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Classical Persia


Overtaken by Parthians who ruled from 247 BCE to 224 CE ... Mastiff statue. Architecture. Best Example --Persepolis. Highly organized, proportional planning ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Classical Persia

Classical Persia
Persian Empires in the Classical Era
Achemenids --558-330 (BCE)fought in Persian
Wars with Greece crumbled by Alexander Seleucids
part of Alexanders empire when divided into 3
(323-83 BCE) Overtaken by Parthians who ruled
from 247 BCE to 224 CEput under pressure by
expanding Rome, internal rebellion brings down in
early 3rd century CE Then a new empire, the
Sassanids reigned from 224 to 651 CE when Arab
warriors conquered it and incorporated it into an
expanding Islamic empire.
Persian Empire at the Time of the Persian Wars
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The first Persians (Iranians) were Indo-European
nomads arrived in Iran around 1,000 BCE Power
came from mounted cavalry
Persian nobleman with Persian soldiers .
Indo-European languages
First Persian Empire Achemenids founded by
Cyrus the Great (r. 559-486 BCE) created largest
known empire He besieged and captured Babylon in
539 and released the Jews who had been held
captive there, thus earning his immortalization
in the Book of Isaiah. When he died in 529,
Cyrus's kingdom extended as far east as the Hindu
Kush in present-day Afghanistan
Cyrus the Great (559-529 BC) "I am Cyrus, who
founded the empire of the Persians. Grudge me not
therefore, this little earth that covers my
Peoples of Darius Empire
Had to figure out how to rule over a far flung
empire, with many peoples
Seleucid (light brown) was part of Alexs empire-
Political Use of Satrapies and eyes and ears
  • A satrapy was an administrative unit, usually
    organized on a geographical basis.
  • A satrap (governor) administered the region, a
    general supervised military recruitment and
    ensured order, and a state secretary kept
    official records. The general and the state
    secretary reported directly to the central
  • The twenty satrapies were linked by a
    2,500-kilometer highway, the most impressive
    stretch being the royal road from Susa to Sardis,
    built by command of Darius. Relays of mounted
    couriers could reach the most remote areas in
    fifteen days.
  • Despite the relative local independence afforded
    by the satrapy system however, royal inspectors,
    the "eyes and ears of the king," toured the
    empire and reported on local conditions, and the
    king maintained a personal bodyguard of 10,000
    men, called the Immortals

Political Persepolis
Persepolis the ceremonial capital of the
Achaemenian empire. It was built during the reign
Darius the Great (522-485 BC), and developed
further by successive kings. The various temples
and monuments are located upon a vast platform,
some 450 meters by 300 meters and 20 meters in
height. At the head of the ceremonial staircase
leading to the terrace is the 'Gateway of All
Nations' built by Xerxes I and guarded by two
colossal bull-like figures.
Political and Economic
How is this Political and Economic?????

Gold coins of Darius
Agriculture was the foundation of the
economymost people work in agriculture Most
peasants are free, some own their own land, some
work for others
Underground canals for irrigating known as qanat
A view inside a qanat
Trade location, location, location Middle Man
in silk road routes
Religion Zoroastrianism
  • f. by Zarathustra (ca. 7th-6th c. BCE)
  • Supreme God Ahura Mazda, but not monotheistic
  • Priests magi
  • Emphasis on morality believe in a cosmic
    conflict between good evil …and good will
    ultimately prevail
  • Believe in good words, good thoughts, good
  • Emphasis on free will
  • Salvation individuals will be judged/ future
    rewards punishments
  • Most popular in Iran no missionaries but spread
    thru out SW Asia Mid East
  • Declined with spread of Islam
  • Influenced Christianity, Judaism, later Islam

Religion a crossroads for faiths
  • Missionary Buddhism, Christianity, Manichaeism
    in classical era.

Cyrus the Great offered religious toleration for
Jews allowed to do pilgrimage to Jerusalem
Buddhist statue just across Afghanistan border
Christian cathedral in Iran ca. 50 C.E.
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  • VERY cosmopolitan heterogeneous lots of
    different ethnicities
  • Originally nomadic society importance of family
    clan relationships
  • Imperial Bureaucrats educated shared power
    influence with warriors clan leaders
  • Most people free individuals artisans,
    craftsmen, merchant, low-ranking civil servants
  • Free peasants too some owned land others
    landless tenant farmers
  • Royal women (especially kings mother) yielded
    power within family (independent wealth,
    traveled, marriage alliances)
  • Families were patriarchal. Polygamy concubines
  • Slavery cities rural areas POWs debtors
    domestic service public works projects

  • Persepolis intellectual center too
  • Satraps government administration
  • Qanats underground canals
  • Aramaic became lingua franca
  • Early education focused on developing soldiering
    skills (horsemanship) and ethical guidance
  • Advanced education for bureaucrats

Bowl from Xerxes the Great with trilingual
inscription such a heterogeneous empire!
  • Made of silver, gold, lapis
  • Sculpture, jewelry, vessels
  • Animal motifs, mythological animals
  • Reverence to king

Lion Mug
Drinking horn
Mastiff statue
  • Best Example --Persepolis
  • Highly organized, proportional planning
  • Ornamental
  • Decorative reliefs
  • Free standing sculptures (sphinxes)
  • Celebrated king monarchy