The Persian Empire: 7,000 years of History

The Persian Empire: 7,000 years of History

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Drawing on historical and archaeological evidence, this documentary, by Dr. Farzin Rezaeian, reconstructs 7,000 years of Iranian (Persian) history.

#Throwback Thursday: The 2,500 Year Celebration of the Persian Empire Was the Most Expensive Party in History

There is no better way to make a political statement than with a multi-million dollar party, right? Well, that’s exactly what the late Shah of Iran thought in 1971 when he celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire. To make it known that Iran is a nation equal to others, the Shah threw the be-all-end-all Arabian nights party where Persian carpets, jewels, champagne, and royalty kings filled the scene. The budget had no limit, refreshments were flowing, and every detail was thought of and taken care of.
From the guest list to the entertainment, we’ve got the details so you’ll be prepared in case you ever decide to try to one-up this historic party.
Venue: Three enormous tents (more like mini-cities) and 59 smaller tents comprised the Shah’s “tent city” in Persepolis where the big bash took place. Keep in mind, guests of the party weren’t roughing it by any means. The interior design firm The House of Jansen, who helped Jackie Kennedy design the White House, made sure these tents were air-conditioned and they featured Baccarat crystal, Limoges china, Porthault linens, and intercoms.
Guest List: Perhaps one of the more eclectic guest lists in history, at this party it wouldn’t be a shock if to your right was a sultan and to your left was a president. Among the 500 lavish guests, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco, and Vice-President Spiro Agnew were among them. In total there were nine kings, five queens, sixteen presidents, and two sultans.
The Food: The Shah spared no dollar—or should we say Iranian rial—when it came to feeding his guests. 25,000 bottles of wine, 7,700 pounds of meat, 8,000 pounds of butter and cheese, and 1,000 pints of cream kept the 500-person guest list well-fed and buzzing. To ensure that he had the best of the best, the Shah flew in 165 chefs from Maxim’s of Paris who served up quail eggs and caviar, partridge with foie gras and truffle stuffing, and filet of sole stuffed with caviar.
Extra Amenities: Based on the fabulous roster, we’re certain most of partygoers arrived already quite well groomed, but in case anyone’s hair was out of place French hairdressers were made available and came with 300 wigs and 240 pounds of hairpins.
Fun Fact: Emperor Haile Selassie, who originally RSVP’d for himself and five others, arrived with seventy-two guests. Talk about rolling deep.
Cost: If you’re looking to replicate the Shah’s extravagant Arabian nights party, be sure you have a wide open desert at your disposal and some serious money on hand. The 2,500th Anniversary of the Peacock Throne is speculated to be the most expensive party in history. The Shah of Iran spent $90 million on the bash in 1971, which today is equal to over $516 million.

Cyrus the Anointed of YHWH

The Bible is not generally complimentary when it comes to foreign kings. Cyrus the Great (d. 530 B.C.E.), the Persian king who ended the domination of Judah by Babylon, is a notable exception. Deutero-Isaiah, the anonymous prophet of the exilic period, declares that Cyrus is YHWH&rsquos &ldquoanointed one&rdquo (mashiach)&mdasha term generally reserved for Israelite kings such as Saul and David:

Deutero-Isaiah continues and waxes poetic about Cyrus:

Here, YHWH promises to make Cyrus a successful conqueror, adding the (doubtful) claim that Cyrus and the whole world (v. 6) will then recognize that Cyrus&rsquo power is from the God of Israel.

Ancient helmet worn by soldier in the Greek-Persian wars found in Israel

A well-preserved ancient Greek helmet likely worn by a soldier during a war with the Persians has been found in Haifa Harbor in Israel.

The 2,500-year-old helmet was found by a Dutch ship in 2007 and was turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) marine unit, according to an IAA statement.

"The helmet is a Corinthian type named after the city of Corinth in Greece where it was first developed and produced in the 6th century [B.C.]" according to the archaeologists, noting that the helmet became popular and was used throughout the Mediterranean.

"The helmet was expertly fabricated from a single sheet of bronze by means of heating and hammering" the statement said. "This technique made it possible to reduce its weight without diminishing its capacity for protecting the head of a warrior."

