Kingdom of Glory: From Persia to Iran

Take a 7,000-year journey through Persia, one of the world’s oldest civilizations, observing how it has evolved over time. We will consider Persian contributions to world culture, including scientific discoveries and innovations, and will explore the cultural centres of Susa, Persepolis and Isfahan. Our journey takes us through various religious traditions and through political upheaval and transformations. We will also listen to the music and poetry that have provided a means to pass on an age-old culture from one generation to the next.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, January 11 to Friday, February 5. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to messages, and engage in course activities. Students enrolled in Section 1 will participate in live videoconferencing sessions each Friday from 1–2:30 p.m. PT; students enrolled in Section 2 will participate in live videoconferencing sessions each Tuesday from 2-3:30 p.m. PT.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Outline the major periods of Persian history
  • Describe Iran’s underlying environmental, economic and geographic challenges
  • Give examples of some Persian contributions to science and technology
  • List the major religions practiced over the past 8,000 years in Persia
  • Discuss the never-ending struggle of Persian identity to survive through force, poetry, music and culture

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in videoconference seminars
  • Suggested and optional further readings and references

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: History I (6,000 BCE–651 CE)

We survey major historical events and empires, including the ancient Persian empires of the Elamites (3,300–539 BCE), the Medes (625–549 BCE), the Achaemenid (550–330 BCE), the Parthians (247 BCE–224 CE) and the Sassanians (224–651 CE), as well as major invasions of Alexander of Macedon (336–63 BCE) and nomadic Arabs (651–1219 CE).

Week 2: History II (651 CE–present)

We continue with defeat of the mighty Sassanian empire by nomadic Arabs (633–655 CE), a significant event that altered the course of Persian history and the world. We further explore invasions by Mongols (1219–1335), Timurids (1370–1507) and Qajars (1758–1925) as well as Persians' struggle to defend and re-establish their glorious identity through the Samanid, Safavid (1502–1722) and Pahlavi (1925–1979) eras. We will end with events and causes leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and the struggle to assert independence up to present day.

Week 3: Science and religion

We explore the ancient Persian pursuit of science to adapt to environmental, geographical and ideological existential challenges, resulting in advances in mathematics, astronomy, medicine, underground water systems, metallurgy and architecture. Further, we discuss key mainstream religions that have prevailed and evolved over thousands of years and are a fundamental part of Persian culture and identity—such as Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam.

Week 4: Poetry, music and culture

In our final journey we experience how Persian poetry, music and culture have preserved Persian identity over thousands of years amid chaos, a volatile environment and near constant existential threats. We will read poetry of the masters, like Attar, Rumi, Saadi and Haafez, whose timeless wisdom is as relevant and applicable today as it was 700 years ago.

Books, materials and resources

You will access reading material using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

Look at other courses in