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Until the Parthian era, the Iranian identity had an ethnic, linguistic, and religious value. The Parthian monarchy was succeeded by the Persian dynasty of the Sasanians in 224 AD.By the time of the Sasanian Empire, a national culture that was fully aware of being Iranian took shape, partially motivated by restoration and revival of the wisdom of "the old sages" (dānāgān pēšēnīgān).The name of this region was adopted by a nomadic ancient Iranian people who migrated to the region in the west and southwest of Lake Urmia, eventually becoming known as "the Persians".

The Roman–Persian wars and the Byzantine–Sasanian wars would shape the landscape of Western Asia, Europe, the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Basin for centuries.

For a period of over 400 years, the Sasanians and the neighboring Byzantines were recognized as the two leading powers in the world.

Cappadocia in Late Antiquity, now well into the Roman era, still retained a significant Iranian character; Stephen Mitchell notes in the Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity: "Many inhabitants of Cappadocia were of Persian descent and Iranian fire worship is attested as late as 465".

In contemporary terminology, people of Persian heritage native specifically to present-day Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are referred to as Tajiks, whereas those in the Caucasus (primarily the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan), albeit heavily assimilated, are referred to as Tats.

On 21 March 1935, former king of Iran Reza Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty issued a decree asking the international community to use the term Iran, the native name of the country, in formal correspondence.

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