Achaemenid Empire

Achaemenid Empire

Overview
The Achaemenid Empire (Old Persian Parsa) (c. 550–330 BCE), sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation. It expanded to eventually rule over significant portions of the ancient world which at around 500 BCE stretched from the Indus Valley in the east, to Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 on the northeastern border of Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

.
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Timeline

522 BC   Darius I of Persia kills the Magian usurper Gaumâta, securing his hold as king of the Persian Empire.

480 BC   The Battle of Thermopylae, fought between 300 Spartans, led by their king, Leonidas, and the Achaemenid Empire begins

479 BC   Greco-Persian Wars: Persian forces led by Mardonius are routed by Pausanias, the Spartan commander of the Greek army in the Battle of Plataea.

 
Encyclopedia
The Achaemenid Empire (Old Persian Parsa) (c. 550–330 BCE), sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation. It expanded to eventually rule over significant portions of the ancient world which at around 500 BCE stretched from the Indus Valley in the east, to Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 on the northeastern border of Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. The Achaemenid Empire would eventually control Egypt as well. It was ruled by a series of monarchs who unified its disparate tribes and nationalities by constructing a complex network of roads.

Calling themselves the Parsa after their original Aryan tribal name Parsua, Persians settled in a land west of Lake Urmia which they named Parsua, bounded on the west by the Tigris River and on the south by the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

. This became their heartland for the duration of the Achaemenid Empire. It was from this region that eventually Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 (Cyrus II of Persia) would advance to defeat the Median, the Lydian, and the Babylonian Empires, opening the way for subsequent conquests into Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Asia minor.

At the height of its power after the conquest of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, the empire encompassed approximately 8 million km2 spanning three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. At its greatest extent, the empire included the modern territories of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, parts of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 coastal regions, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, northern Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, and all significant population centers of ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 as far west as Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

. It is noted in Western history as the antagonist foe of the Greek city states during the Greco-Persian Wars
Greco-Persian Wars
The Greco-Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and city-states of the Hellenic world that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. The collision between the fractious political world of the Greeks and the enormous empire of the Persians began when Cyrus...

, for emancipation of slaves including the Jewish people from their Babylonian captivity
Babylonian captivity
The Babylonian captivity was the period in Jewish history during which the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon—conventionally 587–538 BCE....

, and for instituting infrastructures such as a postal system
Chapar Khaneh
"Chapar Khaneh" or "Chapar-Khaneh" is a term in Persian, meaning the "house of courier" as "Chapar" means "courier", referring to the postal service used during the Achaemenid era. The system was created by Cyrus the Great the founder of the Persian Empire and later developed by Darius the Great,...

, road systems
Royal Road
The Persian Royal Road was an ancient highway reorganized and rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great of the Achaemenid Empire in the 5th century BC. Darius built the road to facilitate rapid communication throughout his very large empire from Susa to Sardis...

, and the usage of an official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

 throughout its territories. The empire had a centralised, bureaucratic administration under the Emperor and a large professional army and civil services, inspiring similar developments in later empires.

Contrary to popular belief, the Persian Empire's vast size and its extraordinary ethnocultural diversity would not prove to be its undoing. The traditional argument is that the delegation of power to local governments eventually weakened the king's central authority, causing much energy and resources to be wasted in attempts to subdue local rebellions and this was the reason why when Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon) invaded Persia in 334 BCE he was faced by a disunified realm under a weak monarch, ripe for destruction.

This viewpoint was challenged by specialists in the Achaemenid field such as Pierre Briant
Pierre Briant
Pierre Briant is a French Iranologist, Professor of History and Civilisation of the Achaemenid World and the Empire of Alexander the Great at the Collège de France , Doctor Honoris Causa at the University of Chicago, and founder of the website achemenet.com.He studied History at the University of...

, David Stronach
David Stronach
David Stronach is a Scottish archeologist of ancient Iran and Iraq. He is currently a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.Stronach is a leading Western expert on the city of Pasargadae. He obtained an Master of Arts from Cambridge University in 1958. In the 1960s and 1970s he was...

 and Josef Wiesehöfer
Josef Wiesehöfer
Josef Wiesehöfer is a German classical scholar and current professor of Ancient history at the Department of Classics of the University of Kiel...

. Examination demonstrates that the Achaemenid Empire was not facing any such crisis around the time of Alexander, and that only internal succession struggles within the Achaemenid family ever came close to weakening the Empire. Alexander, an avid admirer of Cyrus the Great, would eventually cause the collapse of the empire and its disintegration around 330 BCE into what later became the Ptolemaic Kingdom
Ptolemaic Kingdom
The Ptolemaic Kingdom in and around Egypt began following Alexander the Great's conquest in 332 BC and ended with the death of Cleopatra VII and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. It was founded when Ptolemy I Soter declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt, creating a powerful Hellenistic state stretching from...

 and Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

, in addition to other minor territories which gained independence at that time. The Iranian Culture of the central plateau, however, continued to thrive and eventually reclaimed power by the 2nd century BCE.

The historical mark of the Achaemenid Empire went far beyond its territorial and military influences and included cultural, social, technological and religious influences as well. Many Athenians adopted Achaemenid customs in their daily lives in a reciprocal cultural exchange, some being employed by, or allied to the Persian kings. The impact of Cyrus the Great's Edict of Restoration is mentioned in Judeo-Christian texts and the empire was instrumental in the spread of Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 as far east as China. Even Alexander the Great, the man who would set out to conquer this vast empire, would respect its customs, by enforcing respect for the royal Persian kings including Cyrus the Great, and even by appearing in proskynesis
Proskynesis
Proskynesis refers to the traditional Persian act of prostrating oneself before a person of higher social rank....

, a Persian royal custom, despite stern Macedonian disapproval.Plutarch, Alexander, 45 The Persian empire would also set the tone for the politics, heritage and history of modern Persia (now called Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

). The influence also encompasses Persia's previous territories collectively referred to as the Greater Persia. A notable engineering achievement is the Qanat
Qanat
A qanāt is a water management system used to provide a reliable supply of water for human settlements and irrigation in hot, arid and semi-arid climates...

 water management system, the oldest and longest of which is older than 3000 years and longer than 44 miles (71 km.)

In 480 BCE, it is estimated that 50 million people lived in the Achaemenid Empire.

Origin


"The Persian nation contains a number of tribes as listed here. [...]: the Pasargadae, Maraphii, and Maspii, upon which all the other tribes are dependent. Of these, the Pasargadae are the most distinguished; they contain the clan of the Achaemenids from which spring the Perseid kings. Other tribes are the Panthialaei, Derusiaei, Germanii, all of which are attached to the soil, the remainder -the Dai, Mardi, Dropici, Sagarti, being nomadic."
[Herodotus, Histories 1.101 & 125]


The Persian Empire is named after an Indo-european tribe called Parsua. The name Persia is a Latin pronounciation of the Indo-Iranian people Parsua who named their territorial borders Persis, after their tribal name, an area located north of the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 and East of Tigris river referred to as Persis (or in Persian, Pars). Despite its success and rapid expansion, Achaemenid empire was not the first Iranian empire, as by sixth century BCE another group of ancient Iranians had already established the Median Empire. The term Achaemenid is in fact the Latinized version of the Old Persian name Haxāmaniš (a bahuvrihi
Bahuvrihi
A bahuvrihi compound is a type of compound that denotes a referent by specifying a certain characteristic or quality the referent possesses. A bahuvrihi is exocentric, so that the compound is not a hyponym of its head...

 compound translating to "having a friend's mind"), meaning in Greek "of the family of the Achaemenis." Despite the derivation of the name, Achaemenes was himself a minor seventh century ruler of the Anshan (Ansham or Anšān) located in southwestern Iran. It was not until the time of Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 (Cyrus II of Persia) a descendant of Achaemenes, that the Achaemenid empire developed the prestige of an empire, and set out to incorporate the existing empires of the ancient east, to become the vast Persian empire of which the ancient texts speak.
At some point in 550 BCE, Cyrus the Great rose in rebellion against the Median empire (most likely due to the Medes' mismanagement of Persis), eventually conquering the Medes and creating the first Persian empire. Cyrus the Great would utilize his tactical genius, as well as his understanding of the socio-political equations governing his territories, to eventually incorporate into the Persian empire the neighbouring Lydia
Lydia
Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian....

n and Neo-Babylonian empires, and also leading the way for his successor, Cambyses II to venture into Egypt and defeat the Hittite Empire and the Egyptian Kingdom
Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt
The Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt was the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC . The Dynasty's reign The Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt (also written Dynasty XXVI or Dynasty 26) was the last native dynasty to rule Egypt before the Persian conquest in 525 BC...

.

Cyrus the Great would reflect his political acumen in the management of his newly formed empire, as the Persian empire became the first to attempt to govern many different ethnic groups, on the principle of equal responsibilities, and rights for all people, so long as subjects paid their taxes and kept the peace. Additionally, the king would agree not to interfere with the local customs, religions, and trades of its subject states, a unique quality that eventually won Cyrus the support of the Babylonians. This system of management would ultimately become an issue for the Persians, as with a larger empire came the need for order and control, leading to expenditure of resources and mobilization of troops, to quell local rebellions, weakening the central power of the king. By the time of Darius III, this disorganization had almost led to a disunified realm.

