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) conquered the MedianEmpire and began the development of the Achaemenid Empire, assimilating the neighboring Lydian and also Neo-Babylonian empires.Cyrus the great was thrived by his boy Cambryses II in 530 BCE and also then the usurper Gaumata, and finally by Darius the Great in 522 BCE.By the moment of Darius the great and his son, Xerxes, the Achaemenid realm had broadened to incorporate Mesopotamia,Egypt, Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, Macedonia, the west Indus basin, and parts of main Asia, north Arabia and also northern Libya.At that is height about 475 BCE, the Achaemenid realm ruled over 44% that the world’s population, the highest number for any empire in history.Key TermsCyrus the Great: Cyrus II the Persia, likewise known as Cyrus the Great, developed the largest realm the civilization had seen.Darius the Great: The third king the the Persian Achaemenid Empire, that ruled at its height from c. 522-486 BCE.Median Empire: among the four major powers that the old Near eastern (with Babylonia, Lydia, and Egypt), till it was overcame by Cyrus the an excellent in 550 BCE.Pasargadae: The capital 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 central Asia. The dynasty attracted its name from Achaemenes, who, indigenous 705-675 BCE, ruled Persis, which was land bounded top top the west by the Tigris River and on the southern by the Persian Gulf. It was the first central nation-state, and also during expansion in approximately 550-500 BCE, it ended up being the an initial global empire and eventually ruled over far-reaching portions the the old world.

Empire Beginnings

By the 7th century BCE, a team of ancient Iranian people had established the typical Empire, a vassal state under the Assyrian realm that later on tried to gain its freedom in the 8 hours century BCE. After Assyria fell in 605 BCE, Cyaxares, king that the Medes, prolonged his dominance west throughout 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 dominating the Medes to develop the very first Persian Empire, also known together the Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus utilized his tactical genius, and his expertise of the socio-political problems governing his territories, to ultimately assimilate the bordering Lydian and also Neo-Babylonian realms into the new Persian Empire.


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

Achaemenid Expansion

The empire was ruled by a collection of majesties who joined its disparate people by constructing a complex network of roads. The unified type of the realm came in the type of a central administration about the city the Pasargadae, which was erected by Cyrus c. 550 BCE. ~ his death in 530 BCE, Cyrus was succeeded by his kid Cambyses II, who dominated Egypt, Nubia, and also Cyrenaica in 525 BCE; he passed away in 522 BCE throughout a revolt.

During the king’s long absence 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 together Darius the Great, overthrew Gaumata and solidified regulate of the territories of the Achaemenid Empire, beginning what would certainly be a historic consolidation of lands.

Achaemenid realm in the time of Darius and Xerxes: in ~ its height, the Achaemenid empire ruled end 44% that the world’s population, the highest number for any type of 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 previously held by the Assyrian Empire, consisting of Mesopotamia, the Levant, and also Cyprus. That eventually came to control Egypt, as well. This expansion continued even further afield v Anatolia and the Armenian Plateau, much of the southerly Caucasus, Macedonia, parts of Greece and also Thrace, central Asia as far as the Aral Sea, the Oxus and also Jaxartes areas, the Hindu Kush and the west Indus basin, and also parts of northern Arabia and also northern Libya.

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

Government and Trade in the Achaemenid Empire

Emperors Cyrus II and Darius I created a centralized government and extensive trade network in the Achaemenid Empire.

Learning Objectives

Discuss just how the main government provided cultural and economic reform

Key Takeaways

Key PointsCyrus the Great maintained regulate over a substantial empire through installing local governors, referred to as satraps, to dominion individual provinces.When Darius the Great ascended the throne in 522 BCE, he arranged a brand-new uniform monetary mechanism andestablished Aramaic as the main language that the empire.Trade infrastructure facilitated the exchange of products in the much reaches the the empire, including the royal Road, standardization language, and a postal service.Tariffs on trade from the regions were one of the empire’s key sources of revenue, in enhancement to farming and tribute.Key TermsCyrus Cylinder: an ancient clay artifact that has been referred to as the oldest-known charter of human being rights.BehistunInscription: one inscription sculpted in a cliff challenge of mountain Behistrun in Iran; it detailed a an essential to deciphering picture writing script.satrapy: The are under the rule of a satrap.satrap: The governor of a district in the ancient Median and Achaemenid (Persian) Empires.

