Ancient Mediterranean + Europe
The heart of ancient Persia is in what is now southwest Iran, in the region called the Fars. In the second half of the 6th century B.C.E., the Persians (also called the Achaemenids) created an enormous empire reaching from the Indus Valley to Northern Greece and from Central Asia to Egypt.
A tolerant empire
Although the surviving literary sources on the Persian empire were written by ancient Greeks who were the sworn enemies of the Persians and highly contemptuous of them, the Persians were in fact quite tolerant and ruled a multi-ethnic empire. Persia was the first empire known to have acknowledged the different faiths, languages and political organizations of its subjects.
This tolerance for the cultures under Persian control carried over into administration. In the lands which they conquered, the Persians continued to use indigenous languages and administrative structures. For example, the Persians accepted hieroglyphic script written on papyrus in Egypt and traditional Babylonian record keeping in cuneiform in Mesopotamia. The Persians must have been very proud of this new approach to empire as can be seen in the representation of the many different peoples in the reliefs from Persepolis, a city founded by Darius the Great in the 6th century B.C.E.
Persepolis included a massive columned hall used for receptions by the Kings, called the Apadana. This hall contained 72 columns and two monumental stairways.
The walls of the spaces and stairs leading up to the reception hall were carved with hundreds of figures, several of which illustrated subject peoples of various ethnicities, bringing tribute to the Persian king.
Conquered by Alexander the Great
The Persian Empire was, famously, conquered by Alexander the Great. Alexander no doubt was impressed by the Persian system of absorbing and retaining local language and traditions as he imitated this system himself in the vast lands he won in battle. Indeed, Alexander made a point of burying the last Persian emperor, Darius III, in a lavish and respectful way in the royal tombs near Persepolis. This enabled Alexander to claim title to the Persian throne and legitimize his control over the greatest empire of the Ancient Near East.
Essay by Dr. Senta German
Want to join the conversation?
- Wow, are there any artist renditions or blueprints lurking about that show the Persepolis in it's former glory?(23 votes)
- I would be interested in any historic records from the Persian side. Surely, something must have survived beyond what the Greeks contributed? Perhaps accounts from other sources besides Greek or Persian?(19 votes)
- where are other websites you would recommend to research Persian art?(4 votes)
- The British Library has over 15,000 images of Persian manuscripts available for free online:
The Library of Congress also has a collection of Persian Language Rare Materials available for free online:
Hope this helps!(4 votes)
- How long did it take to build these statues and monuments?(4 votes)
- What were the role of games of in ancient Greece society??(1 vote)
- This looks like a homework question. Could it be that? It also appears to be misplaced, as this is the unit about Persian art and you're asking about Greek games.(3 votes)
- Was Socrates the most remarkable representative in the age of illumination??(1 vote)
- Man, how did you get from Persian art to Socrates? That's quite a leap!
Ranking the "remarkability" of the ancients is probably not possible, so who can say which of the many is the "most" or "least" remarkable is beyond the ability of most of us.(3 votes)
- What is the capital of Assyria?(1 vote)
- In the picture of the Apadana staircase, we can see eight columns. I understand that there were 13 erect columns out of the original 72, and a 14th column was re-erected in the 1970's. Assuming these columns are similar to the in dimension and weight of the columns in Greek architecture, my question is, do we know how they erected these columns or are construction methods lost similar to the Egyptian construction methods of the pyramids?(2 votes)
- I was wondering why the 23 subject peoples from other countries would bring tribute to the king. weren't they. under his control??(2 votes)
- Who was Alexander the Great?(2 votes)
- He was a the Greek Leader for Greece and had took over many countries with his army.by the time he had died, most of Europe was taken over by Alexander the great himself.(1 vote)