Skip to main content
×
Home
The Cambridge History of Iran
  • Volume 2: The Median and Achaemenian Periods
  • Edited by I. Gershevitch

  • Export citation
  • Recommend to librarian
  • Recommend this book

    Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

    The Cambridge History of Iran
    • Volume 2: The Median and Achaemenian Periods
    • Edited by I. Gershevitch
    • Online ISBN: 9781139054935
    • Book DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912
    Please enter your name
    Please enter a valid email address
    Who would you like to send this to? *
    ×
  • Buy the print book

Book description

The second volume describes the formation, in the sixth century BC, of the earliest multi-national empire, its administration, its confrontation with Greece, and its eventual dissolution under the impact of Alexander's conquest of Iran in 331 BC. This was a time of great importance in the history of the entire Middle East, and embraced figures of the stature of Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes. The sources for this period are more diverse than for any other in Iran's history, the bulk of the evidence being preserved in Babylonian, Elamite, Egyptian and Greek. The involvement in this volume of specialists in each of these fields has ensured that the results of the intensive research of recent years are incorporated in this synthesis. In addition to the strictly historical accounts there are chapters on art and architecture, metalwork and glyptic, calendar systems, weights and measures, religion, and the eastern Iranian world as reflected in the Avesta.

    • Aa
    • Aa
Refine List
Actions for selected content:
Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Send to Kindle
  • Send to Dropbox
  • Send to Google Drive
  • Send content to

    To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to .

    To send content to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

    Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

    Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

    Please be advised that item(s) you selected are not available.
    You are about to send:
    Your Kindle email address
    ×

