The Persian Empire Exploring the History of Ancient Persia
The culture within Ancient Persia, greatly influenced the life of the people living in this empire. Topics such as social class and religion conquered the life of a Persian. Some aspects of ancient Persia still exist today, and have spread to other places in the world.
These Indo-Europeans where nomadic people. The Persians and the Medes collaborated. The first ruler Cyrus the Great took over most of the Middle East. Areas that include territories of the Babylonians , Assyrians , the Phoenicians , and the Lydians .
Where is it located? (Geographic Location)
The Persian Empire had a arid season (except in the south-west monsoon season), very hot summers while bracing for the cold seasons. This geographical location was divided into four seasons. The cold seasons lasted from the middle of November to February. The summer season followed from March to the end of June. The monsoon season commenced in late June and continued up to mid September. The transition season period lasted from mid- September to mid- November. In other words the most hottest driest months were May and June having a temperature of 40 Celsius as a daily maximum. The coldest temperatures were experienced in January of a 20 Celsius daily temperature. Humidity was usually high during monsoon season around 70 percent. During the rest of the dry year humidity was at 25 percent.
Climatic Seasons in The Middle Eastern Region of Persia
Climatic Seasons in The Middle Eastern Region of Persia (contd.)
In other words the most hottest driest months were May and June having a temperature of 40 Celsius as a daily maximum. The coldest temperatures were experienced in January of a 20 Celsius daily temperature. Humidity was usually high during monsoon season around 70 percent. During the rest of the dry year humidity was at 25 percent.
How Geography affected Farming
Because of the usually dry climate the Persians lacked the amount of water used for agriculture. So they made irrigation systems to transport water to their crops. The type of harvest they produced was wheat, rice, flax, sesame. The also grew barley, olives, and made wine. The type of livestock the raised was cattle, goats and sheep. Hunting and fishing was another source of survival in this geographical region.
Achaemenes became the first king of Persia.
Cyrus the Great of Parsa takes over the Medes and turns out to be the new king. (559 B.C.)
Persia conquers the Medes. (550 B.C.)
Cyrus the Great of Persia conquers Babylonia bringing Babylon into the Empire. (539 B.C.)
Same with Phoenicia. (539 B.C.)
They conquered Elam. (538 B.C.)
They took over Egypt.(525 B.C.)
Darius I rebels against Cyrus and becomes king. (522 B.C.)
Lydia becomes a subdivision of Macedon after Persia is conquered by Alexander the Great. (334 B.C.)
Alexander the Great defeats Darius III of Persia.(333 B.C.)
Persian Empire fall to Alexander the Great (332 B.C.)
Alexander captures and burns the Persian capital of Persepolis. (327 B.C.)
Cyrus The Great Alexander The Great The Timeline
The Persian government was set up in such a way that the empire flourished. During this time, Persia made many technological advances and architectural achievements happened. The reason that their empire was so amazing was because of the rulers, but also because of the way they governed. There were so many different types of people and languages and cultures, and since they based their empire on tolerance and diplomacy, these cultures worked together to create what Persia was.
The Persian Empire
The Persian Empire
After the end of the Assyrian Empire in 612 BC. Persia began to expand.
-It expanded to neighboring kingdoms. Present day Iran, the Indus river (in the east) and Anatolia in the west.
-Persian armies gained control over the entire fertile crescent.
-Two more rulers, Cambyses and Darius conquered more land:
-Cambyses conquered Egypt.
-Darius conquered present-day Afghanistan and the river valley of India. Neither Darius or his son were able to conquer Greece.
The Persian Empire at it’s height spanned over more than 2,500 miles from east to west. It was the largest empire of that time.
The first king, Cyrus, used methods of governing that were different than the militaristic, bloodthirsty way that had been used by some rulers before him.
-He was kind to the peoples he conqured.
-He would not let his armies loot or burn any of the cities they conqured.
-He honored the local customs and religions and let the people practice whatever their beliefs were and speak their own language.
The people in his empire had a lot of freedom, yet Cyrus still had power.
Darius created and great administration and government.
-He divided kingdom into 20 province that were based on the homelands of the different groups of people.
-Each province was able to practiced their own religion, speak their own language and follow many of their own laws.
-He made it so that each province had a governor, called a satrap who ruled that specific province.
-To make sure that the satraps were doing their jobs and staying loyal to Darius, he had inspectors who traveled around the kingdom.
-There were tax collectors and army leaders for each province
-Darius also created a Royal Road stretched 1,677 miles around the kingdom, it ran from Susa, Persia to Sardis, Anatolia. The Royal Road had 111 relay stations that were spaced at 15 mile intervals along the road. Other, smaller roads, branched off from the main road. There were provision at each relay station and a kings messenger could cover the entire length of the Road in seven days. The Royal Road was also used as a trade route.
