The Progression of the Achaemenid Empire

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Midterm Paper

II. Cyrus the Great established the Achaemenids, Cambyses expanded it, while Darius organized and brought a system to the empire. Finally Alexander conquered the Achaemenid Empire. Discuss the progression of the Achaemenid Empire during the rule of each of the mentioned kings in terms of military, political, religious and ideological trends. How did Alexander continue or break with this tradition? What were their accomplishments and failures?

The progression of the Achaemenid Empire depends on what each ruler succeeded to do during his reign. Cyrus the great established the Empire, Cambyses expanded it and Darius organized it and brought a system in place. Alexander the Great lacking a religious perspective merely wanted to expand the empire as much as possible during a crucial time when the Empire needed to be stabilized. Though there are similarities between these different rulers, Alexander fails to bring stability, which was crucial during his reign, in order for the Achaemenid Empire to continue to progress and thrive.

After the Medo-Persian union of Cambyses I (Persian) and Mandana (Median), the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire is set in motion when Cyrus the Great rises up against the Median ruler and also his grandfather, Astyages. The political tension occurring after Cyrus’s conquest against his grandfather gives Cyrus an advantage at establishing the Achaemenid Empire furthermore. During this time when the Jews are exiled to Babylon and the Babylonians are dissatisfied with their king Nabonaidus, Cyrus steps into the picture and eases the tension.

In order to understand how Cyrus began to establish the Achaemenid Empire, we must first look at evidence from the Bible to understand the type of ruler he was. The Bible states in Ezra 1.1-1.4: (1.1) In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and put it in writing: (1.2) This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: The Lord, the God of Heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. (1.3) Anyone of his people among you- may his God be with him, and let the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. (1.4) And the people of any place where they may still be living are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem (Lecture III). Here we can see how Cyrus as a great ruler becomes like a loyal friend to the Jews and allows them to build their temple. We can also see that as a ruler how much respect Cyrus has towards other people and does not view himself as an selfish and omnipotent ruler. Instead Cyrus is a great ruler of all these kingdoms because God has appointed him to be so.

Other political tension that took place was in Babylon. The Babylonians were dissatisfied with their king Nabonaidus because he “alleged to have stopped the required offerings at the Esagila, made unsuitable religious reforms and neglected the gods of Babylonia, ‘whose dwelling-places were in ruins’” (Allen 27). This allowed Cyrus a great opportunity to come into Babylon and conquer it when their present king was neglecting the kingdom and most importantly their Gods and religion.

When Cyrus defeated the Babylonian army he became successor to the Mesopotamian rulers. Cyrus made agreements with Babylonian priests and began to restore their religion. He restored the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and released the exiled Jews. He also sent back gods of people taken to Babylon, and restored the ruined gates, temples, etc (Lecture III). Thankfully, we are left with artifacts such as the Cyrus cylinder, which states the deeds of Cyrus but also demonstrates the legitimacy of his monarchy that he wanted to be known for. Allen states in her book “the Cyrus Cylinder text is...
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