Persian Empire: How It Came To Be - History 231 - Research Paper

1616 words - 7 pages

Janusz 6
Wilmer Janusz
Professor Riss
Western Civilization 1
October 13, 2017
Persia: The Empire No One Liked
The Persian Empire is estimated to have been around 539-404 B.C. The Persians are related to the Medes and both share very similar lifestyles. The Persians spoke in an Indo-Europeans language, as did the Medes. They both were nomadic, used their land to let animals graze, were organized as clans, ruled by kings, and had both free and unfree people within their population. They had craftsmen, laborers, farmers, and slaves. Around 735 B.C. the Medes had organized themselves under a monarchy, becoming unified. The Persians did as well under the Achaemenid dynasty in southern Iran. The Medes, fiftyish years later, made the Persians subject to them which in turn created a powerful empire. With this new force, they joined the attack on Assyria with the help of the Babylonians. They then defeated Nineveh and King Cyaxares established the Median Empire.
The start of one of the greatest empires in the history of the ancient world started with Cyrus the Great. He, in 559 B.C., led a revolt against the Medes. He used his offensive knowledge wisely and managed to assert Persian control in Media, an important region of the Mede Empire. Cyrus made Media the first Persian province, satrapy, and then he went on to defeat the Lydian kingdom in Asia Minor and made another satrapy. He then moved his army and went on to conquer the Greek city-states on the Ionian coast also in Asia Minor. After that, he went towards the east and defeated the eastern part of Iran. In 539 B.C., Cyrus went into Mesopotamia and took over Babylon. His treatment of Babylon was well restrained. In fact he has a reputation for being less cruel than other kings of the time, like the Assyrians (Spielvogel, 44). Babylonia was made into another Persian province and was ruled by a governor but a lot of the already established people in power kept their jobs. Cyrus took many names for himself such as “King of All, King of the Land of Summer and Akkad, king of the Four Rimes, and the Son of Cambyses the Great King” (Spielvogel, 47). He also wanted to be put into the long line of the Babylonian kings, which was granted to him. Cyrus also won favor with the Jews for the releasement of the Jewish slaves in Babylon. This was recorded in something known as the Cyrus Cylinder. His reign lasted until 530 B.C. when he went into battle in the Massagetae territory and was killed.
According to Herodotus, a Greek historian, Cyrus was viewed as a “father” to the Persians and as a king who was “gentle and procured them all manner of goods” (Spielvogel, 47). While he was alive, Cyrus demonstrated wisdom and compassion and was unlike other rulers who just wanted to dominate and be cruel to those who opposed them. Now this isn’t to say Cyrus wasn’t cruel at times, but he wasn’t overly cruel as other kings before him. Another great accomplishment, an important development, of his was the ability to bring the Medes, the Jews, and the Babylonians and “all accepted him as their legitimate ruler” (Spielvogel, 48). He also restored temples and permitted religious tolerance. After his death, his son Cambyses II took his role as the Great King and four years after he invaded Egypt in an effort to bring it under Persian control. He was able to, with the help of the Phoenicians, take control of Egypt and in 525 B.C. he took the title of Pharaoh. He then died in 522 B.C. and Darius took his place as ruler of the Persians after a civil war.
Darius had many great accomplishments like Cyrus. His main goal during his rule was to strengthen the empire. He “codified Egyptian law and built a canal to link the Red Sea and the Mediterranean” (Spielvogel, 48). He created a new Persian province in India that extended to the Indus River. He also crushed the Ionians after their revolt in 499 B.C. He then went into battle against the Greeks in the Battle of Marathon, 490 B.C., where the Athenians defeated him. After Darius the kings of Persia were greedy and started to hoard large amounts of wealth and treasures which was a factor to the downfall of the Persian Empire. The decline of Persia began after the death of Xerxes. The provincial rulers started to revolt against Persia because the rulers weren’t as strong or as well liked as Darius or Cyrus. In the Persian Wars, the Persians were badly beaten by the Greek forces, the Delian league. The league battled the Persians on land and sea and in 469 B.C. the Persians were decisively defeated. This brought an end to one of the great empires of the near east.
