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Περσική, sc. γῆ, Περσίς; Lat. Persis, more rarely Persia; old Pārsa). The original home of the ancient Persians, and later the chief province of the great Persian Empire, is the small territory in the southwestern corner of the Iranian tableland. In this limited and original sense, Persia corresponds exactly to the present Province of Fārs or Fārsistān with the capital Shīrāz. On the north it was bounded by Media, on the east by Karmania, on the southwest by the Persian Gulf, and on the northwest by the province of Susiana. The latter had from the time of Cyrus been closely united with Persia (Strabo, p. 727). Persis was separated from Media by the Parachoathras Mountains, the most southerly spur of the Taurus. Persia is a highland rising in terraces to a height of 5000 metres, intersected by many clefts, with approaches on most sides only by difficult rocky passes. In consequence of its isolated position, the oriental peoples, before the time of Alexander, had only a scanty knowledge of the land. The flat coast line was intolerably hot, sandy, and unfruitful; but in the interior the climate was everywhere favorable, temperate, and for the latitude almost raw, on account of the elevated position; the valleys and plains productive and well watered, with many clear rivers and lakes, where all kinds of waterfowl made their homes, covered with fertile meadows and gardens, and pasturage for horses and cattle, and, in parts, with forests and game. Wine and all fruits except olive oil were produced. The northern portion of Persia, on the other hand, is cold and snow is frequent. As a whole, Persia was intended by nature more for a grazing than for an agricultural country. The largest inland river is the Araxes (now Bundemir), which empties into a salt lake, with its tributary the Medos (now Pulvar). In the fruitful plain of the Medos in the centre of the country, sixty kilometres northeast of the present Shīrāz, over 1000 metres high, in a mild and healthful climate, lay the capital Persepolis (later Istakhr). Next to Susa, Persepolis was the largest and most beautiful city in the land. Here stood the costly and strong royal citadel (τὰ βασίλεια), the extensive ruins of whose walls, terraces, halls, and state apartments are still extant. Twelve kilometres down the river was the rock-hewn grave city of the Achaemenids (now Naksh-i-Rustem). Persepolis remained the nominal capital of the kingdom even after the kings had moved their residence to Susa and in mid-summer to Ecbatana. The original seat of the dynasty lay two days' journey northeast of Persepolis, in the so-called lower Persis, on the little river Cyrus, the present Murghāb. There stood the ancient royal city of Pasargadae with the palace and the still preserved tomb of Cyrus (Strabo, p. 727 ff.; Arrian, Indica, 40; 7, 8). In a wider sense the name Persia embraces the whole Persian nation of Iranian race, which should rather be called Irān. The broad highland of Irān, from the Tigris to the Indus, from the Indian Ocean to the Oxus and the Caspian Sea, is divided into halves by the great salt desert in its midst —western Irān with the States of Media and Persia, and northeastern Irān with Sogdiana, Chorasmia, Bactria, Areia, and Arachosia. These divisions are united only in the north by a narrow inhabitated strip, Hyrcania. The old geographers confined the term Ἀριανή to Eastern Irān. The feeling of national unity existed in all the tribes; their common name was once that of Aryan. Darius emphasizes first of all the fact that he is a Persian, the son of a Persian, and secondarily that he is an Aryan, of Aryan race. The Medes, too, according to Herodotus (vii. 62), anciently called themselves Aryans. The national unity of all Irān, a national dream even in the old heroic legends, was fully realized only once, under the Achaemenids. The empire of the Sassanids did not succeed in recovering the whole east of Irān. The present Persia fully includes only western Irān, and extends eastward not far beyond the eastern edge of the salt desert. The greater part of the ancient eastern Irān is occupied by Afghans and Turcomans.

Ethnology.—The inhabitants of Persis were originally a genuine mountain race of shepherds. Herodotus, Xenophon, and others describe the ancient Persians (old Pārsa, formerly, according to Herod. vii. 61, called Atrei) as an energetic, brave, contented race, of inordinate self-esteem, accustomed to hardships but not lacking in finer traits, fond of rude pleasures, of strict discipline, with a certain sense of justice, and of sound morals. The Persian sculptures show a noble profile, with long, straight nose, and carefully arranged beard. They ate only once a day, but then heartily, and drank wine freely. The life of men of station was consumed in hunting, travelling, archery, and war. The Persians served in the army from the twentieth to the fiftieth year. The soldiers wore the characteristic pointed felt hat (τιάρα), a coloured coat and breeches, and carried a light shield, a short spear, a long bow with thirty arrows, and the short dagger-sword (ἀκινάκης). Commerce was unknown among them, as were also rapine and thieving; lying, developed in the East to a virtue, they abhorred, at least in theory. Next to lying, incurring debt was considered the greatest disgrace. Polygamy and pæderasty were customary. Large families of children were esteemed honourable and the king offered yearly prizes for them. Education was undertaken by the State; the sons of nobles were brought up as pages at the court, where they were prepared for the high State offices. All kinds of bodily exercise and truthfulness were required of the youth, and they were early accustomed to hardship and watchfulness. They studied the sciences, traditions, natural history, and arboriculture (Herod.i. 133 ff.; Xen. Anab. i. 9; Xen. Cyrop. i. 2; viii. 8). Even Herodotus blames their fatal eagerness to imitate foreign customs. Thus in place of their ancient simple leather garments, they took from the more civilized Medes a more highly adorned dress (purple caftan, necklaces, and bracelets, Cyrop. i. 3, 2), false hair, and a blasé air of fashion, and wherever they heard of a new form of amusement they introduced it. With their growing dominion and under the influence of foreign customs the Persians rapidly deteriorated. Luxury, debauchery, and effeminacy destroyed their former discipline and bodily excellence. Cruelty and barbarity on the part of those in authority, extortion, crime, and injustice became the order of the day (Agathias, ii. 30; Xen. Cyrop. viii. 8, 6). The traditional origin of the Persian satraps is quite incredible.