The "helmet probably belonged to a Greek warrior stationed on one of the warships of the Greek fleet that participated in the naval conflict against the Persians who ruled the country at the time" Kobi Sharvit, director of the IAA marine unit, said in the statement

Under the Il-Khan Dynasty (1258–1336)

The invasion of Persia by Hulagu Khan, culminating in the conquest of Baghdad and the overthrow of the Abbasid caliphate in 1258, also brought about a fundamental change in the situation of the Jews in the Persian Diaspora. Under Hulagu and some of his successors of the newly established Il-Khan dynasty, the concept of the dhimma ("the protected people") and the division between "believers" and "nonbelievers" were abolished, and all the various religions put on equal footing. Thus Persian Jews were afforded a unique opportunity to participate actively in the affairs of the state and in the time of Arghun Khan (1284–91), a Jew by the name of *Saʿd al-Dawla al-Safī ibn Hibatallah achieved an unexpected and spectacular rise to power and influence. Under subsequent Il-Khan rulers another Persian Jew, Faḍl Allah ibn Abi al-Khayribn Ali al-Hamadhānī, had a similarly meteoric rise and fall. The cultural climate which had enabled these two Jews to achieve power in the economic and political sphere also led to the genesis and growth of *Judeo-Persian literature.

List of Persian dynasties

Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC), commonly called the “First Persian Empire”

Also called the Medo-Persian Empire, this dynasty was based in western Asia, in the heart of Iran.

At its height around 475 BCE,

The Achaemenid Empire ruled over 44% of the world’s population, the highest figure for any empire in history!

Parthian Empire (247 BC–AD 224, also called the “Arsacid Empire”)

More known as the Arascid Empire, this dynasty was considered a major political and cultural power in Iran.

During the peak of its glory, the Parthian built one of the greatest and most powerful empires of the ancient world. For nearly 500 years, the Parthians ruled a large swath of land that stretched from north of Euphrates (nowadays the eastern turkey) to eastern Iran and ruled over millions of different peoples.

This empire was located near the Silk Road trade route. And thus, became a hub of trade and commerce.

Sasanian Empire (224–651), also called the “Neo-Persian Empire” and “Second Persian Empire”

This empire, more commonly known as “Sassanid“, was the last dynasty before the Islam religion replaced Zoroastrianism and was the successor of the Parthian empire. This dynasty was considered as one of the main predominant powers in the world.

So was their neighbouring domain: their arch nemesis, the Byzantine Empire. This rivalry went on for nearly 5 centuries.

Tahirid dynasty (821–873 CE)

The Tahirid dynasty was a Persian dynasty that ruled Khorasan from 821 to 873. The dynasty was founded by Tahir ibn Husayn.

Tahirid capital was initially at Merv but later moved to Nishapur.

Alavid dynasty (864-928)

Alavid dynasties ruled in the coastal regions south of the Caspian Sea specifically Tabaristan, Daylam and Gilan.

Saffarid dynasty (861-1003)

Saffarid Dynasty was an Iranian dynasty of lower class origins that ruled a large area in eastern Iran. Saffarid dynasty is named after its founder, Yaqub bin Laith Saffar.

The Saffarids gave impetus to a renaissance of New Persian literature and culture.

Following Ya’qub’s conquest of Herat, some poets chose to celebrate his victory in Arabic, whereupon Ya’qub requested his secretary, Muhammad bin Wasif al-Sistani, to write those verses in Persian.

Samanid dynasty (875-999)

The Samanid Empire was the first native dynasty to arise in Iran after the Muslim Arab conquest and the collapse of the Sassanid Persian empire.

It was renowned for the impulse that it gave to Iranian national sentiment and learning. For the first time after the Arab Invasion, Persian becomes the official langue of the court and replaces Arabic.

The Samanids are remembered for the impetus they imparted to Persian national sentiment, culture and language, as opposed to Arab culture and language.

The main cities of Samarkand and Bukhara became cultural centers and Persian literature flourished in the works of the poets Rudaki and Ferdowsi also during Samanid era philosophy and history was encouraged. The Samanids promoted the arts, giving rise to the advancement of science and literature, and attracted scholars such as Avicenna who lived in the last years of the Samanids rule.

