The story

Persian Civilization

The Persian civilization was one of the most significant civilizations of antiquity. Persia was located east of Mesopotamia, on a large plateau where it now corresponds to Iran, located between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Unlike neighboring regions, it had few fertile areas. This civilization settled in the territory around 550 BC.

Through Cyrus, who was a Persian prince, he undertook the domination of the Kingdom of the Middle Ages and thus began the formation of a successful reign lasting about twenty-five years. During this period, this gifted emperor also conquered the kingdom of Lydia, Phenicia, Syria, Palestine, the Greek regions of Asia Minor, and Babylon.

The expansion process initiated by Cyrus was continued by the action of Emperor Darius, who dominated the Indus plains and Thrace. At this point, given the great proportions assumed by the Persian territory, Darius made possible the ordering of a genious administrative reform. By the hands of Darius, the Persian domains were divided into satrapias, subdivisions of the territory to be administered by a satrap.


Mosaic representing the Persian armies.

Iran's plateau, a mountainous and deserted region lying east of the Fertile Crescent between Mesopotamia and India, was populated by the Medes and Persians.

At first the Persians were dominated by fears. This situation would reverse around 550 BC. At this time, under the command of Cyrus, the Persians dominated the fears and came to control the region.

The Persians also conquered other peoples living near the Iranian plateau, imposing the same administration on all. They eventually built a vast empire. Its territory comprised Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and a part of Central Asia.

These domains would be further expanded in post-Cyrus governments: Cambyses conquered Egypt in 525 BC; Darius I dominated Asia to the Indus River valley and also a small part of Europe, where some Greek colonies were located.

Darius and later his successor, Xerxes, still tried to conquer the region of present-day Greece, but failed. In 330 BC, the Persian Empire was conquered by Alexander the Great from Macedonia.

The formation of the Persian empire

Cyrus inaugurated the so-called Persian empire. With the increase in population, there was the need for geographic expansion.

Cyrus the Great (560-530 BC) became king of the Medes and Persians after conquering Ecbatana and dethroning Astyages (555 BC). He also conquered Babylon (539 BC). The empire stretched from the Hellespont to the borders of India.

Cyrus did not prohibit the native beliefs of the conquered peoples. It granted some autonomy to the upper classes, which ruled the Persian-dominated regions, but in turn demanded men for their army, food and precious metals. Cyrus died in 529 BC

Cambyses, son and successor of Cyrus, began a difficult military campaign against Egypt in 525 BC, finally defeated by the Persians at the battle of Pelusa. At that time the Persian empire encompassed the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, the Caucasus, much of the eastern Mediterranean, the deserts of Africa and Arabia, the Persian Gulf, and India. Cambise intended to extend his domain to Carthage, but failed to pursue this plan because of a violent internal struggle for power.

The struggle for power continued after Cambises's death. Darius, a distant relative of Cambyses, allied himself with strong sectors of the nobility, seized the throne and ushered in a new era in Persian history.

Cyrus the Great (Persian Emperor)

The organization of the empire

The peoples dominated by the Persians could retain their customs, their laws, their religion and their language. But they were required to pay taxes and to serve the Persian army.

Darius sought to organize the empire by dividing it into provinces and appointing people he trusted to govern them. To facilitate communication between the provinces, several roads were built, including the Royal Road. More than 2,000 kilometers long, this road connected the cities of Susa and Sardis. Passing by it were the royal post office, the army and the market caravans.

The wealth to support this huge empire was provided by free peasants, who lived in communities and paid taxes to the emperor. There was also slave labor, but most workers did not belong to this category.