The Persian Empire

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Similar to the Roman Empire the Persian Empire stretched across vast lands without any serious rivalry. At the height of the empire it stretched across, not only, Asia, from the Aegean to the Indus River, but also included part of the continent of Africa. We get the word, Persia, from the Greek word Parsa meaning, “Above reproach”. The Persians unlike most other Empires would be ruled under a benevolent ruler. This would bring a large amount of cultural diffusion to the Empire. The empires history is separated into three historical periods: Old Persia (600-300 B.C.E), Middle Persia (300-800 B.C.E.) and modern Persia (800-Present). The height or the Empire was reached around 500 B.C.E. (Ancient and Medieval History Online.)

The rise of the Persian Empire began with Cyrus II in the 6th century B.C.E. Cyrus was the first king to control such a large empire without any serious rivals, as mentioned before. The kings of Persia were from the Achaemenids family. Cyrus overthrew his king’s man, Astyages, king of the Medes, in 550 B.C.E., with the Median nobles. The median kingdom was founded by Deioces. The Medes’ kingdom stretched from the black sea to Afghanistan. Four years after his conquering of the Medes Cyrus claimed the title “king of Persia”. Later he also became Cyrus “The Great”. Cyrus immediately began to start his campaign of imperial expansion. The first kingdom he overtook was the Lydian kingdom in western Anatolia. He captured the Lydian king, Croesus, in 546 B.C.E. (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition) Most of the Greek cities in Anatolia surrendered after the Persian Empire laid siege on the cities. (Sacks, 2005.) After conquering these cities, Cyrus began to focus on Babylon. The Babylonian king, Nabonidus, was not favored in Babylon. This made for a very quick and easy victory. Babylon fell in 539 B.C.E. and allowed Cyrus control over the whole Middle East. The People of the Persian Empire were very acceptant of Cyrus’ rule. This was because Cyrus believed in a benevolent or nice rule. After conquering a kingdom he did not enslave the people he ruled. He would allow the king to stay and lead and the people kept their religious beliefs and all of their customs. His only conditions were that he be recognized as “King of All Kings” and that the city-state paid him tribute. Paying Tribute is similar to the modern worlds taxpaying. These conditions were seldom ever disobeyed because, unlike most, a king got to keep his life as a king and would have some reassurance that he and his kingdom were safe. (Stokes, 2009) We can see evidence of his benevolence toward the people of Persia in a document on a clay cylinder. The document is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform and it is about his conquest of Babylon and capture of Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king. He tells of his help from the Babylonian god, Marduk, and of how he returned a number of images to their rightful temples throughout Mesopotamia. He also restored these temples and organized the return of the people to their original countries. (British Museum) The document reads the following: “Marduk, the great lord, bestowed on me as my destiny the great magnanimity of one who loves Babylon, and I every day sought him out in awe. My vast troops marched peaceably in Babylon, and the whole of Sumer and Akkad had nothing to fear. I sought the welfare of the city of Babylon and all its sanctuaries. As for the population of Babylon …, who as if without divine intention had endured a yoke not decreed for them, I soothed their weariness; I freed them from their bonds. Marduk, the great lord, rejoiced at my good deeds, and he pronounced a sweet blessing over me, Cyrus, the king who fears him, and over Cambyses, the son my issue, and over my all my troops, that we might proceed further at his exalted command.” *(British Museum) The Jews are not mentioned in this source, but he had a great influence on them. So great, they decided to include...
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