Bam is located on the southern edge of the Iranian plateau, in a desert environment.The creation and growth of the city was based on the underground irrigation canals, the qanāts of which Bam has preserved some of the earliest evidence in Iran. The archaeological discoveries of ancient qanāts in the south-eastern suburbs of Bam are datable to the beginning of the 2nd century BC.
There is no precise archaeological dating of the buildings of the Citadel of Bam. But through historic sources and ancient texts, the first human settlement in the area can be traced back to the fort built by the Achaemenians around 579-323 BC. Some of the citadel’s features such as its establishment on a platform combining a natural hilltop and a manmade terrace have been compared by archaeologists to the Achaemenian model of Persepolis.
During the Parthian rule, the fort was expanded and became Arg-e-Bam, the Citadel of Bam. A comparative study titled “Bam and a Brief History of Urban Settlement and Planning in Iran” concluded that the essential core of the city of Bam and the Governor’s section were built during the Parthian era.Under the Sassanids, the castle was seized by Ardeshir Babakan. New fortifications and walls were constructed between 224 and 637 AD. A few years later, in 645 AD, the Kerman region was conquered by the Arabs and Arg-e-Bam probably suffered damages during the war. One of the Arab commanders established the Al Rasoul mosque, one of the first mosque built in Iran in the early Islamic era.
In 656 AD, the Khavarej, a group of fanatic Moslems defeated by Imam Ali, escaped to Kerman and Bam were they settled in the Arg-e-Bam.In 869 AD, Yaqoob Laith Saffari who was fighting the Abbasids, defeated the Khavarej and took over the Arg-e-Bam. It then became his permanent base camp.The name of Bam is mentioned for the first time by Islamic writers in the 10th century. According to these authors, Bam was then a well established market place surrounded by a wide agricultural area. The city was famous for its elegant/tasteful cotton fabrics, its supposedly impregnable fortress, its busy bazaars and its palm trees.
After the Mogul invasion of lran, Bam and the Kerman region were turned over to the Qarakhataian dynasty who ruled the region from 1240 to 1363 AD.Bam benefited from a strategic location on the spice route connecting the region to the Silk Road. The city was renowned for silkworm breeding and a flourishing silk industry.During the Safavid rule (from 1502 to 1722), Iran went through a period of relative calm and stability. Arg-e-Bam was considerably developed, as well as the rest of the country. The Four Seasons Palace was built during this period.
Towards the end of the Safavid period, Arg-e-Bam was conquered by the founder of the Qajar Dynasty, Agha Mohammad Khan, who used the citadel as a strategic point to fend off Afghan and Baluchi incursions and thus turned it into a military complex.In 1839, Agha Khan Mahallati, founder of the Esmaili sect, rose up against Mohammad Shah Qajar and took refuge in Arg-e-Bam, until prince Firooz Mirza who was later to be known as Farman Farma (the Ruler of Rulers) arrested him.The increasing military presence within the walls of Arg-e-Bam gradually led people to settle outside the limits of the ramparts: in l880 Firooz Mirza wrote that only military personnel were residing within the citadel area and he suggested that the old and abandoned city sitting at the foot of the citadel be demolished and the area turned into a garden.
In 1900, the construction of the new city of Bam began and people progressively left the old Bam.Arg-e-Bam, the citadel, was used a garrison until 1932 but it seems that no one was living in the old city at the foot of the citadel anymore. Arg-e-Bam and the old city have therefore been totally abandoned since 1932.In 1953, the site became recognized as a nationally significant historic site and a gradual process of conservation and restoration began but most of the work was carried out from 1973 onwards.