-There were buildings in which large halls are used as a central feature. These halls had columns that were made of wood set on stone slabs, while the buildings themselves were of uncut stone and mud-brick construction. Stairways and terraces, along with other features, formed the beginnings of what later developed into the imperial architecture of Pasargadae and Persepolis (cities in Persia). -There were also remains of huge royal palaces and structures have been found in Pasargadae, Persepolis, and Susa, in what is now Iran. -Many of the buildings in Persepolis are on an artificial terrace about 300 metres long and 450 meters wide, and are between 10 and 20 meters high. You reach the terrace by climbing a huge double staircase.
- The building system of Pasargad was constructed on an area which is 2.5 km in length. Palaces were constructed with cut stones. The buildings were constructed in 550 BC, during the reign of Cyrus. Huge black and white stones and colossal human-headed winged bulls or winged angels were used to construct and decorate the palace. On both sides of the 78 main gates there are images of the king.
-The tomb of Cyrus is located in the south of Pasargad, in a rectangular chamber with walls made of mud brick. The tomb is placed on top of a six-stage platform surrounded by staircases. The whole building is made of huge blocks of whitish limestone. The tomb ceiling is covered with five huge flat stones in the form of a peaked roof. It is a perfect example of Persian architecture.
-The Lydains, a group of people in Persia, were the first to use metal coins, but soon the kingdom had manufactured metal coins that circulated through all of Persia.
RELIGION IN ANCIENT PERSIA
Ideas of Zoroastrianism
Although the people of the Persian Empire were allowed to follow their own religious beliefs, many, including kings, followed Zoroastrianism.
A prophet named Zoroaster, who lived around 600 B.C., was its founder, and the first of the great monotheistic prophets.
Zoroaster proclaimed that there is one supreme god, Ahura-Mazda, who was responsible for creating everything that was good.
On the other hand, Ahriman, or the Evil One, was Ahura-Mazda’s twin brother, who was responsible for creating everything bad.
After failing when trying to stop Ahriman, Ahura-Mazda offered to set a time limit of twelve thousand years, in which the two gods would struggle for human souls.
Persians believed they could choose between good or evil.
According to Zoroaster, the world was an arena for a constant battle between good and evil, making every person’s actions significant.
More Ideas of Zoroastrianism
The explanation of why unfortunate things happened was that when anyone chose to commit something that was bad, they were tipping the balance to favor the Evil One. However, when a Zoroastrian did a good deed, they strengthened Ahura-Mazda.
Souls would be judged depending on which side they chose, at the end of time. Those who had followed Ahura Mazda would be lifted into paradise, and those who had followed Ahriman would suffer forever in a fiery pit.
The Persian Empire did not depict their gods as human beings.
Zoroastrians’ holy book is the Avesta, or Book of Knowledge, which contains a religious history of the Persians, a collection of formal prayers and responses used during ceremonies, and ancient hymns.
Similar to concepts in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Zoroastrian religions developed ideas about heaven, hell, and a final judgment.
Spread of Zoroastrianism
Followers of Zoroaster fled the empire, once the Arabs had conquered the empire. The main place they settled in was India. Followers held on to the traditions, and would not convert. Within the next fifteen hundred years Zoroastrians settled in:
-The United States -Australia -Hong Kong -Singapore
The faith was brought back to its originating land when followers eventually moved back to Iran.
Parts of Zoroastrianism that still are in Existence
The Zoroaster’s beliefs in guardian angels, a final judgment day, and a resurrection day, when bodies and souls are reunited, are currently still believed by many people who practice various religions.
The idea that a person can choose to do good or evil, resulting whether they will go to heaven or hell, still exists.
The practice of Zoroastrianism to drink wine to symbolize union with a god that died and was reborn, are similar to practices in other faiths.
Seven religious festivals were held each year by Zoroastrians. These were:
1) the Feast of Midspring 2) the Feast of Midsummer 3) the Feast of Bringing in the Corn 4) the Feast of Homecoming 5)the Feast of Midwinter 6)the Feast to Celebrate the Last Night of the Year 7)New Day
Many of these feasts are closely related to agriculture.
The festivals were celebrations that were daylong.
Tables were piled up with food. Here, all members of congregations, whether being rich or poor, ate and celebrated for the remainder of the day.
The religious festivals were looked forward to by everyone.
Candles and incense are presented to the local shrines.
LIFE IN ANCIENT PERSIA
Course of Life, if grown up as a noble in one of Persia’s magnificent capitals, Persepolis . Born A boy a girl Age 5: Placed under care of Father Mother Spouse is chosen by parents at age: 13 or 14 11 or 12 Marry at age: 18 when return 15 and move in home from battle with husband’s family Marry several women, Take care of home and have many children, and have many children while serving for the king. while seeing no other man.
