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Achaemenids(ăk'əmĕn`ĭdz), dynasty of ancient Persia. They were descended presumably from one Achaemenes, a minor ruler in a mountainous district of SW Iran. His successors, when ElamElam
, ancient country of Asia, N of the Persian Gulf and E of the Tigris, now in W Iran. A civilization seems to have been established there very early, probably in the late 4th millennium B.C. The capital was Susa, and the country is sometimes called Susiana.
..... Click the link for more information. declined, spread their power westward. Cyrus the GreatCyrus the Great
, d. 529 B.C., king of Persia, founder of the greatness of the Achaemenids and of the Persian Empire. According to Herodotus, he was the son of an Iranian noble, the elder Cambyses, and a Median princess, daughter of Astyages.
..... Click the link for more information. established the Persian rule by his conquest of AstyagesAstyages
, fl. 6th cent. B.C., king of the Medes (584–c.550 B.C.), son and successor of Cyaxares. His rule was harsh, and he was unpopular. His daughter is alleged to have married the elder Cambyses and was said to be the mother of Cyrus the Great, who rebelled against
..... Click the link for more information. of MediaMedia
, ancient country of W Asia whose actual boundaries cannot be defined, occupying generally what is now W Iran and S Azerbaijan. It extended from the Caspian Sea to the Zagros Mts.
..... Click the link for more information. . The Achaemenids (c.550–330 B.C.) were important for their development of government administration, the appearance of literature written in cuneiformcuneiform
[Lat.,=wedge-shaped], system of writing developed before the last centuries of the 4th millennium B.C. in the lower Tigris and Euphrates valley, probably by the Sumerians (see Sumer).
..... Click the link for more information. , and the spread of ZoroastrianismZoroastrianism
, religion founded by Zoroaster, but with many later accretions. Scriptures
Zoroastrianism's scriptures are the Avesta or the Zend Avesta [Pahlavi avesta=law, zend=commentary].
..... Click the link for more information. ; during this period there was also a great flourishing of Persian art and architecturePersian art and architecture,
works of art and structures produced in the region of Asia traditionally known as Persia and now called Iran. Bounded by fierce mountains and deserts, the high plateau of Iran has seen the flow of many migrations and the development of many
..... Click the link for more information. . The Achaemenid rulers after Cyrus were Cambyses II, the impostor Smerdis, Darius I, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, Xerxes II, Sogdianus, Darius II, Artaxerxes II (opposed by Cyrus the Younger), Artaxerxes III, Arses, and Darius III. The dynasty ended when Darius III died in his flight from Alexander the Great.
a dynasty of rulers of the ancient Persian state (558–330 B.C.) founded by Achaemenes, leader of a union of Persian tribes. Cyrus II (the Great), a descendant of Achaemenes who ruled in Parsa and Anshan (North Elam) from 558 to 530 B.C., founded a huge empire uniting most of the countries of the Near and Middle East. In 550–549, Medea was seized; the next three years saw the conquest of countries that had formed part of the Medean state. Lydia and the Greek cities of Asia Minor were seized in 546; much of Middle Asia was conquered between 545 and 539, Babylonia in 539, and Egypt in 525; and Thracia, Macedonia, northwest India, and the islands of the Aegean Sea were conquered between 519 and 512.
The rulers after Cyrus II were Cambyses II (530–522), Darius I (522–486), Xerxes I (486–465), Artaxerxes I (465–424), Xerxes II (424), Sogdianus (424–423), Darius II (423–404), Artaxerxes II (404–358), Artaxerxes III (358–338), Arses (338–336), and Darius III (336–330). The capitals of the Achaemenid state were Persepolis, Babylon, Susa, and Ecbatan.
The Achaemenid Empire, an oriental despotocracy, was governed by a complex bureaucratic system formed during the reign of Darius I. The state was divided into 20 military administrative districts (satrapies), each headed by special administrators (satraps); the satraps were obliged to collect from the populace and pay to the Persian king heavy taxes (in money and in kind), which were especially ruinous in areas where the populace had to resort to moneylenders in order to pay them.
In its ethnic composition and social structure, the Achaemenid Empire was heterogeneous. In the cities of Asia Minor, in Babylonia, Phoenicia and Egypt, slave labor was widely used in agriculture and crafts, whereas the backward regions of Thracia, Macedonia, and the nomadic Arab and Scythian tribes were in a stage of disintegration of their tribal structure. The Persian administration preserved the ancient local laws, religions, monetary systems, writing systems, and languages in the conquered countries. The Persians themselves were freed from taxes and forced labor. The Persian kings, their relatives, the satraps, and the nobility had huge estates worked by slave labor.
As the military powers of the Achaemenids weakened, their state began to disintegrate. The Greco-Persian Wars of 500–449 B.C. attested to the decline of the Persian Army. In 330 B.C., under the blows of the army of Alexander of Macedonia, the Achaemenid state ceased to exist.
REFERENCESD’iakonov, M. M. Ocherk istorii drevnego Irana Moscow, 1961.
Dandamaes, M. A. Iran pri pervykh Akhemenidakh Moscow, 1963.
Struve, V. V. Eliudy po istorii Severnogo Prichernomor’ia, Kavkaza, i Srednei Azii Leningrad, 1968.
Olmstead, A. T. History of the Persian Empire Chicago, .
Huart, C, and L. Delaporte. L’Iran antique, Elam et Perse . . . Paris, 1943.
M. A. DANDAMAEV