Foundations Timeline
Before 10,000 BCE
10,000 BCE to 4000 BCE
4000 BCE to 500 BCE
500 BCE to 600 CE
Paleolithic Age
Neolithic Age
First Civilizations
Classical Societies
What distinguishes the first
civilizations from the Classical
• Civilization (complex society) refers to the large scale
social organization that emerged in several parts of the
ancient world. Early complex societies all depended on
robust agricultural economies with surplus. This surplus
enabled individuals to congregate in cities, where they
devoted time to specialized tasks.
• Classical societies achieved high degrees of internal
organization, extended their authority over extremely
large regions, and developed influential cultural
traditions, including the development of sophisticated
architecture, legal and moral codes, and different
organized religions.
Classical Societies: Persia
Who were the first Persians?
• The empire of Persia
arose in Iran around the
6th century B.C.E.
• The Medes and the
Persians migrated from
central Asia to Persia
(SW Iran).
• For a time, they lived
under Babylonian and
Assyrian rule.
Who were the first Persians?
• The Medes and Persians
spoke Indo-European
• They were part of the
larger Indo-European
• They shared many traits
with distant cousins, the
• They were mostly
• They were organized into
clans rather than states.
Who were the first Persians?
• The Medes and Persians
had considerable military
• They were expert
equestrians like other
steppe people.
• They were expert archers
even on horses.
• They often raided the
people of Mesopotamia.
Who were the first Persians?
• When the Assyrians and
Babylonian empires
weakened in the 6th
century B.C.E., the
Medes and Persians
launched their military
Who established the first empire in
• Cyrus the Achaemenid
(558-530 B.C.E.)
- from SW Iran
- called Cyrus the Shepherd
- Established first Persian
- Called Achaemenid after
Cyrus’ clan.
Cyrus’s Persian Empire
• Cyrus the Achaemenid (558530 B.C.E.)
- He conquered Anatolia
(modern-day Turkey), central
Asia, and Bactria (modern day
- Within 20 years, his empire
stretched from India to the
border of Egypt.
Who made the Achaemenid Empire the largest
empire the world had ever seen?
Darius the Great (521-486
• Built the largest empire the
world had ever seen.
• He was known for being a
great administrator.
• The Achaemenid Empire
had more than 70 different
ethnic groups.
• He established an empire
that provided for
communication throughout.
What was unique about Darius’ capital
at Persepolis?
Darius the Great (521486 B.C.E.)
• Centralized
• Built capital at
Persepolis near
Reception halls
Royal residences
Military quarters
Persepolis: Aerial View
Carving of Persian Soldiers at
Ancient Texts at Persepolis
Persepolis was the
administrative center
and monument to the
Bustled with ministers,
advisors, diplomats,
scribes, accountants,
translators and
bureaucratic officers.
Describe the political structure of
Darius’s Empire
• Balance between strong
central power and local
• Governors were appointed
to oversee various regions.
• Twenty-tree administrative
and taxation districts
governed by satraps
• Most satraps were Persian
but local officials were
recruited for some
administrative posts.
Political Structure of Darius’s Empire
• Regulated tax levies by
standardizing laws.
• Each satrapy had to pay a
set quantity of silver to the
imperial court.
• He standardized coins which
encouraged trade.
• He did not interfere with
local laws but he sometimes
modified them to make the
empire run more smoothly.
What was unique about the Persian
Royal Road?
• Construction began during
the Achaemenid Empire.
• Parts were paved with stone.
• Stretched 1600 miles from
Aegean Sea to Anatolia,
through Mesopotamia to the
capital of Persepolis in Iran.
• It took caravans 90 days to
travel this road, lodging at
inns along the well-policed
Persian Royal Road
• Courier service with 111
postal stations 25 to 30
miles apart on the Royal
• Each station had a supply of
horses for couriers.
• This system facilitated trade
with various regions.
What events led to the fall of the
Achaemenid Empire in Persia?
•Cyrus and Darius had policies of
•They respected values and
beliefs of the people they ruled.
•Darius’s successor, Xerxes (486465 B.C.E.), flaunted his Persian
identity and imposed his values
on conquered lands.
•This created ill will, especially in
Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Fall of the Achaemenid Empire:
The Persian Wars (500 – 479 B.C.E.)
•Ethnic Greeks in Ionian cities in
Anatolia resented the Persian
governors who oversaw their
•They rebelled, expelling or
executing their governors.
•This rebellion launched a series
of conflicts known as the Persian
Fall of the Achaemenid Empire:
The Persian Wars (500 – 479 B.C.E.)
•For 150 years, the Persian empire
sparred with the Greek cities.
•The Greek cities were too small
and disunited to pose a serious
threat to the Persian empire.
•The standoff ended with the rise
of Alexander of Macedon or
Alexander the Great.
Why was Alexander so Great?
•In 334 B.C.E. Alexander invaded
Persia with an experienced army of
48,000 Macedonians.
•The Macedonians were welldisciplined and carried heavier arms
with more sophisticated military
•Alexander confiscated the wealth in
the treasury at Persepolis, proclaimed
himself heir to the Achaemenid
rulers and burned the city.
What became of the Achaemenid
Empire after Alexander’s death?
•After Alexander’s death:
•His chief generals divided the
empire into three large realms
which they divided among
•The Seleucids
•The Parthians
•The Sasanids
What was the historical importance of
the Seleucid Empire?
•The former Achaemenid
empire went to Seleucus, a
commander in Alexander’s
•He retained the Achaemenid
system of administration,
taxation, imperial roads, and
postal service.
