Team Members: Nathan, Emily, Rosanna
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I. History

A. Periods in Persia

  1. Early Civilization in Persia

    • The Elamites was the first civilization in Persia we know of that settled before 1200 B.C. and tribes from both Medes and Persia went into Persia in around 900 B.C. In 549 B.C. Cyrus the king of the Persians overpowered the Medes.-emily
  2. The Achaemenid Empire (550-330 B.C.)

    • After the fall of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire, the Persians came into power adopting Assyrian’s military inventions, political inventions, and artistic inventions. During 550 B.C. Persia’s king Cyrus began to conquer the several nearby kingdoms. He conquered nearby kingdoms such as the kingdom of Lydiain 547 B.C. and some colonies in western Asia Minor. He also conquered the Babylonian Empire, which included Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, and Syria-Palestine, in around 539 B.C. Their empire began to expand to over two thousand miles, which was from the Indus River to Anatolia. After Cyrus’s death in a battle against nomadic invaders his son, Cambyses, extended the empire by conquering Egypt. Darius, Cambyses’s successor, took the throne in 522-521 B.C. by the help of the Ten Thousand Imoratals, who were an elite group of Persian soldiers. He spent three years getting rid of the revolts created by Cambyses’s mistake in scorning conquered people’s religion while he was still alive. Persia was a very diverse empire with many different people that spoke different languages, had different religions, and different cultures. Their diverse group of people in their kingdom affected their art and architecture in the empire. Later on a new king probably Xerxes son of Darius extends Persian’s empire into the east from the mountains to the river valleys of India. Persia’s gigantic empire was now over 2500 miles from east to west. Persia declined after Xerxes death, but continued to exist even with the revolts that existed until 331 B.C. Achaemenid Empire ended when Alexander defeated Persian’s army at the Battle of Gaugamela, which was the last major battle in Persia, and when Persia became Alexander’s empire.-emily
  3. The Seleucid Period (320-141 BC)

    • Until 330 BC, the Persians ruled over the Babylonians. In that year, Alexander the Great defeated the Persians. However, after Alexander's death, one of his generals, General Seleucus I Nicador, claimed control over the area previously controlled by the Persians, specifically, the post Babylonian area.. This began the Seleucid Period and lasted for 179 years. During this time, Seleucian monarchs and kings were constantly struggling in wars agains Ptolemies of Egypt in Palestine and Syria. The capital Seleucia on the Tigris river replaced Babylon as a administrative center. It also was ruled by an elected senate. Despite this, the Seleucid Period began to decline very quickly after it had begun. Even while it flourished, the capital was moved from Seleucia on the Tigris river to Antioch on the Orontes river. In 222-220 BC, Molon of Media rebeled and the King Antiochus III was forced to lead forces into Media. This conflict was short lived however, as when Molon's forces heard of Antiochus III's advances, they deserted him. The eastern parts of Bactria and Parthia also broke off at the same time in 238 BC. King Antiochus was able to use military might to prevent Parthia from invading its own home country and shocked the powerful Romans with his success. It also enticed the Romans into invading the dying Persia, because it forced the King had to divide his forces to meet the oncoming threat. In addition, Seleucia had to contend with a rebellious uprising in Judea, along with the Kushite expansion. Persia succumbed to invasion by Rome and Parthia.-Nate

The Persian Empire in about 500 B.C.
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B. Some of the Major Cities during the Achaemenid period

  1. Persepolis-emily
    • Darius founded Persepolis, Xerxes continued to build it, and is located in the providence of Fars. Persepolis was the place where representatives from places in the empire that would gather together and feast with the king. This city had many buildings that included the palaces, treasury, and the Hall of a Hundred Columns. The largest palace they had was the Apadana and valuables were stored in the treasury. Alexander burnt this city in 330 B.C. and it was never rebuilt so only the ruins remain.

