Along with ancient languages such as Sanskrit and Latin and living languages such as English, French, Russian, and Hindi, Persian belongs to the Indo-European family of languages, specifically to the Iranian (Iranic) branch. Persian is also referred to by local regional names such as Farsi in Iran, Dari in Afghanistan, and Tajiki in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. However in English the historic name for the language has always been “Persian.”

The literary and cultural language of the Iranian plateau, the highlands, and plains of Central Asia has been Persian, a language also used extensively throughout South Asia. For centuries, rival empires from the Indian Mughal Empire in the east to the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean and the Balkans used Persian language and aesthetics, which formed the basis of a common tradition that over time culturally united these vast regions. Today, Persian is spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Map of the Persian Empire and All Its Provinces

Johann Baptist Homann (1663–1724). Imperii Persici in omnes suas provincias nova tabula geographica (Map of the Persian Empire and All Its Provinces). Nuremberg: Io. Baptista Homann, ca. 1724. Hand-colored engraved map. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress

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