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Arierblut – höchstes Gut! ("Aryan Blood - the highest good!"), propaganda stamps with swastika

Aryan or Aryan Race is a term used variably to denote the whole Indo-European peoples or more specifically the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-Europeans. Iran means "land of the Aryans". The German word 'Ehre', which means 'honor', is cognate with 'aryan', which means 'noble'. Ireland is also believed to come from same word root as Iran and Aryan. The Ossetians, an Iranian people, also call their country "Iron", which is cognate with Iran.

Usage in History

Hans Hauptmann: Jesus der Arier. Ein Heldenleben ("Jesus the Aryan. A hero's life"), Deutscher Volksverlag Dr. E. Boepple, München 1930

The first documented usage of the term Aryan as an ethnic term is dated back to the first millennium BC and during the Achaemenid Empire. Darius the Great (522-486 BC) ordered to write an inscription on his tomb in which he introduces himself as:

I (am) Darius the great king, king of kings, king of countries possessing all kinds of people, king of this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid, a Persian, the son of a Persian, an Aryan, of Aryan lineage.

The original name for Iran was "Iran", the Persian word for "Aryan". The ancient Greeks believed that Perseus, the son of Zeus, married Cassiopeia, the daughter of Andromeda, and their children are the Persians. "Iran" is a cognate term, i.e. it has the same root as "Aryan", which refers to the "land of the Aryans". Interestingly, the root is the same as that of "Ireland" (or "Eire", in Gaelic).

The term ‘Aryan’, as used by Darius, was a self-designation that described belonging to a people, and conveyed an ethnical connotation. ‘Aryan’ and related expressions like ‘Arya’ also appeared in other ancient Persian and Indian inscriptions and texts, most importantly in the Zoroastrian Avesta and in Vedic texts. The modern history of the term ‘Aryan’ begins with two very different ‘discoveries’ during the Age of Enlightment. The first was the rediscovery of the ancient term ‘Aryan’ by European scholars. In the eighteenth century, when European explorers developed a rising interest in Iran and ancient Persia, they soon found out that the ancient Persians had identified themselves as ‘Aryans’. In 1768, before the inscription of Naqsh-i Rustam was decoded, the French Orientalist Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil du Perron concluded from the writings of Herodotus and Diodor that ‘Aryan’ was the ancient name for the ancient ‘peoples of Iran’. Once introduced by Perron, the expression spread rapidly among European scholars. In Germany, for instance, the term ‘Aryan’ appeared for the first time in Johann Friedrich Kleuker’s translation of Perron’s article from French into German in 1777. The second discovery was philological, and concerned the exploration of the Indo-European linguistic connection. As the expansion of the European empires proceeded, Europeans became attentive to the relationship between European, Persian and Indian words. In 1786, Sir William Jones, an English judge on the Supreme Court in Calcutta and one of the founders of comparative philology, pronounced in his address to the ‘Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal’ that there was a strong affinity between Sanskrit ‘both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar’, and Greek and Latin.7 The similarities were too close to ‘possibly have been produced by accident’; they must have ‘sprung from some common source, which perhaps, no longer exists’, he concluded. He also considered that Gothic, Celtic and Old Persian belonged ‘to the family’; 30 years later, in 1816, the German linguist Franz Bopp provided scientific proof of the structural affinity between Greco-Latin, Sanskrit and Persian. The expression ‘Aryan’, which had so far been seen as a name for the ancient Persian people, underwent its first extension of meaning in the era of romantic and volkish thought. Early national thinkers, most prominently Germans like Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, began to imagine the nation, a people, or in their words a Volk as an organic cultural community, rooted in its history and connected by shared folklore, myths, poetry, fairytales and, most importantly, by a common language. Linguistic relationships were taken as natural proof of volkish or tribal relationships (still a mainly cultural notion) and the question about the ancestry and origins of a Volk became closely connected to speculations about the origins of its language. In this context, the linguistic ‘Indo-European’ relationship was soon taken as proof of the tribal and volkish kinship of the people who spoke that language. As a consequence, European scholars began to see the ancient Persians as their ancestors. It was the German philosopher Friedrich Schlegel who performed the crucial step. Drawing from a linguistic to a tribal relationship, he suggested in 1808 that the ancestors of the Germans were the ancient Persian ‘Aryans’. ‘The name of the Aryans is related to another relationship, which concerns us much more intimately,’ he proclaimed, adding that ‘our Germanic ancestors, while they were still in Asia, were known foremost under the name “Aryans”.’ ‘All of a sudden,’ Schlegel triumphantly asserted, ‘the old saga and opinion of the kinship of the Germans, or the Germanic and Gothic people with the Persians appear in a completely new light.’ The German thinker took the term ‘Aryan’, as reintroduced by Perron, to designate an ancient Indo-European ‘primordial people’ (Urvolk), which travelled in an ancient ‘Aryan migration’ from Asia to Europe. By drawing from language to volkish origin, Europeans became ‘Aryans’, whose roots (Urheimat) lay in the East.[1]

French writer and racial thinker Arthur de Gobineau used the term "Aryans" to describe the Germanic race (la race germanique). The Germanic race was regarded by Gobineau as beautiful, honourable and destined to rule: cette illustre famille humaine, la plus noble. While arya was originally an endonym used only by Indo-Iranians, "Aryan" became, partly because of the Essai a racial designation of a race, which Gobineau specified as la race germanique.[2]

Demonizing the term after 1945

After the Second World War, the dominant Liberal and Leftist circles in the academic institutions of both Capitalist and Socialist blocks, fearing a rebirth of Nationalism among Aryan peoples, tried to demonize the term and associate it with the alleged crimes of the Third Reich during the war. This collaborated campaign has induced the majority of people into believing falsely that the term Aryan is either a fabricated term with no historical roots or a simple linguistic denotation without any meaningful ethnic background.

It is argued that instead of using the term Aryan, the vague term of Indo-European should be used. But it should be noted that it is exactly the later term which lacks any documented usage throughout history and has been coined relying solely on the geographical limits of the current lands wherein the majority of population speak an Aryan tongue.

Proto-Aryan language

The common ancestor of the historical Aryan or Indo-Iranian languages, called Proto-Aryan or the Aryan parent language, can be reconstructed by the methods of historical comparative linguistics. The Indian group or Indo-Aryan (especially Vedic, the language of the Vedas), Avestan, and Old Persian show some remarkable correspondences, especially in the religious language. By comparison of the (Old) Indo-Aryan with the (Old) Iranian languages a Proto-Aryan language can be reconstructed, which must be counted as the most archaic of all Indo-European languages.

Aryan Script

The Aryan script is an alphabet which was made according to the order of Darius the Great (522-486 BC). It consists of thirty-six signs indicating syllables and eight ideograms. This alphabet was mainly used for royal inscriptions and the last text in the Aryan script can be dated to the 4th century BC.

See also



External links


  1. David Motadel: Iran and the Aryan myth, pp. 120 f.
  2. A. J. Woodman: The Cambridge Companion to Tacitus, 2009, p. 294.