The Persians from whom Cyrus hailed were originally nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic, pastoral people in the western Iranian plateau and by 850 BCE were calling themselves the Parsa and their constantly shifting territory Parsua for the most part localized around Persis (Pars). As Persians gained power, they developed the infrastructure to support their growing influence including creation of a capital named Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

, and an opulent city named Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

.

Begun during the rule of Darius the Great (Darius I), and completed some 100 years later, Persepolis was a symbol of the empire serving both as a ceremonial centre and a center for government. It had a special set of gradually progressive stairways named "All Countries" around which carved relief decoration depicted scenes of heroism, hunting, natural themes, and presentation of the gifts to the Achaemenid kings by their subjects during the spring festival, Nowruz
Nowruz
Nowrūz is the name of the Iranian New Year in Iranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations. Nowruz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year....

. The core structure was composed of a multitude of square rooms or halls, the biggest of which was called Apadana
Apadana
The Apadāna is a collection of biographical stories found in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Pāli Canon, the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. It is thought by most scholars to be a late addition to the canon, composed during the 1st and 2nd century BCE...

. Tall, erect, decorated columns would often welcome visitors as well as impress them as to the size of the structure. Later on, Darius the Great (Darius I), would also utilize Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 and Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

 as his governmental centres, developing them into a similar metropolis status.

Account of the ancestral lineage of the Persian kings of the Achaemenid dynasty can be derived from either documented Greek or Roman accounts, or from existing documented Persian accounts, such as those found in the behistun Inscription
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

. However, since most existing accounts of this vast empire are in works of Greek philosophers and historians, and since much of the original Persian documents are lost, not to mention varying scholarly views on their origin and possible motivations behind them, it is difficult to create a definitive and completely objective list. Nonetheless, it is clear that Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II of Persia), and Darius the Great (Darius I of Persia), were critical in expansion of the empire. Cyrus the Great is often believed to be the son of Cambyses I, grandson of Cyrus I, father of Cambyses II, and a relative of Darius the Great, through a shared ancestor, Teispes. Cyrus the Great is also believed to have been a family member (possibly grandson) of the Median king Astyages
Astyages
Astyages Astyages Astyages (spelled by Herodotus as Ἀστυάγης - Astyages; by Ctesias as Astyigas; by Diodorus as Aspadas; Akkadian: Ištumegu, was the last king of the Median Empire, r...

 through his mother, Mandana of Media. A minority of scholars argue that perhaps Achaemenes was a retrograde creation of Darius the Great, in order to reconcile his connection with Cyrus the Great, after gaining power.

Ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 writers provide some legendary information about Achaemenes
Achaemenes
Achaemenēs was the eponymous ancestor of the Achaemenid Dynasty, who ruled Persia between 705 BC and 675 BC.The name is a bahuvrihi compound literally translating to "having a friend's mind", or "characterized by a follower's spirit"....

 by calling his tribe the Pasargadae, and stating that he was "raised by an eagle
Eagle
Eagles are members of the bird family Accipitridae, and belong to several genera which are not necessarily closely related to each other. Most of the more than 60 species occur in Eurasia and Africa. Outside this area, just two species can be found in the United States and Canada, nine more in...

". Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, when writing about the Persians, identified Achaemenes with Perses
Perses (son of Andromeda and Perseus)
In Greek mythology, Perses was the son of Andromeda and Perseus, and, by analogy of the similarity of sounds, taken for Achaemenes as the ancestor of the Persians according to Plato....

, ancestor of the Persians in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

. According to Plato, Achaemenes was the same person as Perses, a son of the Ethiopian queen Andromeda
Andromeda (mythology)
Andromeda is a princess from Greek mythology who, as divine punishment for her mother's bragging, the Boast of Cassiopeia, was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. She was saved from death by Perseus, her future husband. Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ἀνδρομέδη...

 and the Greek hero Perseus
Perseus
Perseus ,Perseos and Perseas are not used in English. the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Danaans there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians...

, and a grandson of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

. Later writers believed that Achaemenes and Perses were different people, and that Perses was an ancestor of the king. This account further confirms that Achaemenes could well have been a significiant Anshan leader and an ancestor of Cyrus the Great. Regardless, both Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great were related, prominent kings of Persia, under whose rule the empire expanded to include much of the ancient world.

Formation and expansion





The empire took its unified form with a central administration around Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

 erected by Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

. The empire ended up conquering and enlarging the Median empire to include in addition Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 and Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. During the reigns of Darius I and his son Xerxes I it engaged in military conflict with some of the major city-states of Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, and although it came close to defeating the Greek army this war ultimately led to the empire's overthrow.

In 559 BCE, Cambyses I the Elder was succeeded as the king of Anšān by his son Cyrus II the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

, who also succeeded the still-living Arsames as the King of Persia, thus reuniting the two realms. Cyrus is considered to be the first true king of the Persian empire, as his predecessors were subservient to the Medes
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

. Cyrus the Great conquered Media, Lydia
Lydia
Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian....

, and Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

. Cyrus was politically shrewd, modeling himself as the "savior" of conquered nations, often allowing displaced people to return, and giving his subjects freedom to practice local customs. To reinforce this image, he instituted policies of religious freedom, and restored temples and other infrastructure in the newly acquired cities.(Most notably the Jewish inhabitants of Babylon, as recorded in the Cyrus Cylinder
Cyrus cylinder
The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several fragments, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia in 1879...

 and the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

). As a result of his tolerant policies he came to be known by those of the Jewish faith, as "the anointed of the Lord."

His immediate successors were less successful. Cyrus' son Cambyses II conquered Egypt in 525 BCE, but died in July 522 BCE as the result of an injurious self-accident, during a revolt led by a sacerdotal clan that had lost its power following Cyrus' conquest of Media. According to Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

, Cambyses II had originally ventured into Egypt to take revenge for the pharaoh Amasis's trickery when he sent a fake Egyptian bride whose family Amasis had murdered, instead of his own daughter, to wed Cambyses II. Additionally negative reports of mistreatment caused by Amasis, given by Phanes of Halicarnassus
Phanes of Halicarnassus
Phanes of Halicarnassus was a wise council man, a tactician, and a mercenary from Halicarnassus, serving the Egyptian pharaoh Amasis II. Most of what history recounts of Phanes is from the account of Herodotus in his grand historical text, The Histories...

, a wise council man serving Amasis, further enforced Cambyses's resolve to venture into Egypt. Amasis died before Cambyses II could face him, but his successor Psamtik III was defeated by Cambyses II in the Battle of Pelusium
Battle of Pelusium (525 BC)
The Battle of Pelusium, was the first major battle between the Achaemenid Empire, and Egypt. This decisive battle transferred the throne of the Pharaohs to Cambyses II of Persia, king of the Persians. It was fought near Pelusium in 525 B.C.E...

.

While Cambyses II was in Egypt, the Zoroastrian priests, whom Herodotus called Magi
Magi
Magi is a term, used since at least the 4th century BC, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which...

, usurped the throne for one of their own, Gaumata, who then pretended to be Cambyses II's younger brother Bardiya
Bardiya
Bardiya was a son of Cyrus the Great and the younger brother of Cambyses II, both Persian kings. There are sharply divided views on his life, he may have ruled the Achaemenid Empire for a few months in 522 BCE, or he may have been impersonated by a magus called Gaumata. -Name and sources:The...

 (Greek: Smerdis or Tanaoxares/Tanyoxarkes), who had been assassinated some three years earlier. Owing to the strict rule of Cambyses II, especially his stance on taxation, and his long absence in Egypt, "the whole people, Perses, Medes and all the other nations," acknowledged the usurper, especially as he granted a remission of taxes for three years (Herodotus iii. 68). Cambyses II himself would not be able to quell the imposters, as he died due to accidental injury on the way back from Egypt.

The claim that Gaumata had impersonated Bardiya (Smerdis), is derived from Darius the Great and the records at the Behistun Inscription
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

. Historians are divided over the possibility that the story of the impostor was invented by Darius as justification for his coup. Darius made a similar claim when he later captured Babylon, announcing that the Babylonian king was not, in fact, Nebuchadnezzar III, but an impostor named Nidintu-bel.

According to the Behistun Inscription
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

, Gaumata ruled for seven months before being overthrown in 522 BCE by Darius the Great (Darius I) (Old Persian Dāryavuš "Who Holds Firm the Good", also known as Darayarahush or Darius the Great). The Magi, though persecuted, continued to exist, and a year following the death of the first pseudo-Smerdis (Gaumata), saw a second pseudo-Smerdis (named Vahyazdāta) attempt a coup. The coup, though initially successful, failed.

Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 writes that the native leadership debated the best form of government for the Empire. It was agreed that an oligarchy
Oligarchy
Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy...

 would divide them against one another, and democracy would bring about mob rule
Ochlocracy
Ochlocracy or mob rule is government by mob or a mass of people, or the intimidation of legitimate authorities.As a pejorative for majoritarianism, it is akin to the Latin phrase mobile vulgus meaning "the fickle crowd", from which the English term "mob" was originally derived in the...

 resulting in a charismatic leader resuming the monarchy. Therefore, they decided a new monarch was in order, particularly since they were in a position to choose him. Darius I was chosen monarch from among the leaders. He was cousin to Cambyses II and Bardiya (Smerdis), claiming Ariaramnes as his ancestor.

