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Classical Persia,

(550 BCE-330 BCE)

3A Alexa, Emily, Alex, Paul, Olivia
The Persian empire arose with Cyrus as the first ruler. Cyrus
helped to create a foundation for future rulers. The Achaemenid
Persian Empire was the largest empire that the world had seen up
to that point and, at its height, stretched from the Persian Gulf, to
the Indus River, to the Caspian Sea, to the Euphrates River.
What was the role of women in classical Persia?
What were some major achievements in Classical Persia?
What was the main religion in Classical Persia?
What were important achievements of emperors of Classical
-Cyrus the Great reigned from 558 BCE to 530 BCE. He conquered with his
military strength which lead to the first Persian Empire known as the
Achaemenid Empire. Cyrus believed that it was his duty to help Ahura Mazda
(the Supreme God of good) to prevail. Cyrus founded the first world empire.
-Cambyses, son of Cyrus reigned from 530 BCE to 522 BCE. He conquered
Egypt in 525 BCE
-Darius reigned from 521 BCE to 486 BCE. He extended the Empire east and
west. Created the districts of taxation (satraps) and roads for trade. He made
a universal legal system and created a new capital at Persepolis. He was
succeeded by his son, Xerses.
-Xerxes reigned from 486 to 465 BCE. Unlike Darius, he imposed Persian
beliefs on others. During his reign was a time of Persian wars.
The Achaemenid Empire had rulers with Persepolis being the center
of the empire. It ended with rebellion around 500 BCE by the
Greeks. (Persian Wars, Marathon)
The Seleucid Empire (305-281 BCE) had a ruling dynasty. Roman
conquerers ended this empire around 281 BCE.
The Parthian empire had no centralized government but was
organized through a federation of leaders. Roman Empire and
rebellion ended this empire.
Conflict with the Kushan Empire ended the Sasanid Empire in 651
Classical Persia was a monarchy
Persian Army
Most important part was the immortals
The immortals were an elite group of 10,000
When one soldier was killed, another would be
promoted to take his place
Men were eligible to fight until they were 50 years
Persia 300 Video
Battle of Thermopylae
300 Spartans against the large Persian Army
The Greeks tried to defend a pass against the Persian
army,led by Xerses, in 480 BCE. All 300 of the Spartans
were killed
Women's Rights
Women were recognized as legal entities
Women were able to own property
Women could take the throne if the king died and his
successor was too young
Women were treated with respect (this was during a time when,
in other regions, women were severely looked down upon)
Male and females received equal pay for equal work
Highest ranking female workers were known as Arashshara
(Great Chief) and supervised both males and females
Class Structure
Boys were not allowed to meet their father until
they were five years old
Boys began formal education at five years old
Noble boys were mentored by four nobles from age
five to age seventeen. At age seventeen they were
sent into the army.
Fewer girls were formally educated
Darius revolutionized the economy by
using a gold and silver coinage system
Under the Achaemenid Empire, the strong
infrastructure helped to facilitate trade
Trade, agriculture, and tribute were the
empire's major sources of revenue
Use of standardized coins
Availability of good trade routes
Newly constructed highways
With India: supplied gold, ivory and aromatics
With Iran: lapis lazuli (a bright blue rock used for decoration
and jewelry) and turquoise
With Mesopotamia and Iran: textiles, mirrors, jewlery
With Anatolia: gold, silver, copper, tine
With Phoenicians: glass, cedar, timber, woolen fabrics
With Arabia: spices and aromatics
With Egypt: grain, papyrus, gold, ebony, ivory
Laborers were employed by the government to build
buildings, construct roads, dig canals
The laborer positions included stonecutters, masons,
carpenters and smiths of various kinds to work on gold,
copper and bronze.
Sculptors, potters and jewelers were employed making
decorative artwork and practical items.
Persian slaves were from conquered nations.
Way of Life
Crafted precious metals, decorated
palaces, craftsmanship, and kept large
and diverse gardens.
Borrowed techniques from other cultures,
although the Persian culture is not a mix of
culture, but a whole new culture
YouTube Video on Art in Classical
Created palaces, temples, and planned
Included elements of Greek and Assyrian
architecture, but had its own unique style.
Palace of Persepolis
Palace of Persepolis
Founded by Darius the Great in 518 BCE
Took more than a century to complete
Good example of Persian art and architecture
Intended use was for the seat of the
government for Achaemenian kings, as well as
center for reception, and a place for
ceremonial festivities.
Darius never saw this palace completed (he
died well before it was completed)
In 331-330 BCE the palace was looted and
burned by Alexander the Great
During the Achaemenid empire the most used language was Elamite.
The use stopped about 458 BCE
Imperial Aramaic was adopted after the conquest of Mesopotamia
Used to relay information across the vast empire
Because of differing cultures in the empire, the imperial Aramaic allowed
for easier communication.