The Achaemenid empire reached huge size under the leadership of Cyrus II of Persia (576-530 BCE), typically known as Cyrus the Great, who created a multi-state empire. Called Cyrus the Elder through the Greeks, the founded realm initially comprising all the previous civilized claims of the ancient Near East and eventually most of Southwest and main Asia and the Caucus region, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea come the Indus River. Manage of this big territory affiliated a centralized government, territorial majesties who served as proxy rulers because that the emperor, and considerable system the commerce and trade.

Government Organization

Cyrus, whose rule lasted between 29 and also 31 years, until his fatality in battle in 530 BCE, managed the vast Achaemenid realm through the usage of local monarchs, called satrap, who each oversaw a territory referred to as a satrapy. The basic rule of administration was based top top the loyalty and obedience that the satrapy to the main power, the king, and also compliance with taxation laws. Cyrus additionally connected the various regions the the realm through an imaginative postal device that made usage of substantial roadway and relay stations.

Cyrus the an excellent was recognized for accomplishments in human rights and also politics, having influenced both Eastern and also Western Civilization. The old Babylonians referred to as him “The Liberator,” if the modern nation that Iran calls Cyrus the “father.”

Cyrus Cylinder

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

The cylinder days from the 6th century BCE, and also was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia, currently Iraq, in 1879. In enhancement to relenten the family tree of Cyrus, the explanation in Akkadian cuneiform script ~ above the cylinder is considered by plenty of Biblical scholars to be evidence of Cyrus’s policy of repatriation that the Jewish civilization following their captivity in Babylon.

The historical nature the the cylinder has actually been debated, v some scholars saying that Cyrus did not make a specific decree, however rather that the cylinder articulated his basic policy enabling exiles to return to their homelands and rebuild their temples.

In fact, the policies of Cyrus with respect to treatment of minority religious beliefs were well documented in Babylonian texts, as well as in Jewish sources. Cyrus was known to have actually an as whole attitude of religious tolerance throughout the empire, return it has been debated whether this to be by his own implementation or a extension of Babylonian and Assyrian policies.

Darius Improvements

When Darius ns (550-486 BCE), additionally known together Darius the Great, ascended the throne the the Achaemenid realm in 522 BCE, he developed Aramaic as the main language and devised a codification of regulations for Egypt. Darius additionally sponsored occupational on building and construction projects transparent the empire, focusing on innovation of the cities of Susa, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Babylon, and also various municipalities in Egypt.

When Darius relocated his resources from Pasargadae to Persepolis, he revolutionized the economic situation by placing it on a silver and gold coinage and introducing a regulated and also sustainable taxation system. This structure precisely tailored the counting of each satrapy based ~ above its projected productivity and also economic potential. Because that example, Babylon was assessed for the highest amount of silver taxes, if Egypt owed grain in addition to silver taxes.


Persian reliefs in the city the Persepolis: Darius the an excellent moved the capital of the Achaemenid realm to Persepolis c. 522 BCE. He initiated several major architectural projects, including the building of a palace and a treasure house.

Behistun Inscription

Sometime after ~ his coronation, Darius bespeak an inscription to be carved on a limestone cliff of mountain Behistun in modern Iran. The Behistun Inscription, the message of i beg your pardon Darius wrote, concerned have great linguistic meaning as a an important clue in deciphering cuneiform script.

The inscription begins by tracing the family tree of Darius, followed by a summary of a sequence of occasions following the deaths of the previous 2 Achaemenid emperors, Cyrus the great and Cyrus’s son, Cambyses II, in i beg your pardon Darius fought 19 battles in one year to put down plenty of rebellions transparent the Persian lands.

