Art and Culture/Persian Emperors and Dynasties

From Quiz Revision Notes

Cyrus II the Great (559 - 530 BC)

The son of Cambyses I of Persia of the Achaemenid family, he was the founder of the Persian Empire A vassal of the Median king Astyages he ousted him in 550 and extended the Persian Empire eastward. He conquered Lydia, Asia Minor, Babylonia, Assyria, Syria and Palestine. He was killed in battle against the Massagatae in Scythia (Kazakhstan) and was buried at Pasargadae.

Cambyses II (530 - 522 BC)

The son of Cyrus the Great, he extended the Persian Empire into Egypt. His reputation for cruelty is based purely on the biased evidence of Herodotus. He killed Apis, the sacred bull of Egypt and there is a legend that his army of 50,000 "disappeared" on an expedition to the oasis at Siwah (the "lost Army of Cambyses"). He was threatened by a revolt led by the Magi Gaumata who pretended to be Cambyses dead brother Smerdis (or Bardiya). Cambyses died on way back from Egypt to suppress the revolt.

Darius I the Great (522 - 486 BC)

He was an officer in army of Cambyses II who, with 7 others, killed the usurper Smerdis. He became Emperor after an intense civil war. He consolidated the Empire, which reached its greatest extent - from Macedonia to Northern India – and created 20 administrative districts - Satrapies. He suppressed a revolt by Greek city states of Ionia and invaded the Greek mainland but was defeated at Battle of Marathon (490 BC).

Xerxes I (486 - 465 BC)

He succeeded his father Darius I and launched huge invasion of Greece (480 BC). Crossing the Hellespont using bridge of boats, he defeated Leonidas and small Spartan army at Battle of Thermopylae. He sacked Athens but his fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Salamis and he was forced to return to Persia. The large army he left behind was destroyed at the Battle of Plataea (479). He was assassinated by Artibanos in his bedchamber (465 BC).

Artaxerxes I (465 - 424 BC)

He succeeded his father, Xerxes I in whose assassination he had no part. The later weakness of the Persian Empire is commonly traced to the reign of Artaxerxes and there were many uprisings in the provinces. He was remembered warmly in the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah because he authorized their revival of Judaism.

Xerxes II and Sogdianus (424 BC)

Xerxes II succeeded his father Artaxerxes I. After a reign of 45 days he was murdered by his half brother Sogdianus, who reigned for 6 months before being executed by his half-brother Ochus.

Darius II (Ochus) (423 - 404 BC)

The son of Artaxerxes I and a concubine, he was originally known as Darius Nothus (the bastard). An unpopular ruler, he spent most of his reign in quelling revolts in Syria, Lydia (413 BC), and Media (410 BC). He lost Egypt (410 BC), but through the diplomacy of Pharnabazus, Tissaphernes, and Cyrus the Younger he secured much influence in Greece during the Peloponnesian War.

Artaxerxes II (404 - 358 BC)

He succeeded his father Darius II and was called in Greek Artaxerxes Mnemon (the thoughtful). His brother Cyrus the Younger attempted to assassinate him and seize the throne. Artaxerxes finally crushed Cyrus' rebellion at the Battle of Cunaxa (401 BC), where Cyrus was killed. The story of the Greek contingent in the battle was made famous by Xenophon. Satraps Pharnabazus and Tissaphernes had real ruling power. A longlasting revolt of the satraps against the king was put down just before his death.

Artaxerxes III (Ochus) (358 - 338 BC)

He succeeded his father Artaxerxes II and was called Artaxerxes Ochus. He gained the throne by a general massacre of his brother's family and throughout his reign he continued a policy of terror. He regained Egypt by bloody conquest and also put down the unruly satraps and centralized and strengthened the empire. He was poisoned by the eunuch Bagoas.

Artaxerxes IV (Arses) (338 - 336 BC)

He succeeded his father Artaxerxes III and was called Artaxerxes Arses. He was the only survivor of the poisoning of the royal family by Bagoas and proved to be a short lived puppet king before he was in turn poisoned by Bagoas.

Darius III (Codommanus) (336 - 330 BC)

A cousin of Artaxerxes III, he was raised to the throne by the eunuch Bagoas, who had murdered both Artaxerxes III and his son, Arses. Darius in turn murdered Bagoas. When Alexander the Great invaded Persia, he was defeated at the Battle of Issus (333 BC) and the Battle of Gaugamela near Arbela (331 BC). He was forced to flee to Ecbatana and then eastward to Bactria. It was there that the satrap of Bactria, Bessus, had Darius murdered on Alexander's approach and took command himself in the unsuccessful opposition to the Macedonian conqueror. This marked the end native rule of the Persian Empire.