Considered a Lingua Franca.
Not considered as the official language, but was still one of the most
Had large feasts
Drank wine often
Often drank wine while making decisions
in the government
Maintain Civilization
Religion and Beliefs
One of the oldest religions in world
Founded approximately 3,500 years ago
Reached its height during three different Persian empires-
Achaemenian Empire, Parthian Empire, and Sasanian Empire
Religion of Salvation
Zoroastrian became the de facto religion of the Achaemenid
Believe that the Supreme God, Ahura Mazda had no form
Lived late 7th Century BCE to early 6th Century BCE
Also known as Zoroaster
Founder of Zoroastrianism
Came from and aristocratic family
Disenchanted with traditional religion and bloody human sacrifices
Opposed the stringent class structure
Left home at age 20
Experienced visions after 10 years and became convinced that
Ahura Mazda, the supreme god, chose Zarathustra to serve as his
Zoroastrianism Main Beliefs
Belief in supreme God, Ashura Mazda
Ashura Mazda was a combination of a male name (Ashura) and a female
name (Mazda.) This helped to make their God gender neutral and also
helped to show the equality of both genders before their supreme God.
Belief in six lesser deities
Belief in free will
Belief in struggle between spirit of good (Ahura Mazda) and evil (Angra
Belief in basic goodness of humanity
Belief in a judgement day
Zoroastrians were allowed to enjoy worldly pleasures as long as they did so
in moderation and behaved honestly
Oral and Written Traditions
Zoroastrian teachings were originally transmitted orally by
During the Seleucid Dyansty, Alexander of Macedonia
killed many magi, and some Zoroastrian teachings were
lost(as many teachings were still only transmitted by magi)
During Seleucid dynasty, magi first began to preserve
Zoroastrian teachings in writing
During Sasanid dynasty, Zoroastrianism experienced a
revival and teachings were compiled in the Avesta, the
Zoroastrian holy book
Decline of Zoroastrianism
During 7th century CE, Sasanid Empire was
defeated by Islamic conquerors
The Islamic conquerors placed pressure on
the Zoroastrian magi and temples
Some Zorastrians fled to India, but many
remained in Iran and were converted to Islam
Their descendants, Parsis (Persians)
continue to observe Zoroastrianism
Earliest Persian religion was based around cults
These cults stressed natural and geographic features
Performed sacrifices similar to those performed by
Recognized many of same gods as ancient Aryans did
Used haoma in same way Aryans used soma
Glorified strength, marital values, and comfort
Unofficial cults came out of Zarathustra's teachings
Cult of Mithras
In Persia, Mithra was seen as a deity of
friendship and honesty and operated
beneath Ahura Mazda (the supreme god.)
Mainstay of members were soldiers
This cult was organized around a hierarchy
of seven grades
Other Faiths
Many Jewish communities that had been established
after David and Solomon's kingdom, fell in 930 BCE
During the Selecuid, Parthian, and Sasanid eras,
Buddhism, Christianity, and Manichaeism attracted
Christianity and Manichaeism (founded by Mani)
became very popular
Honesty was greatly valued in Classical Persia
Primary Source Document
Subject: Zarathustra on Good and Evil
Circumstances: Between 7th and 6th centuries BCE
Author: Zarathustra
Reason: To explain the roles of representations of good and evil (Ahura Mazda
and Angra Mainyu) in the world
Audience intended: Zoroastrians
Bias: Zarathustra made assumptions made about human nature and free will
Significant point: There is a cosmic struggle between Ahura Mazda and Angra
Mainyu-the representations of good and evil. Ultimately, good will win. Human
beings then will receive the rewards or punishments that they deserve, judging by
their past actions. Those who do good will achieve salvation.
Sources (MLA Format)
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"History of Iran: Parse or Persepolis." History of Iran: Parse or Persepolis. Iran Chamber Society, n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
"Spiritual Retreat Of Zarathustra." Ascended Master Zarathustra And His Spiritual Retreat Of The Great White
Brotherhood. The Masters and Their Retreats, n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
"Information about the Religion of Good Conscience: Zoroastrianism and Its Founder Asho Zarathushtra
(Zoroaster)." Information about the Religion of Good Conscience: Zoroastrianism and Its Founder Asho Zarathushtra
(Zoroaster). N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013
Bentley, Jerry H., and Herbert F. Ziegler. Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the past. New York:
McGrawHill, 2000. Print
"4e. Persian Empire." Persian Empire [ushistory.org]. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
"Zoroaster." BBC News. BBC, 2 Oct. 2009. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
Gill, N. S. "Extent of Ancient Persia." About.com Ancient / Classical History. About.com, n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013
"Education in Ancient Persia." Education in Ancient Persia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.
"Ancient Persia." YouTube. YouTube, 12 Jan. 2008. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.
"300 Spartans: Battle Formations." YouTube. YouTube, 25 Jan. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.
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