The Persian nation was divided into various tribes, each possessing its own special portion of farming and pasture land. Of the ruling nobility, to which all other classes were subject, there were according to Herodotus three orders: the Pasargadae, Maraphii, and Maspii. Of these the Pasargadae were the highest; from them sprang the dynasty of the Achaemenids, who raised themselves from petty tribal chiefs and princes to national sovereigns. The king was permitted to select his wives only from the six highest families of the land, and the six “First of the Persians” had free access to the king.

The Iranian languages belong to the Indogermanic stock. In spite of strong dialectic differences, a specific Iranian type is unmistakably noticeable in all. Their common characteristic marks are the change of s to h, the preference for fricatives, and the great development of sibilants. Old- Pers. hanti (“they are”)=Skt. santi, Lat. sunt; hindu (Indus)=Skt. Sindhu; fra=Skt. pra, πρό; thri (three)=mod. Pers. si=Skt. tri.

Old Persian stands on a very primitive stage, still very close to Sanskrit. The sentence from an inscription “Aüramazdā hya imām bumim adā hya avam asmānam adā hya martīyam adā” (“Ormuzd, who created this earth, who created that heaven, who created man”), would read in Sanskrit asuro medhasvi ya imAm bhUmim adhAd yo 'mum as/mAnam adhAd yo martyam adhAt. Characteristic is the change of the Iranian z to d; adam (I)=Avestan azem; and f for Eastern Iranian hv: Vindafarnā (Ἰνταφέρνης)=Avestan Vindat-hvarenāo. The final syllable is greatly maimed: abara= Skt. abharat (“he bore”).

The ancient Persians left no real literature. Remains of a lost heroic epic of Eastern Irān are to be found in the Avestā. But we have a fairly accurate knowledge of the language of the old Persians from the rock-inscriptions in which Darius I. and his successors perpetuated their deeds in plain, almost clumsy style. The most extensive of these inscriptions are those of Darius on the smoothed rock-face of Mount Behistān in Media, 426 lines, with a twofold translation. These Persian inscriptions are written in the simplest form of cuneiform, and, so far as they are not destroyed by the action of the weather or wantonly, they have been almost completely deciphered. (See Cuneiform.) Of the language of the Medes we know only a few words through the Greeks; it probably resembled Old Persian. The dog was called by the Medes spakō (Herod.i. 110), in the Avestā spā. The home of the very primitive language of the Avestā cannot be determined.

From the Old Persian was developed the Middle Persian or Pahlavī, the literary and official language under the Sassanids. A peculiar cryptographic system (with Semitic ideograms), and a very defective and ambiguous alphabet, make this language unnecessarily difficult. While the Old Persian is still rich in grammatical forms, the Pahlavī shows great poverty. Still further poverty is shown in the Modern Persian (from the tenth century A.D. the national language of modern Persia), the last stage of development in the local speech of the Persians. The purest Modern Persian is still spoken around Shīrāz.

Among the arts architecture and sculpture hold the first place. Monumental structures are confined exclusively to the numerous royal palaces, and of their former magnitude the ruins of Susa and the far more imposing remains of Persepolis are silent witnesses. Their luxury and extravagance were a source of amazement to the Greeks. Founded by Darius, most of them were enlarged and finished by his successors. According to the detailed description of Polybius (x. 27), the palace in Ecbatana at the time of the Achaemenids (whether during the period of the Medes is questionable) was covered with silver tiles, and a great part of the interior was coated with gold and silver plates. And so it may have been in Persepolis. But while the Median palace was a wooden structure, the material in Persepolis is a durable stone. The treatment of the stone shows a high degree of workmanship; walls and columns are ornamented with reliefs and inscriptions. The architectural style was drawn from the Babylonian and Assyrian, but was not a slavish imitation. The palace of Persepolis lay on a terrace of ten metres in height, with the rear towards a mountain. It was protected by an ingenious threefold wall and brazen doors. The interior contained the dwelling and reception rooms of the king and his highest officials, as well as the treasure-chambers. (Cf. the description of Diod.xvii. 71.) The slender columns are twenty metres high and end in lofty, delicate capitals. The whole produced an effect of towering and imposing elegance and gigantic dimensions.

The numerous sculptures excavated do not depict single episodes in the life of the king, but form a common symbolic picture-language, glorifying the splendour of the kingdom and its far-reaching might. The composition is in general stiff and

Specimen of Persian Sculpture from Persepolis.

monotonous, but is carefully elaborated in details; the faces expressionless, but the forms lifelike and natural, the dress, weapons, etc., reproduced with great fidelity.

Religion.—The Perso-Iranian national religion has from the oldest times been the Zoroastrian, with its belief in a good and an evil spirit (Ormuzd, ahurō mazdāo; Ahriman, anro mainyush), worship of moral and natural powers (Asha, “law”; Rashnu, “justice”; Mithra, “sun”), purity of body and soul, after death a strict balancing of good and evil deeds, with the rewards of paradise or the punishments of hell, a last judgment, resurrection of the dead, marriage of relatives, etc. In all probability the teachings of Zoroaster (q.v.) originated in the East and spread westward into Media. The external and internal history of the Zoroastrian doctrine until it became a fully developed national church is still dark. In Media the Magi, one of the Median orders, became the privileged priestly class. The Magi, doubtless under the Median supremacy, carried the religious movement to Persis, and there also remained in exclusive and lasting possession of the priestly dignity. Without Magi no one could make a sacrifice (Herod.i. 132), for they alone possessed the priestly mysteries; they also were soothsayers and interpreters of dreams. They had great respect and influence in public and private affairs; they conducted the education of the princes from the seventh year and constantly surrounded the king's person. They dressed in white and wore a felt turban, the cheek-pieces of which concealed the mouth (Avesta, paitidāna).

Cyrus was undoubtedly an orthodox Zoroastrian; the belief in the resurrection arose under Cambyses (Herod.iii. 62). Darins in his inscriptions constantly emphasizes the fact that he is ruler through the grace of Aüramazda; Ahriman is naturally not mentioned by name. The cult of the goddess Anaitis (Anāhita) and that of Mithra, which afterwards became almost international, was not officially introduced into Persia until the time of Artaxerxes II.