The Samanids coinage, due to its vast quantity, was popular not only in the Islamic world, but also outside it in Russia, Scandinavia, the Baltic lands and British Isles.

Ziyarid dynasty (928-1043)

The founder of the Ziyarid dynasty Mardavij b. Ziyar, claimed to stem from the pre-Islamic royal family of Gilan.

Al-Biruni, the great scientist of the middle ages, was supported by Qaboos, the ruler of the Ziyarid state, in 11th century CE in Gorgan. In fact he dedicated his work Chronology to Qaboos around 11th century CE and observed eclipses of the moon from there.

The most famous architectural works of Ziyarid dynasty is the Gonbad Kavous (Qabus)!

The tomb is one of the earliest architectural monuments with a dated inscription surviving in post-Islamic Iran. The tomb, built of fired brick, is an enormous cylinder capped by a conical roof.

Buyid dynasty (932-1056)

Buyids (also Bowayhids, Buwaihids) was a dynasty of Daylamite origin ruling over the south and western part of Iran and over Iraq from the middle of the 4th/10th to the middle of the 5th/11th centuries. The line was founded by the three sons of Buyeh (or Buwayh), ʿAli, Ḥasan, and Aḥmad.

Ghaznavid dynasty (962-1187)

The dynasty was founded by Sebuktigina, a former Turkic slave who was recognized by the Samanids as governor of Ghazna. Sebuktigin died in 997 CE and was succeeded by his famous son, Mahmud in 998 CE. Ghaznavid power reached its peak during Maḥmud’s reign.

His empire stretched from the Oxus to the Indus valley and the Indian Ocean and in the west the Iranian cities of Rayy and Hamadan.

In terms of cultural championship and the support of Persian poets, they were far more Persian than the ethnically Iranian Buyids rivals, whose support of Arabic letters in preference to Persian is well known.

The Ghaznavid court was supporter of Persian literature and the famous poet Farrukhi traveled from his home province to work for themThe poet Unsuri’s short collection of poetry was dedicated to Sultan Mahmud.

The Persian poet Ferdowsi completed his epic Shahnameh (“Book of Kings”) at the court of Maḥmud about 1010.

Perhaps the most significant invention that the Ghaznavids left the world was windmills, which were used to crush grain in order to create bread and other foodstuffs.

Seljuk dynasty (1037-1194)

Seljuk were ruling military family of Turkic tribes that invaded southwestern Asia in the 11th century and eventually founded an empire that included Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and most of Iran.

Khwarazmian dynasty (1077-1231)

The dynasty was founded by Anush Tigin Gharchai, a former Turkish slave who was appointed as governor of Khwarazm. The empire was defeated by the Mongols in 1231 and his territories were taken over by them.

Ilkhanid dynasty (1256-1388)

The Art of the Ilkhanid Period

The Mongol invasions of the Islamic world began in 1221 with the conquest of eastern Iran.

The Ilkhanate was one of the four khanates within the Mongol Empire.

It was centered in Persia, including present-day Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and western Pakistan.

The Ilkhanids ended the Abbasid Caliphate, controlled the Seljuks as a vassal state, waged war with the Mamluks, and unified Persia as a territorial and political entity, paving the way for the Safavids.

Muzaffarid dynasty (1314-1393)

The Muzaffarid dynasty came to power in Iran following the breakup of the Ilkhanate in the 14th century. Yazd enjoyed a period of prosperity in the 14th century that led to a flourishing of architectural production. According to one assessment, twelve mosques, one hundred schools, and two hundred tombs were built in Yazd in the 14th century.

Timurid dynasty (1369-1507)

Timurid dynasty was the dynasty of Turkic-Mongol origin descended from the conqueror Timur. In architecture, the Timurids developed many Seljuk traditions. Turquoise and blue tiles forming intricate linear and geometric patterns decorated the facades of buildings. The Timurid sultans, especially Shahrukh Mirza and his son Mohammad Taragai Olog Beg, patronized Persian culture. Among the most important literary works of the Timurid era is the Persian biography of Timur, known as Zafarnameh. The schools of miniature painting in Shiraz and other cities flourished under the Timurids.

