- Discuss the Achaemenid as the first global empire
- Around 550 BCE, Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) conquered the Median Empire and started the expansion of the Achaemenid Empire, assimilating the neighboring Lydian and Neo Babylonian empires.
- Cyrus the Great was succeeded by his son Cambryses II in 530 BCE and then the usurper Gaumata, and finally by Darius the Great in 522 BCE.
- By the time of Darius the Great and his son, Xerxes, the Achaemenid Empire had expanded to include Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia, the Southern Caucasus, Macedonia, the western Indus basin, as well as parts of Central Asia, northern Arabia and northern Libya.
- At its height around 475 BCE, the Achaemenid Empire ruled over 44% of the world’s population, the highest figure for any empire in history.
One of the four major powers of the ancient Near East (with Babylonia, Lydia, and Egypt), until it was conquered by Cyrus the Great in 550 BCE.
The capital of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great.
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia, also known as Cyrus the Great, created the largest empire the world had seen.
Darius the Great
The third king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, who ruled at its peak from c. 522-486 BCE.
The Achaemenid Empire, c. 550-330 BCE, or First Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great, in Western and Central Asia. The dynasty drew its name from Achaemenes, who, from 705-675 BCE, ruled Persis, which was land bounded on the west by the Tigris River and on the south by the Persian Gulf. It was the first centralized nation-state, and during expansion in approximately 550-500 BCE, it became the first global empire and eventually ruled over significant portions of the ancient world.
By the 7th century BCE, a group of ancient Iranian people had established the Median Empire, a vassal state under the Assyrian Empire that later tried to gain its independence in the 8th century BCE. After Assyria fell in 605 BCE, Cyaxares, king of the Medes, extended his rule west across Iran.
Around 550 BCE, Cyrus II of Persia, who became known as Cyrus the Great, rose in rebellion against the Median Empire, eventually conquering the Medes to create the first Persian Empire, also known as the Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus utilized his tactical genius, as well as his understanding of the socio-political conditions governing his territories, to eventually assimilate the neighboring Lydian and Neo-Babylonian empires into the new Persian Empire.
The empire was ruled by a series of monarchs who joined its disparate tribes by constructing a complex network of roads. The unified form of the empire came in the form of a central administration around the city of Pasargadae, which was erected by Cyrus c. 550 BCE. After his death in 530 BCE, Cyrus was succeeded by his son Cambyses II, who conquered Egypt, Nubia, and Cyrenaica in 525 BCE; he died in 522 BCE during a revolt.
During the king’s long absence during his expansion campaign, a Zoarastrian priest, named Guamata, staged a coup by impersonating Cambryses II’s younger brother, Bardiya, and seized the throne. Yet in 522 BCE, Darius I, also known as Darius the Great, overthrew Gaumata and solidified control of the territories of the Achaemenid Empire, beginning what would be a historic consolidation of lands.
Between c. 500-400 BCE, Darius the Great and his son, Xerxe I, ruled the Persian Plateau and all of the territories formerly held by the Assyrian Empire, including Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Cyprus. It eventually came to control Egypt, as well. This expansion continued even further afield with Anatolia and the Armenian Plateau, much of the Southern Caucasus, Macedonia, parts of Greece and Thrace, Central Asia as far as the Aral Sea, the Oxus and Jaxartes areas, the Hindu Kush and the western Indus basin, and parts of northern Arabia and northern Libya.
This unprecedented area of control under a single ruler stretched from the Indus Valley in the east to Thrace and Macedon on the northeastern border of Greece. At its height, the Achaemenid Empire ruled over 44% of the world’s population, the highest such figure for any empire in history.