In their descriptions of Persian sacrificial rites, the details given by Western writers agree in all essentials with the ordinances of the Avesta (Herod.i. 131; Strabo, p. 732; De Is. 46). The Persians had neither images of the gods nor real temples. They offered a garlanded sacrificial animal under the open heavens, while the Magi, holding in their hands a bundle of tamarisk twigs (the barsom), chanted the sacred passages. They sacrificed to the highest god, Ormuzd; to the sun and moon, but especially to fire and water—to fire, by burning dry wood and dropping fat on it; they offered worship to water, by some lake, river, or spring. The dog and the birds were sacred creatures; the dog they held as inviolable as men. On the other hand, it was considered a righteous deed to kill as many harmful animals as possible.

The Perso-Iranian funeral rites are the strict consequence of the belief that all dead things were unclean and forfeited to the evil spirit. It was a mortal sin to defile the pure elements, fire and water. (Fire could not even be blown upon, under penalty of death.) The ecclesiastical prescriptions concerning burial, as later set down in the Avesta, seem for a long time to have been repugnant to the Persians, and only gradually to have supplanted the old customs. According to Xenophon ( Cyrop. viii. 7, 25), Cyrus, when dying, ordered his body to be buried. Herodotus (i. 140) tells of the Magi that they do not bury their dead until dogs and birds have torn them. Whether the Persians did the same is not certain; at any rate they buried the corpse only after having covered it with wax. But the prescription of the Avesta indicates that the naked corpse was exposed to the vultures on an elevation (dakhma) outside the city, and that only subsequently the bones were buried in the open field. Not until the Sassanid period did this become the usual practice, as the description in Agathias, ii. 21, 22 proves. Procopius relates that a Persian who had buried his wife was sentenced to death (Bell. Pers. i. 7). When Damassius and his companions covered a body lying on the ground with earth, the latter had disappeared in the morning, and during the night a spirit appeared to them in a dream, warning them to bury the dead, because the earth, the mother of all, received no tribute (Agathias, ii. 31). Evidence is not wanting that the custom existed as early as the time of Alexander, at least in Bactria. Alexander's Grecian governor in Bactria was almost driven out because he wished to forbid the exposure of the dead (De Abst. iv. 21).

The Zoroastrian priesthood and sect fell into decay with the fall of the Achaemenid dynasty. Under the Sassanids it was restored, and under the royal protection reached a position of power as the organized State religion which it had never possessed before. It gradually succumbed to the advance of Islam, and in the Persia of to-day there are very few Zoroastrians. More numerous are the

Persian Soldiers. (Relief from the Palace of Darius at Persepolis.)

adherents of the old national religion, who have found refuge in and about Bombay—the Parsees.

History.—The history of Persia is lost in the little-known period of Median supremacy. The Persian kings are vassals of the Median kings, who, on their side, freed themselves from Assyrian dominion after long struggles. The founder of the Median dynasty is Deioces, who, in the first half of the seventh century B.C., raised the Median tribes from confusion and anarchy to an organized state under a central royal power (Herod.i. 96 foll.), for a time probably still a tributary vassal of the Assyrian king, but paving the way for the Median war of independence from the Assyrian yoke. He built the royal capital Ecbatana (old HagmatPers. āna, later Hamadān). His son Phraortes (646-625) was the real founder of the Median supremacy. He subdued Persis and portions of the rest of Irān (“all Asia, one tribe after the other,” Herod.i. 102), and finally entered into an attack on Assyria, for which, however, he paid with his life. His successor Cyaxares (624-585) was the most important king of Media, and raised the young nation to the highest power. He gave the country a firm organized military system. His expedition against Assyria, which brought him victorious before Nineveh, had to be broken off, as the Scythians were meantime invading and devastating all Irān. Cyaxares freed his land from this plague by stratagem (Herod.i. 106). Even then he made Armenia and Cappadocia as far as the Halys subject to himself, and is said to have pushed his dominion eastward over Hyrcania, Parthia, and Bactria. In alliance with Nabopolassar of Babylon, he destroyed Nineveh, and divided the Assyrian Empire among his allies. His son Astyages (584-550) was the last king of his race. Herodotus tells only of his fall, which was brought about by the son of his vassal in the small but energetic district of Persis.

Cyrus (Kūrush), 559-530, belonged to the highest order of Persian nobility—the Pasargadae. His family, which already occupied a leading position in Persis, traced its origin to Achaemenes (Hakhāmani). Xenophon ( Cyrop. i. 2, 1), in opposition to Herodotus (i. 91-107), makes the father of Cyrus king of Persia. Babylonian inscriptions call his great-grandfather Teispes “king of the city of Anshan.” According to this, the Achaemenids had long ruled as kings in Persis under the suzerainty of the great kings of Media.

Myths early gathered about the youth of Cyrus and his ascension to the throne. The romantic story in Herodotus (i. 107-130) is familiar. The Persians under Cyrus revolt against Astyages; he sends against them Harpagus, who, however, from private enmity, is favourable to Cyrus. A large part of the Median army goes over to Cyrus, and Astyages is conquered and taken alive. The coup d'état is told differently in DamascenusNicol. , Fragm. 66 (after Ctesias). But Xenophon's account makes Cyrus gain the power most easily of all by marrying the daughter and heiress of the last Median king Cyaxares, a son of Astyages, receiving Media as a dowry ( Cyrop. viii. 5, 19). But Herodotus and Xenophon agree that Cyrus, on his mother's side, was a grandson of Astyages. The account of Herodotus is corrected and in part confirmed by the Babylonian inscriptions (cf. Rawlinson in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Soc. XII., new series, p. 70; PinchesTh. , Transactions of the Soc. of Bibl. Arch. VII., Bauer Ad., Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akademie, 1882, p. 497).