Safavid dynasty (1501–1736)

In 1501 the Safavid dynasty took control and became the first native dynasty to establish a national state officially known as Iran, after the descent of the Sassanid Empire.

The Safavid dynasty had its origins in Sufi order, called the Safaviyeh that had flourished in Azarbaijan. Its founder was the Persianmystic Sheikh Safi al-Din after whom the dynasty was named. They soon became one of the most magnificent ruling dynasties Persia had ever seen. Their rise to power was at the same time of the Muslim Conquest, 7th century. At its peak, the Safavid Dynasty controlled not only the entirety of what is now Iran, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, but also most of Afghanistan, Iraq, Georgia, and the Caucasus, and parts of Turkey, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

Historians note this dynasty’s reign as “The beginning of modern Persian history”!

A new age in Iranian architecture began with the rise of the Safavid dynasty. Notable monuments like the Sheikh Lotfallah, Hasht Behesht and the Chahar Bagh School appeared in Isfahan. In this period, handicrafts such as tile making, pottery, and textiles developed and great advances were made in miniature painting, bookbinding, decoration, and calligraphy.

In the sixteenth century, carpet weaving evolved from a nomadic to an industry with specialization of design and manufacturing. Tabriz was the center of this industry.

The carpets of Ardebil were commissioned to commemorate the Safavid dynasty.

In 1719 the Afghans had invaded Persia. They deposed the reigning Shah of the Safavid dynasty in 1722.

Afsharid dynasty (1736–1796)

Afsharid Dynasty (Nader Shah)

This dynasty was originated in 1736 by Nader Shah, who was a remarkably gifted military commander. The members were residents of an ethnic dynasty with a Turkish lineage, the Afshar tribe to be exact.

Nader Shahs conquest led to the downfall of the Safavid dynasty, and he became the king of Iran. Nader was Persia’s most gifted military genius and is known as “The Second Alexander” and “The Napoleon of Persia“.

In 1738, he invaded Mughal India and captured an incredible amount of wealth, including the legendary Peacock Throne and the Koheh Noor diamond. Nader was assassinated by two of his own officers.

In 1796 Mohammad Khan Qajar, the founder of the Qajar dynasty, seized Mashhad and tortured Shahrokh to force him to reveal the whereabouts of Nader Shah’s treasures. Shahrokh died of his injuries soon after and with him the Afsharid dynasty came to an end.

Zand dynasty (1750–1794)

Commanded by Karim Khan Zand, this dynasty reigned over the central and southern regions of Iran throughout 18th century.

After Nader Shah’s assassination in 1747, Karim Khan became a major contender for power. The origin of the Zands was a tribe of the Lor race of Iran, named as Zand.

Karim Khan never entitled himself as the king, but always knew himself the regent or advocate of the Iranian people. During Karim Khan’s rule Iran recovered from the devastation of 40 years of war. He made Shiraz his capital, constructing many fine buildings. His fair taxation, effective diplomacy, and abilities to provide relative internal calm brought an unprecedented amount of prosperity to Fars, Isfahan, Khuzestan, and central Iran, which was unknown since the high Safavid times in the early decades of the 17th century.

Between 1779 and 1789 five Zand kings ruled briefly. In 1789 Lotf Ali Khan claimed himself as the new Zand king and tried to put down a rebellion led by Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar. Outnumbered by the superior Qajar forces, Lotf Ali Khan was finally defeated. His defeat marked the final eclipse of the Zand dynasty, which was supplanted by that of the Qajars.

Persian Empire – Karim Khan Zand

Qajar dynasty (1785–1925)

Much like the Afsharid dynasty, they also had a Turkish origin. This Family overthrew Lotf’Ali Khan (The last ruler of the Zand dynasty) in 1794, and once again declared Persian dominion over massive areas of central Asia.

In 1796 Agha Mohammad Khan was formally crowned as shah. European powers began to see Iran as a strategic ally in the region, one with whom they could work to undermine Ottoman power. Russia and Great Britain were especially interested in establishing themselves in Iran. Agha Mohammad Khan was assassinated in 1797. Fath Ali Shah his nephew became the new king.

