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Persians

The Ancient World and Fashion > Peoples of Western Asia

The land of Persia (present-day Iran) was originally ruled by two separate tribes: the Persians in the south, and the Medes in the north. Then, in 550 BCE, the Persians took over the Medes’ land and began to conquer all of the surrounding lands. By the year 500, the Persians ruled the largest empire the world had ever seen. The mighty Persian Empire lasted for two hundred years until it was finally defeated by Alexander the Great. The Persians and Medes wore very distinctive headdresses. While the Persians had tall, fluted hats,the Medes wore a plain, rounded bonnet, with a tail hanging down at the back.Persian men tended to wear their beards long, and often wore golden hoops in their ears.

Golden Armlet
Golden Armlet

Soldiers and Satraps


A tiled frieze survives showing Persian soldiers in ceremonial dress. The soldiers wear long,patterned robes,with wide, pleated sleeves. Each soldier wears a wide, golden band encircling his forehead, and carries a tall spear and a bow slung over his shoulder. Attached to each soldier’s back is a deep pouch for carrying arrows. At court,the Persians wore long, flowing robes with pleated sleeves, but the local rulers, known as satraps, dressed far more simply in short, woolen tunics and long pants. The Persians were great horsemen, and pants were very practical for long horse rides across the plains.

Persian guards with spears and shields, carved on a staircase in the royal palace at Persepolis

Golden Armlet


The Persians made exquisite golden jewelry. A solid gold armlet has been discovered at Oxus (in present-day Turkmenistan) in a hoard of treasure that probably belonged to a Persian king. The armlet is covered with elaborate carvings and shows two mythical, birdlike creatures, with beaks, ears, horns, and wings, each confronting the other fiercely.

Persian guards
Persian guards
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