In these inscriptions it is related that Astyages took the field against Cyrus, but his soldiers revolted and surrendered him to Cyrus. Briefly, therefore, the circumstances were probably the following. In the year 559 Cyrus succeeds his father Cambyses as viceroy in Persis. He frees Persis and Susia, which was connected with it, from the Median suzerainty, and so becomes the first sovereign king of Persis and Susia. Astyages makes war upon him, and in the decisive battle at Pasargadae (Strabo, p. 730) loses his liberty and his Empire (B.C. 550). After a short existence and rapid growth the Median sovereignty had given place to the Persian. In Media itself the acquirement of Ecbatana, which was shortly afterwards accomplished, seems to have completed the transfer of the powers without any long resistance; the Medes soon became reconciled to the new order. For them the change meant not a foreign domination, but only a change of dynasty; the political aim of the Median Empire—the conquest of Asia—remained undisturbed. Since all accounts agree that Astyages had no son, Cyrus was the natural pretender for the throne, and only anticipated his time somewhat. And with the new Persian sovereign the place of the unloved Astyages (cf. Herod.i. 123; Aristot. Polit. v. 8, 15) was occupied by a man who combined daring energy with paternal kindness. The Persian nobles, indeed, played the first parts, and Persian soldiers formed the military nucleus of the Empire. On the other hand, the less civilized victors willingly submitted themselves to the higher culture of the conquered. The Persians adopted their dress, customs, and vices from the Medes, together with the whole system of court and State, as they had already adopted their religion. Although to foreign eyes the Median name long retained its lustre, the national wall of division between Persians and Medes seems gradually to have fallen away and both races to have been mingled in a national unity. The court resided for a portion of the year in Media. Medes occupied high State positions and commands. From this time Persia, Susia, and Media formed the powerful kernel of the nation.

Not so willingly did the other vassal States of the Median kingdom give their adherence to their new lords; their revolts caused Cyrus many wars (Herod.i. 177; Just.i. 7). Even before Cyrus was involved in the second great war, the former vassal countries westward to the Halys were subject to him. Here followed at once the collision with his powerful neighbour Lydia. Once already, under Cyaxares, a bloody war had broken out between the two rival Empires, which continued with varying results for five years, and was finally calmed through the diplomatic intervention of the kings of Babylon and Cilicia (Herod.i. 74). The fall of his brother-in-law and the rapid rise of the insatiable Cyrus forced the ruler of Sardis, Croesus, into war. After assuring himself of the alliance of Babylon, Egypt, and Sparta (Herod.i. 77 foll.), he crossed the Halys in the year 547, anticipating an attack of Cyrus, and carried devastation into Cappadocia, a Persian protectorate (Herod.i. 76). The first battle occurred at Pteria, but was not decisive (Herod.i. 76). There Croesus began the return march, to occupy winter-quarters in Lydia. Cyrus pursued with forced marches, gained a decisive victory over the Lydians at Sardis before the auxiliaries which had been requested arrived, and shut the king up in the capital, which, after a siege of two weeks, was stormed and plundered. Cyrus eventually showed mercy to the captured Croesus, and took him with him to court in Persia, leaving the complete subjection of Lydia to his Median governors Mazares and Harpagus (Herod.i. 162). Not alone all the Greek towns on the west coast of Asia Minor, which were tributary to Lydia, but also Miletus, Lycia, Caria, and Cilicia recognized the Persian authority either willingly or by force. Cyrus himself, immediately after the capture of Sardis, was summoned to the eastern part of the monarchy, to Bactria, by new

Tomb of Cyrus near Pasargadae.

revolts. All of Upper Asia to the eastern border of Irān is from this time on under his sway. Sardis became the firm centre of the western half of the Empire. Lydia was divided into two provinces, the governors of which resided at Sardis and Dascyleion (Herod.iii. 120).

Now, when his Empire reached from the Iaxartes to the west coast of Asia Minor, only Babylon stood between him and the supreme power in Asia. In the year 539 Cyrus made an incursion into Babylonian territory (Herod.i. 190 foll.; Berosus, Fragm. 14). In the very first battle the troops of the enemy mutinied. King Nabonidus of Babylon fled. The strong capital surrendered without resistance, and the whole Babylonian territory, together with the vassal States, of which Syria was the most important, yielded willingly to Cyrus (Herod.iii. 19), who, in this case also, showed himself not as a barbarous, oppressive conqueror, but as the new father of the country. He allowed the sanctuaries and palaces of Babylon to remain unharmed. It was quite in the character of the ancient Persians, who were not in the least religious fanatics, that he should tolerate and protect the old Babylonian religion. Cyrus was accustomed to treat the dispossessed princes with consideration, and to retain them in his service as governors. Through his wise policy, he was able to make moral conquests, and became the least sanguinary of the great conquerors of the Orient. His followers also, notably Darius, pursued this moderate policy in cases of conquest, not of rebellion.

The crown treasures of the conquered lands Cyrus took as spoils of war and stored up in his palaces, thus laying the foundation of the inexhaustible reserves of money of the later Persian Empire. These supplies indirectly benefited the Persians, for it is said that as often as Cyrus entered the territory of Persia he gave a piece of gold to every Persian man and woman (Cyrop. viii. 5, 19; Damas. Fragm. 66). To his Persians he was always the national king; the heads of the nobility of Persis were nearest to the throne, and their counsel was of weight in important decisions.

