The Achaemenid Empire

Under Cyrus the great and Darius the Great, the Achaemenid Empire became the an initial global empire.

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Key Takeaways

Key PointsAround 550 BCE, Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) dominated the MedianEmpire and started the expansion of the Achaemenid Empire, assimilating the neighboring Lydian and also Neo-Babylonian empires.Cyrus the good was succeeded by his child Cambryses II in 530 BCE and also then the usurper Gaumata, and also finally by Darius the Great in 522 BCE.By the time of Darius the an excellent and his son, Xerxes, the Achaemenid empire had expanded to encompass Mesopotamia,Egypt, Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, Macedonia, the western Indus basin, and parts of main Asia, north Arabia and also northern Libya.At the height about 475 BCE, the Achaemenid realm ruled end 44% of the world’s population, the highest number for any type of empire in history.Key TermsCyrus the Great: Cyrus II of Persia, likewise known together Cyrus the Great, developed the largest empire the people had seen.Darius the Great: The 3rd king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, who ruled at its peak from c. 522-486 BCE.Median Empire: among the four major powers the the ancient Near eastern (with Babylonia, Lydia, and Egypt), till it was overcame by Cyrus the good in 550 BCE.Pasargadae: The capital of the Achaemenid empire under Cyrus the Great.

The Achaemenid Empire, c. 550-330 BCE, or very first Persian Empire, was established in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great, in western and main Asia. The dynasty attracted its surname from Achaemenes, who, from 705-675 BCE, ruled Persis, which to be land bounded on the west by the Tigris River and also on the south by the Persian Gulf. It to be the first central nation-state, and also during expansion in around 550-500 BCE, it came to be the an initial global empire and eventually rule over significant portions the the ancient world.

Empire Beginnings

By the 7th century BCE, a group of old Iranian civilization had established the average Empire, a vassal state under the Assyrian empire that later tried to acquire its freedom in the 8 hours century BCE. After Assyria dropped in 605 BCE, Cyaxares, king of the Medes, prolonged his preeminence west across Iran.

Around 550 BCE, Cyrus II of Persia, who came to be known as Cyrus the Great, increased in rebellion versus the median Empire, eventually conquering the Medes to create the an initial Persian Empire, likewise known together the Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus used his tactical genius, and his expertise of the socio-political problems governing his territories, to eventually assimilate the surrounding Lydian and Neo-Babylonian realms into the brand-new Persian Empire.


Relief that Cyrus the Great: Cyrus II that Persia, much better known together Cyrus the Great, was the founder the the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire assimilated every the civilized says of the old Near East, and also eventually conquered most the Southwest Asia and much of central Asia and also the Caucasus.

Achaemenid Expansion

The realm was rule by a collection of queens who join its disparate people by creating a complicated network the roads. The unified kind of the realm came in the form of a main administration roughly the city the Pasargadae, which was set up by Cyrus c. 550 BCE. After ~ his death in 530 BCE, Cyrus was flourished by his son Cambyses II, who overcame Egypt, Nubia, and also Cyrenaica in 525 BCE; he died in 522 BCE during a revolt.

During the king’s long absence during his development campaign, a Zoarastrian priest, called Guamata, staged a coup through impersonating Cambryses II’s younger brother, Bardiya, and also seized the throne. However in 522 BCE, Darius I, also known as Darius the Great, overthrew Gaumata and solidified manage of the regions of the Achaemenid Empire, start what would be a historic consolidation the lands.

Achaemenid empire in the time of Darius and Xerxes: at its height, the Achaemenid realm ruled over 44% that the world’s population, the highest number for any type of empire in history.

Between c. 500-400 BCE, Darius the great and his son, Xerxe I, ruled the Persian Plateau and all of the territories formerly held by the Assyrian Empire, consisting of Mesopotamia, the Levant, and also Cyprus. The eventually pertained to control Egypt, as well. This expansion ongoing even further afield v Anatolia and also the Armenian Plateau, much of the southern Caucasus, Macedonia, parts of Greece and Thrace, main Asia as much as the Aral Sea, the Oxus and also Jaxartes areas, the Hindu Kush and the west Indus basin, and parts of northern Arabia and also northern Libya.

This unmatched area of control under a solitary ruler stretched from the Indus sink in the east to Thrace and Macedon on the northeastern border the Greece. In ~ its height, the Achaemenid empire ruled end 44% the the world’s population, the highest possible such figure for any empire in history.

