The History of Ancient Persia

Historicalfacts.net: The History of Ancient Persia - What we now call Iran was known for a long time and until relatively recently as Persia. In what we now know as the region of Khuzestan, the first culture of Iran was formed: Elam. The first mention of this kingdom is found in the Sumerian Royal List, around 2700 BC, despite their clashes and confrontations, throughout his life Elam traded a lot with Mesopotamia, and imported products such as wood, copper, tin, silver, marble and also horses. The first known dynasty was that of Awan, who adapted the Sumerian cuneiform script to represent their language, the Elamite.

The capital, Susa, was invaded by the Akkadians of Sargon of Akkad, but the last king of Awan, Kutik-Inshushinak, managed to recover it around 2240 BC. However, neither of them counted on the Guteos, or the Gutis, crazy tribes of the Zagros Mountains that killed them and filled the area with destruction. In 2100 BC, The Shimaski Dynasty arrived in Elam, but the neighboring 3rd Dynasty of Ur, managed to subdue them until around 2000 BC, more or less, The Elamite King Kindattu captured The King of Ur Ibbi-Sin, and on top he managed to take the territory of Anshan, which would later be known as the Persis region.

In the year 1890 BC, the dynasty of The Epártidas, led by Eparti I, ascended to the power of Elam. These elamites had some rather rare customs. The levirate and incest were the most, and in the government the king commanded, but his brother and his eldest son also had a lot of power, if any, forming a kind of triarchy. It would be very nice everything, but in 1764 BC King Hammurabi of Babylon arrived and again Elam was defeated. He had to pay tribute to Babylon, but he remained independent. However, after the reign of Kutir-Nahhunte I begins a period of darkness where there is hardly any data. This is going to be quite usual in the area, getting used to it. Around the year 1275 Elam met an amazing rebirth at the hands of The Igehálkida Dynasty and its King Untash-Napirisha.

Although it has the name of Belarussian, with it Susa developed culturally and artistically. Ziggurats and temples stand out to their gods: Inshushinak, Insnikarab, Napirisha, Kiririsha, Pinigir and they had many. And he also made a statue of his wife, Queen Napir-Asu. But the most important thing came in the year 1205, with the arrival of the dynasty of the Shukukids. Shutruk-Nahhunte I got it on the basis of good, not only in the cultural field, but also in the conquests, achieving some booty, as the wake with the code of Hammurabi and a very important statue of the Babylonian god, Marduk.

The History of Ancient Persia - The Iranian Tribes and The Medos

Between the years 1700 and 1200 BC, many Indo-European tribes from the Russian steppes began to arrive in the area of Iran. The Hircans and Parthians settled east of the Caspian Sea; the Bactrians and Sogdians north of the Hindu Kush mountain range. Aryans, Drangians and Arachthians east of the Iranian Plateau. And the most important now, the Medes just below the Caspian Sea, in the Hamadan area, and the Persians in the Anshan area. They were not any civilization yet, but a group of tribes dedicated to the pasturing and the cultivation of fruits and vegetables.
The History of Ancient Persia
The History of Ancient Persia

The first mention of the Medes as a rock to be taken into account took place in the reign of Shalmaneser III, around 850 BC. It was due to the Assyrian pressure that these tribes united forming the Media by 672 BC, with a king at the head, Kashtaritu, or Fraortes or as it was actually called. His father, Deioces, had founded the capital of Ecbatana, and laid the foundations of this new unitary kingdom. The beginnings were not easy, because the Assyrians allied themselves with other Iranians: the Scythians and the Cimmerians, who helped them against Urartus and Medes and left them rather badly.

However, King Cyaxares managed to remove the Scythians from above and also reform his army following the Assyrian scroll. Archers, spearmen and horsemen were the most important troops, and even had some siege engines. Within the Medes there were many tribes: Busas, Paretacenos, Strujates, Arizantos, Budios and Magicians. The latter were conforming an incipient clerical class dedicated to the religious rituals and of divination, although the majority was in general shepherds, agriculturists or metallurgists. They believed in benefactor gods, The Asura and Malignant, The Daevas, the forces of nature. The struggle between good and evil will always be present in their way of seeing the world.

Many Iranian gods are related to the Vedic gods. Ahura Mazda, Mitra, Varuna, and Atar. One of the Assyrian kings, Ashurbanipal, put an end to the story of Elam by conquering Susa in 646 BC, Anshan remained independent but not for long. When Asurbanipal died, Cyaxares de Media and Nabopolassar of Babylon allied to crush the Assyrians, and had a success of the milk. They took Nineveh and Assyria was erased from the map in 609 BC. Here begins the great expansion Meda, and had it not been for an eclipse that made the soldiers go home, they would have managed to take the kingdom of Lydia from King Aliates. But moments of glory are always spoiled by spoiled children. That was King Astiages, who was left to luxury and the good life. And the tribes began to plan to remove him from power.

