Assyria Assyrians emerged as a power around the seventh century B.C.E. Ashurbanipal (669-626 B.C.E. ) ruled as an absolute king from Nineveh. –Ruled as representative of the god Ashur. –Excellent communication system in empire. –Polyglot society. Later defeated by Chaldeans (Babylonians) led by Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C.E. ).
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon constructed by Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Nebuchadnezzar was a very familiar figure to Europeans because of his interaction with the Jews, especially the book of the prophet Daniel.
Persians Indo-European-speaking people from modern-day Iran. Prospered under two prominent rulers: Cyrus and Darius. Created the largest empire of its time (and fastest spreading). –Expanded outside borders of Persia in 557 B.C.E. to extend from Greece & Egypt to India in 539 B.C.E.
Cyrus the Great Cyrus (559-530 B.C.E. ; Koroush in Persian) responsible for unifying Persian nomads into a state; Achaemenid dynasty. Conquered neighbors in Media, Parthia, Assyria, Syria, and Mesopotamia; added Egypt, Greek city-states in Lydia, Thrace/Macedonia, Indus River valley. –Divided territories into satrapies. Respectful of other peoples and religions.
LEFT: One of the oldest images of Cyrus the Great located in the ruins of Pasargadae in Iran. BELOW: Tomb of Cyrus the Great in the ruins of his capital, Persepolis.
Rule of Cyrus From the Cyrus Cylinder (considered by the United Nations the first charter of basic human rights): –Refused to force subjects to convert to Persian religion. Even Hebrews considered him their legitimate ruler. –All slavery was abolished in Persia. –Freedom of subjects to choose their own professions. –Expansion of empire; public works; Royal Road.
Now that I put the crown of kingdom of Iran, Babylon, and the nations of the four directions [corners of the world] on the head with the help of Ahuramazda, I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire and never let any of my governors and subordinates look down on or insult them until I am alive. From now on, till Ahuramazda grants me the kingdom favor, I will impose my monarchy on no nation. Each is free to accept it, and if any one of them rejects it, I never resolve on war to reign. Until I am the king of Iran, Babylon, and the nations of the four directions, I never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs, I will take his or her right back and penalize the oppressor. --Cyrus the Great
And until I am the monarch, I will never let anyone take possession of movable and landed properties of the others by force or without compensation. Until I am alive, I prevent unpaid, forced labor. Today, I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion. People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate other's rights. No one could be penalized for his or her relatives' faults. I prevent slavery and my governors and subordinates are obliged to prohibit exchanging men and women as slaves within their own ruling domains. Such a traditions should be exterminated the world over...... --Cyrus the Great
Darius I (521-486 B.C.E. ) Continued successful policies of Cyrus. Conquered Egypt and western India. Put down a revolt of Greeks in Lydia. Turned Thrace and Macedonia into tributaries of Persia. Well-respected ruler.
Persian Religion Persians did not see kings as gods, only the representative of Ahuramazda. Main religion was Zoroastrianism, founded by mystic/prophet Zoroaster in seventh century B.C.E. Monotheistic religion based on goodness and evil of humanity. –Humans had freewill (what’s that?). Revolves around the judgment of humanity.
Ancient drawing of Zoroaster. Zoroaster’s teachings were written down in the third century B.C.E. in the Zend Avesta.
Eighteenth century painting of Zoroaster by an Indian Parsi follower. Though most modern-day Persians are Muslim, Zoroastrianism is still practiced in parts of Iran and Afghanistan.
Decline of Persian Hegemony Although a powerful and tolerant empire, the Persians will make enemies from within. Greeks in Ionia do not like being ruled by the Persians (a la the revolt). Macedonia also despised Persian rule. –Darius III later will be defeated by Alexander of Macedonia and Persia will become part of his empire.