Kermanshah is the capital of Kermanshah Province, located 525 kilometres (326 miles) from Tehran in the western part of Iran. A majority of Kermanshah’s population speaks Southern Kurdish, and the city is the largest Kurdish-speaking city in Iran. Kermanshah has a moderate and mountainous climate.
“Kermanshah” name derives from the Sasanian-era title Kirmanshah, which translates as “King of Kerman”. Famously, this title was held by the son of Shapur III, Prince Bahram, who was bestowed with the title upon being appointed governor of the province of Kirman (present-day Kerman Province). Later, in 390, when he had already succeeded his father as Bahram IV (r. 388–399), he founded Kermanshah, and applied his former title to the new city, i.e. “(City of the) King of Kerman”.
After the revolution in 1979, the city was named Ghahramanshahr for a short period of time, and later the name of the city as well as the province changed to Bakhtaran, apparently due to the presence of the word “Shah” in the original name. Bakhtaran means western, which refers to the location of the city and the province within Iran. After the Iran–Iraq War, however, the city was renamed Kermanshah, as it resonated more with the desire of its residents, the Persian literature, and the collective memory of the Iranians.
Because of its antiquity, attractive landscapes, rich culture and Neolithic villages, Kermanshah is considered one of the cradles of prehistoric cultures. According to archaeological surveys and excavation, the Kermanshah area has been occupied by prehistoric people since the Lower Paleolithic period and continued to later Paleolithic periods till the late Pleistocene period. The Lower Paleolithic evidence consists of some handaxes found in the Gakia area to the east of the city. The Middle Paleolithic remains have been found in various parts of the province, especially in the northern vicinity of the city in Tang-e Kenesht, Tang-e Malaverd and near Taq-e Bostan.
Archaeological excavations in the late 1940s in the Bisitun cave, where the first Neanderthal remain of Iran was discovered by Carleton S. Coon
Neanderthal Man existed in the Kermanshah region during this period and the only discovered skeletal remains of this early human in Iran were found in three caves and rock shelter situated in Kermanshah province. The known Paleolithic caves in this area are Warwasi, Qobeh, Malaverd and Do-Ashkaft Cave. The region was also one of the first places in which human settlements including Asiab, Qazanchi, Sarab, Chia Jani, and Ganj-Darreh were established between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago.
This is about the same time that the first potteries pertaining to Iran were made in Ganj-Darreh, near present-day Harsin. In May 2009, based on research conducted by the University of Hamadan and UCL, the head of Archeology Research Center of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization announced that one of the oldest prehistoric village in the Middle East dating back to 9800 B.P., was discovered in Sahneh, located west of Kermanshah. Remains of later village occupations and the early Bronze Age are found in a number of mound sites in the city itself.
In ancient Iranian mythology, the construction of the city is attributed to Tahmuras, the third king of Pishdadian dynasty. It is believed that the Sassanids have constructed Kermanshah and Bahram IV (he was called Kermanshah, meaning king of Kerman) gave his name to this city. It was a glorious city in Sassanid period about the 4th century AD when it became the capital city of the Persian Empire and a significant health centre serving as the summer resort for Sassanid kings. In AD 226, following a two-year war led by the Persian Emperor, Ardashir I, against “Kurdish” tribes in the region, the empire reinstated a local “Kurdish” prince, Kayus of Medya, to rule Kermanshah. At the time, the term “Kurd” was used as a social term, designating Iranian nomads, rather than a concrete ethnic group. The word became an ethnic identity in the 12th and 13th century. Within the dynasty known as the House of Kayus (also Kâvusakân) remained a semi-independent kingdom lasting until AD 380 before Ardashir II removed the dynasty’s last ruling member.
Kermanshah was conquered by the Arabs in AD 640. Under Seljuk rule in the eleventh century, it became the major cultural and commercial centre in western Iran and the southern Kurdish-inhabited areas as a whole. The Safavids fortified the town, and the Qajars repulsed an attack by the Ottomans during Fath Ali Shah’s rule (1797–1834). Kermanshah was occupied by Ottomans between 1723–1729 and 1731–1732.
Occupied by the Imperial Russian army in 1914, followed by the Ottoman army in 1915 during World War I, it was evacuated in 1917 when the British forces arrived there to expel the Ottomans. Kermanshah played an important role in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution during the Qajar dynasty period and the Republic Movement in Pahlavi dynasty period. The city was harshly damaged during the Iran–Iraq War, and although it was rebuilt, it has not yet fully recovered.