The Achaemenids thereafter consolidated areas firmly under their control. It was Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 and Darius the Great who, by sound and farsighted administrative planning, brilliant military maneuvering, and a humanistic world view, established the greatness of the Achaemenids and, in less than thirty years, raised them from an obscure tribe to a world power. It was during the reign of Darius the Great (Darius I) that Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

 was built (518–516 BCE) and which would serve as capital for several generations of Achaemenid kings. Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

 (Hagmatāna "City of Gatherings", modern: Hamadan
Hamadan
-Culture:Hamadan is home to many poets and cultural celebrities. The city is also said to be among the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities.Handicrafts: Hamadan has always been well known for handicrafts like leather, ceramic, and beautiful carpets....

) in Media was greatly expanded during this period and served as the summer capital.

Darius the Great (Darius I) eventually attacked the Greek mainland, which had supported rebellious Greek colonies under his aegis; but as a result of his defeat at the Battle of Marathon
Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate...

, he was forced to pull the limits of his empire back to Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. Some scholars argue that in the context of history of the Near and Middle east in the first millennium, Alexander can be considered as the "last of the Achaemenids." This is partly because Alexander maintained more or less the same political structure, and borders as the previous Achaemenid kings.

Greco-Persian Wars




By the 5th century BCE the kings of Persia ruled over territories roughly encompassing today's Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Iraq, Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, Azerbaijan, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Afghanistan, Tajikistan
Tajikistan
Tajikistan , officially the Republic of Tajikistan , is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east....

, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan , officially the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the world's six independent Turkic states . Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east...

, Georgia, Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

, Uzbekistan, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Bulgaria, Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, Kuwait, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Syria, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, Israel, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, many parts of Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Libya and northern parts of Arabia.

The Ionian Revolt
Ionian Revolt
The Ionian Revolt, and associated revolts in Aeolis, Doris, Cyprus and Caria, were military rebellions by several regions of Asia Minor against Persian rule, lasting from 499 BC to 493 BC...

 in 499 BCE, and associated revolts in Aeolis, Doris, Cyprus and Caria, were military rebellions by several regions of Asia Minor against Persian rule, lasting from 499 to 493 BCE At the heart of the rebellion was the dissatisfaction of the Greek cities of Asia Minor with the tyrants appointed by Persia to rule them, along with the individual actions of two Milesian tyrants, Histiaeus
Histiaeus
Histiaeus , the son of Lysagoras, was the tyrant of Miletus in the late 6th century BC.Histiaeus owed his status as tyrant of Miletus to Darius I, king of Persia, who had subjugated Miletus and the other Ionian states in Asia Minor....

 and Aristagoras
Aristagoras
Aristagoras was the leader of Miletus in the late 6th century BC and early 5th century BC.- Background :Aristagoras served as deputy governor of Miletus, a polis on the western coast of Anatolia around 500 BC. He was the son of Molpagoras, and son-in-law of Histiaeus, whom the Persians had set up...

. In 499 BCE, the then tyrant of Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

, Aristagoras, launched a joint expedition with the Persian satrap Artaphernes to conquer Naxos
Naxos (island)
Naxos is a Greek island, the largest island in the Cyclades island group in the Aegean. It was the centre of archaic Cycladic culture....

, in an attempt to bolster his position in Miletus (both financially and in terms of prestige). The mission was a debacle, and sensing his imminent removal as tyrant, Aristagoras chose to incite the whole of Ionia into rebellion against the Persian king Darius the Great.

The Persians continued to reduce the cities along the west coast that still held out against them, before finally imposing a peace settlement in 493 BCE on Ionia that was generally considered to be both just and fair.
The Ionian Revolt constituted the first major conflict between Greece and the Achaemenid Empire, and as such represents the first phase of the Greco-Persian Wars. Asia Minor had been brought back into the Persian fold, but Darius had vowed to punish Athens and Eretria for their support for the revolt. Moreover, seeing that the political situation in Greece posed a continued threat to the stability of his Empire, he decided to embark on the conquest of all of Greece. However, the Persian forces were defeated at the Battle of Marathon and Darius would die before having the chance to launch an invasion of Greece.

Xerxes I
Xerxes I of Persia
Xerxes I of Persia , Ḫšayāršā, ), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire.-Youth and rise to power:...

 (485–465 BCE, Old Persian Xšayārša "Hero Among Kings"), son of Darius I, vowed to complete the job. He organized a massive invasion aiming to conquer Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. His army entered Greece from the north, meeting little or no resistance through Macedonia
Macedonia (Greece)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of Greece in Southern Europe. Macedonia is the largest and second most populous Greek region...

 and Thessaly
Thessaly
Thessaly is a traditional geographical region and an administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey....

, but was delayed by a small Greek force for three days at Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

. A simultaneous naval battle at Artemisium was tactically indecisive as large storms destroyed ships from both sides. The battle was stopped prematurely when the Greeks received news of the defeat at Thermopylae and retreated. The battle was a strategic victory for the Persians, giving them uncontested control of Artemisium and the Aegean Sea.

Following his victory at the Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

, Xerxes sacked the evacuated city of Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 and prepared to meet the Greeks at the strategic Isthmus of Corinth
Isthmus of Corinth
The Isthmus of Corinth is the narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the rest of the mainland of Greece, near the city of Corinth. The word "isthmus" comes from the Ancient Greek word for "neck" and refers to the narrowness of the land. The Isthmus was known in the ancient...

 and the Saronic Gulf
Saronic Gulf
The Saronic Gulf or Gulf of Aegina in Greece forms part of the Aegean Sea and defines the eastern side of the isthmus of Corinth. It is the eastern terminus of the Corinth Canal, which cuts across the isthmus.-Geography:The gulf includes the islands of; Aegina, Salamis, and Poros along with...

. In 480 BCE the Greeks won a decisive victory over the Persian fleet at the Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens...

 and forced Xerxes to retire to Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

. The land army which he left in Greece under Mardonius
Mardonius
Mardonius was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC.-Early years:Mardonius was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne...

 retook Athens but was eventually destroyed in 479 BCE at the Battle of Plataea
Battle of Plataea
The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes...

. The final defeat of the Persians at Mycale
Battle of Mycale
The Battle of Mycale was one of the two major battles that ended the second Persian invasion of Greece during the Greco-Persian Wars. It took place on or about August 27, 479 BC on the slopes of Mount Mycale, on the coast of Ionia, opposite the island of Samos...

 encouraged the Greek cities of Asia to revolt, and marked the end of Persian expansion into Europe.

The cultural phase




Xerxes I was followed by Artaxerxes I (465–424 BCE), who moved the capital from Persepolis to Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

. It was during this reign that Elamite ceased to be the language of government, and Aramaic gained in importance. It was probably during this reign that the solar calendar was introduced as the national calendar. Under Artaxerxes I, Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 became the de-facto religion of state, and for this Artaxerxes I is today also known as the Constantine
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

 of that faith.

Artaxerxes I died in Susa, and his body was brought to Persepolis for internment in the tomb of his forebears. Artaxerxes I was immediately succeeded by his eldest son Xerxes II, who was however assassinated by one of his half-brothers a few weeks later. Darius II rallied support for himself and marched eastwards, executing the assassin and was crowned in his stead.

From 412 Darius II
Darius II of Persia
Darius II , was king of the Persian Empire from 423 BC to 405 BC.Artaxerxes I, who died on December 25, 424 BC, was followed by his son Xerxes II. After a month and a half Xerxes II was murdered by his brother Secydianus or Sogdianus...

 (423–404 BCE), at the insistence of the able Tissaphernes, gave support first to Athens, then to Sparta, but in 407 BCE, Darius' son Cyrus the Younger
Cyrus the Younger
Cyrus the Younger, son of Darius II of Persia and Parysatis, was a Persian prince and general. The time of his birth is unknown, but he died in 401 B.C. The history of Cyrus and of the retreat of the Greeks is told by Xenophon in his Anabasis. Another account, probably from Sophaenetus of...

 was appointed to replace Tissaphernes and aid was given entirely to Sparta which finally defeated Athens in 404 BCE In the same year, Darius fell ill and died in Babylon. At his deathbed, his Babylonian wife Parysatis
Parysatis
Parysatis was the 5th-century BCE illegitimate daughter of Artaxerxes I, Emperor of Persia and Andia of Babylon.She was the half-sister of Xerxes II, Sogdianus and Darius II...

 pleaded with Darius to have her second eldest son Cyrus (the Younger) crowned, but Darius refused.

Darius was then succeeded by his eldest son Artaxerxes II Memnon. Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 relates (probably on the authority of Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

) that the displaced Tissaphernes came to the new king on his coronation day to warn him that his younger brother Cyrus (the Younger) was preparing to assassinate him during the ceremony. Artaxerxes had Cyrus arrested and would have had him executed if their mother Parysatis had not intervened. Cyrus was then sent back as Satrap of Lydia, where he prepared an armed rebellion. Cyrus and Artaxerxes met in the Battle of Cunaxa
Battle of Cunaxa
The Battle of Cunaxa was fought in 401 BC between Cyrus the Younger and his elder brother Arsaces, who had inherited the Persian throne as Artaxerxes II in 404 BC. The great battle of the revolt of Cyrus took place 70 km north of Babylon, at Cunaxa , on the left bank of the Euphrates River...

 in 401 BCE, where Cyrus was killed.

