The Achaemenid Empire

Under Cyrus the an excellent and Darius the Great, the Achaemenid Empire ended up being the first global empire.

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Key Takeaways

Key PointsAround 550 BCE, Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) dominated the MedianEmpire and began the expansion of the Achaemenid Empire, assimilating the surrounding Lydian and also Neo-Babylonian empires.Cyrus the good was flourished by his boy Cambryses II in 530 BCE and then the usurper Gaumata, and also finally by Darius the Great in 522 BCE.By the moment of Darius the good and his son, Xerxes, the Achaemenid realm had expanded to include Mesopotamia,Egypt, Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, Macedonia, the west Indus basin, and also parts of main Asia, north Arabia and northern Libya.At that is height approximately 475 BCE, the Achaemenid empire ruled over 44% of the world’s population, the highest number for any type of empire in history.Key TermsCyrus the Great: Cyrus II that Persia, additionally known together Cyrus the Great, produced the largest realm the world had seen.Darius the Great: The 3rd king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, that ruled at its top from c. 522-486 BCE.Median Empire: among the four significant powers of the ancient Near east (with Babylonia, Lydia, and Egypt), till it was dominated by Cyrus the good in 550 BCE.Pasargadae: The resources of the Achaemenid realm under Cyrus the Great.

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

Empire Beginnings

By the 7th century BCE, a group of old Iranian people had established the mean Empire, a vassal state under the Assyrian empire that later on tried to obtain its self-reliance in the 8th century BCE. After Assyria dropped in 605 BCE, Cyaxares, king the the Medes, expanded his rule west across Iran.

Around 550 BCE, Cyrus II the Persia, who ended up being known together Cyrus the Great, increased in rebellion versus the average Empire, eventually overcoming the Medes to produce the very first Persian Empire, additionally known together the Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus utilized his tactical genius, and his expertise of the socio-political conditions governing his territories, to ultimately assimilate the bordering Lydian and also Neo-Babylonian empires into the brand-new Persian Empire.


Relief of Cyrus the Great: Cyrus II the Persia, far better known together Cyrus the Great, to be the founder the the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire assimilated every the civilized claims of the ancient Near East, and eventually conquered most the Southwest Asia and also much of main Asia and the Caucasus.

Achaemenid Expansion

The empire was rule by a collection of monarchs who join its disparate people by constructing a complex network of roads. The unified form of the realm came in the form of a central administration around the city the Pasargadae, i beg your pardon was set up by Cyrus c. 550 BCE. After ~ his death in 530 BCE, Cyrus was thrived by his son Cambyses II, who conquered Egypt, Nubia, and Cyrenaica in 525 BCE; he died in 522 BCE during a revolt.

During the king’s long lack during his expansion campaign, a Zoarastrian priest, named Guamata, staged a coup by impersonating Cambryses II’s younger brother, Bardiya, and also seized the throne. Yet in 522 BCE, Darius I, likewise known as Darius the Great, overthrew Gaumata and solidified manage of the areas of the Achaemenid Empire, beginning what would certainly be a historic consolidation of lands.

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

Between c. 500-400 BCE, Darius the good and his son, Xerxe I, rule the Persian Plateau and every one of the territories formerly held by the Assyrian Empire, consisting of Mesopotamia, the Levant, and also Cyprus. That eventually pertained to control Egypt, together well. This expansion continued even further afield v Anatolia and also the Armenian Plateau, much of the southerly Caucasus, Macedonia, components of Greece and also Thrace, central Asia as far as the Aral Sea, the Oxus and also Jaxartes areas, the Hindu Kush and also the western Indus basin, and parts of north Arabia and also northern Libya.

This unprecedented area of control under a single ruler stretched from the Indus valley in the east to Thrace and also Macedon top top the northeastern border that Greece. At its height, the Achaemenid empire ruled over 44% that the world’s population, the highest possible such figure for any empire in history.

Government and also Trade in the Achaemenid Empire

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

Learning Objectives

Discuss just how the main government provided social and financial reform

Key Takeaways

Key PointsCyrus the Great maintained manage over a substantial empire by installing regional governors, dubbed satraps, to ascendancy individual provinces.When Darius the Great ascended the throne in 522 BCE, he organized a new uniform monetary system andestablished Aramaic as the main language of the empire.Trade infrastructure assisted in the exchange of assets in the far reaches of the empire, consisting of the imperial Road, standardized language, and also a postal service.Tariffs on trade from the territories were among the empire’s main sources the revenue, in enhancement to farming and tribute.Key TermsCyrus Cylinder: an old clay artifact that has been called the oldest-known charter of human rights.BehistunInscription: an inscription carved in a cliff confront of mountain Behistrun in Iran; it noted a an essential to deciphering picture writing script.satrapy: The are under the rule of a satrap.satrap: The governor of a province in the ancient Median and Achaemenid (Persian) Empires.

The Achaemenid realm reached huge size under the management of Cyrus II that Persia (576-530 BCE), frequently known together Cyrus the Great, who created a multi-state empire. Referred to as Cyrus the Elder through the Greeks, that founded realm initially consisting of all the previous civilized claims of the ancient Near East and eventually many of Southwest and central Asia and the Caucus region, extending from the Mediterranean Sea come the Indus River. Control of this huge territory affiliated a central government, territorial emperors who served as proxy rulers for the emperor, and an extensive system of commerce and also trade.

