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...