The greatest site from the pre-Islamic period is at Persepolis, whose bas-reliefs are a unique blend of styles from all over the Achaemenid Empire, including Egypt, Greece and India.
Many Persian art forms predate the Arab conquest, but as their peak was reached within the Islamic era, religious influences are rarely completely absent. Calligraphy, geometrical patterns and Islamic architecture combined to reach unparalleled heights in the 17th century in a series of highly decorated palaces and mosques in Isfahan, at that time, one of the largest cities in the world. Throughout many centuries of occupation, it has been the respected poets who have kept the traditions of the Persian language and religion alive, particularly Sufism. Sa'di is the Persian equivalent of Shakespeare, and with his successor Hafez, both have ornate mausoleums in Shiraz. This lecture will explore the ancient monuments of Persia and Islamic art.