The inscription, i m sorry is about 15 meters high and also 25 meter wide, consists of three version of the text in 3 different cuneiform languages: Old Persian, Elamite and also Babylonian, which was a version of Akkadian. Researcher were maybe to to compare the scripts and use the to help decipher ancient languages, in this method making the Behistun engraving as an useful to picture writing as the Rosetta rock is come Egyptian hieroglyphs.


Behistun Inscription: A ar of the Behistun engraving on a limestone cliff of mountain Behistun in western Iran, which came to be a crucial in deciphering picture writing script.

Commerce and Trade

Under the Achaemenids, profession was extensive and there was an reliable infrastructure that helped with the exchange of assets in the much reaches that the empire. Tariffs on profession were among the empire’s key sources that revenue, in enhancement to agriculture and tribute.

The satrapies were linked by a 2,500-kilometer highway, the many impressive stretch the which was the imperial Road, native Susa to Sardis. The relays of an installed couriers could reach the many remote locations in 15 days. Despite the loved one local freedom afforded by the satrapy system, royal inspectors regularly toured the empire and reported ~ above local problems using this route.


Achaemenid golden bowl with lion imagery: trade in the Achaemenid empire was extensive. Infrastructure, consisting of the imperial Road, standardization language, and a postal organization facilitated the exchange of assets in the far reaches of the empire.


Cyrus the great created an organized army to enforce national authority, despite the ethno-cultural diversity among the subject nations, the empire’s massive geographic size, and the constant struggle for strength by regional competitors.

This professional military included the Immortals unit, consisting of 10,000 extremely trained hefty infantry. Under Darius the Great, Persia would end up being the an initial empire to inaugurate and also deploy an imperial navy, with personnel that had Phoenicians, Egyptians, Cypriots, and also Greeks.


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

Key Takeaways

Key PointsZoroastrianism is ascribed come the teachings of Zoroaster, an Iranian prophet, that worshiped Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), together its supreme Being.Leading characteristics, such as messianism, heaven and hell, and totally free will are claimed to have influenced other religious systems, including 2nd Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Islam.Zoroastrianism offered as the state faith of the pre-Islamic Iranian empires from c. 600 BCE to 650 CE, but saw a steep decline after the Muslim occupation of Persia.The religious beliefs states that energetic participation in life through an excellent deeds is important to ensure happiness and also to store chaos at bay.Key TermsSassanids: The critical Iranian empire before the climb of Islam.Gnosticism: A modern-day term categorizing a repertoire of old religions who adherents shunned the material world—which they perceived as created by the demiurge—and taken on the spiritual world.messianism: The id in a messiah, that acts as a savior, redeemer or liberator of a team of people.eschatological: A component of theology concerned with the final occasions of history, or the ultimate destiny the humanity, regularly referred to together the “end times.”

Overview and also Theology

Zoroastrianism is among the world’s oldest religions. That ascribed come the teachings the the Iranian prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra), and also exalted their deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), together its supreme Being. Leading characteristics, such as messianism, heaven and also hell, and totally free will are said to have influenced other spiritual systems, including 2nd Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and also Islam. With possible roots dating ago to the second millennium BCE, Zoroastrianism beginning recorded history in the 5th-century BCE. It served as the state faith of the pre-Islamic Iranian empires from about 600 BCE to 650 CE. Zoroastrianism to be suppressed native the 7th century onwards, complying with the Muslim occupation of Persia. Recent approximates place the current variety of Zoroastrians at about 2.6 million, with most living in India and Iran.

The most vital texts the the faith are those the the Avesta, which includes the writings of Zoroaster, known as the Gathas and 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 handle the divine being is: Ahura, The lord Creator, and Mazda, Supremely Wise. The proclaimed that there is only one God, the singularly an innovative and sustaining force of the Universe. He also stated that humans are offered a ideal of choice, and also because of cause and effect are also responsible for the aftermath of their choices. The contesting pressure to Ahura Mazda was referred to as Angra Mainyu, or upset spirit. Post-Zoroastrian scripture presented the principle of Ahriman, the Devil, i beg your pardon was effectively a personification of Angra Mainyu.