Government and Trade in the Achaemenid Empire

Emperors Cyrus II and also Darius I developed a central government and also extensive trade network in the Achaemenid Empire.

Learning Objectives

Discuss how the central government provided cultural and financial reform

Key Takeaways

Key PointsCyrus the Great maintained control over a vast empire by installing local governors, called satraps, to ascendancy individual provinces.When Darius the Great ascended the throne in 522 BCE, he arranged a brand-new uniform monetary system andestablished Aramaic as the main language of the empire.Trade infrastructure helped with the exchange of commodities in the much reaches that the empire, consisting of the royal Road, standardization language, and a postal service.Tariffs on trade from the territories were among the empire’s key sources that revenue, in enhancement to agriculture and tribute.Key TermsCyrus Cylinder: an ancient clay artifact that has actually been called the oldest-known charter of human being rights.BehistunInscription: one inscription carved in a cliff challenge of mountain Behistrun in Iran; it detailed a key to deciphering cuneiform script.satrapy: The region under the rule of a satrap.satrap: The branch of a district in the old Median and Achaemenid (Persian) Empires.

The Achaemenid realm reached enormous size under the management of Cyrus II the Persia (576-530 BCE), typically known as Cyrus the Great, who created a multi-state empire. Called Cyrus the Elder by the Greeks, that founded realm initially making up all the vault civilized states of the old Near East and eventually many of Southwest and central Asia and also the Caucus region, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea come the Indus River. Control of this large territory connected a centralized government, territorial kings who offered as proxy rulers because that the emperor, and substantial system that commerce and trade.

Government Organization

Cyrus, whose preeminence lasted in between 29 and also 31 years, until his fatality in fight in 530 BCE, regulated the large Achaemenid realm through the use of regional monarchs, referred to as satrap, that each oversaw a territory called a satrapy. The straightforward rule of governance was based upon the loyalty and obedience the the satrapy come the main power, the king, and also compliance with tax laws. Cyrus likewise connected the assorted regions of the empire through creative postal mechanism that made usage of comprehensive roadway and relay stations.

Cyrus the good was well-known for success in human rights and politics, having influenced both Eastern and Western Civilization. The old Babylonians dubbed him “The Liberator,” while the modern nation the Iran calls Cyrus the “father.”

Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder is an old clay artifact, now broken into number of fragments, that has actually been referred to as the oldest-known charter the universal person rights and a price of his humanitarian rule.

The cylinder days from the 6th century BCE, and also was uncovered in the damages of Babylon in Mesopotamia, now Iraq, in 1879. In enhancement to explicate the genealogy of Cyrus, the declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script top top the cylinder is considered by many Biblical scholar to be evidence of Cyrus’s plan of repatriation the the Jewish human being following their captivity in Babylon.

The historic nature that the cylinder has actually been debated, v some scholars arguing that Cyrus did no make a particular decree, however rather the the cylinder articulated his general policy permitting exiles to go back to their homelands and also rebuild your temples.

In fact, the plans of Cyrus v respect to therapy of minority religions were well documented in Babylonian texts, and in Jewish sources. Cyrus was recognized to have an in its entirety attitude of religious tolerance transparent the empire, back it has been questioned whether this to be by his own implementation or a continuation of Babylonian and also Assyrian policies.

Darius Improvements

When Darius i (550-486 BCE), additionally known as Darius the Great, ascended the throne that the Achaemenid realm in 522 BCE, he developed Aramaic together the official language and also devised a codification of laws for Egypt. Darius also sponsored work on construction projects throughout the empire, focusing on innovation of the urban of Susa, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Babylon, and also various municipalities in Egypt.

When Darius moved his funding from Pasargadae come Persepolis, he changed the economy by placing that on a silver and also gold coinage and introducing a regulated and sustainable tax system. This structure exactly tailored the counting of every satrapy based ~ above its projected productivity and economic potential. Because that example, Babylon to be assessed for the highest possible amount of silver taxes, when Egypt owed grain in addition to silver taxes.


Persian reliefs in the city the Persepolis: Darius the good moved the funding of the Achaemenid realm to Persepolis c. 522 BCE. The initiated several significant architectural projects, including the construction of a palace and also a sweetheart house.

Behistun Inscription

Sometime ~ his coronation, Darius ordered an inscription to be sculpted on a limestone cliff of mount Behistun in modern Iran. The Behistun Inscription, the message of which Darius wrote, involved have an excellent linguistic significance as a critical clue in deciphering picture writing script.

