The country's rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the third-largest number in Asia and eleventh-largest in the world.
The term Iran derives directly from Middle Persian Ērān, first attested in a third-century inscription at Rustam Relief, with the accompanying Parthian inscription using the term Template: Xpr, in reference to the Iranians.
Elam, the most prominent of these civilizations, developed in the southwest alongside those in Mesopotamia, and continued its existence until the emergence of the Iranian empires.
The advent of writing in Elam was paralleled to Sumer, and the Elamite cuneiform was developed since the third millennium BC.
In 1935, Reza Shah requested the international community to refer to the country by its native name, Iran.
As The New York Times explained at the time, "At the suggestion of the Persian Legation in Berlin, the Tehran government, on the Persian New Year, Nowruz, March 21, 1935, substituted Iran for Persia as the official name of the country." Opposition to the name change led to the reversal of the decision, and Professor Ehsan Yarshater, editor of Encyclopædia Iranica, propagated a move to use Persia and Iran interchangeably.
Among the reasons given by those panelists were that "eye-RANN" has "hawkish connotations" and sounds "angrier", "xenophobic", "ignorant", and "not...cosmopolitan".
From the late 10th to the late seventh century BC, the Iranian peoples, together with the "pre-Iranian" kingdoms, fell under the domination of the Assyrian Empire, based in northern Mesopotamia.
From the 34th to the 20th century BC, northwestern Iran was part of the Kura-Araxes culture, which stretched into the neighboring Caucasus and Anatolia.
Since the earliest second millennium BC, Assyrians settled in swaths of western Iran, and incorporated the region into their territories.
After two centuries, a period of various native Muslim dynasties began, which were later conquered by the Turks and the Mongols.
The rise of the Safavids in the 15th century led to the reestablishment of a unified Iranian state and national identity, Popular unrest culminated in the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, which established a constitutional monarchy and the country's first legislature.