Artaxerxes II (404–358 BCE), was the longest reigning of the Achaemenid kings and it was during this 45-year period of relative peace and stability that many of the monuments of the era were constructed. Artaxerxes moved the capital back to Persepolis, which he greatly extended. Also the summer capital at Ecbatana was lavishly extended with gilded columns and roof tiles of silver and copper (Polybius, 27 October 2012). The extraordinary innovation of the Zoroastrian shrine cults can also be dated to his reign, and it was probably during this period that Zoroastrianism was disseminated throughout Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 and the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, from Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

. The temples, though serving a religious purpose, were however not a purely selfless act: they also served as an important source of income. From the Babylonian kings, the Achaemenids had taken over the concept of a mandatory temple tax, a one-tenth tithe which all inhabitants paid to the temple nearest to their land or other source of income (Dandamaev & Lukonin, 1989:361–362). A share of this income called the quppu ša šarri, "kings chest"—an ingenious institution originally introduced by Nabonidus
Nabonidus
Nabonidus was the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, reigning from 556-539 BCE.-Historiography on Nabonidus:...

—was then turned over to the ruler. In retrospect, Artaxerxes is generally regarded as an amiable man who lacked the moral fibre to be a really successful ruler. However, six centuries later Ardeshir I, founder of the second Persian Empire, would consider himself Artaxerxes' successor, a grand testimony to the importance of Artaxerxes to the Persian psyche.

Fall of the empire




According to Plutarch, Artaxerxes' successor Artaxerxes III (358 – 338 BCE) came to the throne by bloody means, ensuring his place upon the throne by the assassination of eight of his half-brothers. In 343 BCE Artaxerxes III defeated Nectanebo II
Nectanebo II
Nectanebo II was the third and last pharaoh of the Thirtieth dynasty, as well as the last native ruler of Ancient Egypt. Under Nectanebo II Egypt prospered...

, driving him from Egypt, and made Egypt once again a Persian satrapy. In 338 BCE Artaxerxes III died under unclear circumstances (natural causes according to cuneiform sources but Diodorus, a Greek historian, reports that Artaxerxes was murdered by Bagoas
Bagoas
Bagoas was a eunuch who became the vizier to Artaxerxes III. In this role, he allied himself with the Rhodian mercenary general Mentor, and with his help succeeded in once again making Egypt a province of the Persian Empire...

, his minister). while Philip of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

 united the Greek states by force and began to plan an invasion into the empire.

Artaxerxes III was succeeded by Artaxerxes IV Arses, who before he could act was also poisoned by Bagoas. Bagoas is further said to have killed not only all Arses' children, but many of the other princes of the land. Bagoas then placed Darius III (336–330 BCE), a nephew of Artaxerxes IV, on the throne. Darius III, previously Satrap of Armenia
Orontid Dynasty
The Orontid Dynasty The Orontid Dynasty The Orontid Dynasty (also known by their native name, Yervanduni was a hereditary Armenian dynasty and the rulers of the successor state to the Iron Age kingdom of Ararat...

, personally forced Bagoas to swallow poison. In 334 BCE, when Darius was just succeeding in subduing Egypt again, Alexander and his battle-hardened troops invaded Asia Minor.

At two different times, the Achaemenids ruled Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 although the Egyptians twice regained temporary independence from Persia. After the practice of Manetho
Manetho
Manetho was an Egyptian historian and priest from Sebennytos who lived during the Ptolemaic era, approximately during the 3rd century BC. Manetho wrote the Aegyptiaca...

, Egyptian
History of Ancient Egypt
The History of Ancient Egypt spans the period from the early predynastic settlements of the northern Nile Valley to the Roman conquest in 30 BC...

 historians refer to the periods in Egypt when the Achaemenid dynasty ruled
History of Achaemenid Egypt
The history of Achaemenid Egypt is divided into two eras: an initial period of Achaemenid Persian occupation when Egypt became a satrapy, followed by an interval of independence; and a second period of occupation, again under the Achaemenids....

 as the twenty-seventh dynasty of Egypt, 525–404 BCE, until the death of Darius II, and the thirty-first dynasty of Egypt, 343–332 BCE, which began after Nectanebo II
Nectanebo II
Nectanebo II was the third and last pharaoh of the Thirtieth dynasty, as well as the last native ruler of Ancient Egypt. Under Nectanebo II Egypt prospered...

 was defeated by the Persian king Artaxerxes III
Artaxerxes III of Persia
Artaxerxes III of Persia , was the Great King of Persia and the eleventh Emperor of the Achaemenid Empire, as well as the first Pharaoh of the 31st dynasty of Egypt. He was the son and successor of Artaxerxes II and was succeeded by his son, Arses of Persia...

.

Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon) defeated the Persian armies at Granicus (334 BCE), followed by Issus
Battle of Issus
The Battle of Issus occurred in southern Anatolia, in November 333 BC. The invading troops, led by the young Alexander of Macedonia, defeated the army personally led by Darius III of Achaemenid Persia in the second great battle for primacy in Asia...

 (333 BCE), and lastly at Gaugamela
Battle of Gaugamela
The Battle of Gaugamela took place in 331 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. The battle, which is also called the Battle of Arbela, resulted in a massive victory for the ancient Macedonians and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire.-Location:Darius chose a flat, open plain...

 (331 BCE). Afterwards, he marched on Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 and Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

 which surrendered in early 330 BCE From Persepolis, Alexander headed north to Pasargadae where he visited the tomb of Cyrus
Tomb of Cyrus
The Tomb of Cyrus is the burial place of the ancient Cyrus the Great of Persia. The tomb is located in Iran, at the Pasargadae World Heritage Site. Cyrus the Great , or Cyrus II of Persia was a Persian Shahenshah , who founded of the Persian Empire under the Achaemenid dynasty...

, the burial of the man whom he had heard of from Cyropedia.

In the ensuing chaos created by Alexander the Great's invasion of Persia, Cyrus the Great's tomb was broken into and most of its luxuries were looted. When Alexander the Great reached the tomb, he was horrified by the manner in which the tomb was treated, and questioned the Magi, putting them to court. On some accounts, Alexander's decision to put the Magi on trial was more about his attempt to undermine their influence and his show of power in his newly conquered empire, than a concern for Cyrus's tomb. Regardless, Alexander the Great ordered Aristobulus to improve the tomb's condition and restore its interior, showing respect for Cyrus. From there he headed to Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

, where Darius III had sought refuge.

Darius III was taken prisoner by Bessus
Bessus
Artaxerxes V, also known as Bessus was a prominent Persian nobleman and satrap of Bactria, and later self-proclaimed king of Persia...

, his Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

n satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

 and kinsman. As Alexander approached, Bessus had his men murder Darius III and then declared himself Darius' successor, as Artaxerxes V, before retreating into Central Asia leaving Darius' body in the road to delay Alexander, who brought it to Persepolis for an honorable funeral. Bessus would then create a coalition of his forces, in order to create an army to defend against Alexander. Before Bessus could fully unite with his confederates at the eastern part of the empire, Alexander, fearing the danger of Bessus gaining control, found him, put him on trial in a Persian court under his control, and ordered his execution in a cruel and barbarous manner.

Despite having succeeded to conquer the whole of the Persian empire, Alexander the Great, was nonetheless unable to offer a stable alternative. After his death, Alexander's once massive Persian empire was broken into and succeeded by few smaller empires the most significant of which was the Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

, ruled by the generals of Alexander and their descendants. They in turn would be succeeded by the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

.

Istakhr, one of the vassal kingdoms of the Parthian Empire, would be overthrown by Papak, a priest of the temple there. Papak's son, Ardašir I, who named himself in remembrance of Artaxerxes II, would revolt against the Parthians, eventually defeating them and establishing the Sassanid Empire
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 or as it is known the second Persian Empire.

Descendants in later Iranian dynasties


Both the later dynasties of the Parthians and Sassanids and Gabaris would on occasion claim Achaemenid descent. Recently there has been some corroboration for the Parthian claim to Achaemenid ancestry via the possibility of an inherited disease (neurofibromatosis) demonstrated by the physical descriptions of rulers and from evidence of familial disease on ancient coinage.

Government



Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 founded the empire as a multi-state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 empire, governed by four capital states; Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

, Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 and Ekbatana. The Achaemenids allowed a certain amount of regional autonomy in the form of the satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

y system. A satrapy was an administrative unit, usually organized on a geographical basis. A 'satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

' (governor) was the vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 king, who administered the region, a 'general' supervised military recruitment and ensured order, and a 'state secretary' kept the official records. The general and the state secretary reported directly to the satrap as well as the central government. At differing times, there were between 20 and 30 satrapies.

Cyrus the Great created an organized army including the Immortals
Persian Immortals
The "Immortals" was the name given by Herodotus to an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian Wars...

 unit, consisting of 10,000 highly trained soldiers Cyrus also formed an innovative postal system throughout the empire, based on several relay stations called Chapar Khaneh
Chapar Khaneh
"Chapar Khaneh" or "Chapar-Khaneh" is a term in Persian, meaning the "house of courier" as "Chapar" means "courier", referring to the postal service used during the Achaemenid era. The system was created by Cyrus the Great the founder of the Persian Empire and later developed by Darius the Great,...

