Ancient Persian Empire

The earliest archaeological artifacts in Iran were found in the Kashafrud and Ganj Par sites that date back to Lower PaleolithicMousterian Stone tools made by Neanderthal man have also been found.[9] There are also 9,000 year old human and animal figurines from Teppe Sarab in Kermanshah Province among the many other ancient artifacts.[9] There are more cultural remains of Neanderthal man dating back to the Middle Paleolithic period, which mainly have been found in the Zagros region and fewer in central Iran at sites such as Shanidar, Kobeh, Kunji, Bisetun, Tamtama, Warwasi, Palegawra, and Yafteh Cave.[10] Evidence for Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic periods are known mainly from the Zagrosregion in the caves of Kermanshah and Khoramabad.

In the eighth millennium BC, agricultural communities started to form in western Iran, either as a result of indigenous development or of outside influences. [11] Around about the same time the earliest known clay vessels and modeled human and animal terracotta figurines were produced at Ganj Dareh, also in western Iran.[11] The south-western part of Iran was part of the Fertile Crescent where most of humanity's first major crops were grown. 7,000 year old jars of wine excavated in the Zagros Mountains[12] (now on display at The University of Pennsylvania) and ruins of 7,000 year old settlements such as Sialk are further testament to this. Two main Neolithic Iranian settlements were the Zayandeh Rud River CivilizationGanj Dareh.
Dozens of pre-historic sites across the Iranian plateau point to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BC,[3] One of the earliest civilizations in Iranian plateau was the Jiroft Civilization in southeastern Iran, in the province of Kerman. It is one of the most artifact-rich archaeological sites in the Middle East. Archaeological excavations in Jiroft led to the discovery of several objects belonging to the fourth millennium BC, a time that goes beyond the age of civilization in Mesopotamia. There is a large quantity of objects decorated with highly distinctive engravings of animals, mythological figures, and architectural motifs. The objects and their iconography are unlike anything ever seen before by archeologists. Many are made from chlorite, a gray-green soft stone; others are in copperbronzeterracotta, and even lapis lazuli. Recent excavations at the sites have produced the world's earliest inscription which pre-dates Mesopotamian inscriptions.[13]

Early history (3200 BC–625 BC): There are records of numerous ancient civilizations on the Iranian plateau before the arrival of Iranian tribes from Central Asia during the Early Iron Age. One of the main civilizations of Iran was the Elam to the east of Mesopotamia, which started from around 3000 BC.[15] The recently discovered Jiroft Civilizationoccupied southeastern Iran and is claimed to have existed as far back as 3000 BC[16] According to available written records, it is known to have existed beginning from around 3200 BC — making it among the world's oldest historical civilizations — and to have endured up until 539 BC. The Early Bronze Agesaw the rise of urbanization into organized city states and the invention of writing (the Uruk period) in the Near East.

As early as the 10th and 9th century BC Aryan tribes (ancestors of Modern Iranians) speaking Indo-Iranian languages arrived on the Iranian plateau from Eastern Ukraine and Southern Russia.[17][18] The arrival of Iranians on the Iranian plateau forced the Elamites to relinquish one area of their empire after another and to take refuge in SusianaKhuzistan and nearby area, which only then became coterminous with Elam.[19] The Proto-Iranians are traced to theBactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, a Bronze Age culture of Central Asia. By the 1st millennium BC, MedesPersiansBactrians and Parthianspopulated the Iranian plateau, while others such as the ScythiansSarmatiansCimmerians and Alans populated the steppes north of the Black Sea. TheSaka and Scythian tribes remained mainly in the south and spread as far west as the Balkans and as far east as Xinjiang.

[edit]In 646 BC The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal sacked Susa, which ended Elamite supremacy in the region.[18] For over 150 years Assyrian kings of nearby Northern Mesopotamia were seeking to conquer Median tribesof Western Iran.[20] Under pressure from the Assyrian empire, the small kingdoms of the western Iranian plateau coalesced into increasingly larger and more centralized states.[18] In the second half of the 7th century BC, the Median tribes gained their independence and were united by Deioces. In 612 BC CyaxaresDeioces' grandson, and the Babylonian king Nabopolassar invaded Assyria and laid siege to and eventually destroyed Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, which led to the fall of theNeo-Assyrian Empire.[21] The Medes are credited with the foundation of Iran as a nation and empire, and established the first Iranian empire, the largest of its day until Cyrus the Great established a unified empire of the Medes and Persians leading to the Achaemenian Empire (648–330 BC).
After his father's death in 559 BC, Cyrus the Great became king of Anshan but like his predecessors, Cyrus had to recognize Mede overlordship. In 552 BC Cyrus led his armies against the Medes and capturedEcbatana in 549 BC, effectively conquering the Median Empire and also inheriting Assyria. Cyrus later conquered Lydia and Babylon. Cyrus the Great created the Cyrus Cylinder, considered to be the first declaration of human rights and was the first king whose name has the suffix "Great". After Cyrus' death, his son Cambyses ruled for seven years (531-522 BC) and continued his father's work of conquest, making significant gains in Egypt. A power struggle followed Cambyses' death and, despite his tenuous connection to the royal line, Darius was declared king (ruled 522-486 BC).

Darius' first capital was at Susa, and he started the building programme at Persepolis. He built a canal between the Nile and the Red Sea, a forerunner of the modern Suez Canal. He improved the extensive roadsystem, and it is during his reign that mention is first made of the Royal Road (shown on map), a great highway stretching all the way from Susa to Sardis with posting stations at regular intervals. Major reforms took place under Darius. Coinage, in the form of the daric (gold coin) and the shekel (silver coin) was introduced (coinage had already been invented over a century before in Lydia ca. 660 BC),[22] and administrative efficiency was increased. The Old Persian language appears in royal inscriptions, written in a specially adapted version of cuneiform. Under Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great, the Persian Empire eventually became the largest empire in human history up until that point, ruling and administrating over most of the then known world.[23] Their greatest achievement was the empire itself. The Persian Empire represented the world's first superpower.[1][24] that was based on a model of tolerance and respect for other cultures and religions.[25]

In 499 BC Athens lent support to a revolt in Miletus which resulted in the sacking of Sardis. This led to an Achaemenid campaign against Greece known as the Greco-Persian Wars which lasted the first half of the 5th century BC. During the Greco-Persian wars Persia made some major advantages and razed Athens in 480 BC, But after a string of Greek victories the Persians were forced to withdraw. Fighting ended with the peace of Callias in 449 BC. In 404 BC following the death of Darius II Egypt rebelled under Amyrtaeus. Later Egyptian Pharaohs successfully resisted Persian attempts to reconquer Egypt until 343 BC when Egypt was reconquered by Artaxerxes III.
The Parthian empire lasted five centuries, longer than most Eastern Empires. The end of this long lasted empire came in 224 AD, when the empire was loosely organized and the last king was defeated by one of the empire's vassals, the Persians of the Sassanian dynasty.