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The Persian Empire

Otherwise known as the Achaemenid Empire, the First Persian Empire was founded by ruler Cyrus the Great in the 6th Century BC. The Empire gradually expanded into the largest empire the world had seen at the time, controlling regions as far as the Indus River to the East and the Balkans and Macedonia to the west. Indeed, it is estimated that at its peak, the Persian Empire controlled 44% of the world’s population, a feat which remains unmatched!

Modern-day regions which were under the Persian Empire’s control include Middle Eastern nations such as Iran, Iraq, Palestine and Israel and Lebanon, North African countries such as Egypt and Libya in addition to territories as far as Eastern Europe including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

The Persians were able to exert control over these vast territories through the establishment of revolutionary infrastructures, which included a complex road system and postal system in addition to the implementation of a single language, Aramaic, which enhanced the empire’s sense of unity.

The various monarchs of the Persian Empire were able to consolidate their control through a complex bureaucratic system, which included a number institutions such as the military and various civil service. However, the Empire’s compartmentalisation ended up contributing to its downfall, with the power of smaller local governments growing and threatening to undermine the authority of the Empire’s leader. As a result, finances and resources became concentrated on uprooting various rebellions, leaving the Empire in a weakened state.

This weakness was eventually exploited by the iconic historical figure Alexander the Great, whose armies invaded Persia in 334 BC. Himself an admirer of Persia’s founder Cyrus the Great, Alexander introduced a number of Persian customs into Macedonian culture and ensured that respect for the Persian Kings was implemented within his empire. Despite the disintegration of the Persian Empire, its culture thrived for hundreds of years, eventually restoring its power by the 2nd Century BC.

By Louis Cross


Destination – Middle East & North Africa