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.
×
  • 1 - ELAM
    pp 01-24
    • By I. M. Diakonoff, Oriental Instit11te of the Academy of Sciences, Leningrad
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.002
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The earliest part of present-day Iran to reach the level of urban and class civilization was the region was called Khuzistan and which is designated by its Biblical name of Elam. The Elamite culture was originally one of the 'painted ware' cultures, typical of the early chalcolithic periods in all the more developed parts of the ancient world. After 2200 BC, there began an invasion of the Qutium tribes from north-western Iran into Mesopotamia, and a king of Elam seized the opportunity to create his own empire. In the 1800 BC, the Elamites seem to have acted in alliance with Kassite mountaineers, who overran central Mesopotamia. From Babylonian sources one learn that Elam and Susa were conquered by the Kassite Babylonian king Kurigalzu in the second part of the 14th century. The architecture demonstrates the complete absorption of Mesopotamian cultural traditions in Elam. Apart from 'Babylonian Chronicle', there exist some Neo-Elamite inscriptions of the late 8th and the 7th centuries.
  • 2 - ANSHAN IN THE ELAMITE AND ACHAEMENIAN PERIODS
    pp 25-35
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.003
  • View abstract
    Summary
    For over 1500 years the land of Anshan occupied a prominent place in the political history of south-western Iran. It would appear that the Kings of Awan of the old Elamite period became the Kings of Anshan and Susa of later dynasties. After the fall of Awan a new Elamite dynasty rose in the district of Simashki which is probably to be located in the region of modern Isfahan. During the last half of the 14th century BC an apparently independent Elamite dynasty reappears suddenly on the historical scene. The reign of Hutelutush-Inshushinak ended with a devastating invasion of Elamite territories by Nebuchadrezzer I of Babylon. The Achaemenians were governing in Anshan/Parsuwash at least a generation before Ashurbanipal commenced his decisive invasion of Elam. Although Achaemenes is usually recognized as eponymous founder of the Achaemenian royal house, it is his son Teispes who is first called 'Great King.
  • 3 - MEDIA
    pp 36-148
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.004
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter, with some anachronistic licence, speaks of 'Media', understanding by it the territory limited in the west by the Zagros mountain ranges, and in the north by the river Araxes and the Alburz mountain range. It also extends in the east by the salt desert Dasht-i Kavir, and in the south by a line passing along the watershed which separates the valleys of the rivers flowing towards the centre of the highland. This chapter explores the ethnical composition of the population of western Media towards the beginning of the ist millennium BC. In the western part of the plateau, as shown by archaeological finds, there existed at the turn of the 2nd millennium BC typical city-states probably still mainly belonging to the pre-Iranian population. The Mannaean kingdom mentioned by Assyrian sources, who behaved with great independence and may have been descendants of former rulers of autonomous city-states.
  • 4 - THE SCYTHS
    pp 149-199
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.005
  • View abstract
    Summary
    During the first half of the first millennium BC, the southern part of Eastern Europe was occupied mainly by peoples of Iranian stock. The main Iranian-speaking peoples of the region were the Scyths and the Sarmatians. The Scythian period fell at the time of the wet sub-Atlantic climate, which was more damp than the present climate of the Ukraine. Although the ancient Persians called all Scyths 'Saca' the population of ancient Scythia was far from being homogeneous, nor were the Scyths themselves a homogeneous people. The data relating to Scythian beliefs and religion that can be drawn from the remarks by Herodotus and from the representations on Scythian toreutic. The northwest Caucasian Scyths were forced to move again and abandon their country, from the advancing Sarmatian Siraces. The earliest 'genuine Scythian' or 'Royal Scythian' remains north of the Black Sea date from the 600 BC, tallies with the data of the expulsion of the Scyths from Western Asia.
  • 5 - THE RISE OF THE ACHAEMENIDS AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THEIR EMPIRE
    pp 200-291
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.007
  • View abstract
    Summary
    At the beginning of his History, for which he was gathering the material in the middle of the 5th century, the Greek writer Herodotus tells us what Persian men of learning had to say about the first confrontations of Europe and Asia. Modern scholars have varied greatly in the use they make of him for early Achaemenid history. The historians of Alexander the Great provide first-hand information about the Persian empire; and in particular it is to them that we owe our knowledge of the eastern Iranian lands as they first come into the light of recorded history. The whole of Western Asia as far as the Arabian desert was now under Persian suzerainty. The Persian satraps in the far western provinces of Asia Minor and Egypt were not involved in the clashes of rivals, though Oroites in Sardis took the opportunity to avenge an insult on the satrap of the Hellespontine region.
  • 6 - PERSIA AND THE GREEKS
    pp 292-391
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.007
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Before Cyrus marched against Croesus, he had made overtures to the Asian Greeks, of whom the Ionians were the most important. the tragic incompatibility and failure of understanding between Persia, the highest manifestation of oriental imperialism, and the still developing bourgeois culture of the Greek cities. Cyrus' son Cambyses, continuing his father's agenda, in 525 assailed Egypt, and as a prelude to this, a great matter, for which his courtiers praised him, he 'won the sea'. Mardonios pressed on to where his fresh army and fleet awaited him, at the crossing into Europe. Greek objectives were now to deny forward positions to the enemy, should Xerxes try again; to reopen trade-routes, and, in Homeric style, revenge. Even during the great wars, but much more as the dust of conflict settled, Greeks and Persians were getting to know each other as human beings. A new epoch opened after Athens lost an army and fleet before Syracuse in Sicily.
  • 7 - CYRUS THE GREAT (558–529 b.c.)
    pp 392-419
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.008
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The simple style of Cyrus was a reflection of Elamite royal custom and recalls the curt inscription at Choga Zanbil, which simply names the founder as 'I Untash-Gal'. Two lines of beautifully and simply carved column bases found in the course of excavating a palace of Cyrus the Great. In assessing the accretion of wealth that came to Iran from the time of Cyrus onwards one should not forget the great influx of men and animals as well as timber and other commodities. A consideration of the vast distances that are covered by the armies of Cyrus for the acquisition of the empire must lead us to reflect, on the order and sequence of his campaigns. The situation which confronted Cyrus at the beginning of his reign has been admirably expounded by Sidney Smith. The capture of Babylon, richest of all the Persian satrapies, inevitably brought in its train hegemony over the rich cities of Syria and Palestine.
  • 8 - ALEXANDER IN IRAN
    pp 420-501
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.009