The History of Ancient Persia - The Achaemenid Empire

One of the most powerful Iranian tribes was that of the Persians, but within it the hegemony was held by the family of The Achaemenids, who thanks to the decay of Elam had taken the area of Anshan, that happened to be called Pars, Fars or Persis, of there the name of Persia. Cyrus II the Great, who managed to ally himself with the great majority of Iranian tribes and cast the Median king to place himself on the throne. By 530 BC, the Persians had already ruled Babylon, Syria and also took Asia Minor when Cyrus defeated the Lydian King Croesus.

Unlike other monarchs of the time, Cyrus treated the subject peoples with great benevolence and respect. In fact, he freed the Jews from their captivity in Babylon and allowed them to return to Israel. In those years Cyrus began the construction of a new capital, Pasargada, in the north of Fars. Here we find the enormous palace of Cyrus, with a garden patio in the middle; and also his grave, where he was buried after his death. His son Cambyses II managed to take Egypt after a lot of fighting. It was famous the Battle of Pelusio where according to legend the Persian released cats to avoid the arrows of the troops of Psamtik III, because it was a sacred animal.

In addition, the first great Persian fleet was created. But perhaps the greatest glory of the empire took place with the reign of Darius I, who organized the great empire in Satrapies, as provinces, trying to respect the natural entities of each tribe, and making them pay taxes but without bleeding anyone. Coins such as the Dárico or the Shekel were created, and many of them were invested in roads, especially on the Camino Real from Susa to Sardes, where the first postal service in history was installed. It also highlights the most famous Persian text, that of Behistun, engraved on the wall of a cliff. He also created what would be the great Persian capital par excellence, Persepolis. The royal palace stands out, an enclosure within which the following Achaemenian monarchs were building their palaces. It was accessed by a large staircase that led to the door of all nations, with Lammasu statues of Assyrian style and columns of colors, and on the right was the Apadana, the audience room.

The royal Persian tombs of Naqsh-e Rustam, very close to the royal city, are also very popular. The Persian monarchy was of an absolutist nature, the king controlled everything, but unlike other places, he was not considered a god. The capital varied depending on the time of year: Persepolis, Pasargada, Ecbatana, Susa, and Babylon. They also chose the satraps, almost always from the Achaemenid family, and they were in charge of administering the provinces, collecting taxes and creating garrisons with the locals, who were part of the imperial army during times of war.

In addition, Darius I (Darius the Great) was the one who put Mazdaism as the official religion of the empire. This religion was founded by Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, 200 years before. He said that men had to follow a pure life and full of good deeds so that good, Ahura Mazda, or Ajura Mazda, or Ormuz, triumphed over evil, Ariman or Angra Mainyu. It was a kind of dual god, which was not built temples, but altars outdoors, with candles and those little things. All his thoughts were collected in a book called Avesta, of which only one quarter of the total has reached the present day.

The decline of Achaemenid Persia began with the Medical Wars against the Greeks. They are called "medical" because the Greeks incorrectly considered Medes and Persians as same. The defeat of Darius I in the Battle of Marathon, the delay of his son Xerxes I in the passage of Thermopylae against the Spartan Leonidas I and his subsequent defeat in the Battles of Salamis and Plataea put an end to the Persian aspirations to conquer Hellas. The Empire was in trouble. The following Persian kings had to face a lot of internal rebellions and conspiracies. During the Peloponnesian War, the Persians had an alliance with the Spartans. In this context, Greek mercenaries went to Persia to support the rebellion of Prince Cyrus the Younger against his brother, King Artaxerxes II. Cyrus died at the Battle of Cunaxa and the Greeks found themselves in the middle of nowhere without help and in hostile land, and had to return home in an epic known as the Retreat of the Ten Thousand.

Some time later, Alexander the Great would finish the Achaemenids definitively. After defeating Darío III in Gaugamela, the Macedonian, with great rapidity was taking the Persian capitals until destroying the palace of Persepolis. Alexander continued conquering more and more Iranian tribes until he palmed it and all his conquests were shared among the Diádocs, his successors.

The History of Ancient Persia - Seleucid Empire

During the following two centuries, the area of Persia was under the command and influence of the Seleucid Empire, one of several Hellenic states founded by the Diadocs. This in particular was founded by Seleuco I Nicátor. The Seleucid domain did not last long in some areas of Persia. Around 250 BC the satrap of Bactria Diodoto founded the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, and shortly afterwards it was the turn of the satrap of Parthia Andragoras. But this rebel came out within their territory, the tribe of the Dahae, who were native, and led by Arsaces I managed to throw the Greeks to create the Kingdom of Parthia.