Cyrus is said to have met his death in an expedition against a nomad race beyond the Iaxartes— the Massagetae, according to Herodotus, the Derbiccae, according to Ctesias. At all events, it was one of the wild Turanian tribes which, with their plundering inroads, had long been the scourge of Northern Irān. But the reports are conflicting. His military science probably failed in the inhospitable steppes of Central Asia before the crafty tactics of these rider hordes. His army was cut to pieces; Herodotus says that he himself fell in the battle, Ctesias that he died from the wounds received there. His body was entombed at Pasargadae, in the shade of the park, in a chamber upon a small stone pyramid. There Alexander saw his golden coffin (Strabo, p. 730). Cyrus had two sons, Cambyses and Smerdis, by his wife Cassandané, who died before him. Of his daughters, Atossa is best known.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, Cambyses (Kabujiya), B.C. 529-522, an imperious, passionate man, whose notorious intemperance (Herod.iii. 34) at times developed into delirium. While the Persians considered Cyrus as their father, they looked on the new sovereign as their master (Herod.iii. 89). Cambyses inherited the active disposition of his father. His first expedition against Egypt involved immense armies. The Phœnician ports, as well as Cyprus, which had recently revolted from Egypt and voluntarily submitted to Persia (Herod.iii. 19), were obliged to mobilize their fleets to afford naval support to the land attack. Samos also at the time entered into voluntary alliance with Persia (Herod.iii. 44). Cambyses first caused his younger brother Smerdis (Bardiya), whose loyalty he distrusted, to be murdered secretly by Prexaspes. A Greek fugitive, Thanes, led the army through the Arabian Desert (Herod.iii. 4). At Pelusium Cambyses met the army of Psammetichus III., who had shortly before succeeded King Amasis. The Egyptian army was completely vanquished, Memphis was taken after a short siege, and Psammetichus made prisoner. In the year 525 the old kingdom of the Pharaohs was made a province of the Persian Empire. In general, Cambyses held to the policy of recognizing and respecting foreign nationality; no change was made in religion or government except that a satrap took the place of the Pharaohs. But the unbridled king personally outraged the people by brutal excesses, such as the desecration of the corpse of Amasis (Herod.iii. 16) and his private mockery of their sacred things.

From Egypt Cambyses planned great expeditions to the west and south. The naval expedition against Carthage was abandoned, because the Phœnicians refused to move against their own colony. A land force perished utterly in the sands of the Libyan Desert (Herod.iii. 26). The expedition under his own command against Aethiopia was not entirely fruitless, but entailed heavy losses (Herod.iii. 25). These failures increased his madness to a still higher point; he killed the bull Apis in rage (Herod.iii. 27), and by ill-treatment caused the death of his own sister, whom he had married according to Persian custom.

Cambyses remained in Egypt until the year 522, when suddenly disquieting reports came from Persia, which, in consequence of his long absence, seems for a long time to have been in a state of fermentation. A Magian, Gaumāta, whose brother was the steward of Cambyses, took advantage of the universal dissatisfaction, and, favoured by a certain resemblance to the murdered Smerdis (Herod.iii. 61 even gives him the same name), proclaimed himself to be the latter, and inflamed the land against the rightful king. Only a few initiated persons knew of the murder of Smerdis. Through great mildness and still greater promises the usurper quickly succeeded. Persia, Media, and the provinces gave him their allegiance, and Cambyses was practically a dethroned prince. From this point we can test the statements of Herodotus by the inscriptions of Darius. While on his homeward journey to punish the usurper, he met his death in Syria by his own hand, or through carelessness, as Herodotus (iii. 64) thinks. The position of the Achaemenid dynasty was precarious. The people considered the pretender the real Bardiya, who would now have been the legitimate successor to the throne, as Cambyses died childless. Certain expressions of doubt seem to have been checked by the new tyrant with great cruelty. He must have feared most of all being unmasked by the Persian grandees, and therefore he never received them, nor allowed himself to be seen publicly, which was quite contrary to etiquette. Herodotus makes him reside in Susa, but according to the inscriptions his fate overtook him in a Median fortress. Seven Persian nobles, with Darius at their head, who had secretly discovered the truth, formed a conspiracy, surprised the castle, and struck Gaumāta down.

It had been neither a Median revolt against Persian sovereignty (Herod.i. 130) nor a religious uprising of the Magi, but the game of chance of a political adventurer, whom fortune favoured for a short time through a rare combination of circumstances. But for the moment the whole wrath of the insulted Persian nobility was turned against the Magi, and it would have needed little to end the day with a night of St. Bartholomew for all the Magi (Herod.iii. 79). Darius, the head of the conspiracy, was proclaimed king. The story of Herodotus that the choice was to be made among the seven by lot or chance is a later addition. In fact Darius was the only rightful heir to the throne. He was descended from a collateral branch of the Achaemenids, which from the time of Teïspes had separated from the now extinct chief line. The genealogy of the family, according to Herodotus and the inscriptions, is the following:

Genealogy of Darius.

When he ascended the throne as governor of Persis his father was still alive (Herod.iii. 70), but appears to have resigned all claim to the succes

Persian Intaglio Cylinder. (Dieulafoy.)

sion to the avenger of his order. The other conspirators were rewarded with hereditary privileges.

The new king, Darius I. (Dārayavaüsh), (521-485), was in his thirtieth year. He entered into the inheritance of the Achaemenids at a critical period. The short interregnum had relaxed the empire of Cyrus in all its points. The provinces were everywhere uneasy—rebels and pretenders sprang up in every direction. The revolt first broke out in Susiana, but was quickly repressed. The uprising in Babylon was more serious, where a pretended son of Nabonidus placed himself at the head of the rebels; the fortress was taken only after a hard siege—according to Herodotus, through the craft of Zopyrus. While Darius was still fighting in Babylonia, Persia and Media revolted at the same time. The rebellion spread eastward to Margiana, westward over Armenia and Assyria, only the outer provinces remaining quiet. It seemed that the end of the empire had come, but the young king remained unshaken through all the storms, and the Persian and Median armies stood faithful. Only a great man could meet this gigantic task. Through years of sharp fighting he forced the seceding countries to return, one after the other, and disarmed the rebels. Later on he set up a proud memorial of these deeds in the great rock-inscriptions of Behistan.

By the end of the year 519 the great rebellion had been crushed forever; the Empire, twentythree countries from the Nile to the Iaxartes, was again under his undisputed sway. He proceeded at once to unite the Empire more closely by reorganizing the government, and in accordance with the traditions of his house to extend his boundaries. To the east the Empire was extended to the Indus after he had carefully explored the lands of the Indus by ship (Herod.iv. 44), and the same were annexed (Herod.iii. 139).