South side of Darius's Palace at Persepolis
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The Ruins of Persepolis
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II. Geography

  • Persia had many mountains that made it difficult to access the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea. Ancient Persia didn’t have major river systems so they had caravans that follow routes in the mountains as their source of transportation. -emily
  • Persia was made up of present day Iran and Afghanistan. It reached from the western Mediterranean Sea, to the border of India. It also had many broad basins or plateaus, on which were agricultural settlements and cities. The mountains that bordered some parts of the empire made traversing into the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea extremely hard.-Nate

III. Culture

A. Government

  • In Persian’s government the king was at the top controlling everything as well as controlling the satraps. The empire was divided into satrapies or provinces and each is controlled by a satrap or governor. Satraps were Persia nobles who had to have absolute loyalty. Even though they had an all-powerful king, there was much tolerance to the different religion, culture, and languages.-emily
  • The Persian's government was a model for many other governments to come. The government included a tax collecting system, a network of roads, and allowed citizens to practice their own religions. This required that the empire have two capitals, Susa and Persepolis. Persepolis was more of a ceremonial capital, while Susa remained administrative and political.-Nate
  • The Government was also contained many remnants of Cyrus the Great's influence. He encouraged free religion so that there would be less incentive to revolt. Also, the Persian government also let conquered cultures survive and even grow, although if a culture became too extremist, the government retained the right to impose rules upon the cultists.-Nate
An Archway in Susa
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  • By the time that Alexander the Great conquered the Persians, they had had a total of four capitals: Persepolis, Susa, and two other unnamed ones. -Nate

B. Economy

  1. Trade-emily
    • Darius increased trade in Ancient Persia by creating a set of weights, measures that were used throughout their empire, and urged the people to use coins. In the beginning the people continued to barter, but then later on coins replaced it. They changed from a barter economy to a money economy.
    • Coins used in Persia: [left to right]- Gold daric, around 520-500 BC; Silver siglos, around, 500-480 BC; Silver tetradrachm of Tissaphernes, around 420 - 395 BC; Silver tetradrachm, around 410-390 BC
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  2. Roads-Nate
    • Darius also built a network of roads and paths to allow for easier travel. These roads were well maintained and allowed entire caravan lines to cross mountain ranges. Rest stops were also put on the road to shelter weary travelers. The roads helped because it took less time for goods to be delivered and thus the economy increased at a faster rate.
    • Darius also created a courier system, much like the modern day postal service. Couriers would set out from their destination and follow roads. At each rest stop, they would change horses, maybe eat and sleep, then move onward to the next stop or their destination.

C. Religion

  • The Ancient Persians were naturalistic and polytheistic people who believed in natural occurrences. Worship for them included animal sacrifice and drinking from the haoma plant.-Rosanna
  1. Zoroastrianism-Rosanna
    • In about 600 B.C., a man named Zoroaster created the religion Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster was one of the few and first people to only believe in one god, Ahura Mazda. The belief mainly circulated around the battle between good and evil fighting for your soul during your life and then whichever side won would be your determining fate after you died. There even was a god for the light and a god for the darkness similar to a heaven and a hell.
    • Zoroaster, as part of his religion, wrote sacred documents called Avesta. They scriptures which are in a way similar to the Bible because it is one big book made with smaller books. In total, there were seventeen Gâthâ’s(books) that were written.
    • Ahura Mazda
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  2. Rituals/Cults-Rosanna
    • Before Zoroastrianism, the Persians worshipped in cults, believing in natural things like fire and water. Many of these ideas were kept accurate through the Persian literature. Each natural element became a god or goddess and received offerings called yasna daily from the respected of each household. Rituals normally included sacrificing animals and drinking of the haoma plant.-Rosanna
    • Each animal who gave their life for a god or goddess in a sacrifice were considered to die with honor, so the spirit of the animal was believed to contribute to Geush Urvan, the ‘Soul of the Bull‘. Eventually, Geush Urvan broke out and became its own separate cult. Geush Urvan became the one to protect all the necessary animals.
    • Drinking of the haoma plant also broke out into its own cult as well. Many priests and warriors drank from the plant, realizing it would help them relax. This tradition continued even though other rituals and new religions developed.

