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Achaemenid Persia

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  1. Achaemenid Persia The Great King and the Rise of the Persian Empire

  2. Near Eastern Powers before Persia:Successors to Assyria (ca. 610-550 BCE) • Egyptian Saite Dynasty XXVI • Neo-Babylonian (Chaldaean) Kingdom • Lydian Kingdom in western Asia Minor • Median Kingdom of western Iran

  3. Neo-Babylonian and Median Empires

  4. Persia: An Iranian Landscape

  5. Origins of Persians • Outsiders from Near Eastern power center (Mesopotamia) from Iranian plateau • Original homeland Russian steppelands • Persian language: Indo-European, not Semitic (Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian) • Supreme god: Ahura Mazda (sky, sun, moon, rivers, earth, water, and fire are sacred) • As conquerors, Persian monarchs display power through sumptuous royal courts and monumental architecture

  6. Persian Capitals

  7. Significance of Achaemenid Persia in Ancient Greek History • Watershed Moment in Ancient Greek History of Magnitude of Collapse of Bronze Age Kingdoms • Greatest Territorial Empire of Ancient Near East (Historical Persia) • Cultural History and Collective Identity: Greek “Lens” on Persian Empire (“Greek” Persia: Herodotus)

  8. Achaemenid Persian Kings • Cyrus the Great (r. 559-530 BCE) • Cambyses (r. 530-522 BCE) • Dynastic Succession Struggle (522-521 BCE) • Darius I (r. 521-486 BCE) • Xerxes I (r. 486-465 BCE)

  9. Tomb of Cyrus

  10. Persian Conquests • Median Kingdom in 550 BCE (Cyrus) • Lydia in 546 BCE (Cyrus) • Babylon in 539 BCE (Cyrus) • Egypt in 525 BCE (Cambyses) • Near Eastern powers conquered by Achaemenid Persians within twenty-five years

  11. Persians and Greeks • Asia Minor Greeks tribute-paying subjects of Lydian kingdom • By 514 BCE, Asia Minor Greeks pay tribute to Persian satraps, who rule through Greek tyrants and potentates • Greek workmen and craftsmen employed in building the great Persian royal palaces • Greek physicians at Persian royal court

  12. Persian Gold Daric

  13. Darius’ Achievement (521-486 BCE) • Marries Atossa, daughter of Cyrus the Great • Thirty Districts (Satrapies) ruled by governors of Persian/Median aristocracy • Separate Military and Financial Officers in Satrapies (Provinces) • Governors (Satraps) successfully work through local elites (Hebrews, Lydians, Babylonians, Greeks) • Royal Road (Sardis to Susa) • Overseer of Satraps from Persepolis (King’s “Eyes and Ears”)

  14. Persepolis: A Persian Capital

  15. Persepolis

  16. Persepolis: Royal Staircase

  17. Darius receives allegiance of nobility

  18. King Darius I (r. 521-486 BCE)

  19. Darius’ Archers

  20. Royal Tombs near Persepolis

  21. Colossus: Achaemenid Persian Empire

  22. Achaemenid Persian Empire • Hindu Kush to Mediterranean (3,000 miles) • Empire includes Egypt, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor • Linked together by network of roads and highways (“Royal Road” from Sardis to Susa) • Armies depend on mounted cavalry (hybrid, polyglot, variously armed, high command by Great King’s “Friends”)

  23. Achaemenid Persian Empire

  24. Greek “Lens” and Achaemenid Persia • “Constitutional Debate” (Herodotus, 3.80-83): a literary anachronism • Aristocracy • Democracy • Monarchy • Persians choose despotism (non-Greek barbarians slaves by nature)

  25. Persian Monarchy • Great King as AhuraMazda’s viceroy on earth • Rigid social hierarchy with royal family at top • Persian monarch’s subjects as slaves (submission of earth and water) • Submission and subjection: proskynesis • Modes of Warfare: Hoplites vs. Mounted Cavalry

  26. Persian Virtues: Horsemanship, Archery, and Truth-Telling

  27. Achaemenid Persia and Athens • Alcmaeonid tradition: Hostility to the Tyrants • Inscriptional evidence shows Cleisthenes as archon between 527 and 521 BCE • As a counterweight to the possibility of the return of a Spartan army, Cleisthenes approached Persia in 508 BCE (Herodotus, 5.73) • Exiled tyrant Hippias, Pisistratus’ son, takes refuge with Persians

  28. Athenian Overtures to Persia After that the Athenians, having brought back Cleisthenes and the 700 households that had been banished by Cleomenes, sent off messengers to Sardis, since they wished to make an alliance with the Persians, for they knew well that the Spartans and Cleomenes had been provoked to war against them. The messengers came to Sardis and said what they had been told to say. Then Artaphernes, son of Hystaspes, the satrap of Sardis, asked his question: “Who are these people and where in the world do they live that they ask the Persians to become their allies?” When he got his answer from the messengers, he said, rather pithily, “If the Athenians are willing to give King Darius earth and water, he offers an alliance to them; if not, away from here with them!” The messengers took the risk on their own heads and said they were willing to make the alliance. Then they went home to their own country and were severely blamed for what they had done. ~Herodotus, 5.73