Ancient Persia


by Wikipedia
published on 28 April 2011
Empire of Cyrus the Great (SG)

After his father's death in 559 BCE, Cyrus the Great became king of Anshan but like his predecessors, Cyrus had to recognize Mede overlordship. In 552 BCE Cyrus led his armies against the Medes and captured Ecbatana in 549 BCE, effectively conquering the Median Empire and also inheriting Assyria. Cyrus later conquered Lydia and Babylon. Cyrus the Great created the Cyrus Cylinder, considered to be the first declaration of human rights and was the first king whose name has the suffix "Great". After Cyrus' death, his son Cambyses II ruled for seven years (531-522 BCE) and continued his father's work of conquest, making significant gains in Egypt. A power struggle followed Cambyses' death and, despite his tenuous connection to the royal line, Darius the Great was declared king (ruled 522-486 BCE).

Darius' first capital was at Susa, and he started the building programme at Persepolis. It is during his reign that mention is first made of the Royal Road, a great highway stretching all the way from Susa to Sardis with posting stations at regular intervals. The Old Persian language appears in royal inscriptions, written in a specially adapted version of cuneiform. Under Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great, the Persian Empire eventually became the largest empire in human history up until that point, ruling and administrating over most of the then known world.

In 499 BCE Athens lent support to a revolt in Miletus which resulted in the sacking of Sardis. This led to an Achaemenid campaign against Greece known as the Greco-Persian Wars which lasted the first half of the 5th century BCE. During the Greco-Persian wars Persia made some major advantages and razed Athens in 480 BCE. But after a string of Greek victories the Persians were forced to withdraw. Fighting ended with the peace of Callias in 449 BCE. In 404 BCE, following the death of Darius II, Egypt rebelled under Amyrtaeus. Later Egyptian Pharaohs successfully resisted Persian attempts to reconquer Egypt until 343 BC when Egypt was reconquered by Artaxerxes III of Persia.

In 334 BC-331 BCE Alexander the Great defeated Darius III in the battles of Granicus, Issus and Gaugamela, swiftly conquering the Persian Empire by 331 BCE. Alexander's empire broke up shortly after his death, and Alexander's general, Seleucus I Nicator, took control of Persia, Mesopotamia, and later Syria and Asia Minor. His ruling family is known as the Seleucid Dynasty. Greek language, philosophy, and art came with the colonists. During the Seleucid Dynasty throughout Alexander's former empire, Greek became the common tongue of diplomacy and literature.

The Seleucid empire was far from stable, as it was difficult to assert control over the vast eastern domains of the Seleucids. Diodotus, governor for the Bactrian territory, asserted independence in around 245 BCE, although the exact date is far from certain, to form the Greco-Bactrian kingdom. The Seleucid satrap of Parthia, named Andragoras, first claimed independence, in a parallel to the secession of his Bactrian neighbour. Soon after, however, a Parthian tribal chief called Arsaces took over the Parthian territory around 238 BCE to form the Arsacid Dynasty — the starting point of the powerful Parthian Empire.

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