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Persian Empires
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Persian Empires


A brief overview of the Achaemenid, Alexandrian, Seleucid, Parthian, Sassanid dynasties.

A brief overview of the Achaemenid, Alexandrian, Seleucid, Parthian, Sassanid dynasties.

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  • 1. Persian Empires
  • 2. Achaemenid, 539-330bce
     Founder: Cyrus "the Shepherd" (r. 558-530bce)
    Origins: Medes and Persians (SW Iran), pastoral nomads
    Darius (r. 521-486bce) conquerer and administrator.
    Xerxes (r. 486-451) got into war with Greeks.
    Downfall: Greeks, Macedonians
  • 3. Achaemenid Dynasty
  • 4. Achaemenid, 539-330bce
    satraps with overlapping supervision
    standardization: laws, coins (Croesus), taxes
    Persian Royal Road and postal couriers; qanat (underground irrigation canals)
    Herodotus: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
    Zoroastrianism: Zarathustra (7-6c bce).
    Strong State support, esp. Darius
    Ahura Mazda v. Angra Mainyu, 12,000 year struggle
    Moderation: Good words, good thoughts, good deeds."
  • 5. Globalization, Part 1 (of many)
    India: gold, ivory, aromatic woods
    Iran/Central Asia: lapis lazuli, turquoise, etc.
    Mesopotamia/Iran: textiles, mirrors, jewelry: Finished goods
    Anatolia: gold, silver, iron, copper, tin
    Phoenicia: glass, cedar, timber, dyed wools
    Arabia: spices, aromatic woods
    Egypt: grain, linens, papyrus;
    transhipped from Nubia: gold, ebony, ivory
    Greece: oil, wine, ceramics
  • 6. Alexander’s Empire and the Hellenistic World, c. 323 B.C.E.
  • 7. Successor States
    Alexandrian/Seleucid (330-83 bce)
    Parthian (247 bce-224ce)
    Sasanid (224-651ce)
    Varying support for Zoroastrianism (Hostile, Tolerated, Revived)
    Varying centralization (weak, revived satraps, full Achaeminid)
    Border Wars with Mediterranean states (esp. Rome) and India
    Strong trade orientation
  • 8. Sources
    Maps from Stearns, et al., World Civilizations: The Global Experience (6e, 2011)