The Upper Class included kings, nobles, and priests.
The Upper Class, itself, was divided into four groups, called estates.
-The First Estate was royalty, priests, and judges.
-The Second Estate consisted of military leaders.
-The Third Estate was made of physicians, astronomers, and poets.
-The Fourth Estate included wealthy landholders, and was the least important.
The Lower Class, containing most Persians, consisted of laborers (freemen or bondsmen). Freemen could decide where they were employed, but bondsmen (serfs and slaves) could not. Serfs were mostly farmers, and were anticipated to fight for their landowner if he lead troops into battle. The serfs stayed with the land, even if it was transferred to another holder. However, slaves could be sold with the owner’s command. Despite this, they often had higher skills than serfs. When Persia took over more territory after 500 B.C. their numbers increased. Slaves usually were prisoners of war.
Aspects of Culture: Food, Clothing, Writing, and Art
Scribes from Babylonia were hired, and recorded their language, Akkaidian.
Akkadian became the official language of the Persian Empire.
Cuneiform (to the left), a script that used wedge-shaped symbols to represent sounds, was adopted from the Elamites and Babylonians.
Most Persians remained illiterate, despite the fact they finally had a written language.
Stories and poetry still existed, but were memorized.
Works of Art
Nobles of Persia desired for vases, sculptures, fabrics, and other luxury items to decorate their homes with.
Stone carvings displayed the pride in the Persian military conquers, and its leaders. Those who they defeated were also featured in the carvings.
Women weren’t portrayed often, unless they were goddesses, because they did not have a part in the army.
People of the empire turned local supplies of silver into jewelry, and Persian wool into carpets.
Persian carpets had designs of flower gardens, or hunting parties on them.
There were many buyers who wanted to purchase these carpets through out the empire.
Persian carpets are still expensive and rare, currently.
More on Stone Carvings
Tombs of kings and buildings in Persepolis, as well as the Behistun cliffs, were carved upon.
The carvings display information about life in the Persian Empire.
They are also valuable for their artistry.
The way in which people dressed, and what the people in the empire looked like was evident through this art.
The types of crops and animals raised are also shown in the stone carvings.
Writing was carved under the images that described victories or defeats.
More on Persian Carpets
These carpets do not usually survive for thousands of years.
Believed to be the oldest (thought to be 2500 years old), the best-known example of an ancient Persian rug is in a museum from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Most of the oldest carpets that still exist were made in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Rugs that are made today are thought to be similar to those made during ancient times because ancient techniques, and similar fabrics, dyes, and designs from those used during ancient times are still used.
Only the wealthiest people can afford Persian carpets because they are so rare and expensive, with some costing $200,000.
The Emperors of Persia
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great united the Medes and the Persians. He was the first emperor of Persia. He ruled from 580 to 530 B.C. He was a political genius, he created the largest empire ever, and was the first to use many original ideas. By 554 B.C., he had defeated all his rivals and became the undisputed ruler of Persia.
Cyrus conquered Babylon, and freed the Jews, and he was extremely kind to all of his subjects. This had never been seen before, and Cyrus, being the amazing man that he was, allowed everyone who he ruled to believe in their own religion, and live under their own rights of life. Persia was a collection of many different cultures, Cyrus had encouraged this, and Persia was created from these cultures. This is called cultural diffusion. Persia took many things from different cultures, such as gold and silver coins from the Libyans, or an army of people from the Medes. Cyrus was a political genius. However, 530 B.C., Cyrus the Great dies in battle.
Cambyses Takes Control
A new emperor would be chosen for Persia. And this new emperor was Cyrus’s son, Cambyses. Cambyses did extend Persia into Egypt, however he did not follow his father’s wise way. Cambyses ridiculed the Egyptian religion. He ordered images of Egyptian Gods to be burned to a crisp. He was not valued much as an emperor. After 8 years of ruling, he died.
Cyrus’s Tomb, A very simple structure for such a noble emperor.
Chaos happens in Persia
When Cambyses died, Persia went into a total chaos state. Everyone began to freak out, and riots were happening. The Empire that had climbed so high was beginning to fall down and lose everything that it once had.
The New Emperor, Darius
Darius, the new emperor of Persia, would soon be Cambyses’s successor. Darius followed Cyrus’s views and way of life. He ruled from 550 to 486 B.C. Darius, like Cyrus made sure that when structures were being built, they weren’t built by slavery, but so that every worker got paid for it. Darius had a very smart view on architecture and when he was building things he made sure that they came out well. He rebuilt the capital Susa, which ended up in the bible for it’s amazing details and arts on the wall.
More On Darius
Darius is known for his achievements in architecture and for kindness, much like Cyrus. Darius got Persia back on on track after the chaos had erupted in Persia. Darius is arguably the greatest emperor of Persia, but he was only following Cyrus’s ways of life.