Government Organization

Cyrus, whose dominion lasted in between 29 and also 31 years, till his death in fight in 530 BCE, regulated the large Achaemenid realm through the use of local monarchs, dubbed satrap, that each looked after a territory referred to as a satrapy. The basic rule of governance was based upon the loyalty and obedience of the satrapy to the main power, the king, and compliance with taxation laws. Cyrus additionally connected the miscellaneous regions that the realm through an innovative postal mechanism that made usage of an extensive roadway and also relay stations.

Cyrus the an excellent was well-known for achievements in human being rights and politics, having actually influenced both Eastern and also Western Civilization. The ancient Babylonians called him “The Liberator,” if the modern nation that Iran call Cyrus that is “father.”

Cyrus Cylinder

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

The cylinder dates from the sixth century BCE, and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia, now Iraq, in 1879. In enhancement to describing the ancestry of Cyrus, the declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script ~ above the cylinder is considered by many Biblical scholar to be evidence of Cyrus’s policy of repatriation that the Jewish human being following their bondage in Babylon.

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

In fact, the policies of Cyrus through respect to therapy of minority religious beliefs were well recorded in Babylonian texts, and also in Jewish sources. Cyrus was recognized to have an in its entirety attitude of spiritual tolerance transparent the empire, return it has been disputed whether this to be by his very own implementation or a continuation of Babylonian and Assyrian policies.

Darius Improvements

When Darius i (550-486 BCE), likewise known as Darius the Great, ascended the throne of the Achaemenid empire in 522 BCE, he created Aramaic together the main language and devised a codification of regulations for Egypt. Darius likewise sponsored work-related on building and construction projects transparent the empire, focusing on development of the cities of Susa, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Babylon, and various municipalities in Egypt.

When Darius moved his funding from Pasargadae to Persepolis, he changed the economic climate by placing the on a silver and also gold coinage and also introducing a regulated and sustainable taxes system. This structure specifically tailored the counting of every satrapy based top top its projected productivity and also economic potential. Because that example, Babylon was assessed for the highest possible amount of silver- taxes, while Egypt fan grain in enhancement to silver taxes.


Persian reliefs in the city the Persepolis: Darius the an excellent moved the capital of the Achaemenid empire to Persepolis c. 522 BCE. That initiated several significant architectural projects, including the construction of a palace and a treasure house.

Behistun Inscription

Sometime after ~ his coronation, Darius bespeak an inscription to be sculpted on a limestone cliff of mount Behistun in modern-day Iran. The Behistun Inscription, the message of i m sorry Darius wrote, concerned have good linguistic significance as a an essential clue in deciphering cuneiform script.

The inscription starts by tracing the ancestry of Darius, adhered to by a description of a succession of occasions following the deaths the the previous two Achaemenid emperors, Cyrus the good and Cyrus’s son, Cambyses II, in i m sorry Darius battled 19 battles in one year to put down plenty of rebellions transparent the Persian lands.

The inscription, i beg your pardon is around 15 meters high and 25 meters wide, contains three versions of the message in 3 different picture writing languages: Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian, which to be a variation of Akkadian. Researchers were able to compare the scripts and use that to assist decipher ancient languages, in this means making the Behistun engraving as an useful to picture writing as the Rosetta rock is to Egyptian hieroglyphs.


Behistun Inscription: A section of the Behistun inscription on a limestone cliff of mount Behistun in west Iran, which ended up being a an essential in deciphering picture writing script.

Commerce and also Trade

Under the Achaemenids, trade was extensive and also there was an effective infrastructure that assisted in the exchange of products in the far reaches that the empire. Tariffs on trade were among the empire’s key sources the revenue, in addition to agriculture and tribute.

The satrapies were linked by a 2,500-kilometer highway, the many impressive stretch of which was the imperial Road, from Susa come Sardis. The relays of mounted couriers might reach the many remote locations in 15 days. Despite the relative local self-reliance afforded through the satrapy system, royal assessors regularly toured the empire and also reported on local problems using this route.


Achaemenid golden bowl with lion imagery: trade in the Achaemenid empire was extensive. Infrastructure, including the royal Road, standardization language, and also a postal business facilitated the exchange of assets in the far reaches that the empire.


Cyrus the good created an organized military to enforce nationwide authority, regardless of the ethno-cultural diversity among the subject nations, the empire’s massive geographic size, and also the consistent struggle for power by local competitors.

This professional military included the Immortals unit, consisting of 10,000 extremely trained heavy infantry. Under Darius the Great, Persia would end up being the very first empire come inaugurate and also deploy an imperial navy, v personnel that contained Phoenicians, Egyptians, Cypriots, and Greeks.


Zoroastrianism, an old Persian religion, had actually a significant influence on the culture and faith of all various other monotheistic religions in the region.

