Art, Persian Heritage, Persian Tattoos

The History of Persian Tattoos: An Understanding of an Ancient Culture

Body art, or tattoos, has long been a way of expression in humanity. Many ancient cultures have been linked to body art, and while the tattoos we know and love today may use different ink, colors and techniques, tattoos have been around since ancient times. Persian tattoos, for example, helped the person:

  • Relate to the Persian gods
  • Boost courage or strength
  • Identify with a tribe or community

And these are just a few of the many reasons Persians may have had tattoos.

Historical References of Tattoos and Body Art in Persia

Persia’s mighty empire left behind a culture and history that is rich with body art and self-expression. We see body art in Persian society dating back to 550 – 330 B.C. through stone carvings of the Archaemenid Persian Empire.

Many of the statues show body piercings on soldiers, kings and even the gods.

While the gods may not have worn jewelry or had piercings, the kings and soldiers did. Lay people also likely had some form of body art at the time. Earrings and piercings were a very popular trend back in ancient Persia.Persian tattoo

Tattoos are seen in much more recent times, dating back just 800 years ago. While scholars believe that Persians may have had tattoos before this time, the first written proof of tattoos comes from a poem about a man that asks to get a tattoo of a fierce lion. The original poem is attributed to the famous poet called Rami.

If you’re interest in Rami’s poems, a collection of them can be found here.

The ancient art of tattoos was likely seen much earlier than the poem that Rami wrote, but this is the earliest evidence of tattoos in Persian culture that we can find.

Persian Tattoos: Who Got Them and Why?

Tattoos were often associated with strength (men) and beauty (women). And in Persian culture, there were also tattoos that were seen for superstitious reasons. Tattoos could ward off evil or keep bad spirits away from the person.

Persians that received tattoos included:

  • Athletes: Wrestlers in particular had large tattoos on their arms and chest.
  • Men: Masculine men would have tattoos of their children, wives or names of their loved ones.
  • Rebels: Some rebels were given a tattoo to show they were disapproved in the society.
  • Women: Small tattoos were seen on Persian women. Tattoos were for beautification, and some acted as makeup or to cover up blemishes.

Persian tattoos in history have been temporarily halted at this point. Iran, the area that is now the place of the former Persian empire, has banned all tattoos in the country. An article was posted in the Independent that covers the topic in its entirety.

In short, tattoos considered “devil-worship” in Iran.

But the Persian empire was vast, and Afghanistan, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan and parts of Egypt and Israel were also within the empire.

Want a Persian Style Tattoo? Here’s What You Need to Know

While you won’t be able to get at tattoo in Iran, you can get a Persian style tattoo or a tattoo with an Iranian theme. Here’s what you need to know:

Know the Drawbacks

There are a few things you need to consider when getting a tattoo. For starters, it will be painful. But you should also know how to care for your tattoo once it’s complete. For example, you won’t be able to get laser hair removal on that area.

Good Artists are Hard to Come By, But Worth the Wait

You’re not looking to get a tattoo of your mom’s name or a flower – if you’re looking to get a Persian style tattoo, you need to work with an artist who knows what he’s doing. Great artists are hard to come by, but worth the wait.