Achaemenid Empire B

Cyrus the Great was the first important Achaemenid ruler. By the time he became king, Persia was already a large domain, but Cyrus aspired to nothing less than the conquest of the entire known world. In a campaign that lasted for less than two years, he took Elam, Media, Lydia, and several Greek cities on the Ionian coast. Having strengthened his power, Cyrus besieged and captured Babylon and released the Jews who had been held captive there, thus earning immortality in the Book of Isaiah. His territories in the east also were great and stretched as far as the Hindu Kush in present-day Afghanistan. Cyrus was a world conqueror unlike any other. Not only Persians but even Greeks held him in the sentiments of esteem and even awe, and it was no accident that Xenophon praised Cyrus as an ideal monarch. Cyrus died in battle, while putting down a revolt, and was buried in Pasargadae, the capital he had founded. Cyrus's son and successor, Cambyses II, was less successful. However, he managed to invade Egypt and create the dynasty of Persian kings there. He was killed (or died of a self-inflicted wound) during a revolt led by a priest, Gaumata, who held the throne until overthrown by a member of a collateral branch of the Achaemenid family, Darius I. Darius I, another "Great" of the Achaemenid dynasty, finished Cyrus's incomplete job of invasion, having conquered Northern India and some parts of Greece, as well as the whole of Asia Minor and parts of southern

Sitting on a royal throne in Europe He also recaptured rersepolis, the magnificent r t , city he had expanded. Egypt, where he ordered a canal Xerxes I grasps the royal to t>e (W between the Red and scepter in his right hand. In < , , ,. r his left, he holds a lotus the Mediterranean seas, a fore-h/ossom, symbol of royalty runner of Suez. He even ven-

Important Achaemenid Kings:

Cyrus II, The Great - 559-530 BC Cambysus II - 530-522 BC Darius I, The Great - 522-486 BC Xerxes I - 486-465 BC Artaxerxes I - 465-425 BC Darius III - 336-330 BC

c. 559 BC - Croesus, king of Lydia, invents metal coinage 550 BC - Persian Empire, the first major Indo-European power, is established by Cyrus the Great 549 BC - Armenia becomes a Persian satrapy after 63 years under the kings of Media 546 BC - Cyrus defeats Croesus 539 BC - Cyrus conquers Babylon and Syria

Cyrus's Mausoleum in Pasargadae is an early example of Achaemenid monumental art (photo by Naser Mizbani).

528 BC - Buddhism has its beginnings in India

525 BC - Cambysus conquers Egypt; he learns that his throne has been usurped by a "false Smerdis" (called by Darius Gaumata, a Magian priest from Media) and dies en route home from Egypt 521 BC - "False Smerdis" is killed in battle by Darius I 500 BC - Beginning of Persepolis's construction 495 BC - Confucian teaching is spread in China

490-479 BC - Persian-Greek wars 490 BC - Battle of Marathon, won by the Greeks

481 BC- Persian victory over the Spartans at Thermopylae; Xerxes conquers Athens and sets lire to the Parthenon

480-479 BC - Battles of Salamis and Plataea, won by the Greeks

449 BC - Herodotus writes his Histoiy

333 BC - The Battle of Issus is won by Alexander the Great over the Persians

331 BC - The Battle of Arbela (Gaugamela) in northern Mesopotamia gives Alexander the Great another victory over Darius III 330 BC -Darius III is murdered by his satrap Bessus

The so-called Oxus Treasure comprises about 170 items, mostly dating from the 5th and 4th centuries BC. The gold ringlet with griffins is one of the most spectacular pieces of this collection. Ringlets were considered a prestige gift at the Persian court.

Gold Susa Louvre

In a watercolor painted in 1913 by French architect and archaeologist Maurice Pillet, Darius I leads a procession into his palace at Susa. Susa was always the pride of the Elamites and later the Persians, a city that stood for 5000 years until totally sacked and razed by the Mongols.

In a watercolor painted in 1913 by French architect and archaeologist Maurice Pillet, Darius I leads a procession into his palace at Susa. Susa was always the pride of the Elamites and later the Persians, a city that stood for 5000 years until totally sacked and razed by the Mongols.

A golden bowl from the Achaemenid period features a cuneiform inscription in Old Persian, saying

"Khashayarsha [Xerxes], the King yy

Achaemenid Empire SymbolEsfahan Iran Turquoise CraftSusa Persia

Earrings inlaid with turquoise and lapis lazuli and similar in design to this pair from Susa were common during the Achaemenid period; they were worn by both men and women (now in the Louvre).

330 BC - Alexander becomes master of the Persian Empire and destroys Persepolis 323 BC - Alexander dies at age 32, and a 42-year struggle begins that will be called the Wars of the Diadochi (successors) 317 BC - Armenia's Persian satrap Ardvates frees his country from Seleucid control

310 BC - Cassander, Macedonian ruler, has Roxana, widow of the late Alexander the Great, put to death along with her young son, Alexander IV

245 BC - Babylon and Susa fall to the Egyptian armies of Ptolemy III

Important Seleucid Kings:

Seleucus I Nicator - 312-281 BC

Antiochus I Soter - 281-261 BC

Antiochus II Theos - 261-

The statuete of Zeus

(today in the National Museum in Tehran) exhibits direct Greek influence in Persian art.

Seleucid Empire Art

tured to the northern Black Sea region, but was thrown back by the Scythians. Darius also attacked the Greek mainland, but as a result of his defeat at the Battle of Marathon was forced to retract the limits of the empire to Asia Minor. Despite this defeat, Darius's empire was the largest the world had ever known, and administering such a gigantic land was quite a challenge. Maybe not a great army general, Darius was certainly the greatest of politicians. One of his amazing achievements was creating the world's first highway network. The stone-paved Royal Road, 2,703 km (1,679 miles) long, ran from the empire's winter capital at Susa to Ionian Ephesus on the Mediterranean and had 111 stations. Darius is also credited for the introduction of the world's first postal system (band). He coined money (darik), established the institution of political marriage, appointed royal inspectors to be aware of state affairs, and was the first ruler to ask for sons and heirs of the defeated kings as hostages and guarantors of their fathers' loyalty. Other accomplishments of Darius's reign included the codification of data, a universal legal system upon which much of later Iranian law was based, and the construction of a new capital at Persepolis. Trade was extensive and, as a result of this commercial activity, Persian words for typical items of trade became prevalent throughout the Middle East and eventually entered Western languages. Examples in English are bazaar, shawl, tiara, orange, lemon, peach, 'chalcedony'Though rarely repre-spinach, and asparagus. sented in Achaemenid palaces and

Alter Darius tne ureat and smaller artistic renderings.

his successor Xerxes, the

Achaemenid power started to decline. The last Achaemenid king, Darius III, was overthrown by Alexander the H Great. In 330 BC, the 26-year-old

Macedonian conqueror set fire to Persepolis and put a full stop to the Achaemenid rule.

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