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Alexander's conquest is a turning-point in the history of Iran, and although a full treatment of Alexander would be out of place here, an attempt will be made to select what is most relevant within the context of that history. Alexander did not stay to organize Egypt, but at once went to the Western Desert, to consult the oracle of Ammon at Siwah, long known and respected in Greece. The Indian campaign took less than two years, covering a remarkable amount of territory unknown to the Greek world in that time, in climatic conditions which even the hardened Macedonians soon found burdensome. Alexander divided the army, sending Hephaestion and Perdiccas along the main route with one part, while he took a more difficult northerly route himself, a strategic idea similar to his invasion of Fārs. Imitation of heroes, Achilles, Heracles, Dionysus, had always been part of Alexander's personality.
  • 9 - THE PERSIAN OCCUPATION OF EGYPT
    pp 502-528
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.010
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The imperialist expansion of Persia pursued by Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenian Empire, already loomed ominously over Egypt by the end of Amasis' rule. From the point of view of Persian foreign policy, the conquest of the Nile Valley could be considered the end of expansion to the south-west. The whole of Egypt kept the same administrative and juridical division into large districts as had been in force prior to Persian domination. The letters published by Driver show that a special feature of satrapal bureaucracy in Egypt was the administration of goods held by the satrap in his own name. The Achaemenian government based a strong military contingent in Egypt for border defence and internal security. Mercenaries were paid monthly by the Persian government in cash and kind, the payment being made by the 'treasury' or 'the king's house'. Among he soldiers of the Persian occupation in Egypt there were Ionians and Carians based particularly at Memphis.
  • 10 - THE BABYLONIAN EVIDENCE OF ACHAEMENIAN RULE IN MESOPOTAMIA
    pp 529-587
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.011
  • View abstract
    Summary
    To present the Babylonian evidence, cuneiform texts and archaeological remains, for the Achaemenian rule over the satrapy Babairuš is to write a history of Mesopotamia. To write a history of Mesopotamia during these two hundred years would moreover necessitate the complete and critical utilization of contemporary and later classical sources. The cuneiform evidence of Achaemenian rule not only confirms the sequence of Persian rulers as known from Old Persian inscriptions and from Greek writers, but adds important chronological refinements. The student of Mesopotamian history can also rely on the inscriptions often written or stamped on bricks destined for temples, palaces, city walls, etc. In Mesopotamia as elsewhere historical events have left their imprints on literary creations and, conversely, literary creations have been used for political purposes. This chapter discusses the problems connected with the co-regency of Cyrus and Cambyses. Mesopotamian sources provide very little written evidence for Darius I, apart from the mention of his name in the Uruk kinglist.
  • 11 - THE EVIDENCE OF THE PERSEPOLIS TABLETS
    pp 588-609
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.012
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The Achaemenid Elamite texts found at Persepolis add a little flesh to the picked-over bones of early Achaemenid history. The fortification texts, which date from the thirteenth to the twenty-eighth year of Darius I, record many kinds of transfers of food products. The fortification texts were written at many sites in a region which, it seems, surrounds the Persepolis-Susa axis. The texts mention the names of many officials. By all evidence the chief economic official from the sixteenth to the twenty-fifth year of Darius was Pharnaces. In the assignment of work groups three persons are more frequent than any others: Irsena in the Susa area, Karkis and Suddayauda successively in the Persepolis area. In any case it would have been very difficult by the use of clay tablets to achieve an adequate accounting system for such varied and extensive operations. The problem might in the end have been solved by the use of records in Aramaic written on perishable materials.
  • 12 - ACHAEMENID COINS, WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
    pp 610-639
    • By A. D. H. , School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.013
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The traditional established scale of bullion weights throughout the Middle East before the rise of Cyrus the Great is that known as the Babylonian standard. It also seems certain that during the later Assyrian period, shekel weights at a standard of 11.4 gm were in use in Samaria and Judaea. There is, at any rate, considerable evidence that "Bulk Silver" in various forms, constituted the main circulating medium in the Levant, Babylonia and Iran during the Achaemenid period. The standard of the Athenian tetradrachm at 17.2 gm may have been called "Euboic" by the Athenians themselves, but it represented a key unit in relation to the two Achaemenid currency systems. After the capture of the Achaemenid royal treasures by Alexander the Great, huge volumes of darics from the reserves were put into circulation, so that the market value of gold declined. The introduction by Darius of his new daric coinage took place before the enforcement of the new metrological reforms.
  • 13 - THE OLD EASTERN IRANIAN WORLD VIEW ACCORDING TO THE AVESTA
    pp 640-663
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.014
  • View abstract
    Summary
    For the traditional outlook of ancient Eastern Iran, the birthplace of Iranian culture, which must be guided by such realia as may be extracted from the religious texts which comprise the Avesta, supplemented, by Pahlavi citations from lost Avestan texts. The "Avesta people", like the Indo-Europeans who settled northwestern India and founded the Vedic culture, called themselves Arya. While our Avestan texts were composed at a period in which settled agricultural life had long before become widespread, the basis of social structuring it attests, which survived at least theoretically through Sasanian times, took shape during the earlier period of nomadism, and nomadic life has continued, of course, to exist side-by-side with agriculturism down to the present day in Iran. In the early stages of Indo-European thought, human fertility was connected with the concept of moisture and fluidity, and this association continued in the ancient Iranian outlook. The cattle-raising was a central part of the most ancient economy of Eastern Iran.
  • 14 - THE RELIGION OF ACHAEMENIAN IRAN
    pp 664-697
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.015
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Accordingly, as the canonization of the scripture took place long after the Achaemenian period, the lack of references to identifiable Achaemenian realia makes the Avesta an elusive source for the religion of Achaemenian Iran, and Persia. The Younger Avestan Ahura Mazda is "primus" only in respect of his name occurring in the texts much more often than those of the other gods; the compiler insistently represents Zoroaster's sole god as approving of the polytheism the prophet had proscribed, with the result that Zoroaster himself is presented as a polytheist. The most important god of pagan origin, Mithra maintained his great popularity down through Iranian history. A comparison of the Avestic demonological data with that of the Vedas shows that the Iranians inherited the foundations of their beliefs concerning malign supernatural beings from Indo-Iranian times. The Pahlavi books have another series of oppositions of demons to the Amesha Spentas. Evidence is lacking for religion under the predecessors of Darius I.