Fath Ali Shah launched the Russo-Persian War of 1804-1813 in which he was defeated. Under the terms of the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan, the Qajar rulers had to cede Azerbaijan, Dagestan, and eastern Georgia to the Romanov Tsar of Russia. A second Russo-Persian War (1826–1828) ended in another humiliating defeat for Persia, which lost the rest of the South Caucasus to Russia.

In 1921, Reza Shah Pahlavi overthrew the Qajars, establishing the authoritarian Pahlavi dynasty.

Pahlavi dynasty (1925–1979)

After the Iranian revolution that led to the extinction of monarchy, the Pahlavi dynasty took the power and ruled Iran from 1925 to 1979.

The founder was Reza Shah Pahlavi, who reigned until the year 1941. Within four years he had established himself as the most powerful person in the country by suppressing rebellions and establishing order.

Reza Shah had a lot of plans for modernizing of Iran. These plans included developing large-scale industries, implementing major infrastructure projects, building a cross-country railroad system, establishing a national public education system, reforming the judiciary, and improving health care. He sent hundreds of Iranians including his son to Europe for training.

However, he was forced to surrender after the Anglo-Soviet invasion upon Iran. His successor was his son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last Shah to rule Iran!

In the early 1950s a struggle for control of the Iranian government developed between the shah and a nationalist Mohammad Mosaddeq. In March 1951 Mosaddeq secured passage of a bill in the Majles (parliament) to nationalize the vast British petroleum interests in Iran. In the 1960s and ’70s the shah sought to develop a more independent foreign policy and established working relationships with the Soviet Union and eastern European nations.

The Pahlavi Dynasty was succeeded by an Islamic government under Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Persian Campaign of Emperor Heraclius

Between the years 621 and 626 A.D., the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius waged a bloody, ravaging, and exhausting war on the Persian Empire. In retrospect, three compelling reasons for such an enterprise stand out. First, to end the Persian conquests of Byzantine territory. Second, to stop Christian setbacks at their hands. And third, to satisfy the spiritual hunger of a young Emperor thirsty for honor and adventure. It was not an easy war however, it reestablished Byzantium as the major power in Asia Minor until the rise of Islam. Of the three reasons for a Roman campaign against a powerful Persian state, the first was the most important, to put an end to the territorial bleeding of the empire. Beginning in 603(1), the Persian king Khosroes started a series of invasions and occupation of Roman lands that went on for over fifteen years. In that first year (603) he defeated the Byzantines at the battle of Arxamoun using elephants in his assault of the fortress. (2) Dara, Mesopotamia, and Syria fell the following year. Emperor Phocas hardly opposed these conquests. In taking Armenia, Kappadocia, Galatia, and Paphlagonia in 607, the barbarians routed the Byzantines every time. (3) The Persians crossed the Euphrates unopposed and ravaged Syria, Palestine, and Phoenicia advancing all the way to Chalcedon. In Heraclius' first year as Emperor (4), the Persians campaigned against Syria, taking Apamea and Edessa and proceeding as far as Antioch. According to the chronicler Theophanes the Romans "met them, fought, and were beaten. the whole Roman army was destroyed, so that very few men got away."(5) For Heraclius and Byzantium, the situation did not improve in 611, his second on the throne. The Persians captured Kappadocian Caesarea, taking thousands of prisoners.

