After three days resisting the much larger Persian army of Xerxes I, Greek forces Ancient Greek civilization · Persia Battle of Thermopylae, ( bce), battle in central Greece at the mountain pass of Thermopylae during the Persian Wars. The Achaemenids were the dominant dynasty during Greek history until the time of This tool tradition, probably dating to the period 12, to 10, bc, marks the end of Rather less is known of the cultures in this time range in Iran than of . The Persian Empire is the name given to a series of dynasties This Iron Age dynasty, sometimes called the Achaemenid Empire, was a global hub of culture, religion, The history of carpet weaving in Persia dates back to the nomadic tribes. The ancient Greeks prized the artistry of these hand-woven.
Persian Empire - HISTORY
In Darius came to power and set about consolidating and strengthening the Persian empire. In bce the Greek city-states on the western coast of Anatolia rose up in rebellion against Persia.
This uprising, known as the Ionian revolt — bcefailed, but its consequences for the mainland Greeks were momentous. Athens and Eretria had sent a small fleet in support of the revolt, which Darius took as a pretext for launching an invasion of the Greek mainland. His forces advanced toward Europe in bce, but, when much of his fleet was destroyed in a storm, he returned home.
However, in a Persian army of 25, men landed unopposed on the Plain of Marathonand the Athenians appealed to Sparta to join forces against the invader. Owing to a religious festival, the Spartans were detained, and the 10, Athenians had to face the Persians aided only by 1, men from Plataea.
The Athenians were commanded by 10 generals, the most daring of whom was Miltiades. While the Persian cavalry was away, he seized the opportunity to attack.
The Greeks then prevented a surprise attack on Athens itself by quickly marching back to the city. The unprecedented size of his forces made their progress quite slow, giving the Greeks plenty of time to prepare their defense.
A general Greek league against Persia was formed in Command of the army was given to Sparta, that of the navy to Athens. The Greek fleet numbered about vessels and was thus only about one-third the size of the Persian fleet.
Herodotus estimated the Persian army to number in the millions, but modern scholars tend to doubt his reportage. The Greeks decided to deploy a force of about 7, men at the narrow pass of Thermopylae and a force of ships under Themistocles at Artemisium. At sea a detachment of Persian ships attempted to surprise the Greek fleet, but the Greeks, forewarned, engaged the main Persian navy.
That night a tremendous storm destroyed the Persian squadron while the Greeks were safely in port. In general, however, these millennia represent a major dark age in Iranian prehistory and warrant considerably more attention than they have received.
The late 3rd and 2nd millennia The beginning of this period is generally characterized by an even more marked isolation of the plateau than earlier, while the latter half of the period is one of major new disruptions, heretofore unique in Iranian history, that laid the groundwork for developments in the protohistoric period.
In northwestern and central western Iran, local cultures, as yet barely defined beyond their ceramic parametersdeveloped in relative isolation from events elsewhere. Little Mesopotamian influence is evident, though some contacts between Elam and the plateau remained.
Beginning perhaps as early as bc but more probably somewhat later, a radical transformation occurred in the culture of the northeast: Whether this cultural change represents a strictly local development or testifies to an important intrusion of new peoples into the area is still under debate.
In any case, none of these developments can be traced to Mesopotamia or to other areas to the west, regions which had previously been the sources of outside influences on the Iranian plateau.
Somewhat later the local cultures of central and northwestern Iran were apparently influenced by developments in northern Mesopotamia and Assyria, along patterns of contact that had been well established in earlier periods. In the second half of the 2nd millennium, however, western Iran—at first perhaps gradually and then with striking suddenness—came under the influence of the gray and gray-black ware cultures that had developed earlier in the northeast. There the impact of these influences was such as to definitely suggest a major cultural dislocation and the introduction of a whole new culture—and probably a new people—into the Zagros.