The great expedition to the Danube against the Scythians, on the other hand, was only partially successful. There were probably various reasons for this expedition. Perhaps those mysterious, restless savages, who, from the time of Cyaxares, had been held in hostile memory, again attracted attention; perhaps this far-seeing man intended to surround Greece from the north, and so wished to secure first the right flank. Darius is said to have placed 700,000 men in the field, while his Ionian subjects supplied 600 ships (Herod.iv. 87). From the latter the Samian engineer Mandrocles constructed the famous bridge of ships over the Bosporus, on which in 515 Darius crossed to Europe. While the land force travelled north over the Balkan, the Ionians received command to break up the bridge, to put into the Danube, and to construct another bridge there. On the Danube the Getae alone offered an obstinate resistance, and he proceeded across the river into a wholly unknown region, while the Ionians were to wait sixty days for his return, and hold the bridge during that period. Most of the operations in the present Bessarabia were brought to nothing by the skilful equestrian tactics of the enemy, who came and disappeared with the speed of lightning, and never allowed themselves to be grasped. The Persian army was thus led deeper and deeper into the inhospitable steppes, and at last forced by lack of supplies and exhaustion to return. After heavy losses Darius succeeded in getting back to the bridge over the Danube, which fortunately, thanks to the faithfulness of Histiaeus of Miletus, had not yet been broken up. The sole result was the subjugation of the Thracian cities by Megabazus (Herod.v. 10), followed by that of the Grecian ports Paeonia and Macedonica (Herod.v. 15Herod., xxvi. 18).

Persia and Greece had thus come into dangerous proximity, and the inevitable collision from the Persian side must have been long foreseen. A slight cause set the stone rolling. Exiled Greeks from Naxos applied to Aristagoras, governor of Miletus, for Persian aid against their city, whose freedom they were willing to sacrifice to their private revenge. The Persian king gave them assistance through the satrap of Sardis. The command was, however, divided between Aristagoras and Megabates, and the rivalry of the two generals caused the failure of the undertaking. The offended Aristagoras revenged himself: in the year 500 he gave the signal for a general uprising of the Ionian cities, which he had for some time been planning with Histiaeus. In the freedom-loving Greek cities the tyrants introduced by Persia (cf. Herod.iv. 98) had long been found a burden, and the spirit of revolt found in them ample nourishment. First a republic was proclaimed in Miletus, and the fleet returning from Naxos was seized. At the same time aid was asked from the mother-country, but only Athens and Eretria responded with twenty-five ships, which were the beginning of all misfortune for Greeks and barbarians (Herod.v. 97). The forces of Aristagoras moved upon Sardis and burned the city. Next the Greek cities on the Hellespont and almost the whole of Cyprus and Caria joined the revolt. But soon the Persian army was in the field, operating in conjunction with the fleet provided by Phœnicia. Cyprus was first reconquered, and the revolt suppressed in Asia Minor by three Persian armies after battles of varying results. The decisive naval battle occurred at Ladé, where the Ionian fleet was completely overcome by the combined Phœnician, Cyprian, and Egyptian fleets. Miletus, the home of the revolt, was taken and destroyed, after holding out for six years, 500-494 ( 20). The vengeance of the victors was terrible; Milesian maidens were carried off to the Persian harems, the men banished, and the flourishing country of the Ionians devastated and depopulated. For the Athenians and Eretrians also the Persian monarch had planned a similar chastisement. In the spring of 492 the land forces under Mardonius set out, supported by an enormous fleet. But the army had little success in Thrace, and the fleet was shipwrecked at Athos. A second and larger expedition started in 490 under Datis and Artaphernes, this time by sea only. The course was laid past Naxos, which was conquered. Then Eretria was burned, and its inhabitants carried off to the interior of Asia. This expedition came to its end on the memorable Plain of Marathon (B.C. 490). The Greek victory has evidently been greatly exaggerated. Probably the Greeks, after having avoided battle for a long time, fell upon the Persians as they were departing, when the greater part of the army, especially the powerful cavalry, had already embarked. The Persian generals contented themselves with the results in Naxos and Euboea and abandoned the campaign. If Darius had commanded in person, the result would probably have been a different one.

Another piece of bad news troubled the closing days of the king's life. Egypt, which up to this time had borne the easy yoke, now rose against Persia. Thus the unyielding monarch saw himself confronted with a twofold war, but in the midst of extensive preparations he was overtaken by death after a reign of thirty-six years (B.C. 485). With him died the greatest ruler that Irān ever produced, the ideal of an enlightened despot, trained in a hard school, filled with his high calling, wise in his choice of means and persons, fitted by his energy and wariness for the greatest achievements.

Darius was not alone a conqueror like Cyrus, an augmenter of his Empire, which he raised from twenty-three to thirty lands, but also a wise and practical organizer. His predecessors had appointed governors (satraps) as need arose; Darius divided the kingdom into fixed governmental districts (satrapies), and regulated the powers of the satraps (khshathrapāvan). They held a prince's court in the provincial capitals, and were the chief heads of the government, the law, and the military in their provinces. They were responsible immediately to the sovereign. In order to prevent any possible schemes of independence, Darius caused them to be watched by persons in whom he reposed special confidence. He himself made annual tours of inspection. The commanders of fortresses in the provinces were appointed directly by the king. Besides, he fixed definitely the tax to be imposed on each province, and so assured the Empire as well as the crown a definite revenue, whereas formerly the taxes had consisted in so-called presents (Herod.iii. 89)—i. e. voluntary tribute. Only the original Persia was untaxed. The rest of the provinces paid a land tax in proportion to the yield of the soil, Babylonia being taxed most heavily. There were, besides, indirect taxes, duties, taxes on products, etc. The direct taxes alone amounted annually to about twelve million dollars.

Intercourse and trade were fostered by Darius by means of military roads and canals. His courier post was renowned, by means of which he sent his commands through the whole Empire in the shortest possible time (Herod.viii. 98).

His descendants were quite numerous. Some of his sons were born when he was still a private citizen. The succession descended according to Persian custom to Xerxes, the first son born after his accession to the throne.