The History of Ancient Persia - The Kingdom of Parthia and The Sasanian Empire

After the triumph of the Arsaces I rebellion, Parthia became an independent kingdom led by the Arsacid family. The first years were complicated, by the fights against the Seleucid Empire, especially when Antiochus III came to power. During the second century BC, the small Parthian principality began to expand to the point of becoming an empire. Especially relevant was the long reign of Mithridates I, who took territory from the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, conquered Media and later Mesopotamia. There he conquered the city of Seleucia del Tigris and neighboring Ctesiphon, which would become the new main capital. There were also contacts with Han China and its Emperor Wu, and here began a trade agreement that would give rise to the Silk Road.

In the birth realm, the king had absolute power once again, although the nobility was gaining power, and in fact, the sovereigns needed the approval of the synhedrion, or council of nobles, sages and priests, of the magicians, basically. For a long time they used Greek as the main language, and polygamy and incest continued to be in order the day among the royal family. They continued giving cane to the agriculture and cattle ranch, but what began to fill the coffers of the kingdom was undoubtedly the international trade with India, China and the West. Being in the middle was the host. One of its many capitals was Hecatómpilos, the 100 gates, in reference to the fact that it was a junction city of many caravan routes.

A new expansionist epoch would occur during the reign of Mithridates II, who reduced the Seleucid Empire to practically nothing. But of course, one enemy is leaving, another is coming. The Parthians discovered that beyond Syria there was a people wanting war, the Roman Republic. Rome, with mostly infantry troops, had it screwed up to defeat them. It is famous the defeat of Crassus, little friend of Julius Caesar and Pompey, in the Battle of Carras in 53 BC One of the most powerful men in Rome was executed by the king child Orodes II. His son Fraates IV not only murdered his father to secure the throne, but it is said that he also charged his 30 brothers and his own son.

Both Rome and Parthia were going through a period of internal strife and civil wars. Later the Roman Republic became an Empire and, under the command of Nero, there was a fight over the territory of Armenia, vassal kingdom of Rome. The Parthians invaded it and put a calving king, Tiridates I. There was war but Nero decided to seek peace with Vologases I and agreed that the kings of Armenia could be Arsácidas but they should be crowned by Rome. And that's the way it was. With the Emperor Trajan the conflict with the Parthians returned, and the Spaniard managed to wrest them from Mesopotamia in 116 BC, including Ctesiphon.

Osroes I of Parthia had it screwed up to recover it, but finally it obtained it. It would not be until the reign of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus when the Romans took it again, but they brought as a gift a very dodgy disease that caused chaos in Italy. The last Roman emperor to face the Arsacid dynasty was Caracalla. It was in 224 AD when one of the vassal tribes of the Arsacids, the Persian family of the Sasan, rose up against their control and took the reins of the empire.

The History of Ancient Persia - The Sasanian Empire

Ardashir I defeated the troops of Artabano IV at the Battle of Hormozgan and here begins the history of the Persian Sassanid Empire. The Sassanids were Persians, and apparently they were believed to be descendants of the Achaemenids. His vital objective was to recover the glory of the past, when Cyrus the Great was there and all that. During his reign and that of his son Sapor I the expansion was quite rapid. To the north they reached the Aral Sea area, between what is now Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; and in the east they defeated the Kushans and seized the area of the Indus Valley. To the west, of course, there was the Roman Empire, but it was already beginning to show symptoms of exhaustion, especially in the reign of the young Alejandro Severo and in the next Military Anarchy, which would last half a century.

Sapor I can be proud of having defeated three Roman emperors, one of them, Valeriano, finished flayed and his skin exposed as a trophy in a Persian temple. To commemorate this, he founded several cities such as Gundeshapur and Bishapur, in the province of Juzestán.

During his reign came reforms, especially a religious. The Sassanid kings began to believe themselves to be gods, and an attempt was made to create a Zoroastrian church to homogenize doctrine, tradition and establish an ecclesiastical hierarchy.

However, they came away with competition, because one Mani founded the Manichaeism, which shared ideas of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Buddhism. He said that matter was evil and spirit the only good thing. Only by freeing man from the material could he enter the Kingdom of Light. They were the first official vegans, because they forbade eating anything animal and also saw sexual relations as the perpetuation of material evil.

Bahram I executed Mani and forbade his move. The great priest Kartir, or Karter, persecuted Manichaeans, Jews, Christians and Buddhists until almost extinguish those religions of their territory. From the year 309 Sassanian throne Sapor II the Great, and reigned for 70 years, almost all the fourth century. Many things happened during his reign. Armenia, in those years, became the first state to officially embrace the Christian faith thanks to its king Tirídates III, who built the temple of Echmiadzin, and it seemed that Rome was going the same way. Without a doubt, a hard blow for Zoroastrianism.