In Zoroastrianism, water (apo, aban) and also fire (atar, azar) are agents of ritual purity, and also the associated purification ceremonies are thought about the communication of ritual life. In Zoroastrian cosmogony, water and fire space respectively the 2nd and critical primordial aspects to have been created, and also 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 of a fire temple. Zoroastrians generally pray in the existence of some kind of fire (which have the right to be considered noticeable in any resource of light), and the finishing rite the the principle act of prayer constitutes a “strengthening the the waters.” Fire is considered a medium through which spirituality insight and wisdom is gained, and also water is considered the resource of that wisdom.

The religion states that energetic participation in life through great deeds is essential to ensure happiness and also to store chaos in ~ bay. This energetic participation is a central element in Zoroaster’s principle of cost-free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism. Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail over the evil Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, at which suggest the world will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls that the dead the were initially banished come “darkness”—will be reunited in Ahura Mazda, returning to life in the undead form. In ~ the finish of time, a savior-figure (a Saoshyant) will bring around a last renovation that the people (frashokereti), in i beg your pardon the dead will be revived.


Zoroastrian Priest: Painted clay and 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 are thought to have arised from a common prehistoric Indo-Iranian religious system dating earlier to the early second millennium BCE. The prophet Zoroaster himself, though traditionally dated to the sixth century BCE, is assumed by many modern-day historians to have actually been a reformer that the polytheistic Iranian faith who lived in the 10th century BCE. Zoroastrianism together a faith was no firmly developed until number of centuries later. Zoroastrianism enters recorded background in the mid-5th century BCE. Herodotus’ The Histories (completed c. 440 BCE) has a summary of better Iranian culture with what might be recognizably Zoroastrian features, including exposure of the dead.

The Histories is a primary resource of info on the early period of the Achaemenid era (648-330 BCE), in specific with respect to the role of the Magi. Follow to Herodotus i.101, the Magi were the 6th tribe that the Medians (until the marriage of the Persian realm under Cyrus the Great, every Iranians were described as “Mede” or “Mada” through the individuals of the old World). The Magi show up to have been the priestly caste the the Mesopotamian-influenced branch the Zoroastrianism today well-known as Zurvanism, and also they wielded considerable influence at the court of the typical emperors.

Darius I, and later Achaemenid emperors, recognized their devotion to Ahura Mazda in engravings (as attested to several times in the Behistun inscription), and also appear come have continued the design of coexistence with other religions. Even if it is Darius to be a follower of Zoroaster has not been conclusively established, because devotion come Ahura Mazda to be (at the time) no necessarily one indication of an follow to Zoroaster’s teaching. A variety of the Zoroastrian messages that this particular day are part of the greater compendium of the Avesta have been deadline to that period.

The religion would be professed countless centuries following the death of the Achaemenids in mainland Persia and the core regions of the former Achaemenid Empire—most significantly Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus. In the Cappadocian kingdom (whose territory was previously an Achaemenid possession), Persian colonists who were reduced off from your co-religionists in Iran ideal continued to practice the Zoroastrianism of your forefathers. There, Strabo, observing in the first century BCE, records that these “fire kindlers” possessed countless “holy locations of the Persian Gods,” as well as fire temples. Strabo in addition relates, that they to be “noteworthy enclosures; and also in their middle there is an altar, top top which over there is a large quantity that ashes and where the magi store the fire ever burning.” Throughout, and also after, the Hellenistic periods in the previously mentioned regions, the religion would be strong revived.

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As late as the Parthian period, a kind of Zoroastrianism to be without a doubt the dominant religion in the Armenian lands. The Sassanids aggressively supported the Zurvanite form of Zoroastrianism, often structure fire holy places in caught territories to encourage the religion. During the period of your centuries long suzerainty over the Caucasus, the Sassanids made attempts to encourage Zoroastrianism there with considerable successes. It was also prominent in the pre-Christian Caucasus (especially modern-day Azerbaijan).