The inscription begins by tracing the family tree of Darius, complied with by a summary of a succession of events following the deaths of the previous two Achaemenid emperors, Cyrus the good and Cyrus’s son, Cambyses II, in i beg your pardon Darius fought 19 war in one year to put down many rebellions transparent the Persian lands.

The inscription, which is roughly 15 meter high and 25 meters wide, consists of three versions of the text in three different cuneiform languages: Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian, which was a variation of Akkadian. Researcher were may be to compare the scripts and also use it to help decipher ancient languages, in this way making the Behistun engraving as beneficial to cuneiform as the Rosetta stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs.


Behistun Inscription: A section of the Behistun inscription on a limestone cliff of mount Behistun in western Iran, which came to be a key in deciphering picture writing script.

Commerce and Trade

Under the Achaemenids, trade was extensive and also there was an efficient infrastructure that helped with the exchange of assets in the far reaches of the empire. Tariffs on profession were among the empire’s key sources that revenue, in addition to farming and tribute.

The satrapies were linked by a 2,500-kilometer highway, the many impressive stretch of which to be the imperial Road, from Susa come Sardis. The relays of mounted couriers could reach the many remote areas in 15 days. In spite of the family member local independence afforded by the satrapy system, royal examiners regularly toured the empire and reported ~ above local conditions using this route.


Achaemenid gold bowl v lion imagery: profession in the Achaemenid empire was extensive. Infrastructure, consisting of the royal Road, standardization language, and also a postal service facilitated the exchange of assets in the far reaches of the empire.


Cyrus the good created an organized military to enforce nationwide authority, in spite of the ethno-cultural diversity amongst the subject nations, the empire’s huge geographic size, and also the constant struggle for power by local competitors.

This professional army included the Immortals unit, comprising 10,000 extremely trained hefty infantry. Under Darius the Great, Persia would come to be the first empire to inaugurate and also deploy an imperial navy, with personnel that consisted of Phoenicians, Egyptians, Cypriots, and Greeks.


Zoroastrianism, an old Persian religion, had a major influence ~ above the culture and religion of all various other monotheistic faiths in the region.

Key Takeaways

Key PointsZoroastrianism is ascribed to the teachings the Zoroaster, an Iranian prophet, who worshiped Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), together its can be fried Being.Leading characteristics, such together messianism, heaven and hell, and totally free will are stated to have actually influenced other religious systems, including second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and also Islam.Zoroastrianism offered as the state religious beliefs of the pre-Islamic Iranian realms from c. 600 BCE to 650 CE, but saw a steep decrease after the Muslim occupation of Persia.The religion states that energetic participation in life through an excellent deeds is important to ensure happiness and also to keep chaos at bay.Key TermsSassanids: The last Iranian empire before the climb of Islam.Gnosticism: A modern-day term categorizing a collection of old religions whose adherents shunned the material world—which they viewed as developed by the demiurge—and taken on the spiritual world.messianism: The id in a messiah, who acts as a savior, redeemer or liberator the a group of people.eschatological: A component of theology involved with the final occasions of history, or the can be fried destiny that humanity, often referred to as the “end times.”

Overview and also Theology

Zoroastrianism is just one of the world’s earliest religions. The ascribed come the teachings of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra), and exalted their deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), together its supreme Being. Top characteristics, such as messianism, heaven and also hell, and totally free will are stated to have actually influenced other spiritual systems, including second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Islam. With possible roots dating ago to the second millennium BCE, Zoroastrianism start recorded history in the 5th-century BCE. It served as the state religion of the pre-Islamic Iranian realms from roughly 600 BCE to 650 CE. Zoroastrianism to be suppressed indigenous the 7th century onwards, adhering to the Muslim occupation of Persia. Recent estimates place the current number of Zoroastrians at approximately 2.6 million, with most living in India and Iran.

The most crucial texts that the religious beliefs are those the the Avesta, which contains the writings of Zoroaster, recognized as the Gathas and the Yasna. The Gathas are enigmatic poems that specify the religion’s precepts, when the Yasna is the scripture. The full name whereby Zoroaster addressed the deity is: Ahura, The mr Creator, and Mazda, Supremely Wise. The proclaimed that there is just one God, the singularly creative and sustaining pressure of the Universe. He additionally stated that humans are offered a appropriate of choice, and also because the cause and effect are likewise responsible because that the after-effects of their choices. The contesting force to Ahura Mazda was dubbed Angra Mainyu, or upset spirit. Post-Zoroastrian scripture introduced the principle of Ahriman, the Devil, i m sorry was properly a personification of Angra Mainyu.

