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