The Persian Empire had many great developments and important items. One of the great development was founded by Darius when he issued the building of the Royal Road, which extended Sardis, center of Lydia in Asia Minor, to Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire. This road was well-maintained and used for the transit of military and government representatives. It was quick and efficient and it was also one of the many of these types of roads. Along the road they also put staging posts that had fresh horses for the royal messengers (Spielvogel, 49). As stated previously the canal built between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, again by Darius, was another accomplishment because it caused faster travel between the two seas. A final great development is Zoroastrianism. This religion was created by Zoroaster who had revelations of the world as hailed as a prophet. This promoted the idea of monotheism which helped Judaism and other monotheistic religions be more accepted.
There are many themes during this time period. One of the themes is diversity. Starting with Cyrus diversity is key to the empire. When he conquered the Babylonians he decided to still keep some of their government officials instead of replacing most of them. Most empires of this time or after usually conquered the entire empire and enslaved them. This was a huge difference between the Persian Empire and other empires. The Assyrians before them were known for their cruelty like King Ashurbanipal. He writes “I tore out the tongues of those whose slanderous mouths had uttered blasphemies against my god Ashur…I defeated them completely. The others I smashed alive with the very same statues of protective deities with which they had smashed my own grandfather Sennacherib” (Spielvogel, 44). The theme was power and control of the eastern area. This theme is common in all of the empires from the Egyptians to the Greeks to the Romans. This was accomplished by first expanding to the area of Mesopotamia and Babylon. Then they expanded into Egypt and into India. After this, they further expanded into the Greek empire which they managed to rule over for a period of time. Then it was Greece’s turn to be the dominant power in the eastern world. After Greece, Rome and after Rome it was the smaller kingdoms of the Germanic and other tribes.
The music of the first Persian Empire is not well recorded. According to Firouzeh Mirrazavi it says, “Archeological evidence reveals musical instruments that were used in Iran during the Elamite era around 800BCE. Not much is known about Persian music in the ancient world, especially about the music of the Achaemenid Empire” (Persian Traditional Music). Music in the Achaemenid Empire (First Persian Empire) was important and it has been said that Alexander wrote about the music and melodies but it was not really well preserved. Their literature is again not well preserved because of the burning of the great library at Persepolis. From what they do have is mostly inscriptions of the kings such as Xerxes and Darius I. There are also a few Zoroastrian writings like some of the Zend Avesta books. Their art has more human features and is close to the way the Egyptians did their artwork except it has more details in it. The Zoroastrian religion’s creation story, like most of the creation stories, started with the cosmic struggle of good, Ahuramazda, and evil, Ahriman. Good people choose to follow Ahuramazda which would, obviously, win at the end of the world. Also at the end of the world, individuals would be judged and the good people would go to paradise while the bad people would be thrown into the abyss of torment. The early form of this religion has many similarities to other religions of this time and Judaism. But as time went on, it reverted to being polytheistic and focused on the worship of things such as wind, fire, gods of light and darkness, and nature.
During this time period, Persia was the dominant power of the Near East. The powers before this empire were the Babylonians and the Medes. They were known for their cruelty unlike the Persians who were more lenient with the people they conquered. They kept most of them in power and only added a few Persian officials. They also began the building of roads, which the Romans would perfect, that made transporting thins such as materials and officials easier. Another change was a briefly monotheistic religion before it became polytheistic as the religions before and after it. In conclusion, the Persian Empire was the greatest of the Near East empires. They had many accomplishments and new ideas.
Works Cited,
Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization. Edited by Nancy Blaine. 8th Edition, Cengage Learning.
Mirrazavi, Firouzeh. “Persian Traditional Music”. Iran Review, 28 Sept. 2010,

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