D. Society

  • Persia ruled over many empires that it had conquered, such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, and India. Each of the cities in Persian territory were governed by satraps, or high officials. Taxes varied on how wealthy the city was that the satrap ruled. -Nate
  • The Persian social class under the Sassanians was divided very strictly. It was nearly impossible for a person of one class to marry or even be related to a person of another class. The only exceptions to this were when promotions occured and when a citizen was considered to have done something signifigant. For example, the builder of a large monument for a king had very little status. However, if the monument was grand enough, he may be honored to become an administrator in the city and thus rise to a higher class.-Nate
  • The first class was warriors and nobility. These were the administrators, governors, and fighting body. Below them were the priests, and even further below, the scribes. Finally, the lowest classes were farmers and peasant workers. These were the grunt laborers of the Persian society. -Nate

A Persian Priest
external image A-Jesuit-Priest-Inscribed-in-Persian-Jahangir-Shahi-Amal-E-Mansur-Mughal-1610-Giclee-Print-C12060018.jpeg -Nate
  1. Occupations-emily
    • Priests
      • The magi from one of Persian’s tribes became the priest class and they interpreted Zarathshtra’s teachings from own beliefs. Sometimes they would be against Zarathshtra’s teaching by encouraging night-time sacrifices to Mithra and worshipping Anahita.
    • Craftsman
      • The Persian society had a small artisan class, which were carpenters, metal engravers, and goldsmiths. The kings would use the skills from the conquered people for example the Lydian stonemasons worked on Pasargadae.
    • Scribes
      • In the east scribes were ranked higher than the craftsman. They were needed for distributing information and ideas for the king.
    • Military/Persia's Army
      • Persia’s army was a very diverse group because it had Persian infantry, Median infantry, mercenaries, and cavalries. Their army had troops such as the Persian cavalry, Immortals, Persian guards, hoplites (mercenaries), Scythians, chariots, etc.
    • Slavery
      • Slaves were needed to work on agriculture, warfare, and monumental constructions and usually acquired by warfare. Some worked in mines, or as plowmen, millers, cow herders, shepherds, winemakers, beer brewers, cooks, and bakers. Children of slaves were private stocks and household slaves could be bought

E. Thoughts and Learnings

  1. In around 522-486 BCE, Darius I stated Old Persian Cuneiform was created because of him. Each symbol was syllabic and could have any sound. Some of the symbols were borrowed from the Akkadian version of cuneiform but the sounds greatly differed from each other. The Old Persian Cuneiform did not last very long as the Greek alphabet soon took over.-Rosanna
    • The Old Persian Cuneiform
    • external image persian_cuneiform.gif-Rosanna
  2. Calligraphy came about in the 7th century B.C. before the Old Persian Cuneiform existed. It was invented by a man of the name Medes. This was the first time the Persians had any type of a writing system. It had 36 letters and instead of writing on clay tablets, they wrote with pen and skins but on special occasions, they would write with gold.-Rosanna

F. Arts and Crafts

  • Many of the Arts and Crafts from Persia spread to many other nations from that time. Nations from all around the globe were attracted to Persia’s great works of beautiful art.-Rosanna
  1. Architecture-Rosanna
    • One of the greatest creations in Persian Arts is the Terrace of Persopolis. Each part of the building was built delicately so it could praise the king and all his power. There are rows of carved soldiers sitting in the palace, which were believed to be able to help protect the king when it was necessary.
    • The Apadana Palace is one of the greatest structures ever built. This was started by Darius and completed by Xerxes. The magnificent building was used by kings for the grand occasions. Walls are covered with relief paintings about the festivities that occurred during special occasions like New Years. This massive structure was supported by seventy-two pillars and contained gifts of the people to the king at the time.
    • The Apadana Palace
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  2. Pottery-Rosanna
    • Around the time agriculture became popular, utensils did as well. Utensils were simply made of clay and heated to set the clay piece into place. It originally began in 4000 B.C., but became a lasting tradition to the generations later. Later on, the design of the utensils were not as simple as before and were also decorated with symbols like the sun or horses. Along with the popularity of utensil, other valuable items became important too like the bowls and jars used for storage. With time and patience, each piece of pottery improved and became more durable.
    • Persian Jar from about 800 B.C.
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  3. Dance
    • Persian dancing can be traced back to 2500 B.C. Dance was very encouraged in Persia during the first ruler dynasty because it was used as a form of worship. The influences of different cultures affected the way they danced. Dance was preserved for many dynasties following the dynasty of origin. Eventually, Persia hit hard times and dance slowly faded out as men considered it shameful to see his wife dance for another man.-Rosanna


  1. Pictures
  2. Video
  3. History
  4. Geography
  5. Culture

More Info:

  • Persepolis Recreated [part of it]: -emily