- The prehistoric period
- The Elamites, Medians, and Achaemenids
- Greece ii. Greco-Persian Cultural Relations
It was this development that marked the end of the Bronze Age in western Iran and ushered in the early protohistoric period. There Elamite civilization was centred. Elamite strength was based on an ability to hold these various areas together under a coordinated government that permitted the maximum interchange of the natural resources unique to each region.
Traditionally this was done through a federated governmental structure. Closely related to that form of government was the Elamite system of inheritance and power distribution. The normal pattern of government was that of an overlord ruling over vassal princes. In earliest times the overlord lived in Susawhich functioned as a federal capital.
With him ruled his brother closest in age, the viceroywho usually had his seat of government in the native city of the currently ruling dynasty. This viceroy was heir presumptive to the overlord. Yet a third official, the regent or prince of Susa the districtshared power with the overlord and the viceroy. On the death of the overlord, the viceroy became overlord. The prince of Susa remained in office, and the brother of the old viceroy nearest to him in age became the new viceroy.Persian Culture Basics
Only if all brothers were dead was the prince of Susa promoted to viceroy, thus enabling the overlord to name his own son or nephew as the new prince of Susa. What is remarkable is how often the system did work; it was only in the Middle and Neo-Elamite periods that sons more often succeeded fathers to power.
Elamite history can be divided into three main phases: In all periods Elam was closely involved with Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyriasometimes through peaceful trade but more often through war.
In like manner, Elam was often a participant in events on the Iranian plateau. Both involvements were related to the combined need of all the lowland civilizations to control the warlike peoples to the east and to exploit the economic resources of the plateau. The Old Elamite period The earliest kings in the Old Elamite period may date to approximately bc. Already conflict with Mesopotamia, in this case apparently with the city of Ur, was characteristic of Elamite history.
The 11th king of this line entered into treaty relations with the great Naram-Sin of Akkad reigned c. The outstanding event of this period was the virtual conquest of Elam by Shulgi of the 3rd dynasty of Ur c. Eventually the Elamites rose in rebellion and overthrew the 3rd Ur dynasty, an event long remembered in Mesopotamian dirges and omen texts. About the mid 19th century bc, power in Elam passed to a new dynasty, that of Eparti.
The third king of this line, Shirukdukh, was active in various military coalitions against the rising power of Babylonbut Hammurabi was not to be denied, and Elam was crushed in bc. The Old Babylon kingdom, however, fell into rapid decline following the death of Hammurabi, and it was not long before the Elamites were able to gain revenge. Kutir-Nahhunte I attacked Samsuiluna c. It may be assumed that with this stroke Elam once again gained independence. The end of the Eparti dynasty, which occurred possibly in the late 16th century bc, is buried in silence.
Political expansion under Khumbannumena c. Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria campaigned in the mountains north of Elam in the latter part of the 13th century bc. The Elamites under Kidin-Khutran, the second king after Untash-Gal, countered with a successful and devastating raid on Babylonia. In the end, however, Assyrian power seems to have been too great. Tukulti-Ninurta managed to expand, for a brief time, Assyrian control well to the south in Mesopotamia. Kidin-Khutran faded into obscurity, and the Anzanite dynasty came to an end.
After a short period of dynastic troubles, the second half of the Middle Elamite period opened with the reign of Shutruk-Nahhunte I c.
Two equally powerful and two rather less impressive kings followed this founder of a new dynasty, whose home was probably Susa, and in this period Elam became one of the great military powers of the Middle East. Tukulti-Ninurta died about bc, and Assyria fell into a period of internal weakness and dynastic conflict.
Shutruk-Nahhunte I captured Babylon and carried off to Susa the stela on which was inscribed the famous law code of Hammurabi. In Babylonia, however, the 2nd dynasty of Isin led a native revolt against such control as the Elamites had been able to exercise there, and Elamite power in central Mesopotamia was eventually broken.
The Elamite military empire began to shrink rapidly. Nebuchadrezzar I of Babylon c.