•They founded new cities and
attracted Greek colonists to
occupy them.
What led to the fall of the Seleucids?
•The Seleucids had conflicts with native Persians,
especially the ruling classes.
•The Satraps often revolted against Seleucid rule.
•The Seleucids lost their holdings in northern India.
•The semi-nomadic Parthians took over Iran during the
third century B.C.E.
Describe the rule of the Parthians.
•Established strong empire in
Iran and extended to
•Maintained many of the
customs of the nomadic
people from steppes of central
•Loosely organized into
federation of leaders who met
in councils.
•Skilled warriors.
The Parthians
•Improved grazing methods for
horses which created stronger
horses that could support soldiers
with heavy armor.
•This development enabled them
to fight off nomads from the
•The Parthians revolted against
the Seleucids in the third century
B.C.E. and by 155 B.C.E. had
taken firm control of Iran to
The Parthians
•Followed example of the Achaemenids in
running empire.
•Maintained elements of their own steppe
•Government not as centralized.
•Most authority rested in hands of clan
leaders who often served as satraps who
worked to build independent bases of power
in their regions.
•For three centuries, Parthians presided over
powerful empire between India and
What were the contributions of the
•Claimed they were direct descendants of the Achaemenids.
•Conquered the Parthians in 224 C.E. and ruled until 651 reinstating
much of the splendor of the Achaemenid empire.
•Rebuilt strong system of administration.
•Refurbished numerous cities.
•Merchants traded actively with people from east to west.
•Introduced rice, sugarcane, citrus fruits, eggplant, and cotton.
•Created buffer states between themselves and Roman empire.
Describe Persian Classical
•In the early days of the Achaemenid
empire, Persian society reflected its
origins on the steppes of central Asia.
•Family and clan relationships were
extremely important in political and
social affairs.
•Male warriors were the head of
the clans.
•The development of a
cosmopolitan empire complicated
this structure.
What was the social hierarchy in
Persian Classical Society?
•Imperial administration called for a
new class of educated bureaucrats.
•This undermined old warrior elite.
•Persian cities were home to
administrators, tax collectors, record
keepers, translators, and high ranking
•Bureaucrats shared power with
warriors and clan leaders.
Persian Classical Society
•Clan Leaders and Bureaucrats
•Free Classes
•Priests and Priestesses
•Low ranking civil servants
What was the role of women in
Classical Persian Society?
•Married women and women of
royalty were respected.
•There were some women who ruled.
•Some women were merchants and
business women.
•When the Romans captured Persian
soldiers, some were women.
•Some evidence indicates the practice
of veiling in Persia during this time.
What about technological
•Qanat – underground canals allowed
cultivators to distribute water to fields
without losing large quantities to
evaporation through exposure to the
sun and open air.
•Elaborate qanat system was
maintained by slaves and laborers in
the countryside.
What were some of the key economic
developments of Persian Society?
•Agriculture was the foundation.
•Resources from Mesopotamia, Egypt,
Anatolia and northern India helped Persia
•Barley and wheat were the most commonly
cultivated crops.
•Peas, lentils, garlic, onions, pomegranates,
pears, and apricots supplemented the cereals
in diets.
•Beer and wine were the most common
Economic Developments of
Persian Society
•Long-distance trade grew rapidly.
•Standardized of coins
•Availability of good trade routes.
•Newly constructed highways such as
the Persian Royal Road.
•Sea routes through the Red Sea, Persian
Gulf, and Arabian Sea
•Cities like Babylon were home to banks.
With whom did Persia trade?
•From India: gold, ivory, aromatics
•From Iran and Central Asia: lapis lazuli, turquoise and other stones
•From Mesopotamia: textiles, mirrors and jewelry
•From Anatolia: gold, silver, iron, copper and tin
•From Arabia: spices and aromatics
•From Egypt: grain, linen textiles, papyrus writing materials, gold, ebony,
•From Greece: oil, wine, and ceramics
Describe early Persian religion.
•Celebrated natural elements and geographical features, i.e. the
sun, the moon, the water, and especially fire.
•Recognized many of the same gods as the Aryans
•Priests performed sacrifices similar to those conducted by the
brahmins in India.
•Used hallucinogenic agent called haoma in the same way
Aryans used soma
How did Zoroastrianism
develop in Persia?
•Attempt to address moral questions in
a cosmopolitan world.
•Zarathustra, priest from aristocratic
family, left family at 20 yeas of age to
seek wisdom.
•He experienced visions and became
convinced that the supreme god had
chosen him as a prophet to spread
What were The Gathas?
•Originally transmitted orally by priests
or magi.
•During Seleucid dynasty, magi began
to preserve in writing.
•Hymns composed in honor of the
various deities.
•Treatises on moral themes.
What were the basic beliefs of
•Not strict monotheists
•Recognized a supreme deity and
creator of all good things.
•Spoke of six lesser deities.
•Explored battle between good and
evil, as well as judgment, reward,
punishment, heavenly paradise,
demons, and place of pain and
•Encouraged enjoyment of earthly
pleasures in moderation.
•Attracted large numbers during 6th century
•Popular with Persian aristocrats and ruling
•Wealthy supported the building of temples.
•Large priesthood emerged and taught
Zoroastrian values through oral
•Darius and other emperors closely
associated themselves with Ahura Mazda,
the Zoroastrian deity.
•Darius did not suppress other religious
practices, however.

Classical Societies: Persia