Worse still, in Byzantine Europe the Avars were devastating the Balkans as the Roman army slowly withered. Heraclius commissioned an inquiry into the state of the armed forces and discovered that of the divisions which campaigned with Phocas against Maurice, only two remained.(6) The Emperor's first diplomatic attempt to slow the Persian tide came in 613 after the barbarians had captured Damascus. He sent ambassadors to Khosroes seeking a peace settlement, but the Persian turned them away. The following year Khosroes took Jordan, Palestine, and the holy city of Jerusalem after a three-week siege. Taken to Persia were fragments of the Holy Cross, on which Christ's crucifixion took place, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and many other prisoners. (7) These conquests reached their zenith between the years 615 and 619 when all Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya and Carthage were taken. In 615, segments of the Persian army got as far as the Bosphorus. The loss of Egypt in the spring of 619 was crucial since it disrupted the corn supply to Constantinople. Egypt had been the richest province of Byzantium. (8) Khosroes stood poised, ready to revive the Persian Empire of antiquity. Another reason for undertaking this campaign can be categorized as a religious crusade. A powerful concept at the time, religion dominated daily life more so than in the modern era. Most actions taken by individuals, and their rulers, had the underlying tone of either satisfying God, or because He commanded. When challenged by a different ideology, the Roman state moved to oppose it. Since the lands taken by the Persians (9) were predominately Christian and conquered by a force hostile to this belief, the obvious reaction would be to undertake a major religious reconquest. In the occupied lands Christians were persecuted, harassed, and often killed.

Even the remains of the cross where Christ died, considered one of the most venerated artifacts of Christianity, was stolen and taken to Persia. (10) The city of Jerusalem experienced fire and massacre for several days. Included in the destruction was the church of the Holy Sepulcher. Prior to the start of the war, in a show of complete support, the Byzantine church contributed immensely toward the enterprise. It donated her wealth to the state which in turn melted the silver and gold icons for use as currency. The war began in what Ostrogorsky claims was "an atmosphere of religious fervor unknown in the earlier period."(11) Even the actions taken by the Emperor and his men after the war began exhibited highly accentuated religious overtones. Campaigning in 621, Heraclius began by taking an image of Christ and, putting his faith in it, proceeded to address his dispirited and undisciplined army. A year later, the Emperor invaded Persia and again addressed his troops with holy undertones. He reminded them of their duty to avenge the insults to God. They were also to retaliate for the ravishing of their maidens, the terrible things done to Christians, and to pledge murder for their murders. After this speech, Heraclius considered his army ready. (12)

Another target of the crusade was the recovery of the Holy Cross (or fragments of the Cross) taken in 614 from Jerusalem and sent to Persia. This ideal served as a goal to rally the troops around. After the conflict began, the Byzantine army behaved like a real crusading army. Before the winter of 622 arrived, Heraclius ordered the troops purified. He then opened the bible and found where he should winter, in this case Albania. (13) Upon arriving, he freed all prisoners and cared for them, most of them joining his expedition as a gesture of gratitude. Finally, as further evidence of this religious undertaking, in the spring of 630 Heraclius again set up the Holy Cross in Jerusalem amid great rejoicing. This act symbolized the successful conclusion to Christianity's first holy war. The final reason for launching such an encompassing enterprise can be attributed to the youthful, adventurous ego of Heraclius. Destined to become one of the greatest rulers in Byzantine history, he took field command in such a large scale never before seen by any emperor. (14) He showed unbelievable courage and self risk as seen in the year 624 when in the Taurus Mountains, he met the Persian general Sarbaros across from the river Saros. Many Byzantine troops charged across the bridge, but the Persian defense stopped them. The enemy broke ranks in pursuit and Heraclius marched after them. As he advanced to the Persian side, he met a big man. (15) The Emperor struck him and hurled him into the river. When he fell the barbarians turned in flight. Fighting in superhuman fashion, Heraclius nobly crossed and attacked the barbarians with only a few companions, amazing even Sarbaros. He received many blows though none were serious.

Two years later on his victorious final campaign against Khosroes, the Emperor reached the Greater Zab River. There he drew battle lines in a nearby plain against a new Persian general named Rhazates. The battle commenced when the Emperor sprang forth ahead of everyone to meet a Persian officer whom he then overthrew. He met and overthrew another. A third Persian struck him with a spear and wounded his lip but the Emperor was able to overcome this attack and kill him. Once the fight was underway his horse was wounded. By the end of the struggle Heraclius had many sword-strokes at his face but remained unharmed thanks to his leather armor and fighting skills. (16) He returned to Constantinople after a six years' absence, a hero who had just defeated a growing and powerful empire. He spent the following year in celebration. A combination of faith and leadership united to overcome a powerful and seemingly unstoppable force is a situation encountered few times in history. One of those times occurred between 621 and 626 A.D., when the faith of the Byzantines and the leadership of their Emperor Heraclius coalesced to end the Persian conquests of Roman territory and ultimately destroy their military might.