Persian/Iranian Dynasties

Achaemenid (559 - 330 BC) (see above)

Seleucid (321 - 64 BC)

Founded by Seleucus, Macedonian general and successor of Alexander the Great who became king of the eastern provinces - more or less modern Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, together with parts of Turkey, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. His kingdom had two capitals, which he founded c.300: Antioch in Syria and Seleucia in Iraq. Babylon was a third important city. The empire was the continuation of the empires of Persia, Babylonia and Assyria.

Seleucus' reign lasted from 312 to 280 BC and he was succeeded by his descendants, who continued to govern these countries for two centuries. Around 238 BC the Seleucids lost much territory in the east, where the Parni settled themselves in the satrapy of Parthia -in northern Iran- and the satrapy of Bactria -Afghanistan- became independent.

Antiochus III clashed with growing power of Rome and war between the two superpowers broke out in 192 BC. Antiochus was defeated and the Seleucid Empire lost its possessions in what is now Turkey.

The tide was turning against the Seleucid monarchy. In the west, Rome became too powerful to resist; they backed the Jews, who liberated themselves in the years after 165 BC (the so-called Maccabaean revolt). At the same time, the Parni founded the Parthian empire, which seized away the eastern provinces. Babylonia was captured in 141 BC. New losses followed, until in 64 BC, the Roman general Pompey the Great made an end to the Seleucid kingdom.

Arsacids (Parthia) (238 BC - 224 AD)

A dynasty ruling the Parthian empire in Persia, founded by Arsaces I (r.c.247-c.211 BC). He was king of the Iranian-speaking Parni peoples, who asserted the independence of Parthia from the Seleucids in 238 BC. His successors extended their rule over Persia and Mesopotamia, notably in the 2nd century BC. They emphasised continuity with the Achaemenids but adopted Hellenistic culture. The dynasty was overthrown by the Sasanians in the 3rd century AD.

The modern Persian word for "Parthian" is Pahlavi, the name chosen for the late dynasty of Shâhs. The Parthians were famous for their heavy cavalry ("cataphracts" - "mail-clad"), and their tactics of riding in, shooting, and riding away -- "Parthian arrows". The Battle of Carrhae (53 BC) was the greatest Parthian victory against Rome.

Sasanian (224 - 637 AD)

At the beginning of the third century AD the province of Fars in southwestern Persia came under the control of a local dynasty called the Sasanid. In AD 224 the Sasanids defeated and killed the last Parthian ruler Artabanus V. They established a new capital at Ctesiphon near modern Baghdad in Iraq and made Zorastrianism the state religion. At its height the Sasanian territory included all of modern Iran, parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Soviet Union (on both sides of the Caspian), Iraq, and the Gulf Coast of the Arabian Peninsula. By the opening of the seventh century AD the Sasanid Empire lay exhausted, following its long struggles against the armies of Rome and Byzantium. Overrun by the Arabs who emerged from their homeland to spread the newly born creed of Islam beyond the limits of the Arabian Peninsula. In AD 637 the Sasanian capital Ctesiphon fell.

Abassid Caliphate (758 - 1258 AD)

After overcoming and killing the last Ummayids, Abu al-Abbas installed himself as Caliph, taking the name of Al-Saffah ("the Bloodthirsty"). He was a descendant of The Prophet's uncle. The capital of the new Caliphate was established first in Kufa, and later moved by Harun al-Rashid to Baghdad. Most territory outside of present day Iraq was lost in the 10th century and with the capture in 945 of Baghdad by the Buwayhid Emirate the Caliphs became little more than religious figureheads for a century. The declining Caliphate was finally extinguished when the Mongols captured and sacked Baghdad in 1258.

Seljuk (Turks) (1055 - 1258 AD)

Led by Tughril Beg a great wave of Seljuk Turks conquered Central Asia and Iran at the beginning of the 11th Century. Baghdad was captured in 1055 and Tughril Beg was proclaimed Sultan. Under his successor Alp Arslan, the Seljuks conquered Georgia, Armenia, and much of Asia Minor, overran Syria and defeated the Byzantine emperor Romanus IV at the Battle of Manzikert (1071), opening Byzantium (except for a small area around Constantinople) to Seljuk and Turkmen occupation. This irruption was a major factor in bringing about the Crusades. Alp Arslan's son, Malik Shah was a protector of Omar Khayyam.

At the start of the 12th Century the Seljuk Empire began to fragment, and various parts achieved virtual independence. The Zangid sultanate of Syria was ruled by Nur ad-Din (father of Sal ad-Din), who was known for his victories over the Crusaders. All the Seljuk states were overrun in the 13th Century by Jenghiz Khan and his successors, whose hordes comprised both Mongols and Turks and became generally known as Tartars.