Persepolis: Capital of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

Persepolis has a long and complex history, designed to be the central city of the ever expanding Persian empire. Introduction Persepolis was an ancient ceremonial capital of the second Iranian dynasty, the Achaemenid Empire, situated some 70 km northeast of modern city of Shiraz. It was built by Darius the Great, beginning around 518 B.C.E.[…]

Key Elements of Persian Architecture since Ancient Mesopotamia

Iran has inherited numerous architectural traditions over the course of history. Introduction From the Islamic period the architectural achievements of the Seljuq, Il-Khanid, and Safavid dynasties are particularly noteworthy. During that time Iranian cities such as Neyshabur, Isfahan, and Shiraz came to be among the great cities of the Islamic world, and their many mosques,[…]

The Immortals: Ancient Persia’s Elite Fighting Force

Introduction The Ten Thousand Immortals were the elite force of the Persian army of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE). They formed the king’s personal bodyguard and were also considered the shock troops of the infantry in Persian warfare. Their name comes from the policy of always keeping their number at exactly 10,000; if one[…]

Ancient Persia’s Behistun Inscription of Darius I

The relief is accompanied by text in three languages – Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian. Introduction The Behistun Inscription is a relief with accompanying text carved 330 feet (100 meters) up a cliff in Kermanshah Province, Western Iran. The work tells the story of the victory of the Persian king Darius I (the Great, r.[…]

Ancient Greece, from the Persian Wars to the Athenian Empire

The most famous series of wars in ancient Greek history broke out with a revolt against Persian control by the Greek city-states of Ionia. Introduction An Athenian blunder in international diplomacy set in motion the greatest military threat that the ancient Greeks had ever faced and put the freedom of Greece at desperate risk from[…]

Dogs in Ancient Persia

Dogs played a major role in religious rituals as recorded by Zoroastrian texts. Introduction Dogs have been an integral aspect of the human condition in virtually every world culture for thousands of years. Some of the greatest civilizations of the past have kept dogs as companions, for various chores, and featured dogs in their art,[…]

Twelve Ancient Persian Mythological Creatures

Introduction The mythology of any civilization reflects its core values, greatest fears, and highest hopes and so it is with the mythology of ancient Persia. The great heroes like Karsasp, Thraetaona, and Rustum express particularly Persian values but, as with all mythical figures, are recognizable to people of any culture as role models whose best[…]

Alexander the Great and the Burning of Persepolis

He looted the city and burned it to the ground. Introduction In the year 330 BCE Alexander the Great (l. 356-323 BCE) conquered the  Achaemenid Persian Empire following his victory over the Persian Emperor Darius III (r. 336-330 BCE) at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BCE. After Darius III’s defeat, Alexander marched to the Persian[…]

Persepolis, Capital of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

It was the capital from the reign of Darius I (the Great, r. 522-486 BCE) until its destruction in 330 BCE by Alexander the Great. Introduction Persepolis was the capital of the Persian Achaemenid Empire from the reign of Darius I (the Great, r. 522-486 BCE) until its destruction in 330 BCE. Its name comes[…]

Climate Change and the Rise and Demise of the Ancient Neo-Assyrian Empire

What caused the rise and then collapse 2,600 years ago of this vast empire centered on Mesopotamia? Introduction Ancient Mesopotamia, the fabled land between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, was the command and control center of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. This ancient superpower was the largest empire of its time, lasting from 912 BC to[…]

Ancient Persian Governors

Persian governors and the satrapy system established the paradigm recognizable in the present day of a central government. Introduction The Achaemenid Persian Empire functioned as well as it did because of the efficient bureaucracy established by its founder Cyrus the Great (r. c. 550-530 BCE) which was administered through the satrapy system. A Persian governor of[…]

Ancient Persian Government

Cyrus drew on earlier models of Akkadian and Assyrian administration and greatly improved them. Introduction The government of ancient Persia was based on a highly efficient bureaucracy which combined the concepts of the centralization of power with the decentralization of administration. The Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE) founded by Cyrus the Great (r. c. 550-530[…]

A History of Ancient Persia

The Persians settled primarily across the Iranian plateau and were established by the 1st millennium BCE. Introduction Persia (roughly modern-day Iran) is among the oldest inhabited regions in the world. Archaeological sites in the country have established human habitation dating back 100,000 years to the Paleolithic Age with semi-permanent settlements (most likely for hunting parties)[…]

Nizari Ismailis: Assassins of Medieval Persia and Syria

Their name has since come to be associated with their chief modus operandi, the act of murder for political or religious purposes. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Assassins (aka Nizari Ismailis), were a heretical group of Shiite Muslims who were powerful in Persia and Syria from the 11th century CE until their defeat at the[…]