Xerxes (Khshayārsha) (485-465) was the eldest son of the imperious Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, who had been successively the wife of Cambyses, Pseudo-Smerdis, and Darius. Soon after his accession Egypt was subdued (B.C. 484). He was at first little disposed to continue the war against Greece, but finally followed the promptings of the war-party under the ambitious Mardonius, and for fully four years was actively employed in making preparations. The army was concentrated at Sardis. In the spring of 480 Xerxes marched with the land forces through Thrace and Macedonia, while the fleet sailed to Therma. The defeat of the Spartans at Thermopylae, where the Persians avenged Marathon, and the doubtful result of the sea-fight at Artemisium, were compensated by the brilliant victories of Salamis, Plataeae, and Mycalé. The chances of war were by no means so unfavourable to Greece as they had appeared in the momentary discouragement at first. The numerical advantage of the Persians was very great; but the patriotic legend has enormously exaggerated the number of actual combatants in making it reach the total of two and a half millions (Herod.vii. 185). It was, moreover, a contest between a people fighting for their country and a soldiery brought together from all quarters, partly by force, who had little to lose by defeat. The boastful Persian generals committed a mistake in wholly undervaluing their antagonists. In organization, tactics, and generalship the Greeks were far superior to the Asiatics, and the great masses of the Persian army could not be used to the best advantage in the Grecian territory. Even before Plataeae Xerxes had lost all courage and quickly removed his Persians to a place of safety, leaving Mardonius with the choicest Persian troops. He retired at once to his luxurious capitals in the interior, sinking into the inactive life of the harem, while the Greeks, especially under the leadership of Timon, made greater and greater progress in the liberation of their countrymen on the islands and the Asiatic coast. The European possessions of the Persians were lost forever.

In the year 465 Xerxes and his eldest son Darius were murdered in a revolt in the palace. Under Xerxes began the chain of misrule, seldom interrupted, which slowly undermined the existence of the nation. The fate of the dynasty was determined almost alone by palace revolts, court intrigues, and the rule of women and favourites. The inner history of the Empire, its growing decay, is hidden from our knowledge, as Herodotus, the fullest source of information, breaks off with the battle of Mycalé, and the Persian inscriptions after Xerxes become more and more scanty. In its external history the Greeks remain the chief factor; Persian money and intrigues play an important part in Greece.

Xerxes was succeeded by his youngest son Artaxerxes I. Longimanus (Artakhshathra) (464-425). In his long reign only two events are important— a revolt in Egypt, supported by Athens, but repressed by the battle of Memphis, and the conclusion of peace with Athens (B.C. 449), through which the Aegean and the Greek colonies in Asia were taken from the Persian dominion.

Seal of Artaxerxes I. (Dieulafoy.)

His only legitimate son, Xerxes II., was murdered after a very short reign by his half-brother, Secydianus; but the murderer was himself put to death by another illegitimate son of Artaxerxes, Orthus, previously satrap of Hyrcania. Orthus himself ascended the throne as Darius II. (Nothus), (423-405). In his reign an opportunity was offered to Persia of regaining its lost power in the Aegean and the whole west coast. When in the Peloponnesian War the hegemony of Persia's hereditary enemy, Athens, was broken, the Persian court entered into relations with Sparta through the satraps Tissaphernes of Lydia and Pharnabazus of Phrygia. In return for subsidies Sparta was to give over to Persia all the coast region lost by the peace of 449. For a long time the alliance accepted by Sparta could not be put into effect, owing to the rivalry of the two satraps and the perfidy of Tissaphernes, and the Athenians for a time had a decided advantage. A change came only when the Persian prince, Cyrus, an energetic and ambitious young man, received the chief command of the troops of Asia Minor. He sought a close alliance with Sparta; subsidies were freely given, and with this assistance Sparta was enabled to force Athens to a peace.

About this time Darius II. died, and his death occasioned the well-known contest for the throne. His wife Parysatis, an imperious, intriguing woman, had borne him two sons, the elder, Arsicas, before his accession, and younger, Cyrus, when queen. Her efforts to gain the succession for her younger and far more gifted favourite son Cyrus, as being the real king's son, had no result. Arsicas ascended the throne as Artaxerxes II. (Mnemon) in 405. He placed his younger brother as satrap over Asia Minor. But Tissaphernes, the professed friend of Cyrus, defamed him to his brother, and it was only through the protection of his mother that he escaped imprisonment. Returning to his satrapy, he assured himself of troops from every side in Greece, in order to gain forcible possession of the throne. In the spring of 401 he began an expedition with 13,000 Greek auxiliaries and his own army of Asiatics, ostensibly against rebels in his own satrapy. Again he was betrayed by Tissaphernes. At Cunaxa Cyrus met an enormous royal army. The mere appearance of the Greek soldiers put the Asiatics to terror and flight; but Cyrus ventured too far into the conflict, and fell. The sudden end of this knightly youth, who was entitled to great hopes, is tragic. The adventurous return of 10,000 Greeks is familiar from Xenophon's Anabasis.

Sparta had openly sided with Cyrus against the great king, and the relations between the two States were therefore strained. Tissaphernes, returned to his post of satrap in Asia Minor, demanded submission from all the Ionian cities which had gone over to Cyrus. They refused, and asked help of Sparta, which, in spite of the still existing alliance, forbade Tissaphernes to attack the cities; and, as Tissaphernes paid no attention to this prohibition, war broke out in 401 between Sparta and Persia. The war dragged along, and the Spartans gained no important results until Agesilaus received the chief command, when they invested the provinces of Asia Minor. In its difficulties the Persian court now made use of Athenian aid. The Athenian admiral Conon commanded the newly equipped Persian fleet, and conquered the Spartans at Cnidos (B.C. 397). Mutual exhaustion ended the war with the peace of Antalcidas (B.C. 387), which the Persian king practically dictated. In it Persia claimed the whole Asiatic sea-coast and some islands, such as Cyprus, as its property.

