|Unique unit||Immortal (replaces Spearman)|
|Unique building||Satrap's court (replaces Bank)|
Golden age lasts 50% longer. Units receive a movement bonus and a 10% strength bonus during a golden age.
Musical Theme: Morghe Sahar, composed by Geoff Knorr
Architecture: Middle Eastern Music Set: Middle Eastern
The term "Persia" derives from a region in southern Iran formerly known as "Persis;" it is commonly used to describe areas where the Persian language and customs predominated. There have been a series of "Persian Empires" throughout history; in this article we are specifically examining the Achaemenian dynasty, which began in 559 BC and ended some two centuries later under the onslaught of the Greek military genius Alexander the Great.
Terrain and ClimateEdit
The Iranian Peninsula, which formed the heart of the Persian Empire, is a high plateau surrounded on the east and west by mountains. To the south lie the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, to the north the Caspian Sea and more mountains. At its height the Persian Empire also encompassed Egypt, the Middle East and much of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). It's useless to generalize about the terrain and weather of such a huge and varied region spanning two continents.
Before the Persians: the MedesEdit
Before the Persians, the Medians were the ascendant power in the area. According to the ancient historian Herodotus, the first Median king was Deioces, who ruled from 728 to 675 BC. Deioces' son Phraortes subjugated the Persians; he later died in battle against the Assyrians. At some point in the sixth century Medes came under Scythian domination, but they withdrew or were assimilated by the end of the sixth century, and the kingdom was once again under Median control. By all accounts king Cyaxares (625 – 585 BC) was a brilliant ruler who reorganized the Median army and took it successfully into battle against the powerful Assyrians, capturing several important Assyrian cities. Cyaxares allied with the Babylonians, and the two powers destroyed Assyria. In the division of spoils Babylon received all of the Assyrian territory in the Fertile Crescent (the area between and adjacent to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers), while the Medes took possession of the Assyrian holdings in the highlands to the east and north of Babylon, including territory in Asia Minor. Cyaxares' son, Astyages, was evidently not as politically or militarily astute as his father; he would be the last king of the Medes.
The Rise of PersiaEdit
According to legend, King Cyaxares gave Persia to his vassal Cambyses I. Cambyses I passed the crown to his son, Cyrus II, who solidified his political position by marrying Medes King Astyages' daughter. Despite his royal connection Cyrus was not satisfied with his subordinate position, and after allying with nearby Babylon, he rebelled against the Medes. By 550 BC the Persians had emerged victorious and the Medes were no more. Cyrus II was the first of the "Achaemenian" kings of Persia. After conquering Medean territory, Cyrus expanded Persian into Asia Minor. First he diplomatically isolated and then conquered Lydia (whose king was the famously wealthy Croesus), and then he systematically besieged and took all of the Greek city-states on the west coast of Asia Minor. With his northern flank secured, Cyrus II then turned south against his previous ally Babylon. While a great power, Babylon was internally divided, had an unpopular king, and by allowing Cyrus to destroy Lydia, was fresh out of potential allies. In the event, it fell almost without Persia striking a blow. In 539 Cyrus marched triumphantly into the city, now ruling an empire that stretched all the way to the borders of Egypt. Cyrus did not get to enjoy his triumphs for very long. He died in battle in Central Asia in 529 BC.
Cyrus II was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II. After allegedly securing his thrown by murdering his brother Bardiya, in 525 BC Cambyses led a campaign against Egypt, which fell after battles at Pelusium and Memphis. Cambyses then attempted to further extend Persian power west, but attacks against Carthage, Nubia and Amon were all unsuccessful. In 522 Cambyses learned of a revolt in Iran led by an imposter claiming to be his brother, Bardiya. He died while hurrying home to regain control of the rebellious region. It was said that he committed suicide, but some historians believe that was just propaganda spread by his successor. Upon Cambyses II's death, one of his generals, a man named "Darius," led his troops back to Iran to crush the rebellion, which was apparently well advanced by the time Darius arrived. A member of the Achaemenian house and a distant relative of Cambyses II, Darius had himself declared Cambyses's rightful heir. It took a year of hard fighting to break the back of the revolt and to secure his claim to the throne, but by 521 Darius I was in firm control of the Persian Empire. Darius I was by all accounts a superlative leader. After squelching the rebellion through a combination of harsh punishment of rebel leaders combined with clemency of local populations, he then worked to reorganize the empire and to codify its laws. He further expanded Persian power into northern India and he established a bridgehead across the Hellespont, giving Persia a permanent toehold in Europe. He successfully suppressed a revolt of the Greek city-states, earning Greek citizens' goodwill by removing local tyrants and returning democracy to the people. In 492 Darius's forces had retaken Thrace and Macedonia in the Balkans, setting the stage for an invasion of Greece. At first Darius underestimated the difficulties of a Greek campaign, and in 490 the allied Greeks beat him decisively at the Battle of Marathon. Darius was forced to retreat and regroup. He began preparing for another campaign, but on a far larger and more powerful scale. Darius I died in 486 BC, and he was succeeded by his son, Xerxes I. Xerxes immediately had to deal with a serious revolt in Egypt, which he did in one quick campaign in 484. Unlike his predecessors, Xerxes dealt harshly with the rebellious province, removing the local leaders and imposing direct Persian control on the citizens. He did the same to the Babylonians when they revolted in 482 BC. Xerxes and the Greek Campaigns In 480 Xerxes led a huge army into northern Greece, supported by a powerful Persian navy. Northern Greece fell to the invaders fairly easily, and despite the heroic stand of the Spartans and the Boeotians at Thermopylae, the Greeks were unable to stop Xerxes' army from marching to Athens and sacking the most powerful city-state in Greece. However, the Athenians had evacuated their city before the Persians arrived, and their navy very much remained a potent force. At the battle of Salamis (480 BC) a Greek fleet of some 370 triremes soundly defeated 800 Persian galleys, destroying perhaps 300 Persian vessels at a cost of 40 Greek ships. This defeat delayed the planned Persian offensive further into Greece for a year, giving the Greeks time to strengthen their defenses against the invaders. Xerxes was forced to return to Persia, leaving his general Mardonius in command, and the Greeks promptly won several important naval and land battles against the new leader. With Mardonius's death in the battle of Plataea, the campaign was over and the surviving Persians withdrew from Greece in disorder. Xerxes never mounted another invasion of Greece. In 465 BC he was assassinated.