A second Babylonian attack succeeded, however, and the whole of Elam was apparently overrun, ending the Middle Elamite period. It is noteworthy that during the Middle Elamite period the old system of succession to, and distribution of, power appears to have broken down. Increasingly, son succeeded father, and less is heard of divided authority within a federated system.
This probably reflects an effort to increase the central authority at Susa in order to conduct effective military campaigns abroad and to hold Elamite foreign conquests. The old system of regionalism balanced with federalism must have suffered, and the fraternal, sectional strife that so weakened Elam in the Neo-Elamite period may have had its roots in the centrifugal developments of the 13th and 12th centuries bc.
In bc a certain Huban-Nugash is mentioned as king in Elam. The land appears to have been divided into separate principalities, with the central power fairly weak. During the next century the Elamites constantly attempted to interfere in Mesopotamian affairs, usually in alliance with Babylon, against the constant pressure of Neo-Assyrian expansion. At times they were successful with this policy, both militarily and diplomatically, but on the whole they were forced to give way to increasing Assyrian power.
Local Elamite dynastic troubles were from time to time compounded by both Assyrian and Babylonian interference. Meanwhile the Assyrian army whittled away at Elamite power and influence in Luristan.
In time these internal and external pressures produced a near total collapse of any meaningful central authority in Elam.
The protohistoric period and the kingdom of the Medes The beginning of the Iron Age is marked by major dislocations of cultural and historical patterns in western Iran almost nothing is known of the eastern half of the plateau in the Iron Age. The Iron Age itself is divided into three periods: Iron Age I c. The latter is the archaeological equivalent of what historically can be called the Median period. The coming of the Iranians Though isolated groups of speakers of Indo-European languages had appeared and disappeared in western Iran in the 2nd millennium bc, it was during the Iron Age that the Indo-European Iranians rose to be the dominant force on the plateau.
By the mid-9th century bc two major groups of Iranians appeared in cuneiform sources: Of the two the Medes were the more widespread and, from an Assyrian point of view, the more important group. In the more western Zagros they encountered Medes mixed with non-Iranian indigenous peoples. Early in the 1st millennium Iranian Medes already controlled almost all of the eastern Zagros and were infiltrating, if not actually pushing steadily into, the western Zagros, in some areas right up to the edge of the plateau and to the borders of lowland Mesopotamia.
Persians also appear in roughly the same areas, though their exact location remains controversial. It has been argued that these various locations represent a nomadic tribe on the move; more likely they represent more than one group of Persians.
What is reasonably clear from the cuneiform sources is that these Medes and Persians and no doubt other Iranian peoples not identified by name were moving into western Iran from the east. They probably followed routes along the southern face of the Elburz Mountains and, as they entered the Zagros, spread out to the northwest and southeast following the natural topography of the mountains.
In doing so, they met resistance from the local settled populations, who often appealed to UrartuAssyria, and Elam for assistance in holding back the newcomers. It has been suggested that the introduction of gray and gray-black pottery into western Iran from the northeast, which signals the start of the Iron Age, is the archaeological manifestation of this pattern of a gradual movement of Iranians from east to west.
The case is by no means proved, but it is a reasonable reading of the combined evidence. The spread of the Iron Age I and II cultures in the Zagros is restricted and would appear to correspond fairly well with the distribution of Iranians known from the written documents. The distribution of the Iron Age III culture, on the other hand, is, at least by the 7th century bc, much more widespread and covers almost the whole of the Zagros.
Thus, the argument that links these archaeological patterns with the Iranian migration into the area associates the Iron Age I and II cultures with the early penetration of the Iranians into the more eastern Zagros and with their infiltration westward along the major routes crosscutting the main mountain alignments.
Those areas where traces of the Iron Age I and II cultures do not appear were the regions still under the control of non-Iranian indigenous groups supported by Urartu, Assyria, and Elam.
