Persia is the old name for the country that is now called Iran. It is situated between Turkey and Pakistan and covers a very large area. Persia has a very long history. It was founded 2500 years ago by Cyrus the Great. Up until 1979 Persia had a King, called the Shah. In 1979 however a revolution overthrew the Shah and his place as head of the country was taken instead by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a Muslim religious leader.

Throughout history Persia was very well known for its scholars and craftsmen. Many of the most beautiful pieces in museum are Persian: things like the famous Persian carpets and other textiles as well as ornate coloured glass vases, and especially texts written in very beautiful ornate writing.

Persia was also famous for its research in maths. Many important mathematicians and especially mathematical astronomers lived and worked in Persia. Mathematicians in Persia often discovered mathematical principles many centuries before mathematicians in Europe did. They were also the first people to read what the ancient Greeks had said about maths and to copy it and pass it on later to Europeans. Persians also made many very beautiful mathematical and astronomical instruments, especially astrolabes. The Museum of the History of Science in Oxford has an astrolabe made for Shah Abbas II, who was the ruler of Persia in 1647. The maker of the astrolabe wrote on it that Shah Abbas II was 'the supreme prince, the sultan, the most just, the most great, lord of the centres of command, remover of the causes of tyranny and rebellion, king of the kings of the age'.