A Snapshot of the Persian Empire

In the past, the Persian Empire includes what we now known as Iran, and actually kept the name until 1935. To trace the glorious roots of the region, you’d have to travel back into time to 500 BC, where you’ll encounter the founding dynasty of the empire , the Achaemenids. In this article, you will learn more about the Persian Empire along with the people and places associated with it.

When at the height of their power, the Achaemenids conquered Asia as far as the Indus River, Greece, and North Africa. This region also included what is now Egypt and Libya. The actual start of the Persian Empire varies according to the source. Different scholars have documented the growth of its power, but one thing is for sure , Cyrus II (also known as Cyrus the Great) is behind the expansion that took the Persian Empire to the next level during the mid-6th century BC. Cyrus belonged to the Achaemenid Empire. He initially established his capital in Hamadan, and then in Pasargadae.

In 330 BC, Alexander the Great led the Macedonian Greeks to overthrow the Achaemenids. He then established the Seleucid Empire. Dynasties to follow were called the Parthian and Sassanid. In the mid-7th century AD, the Sassinids were defeated by Arab caliphs. By the time 651 rolled around, the Persian Empire was no longer in existence.

The Achaemenid Dynasty

The most successful of Persian Empires was the Achaemenid, which lasted from 550 to 330 BC. During the Achaemenid Period, Cyrus the Great and his family ruled over the Persian Empire. At the time, the empire included Libya, Ethiopia, Thrace, Macedonia, Afghanistan, and the Punjab. It also included everything in between.

Aside from Cyrus, other kings that ruled during the Achaemenid Period included Cambyses I, Cambyses II [530-522 BC], Bardiya [522 BC], Darius I [522-486 BC] (who ruled from Persepolis), and Xerxes I (the Great) [486-465 BC]. In the history books, the only other rulers to gain such acclaim were Darius I and Xerxes, who lived from 520 to 465 BC.

Introducing Darius

Following the death of Cyrus, his son Cambyses ruled over the empire for eight years (530-522 BC). During this time, he continued to follow in his father’s footsteps and conquered more land. He was quite successful in Egypt. When he died, a struggle for power erupted. Although he possessed a weak connection to the royal line, Darius was declared king. He ruled from 522 to 486 BC, and would become one of the most respected and victorious of Persian kings.

The first capital that Darius established was Susa, and it was here that he began to cultivate the region of Persepolis. A canal was constructed between the Nile and the Red Sea. The road system was extended and was improved upon. During his reign, he became the first ruler to establish the Royal Road , a highway that started in Susa and ended in Sardis. Along the way, posting stations were created at regular intervals.

Under Darius’ rule, the money system started to use coins. The daric was a gold coin, while a silver coin was called a shekel. Under his rule, the administration was rather efficient.