The Persian Empire

Persian Empire
Little written evidence. Culture is viewed
through Greek records.
6th Century BCE – Persians created the largest
empire of its time
Located in western Iran
Recent archaeological discoveries and further
analysis of written material from within the
Persian empire has been used to supplement
and correct Greek sources
Persian Empire
Links western, southern, and central Asia.
This mediating position has had significant
effects on its history and development
Encompassed multiple ethnic groups and many
forms of social and political organization
Persian Empire
Persian society was split up into 3 occupational
classes. Warriors, were the dominant element.
Landowning aristocracy of which the king was
the most illustrious member. Magi, or priests,
were ritual specialists who supervised the
proper performance of sacrifices. Peasants, or
the common people, were village based farmers
and shepherds.
Persian Empire
Redrew the map of west Asia
Unified Persia
546 BCE defeated Lydia and Anatolia
539 BCE overthrew Neo-Babylonia
Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BCE and
showed respect to Babylonians by allowing
them to retain their native traditions. Was
this a good idea? Why or why not?
Persian Empire
Son of Cyrus
Explored Nubia and Libya
Cruel and a madman according to the
Practical and respectful according to the
Cambyses continued his father’s conquest and
exploration throughout the Middle East.
Would you believe the Greek or Egyptian
point of view? Why?
Persian Empire
Darius I
Distant relative
Seized the throne in 522 BCE and extended
Persian control as far eastward as the Indus
valley and westward into Europe
Considered the 2nd founder of the Persian
Empire after Cyrus because he created a
new organizational structure that was
maintained and remained through two
centuries of the empire’s existence
Persian Empire
Darius I (continued)
Divided the empire into 20 provinces, each
under the order of a Persian satrap, or
Began construction of Persepolis, the
ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire
Persian Empire
Satrap – Governor of provinces that were set up by
Darius I
Appointed position based on being related or
connected by marriage to the royal family
Tended to be a hereditary position
Satrap’s autonomy increased the further away
the province was from the empire
Collected and sent tribute to the king
The satrap was put into place to collect taxes and send
them to the king to maintain the empire. What
problems could arise? What effect did this have on the
Persian Empire (from
yesterday’s discussion)
Was there ever a satrap who rebelled against the king?
Darius I
Mixed his religious beliefs with his ideology to help
solidify his rule and his claim to authority
Persepolis was his large project to show off, but he was
responsible for building the infrastructure of the Persian
Empire. Roads, administrative buildings, etc. All were
examples of Persia’s advanced engineering technology
Made an attempt on Athens but failed, would be a
precursor of future conflicts between the two regions
Persian Empire
Son of Darius I
Completed construction of Persepolis
originally started by his father
King from 486-465 BCE
What is Xerxes best known for?
Persian Empire (review)
Quick review of what we need to know
King Cyrus the Great
King Darius the Great
Ahura Mazda
Persian Empire (review)
1. How did Cyrus and Darius administer their rule in the
Persian Empire?
2. How did the Persian Empire rise from its Iranian
homeland and spread to encompass diverse cultures?
3. Compare and contrast the Persian Empire and the
Religion of the Persian Empire under Darius I
Great god of the religion was Ahuramazda
World was created by Ahuramazda and the
original state of perfection and unity had
been badly damaged by the attacks of Angra
Mainyu, the hostile spirit
The struggle of good and evil plays out over
thousands of years with good ultimately
destined to prevail
Humans are participants in this cosmic
struggle and individuals are rewarded or
punished in the afterlife
Zoroastrianism (continued)
Monotheistic, high ethical standards for
humans, salvation, messiah
Believed to have strongly influenced later
religions such as Christianity and Judaism
Zoroastrianism influenced later
religions. How would a ruler benefit
from adopting this type of belief system?
How did followers of this type of belief
system benefit?
A document found at Persepolis, the magnificent ceremonial
center built by Darius and his son Xerxes, expands on the
qualities of an exemplary ruler. While it says it is the words of
Xerxes, it is almost an exact copy of an inscription of Darius
from nearby Naqsh-I Rustam, where Darius and other kings
were buried in monumental tombs.
“A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this excellent thing
which is seen, who created happiness for man, who set wisdom
and capability down upon King Xerxes.
Proclaims Xerxes the King: By the will of Ahuramazda I
am of such a sort, I am a friend of the right, of wrong I am not a
friend. It is not my wish that the weak should have harm done
him by the strong, nor is it my wish that the strong should have
harm done him by the weak.
The right, that is my desire. To the man who is a follower of the
lie I am no friend. I am not hot-tempered. Whatever befalls me
in battle, I hold firmly. I am ruling firmly my own will.
The man who is cooperative, according to his
cooperation thus I reward him. Who does harm, him according
to the harm I punish. It is not my wish that a man should do
harm; nor indeed is it my wish that if he does harm he should
not be punished.
What a man says against a man, that does not persuade
me, until I hear the sworn statements of both.
What a man does or performs, according to his ability,
by that I become satisfied with him, and it is much to my desire,
and I am well pleased, and I give much to loyal me.
Of such a sort are my understanding and my judgment:
if what has been done by me you see or hear of, both in the
palace and in the expeditionary camp, this is my capability over
will and understanding.
This indeed my capability: that my body is strong. As a
fighter of battles I am a good fighter of battles. Whenever with
my judgment in a place I determine whether I behold or do not
behold an enemy, both with understand and with judgment,
then I think prior to panic when I see an enemy as when I do
not see on.
I am skilled both in hands and in feet. A horseman, I
am a good horseman. A bowman, I am a good bowman, both
on foot and on horseback. A spearman, I am a good spearman,
both on foot and on horseback
These skills that Ahuramazda set down upon me, and
which I am strong enough to bear, by the will of Ahuramazda,
what was done by me, with these skills I did, which ahuramazda
set down upon me.
May Ahuramazda protect me and what was done by me.
Looking at the document of Xerxes from Persepolis,
what qualities are desirable in a ruler?
What is the Persian concept of justice?

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