Tehran which today ranks among the large cities of the world, is historically a newcomer among Iran's ancient cities. The oldest record mentioning Tehran, is the book of "tArikhe baghdAd" (Baghdad's History), written in 14 volumes by, Abu-Bakr Ahmad-ibn Ali-ibn SAbet, also known as "khatibe baghdAdi".
Khatib, who died in the latter part of 11th century A.D., in his biography of Mohammed-ibn-HammAd, calls him Abi AbdollAh HAfeze TehrAniye RAzi. Before this, we do not find any mention of Tehran in any written document; after this some scant mentions of Tehran are made in connection with its affluent agricultural products, specially its pomegranates. The first geographer who writes attentively about Tehran, is ShahAb-od-din Abu AbdollAh (Yaghoote Hamavi), who lived around 13th century A.D. In his book Mo'jam-ol-BoldAn he writes;
"Tehran is one of the villages of Rey with rebellious inhabitants. They not only disregard their governors, but are in constant clashes amongst themselves, to the extent that the inhabitants of its twelve quarters cannot visit one another."
He adds that the TehrAnis lived in underground dwellings. His writings have been confirmed by the other geographers of the same period. The onset of the destruction of Rey, first by sectarian schisms and fanaticism in the 12th century, followed by its annihilation in the catastrophic sack by the Mongols in the year 1220 A.D., gave Tehran an opportunity for development and increased its population. Finally in the second half of the 16th century, this green village attracted the attention of Shah TahmAsb I, the Safavid King, who ordered that ramparts be constructed around it (1553 A.D.). From that time Tehran acquired the status of a city and grew systematically. The length of these ramparts was about 6000 paces, and included 114 forts and four gates; these were:
The shah abdol azim gate ...darvAze shAb dol azim
The doolAb gate ...darvAze doolAb
The shemirAn gate ...darvAze shemroon
The qazvin gate ...darvAze qazvin
Shah AbbAs who set out in the year 1589 A.D., to KhorAsAn to quell the attack of Abdol Mo'men KhAne Uzbak, stopped on his way in Tehran, where he fell ill. This prevented him from reaching KhorAsAn in time and as a result Abdol Mo'men KhAn, looted Mashad, killing a large number of its citizens. It has been mentioned by some sources that for this reason Shah AbbAs felt a distaste for Tehran.
Notwithstanding this, he ordered the planting of a grove of birch trees which later became the Arg of TehrAn. Pietro Della Valle, the Italian traveler who was in Iran in the years 1617/1623 A.D. called Tehran "the birch city", and wrote that if two people held hands they still could not encircle the trunks of these trees.
During the declining years of the Safavid rule a building was erected close to the birch grove on the orders of Shah Safi II, and Shah SoltAn Hossein spent some time there at the end of his reign. After the fall of the Safavids, the AfghAns occupied TehrAn along with other Iranian cities and chose to reside in the TehrAn Arg. After their defeat by NAder Shah, they looted TehrAn before they fled, killing a large number of its citizens.
During the reign of NAder Shah little attention was paid to TehrAn. Later Karim KhAne Zand, in his war against Mohammad Hassan Khane Qajar, chose TehrAn as his military headquarters and the gathering center of his soldiers. He was the first who thought of making TehrAn his capital. The plan reached the stage where in the year 1758 A.D. offices and a harem were built within the Arg which was surrounded by ramparts and moats. The plan to make TehrAn the capital, first thought of by the Zands, was carried out by Agha Mohammad KhAne Qajar, who in the year 1785 A.D., proclaimed it his capital and bestowed on it the title of DAr ol KhelAfeh (the house of the caliphate). During the reign of Fathali Shahe Qajar, TehrAn developed gradually, new buildings were erected and the population increased.
Nonetheless, TehrAn was not a city fit to be the capital. Apart from the royal buildings, dwellings were bad and lacking most urban necessities. Alleys were narrow, dusty and dark in the heat of summer, and full of mud-filled potholes in winter. All travelers and political envoys described this and expressed their dissatisfaction. During the reigns of Mohammad Shahe Qajar and his son NAser-Oddin Shah new developments and buildings slowly appeared and the first planned development was in the year 1867 A.D....