HIST 100 Cyrus The Great Darius The Great and Persian Empire Discussion Prompt: Discuss Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire up through its conquest by

HIST 100 Cyrus The Great Darius The Great and Persian Empire Discussion Prompt: Discuss Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire up through its conquest by Alexander the Great. What do you think earned Cyrus the name “the Great?” What about Darius the Great? What were his major accomplishments?Please answer the questions in paragraph form (one or multiple). Must be 350 words minimum. Within the prompt, there are links that must be used. Please include examples, quotes, and images from the sources or the book which I provided in a word document. Please cite all examples and quotes in text and in a bibliography. Make sure to answer all questions within the prompt and not to leave anything out. If you have any questions please let me know. Chapter 2 – Section 5
Persia Builds an Empire
Persia is present-day Iran, and it was here that the world’s first
true empire arose. Although we have loosely used the word
“empire” in this chapter, this map clearly illustrates that the Persian
kingdom is the first to truly deserve the classification of empire.
Persia
is
geographically
very
different
from
both
Mesopotamia and Egypt. Remember that these areas were blessed
with fertile river valleys, so settlers were drawn to those regions for
obvious regions. Persia, however, is a very dry plateau without any
major rivers. There are a few small rivers, but they definitely don’t
provide enough water for farming. Instead, its inhabitants were
largely dependent upon melting mountain snow for irrigation. Persia
is surrounded by mountains on three sides, and a gulf serves as its
southernmost border. The geography of Persia was both a blessing
and
a
curse.
The
surrounding
mountains
provided
natural
geographical protection, so the Iranian plateau was much less likely
to suffer invasion than, say Mesopotamia, or even geographically
protected Egypt. However, the lack of fertile land and the scarce
water supply discouraged some groups from settling there.
The
Iranian
plateau was inhabited by nomads prior to the arrival of the Aryan
immigrants who would eventually settle the area and name it “Iran”.
By 1000 B.C.E., the Medes and Persians, both from groups who had
previously settled in ancient India, had moved into the plateau and
named it Iran, meaning “land of the Aryans.” As aforementioned,
the Medes joined forces with others to help bring down the Assyrian
Empire. The Medes enjoyed dominance of the plateau, and the
Persians were their subordinates. However, this situation changed
when there was a marriage between the royal families of the Medes
and Persians. This marriage produced a child named Cyrus, who
would eventually be called “Cyrus the Great.” Cyrus unified the
Persian tribes and overthrew the Median king. Since he was both
Persian and Median, the two were unified under his rule, and the
Achaemenid dynasty established firm control of the region. After
unifying the Medes and Persians, he began conquering neighboring
territories until he controlled the territory from present-day Turkey
in the west to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east. It is no wonder
that this great conqueror has been dubbed Cyrus the Great.
In Search Of Cyrus The Great
The
reasons for Cyrus’s success are numerous. Obviously, he had a
strong army capable of conquest. As discussed earlier in the chapter,
it takes a great army to conquer, but there must be a system in place
to then control the conquered territories. Cyrus adopted a policy
vastly different from earlier civilizations such as the Assyrians.
Rather than using brute force and terrorization, Cyrus used
compromise, persuasion, and tolerance. Basically, he allowed
conquered peoples to retain their own traditions, religions, cultures,
and even their local leaders. Of course, they were expected to
remain loyal to the Persian Empire, which they usually did. He also
showed respect for his acquired subjects, in that he learned from
and even copied some of their ideas and customs.
Cyrus was seen as merciful and compassionate, and he
quickly gained the support of many of his conquered civilizations. In
fact, some saw him as a liberator rather than a conqueror. For
example, when he invaded Babylon and subdued it with no
bloodshed, he freed the Hebrews from captivity and allowed them
to return to their homeland. He even allowed, if not encouraged,
them to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by King
Nebuchadnezzar II during the rule of the Chaldeans. Of course, he
expected them to build fortifications and such after the temple was
completed so that they could protect that region of his empire from
invaders such as the Egyptians. Naturally, the Hebrews complied
with his request and remained loyal to him and grateful for the end
of the Baylonian Captivity.
For obvious reasons, many, if not most, of the conquered
people supported Cyrus. However, on the eastern fringes of his
empire, there lived a group called the Massagetae, and Cyrus wanted
to add them to his empire. He first offered to marry the queen, but
she rejected his proposal. Cyrus led an army eastward to conquer
them, and what happened next is not completely clear. One thing is
certain though; Cyrus died! The details vary according to the source,
but
the
Greek
historian
Herodotus
provides
a
lengthy account of his final
campaign. He was not an eyewitness to the battle, but rather relayed
what he was told. As we will see in following chapters, Herodotus’s
accounts are often peppered with legends and exaggerations.