The widespread Iron Age III culture is then associated with the rise to power of the Median kingdom in the 7th and early 6th centuries bc and the Iranianization of the whole of the Zagros Mountains. To judge from the Assyrian sources, no Median kingdom such as Herodotus describes for the reign of Deioces existed in the early 7th century bc; at best, he is reporting a Median legend of the founding of their kingdom. According to Herodotus, Deioces was succeeded by his son Phraortes reigned — bcwho subjugated the Persians and lost his life in a premature attack against the Assyrians.
Some of this tale may be true.
It is possible that Phraortes is this Kashtariti, though the suggestion cannot be proved either historically or linguistically. That a Median king in this period exerted political and military control over the Persians is entirely reasonable, though it cannot be proved. Beginning as early as the 9th century bc and with increasing impact in the late 8th and early 7th centuries, groups of nomadic warriors entered western Iran, probably from across the Caucasus.
Dominant among these groups were the Scythians, and their entrance into the affairs of the western plateau during the 7th century may perhaps mark one of the turning points in Iron Age history.
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Herodotus speaks in some detail of a period of Scythian domination, the so-called Scythian interregnum in Median dynasty history. His dating of this event remains uncertain, but traditionally it is seen as falling between the reigns of Phraortes and Cyaxares and covering the years to bc.
Whether such an interregnum ever actually occurred and, if it did, whether it should not be dated later than this are open questions. What is clear is that by the mid 7th century bc there were a great many Scythians in western Iran, that they—along with the Medes and other groups—posed a serious threat to Assyria, and that their appearance threw previous power alignments quite out of balance.
Herodotus reports how, under Cyaxares of Media — bcthe Scythians were overthrown when their kings were induced at a supper party to get so drunk that they were then easily slain. It is more likely that about this time either the Scythians withdrew voluntarily from western Iran and went off to plunder elsewhere or they were simply absorbed into a rapidly developing confederation under Median hegemony.
Cyaxares is a fully historical figure who appears in the cuneiform sources as Uvakhshatra. Herodotus speaks of how Cyaxares reorganized the Median army into units built around specialized armaments: The unified and reorganized Medes were a match for the Assyrians. They attacked one of the important Assyrian border cities, Arrapkhain bc, surrounded Nineveh in but were unable to capture it, and instead successfully stormed the Assyrian religious capital, Ashur.
In the attack on Nineveh was renewed, and the city fell in late August the Babylonians arrived rather too late to participate fully in the battle. The Babylonians and the Medes together pursued the fleeing Assyrians westward into Syria.
The problem, of course, was how to divide the spoils among the victors. The cuneiform sources are comparatively silent, but it would seem that the Babylonians fell heir to all of the Assyrian holdings within the Fertile Crescentwhile their allies took over all of the highland areas. The Medes gained control over the lands in eastern Anatolia that had once been part of Urartu and eventually became embroiled in war with the Lydians, the dominant political power in western Asia Minor.
Thus a new balance of power was established in the Middle East among Medes, Lydians, Babylonians, and, far to the south, Egyptians. At his death Cyaxares controlled vast territories: Whether it is appropriate to call these holdings a kingdom is debatable; one suspects that authority over the various peoples, Iranian and non-Iranian, who occupied these territories was exerted in the form of a confederation such as is implied by the ancient Iranian royal title, king of kings.
Astyages followed his father, Cyaxares, on the Median throne — bc. Comparatively little is known of his reign.
All was not well with the alliance with Babylon, and there is some evidence to suggest that Babylonia may have feared Median power. The latter, however, was soon in no position to threaten others, for Astyages was himself under attack. Traditionally, three rulers fell between Achaemenes and Cyrus II: TeispesCyrus Iand Cambyses I. Teispes, freed of Median domination during the so-called Scythian interregnum, is thought to have expanded his kingdom and to have divided it on his death between his two sons, Cyrus I and Ariaramnes.
Cyrus I may have been the king of Persia who appears in the records of Ashurbanipal swearing allegiance to Assyria after the devastation of Elam in the campaigns of — bc, though there are chronological problems involved with this equation. When Median control over the Persians was supposedly reasserted under Cyaxares, Cambyses I is thought to have been given a reunited Persia to administer as a Median vassal. Cyrus II certainly warranted his later title, Cyrus the Great. He must have been a remarkable personality, and certainly he was a remarkable king.
