The ancient and modern city of Masjed Soleyman, Iran


Masjed Soleyman, also known as Masjid-i Sulaiman, is both an ancient and modern city situated in the Zagros mountains of southwest Iran. Its latest claim to fame is the oil was discovered here in 1908, the first to be discovered in Iran. This of course changed the history of country from a textile and pistachio exporter to one of the greatest oil producers in the modern world.

However, the history of this city goes back much further to Elamite times when it was called Assak. It was later taken over by the Persians sometime after 700 BCE when it became part of Parsumash, the kingdom founded by Achaemenes, the progenitor of the Achaemenid dynasty. Some historians believe that this site may have even been the first capital of the Achaemenids, though this is hard to prove.

Terrace wall of the ancient city of Parsumash; Photo by Jona Lendering
Photo by Jona Lendering
Photo by Jona Lendering
Photo by Jona Lendering

In addition to Achaemenid ruins, there are also remnants from the Seleucid, Parthian and Sassanian eras as well. These include old temples and stone statues of various gods and goddesses.

After the Arab conquest of Iran, the area became known as Masjid-i Sulaiman and for the most part fell into ruin. What settlement remained was quite small with the surrounding countryside occupied by qashqai nomads.

All that changed in 1908 when when a team lead by William Knox D’Arcy discovered oil at Masjed Soleyman on the 26th of May. This led to the creation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the forerunner to British Petroleum. Since then, Masjid Soleyman has grown into a city and petrochemical center and is now home to over 200,000 people. 1

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  1. Iranian census of 2006

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