The Safavid Empire of Late Medieval and Early Modern Persia

They cleverly allied themselves with European powers in order to protect themselves from the Ottomans. Introduction The Safavids were a native Iranian dynasty from Azarbaijan that ruled from 1501 to 1736, and which established Shi’a Islam as Iran’s official religion and united its provinces under a single Iranian sovereignty in the early modern period. This[…]

The Life of Alcibiades: Liar, Coward, and Traitor of Ancient Athens

During the course of the Peloponnesian War, Alcibiades changed his allegiance on several occasions. Introduction Alcibiades Cleiniou Scambonides, meaning Alcibiades, son of Cleinias, from the deme of Skambonidai; c. 450–404 B.C.E.), was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother’s aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from[…]

Good Public Relations: What Ancient Persian Propaganda Tells Us about the ‘Nehemiah Memoir’

Inscriptions ranging from the first Persian king, Cyrus, through Artaxerxes reveal elements in common in both Babylonian and Egyptian texts. Stretching from Egypt to the Indus River, the Persian Empire was the largest empire yet seen in the ancient Near East. Typically, the Hebrew Bible depicts ancient Near Eastern empires as divine instruments of punishment.[…]

The Battle of Issus: Alexander’s Rematch with Darius

Darius took personal command of his army for this encounter and led them to a resounding defeat. Introduction The Battle of Issus (also Issos) occurred in southern Anatolia, on November 5, 333 BC between the Hellenic League led by Alexander the Great and the Achaemenid Empire, led by Darius III, in the second great battle[…]

Battle of the Granicus: Alexander the Great’s Opening Move on Persia

It was here, against all odds, that Alexander defeated the forces of the Persian satraps of Asia Minor. Introduction The Battle of the Granicus River in May 334 BC was the first of three major battles fought between Alexander the Great and the Persian Empire. Fought in northwestern Asia Minor, near the site of Troy,[…]

The Ancient Macedonian Conquest of Persia

The conquest of Persia was not preordained and those living within its vast empire could never foresee its fall. Introduction In the year 356 BC, the Persian Empire still stood strong and seemed as if it would last another hundred years. However, on the 20th of July a sign was sent that brought the men of[…]

The Strength and Structure of the Ancient Persian Army

The Persian Army became a multi-cultural force consisting of a fusion of soldiers from Persia or the Medes, as well as various warriors from all subject nations. By Michelle Chua Introduction No ruler can expand his territory without an army. The massive Persian army, reported by Greek historian, Herotodus, to be about 2,641,610 warriors strong[1] during the invasion of[…]

A Brief History of the Persian Gulf

During the years 550 to 330 B.C.E., the name “Pars Sea” was widely written in the compiled texts when referring to the whole part of the Persian Gulf. Introduction The Persian Gulf is located in Southwest Asia. It is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. Historically and commonly known as the Persian Gulf, this[…]

The Battle of Gaugamela, 331 BCE

Alexander the Great pushed east into Mesopotamia with the intention of bringing Darius to battle. Introduction After securing the eastern Mediterranean seaboard and Egypt, Alexander the Great pushed east into Mesopotamia with the intention of bringing Darius to battle. After crossing the Euphrates River unopposed, he marched his army eastward along the foothills of the[…]

Athens and Persia: The Peace of Callias, 5th Century BCE

Even if a treaty by this name was never drawn up, it is true that there was an end to the hostilities between Athens and Persia in the mid-5th century BCE. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Peace of Callias (aka Kallias) refers to a possible peace treaty made in the mid-5th century BCE between Athens and Persia following the Persian Wars. The[…]

Cambyses II of Persia and the Battle of Pelusium: A Victory Won by Cats

The battle was won through a very unusual strategy on Cambyses II’s part: the use of animals as hostages and, especially, cats. Introduction The ancient Egyptians had a great reverence for life in all its forms. Life had been given by the gods and reverence for it extended beyond human beings to all living things.[…]

Alexander the Great’s Defeat of Darius at the Battle of the Granicus River, 334 BCE

The attack had been six years in the making, and still, the Persians were not fully prepared. War between the Persians and Macedonians had become inevitable when Persia had supported the Perinthians’ resistance against Macedonian aggression in 340. When the Macedonian king Philip II had secured his rear in the battle of Chaeronea (338), he wanted to launch a campaign east of[…]

Artemisia of Halicarnassus and Persian King Xerxes

A masterful militarily astute and diplomatically strategic queen. Halicarnassus was a Graeco-Carian city that belonged to the empire of the Persian Achaemenids. The Persian authorities liked their cities to be ruled by one man, and not by an uncontrollable oligarchy or democracy, and preferred Lygdamis as king of Halicarnassus. When he died, he was succeeded by his daughter Artemisia,[…]

A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

Persian gained prominence as a literary language and a lingua franca—a common cultural language—about a thousand years ago. Introduction In the past millennium, a rich and varied written and spoken heritage has developed in the Persian language, elevating the visibility of Persian civilization among world intellectual traditions. That tradition is particularly strong in the fields[…]