Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Persian Empire (540-330 BC)

The Persians first settled the high hot plain between the Caspian Sea and what became known as the Persian Gulf around the year 1000 BC. In the centuries to come, the bulk of their empire would remain east of Olympia in Incognita.

Around 600 BC the neighboring Medes conquered the Persians. Soon enough, however, a Persian named Cyrus (r. 558-529) regained control of Persia, conquered the Medes, then led his army in conquests of other peoples in Olympia.

Cyrus commanded hundreds of thousands of soldiers. His 10,000 best soldiers were known as the Immortals. They led the rest into battle.

In 538 BC, Cyrus led his army to victory against the Babylonians. Their empire quickly became his.

Cyrus respected the ethnic integrity of the peoples under his rule. He allowed them to retain their own religions and languages. When Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylonia, he destroyed Jerusalem and its temple and dragged the people of Judah into exile. In 537 BC, Cyrus returned to these exiles the temple treasures stolen from them. He also financially supported the emigration of all Jews in Babylon interested in returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple and city.

Persian rulers encouraged trade across their empire. They were the first Olympian empire to establish trade with China. In this way Olympians enjoyed silk for the first time. Around 500 BC, Darius 1st (r. 522-486) also facilitated trade by coining money and encouraging its use as a medium of exchange across his empire. Doing so greatly increased the number and variety of goods being traded.

To improve both transportation and communication, Persian rulers ordered the multiplication and improvement of roads. The empire’s Royal Road ran 1,600 miles (2,500 km) from Susa, a major Persian city in Incognita, west to the city of Sardis near the Aegean Sea. Soldiers, bureaucrats, traders, and travelers could journey from Susa to Sardis in just two weeks.

The Persian empire prospered for over two centuries. It did so even while suffering small but legendary defeats against Greeks at Marathon in 490 BC and Salamis in 480 BC. Its armies suffered crushing defeats in 331, however, when confronted by an army of Greeks lead by Alexander of Macedon.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.