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CLST 208 Persian Empire.docx

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Queen's University
Classical Studies
CLST 208
Caroline L Falkner

Persian Empire: Cyrus the Great (Kurush):  Persians from NW part of Iran around Persepolis  Was originally a tribal leader from the area around Elam but Pasargadae was ancestral home of Persians, Babylon would become the administrative capital  Led a revolt against the Medes who ruled the area at the time  549 Cyrus seized control of the Median capital at Ecbatana  Begins conquests by moving west all the way to Lydia but does not attack the Neo-Babylonians at first  By 539 had conquered all of the Medes and began to turn attention to Neo-Babylonians  Battle of Opis o Persians under Cyrus defeat the Neo-Babylonians under Nabonidus o Enters Babylon as a hero with the support of the Priests of Marduk  Celebrates coronation at Babylon by “righting the wrongs of the preceding King” o Babylon will become administrative capitol as it is more central in empire and connected to the old routes of communication o Could deal with Nabonidus’ not celebrating the New Year while on campaign in Arabia o Perhaps invented “wrongs of preceding King” as propaganda for his own reign o At coronation he assumes the titles of “King of Babylon, Sumer, Akkad and of the Four Quarters of the World”  Follows in the ancient Mesopotamian tradition  “Cyrus Cylinder” o Record of Cyrus calling him the “Restorer of People” o Written in Old Persian o Likely allow all captives of the Neo Babylonians (including the Jews) to return to their homeland. Jews return home in 538-514  Done to create loyal subjects  Always treated very well in Jewish sources  Not necessarily all Jews returned to Holy Land o Lets captives return home but may have only released the captives of threatened parts of his empire  Allows them to return to create a group of pro-Persian citizens in these areas under threat for foreign powers  Jews allowed back to the Holy Land to check the Saite Egyptian influence in the area  Begins to build at Pasargadae which was the ancestral home of the Persians  Remembered in Persian/Mesopotamian folk tales as another Sargon o Abandoned as a baby and brought up by shepherds o Shows the people of the conquered areas were very greatful of Cyrus for either allowing them to return from Babylon, freeing them from Babylonian oppression or simply bringing order  Spent whole career campaigning and never settled down to administer his empire  Died around 530 BC on campaign in Afghanistan o Buried at Pasargadae o Alexander is said to have repaired the tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae  Likely just Alexander’s own propaganda as he was trying to integrate himself into Persian and Mesopotamian tradition  Greek sources for the time are highly bias and never present the Persian in a good light o Try to make it appear that Persia was always obsessed with conquering Greece Cambyses: Ruled 530-521BC o Son of Cyrus o Painted as despotic by Greek sources, aka Herodotus  Disputed by inscription of Cambyses telling about how Persian rulers never imposed their gods on their subjects  Leads expedition against Egypt and defeats Psamtik III in 523 o End of Saite Dynasty/Dynast 26 o Installs puppet ruler o Persians are usually listed at Dynasty 27 o Herodotus says that Cambyses did not respect the Egyptian god  Contradicted by inscription of Cambyses claiming respect for all gods  Could be part of Greek literary tradition of painting Persians as despoti  Egypt was never happy being under Persian control o Reports of almost contant rebellions against Persian rule during 400’s and 300’s o Greek sources record Persians having problems in Egypt o Persian sources always say the army was present in Egypt  Controls the largest empire know to have ever existed at the time Darius the Great  Succeeds after dynastic troubles  Not the son of Cambyses  By 516 Darius is in control of the entire Persian Empire  Reogranization of the Empire o Herodotus tells us that the entire Empire was divided into satrapies  Satrap (Governor) was supposed to try his best to defeat an invader but if he was not able to he was supposed to call in the Emperor o Financial reform  Introduces new coin, Daric, which was supposed to be universal across empire and was originally intended to pay mercenaries  Darics usually have imperial themes to them o More organize taxation system that included troop levies on the provinces  Levies of mostly cavalry from North and infantry from everywhere else  Organized the Persian 10,000 Immortals at the principal unit of the army o Archers first, but could also act as swordsmen  Communications were improved across the Persian Empire, likely using the Neo-Assyrian model  Danube Expedition in 513 o First time an Asian empire had crossed over into Europe o Controlled area around Thrace  499 Ionic Greek states revolt
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