.

Darius the Great moved the capital from Pasargadae
Pasargadae
Pasargadae , the capital of Cyrus the Great and also his last resting place, was a city in ancient Persia, and is today an archaeological site and one of Iran's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-History:...

 to Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

; he revolutionized the economy by placing it on a silver and gold coinage and introducing a regulated and sustainable tax system that was precisely tailored to each satrapy, based on their supposed productivity and their economic potential. For instance, Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 was assessed for the highest amount and for a startling mixture of commodities – 1000 silver talents, four months supply of food for the army. India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 was clearly already fabled for its gold; the province (consisting of the sindh and western punjab regions of ancient northwestern India) was to supply gold dust equal in value to the very large amount of 4680 silver talents. Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 was known for the wealth of its crops; it was to be the granary of the Persian Empire (as later of Rome's) and was required to provide 120,000 measures of grain in addition to 700 talents of silver. This was exclusively a tax levied on subject peoples. Other accomplishments of Darius' reign included codification of the data, a universal legal system, and construction of a new capital at Persepolis.

Under the Achaemenids, the trade was extensive and there was an efficient infrastructure that facilitated the exchange of commodities in the far reaches of the empire. Tariffs on trade were one of the empire's main sources of revenue, along with agriculture and tribute.

The satrapies were linked by a 2,500-kilometer highway, the most impressive stretch being the Royal Road
Royal Road
The Persian Royal Road was an ancient highway reorganized and rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great of the Achaemenid Empire in the 5th century BC. Darius built the road to facilitate rapid communication throughout his very large empire from Susa to Sardis...

 from Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 to Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

, built by command of Darius I. The relays of mounted couriers could reach the remotest of areas in fifteen days. Despite the relative local independence afforded by the satrapy system, royal inspectors, the "eyes and ears of the king", toured the empire and reported on local conditions. The king also maintained a personal bodyguard of the elite 10,000 Immortals
Persian Immortals
The "Immortals" was the name given by Herodotus to an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian Wars...

 when not at war.

The practice of slavery in Achaemenid Persia was generally banned, although there is evidence that conquered and/or rebellious armies were sold into captivity. Zoroastrianism, the de facto religion of the empire, explicitly forbids slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

, and the kings of Achaemenid Persia, especially the founder Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

, followed this ban to varying degrees, as evidenced by the freeing of the Jews at Babylon, and the construction of Persepolis by paid workers.

The vexilloid
Vexilloid
"Vexilloid" is a term used tenuously to describe vexillary objects used by countries, organizations, or individuals as a form of representation other than flags. Coined by Whitney Smith in 1958, he defined a vexilliod as:...

 of the Achaemenid Empire was a gold falcon
Falcon
A falcon is any species of raptor in the genus Falco. The genus contains 37 species, widely distributed throughout Europe, Asia, and North America....

 on a field of crimson.

Military



Despite its humble origins in Persis, the empire reached an enormous size under the leadership of Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

. Cyrus created a multi-state empire where he allowed regional rulers, called the 'satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

' to rule as his proxy over a certain designated area of his empire called the satrapy. The basic rule of governance was based upon loyalty and obedience of each satrapy to the central power, or the king, and compliance with tax laws. Due to the ethnocultural diversity of the subject nations under the rule of Persia, its enormous geographic size, and the constant struggle for power by regional competitors, the creation of a professional army was necessary for both maintenance of the peace, and also to enforce the authority of the king in cases of rebellion and foreign threat. Cyrus managed to create a strong land army, using it to advance in his campaigns in Babylonia, Lydia
Lydia
Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian....

, and Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

, which after his death was used by his son Cambyses II, in Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 against Psamtik III. Cyrus would die battling a local Iranian insurgency in the empire, before he could have a chance to develop a naval force. That task however would fall to Darius the Great, who would officially give Persians their own royal navy to allow them to engage their enemies on multiple seas of this vast empire, from the Black sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

, and the Aegean Sea
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

, to the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
The Ionian Sea , is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Adriatic Sea. It is bounded by southern Italy including Calabria, Sicily and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and a large number of Greek islands, including Corfu, Zante, Kephalonia, Ithaka, and...

, and the Mediterranean sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

.

Navy


Since its foundation by Cyrus, the Persian empire had been primarily a land empire with a strong army, but void of any actual naval forces. By the fifth century BCE, this was to change, as the empire came across Greek, and Egyptian forces, each with their own maritime traditions and capabilities. Darius the Great (Darius I) is to be credited as the first Achaemenid king to invest in a Persian fleet. Even by then no true "imperial navy" had existed either in Greece or Egypt. Persia would become the first empire, under Darius, to inaugurate and deploy the first regular imperial navy. Despite this achievement, the personnel for the imperial navy would not come from Iran, but were often Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

ns (mostly from Sidon
Sidon
Sidon or Saïda is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 km north of Tyre and 40 km south of the capital Beirut. In Genesis, Sidon is the son of Canaan the grandson of Noah...

), Egyptians
Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

, Cypriots
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, and Greeks chosen by Darius the Great to operate the empire's combat vessels.

At first the ships were built in Sidon by the Phoenicians; the first Achaemenid ships measured about 40 meters in length and 6 meters in width, able to transport up to 300 Persian troops
Persian Immortals
The "Immortals" was the name given by Herodotus to an elite force of soldiers who fought for the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed the dual roles of both Imperial Guard and standing army during the Persian Empire's expansion and during the Greco-Persian Wars...

 at any one trip. Despite origin of the technique of the arsenal and ship construction in Sidon, soon other states of the empire were constructing their own ships each incorporating slight local preferences. The ships eventually found their way to the Persian Gulf. Persian naval forces laid the foundation for a strong Persian maritime presence in the Persian Gulf, that existed until the arrival of the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

, and the Royal Navy in the mid-nineteenth century CE. Persians were not only stationed on islands of the Persian Gulf, but also had ships often of 100 to 200 capacity patrolling the empire's various rivers including Shatt-al-Arab, Tigris, and the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 in the west, as well as Sind waterway in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.

The Achaemenid high naval command had established major naval bases located along Shatt al-Arab river, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen. The Persian fleet would soon not only be used for peace-keeping purposes along the Shatt al-Arab but would also open the door to trade with India via the Persian Gulf. Darius's navy was in many ways a world power at the time, but it would be Artaxerxes II who in the summer of 397 B.C.E would build a formidable navy, as part of a rearmament which would lead to his decisive victory at Knidos
Knidos
Knidos or Cnidus is an ancient settlement located in Turkey. It was an ancient Greek city of Caria, part of the Dorian Hexapolis. It was situated on the Datça peninsula, which forms the southern side of the Sinus Ceramicus, now known as Gulf of Gökova. By the fourth century BC, Knidos was located...

 in 394 BCE, reestablishing Achaemenid power in Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

. Artaxerxes II would also utilize his massive navy to later on quell a rebellion in Egypt.

The construction material of choice was wood, but some armored Achaemenid ships had metallic blades on the front, often meant to slice enemy ships using the ship's momentum. Naval ships were also equpied with hooks on the side to grab enemy ships, or to negotiate their position. The ships were propelled by sails or manpower. As far as maritime engagement, the ships were equipped with two mangonel
Mangonel
A mangonel was a type of catapult or siege engine used in the medieval period to throw projectiles at a castle's walls. The exact meaning of the term is debatable, and several possibilities have been suggested. Mangonel may also be indirectly referring to the 'mangon' a French hard stone found in...

s that would launch projectiles such as stones, or flammable substances.

Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

 describes his eye-witness account of a massive military bridge created by joining 37 Persian ships across the Tigris river. The Persians utilized each boat's buoyancy, in order to support a connected bridge above which supply could be transferred. Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 also gives many accounts of Persians utilizing ships to build bridges.
Darius the Great, in an attempt to subdue the Scythia
Scythia
In antiquity, Scythian or Scyths were terms used by the Greeks to refer to certain Iranian groups of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who dwelt on the Pontic-Caspian steppe...

n horsemen north of the Black sea, crossed over at the Bosphorus, using an enormous bridge made by connecting Achaemenid boats, then marched up to the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

, crossing it by means of a second boat bridge. The bridge over the Bosphorus essentially connected the nearest tip of Asia to Europe, encompasing at least some 1000 meters of open water if not more. Herodotus describes the spectacle, and calls it the "bridge of Darius":
"Strait called Bosphorus, across which the bridge of Darius had been thrown is hundred and twenty furlong
Furlong
A furlong is a measure of distance in imperial units and U.S. customary units equal to one-eighth of a mile, equivalent to 220 yards, 660 feet, 40 rods, or 10 chains. The exact value of the furlong varies slightly among English-speaking countries....

s in length, reaching from the Euxine, to the Propontis. The Propontis is five hundred furlongs across, and fourteen hundred long. Its waters flow into the Hellespont
Dardanelles
The Dardanelles , formerly known as the Hellespont, is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with its counterpart the Bosphorus. It is located at approximately...

