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Formation of Achaemenid, The First Persian Empire

Persia has always been known to its own people as Iran ( the land of Aryans ), although for centuries it was referred to as Persia (Pars or Fars ) by Europeans. In 1935 the government specified that it should be called Iran; however, in 1949 they allowed both names to be used. Most people today, know Persia through its carpet , its caviar, or through its importance as one of the world’s major oil producer countries. Yet,Persia has one of the richest and oldest cultures in the world. Iran history life began as early as 4000 B. C, when the Iranian plateau was occupied by people with variety of cultures.

Persia’sfirst growth began in the Neolitic era, and by the third millennium, under Cyrus the great , it became one of the world greatest empires. Before the formation of Persia, the region was occupied by a group of people by the name Elam. The Elamite civilization first developed in the Susian plain, under the influence of nearby Sumeria and Mesopotamia ( ancient name for an area now known as Iraq ) . the Sumerians were the most advanced and complex civilization at that time. In 3100 B. C they invented a Semipictographic writing system which was one of the first writing systems in the world.

Around 3000 B. C a group of people by the name Akkaians moved into the northern Sumerian territory. Eventually the Akkads took over the Sumerians and Elams and established the Sume-Akkad Empire. At this time the Akkad Empire spread from the Mediterranean sea to the Caspian sea in the north and Persian Gulf in the south Meanwhile, a group of local people by the name Guti controlled the mountainous area of the western Iran. They took advantage of periods of weakness of Akkad’s power and captured their capital, Babylon which caused the fall of Akkad Empire.

The fall of Akkads gave this opportunity to Elams to capture Susa. Soon, the Elam civilization developed so much as they could be compared with Sumerians. During 13th and 12th centuries B. C Elam succeeded in defeating the Assyra Empire which was a very powerful empire at that time; however, through out the centuries that followed, the Assyrians continued to fight for control of the region. Finally by 900 B. C Assyria restored its control over Bobylon. During the second millennium B. C a group of Indo-Europeans ( Aryans ) moved into the Iranian plateau either through central Asia or from Caucasus.

They were divided to several tribes that were distinguished from each others through their different languages. The most famous of these tribes were the Persians ( Parsa ) and the Medes ( mada ). The Persians eventually settled in Fars and in the Bakhtiare Mountains and the Medes occupied the Ecbatana (the present name is Hamadan ). The Mede were organized as an independent group . During 633-584 B. C the Mede finally brought down the Assyria Empire and more than half a century , they ruled over a vast empire from Afghanistan to Turky.

In 549 B. C the last ruler of the Mede, Astyrage was defeated by Cyrus II . Under the leadership of Cyrus the two Iranian tribes , the Mede and the Persian , were combined to form the unit Persia. By uniting these two groups, Cyrus established Acheamenid Empire which was the first Persian empire and the most extensive empire known in the ancient world. Cyrus II ( also known as Cyrus the great ) was named after his grand father . his father Cambyse , the son of Cyurs I, was the ruler of the Persian tribe. In that time ,Persia was not independent. It was actually under the influence of the Mede.

Although Cambyse was the Shah ( King ) of the Persians, at the same time he was a governor of Persia for Astyage who was the Shah of the Mede. Cambyse married Astyage daughter ,Mandane and named his son Cyrus. When Cyrus was a childe , he was always the leader of other kids around him. Because of this characteristic of Cyrus, Astyage wanted him dead . Astyage was afraid Cyrus might grow up and and revolt against him. However, Cyrus was saved by Harpagus who was a trusted person by Astyage. During his adulthood, Cyrus stayed in Persia, but he was informed of crimes of Astyage by Harpagus.

Harpagus encouraged Cyrus to gather an army and march against Astyage. He insured Cyrus that he would help Cyrue, since Astyage had left him in charge of a large part of the Mede army. Cyrus took advantage of this opportunity and put an end to the Empire of Mede. Cyrus was known as a great conqueror who controlled one of the greatest empire ever seen . His great attitude toward those he defeated and his respect toward religious beliefs and cultural tradition of other people earned him the respect and homage of people whom he ruled. As Prof.

Richard Fraye of Harvard said ( in the Heritage of Persia, pp 10-151 ): “In the victories of the Persian what was different was the new policy of reconciliation and together with this was the prime aim of Cyrus to establish a pax Acheamenica.. If one were to assess the achievements of the Acheamenid Persians, surly the concept of one world,. the fusion of people and cultures in one ‘oecumen’ was one of their important legacies. ” After Cyrus had overthrown the Mede become and established as the king of the Persian and the Mede, he started thinking of attacking the nearby powerful kingdom of Lydia .

On the other hand, Croesus the king of Lydia felt this threatening danger from his eastern neighbor. He decided to raise his army and cross the Holy river which was the eastern boundary between the Lydia empire and Persian empire . There were other reasons for Croesus to attack Persia . First , he wanted to extend his own empire ; second ,since Astyage was his brother-in-low and he considered himself as the ally of Astyage,he wanted to bring the kingdom of Cyrus down. However, when Croesus crossed the Haly river,Cyrus that had heard of Croesus plan through the spies, was prepared with his army on the east side of the river.