Around the year 400, King Yazdagird I arrived and maintained very good relations with the Eastern Roman Empire, which would later be known as the Byzantine Empire. It also promoted tolerance towards Christians and Jews; in fact, in Seleucia del Tigris, the 1st Council of the Persian Christian Church was held. But this church broke with the Byzantine Church when the heresy of Nestorianism appeared, or difisismo, which said that in Christ lived a divine and a human nature, complete and differentiated one from the other.

Therefore, they would be two different people. Many Nestorians fled to Persia and in fact, this Christianity was so much in Iranian territory that it seems to have become the majority religion. All this angered the Zoroastrian clergy, and in the final years of the reign of this king new persecutions began. Yazdagird II tried to eliminate Christianity from Armenia, and the Armenians took up arms. After the Battle of Avarayr the Persians killed Armenian Christian leaders and took many slaves, who were deported. Peace with the Romans had cost, however a new enemy appeared: the white Huns or Heftalites. This nomadic people was composed of fierce warriors on horseback, but the strategies of Bahram V's army managed to stop its advance through the Oxus River area.

Other enemies were the Kidarites. Of course, when King Peroz tried to throw them out in 470, the Hephtalites defeated him and captured him. It is said that they won by the advantage they had when using the stirrups, which gave more comfort and stability to the Hun rider. It was Balash I who in 484 decreed freedom of worship in Armenia, while Kavad I began to fight with new enemies such as the Khazaros, a nomadic Turkic people. Also it had moved with the Persian nobility, reason why it favored the ascent of an illuminated call Mazdak. This uncle, mixing the Zoroastrian and Manichean tradition, created Mazdekism. It arose in response to the oppressive Zoroastrian Sassanid cult, and Mazdak promoted austerity, pacifism, helping the poor and sharing all things, including women.

Of course, the Persian king, as soon as he saw that that sect was undermining the pillars that were holding him in power, he began to chase them and Mazdak hung him by the feet and used him as a piñata. All this repression was entrusted to his son Cosroes I, perhaps the most famous Sassanian monarch, since he made Persia recover economically and transformed it into the great power that had been centuries before. New cities, new roads and new infrastructures were built. They increased the cultivable land and the handicraft, and the art and the philosophy demanded it strong. He built the Iwán of Taq-i Kisra in Ctesiphon, which is practically the only thing left of that city.

Reformed the army, and now the state was going to provide weapons and cataphracts, so the high nobility stopped going to war to be replaced by a class of gentlemen nobility, which resulted in more effective. They also developed catapults, ballistans, battering rams and mobile towers. This would be good for him, because the Byzantines of Justinian I wanted Mandanga. They had allied with the Jewish Arabs of the Kingdom of Himyar, in the present Yemen, but the Persian managed to snatch the shed for the 570.

The new Persian King Chosroes II had him screwed up at first, for General Bahram VI Chubin usurped his throne for a year, but he was thrown out and fled with the celestial Turks, who brushed it. Chosroes II regained the throne and by the year 600 betrayed his allies Lajmidas, a powerful kingdom of Nestorian Christian Arabs, and seized their territory. They entered the block in al-Hira, the capital, and dethroned their last king, Numan III. It is believed that it was in this city where the Arabic alphabet was born around the year 300. It is also said that when he managed to take the city of Jerusalem he destroyed many churches and took the remains of Vera Cruz as a trophy to Ctesiphon.

The cross where Jesus Christ had been crucified, which was from the time of Constantine I in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. The anger of the Byzantines was monumental, and it would be the Emperor Heraclius who would change the course of events. He counterattacked the Persians and achieved a first victory in 622. Kavad II murdered his father and took the throne, trying to achieve a peace in extremis with the Byzantines who succeeded in returning the famous cross of Christ. Here began the Sassanian decline.

In the year 611, in the Arabian peninsula, a men named Muhammad created a new religion: Islam. Those who converted to this religion were called Muslims, and their mission was to spread their new religion everywhere. And that happened. In the year 636, Yazdegerd III was defeated after the Battle of Qadisiyya, the Muslims entered Ctesiphon and the city ended up burning. The young Persian king had to flee to Media, and there he resisted a few years, especially thanks to his best warrior, Apranik. However, nothing could be done and in 651 the Muslim Caliphate absorbed the entire territory. The Persian nobility fled to India and were known as Parsis. And with this conquest, the history of Ancient Persia ended.

The History of Ancient Persia