  • 15 - ARAMAIC IN THE ACHAEMENIAN EMPIRE
    pp 698-713
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.016
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter reviews the use of Aramaic throughout the Achaemenian empire. In the Achaemenian period Aramaic endorsements on cuneiform tablets increase in number, Aramaic words enter Akkadian, Aramaic expressions may often be traced in the Late Babylonian legal texts, and there are increased references in the texts to leather documents and to the sepiru who served as scribe, translator and expert. First evidence for the use of Aramaic in the eastern parts of the empire is the Arsham letters which provide an excellent example of the highly developed use of Aramaic for communication in the Achaemenian empire. During the Hellenistic period, when Greek took the place of Aramaic as the official language throughout much of the same geographic area, the uniformity of the Aramaic script gradually broke down. The Aramaic script was often called 'Assyrian'. The use of Aramaic script and Aramaic ideograms in the various Middle Persian dialects is an important result of the practice of Achaemenian chanceries.
  • 16 - OLD IRANIAN CALENDARS
    pp 714-792
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.017
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter provides the indications to form a clear idea of the essential features of the prehistoric Iranian calendar. Hundreds of iconographies found on seals and vases from all over Iran and Mesopotamia demonstrate that such a continuity actually existed. The chapter mentions some typical features observable time and again that indicate terrestrialism and interpretation in characterizing the historical period. In late Babylonian times the first month of the lunisolar year, Nisannu, was the one whose neomenia occurred about the time of spring equinox. In the Later Avestan calendar, four of the month names, called after Old Iranian deities including Tistrya-Sirius, were taken over. The coincidences between month and day names were duly celebrated by festivals. Among them, two seem of special interest because they may reflect, as pointed out by Taqizadeh, the astronomical situation at the time of the introduction of the Magian day-names, for example the alleged 'reform' of 441 BC.
  • 17 - CLASSIC ACHAEMENIAN ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE
    pp 793-827
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.018
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter summarizes the characteristics of classic Achaemenian art as they are revealed in the principal monuments. The proudest monument of Persian art, Persepolis, whose ancient name was Parsa, owed its existence to Darius, a scion of a secondary line of Achaemenians. The combination of truly floral and geometrical motifs in these richly ornamented columns of Persepolis is in contrast to the strictly architectural development which eastern Mediterranean elements like scrolls and hanging sepals have taken in Ionian structures. The Apadana at Persepolis consisted of an immense columnar hall, as well as the furniture store-rooms which were accommodated at the back. The text of the Elamite inscription contained detailed references to the sources of building materials employed in the structure, as well as to craftsmen of different nationalities. In order to view the reliefs and sculptures in the round found at Persepolis and Susa in a stylistic sequence, the earlier works of Darius at Blsutun and Pasargadae must be mentioned.
  • 18 - THE BEHISTUN RELIEF
    pp 828-831
    • By Ann Farkas, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.019
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The Behistun relief is the earliest known work of art which can be securely dated in the reign of Darius the Great. The relief represents Darius triumphant over his enemies; he holds a bow in his left hand and stands with one foot on the fallen figure of Gaumata, the first rebel, who raises his arms in a pleading gesture toward Darius. The style of the Behistun relief is simpler than the later art of Darius and appears to unite conventions found in Cyrus' sculptures at Pasargadae with traits characteristic of Assyrian art. In the time of Darius, the characteristic Persian robe is shown, in summary fashion, on the Behistun relief, and in a more developed manner in the art of Susa and Persepolis. Professor Porada has already suggested that the royal figures on the Treasury reliefs wore gold crowns, since representations of Darius and subsequent kings were adorned with gold crowns and jewellery.
  • 19 - TEPE NŪSH-I JĀN: THE MEDIAN SETTLEMENT
    pp 832-837
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.020
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter surveys the excavated evidence of Median date from Tepe Nush-i Jān. Excavations at the hill-top site of Tepe Nush-i Jan, located 60 km south of Hamadan, ancient Ecbatana, have revealed the well preserved remains of four distinct monumental mud-brick buildings, the first of which may have been founded near 750 BC. In the case of the Central Temple, where the most rigorous methods were employed, the altar was first surrounded by mud-bricks and shale in such a way that no harm could come to it, then the rest of the building was filled with chips of shale up to a height of six metres. The introduction of a columned hall at Tepe Nush-i Jan c 700 BC, and its subsequent abandonment less than one hundred years later, may or may not reflect local political conditions, such as the presence for a time of many separate regional rulers.
  • 20 - PASARGADAE
    pp 838-855
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.021
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Pasargadae, the capital of Cyrus the Great, is the earliest known significant settlement of the Persians, a people who rose from obscurity to far-flung dominion in the short span of two decades. Weathered and scarred by time, the tomb of Cyrus remains the focus of all else at Pasargadae. For the first time in Iran a reception hall acquired an open, four-sided appearance. The Pasargadae palaces represent bold, innovative structures that Cyrus used to signal both the new ideas and resources that had become available to him and the new sense of security that went with his unrivalled power and prestige. Gardens were essential to the character of Pasargadae. To the north of the Palace Area stands the isolated stone tower known locally as Zindan-i Sulaiman or "The Prison of Solomon". The extreme northern limit of Pasargadae is marked by two isolated stone plinths.
  • 21 - METALWORK AND GLYPTIC
    pp 856-869
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521200912.022
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Without a body of material from controlled excavations in western Iran on sites of the 7th and early 6th centuries BC the special character of Median metalwork is still largely a matter of surmise. Men and women throughout the Achaemenian Empire wore a rich variety of personal ornaments. For the 4th century the astonished comments of classical authors indicate the magnificent spoils which fell to Alexander the Great in the treasuries of Babylon, Persepolis, Susa and Ecbatana, where precious metals were often hoarded in the shape of vessels. What little evidence there is for the technology of fine metalwork in the Achaemenian Empire largely comes from Egypt. Throughout the Achaemenian period glass factories in Syria and Mesopotamia were producing multi-coloured glass beads, amulets, inlays and cored vessels in a manner and to patterns long established in the region. In Iran from prehistoric times engraved seals had been used to impress clay tags and tablets with marks of property and authority.

