6. Creation of Empire: Persia


I. What Impact Did Geography Have on the

   Development of the Persian Empire?

    A. Geographically Diverse


    B. Culturally Diverse


    C. Bridge between East and West


II. What Were the Origins of the Persian Empire?

    A. The Persians

            - about 1,000 B.C.E. Indo-European began to

                 migrate into Iran

            - by 800 B.C.E. the Persians and Medes occupied

                 southwest Iran

            - they were loosely organized by clans with

                 recognized rulers

            - paid tribute to their Babylonian and Assyrian



    B. Cyrus the Great (558-530 B.C.E.)
     - Founded the Achaemenid Dynasty

            1. Brought the various tribes together under his

                 leadership and built his capital at Pasargadae


            2. Conquests

                 - defeated the Medeans and by 539 B.C.E.

                        brought all of Iran, Mesopotamia and the

                        eastern Mediterranean under his control


            3. Noted for the mercy he showed for those he


                 - He freed the Jews from Babylonian Captivity

                 - He allowed conquered people to retain their

                        own customs, religion and government

                        under the supervision of Persian governors


            4. Established an Empire based on tribute


    C. Cambyses II (r. 530-522 B.C.E.)

            - Extended the Empire to include Egypt


    D. Darius (522-486 B.C.E.)

            1. Conquests

                  - extended the empire to included 

                        Macedonia, Thrace and the Indus valley 

                  - the Empire now extended almost 2 million

                        square miles with 10 million people

                        representing 70 different ethnic groups

                  - built a new capital at Persepolis


II. What was the Political Organization and Economic

     Basis of the Persian Empire?

    A. Administration

            1. King  > “who carried the capital with him”

            2. Satrap > governors chosen from the highest

                        Persian nobility to oversee the satrapies

            3. Local rulers

            4. Secretaries > assigned to the Satraps by the


            5. The King’s Eyes and Ears


    B. Tribute

     - tribute was set for each subject state to be paid in

            silver, gold or goods


    C. Laws

            - local laws were codified to conform them to the

                      legal principles of the Empire


    D. Peace and Prosperity

            1. trade flourished

                 - use of coins (daric)


            2. Persian Royal Road

                 - extended 1600 miles and enabled a swift

                       courier service


            3. Agricultural improvements

                 - tributes were used to support public works such

                         as irrigation canals and roads


    E. Promotion of Art and Culture

            - cuneiform adapted for the Persian language


III. What Was the Persian Social Order?

    A. Aryan social values were retained

            - Family and clan relationships remained important

            - Male warriors headed the clans


    B. To administer the Empire an elite of bureaucrats



    C. Aryan social order grew more complex:

            - Emperor

            - Priests

            - Warriors, clan leaders, bureaucrats

            - Commoners: farmers, merchants, artisans,

                      craftsmen, low ranking bureaucrats

            - Slaves


IV. What Are the Basic Beliefs of  Zoroastrianism?

    A Aryas Religion

            - Polytheistic, focusing on the powers of nature

            - rituals and practices similar to those of the Aryans

                  in India; glorified strength and military values;

                  use of haome

            - Mithras > a popular deity, god of light and war, a

                  sun god


    B. Zarathustra (Zoroaster - c. 1700-500 B.C.E.)

            - a disenchanted priest from an aristocratic family

                 who set out in search of wisdom

            - after a period of wandering he received revelations

                 and became revered as the prophet of the

                 “true religion”

            - composed The Gathas (hymns) that comprise the Avesta


    C. Zoroaster’s teachings

            1. Monotheistic and Dualistic

                - Ahura Mazda

                        > the Wise Lord; the supreme deity  who

                                  created all that is good in the world

                        > resides in heaven with a host of angels

                        > from him came two sprits: a good one and

                             a bad one


                 - Spenta Mainyu

                        > the Good Spirit; the Beneficent Spirit


                 - Angra Mainyu

                        > the Evil Spirit; “the destructive one”;

                        > aka Ahriman, Shaitin, Satan

                        > resides in hell with a host of demons


                 - Cosmic struggle

                        > between good and evil is played out over

                                the universe’s 12,000 year history


            2. The Role of Men and Women

                 - Men and women have free will and must

                        choose between these two spirits

                        > by choosing Ahura Mazda to overcome

                                evil they can be Saviors


                 - Moral teaching:

                        “Good words, good thoughts, good deeds.”


                 - When one dies one is judged and sentenced to

                        heaven or hell


                 - At the end of history evil will disappear and

                        those in hell will achieve paradise


    D. Spread of the New Religion

            - Zoroastrianism was adopted by the ruling elite and

                       aristocracy as well as populace

             - the Magi fused traditional Aryan religion with the

                       new so that the  old gods assimilated into the

                       new religion

            - as the Empire expanded new religious traditions

                       were also incorporated


    E. Influence of Zoroastrianism

            - was known and respected in Greece at the time of


            - Influenced Judeo-Christian beliefs as well as Islam

            - Zoroastrian communities can still be found today

                       in Iran and Bombay, India


V. What Contributed to the Decline of the Achaemenid  


     A. Xerxes (486-465 B.C.E.) - Darius’ son and successor

            - less tolerant, causing resentment among subject peoples


     B. Greek Resistance

            - trouble with ethnic Greek subjects will lead to the

                 conquest of Persia by Alexander of Macedonia in 331 B.C.E.

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