, the length of which is four hundred furlongs...
"


Years later, a similar boat bridge would be constructed by Xerxes the Great (Xerxes I), in his invasion of Greece. Although the Persians failed to capture the Greek city states completely, the tradition of maritime involvement was carried down by the Persian kings, most notably Artaxerxes II. Years later, when Alexander invaded Persia and during his advancement into India, he took a page from the Persian art of war, by having Hephaestion
Hephaestion
Hephaestion , son of Amyntor, was a Macedonian nobleman and a general in the army of Alexander the Great...

 and Perdiccas
Perdiccas
Perdiccas was one of Alexander the Great's generals. After Alexander's death in 323 BC he became regent of all Alexander's empire.Arrian tells us he was son of Orontes, a descendant of the independent princes of the Macedonian province of Orestis...

 construct a similar boat-bridge at the Indus river, in India in spring of 327 BCE

Culture



Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

, in his mid-5th century BCE account of Persian residents of the Pontus, reports that Persian youths, from their fifth year to their twentieth year, were instructed in three things – to ride a horse, to draw a bow, and to speak the Truth.

He further notes that:
the most disgraceful thing in the world [the Persians] think, is to tell a lie; the next worst, to owe a debt: because, among other reasons, the debtor is obliged to tell lies.


In Achaemenid Persia, the lie, druj, is considered to be a cardinal sin
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

, and it was punishable by death in some extreme cases. Tablets discovered by archaeologists in the 1930s at the site of Persepolis give us adequate evidence about the love and veneration for the culture of truth during the Achaemenian period. These tablets contain the names of ordinary Persians, mainly traders and warehouse-keepers. According to Professor Stanley Insler of Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, as many as 72 names of officials and petty clerks found on these tablets contain the word truth. Thus, says Insler, we have Artapana, protector of truth, Artakama, lover of truth, Artamanah, truth-minded, Artafarnah, possessing splendour of truth, Artazusta, delighting in truth, Artastuna, pillar of truth, Artafrida, prospering the truth and Artahunara, having nobility of truth. It was Darius the Great, who laid down the ordinance of good regulations during his reign. King Darius' testimony about his constant battle against the lie is found in cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 inscriptions. Carved high up in the Behistun
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

 mountain on the road to Kermanshah
Kermanshah
Kermanshah is a city in and the capital of Kermanshah Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 784,602, in 198,117 families.The overwhelming majority of Kermanshahi people are Shi'a Muslims...

, Darius the Great (Darius I) testifies:
I was not a lie-follower, I was not a doer of wrong ... According to righteousness I conducted myself. Neither to the weak or to the powerful did I do wrong. The man who cooperated with my house, him I rewarded well; who so did injury, him I punished well.


Darius had his hands full dealing with large-scale rebellion which broke out throughout the empire. After fighting successfully with nine traitors in a year, Darius records his battles against them for posterity and tells us how it was the lie that made them rebel against the empire. At Behistun, Darius says:
I smote them and took prisoner nine kings. One was Gaumata by name, a Magian; he lied; thus he said: I am Smerdis, the son of Cyrus...One, Acina by name, an Elamite; he lied; thus he said: I am king in Elam... One, Nidintu-Bel by name, a Babylonian; he lied; thus he said: I am Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabonidus. King Darius then tells us, The Lie made them rebellious, so that these men deceived the people.


Then an advice to his son Xerxes
Xerxes I of Persia
Xerxes I of Persia , Ḫšayāršā, ), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire.-Youth and rise to power:...

, who is to succeed him as the great king:
Thou who shalt be king hereafter, protect yourself vigorously from the Lie; the man who shall be a lie-follower, him do thou punish well, if thus thou shall think. May my country be secure!

Languages


During the reign of Cyrus and Darius, and as long as the seat of government was still at Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 in Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

, the language of the chancellory was Elamite. This is primarily attested in the Persepolis fortification and treasury tablets that reveal details of the day-to-day functioning of the empire. In the grand rock-face inscriptions of the kings, the Elamite texts are always accompanied by Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 and Old Persian inscriptions, and it appears that in these cases, the Elamite texts are translations of the Old Persian ones. It is then likely that although Elamite was used by the capital government in Susa, it was not a standardized language of government everywhere in the empire. The use of Elamite is not attested after 458 BCE

Following the conquest of Mesopotamia, the Aramaic language
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

 (as used in that territory) was adopted as a "vehicle for written communication between the different regions of the vast empire with its different peoples and languages. The use of a single official language, which modern scholarship has dubbed Official Aramaic or Imperial Aramaic, can be assumed to have greatly contributed to the astonishing success of the Achaemenids in holding their far-flung empire together for as long as they did." In 1955, Richard Frye questioned the classification of Imperial Aramaic as an "official language", noting that no surviving edict expressly and unambiguously accorded that status to any particular language. Frye reclassifies Imperial Aramaic as the "lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

" of the Achaemenid territories, suggesting then that the Achaemenid-era use of Aramaic was more pervasive than generally thought. Many centuries after the fall of the empire, Aramaic script and – as ideograms – Aramaic vocabulary would survive as the essential characteristics of the Pahlavi writing system
Pahlavi scripts
Pahlavi or Pahlevi denotes a particular and exclusively written form of various Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are*the use of a specific Aramaic-derived script, the Pahlavi script;...

.

Although Old Persian also appears on some seals and art objects, that language is attested primarily in the Achaemenid inscriptions of Western Iran, suggesting then that Old Persian was the common language of that region. However, by the reign of Artaxerxes II, the grammar and orthography of the inscriptions was so "far from perfect" that it has been suggested that the scribes who composed those texts had already largely forgotten the language, and had to rely on older inscriptions, which they to a great extent reproduced verbatim.

Customs


Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 mentions that the Persians were invited to great birthday feasts (Herodotus, Histories
Histories (Herodotus)
The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the seminal works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that...

8), which would be followed by many desserts, a treat which they reproached the Greeks for omitting from their meals. He also observed that the Persians drank wine in large quantities and used it even for counsel, deliberating on important affairs when drunk, and deciding the next day, when sober, whether to act on the decision or set it aside.

Religion




It was during the Achaemenid period that Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 reached South-Western Iran, where it came to be accepted by the rulers and through them became a defining element of Persian culture. The religion was not only accompanied by a formalization of the concepts and divinities of the traditional Indo-Iranian pantheon
Pantheon (gods)
A pantheon is a set of all the gods of a particular polytheistic religion or mythology.Max Weber's 1922 opus, Economy and Society discusses the link between a...

 but also introduced several novel ideas, including that of free will
Free will in theology
Free will in theology is an important part of the debate on free will in general. This article discusses the doctrine of free will as it has been, and is, interpreted within the various branches of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism...

.

Under the patronage of the Achaemenid kings, and by the 5th century BCE as the de-facto religion of the state, Zoroastrianism would reach all corners of the empire. The Bible claims that Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 allowed the Jews to return to their homeland
Homeland
A homeland is the concept of the place to which an ethnic group holds a long history and a deep cultural association with —the country in which a particular national identity began. As a common noun, it simply connotes the country of one's origin...

 after centuries of captivity by the Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n and Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

ian empires.

During the reign of Artaxerxes I and Darius II, Herodotus wrote "[the Perses] have no images of the gods, no temples nor altars, and consider the use of them a sign of folly. This comes, I think, from their not believing the gods to have the same nature with men, as the Greeks imagine." He claims the Persians offer sacrifice to: "the sun and moon, to the earth, to fire, to water, and to the winds. These are the only gods whose worship has come down to them from ancient times. At a later period they began the worship of Urania
Urania
Urania was, in Greek mythology, the muse of astronomy. Some accounts list her as the mother of the musician Linus. She is usually depicted with a globe in her left hand. She is able to foretell the future by the arrangement of the stars...

, which they borrowed from the Arabians and Assyrians. Mylitta is the name by which the Assyrians know this goddess
Goddess
A goddess is a female deity. In some cultures goddesses are associated with Earth, motherhood, love, and the household. In other cultures, goddesses also rule over war, death, and destruction as well as healing....

, to whom the Persians referred as Anahita
Anahita
Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as ' ; the Avestan language name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom...

." (The original name here is Mithra
Mithra
Mithra is the Zoroastrian divinity of covenant and oath. In addition to being the divinity of contracts, Mithra is also a judicial figure, an all-seeing protector of Truth, and the guardian of cattle, the harvest and of The Waters....

, which has since been explained to be a confusion of Anahita with Mithra, understandable since they were commonly worshipped together in one temple).

From the Babylonian scholar-priest Berosus
Berossus
Berossus was a Hellenistic-era Babylonian writer, a priest of Bel Marduk and astronomer writing in Greek, who was active at the beginning of the 3rd century BC...

, who—although writing over seventy years after the reign of Artaxerxes II Mnemon—records that the emperor had been the first to make cult
Cult
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices...

 statues of divinities and have them placed in temples in many of the major cities of the empire (Berosus, III.65). Berosus also substantiates Herodotus when he says the Persians knew of no images of gods until Artaxerxes II erected those images. On the means of sacrifice, Herodotus adds "they raise no altar, light no fire, pour no libations." This sentence has been interpreted to identify a critical (but later) accretion to Zoroastrianism. An altar with a wood-burning fire and the Yasna
Yasna
Yasna is the name of the primary liturgical collection of texts of the Avesta as well as the name of the principal Zoroastrian act of worship at which those verses are recited. The Yasna, or Izeshne, is primarily the name of the ceremony in which the entire book is recited and appropriate...

 service at which libations are poured are all clearly identifiable with modern Zoroastrianism, but apparently, were practices that had not yet developed in the mid-5th century. Boyce also assigns that development to the reign of Artaxerxes II (4th century BCE), as an orthodox response to the innovation of the shrine cults.