In Zoroastrianism, water (apo, aban) and fire (atar, azar) space agents of routine purity, and also the linked purification ceremonies are thought about the basis of routine life. In Zoroastrian cosmogony, water and also fire are respectively the second and critical primordial facets to have actually been created, and also scripture considers fire to have its beginning in the waters. Both water and fire are taken into consideration life-sustaining, and both water and fire are stood for within the precinct the a fire temple. Zoroastrians usually pray in the visibility of some form of fire (which can be considered apparent in any source of light), and the culminating rite that the rule act of prayer constitutes a “strengthening that the waters.” Fire is thought about a tool through which spiritual insight and wisdom is gained, and water is taken into consideration the source of that wisdom.

The religious beliefs states that active participation in life through good deeds is important to certain happiness and to store chaos in ~ bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster’s ide of complimentary will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all creates of monasticism. Ahura Mazda will at some point prevail end the evil Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, at which suggest the cosmos will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls that the dead that were originally banished to “darkness”—will be rejoined in Ahura Mazda, return to life in the undead form. In ~ the end of time, a savior-figure (a Saoshyant) will certainly bring about a last renovation of the world (frashokereti), in which the dead will certainly be revived.


Zoroastrian Priest: Painted clay and alabaster head of a Zoroastrian priest wearing a distinctive Bactrian-style headdress, Takhti-Sangin, Tajikistan, Greco-Bactrian kingdom, 3rd-2nd century BCE.


The root of Zoroastrianism room thought to have emerged from a common prehistoric Indo-Iranian spiritual system dating earlier to the early 2nd millennium BCE. The prophet Zoroaster himself, though traditionally date to the 6th century BCE, is thought by many contemporary historians to have actually been a reformer the the multi-purpose Iranian faith who stayed in the 10th century BCE. Zoroastrianism as a religion was not firmly developed until numerous centuries later. Zoroastrianism beginning recorded background in the mid-5th century BCE. Herodotus’ The Histories (completed c. 440 BCE) consists of a summary of greater Iranian society with what may be recognizably Zoroastrian features, consisting of exposure that the dead.

The Histories is a primary resource of info on the early period of the Achaemenid era (648-330 BCE), in certain with respect come the duty of the Magi. Follow to Herodotus i.101, the Magi to be the sixth tribe that the Medians (until the unification of the Persian realm under Cyrus the Great, all Iranians were referred to as “Mede” or “Mada” by the peoples of the ancient World). The Magi appear to have been the priestly caste of the Mesopotamian-influenced branch that Zoroastrianism today recognized as Zurvanism, and also they wielded considerable influence in ~ the court of the typical emperors.

Darius I, and also later Achaemenid emperors, acknowledged their devotion come Ahura Mazda in engravings (as attested to several times in the Behistun inscription), and appear to have ongoing the model of coexistence with various other religions. Whether Darius was a follower of Zoroaster has not to be conclusively established, since devotion to Ahura Mazda was (at the time) not necessarily an indication of an follow to Zoroaster’s teaching. A variety of the Zoroastrian texts that this day are part of the greater compendium that the Avesta have been attributed to the period.

The religious beliefs would be professed countless centuries following the death of the Achaemenids in mainland Persia and also the core regions of the previous Achaemenid Empire—most especially Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus. In the Cappadocian kingdom (whose are was previously an Achaemenid possession), Persian homesteaders who were cut off from your co-religionists in Iran suitable continued to practice the Zoroastrianism of your forefathers. There, Strabo, observing in the first century BCE, records that this “fire kindlers” possessed countless “holy areas of the Persian Gods,” as well as fire temples. Strabo in addition relates, the they to be “noteworthy enclosures; and in their midst there is one altar, ~ above which there is a big quantity the ashes and also where the magi save the fire ever before burning.” Throughout, and also after, the Hellenistic periods in the previously mentioned regions, the religion would be strongly revived.

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As late together the Parthian period, a type of Zoroastrianism was without a doubt the leading religion in the Armenian lands. The Sassanids aggressively advocated the Zurvanite form of Zoroastrianism, often structure fire holy places in recorded territories to encourage the religion. Throughout the period of their centuries lengthy suzerainty over the Caucasus, the Sassanids do attempts to encourage Zoroastrianism over there with substantial successes. It was also prominent in the pre-Christian Caucasus (especially modern Azerbaijan).