King, Darius, has referred to the city of Rayy in an inscription, which belongs to that era.
The popularity of Rayy reached its peak in the Sassanid era, and many historical works are situated in Rayy which date back to that era.
In the 4th Century AH, the city of Rayy was one of the important cities of the East. However, later on, it was leveled amid Mongol raids in 617 AH. In the coming weeks, we will speak about the history of Rayy and its current state.
Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that in that period of time, Tehran was a large village with many orchards, and was considered as a summer quarter for the residents of Rayy. The residents of Tehran had basements, which they sought refuge in upon enemy raids. They could resist against enemies for months with the food which they stored. Hence, Tehran was immune from Mongol raids, and gained importance after the destruction of Rayy.
The oldest writing which has mentioned Tehran has been compiled by Abu Ishaq Istakhri in 340 AH. Thereafter, the historians, “Yaqut al-Hamavi” and “Ibn Hawqal Baghdadi” have also authored articles on Tehran. For instance, Yaqut al-Hamavi writes: Tehran is a large village, in which houses are built underground.
The other historian, Mohammad Qazvini, has said that the residents of Tehran have built houses underground and whenever enemies attack this village, people of Tehran come out of their houses and confront them.
The books authored by geographers and researchers on Tehran confirm that in ancient times, Tehran was one of the villages in the vicinity of the city of Rayy. This city was an important political, commercial, administrative and religious center and had captured the attention of many, and therefore was always raided and attacked.
Meanwhile, the village of Tehran was a safe haven for fugitive statesmen because of the difficulty to infiltrate this village.
The Safavid era marked the very beginning of the growth and development of Tehran. The Safavid King, Shah Tahmasb, who had chosen the city of Qazvin as his capital, at times traveled to the city of Rayy to pay pilgrimage to the tomb of the Safavid ancestor, Seyed Hamzeh. Tehran maintained a moderate and mild climate and was home to many orchards and creeks. Therefore, it captured the attention of the king and gradually he resided in Tehran for longer periods of time. In the year 961 AH, a rampart was built around Tehran, in addition to 114 towers.
At that time, Tehran maintained four gateways. Later on, two other gateways were added. For the construction of the rampart, sand was excavated from districts which became popularly known as Chaal-e Maidan, and Chaal Hesaar.
The famous Italian traveler, Pietro Della Valle, who had traveled to Tehran concurrent with the reign of the Safavid King, Shah Abbas, in the year 1028 AH, notes: Tehran is larger than Kashan. But, Tehran’s population is less than Kashan’s population. One third of Tehran’s area is home to buildings and two third of area covered by Tehran are orchards. Sycamore trees have been planted in Tehran, some of which are very thick in diameter.
After the collapse of Safavid Dynasty and instatement of Afsharieh Dynasty, the Iranian King, Nader Shah, appointed his senior son, Reza Qoli Mirza, as the ruler of Tehran in 1152 AH. Upon the emergence of political chaos in the country, in the aftermath of demise of Nader Shah, in the year 1172 AH, Karim Khan Zand was instated as the ruler of Iran, in Tehran. He chose Tehran as his capital for four years and constructed new buildings in it. Meanwhile, in the wake of Karim Khan Zand’s confrontations with Mohammad Hassan Khan Qajar, he transferred the capital from Tehran to Shiraz.
After a short period of time, Tehran was once again chosen as Iran’s capital.
The first king, who chose Tehran as its capital, was the Qajarid King, Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar. He clashed with Tehran’s ruler, Qafour Khan, beating all of his rivals. Aqa Mohammad Khan was crowned in Tehran in 1174 AH. Upon his empowerment, he ordered his officials to mint coins under his name, while choosing Tehran as his capital. The selection of Tehran as the capital of Iran by Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar was due to a number of reasons; the most important of which was the vicinity of Tehran to the fertile lands of Varamin. The other reason was the proximity of Tehran to the city of Astarabad, and Mazandaran, which was the place of residence of leading supporters of Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar. As of this period of time, Tehran began to develop and grow. During the rule of Fath-Ali Shah, who came to power after Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar, Tehran developed more than ever, and new buildings were constructed in Tehran. Due to the development of Tehran, a number of residents of other cities migrated to this city, significantly growing Tehran’s population.
Jacques Morier, who traveled to Tehran in 1222 AH, describes this city in his travelogue, referring to the public bathrooms, guest houses, and squares in this city.
The era of rule of Qajarid King, Naser Ed-Din Shah, was concurrent with social, political, and cultural developments in Iran. In this era, under the impact of Europe’s industrial civilization, and West’s colonial policies, Iran entered a new phase, the outcomes of which led to the Constitutional Movement after the death of Naser Ed-Din Shah. The population of Tehran grew in this phase.