Herodotus also observed that "no prayer or offering can be made without a magus
Magi
Magi is a term, used since at least the 4th century BC, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which...

 present" but this should not be confused with what is today understood by the term magus, that is a magupat (modern Persian: mobed), a Zoroastrian priest. Nor does Herodotus' description of the term as one of the tribes or castes of the Medes necessarily imply that these magi were Medians. They simply were a hereditary priesthood to be found all over Western Iran and although (originally) not associated with any one specific religion, they were traditionally responsible for all ritual and religious services. Although the unequivocal identification of the magus with Zoroastrianism came later (Sassanid era, 3rd–7th century CE), it is from Herodotus' magus of the mid-5th century that Zoroastrianism was subject to doctrinal modifications that are today considered to be revocations of the original teachings of the prophet. Also, many of the ritual practices described in the Avesta's
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

 Vendidad (such as exposure of the dead) were already practiced by the magu of Herodotus ' time.

Art and architecture





Achaemenid architecture refers to the architectural achievements of the Achaemenid Persians manifesting in construction of spectacular cities utilized for governance and inhabitation, temples made for worship and social gatherings (such as Zoroastrian
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 temples), and mausoleums erected in honor of fallen kings (such as the burial tomb of Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

). The quintessential feature of Persian architecture was its eclectic nature with elements of Median, Assyrian, and Asiatic Greek all incorporated, yet maintaining a unique Persian identity seen in the finished products.

Achaemenid art refers to the artistic achievements of the Aachaemenid Persians manifesting in construction of complicated frieze
Frieze
thumb|267px|Frieze of the [[Tower of the Winds]], AthensIn architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon...

 reliefs, crafting of precious metals ( such as the Oxus Treasure
Oxus Treasure
The Oxus treasure is a collection of 170 gold and silver items from the Achaemenid Persian period which were found by the Oxus river. Pieces from it are located in the Victoria and Albert Museum and in the British Museum , with many items bequeathed to the nation by Augustus Wollaston...

), decoration of palaces, glazed brick masonry, fine craftsmanship (masonry, carpentry, etc.), and gardening, and out door decoration. It is critical to understand that although Persians borrowed techniques from all corners of their empire, it was not simply a combination of styles, but synthesis of a new unique Persian style. Cyrus the Great in fact had an extensive ancient Iranian heritage behind him; the rich Achaemenid gold work, which inscriptions suggest may have been a specialty of the Medes, was for instance in the tradition of the delicate metalwork found in Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 II times at Hasanlu and still earlier at Marlik
Marlik
Marlik is an ancient site near Roudbar in Gilan, north of Iran. The site of a royal cemetery, and artifacts found at this site date back to 3,000 years ago. According to G.N.Kurochkin, the archeological monuments Indo-Iranians and show similarities to the descriptions of the Avesta Yashts.-...

.

One of the most amazing examples of both Achaemenid architecture and art is the grand palace of Persepolis
Persepolis
Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

, and its detailed workmanship, coupled with its grand scale. In describing the construction of his palace at Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

, Darius the Great records that:
"...yaka timber was brought from Gandara
Gandhara
Gandhāra , is the name of an ancient kingdom , located in northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Gandhara was located mainly in the vale of Peshawar, the Potohar plateau and on the Kabul River...

 and from Carmania
Carmania (satrapy)
Carmania was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire as well as, later on, the Sassanid Empire. The region is approximately equal to that of modern day Kermān Province in Iran. Little is known about the exact boundaries of ancient Carmania, which may have fluctuated...

. The gold was brought from Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

 and from Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

...the precious stone lapis-lazuli and carnelian...was brought from Sogdiana
Sogdiana
Sogdiana or Sogdia was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great . Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created...

. The turquoise from Chorasmia, the silver and ebony from Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, the ornamentation from Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

, the ivory from Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 and from Sindh
Sindh
Sindh historically referred to as Ba'ab-ul-Islam , is one of the four provinces of Pakistan and historically is home to the Sindhi people. It is also locally known as the "Mehran". Though Muslims form the largest religious group in Sindh, a good number of Christians, Zoroastrians and Hindus can...

 and from Arachosia
Arachosia
Arachosia is the Latinized form of the Greek name of an Achaemenid and Seleucid governorate in the eastern part of their respective empires, around modern-day southern Afghanistan. The Greek term "Arachosia" corresponds to the Iranian land of Harauti which was between Kandahar in Afghanistan and...

. The stone-cutters who wrought the stone, those were Ionians and Sardians
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

. The goldsmiths were Medes
Medes
The MedesThe Medes...

 and Egyptians
Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

. The men who wrought the wood, those were Sardians and Egyptians. The men who wrought the baked brick, those were Babylonians. The men who adorned the wall, those were Medes and Egyptians."


This was imperial art on a scale the world had not seen before. Materials and artists were drawn from all corners of the empire, and thus tastes, styles, and motifs became mixed together in an eclectic art and architecture that in itself mirrored the Persian empire.

Legacy


The Achaemenid Empire left a lasting impression on the heritage and the cultural identity of Asia and Middle East, as well as influencing the development and structure of future empires. In fact the Greeks and later on the Romans copied the best features of the Persian method of governing the empire, and vicariously adopted them.

Georg W. F. Hegel in his work The Philosophy of History
Lectures on the Philosophy of History
Lectures on the Philosophy of History, also translated as Lectures on the Philosophy of World History , is the title of a major work by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel , originally given as lectures at the University of Berlin in 1821, 1824, 1827, and 1831...

introduces the Persian Empire as the "first empire that passed away" and its people as the "first historical people" in history. According to his account;
The Persian Empire is an empire in the modern sense – like that which existed in Germany, and the great imperial realm under the sway of Napoleon; for we find it consisting of a number of states, which are indeed dependant, but which have retained their own individuality, their manners, and laws. The general enactments, binding upon all, did not infringe upon their political and social idiosyncrasies, but even protected and maintained them; so that each of the nations that constitute the whole, had its own form of constitution. As light illuminates everything – imparting to each object a peculiar vitality – so the Persian Empire extends over a multitude of nations, and leaves to each one its particular character. Some have even kings of their own; each one its distinct language, arms, way of life and customs. All this diversity coexists harmoniously under the impartial dominion of Light... a combination of peoples – leaving each of them free. Thereby, a stop is put to that barbarism and ferocity with which the nations had been wont to carry on their destructive feuds.


The famous American orientalist, Professor Arthur Upham Pope (1881–1969) said: "The western world has a vast unpaid debt to the Persian Civilization!"

Will Durant
Will Durant
William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975...

, the American historian and philosopher, during one his speeches, "Persia in the History of Civilization", as an address before the Iran-America Society
Iran-America Society
The Iran-America Society was founded in the 1950s in Tehran, Iran to promote understanding between the people of Iran and the people of the United States of America. The founding Chairman of the Board was Ralph E. Becket. David Nalle was one of its early directors. Its office in Washington, DC...

in Tehran
Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

 on 21 April 1948, stated:
For thousands of years Persians have been creating beauty. Sixteen centuries before Christ there went from these regions or near it... You have been here a kind of watershed of civilization, pouring your blood and thought and art and religion eastward and westward into the world... I need not rehearse for you again the achievements of your Achaemenid period. Then for the first time in known history an empire almost as extensive as the United States received an orderly government, a competence of administration, a web of swift communications, a security of movement by men and goods on majestic roads, equaled before our time only by the zenith of Imperial Rome.

Unattested

  • Achaemenes of Persia
    Achaemenes
    Achaemenēs was the eponymous ancestor of the Achaemenid Dynasty, who ruled Persia between 705 BC and 675 BC.The name is a bahuvrihi compound literally translating to "having a friend's mind", or "characterized by a follower's spirit"....

The epigraphic evidence for these rulers cannot be confirmed and are often considered to have been invented by Darius I
  • Ariaramnes of Persia
    Ariaramnes of Persia
    Ariaramnes was a great uncle of Cyrus the Great and the great-grandfather of Darius I, and perhaps the king of Parsa, the ancient core kingdom of Persia....

    , son of Teispes and co-ruler with Cyrus I
  • Arsames of Persia
    Arsames of Persia
    Arsames was the son of Ariaramnes and perhaps briefly the king of Persia during the Achaemenid dynasty, but gave up the throne and declared loyalty to Cyrus II of Persia...

    , son of Ariaramnes and co-ruler with Cambyses I

Attested

Kings of Anshan
King |Consort(s) |Comments
Teispes of Anshan
Teispes of Anshan
Teispes lived from 675-640 BCE. He was the son of Achaemenes and an ancestor of Cyrus the Great. There is evidence that Cyrus I and Ariaramnes were both his sons. Cyrus I is the grandfather of Cyrus the Great, whereas Ariaramnes is great grandfather of Darius the Great...