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.


G. K. Jenkins , “Coin Hoards from Pasargadae”, Iran (journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies) (London-Tehran) in (1965)

D. Magie Roman Rule in Asia Minor, 2 vols. Princeton, N.J., 1950.

K. Schippmann Die iranischen Feuerheiligtümer. Berlin, 1971.

E. Badian The administration of the empire”, Greece and Rome (published for the Classical Association) (Oxford) [section III above]. A brief general survey.

G. T. Griffith A note on the hipparchies of Alexander”, ibid..

O. Neugebauer Astronomical Cuneiform Texts, 3 vols. Princeton-London n. d. [1955].

Th. G. Pinches The Collection of Babylonian Tablets belonging to Joseph Offord, Esq.,Palestine Exploration Quarterly 1900. (1 text)

A. Dupont-Sommer La stèle trilingue récemment découverte au Lêtôon de Xanthos: le texte araméen”, Comptes rendus de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles lettres (Paris) 1974.

I. Gershevitch The alloglottography of Old Persian”, Transactions of the Philological Society (London) 1979.

J. C. Greenfield Standard Literary Aramaic”, Actes du Premier Congrès International de Linguistique Sémitique et Chamito-Sémitique (The Hague, 1974).

F. Wolff Avesta, Die Heiligen Bücher der Parsen, übersetzt auf der Grundlage von Chr. Bartholomae's Altiranischem Wörterbuch. Strassburg, 1910; repr. 1961.