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Achaemenid dynasty

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The Achaemenid Dynasty was a dynasty in the ancient Persian Empire, including Cyrus II the Great, Darius I and Xerxes I. At the height of their power, the Achaemenid rulers of Persia ruled over territories roughly emcompassing some parts of today's Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Armenia, Central Asia, Caucasia and the Asian portion of Turkey.

At different times, the Achaemenids also ruled Egypt, although the Egyptians twice regained their independence from Persia. After the practice of Manetho, Egyptian historians refer to the period in Egypt when the Achaemenid dynasty ruled as the Twenty-seventh (525 - 404 BC) and Thirty-first Dynasties (343- 332 BC).

The last Achaemenid king was Darius III (336 BC - 330 BC), who was defeated by Alexander III of Macedon. After the Macedonian conquest, the Persian Empire was annexed by Alexander.


The founder of this dynasty was supposedly King Achaemenes of Anshan (Hakhamanish). He was succeeded by his son Teispes of Anshan . Inscriptions indicate that when the latter died, two of his sons shared the throne as Cyrus I of Anshan and Ariaramnes of Persia . They were succeeded by their respective sons Cambyses I of Anshan and Arsames of Persia . In 559 BC, Cambyses the Elder was succeeded as King of Anshan by his son Cyrus II the Great. The latter also succeeded the still living Arsames in the throne of Persia. Cyrus II is considered to be the first king of the Achaemenid dynasty to be properly called so, as his predecessors were subservient to Media. Cyrus II managed to conquer Media, Lydia and Babylon while his son Cambyses II added Egypt to the Empire.

Cambyses grew insane as he planned to invade Ethiopia. Cambyses killed his brother Smerdis, but a Mede who was also named Smerdis, and resembled Cambyses' brother, took control of the Persian seat of power while Cambyses was insane in Southern Egypt. For two years, the Persian Empire was secretly ruled by a Median Magus until a conspiracy of Persian leaders overthrew him. The leaders debated on the best form of government for the Empire, and according to Herodotus it was decided that oligarchy would divide them against one another, and democracy would bring about mob rule which would result in a mob leader rising to power as a monarch and that therefore beginning with a monarchy would be better, since they were in a position to choose the leader.

The monarch, Darius I, was chosen from one amongst them. The absolute zenith of its power was achieved during the reigns of Darius I (521 BC-485 BC) and his son Xerxes I (485 BC - 465 BC). These rulers built great, beautiful palaces in the ancient cities of Persepolis, Susa and Ecbatana. The Persian Empire too reached its greatest extension in this period.

After the death of Xerxes I (465 BC) the decline of the dynasty began. Persia saw a sequence of weak rulers ruling the empire. Decadence became rampant and army, finance and government administration were neglected. The last Achaemenid king was Darius III (336 BC - 330 BC), who was defeated by Alexander III of Macedon. After the Macedonian conquest, the Persian Empire was annexed by Alexander.

Achaemenid rulers

†The epigraphic evidence for these rulers is highly suspect, and often considered to have been invented by Darius I.

See also

Last updated: 02-07-2005 19:36:28
Last updated: 05-02-2005 20:03:55