Key Takeaways

Key PointsZoroastrianism is ascribed to the teachings of Zoroaster, an Iranian prophet, that worshiped Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), as its supreme Being.Leading characteristics, such as messianism, heaven and hell, and complimentary will are said to have influenced other spiritual systems, including 2nd Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and also Islam.Zoroastrianism served as the state faith of the pre-Islamic Iranian realms from c. 600 BCE come 650 CE, yet saw a steep decline after the Muslim conquest of Persia.The religion states that energetic participation in life through an excellent deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to save chaos at bay.Key TermsSassanids: The last Iranian empire before the climb of Islam.Gnosticism: A contemporary term categorizing a repertoire of old religions who adherents shunned the material world—which they perceived as produced by the demiurge—and adopted the spirituality world.messianism: The belief in a messiah, who acts together a savior, redeemer or liberator that a group of people.eschatological: A component of theology involved with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny the humanity, regularly referred to together the “end times.”

Overview and also Theology

Zoroastrianism is just one of the world’s oldest religions. It ascribed come the teachings that the Iranian prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra), and exalted their divine being of wisdom, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), together its can be fried Being. Top characteristics, such as messianism, heaven and hell, and totally free will are claimed to have influenced other religious systems, including second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and also Islam. With feasible roots dating earlier to the second millennium BCE, Zoroastrianism start recorded background in the 5th-century BCE. It served as the state religion of the pre-Islamic Iranian realms from approximately 600 BCE to 650 CE. Zoroastrianism to be suppressed native the 7th century onwards, adhering to the Muslim occupation of Persia. Recent approximates place the current number of Zoroastrians at roughly 2.6 million, with many living in India and also Iran.

The most important texts of the religion are those that the Avesta, which includes the works of Zoroaster, recognized as the Gathas and also the Yasna. The Gathas room enigmatic poems that define the religion’s precepts, if the Yasna is the scripture. The complete name through which Zoroaster addressed the deity is: Ahura, The lord Creator, and Mazda, Supremely Wise. The proclaimed that there is just one God, the singularly an imaginative and sustaining force of the Universe. He likewise stated that humans are provided a ideal of choice, and because the cause and effect are additionally responsible because that the consequences of their choices. The contesting force to Ahura Mazda was referred to as Angra Mainyu, or upset spirit. Post-Zoroastrian scripture introduced the principle of Ahriman, the Devil, which was efficiently a personification of Angra Mainyu.

In Zoroastrianism, water (apo, aban) and also fire (atar, azar) are agents of ritual purity, and the connected purification ceremonies are considered the communication of ritual life. In Zoroastrian cosmogony, water and also fire are respectively the 2nd and last primordial facets to have actually been created, and scripture considers fire to have actually its beginning in the waters. Both water and also fire are taken into consideration life-sustaining, and also both water and also fire are represented within the precinct that a fire temple. Zoroastrians generally pray in the visibility of some type of fire (which can be considered obvious in any source of light), and also the culminating rite the the principle act of prayer constitutes a “strengthening that the waters.” Fire is taken into consideration a tool through which spiritual insight and wisdom is gained, and also water is considered the resource of the wisdom.

The religion states that active participation in life through good deeds is essential to ensure happiness and also to save chaos at bay. This energetic participation is a main element in Zoroaster’s principle of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all develops of monasticism. Ahura Mazda will at some point prevail over the evil Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, at which point the cosmos will experience a cosmic renovation and also 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. At the finish of time, a savior-figure (a Saoshyant) will bring around a final renovation of the human being (frashokereti), in i m sorry the dead will be revived.


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


The roots of Zoroastrianism room thought come have arised from a common prehistoric Indo-Iranian religious system dating earlier to the early second millennium BCE. The prophet Zoroaster himself, despite traditionally date to the sixth century BCE, is assumed by many modern historians to have been a reformer the the polytheistic Iranian religious beliefs who resided in the 10th century BCE. Zoroastrianism together a religious beliefs was not firmly created until several centuries later. Zoroastrianism enters recorded history in the mid-5th century BCE. Herodotus’ The Histories (completed c. 440 BCE) consists of a summary of better Iranian culture with what might be recognizably Zoroastrian features, consisting of exposure that the dead.

The Histories is a primary source of info on the early duration of the Achaemenid era (648-330 BCE), in particular with respect come the duty of the Magi. Follow to Herodotus i.101, the Magi to be the sixth tribe of the Medians (until the marriage of the Persian empire under Cyrus the Great, all Iranians were referred to as “Mede” or “Mada” by the individuals of the old World). The Magi show up to have actually been the priestly caste the the Mesopotamian-influenced branch of Zoroastrianism today well-known as Zurvanism, and also they wielded significant influence in ~ the courts of the mean emperors.

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

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

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As late as the Parthian period, a type of Zoroastrianism was without a doubt the dominant religion in the Armenian lands. The Sassanids aggressively promoted the Zurvanite form of Zoroastrianism, often structure fire temples in captured territories to encourage the religion. Throughout the duration of their centuries lengthy suzerainty end the Caucasus, the Sassanids do attempts to promote Zoroastrianism over there with substantial successes. It was additionally prominent in the pre-Christian Caucasus (especially modern-day Azerbaijan).