Persian Stagnation and DeclineEdit
The three Persian kings who followed Xerxes I – Artaxerxes I, Xerxes II, and Darius II – ruling from 465-404 BC, were weak and uninspiring. At the end of the 4th century the Persians regained some power in the Aegean, successfully playing the Greeks off against one-another during the long Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta; however in 405 BC Egypt revolted and Persia was unable to regain control of the wayward province for more than 50 years. Darius II was succeeded by Artaxerxes II, who ruled for 45 years (404 – 359 BC). During his reign Artaxerxes II fought a war against Sparta, once again over the Greek colonies in Asia Minor. Persia allied with the Athenians (who were recovering from their disastrous defeat in the Peloponnesian War) and Sparta was forced to come to terms. Despite these occasional successes, as the third century BC progressed Persian weakness and disorganization grew. In 373 BC a group of the Empire's satraps (provincial governors) revolted. They were put down, but other revolts followed, and with growing frequency. The position of king was increasingly unstable; Artaxerxes III came to the throne as a result of treachery in 359 BC; in an attempt to secure his position he promptly murdered as many of his relatives as he could find. In 338 Artaxerxes III was poisoned at the orders of the eunuch Bagoas, who placed Artaxerxes' youngest son Arses in power. Arses promptly tried to poison Bagoas, but his effort failed and he himself was killed. Bagoas then elevated Darius III to the throne. Darius III was a former satrap of Armenia; although he was but distantly related to the late king, pretty much everybody else with a better claim was already dead.
Philip and Alexander and the End of the AchaemeniansEdit
Darius II may or may not have been an especially effective leader, it is difficult to tell. When he assumed the throne the Persian Empire had been in decline for well over a century, its many component parts in near-constant revolt against the increasingly inept central government. Palace intrigue further crippled the monarchy, and leaders who wished to survive spent as much time watching their backs as they did looking out for the interests of the Empire. Any leader who took power under those circumstances would be in trouble. However bad things at home were, they paled into insignificance when compared with the troubles headed Darius III's way from across the Hellespont. In 359 BC, King Philip ascended to the throne of Macedon, a country straddling the line between Greece and the Balkans. Within 20 short years Philip had conquered all of Greece and then began preparations to invade Persia. Following Philip's assassination in 336 a young man named Alexander [link?] took the Macedonian crown. After securing his throne and suppressing a Greek rebellion, Alexander resumed Philip's invasion into Persia. Alexander was a military genius and a man of great courage and even greater ambition. At the head of a highly-disciplined Greek army equipped with superior weaponry and tactics, he drove through Persia like a hot knife through butter. Darius repeatedly met him in battle, often with far superior numbers, and Alexander simply destroyed his armies one after another. The Persian capital Persepolis fell to Alexander's armies in 330, and Darius was murdered the same year. The last Achaemenian ruler had fallen to the invaders.
The Achaemenian Persian Empire survived and thrived in a dangerous neighborhood for 224 years. At its height it dominated land from India to Egypt, from Iran to the Balkans. At their best, the Achaemenian kings were lawgivers who treated their subject populations with clemency and fairness, interfering as little as possible with provincial internal policies as long as the subjects behaved themselves. Alexander the Great himself was a not brilliant leader or warlord, but his strategy of allowing his men the picking of the thusly defeated Persian cities meant he would not have to steer the rowdy warhorse that was his army. Instead, he allowed them to mercilessly pillage and rape.
- The Caspian horse, believed to be one of the oldest breeds of domesticated horses in the world, can be traced back to ancient Persia.
- In 1935, the Persian king Reza Shah Pahlavi changed the sovereignty's name to Iran.
- In Persian mythology the devil uses Persian food to corrupt the king of the land, “Zahak, The Dragon King”.
- The Persian language has been in continuous use for over 2500 years.
- Persian inventions or contributions:
- The modern brick. Some of the oldest bricks found to date are Persian, from ca. 6000 BC
- Invention of Tar (lute), that led to the development of the guitar
- Zoroastrianism: where the first prophet of a monotheistic faith arose according to some scholars.
- Under the rule of Cyrus II the Great, the Cyrus Cylinder was issued. This is considered to be the first universal declaration of human rights, predating the Magna Carta by one millennium
- The game Polo, in 521 BC
- The first taxation system (under the Achaemenid Empire).
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