1- the second ruling year of the Byzantine Emperor Phocas.

9- Persians believed in two gods, one good and one evil. This faith goes back to the great Persian philosopher Zoroaster.

10- it was carried of to the Persian capital, Ctesiphon.

11- Ostrogorsky- pg. 100. Ostrogorsky believed that this was the first characteristically medieval war and the forerunner of the later crusades.

13- Theophanes- 308. This is known as the sortes biblicae, a method of divination where a question was asked and the bible then opened at random to find the answer. The Albania in question is in the Caucasus, not the Balkans.

14- Heraclius appointed the Patriarch Sergius and the Patrician Bonus as regents for his young son to rule in his absence. Ostrogorsky- pg. 100

15- Theophanes describes him as a "giant of a man." 314

16- Theophanes- 319 Sources: Turtledove, Harry. The Chronicle of Theophanes. University of Pennsylvania Press. Philadelphia 1982. Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine state. Rutgers University Press. New Jersey 1969.

Legend of Cyrus the Great of Persia’s Childhood: Story of the Founder of the Persian Empire

Cyrus the Great was the founder of the most successful Persian Empire. The legend of his birth, however, is fascinating, and sets the stage for his ruling success.

Cyrus the Great of Persia became the first ruler of the Persian Empire, which he created upon taking down the Median Empire, Lydian Empire, and Babylonian Empire. Following is a summary of Cyrus’ early life and rise to command of the most powerful empire in the world at the time, according to Herodotus’ Histories.

Story of Cyrus’ Birth According to Herodotus

Cyrus the Great of Persia was born as the grandson of a Median king, named Astyages, likely around 600 BCE. Upon his birth, the king had a dream which was interpreted to him to mean that his grandson would overthrow him, so he ordered a subordinate, Harpagus, to kill the child. Harpagus was unable to fulfill this onus so he employed another, Mitradates, a shepherd to carry out the king’s request, telling him to leave the infant to die on a hillside.

Cyrus the Great’s Childhood

Mitradates could not kill the child either, and when his wife gave birth to a stillborn child at that same time, the shepherd brought the young Cyrus into their home, and placed their stillborn son on the mountain, where the young Cyrus was to be placed and left to die. King Astyages was satisfied that it was Cyrus who was left to die on the hillside. However, actual grandson of Astyages was indeed alive, according to Herodotus, and he was raised by the herdsman and his wife.

Cyrus the Great and King Astyages

Cyrus exhibited noble behavior even at a very young age, and people took not of the young man, thought to be a herdsman’s son, who behaved like a king. Astyages noticed that he and the boy seemed very similar, and questioned Harpagus, whom the king had ordered at first to kill the boy, asking him to explain what he had done with the baby Cyrus, and Harpagus confessed that he had not killed him, but given him to the shepherd Mitradates, telling the herdsman to leave the baby to die on the mountainside.

Infuriated that Harpagus had disobeyed him, Median King Astyages invited Harpagus to a dinner under friendly guise, and then revealed to Harpagus that what he had eaten was his own son upon the meal’s conclusion. The King had done this to illustrate the consequences of defying him. Cyrus, however, was allowed to live on.

Though there is much speculation that Herodotus’ account is exaggerated or only legendary, the Median King Astyages was indeed overthrown by Cyrus the Great of Persia, who conquered many others, and founded the mighty Persian Empire. His son in law Darius the Great lead the empire in later years, and Darius’ son, Xerxes I went on to engage the Greeks in the Greco-Persian Wars, and was victorious over the Greeks in the legendary battle at Thermopylae, off of which the movie 300 is based.