He then initiated diplomatic exchanges with Nabonidus of Babylon — bcwhich justifiably worried Astyages. Eventually he openly rebelled against the Medes, who were beaten in battle when considerable numbers of Median troops deserted to the Persian standard.
Thus in the Median empire became the first Persian empire, and the Achaemenian kings appeared on the international scene with a suddenness that must have frightened many.
Cyrus immediately set out to expand his conquests. After apparently convincing the Babylonians that they had nothing to fear from Persia, he turned against the Lydians under the rule of the fabulously wealthy Croesus.
Lydian appeals to Babylon were to no avail. He then took Ciliciathus cutting the routes over which any help might have reached the Lydians. Croesus attacked, and an indecisive battle was fought in bc on the Halys River. Since it was late in the campaigning season, the Lydians thought the war was over for that year, returned to their capital at Sardis, and dispersed the national levy.
Cyrus, however, kept coming. He caught and besieged the Lydians in the citadel at Sardis and captured Croesus in Of the Greek city-states along the western coast of Asia Minor, heretofore under Lydian control, only Miletus surrendered without a fight. The others were systematically reduced by the Persian armies led by subordinate generals. Cyrus himself was apparently busy elsewhere, possibly in the east, for little is known of his activities between the capture of Sardis and the beginning of the Babylonian campaign in Nowhere did Cyrus display his political and military genius better than in the conquest of Babylon.
The campaign actually began when he lulled the Babylonians into inactivity during his war with Lydia, which, since it was carried to a successful conclusion, deprived the Babylonians of a potential ally when their turn came. Then he took full advantage of internal disaffection and discontent within Babylon.
Nabonidus was not a popular king: With the stage thus set, the military campaign against Babylon came almost as an anticlimax. The fall of the greatest city in the Middle East was swift; Cyrus marched into town in the late summer of bc, seized the hands of the statue of the city god Marduk as a signal of his willingness to rule as a Babylonian and not as a foreign conqueror, and was hailed by many as the legitimate successor to the throne.
In one stride Cyrus carried Persian power to the borders of Egypt, for with Babylon came all that it had seized from the Assyrians and gained in the sequel. The rapidity with which his son and successor, Cambyses IIinitiated a successful campaign against Egypt suggests that preparations for such an attack were well advanced under Cyrus.
But the founder of Persian power was forced to turn east late in his reign to protect that frontier against warlike tribes who were themselves in part Iranians and who threatened the plateau in the same manner as had the Medes and the Persians more than a millennium earlier. One of the recurrent themes of Iranian history is the threat of peoples from the east. How much Cyrus conquered in the east is uncertain. What is clear is that he lost his life in bc, fighting somewhere in the region of the Oxus Amu Darya and Jaxartes Syr Darya rivers.
The pharaoh Ahmose II of the 26th dynasty sought to shore up his defenses by hiring Greek mercenaries but was betrayed by the Greeks. The Egyptians lost and retired to Memphis, which subsequently fell to the Persians. Three subsidiary campaigns were then mounted, all of which are reported as failures: This latter effort was partly successful, but the army suffered badly from a lack of proper provisions on the return march.
Egypt was then garrisoned at three major points: Daphnae in the east delta, Memphisand Elephantinewhere Jewish mercenaries formed the main body of troops. Several provinces of the empire accepted the new ruler, who bribed his subjects by remitting taxes for three years.
Cambyses died—possibly by his own hand but more probably from infection following an accidental sword wound—as he hastened home to regain control. Cambyses is reported to have ruled the Egyptians harshly and to have desecrated their religious ceremonies and shrines.
His military campaigns out of Egypt were all reported as failures. He was accused of suicide in the face of revolt at home.
It was even suggested that he was mad. There is, however, little solid contemporary evidence to support these charges.