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Persian Empire - Research Paper Example

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THE PERSIAN EMPIRE The Persian Empire, also known as the Achaemenid Empire, was the descendant state of the Median empire, which reached its height at around 500 B.C., at which time it extended westward from the Indus valley (current Pakistan) to Thrace and Macedon on the northeastern border of Greece…
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Download file to see previous pages The formation of the Persian Empire began in 550 B.C., when King Stages of Media, who subjugated much of Iran and eastern Anatolia (Turkey), was crushed by his southern neighbor Cyrus II ("the Great"), king of Persia (559–530B.C.). This upset the stability of power in the Near East. The Lydians of western Anatolia under King Croesus took advantage of the fall of Media to push east, and clashed with Persian forces. The Lydian army withdrew for the winter but the Persians marched on to the Lydian capital at Sardis, which fell after a two-week siege. The Lydians had been allied with the Babylonians and Egyptians, and Cyrus now had to meet these major powers head-on. The Babylonian empire controlled Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean. In 539 B.C., Persian forces defeated the Babylonian army at the site of Opis, east of the Tigris. King Cyrus entered Babylon and presented himself as a customary Mesopotamian monarch, restoring temples and releasing political prisoners. The one western power that remained unconquered in Cyrus' brilliant campaigns was Egypt. It was left to his son Cambyses to beat the Egyptian forces in the eastern Nile Delta in 525B.C. After a ten-day siege, Egypt's ancient capital Memphis fell to the Persians.2 A crisis at the court forced Cambyses to go back to Persia but he died on the way and Darius I emerged as king. During his reign and the reign of his successors, the empire was stabilized, roads for communication were built, a system of satraps (governors) was established, major building projects, such as royal buildings at Susa and a new dynastic center of Persepolis, were begun, more lands were gained.3 And for the next two and a half centuries, the Persians enjoyed a fairly peaceful period of history, disturbed only by the occasional revolts of the Aegeans. The Organization and Governance of the Empire Though built upon the Assyrian structure, the Persian administrative system was far more competent and civilized. The empire was divided into twenty provinces, or satrapies, each ruled by a governor called a satrap. To check the satraps, a secretary and military officials on behalf of the "Great King, King of Kings" were installed in every province. Also, special inspectors, "the Eyes and Ears of the King,"4 traveled all over the realm. Imperial post roads connected the important cities. Along the Royal Road between Sardis and Susa there was a post station every fourteen miles, where king's couriers could obtain rested horses, enabling them to cover the 1600-mile route in a week. "Nothing mortal travels so fast as these Persian messengers," wrote Herodotus. "These men will not be hindered..., either by snow, or rain, or heat, or by the darkness of night." 5  The Persian Empire was the first to endeavor to govern many different ethnic groups on the principle of equal responsibilities and rights for all peoples. So long as subjects paid their taxes and kept the peace, the king did not interfere with local religion, customs, or trade. Darius I revolutionized the world economy by placing it on a silver and gold coinage system also introducing a controlled and sustainable tax system that was accurately designed for each satrapy, based on their hypothetical productivity and their economic potential. Due to the vast geographical size, ethnic and cultural diversity of the subjected peoples, constant struggle for power on a regional scale, such as revolts led by the Greeks and the Egyptians, the creation of a large, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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