Rise of the Great Persian Empire – How it Become a Dominant Power in the Known World

Sometime in the 9th century, another Aryan tribe, the Persians, settled in Anshan to the south of Susa. In the early 7th century, one of their chiefs, Achaemenes (Hakhamanish) founded a dynasty, the Achaemenids, and won independence from the Neo-Elamite kings. His son, Teispes (Chishpish), took the title “King of Anshan” and allied himself with the Elamites in their war against Sennacherib. When Ashurbanipal sacked Susa in 646, Cyrus I (Kurush) became an Assyrian vassal. After the rise of Cyaxares, Persia became a Median dependency. Around 560, the Median King Astyages arranged for his daughter to marry the Persian King Cambyses I. Their son Cyrus II served as a commander in the Median army.


On the death of his father, Cyrus II became the king of the Persians. In 553, Cyrus led a revolt against his grandfather Astyages. Although he suffered some early defeats, the Median army eventually went over to Cyrus, and he took Ecbatana in 549. Cyrus now ruled the entire Median Empire. In 546 Cyrus conquered Lydia, adding much of Asia Minor to his realm. Cyrus then defeated King Nabonidus, entered Babylon in 539, and took over all the Babylonian Empire: Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, and Syria-Palestine.


Cyrus was succeeded by Cambyses (Kambujiya) who, to ensure the throne, had his brother Smerdis (Bardiya) killed. Cambyses defeated Psammetichus III and by the summer of 525 had taken control of all of Egypt, but he was unsuccessful in an attempt to conquer the Kushite kingdom of Meroë (See 591 B.C.E.–350 C.E). In 522, a pretender named Gaumata seized the throne, claiming to be the dead Smerdis. Cambyses died on his way to deal with the revolt.


A member of another branch of the Achaemenid family, Darius I (Darayavaush) defeated Gaumata’s revolt as well as other revolts in Babylonia and the eastern provinces. Darius’s commemoration of his achievements, the Behistun inscription, written in Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian, became the key to the modern decipherment of cuneiform. Darius later added the Indus Valley and Libya to his empire, now the largest the world had ever known. He reorganized the administration and divided the empire into 20 satrapies, as well as introducing a standard gold coinage, the daric. At its height, the Persian Empire probably contained around 15 to 16 million inhabitants, with some 4 million in Persia proper. There were royal residences at Susa, Persepolis, Ecbatana, and Babylon, and good roads, with stations for royal messengers, which made possible regular communications within the vast realm. After 513, Darius started expanding into Europe and led an expedition which crossed the Danube. In 499, the Ionian Greeks in Asia Minor revolted but were suppressed after a six-year war. The Athenians had aided the rebels, and to punish them Darius sent the expedition which was defeated at the Battle of Marathon


The next king, Xerxes I (Khshayarsa, 486–465), undertook a major invasion of Greece but was defeated at sea in the Battle of Salamis (480) and on land at Plataea and Mycale (479). After Xerxes’ murder in a palace coup, Artaxerxes I Longimanus (Rtaxshaca, 465–424) took the throne. Athens took the offensive against Persia by sending troops to aid a revolt in Egypt (456–454) and by attacking Cyprus (450), but finally readied a peace agreement with Persia in 448 (See 448). The empire suffered a series of coups d’état: Xerxes II (424–404) was assassinated by his brother Sogdianus (424), who in turn fell at the hands of Darius II Nothus (424–404). Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404–358) faced the rebellion of his brother Cyrus, who raised an army in Anatolia which included ten thousand Greek mercenaries. The rebel army won the Battle of Cunaxa (401) near Babylon, but Cyrus was killed. The Greeks marched back to the Black Sea under the leadership of Xenophon, who wrote the Anabasis (“March Upcountry”) about the experience. Another insurrection broke out in Asia Minor under Datames, the satrap of Cappadocia, and spread to the western satrapies (366–360). Egypt won its independence in 404. Artaxerxes III Ochus (358–338) succeeded through energetic measures in reconstituting the empire but faced the growing power of Philip of Macedon, who had unified the Greeks under his rule (See 338). Both Artaxerxes III and his weak son, Arses (338–336), were assassinated, and it was Darius III Codomannus (336–330) who met the invasion of Philip’s son, Alexander the Great. Alexander defeated the Persians at the battles of Granicus (334), Issus (333), and Gaugamela, near Arbela (331). The next year, Darius, fleeing from the Macedonians, was killed by some of his nobles

Watch the video: The History of the Achaemenid Empire: Every Year


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