 
7th Century son of Achaemenes
Achaemenes
Achaemenēs was the eponymous ancestor of the Achaemenid Dynasty, who ruled Persia between 705 BC and 675 BC.The name is a bahuvrihi compound literally translating to "having a friend's mind", or "characterized by a follower's spirit"....

, King of Anshan
Cyrus I  Late 7th / early 6th Century son of Teispes, King of Anshan
Cambyses I of Anshan
Cambyses I of Anshan
Cambyses I or Cambyses the Elder was king of Anshan in Iran from c. 580 to 559 BC and the father of Cyrus the Great . He should not be confused with his better-known grandson Cambyses II.Cambyses was an early member of the Achaemenid dynasty...

 
Early 6th Century Mandana of Media  son of Cyrus I, King of Anshan
Cyrus II the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 
c.550-530 Cassandane
Cassandane
Cassandane was an Achaemenian Persian noblewoman and the "dearly loved" wife of Cyrus the Great. She was a daughter of Pharnaspes. She bore four children for Cyrus the Great : Cambyses II who succeeded his father and conquered Egypt, Smerdis who also reigned as the king of Persia for a short...

 of Persia
son of Cambyses I and Mandana – conquered Media 550 BCE King of Media, Babylonia, Lydia, Persia, Anshan, and Sumer. Created the Achaemenid Persian Empire.

Kings of Persia (529–359 BCE); Twenty-seventh dynasty of Egypt (525–399 BCE)
King |Consort(s) |Comments
Cambyses II  529-522 son of Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 and Cassandane
Cassandane
Cassandane was an Achaemenian Persian noblewoman and the "dearly loved" wife of Cyrus the Great. She was a daughter of Pharnaspes. She bore four children for Cyrus the Great : Cambyses II who succeeded his father and conquered Egypt, Smerdis who also reigned as the king of Persia for a short...

. Conquered dynasty of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

.
Bardiya
Bardiya
Bardiya was a son of Cyrus the Great and the younger brother of Cambyses II, both Persian kings. There are sharply divided views on his life, he may have ruled the Achaemenid Empire for a few months in 522 BCE, or he may have been impersonated by a magus called Gaumata. -Name and sources:The...

 (Smerdis)
522 Phaedymia
Phaedymia
Phaedymia was the daughter of Otanes. She was the wife of Gaumata .-References:*, Book 3, 3.69...

 
Son of Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

. (Imposter Gaumata acted in his place)
Darius I the Great
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

 
521-486 Atossa
Atossa
Atossa was an Achaemenid queen and daughter of Cyrus the Great and his wife, Cassandane...

 
Artystone
Artystone
Artystone was a Persian princess, daughter of king Cyrus the Great, and sister or half-sister of Atossa and Cambyses II. Along with Atossa and her niece Parmys, Artystone married king Darius I...

 
Parmys
Parmys
Parmys was a Persian princess, the only daughter of Bardiya , son of Cyrus the Great. She was the grand daughter of Cyrus the Great, and Cassandane....

 
Phratagune 
brother-in-law of Smerdis (Bardiya), son of Hystapes, grandson of Arsames 
Armies defeated at Battle of Marathon
Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate...

 in Greece.
Xerxes I the Great
Xerxes I of Persia
Xerxes I of Persia , Ḫšayāršā, ), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire.-Youth and rise to power:...

 
485-465 Amestris
Amestris
Amestris or Amastris was the wife of Xerxes I of Persia, mother of king Artaxerxes I of Persia. She was known to have been poorly regarded by ancient Greek historians....

 
son of Darius I and Atossa
Atossa
Atossa was an Achaemenid queen and daughter of Cyrus the Great and his wife, Cassandane...

 
Victorious at Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

 
Defeated at Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens...

Artaxerxes I Longimanus
Artaxerxes I of Persia
Artaxerxes I was the sixth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 465 BCE to 424 BCE. He was the son of Xerxes I of Persia and Amestris, daughter of Otanes.*Artaxerxes I was the sixth king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 465 BCE to 424 BCE. He was the son of Xerxes I of Persia and...

 
465-424 Damaspia
Damaspia
Damaspia was a queen of Persia, wife of king Artaxerxes I, and mother of Xerxes II, his legitimate heir. She was probably Persian....

 
Cosmartidene
Alogyne
Andia
son of Xerxes I and Amestris
Xerxes II
Xerxes II of Persia
Xerxes II was a Persian king and the son and successor of Artaxerxes I. After a reign of forty-five days, he was assassinated in 424 BC by his brother Sogdianus, who in turn was murdered by Darius II. He is an obscure historical figure known primarily from the writings of Ctesias. He was...

 
424 son of Artaxerxes I and Damaspia
Damaspia
Damaspia was a queen of Persia, wife of king Artaxerxes I, and mother of Xerxes II, his legitimate heir. She was probably Persian....

Sogdianus
Sogdianus of Persia
Sogdianus , died 423 BC, king of Persia . He was an obscure historical figure known primarily from the writings of Ctesias. He was reportedly an illegitimate son of Artaxerxes I by his concubine Alogyne of Babylon....

 
424-423 Son of Artaxerxes I and Alogyne; half-brother and rival of Xerxes II
Darius II of Persia
Darius II of Persia
Darius II , was king of the Persian Empire from 423 BC to 405 BC.Artaxerxes I, who died on December 25, 424 BC, was followed by his son Xerxes II. After a month and a half Xerxes II was murdered by his brother Secydianus or Sogdianus...

423-405 Parysatis
Parysatis
Parysatis was the 5th-century BCE illegitimate daughter of Artaxerxes I, Emperor of Persia and Andia of Babylon.She was the half-sister of Xerxes II, Sogdianus and Darius II...

 
Son of Artaxerxes I and Cosmartidene; half-brother and rival of Xerxes II
Artaxerxes II Mnemon
Artaxerxes II of Persia
Artaxerxes II Mnemon was king of Persia from 404 BC until his death. He was a son of Darius II of Persia and Parysatis.-Reign:...

 
404-359 Stateira
Stateira (wife of Artaxerxes II)
Stateira was the wife of king Artaxerxes II of Persia.Asteroid 831 Stateira is named in her honour.- Biography :Stateira was the daughter of the Persian nobleman Hydarnes. She married Artaxerxes II, the oldest son of Darius II of Persia and his wife Parysatis...

 
son of Darius II (see also Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

)


Early in the reign of Artaxerxes II (in 399 BCE), the Persians lose control over Egypt. The Persians regain control 57 years later – in 342 BCE – when Artaxerxes III conquers Egypt.
Kings of Persia (358–330 BCE); Thirty-first dynasty of Egypt (342–332 BCE)
King |Consort(s) |Comments
Artaxerxes III Ochus
Artaxerxes III of Persia
Artaxerxes III of Persia , was the Great King of Persia and the eleventh Emperor of the Achaemenid Empire, as well as the first Pharaoh of the 31st dynasty of Egypt. He was the son and successor of Artaxerxes II and was succeeded by his son, Arses of Persia...

 
358-338 son of Artaxerxes II and Stateira
Artaxerxes IV Arses
Arses of Persia
Artaxerxes IV Arses was king of Persia between 338 BC and 336 BC. He was the youngest son of King Artaxerxes III and Atossa and was not expected to succeed to the throne of Persia...

338-336 son of Artaxerxes III and Atossa
Darius III
Darius III of Persia
Darius III , also known by his given name of Codomannus, was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia from 336 BC to 330 BC....

336-330 Stateira I
Stateira I
Stateira I was the wife of Darius III of Persia of the Achaemenid dynasty. She was known as the most beautiful woman on Earth and, as was the custom for royal Persian women, accompanied her husband while he went to war. It was because of this that she was captured by Alexander the Great after the...

great-grandson of Darius II
defeated by Alexander the Great

See also

  • List of kings of Persia
  • Achaemenid family tree
  • Purim
    Purim
    Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman, a story recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther .Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th...

    , a Jewish festival related to the Achaemenid Empire

Further reading

There have been a number of editions since 1996. A collection of articles by different authors.
  • From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, Pierre Briant
    Pierre Briant
    Pierre Briant is a French Iranologist, Professor of History and Civilisation of the Achaemenid World and the Empire of Alexander the Great at the Collège de France , Doctor Honoris Causa at the University of Chicago, and founder of the website achemenet.com.He studied History at the University of...

    , Eisenbrauns: 2002, ISBN 978-1-57506-0316
  • The Greco-Persian Wars, Peter Green
  • The Greek and Persian Wars 499–386 BC, Philip De Souza
  • The Heritage of Persia, Richard N. Frye
  • History of the Persian Empire, A.T. Olmstead
  • The Persian Empire, Lindsay Allen
  • The Persian Empire, J.M. Cook
  • Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West, Tom Holland
  • Pictorial History of Iran: Ancient Persia Before Islam 15000 B.C.–625 A.D., Amini Sam
  • Timelife Persians: Masters of the Empire (Lost Civilizations)
  • Dandamaev, M.A. A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1989 (ISBN 90-04-09172-6).
  • Hallock, R.
    Richard Hallock (epigrapher)
    Richard Treadwel Hallock was an American Assyriologist and Elamitologist. He reached his Ph.D. degree in Assyriology at the University of Chicago in 1935 , and was editorial secretary of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary...

    , Persepolis Fortification Tablets

External links