This was the first battle between Lydia and Persia which the Persians achieve a victory. There were total of two wars between Cyrus and Croesus, and then Persians captured Savia ( the capital of Lydia ). Eventually Cyrus captured other rich Greek cities which caused the fall of Lydian empire. At this point Cyrus had the control of Aegean cost of the Asia Minor , Armenia ,and the Greek colonies. Next Cyrus turned his attention toward his eastern area where he crossed the Oxus and Jaxartes river and took over the Parthia, Chorosmis , and Bactria. Then in 539B.

C he left his capital, Ecbatana to attack Babylon, the city that had been the capital of Mesopotaimia for a thousand years. It was not so surprising that he achieved another great victory and his army marched through Babylon. The respect he showed for religions of others ,brought him the respect of all Babylonians. Cyrus released all the Jews who were held there as prisoners. By this victory, Syria and Phoenicia also came under the Acheamenid Empire. Cyrus’ next aim was Egypt, but he was killed in a battle on the eastern frontier of his empire while his son Cambyse II was making the preparations to attack Egypt.

At this time the Acheameneian Empire was well established, and it found a new capital city at Pasargadae in Fars. After Cyrus died ,his son Cambyse II became the king of Persia who was a powerful ruler like his father. First, Cambyse succeeded a victory on the eastern frontier then he attacked Egypt. Through out several battles he captured Egypt, but during his absence the throne was seized by the Magus Gaumate and the king died mysteriously. However it didn’t last so long that Cambyse’s son , Darius I ended this region by taking the power and announcing himself as the new Achaemenian king.

After Cambyse II died in 522 B. C the next powerful Achaemenian Emperor ,Darius I continued the work of Cyrus , creating 23 provinces , and building the administrative and religious cities of Susa and persepolis. He also ordered to make a canal from the Nile river to the red sea, so his war ships could pass through it. ( In 1866 Suez workers discovered a monument at 20 miles north of Suez. According to ‘the Dazzling Reach of Darius’s Imperial Spear’ Time life book, the inscription on its sides spelled out in old Persian,Babylonian, Elamite, and Egyptian.

These included an message repeated in all four languages from Darius the Great, king of Persia: “I ordered this canal to be dug from the Nile, which flows in Egypt, to the sea that goes to Persia. This canal was dug as I commanded and ships went from Egypt through this canal as was my desire. ” According to Herodotus, the canal was wide enough for to war galleys to pass each other. ) Darius I extended the frontiers of the empire in the east where he captured Gandihar and Indus Valley. Then he turned against Greece. At the same time he was attemting to put down a rebellion in Egypt , so he lost the battle against Greece at Maraton near Athen.

Darius died two years later without renewing his attack on Greece. After Darius his son , Xerxes I became the next Achaemenid emperor. He put down the revolt in Egypt and Babylon successfully. Then he attacked Greece and brought another great victory for the Achaemenid Empire. He captured Thessaly , Masedonia, Attica, and Athen which he burned them down. After this victory Xerxes returned to Persia and never left again. After Xerxes died, Artaxerxe I became the king. He didn’t extend the Empire that much during his kingdom. After he died, his sons ( he had 18 sons ) started fighting over taking the power.

First Xerxes II toot the power, but 45 days later he was assassinated by his half-brother Sogdianos. Around six mount later Sogdianos was also assassinated by his brother, Darius II. With the help of his wife and his hale-sister , Darius got rid of his other brothers and finally established himself as the next Achaemenian emperor. At this time, while the brothers were fighting for taking the power, the Empire started breaking a part. Gradually the Greek cities in Ionia, Egypt, Pheonicia, and Syria broke away. After Darius II, first his oldest son Artaxerxes II and then Artaxerxes III ruled over the Achaemenian Empire.

Although Artaxerxes III was a powerful emperor, he couldn’t save the Empire from getting a part. He made a last attempt to reunite the Empire ,but he did not succeed. The last Achaemenian ruler was Darius III. He revolutionized the economy by replacing it on silver and gold coinage system. However , he was Weak in power and in 332 B. C he surrendered the Empire to Alexandre the great who was the first accepted leader by fractious Greeks. Alexander first took over Egypt and Babylon and then he captured Susa ,Ecbatana, and Perspolis ,which were the heart of the Achaemenid Empire, and burned them down.

The monuments which had been built to testify the absolute power of the Achaemeninan empire were razed to the ground in just one night by Alexander’s army. The Acheamenid Art and architecture found in perspolis is at once distinctive and highly ecletic. The Achaemenid took the art form and cultural and religious traditions of many of the ancient middle eastern people and combined them into a single form. Today, the remaining monuments and tombs in Iran ,mostly in perspolis , are the evidences of the Achaemenide power as well as they reflect the length of Iran’s history and culture.

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