The name for the city of Tehran comes from unknown origins. According to research from archaeologists excavating ancient settlements in the city, people had been living in the area since at least 6000 BC. Some of the original information regarding the existence of Tehran comes from documentation from the 9th century. According to documents, the city was a well known village located near the flourishing city of Rhages.
During the 13th century, Mongol invaders raided villages in the area, leaving Rhages destroyed. Refugees from this city and others in the area descended upon Tehran to attempt to rebuild their lives and ward off the armies. At this time, documentation called the city “Rhages’s Tehran,” showing what a change occurred due to this event. The village’s future was now decidedly more important to the future history of Iran.
According to various records, Europeans first visited the city in 1404. A Castilian ambassador by the name of Don Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo stopped in the city on his way to the Mongol capital called Samarkand, a region now known as Uzbekistan. References during this area state that the city was without a wall.
Tahmasp I and other Safavid rulers made Tehran their home early in the 17th century. A large wall was constructed around the city along with a variety of other buildings and advanced infrastructure including a bazaar. This was done just in time for a conflict with the Uzbeks launched by the Shah Abbas I.
In 1760, Karim Khan Zand assumed the title of Shah of Iran. At this time, he attempted to reestablish Tehran as the capital of his new government. A palace was built, along with a large harem and many government offices. However, unknown to historians, the capital was abruptly shifted to Shiraz. In 1795, the Qajar King Agha Mohammad Khan took control of Iran and was crowned in the city. He transferred the capital to Tehran, where it remains to this day.
During the onset of World War II, the city was the site of a major conference between the Allies. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in the city, accompanied by a number of British and Soviet troops.
Mohammad Reza Shah took control of Iran following the conflict. He pushed forward an effort to redesign the city into a modern industrial center of Asia. Ancient building were systematically destroyed. The bazaar was partially destroyed along with a number of Persian Gardens. Modern buildings and apartment complexes were built in their places. Many in Iran feel this was a mistake and a great tragedy to the city’s culture.
The city was further damaged by Scud missile attacks and various aerial bombardments from Iraq during the war that lasted from 1980 to 1988. Although many residential areas were decimated, much of the damage was soon repaired.
The city traded heavily with the Soviet Union during the war, supplying prefabricated housing and apartment complexes. In addition, a number of modern high-rise constructs have been built on top of those that were built during the 1950s and 1960s.