Initially his army was successful, but the tide turned after the
queen’s son died as a result of a battle and she took control of the
army herself. (Supposedly, Cyrus tricked the army and got them
drunk, and the queen’s son committed suicide in shame when he
discovered that they had been deceived.) Cyrus was killed in battle
and the queen personally cut off his head with her sword in 530
B.C.E.
Cyrus’s son, Cambyses II succeeded his father and became
the leader of the mighty Persian Empire. He marched on Egypt and
conquered the last remaining independent kingdom in the Middle
East. According to Herodotus, the priests at the Temple of Amun
refused to recognize his conquest of Egypt, so Cambyses sent
50,000 troops to destroy the oracle at the temple. Herodotus wrote
that the army was caught up in a devastating sandstorm and was
never seen or heard from again. Numerous archaeologists have
searched for the lost army in vain, leading many historians to
classify Herodotus’s story as a fairy tale. However, in 2009, two
Italian archaologists, twin brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni,
made a startling discovery that many believe to be the lost Persian
army. All previous archaeologists had researched the same route,
looking for their remains along the way. The Castiglioni brothers
hypothesized that the army took a different route than the
commonly accepted one, and found a mass grave with bones, skulls,
and Persian weaponry.
Ancient Lost Army Found?
Cambyses II died on his way from Egypt back to Persia, and
there was a bloody power struggle for control of Persia. The
eventual victor was Darius, who took over in 521 B.C.E. He married
Cyrus’s daughter and Cambyses’s widow (yes, two women!) to
solidify his power, but his critics were still dissatisfied. He quelled
quite a few rebellions before finally establishing firm control of the
empire. He reorganized the military, and then extended the Persian
Empire both eastward and westward, subduing part of India in the
east, and Thrace in Europe. Darius was an impressive conqueror, but
he did not have the same reputation for mercy and humaneness as
did Cyrus the Great. Darius is also the emperor who got the Persian
Empire involved in a lengthy war with the Greeks, which we will
discuss in a later chapter.
Section 4
Section 6
Chapter 2 – Section 6
The Persian Military Machine
The Persian
military was unlike any army ever before seen in the ancient world.
First of all, its sheer size was impressive. As Persia’s borders
extended, the army expanded, as conquered peoples were added to
the military’s numbers. The army represented groups from all across
the empire; an international coalition. At its core were the infamous
Immortals, an infantry force that never dropped below nor exceeded
10,000 men. Their main weapon was the bow and arrow, but they
also carried short swords and spears. They are said to have been
adorned with fancy robes and jewelry made of gold. They were
usually accompanied by their wives and servants who rode in
elaborate carriages. The Persian army also included a mounted
cavalry of 10,000.
Tribute To The Ancient Persians
Section 5
Section 7
Chapter 2 – Section 7
Administration of the Empire
The Persian Empire was too vast to rule without an organized,
efficient political system. During the reign of Darius, the empire was
divided into twenty provinces known as satrapies. Each satrapy was
ruled by a local governor called a satrap, and he was expected to
maintain order and stability in the region and remain fiercely loyal
to the “Great King.” In fact, the satraps were often referred to as
the “eyes and ears of the Great King.”
The Persians also implemented an impressive system of
communication, borrowed in part from the Assyrians. The Royal
Road, as it was known, stretched from Sardis to Susa, or from the
western portions of the empire to the Persian capital in present day
Iran. All along the road, about every 14 miles, were well placed way
stations of fresh horses and water. The king’s messengers used this
road and its stations to communicate back and forth across the
empire. In fact, this efficient system of communication is widely
recognized as the world’s first postal system. It is said that
Herodotus made the following comment about these messengers
when he observed their travels up and down the Royal Road:
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these
couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Section 6
Section 8
Chapter 2 – Section 8
Zoroastrianism: A Religion of Good and Evil
The prophet
Zoroaster was the founder of the religion known as Zoroastrianism.
According to Zoroaster, there was but one god, whose name was
Ahura-Mazda (actually the blending of two gods, Ahura and Mazda,
that Zoroaster believed to be one), and there was a competing spirit
of evil known as Ahriman. Ahura Mazda was the creator of mankind,
but he allowed men free will to choose whether or not they would
follow him. Accordingly, those who followed Ahura Mazda would be
rewarded with paradise in the afterlife, and those who followed
Ahriman would receive eternal damnation.
The scholar-priests in Persia, known as the Magi, collected
Zoroaster’s doctrines and compiled them into the Avesta, the sacred
text of Zoroastrianism. The Magi were important figures in the
conversion of Persia to Zoroastrianism. In fact, Zoroaster had taught
his spiritual message in Persia, but most Persians were not seriously
interested in these ideas. However, once the emperors converted to
Zoroastrianism, they utilized the Magi to spread Zoroaster’s ideas.
Zoroastrianism then became the dominant religion of the Iranian
plateau, and it remained as such until region was conquered by
followers of Islam.
The Zoroastrian Journey
Section 7
Section 9

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