The last years of Artaxerxes were occupied with numerous revolts among the satraps. Personally he is said to have been mild and peaceloving (Artax. 30). He showed fatal weakness towards the women of the court, and his life was a series of intrigues and quarrels. In his last days he named his oldest son Darius as his successor, but the latter became involved in a conspiracy against his father, and was beheaded. His ambitious son Ochus caused the murder of two older brothers who stood in his way, and after his father's death in 358 ascended the throne as Artaxerxes III. He was a thorough despot, pursuing his ends without scruple, shrinking at no cruelty. By his severity and by his wise policy he lifted the decaying kingdom once more to its former power. At his accession all the western part of the Empire was in turmoil. Hardly was the rebellious satrap of Phrygia conquered when Phœnicia and Cyprus revolted. His generals were unsuccessful in their operations against the rebelling king Tennes of Sidon and Mentor of Rhodes. The monarch placed himself at the head of a large army, which was strengthened by Greek soldiers supplied in accordance with the terms of the alliance. Sidon fell through the treachery of Tennes, and was fearfully punished. The fall of the capital soon reduced the rest of Phœnicia, and Cyprus was reconquered.

The most important task before Artaxerxes was to reconquer Egypt, which, for more than sixty years, had remained independent. His two generals Bagoas and Mentor, who had come over to his side, operated so skilfully under his command on the field, and not less with threats, that king Nectanebus of Egypt soon abandoned his cause as lost and fled to Aethiopia. The defenceless land, after a severe punishment, was again made part of the Persian Empire. Mentor became satrap of the sea-coast of Asia Minor; Bagoas remained near the king as minister, and appears to have been the originator of the plot to kill the king by poison, which was carried out in 338; Bagoas, who remained master of the situation, placed Arses, the youngest son of Artaxerxes, on the throne (338-336). But as the latter did not show himself pliant, he was removed in the third year of his reign.

Bagoas now placed on the throne a distant relative of the murdered king, Darius III. (Codomannus), a great-grandson of Darius II. (336-320). When Bagoas once more attempted his old manoeuvre, he was himself forced to drink the poison. Darius was perhaps the most worthy of the Achaemenids at the time to fill the high station, but he was not man enough to ward off the threatening evils. Even at the time of his accession there was imminent danger of war from the uprisings in Macedonia. The casus belli, if, indeed, any was needed, dated from the time of Artaxerxes III. When, in the year 340, Philip was besieging the town of Perinthus, opposite the Persian territory, Persian auxiliaries, in union with Athens, had relieved the town. Philip himself had planned an expedition against the Persian king, ostensibly as the avenger of Greece. On the threshold of his undertaking Philip was assassinated, apparently not without instigation on the part of Persia (Arrian, Anab. ii. 14). The young Alexander, whom Darius at first wholly undervalued, at once took up the great plans of his father as soon as Greece was completely pacified. Darius in vain sought to counteract his extensive preparations. Darius's right-hand and first general was the Rhodian Memnon, a brother of Mentor, a man as skilful and energetic as his renowned brother. He alone planned earnestly for the safety of the Empire, when indecision, suspicion, and great egoism controlled the other Persian commanders.

In the spring of 334 Alexander crossed the Hellespont with not more than 30,000 infantry, 4500 horsemen, and 182 ships. At the Granicus, where, against the advice of Memnon and with no plan of action, the Persian army offered battle, Alexander gained his first brilliant victory. Sardis capitulated without a blow. In Ephesus he was greeted as a liberator; Miletus and Halicarnassus alone defended themselves bravely. At the end of the year Alexander was in possession of Asia Minor as far as the Taurus. Only Memnon threatened him with danger. Memnon crossed to the sea unhindered, and was on the point of carrying the war into Europe behind Alexander's back when death overtook him. His death was the most severe blow to the Persian cause. Nothing now obstructed Alexander's victorious course. In an unfavourable position at Issus, Darius himself opposed him with an immense army, and was completely routed with great losses (B.C. 333). The Persian army was scattered, and Darius fled across the Euphrates. In order to protect the rear, Alexander occupied Phœnicia and Egypt (B.C. 332). In the spring of 331 he marched towards the heart of the Persian monarchy, after having rejected various overtures of peace from the Persian king. Darius had concentrated in Assyria another immense army from the inexhaustible resources of the Persian Empire. The decisive battle of Arbela and Gaugamela completely shattered the Persian colossus. Darius did not even await the issue of the day, but was among the first to flee to Media. Without a blow, Babylon and Susa opened their gates. In the middle of the winter Alexander stood before the passes of Persis, in which the satrap Ariobarzanes, with a small army, successfully opposed him. Alexander imitated the Persian manoenvre of Thermopylae. Persepolis capitulated, and immense treasures fell into Alexander's hands. At his command the royal citadel was burned, and the town was given over to plunder. Persis was completely reduced to subjection. In the spring of 330 Alexander went to Ecbatana, and pressed hard in pursuit of the fleeing Darius. Meantime Bessus, satrap of Bactria, had gained possession of the government of all Ariana, and had been taken prisoner by Darius in his retreat. When Alexander was close at his heels Bessus struck Darius down. Alexander found only the corpse of the last of the Achaemenids. Bessus for a time maintained himself as King Artaxerxes IV. in the far east of Irān, and organized the defence of Bactria and Sogdiana with much skill. But beyond the Oxus he was surrendered by his own people, and later on was crucified in Ecbatana. Bactria quickly yielded, but Sogdiana for a long time offered stout resistance, and not until 327 did it, the last bulwark of Iranian independence, fall completely into the hands of the great Macedonian.

Persian history from this time is absorbed in the history of Alexander, the Diadochi, and the Parthian kingdom under the Arsacids. Not until the year A.D. 224 was a new Persian nation born, under the dynasty of the Sasanids.

Bibliography.—Rawlinson, The Five Great Monarchies, vols. ii., iii. (London, 1871); Spiegel, Iranische Alterthumskunde (Leipzig, 1871); Duncker, Geschichte des Alterthums, vol. iv.; Eduard Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, vol. i. (Stuttgart, 1884); Nöldeke, Aufsätze zur Persischen Geschichte (Leipzig, 1887); Spiegel, Die Altpersischen Keilinschriften (Leipzig, 1862; 2d ed. 1881); Darmesteter, Études Iraniennes (Paris, 1883); Flandin and Coste, Voyage en Perse (Paris, 1843-54); Stolze, Persepolis, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1882).

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  • Cross-references from this page (48):
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    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8.5.19
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