What was the Persian Empire?

The first Persian empire was an empire that took control of the Middle East region following the fall of the Babylonian empire, it was also known as the Achaemenid Empire.

Cyrus the Great’s influence

The Persian empire was founded by Cyrus the Great. In 550 B.C., Cyrus conquered the Median empire and then went on to conquer the Lydian and Babylonian empires. The Persian empire would then grow to rule Mesopotamia, Egypt , Israel and Turkey. The borders of the Persian empire would then eventually stretch over 3000 miles from the east to the west, making the Persian empire the largest empire in the world at that time.

Form of Government

In the Persian empire,the king at the top of the social hierarchy, having the most power and influence over the people. In order to maintain control of their large empire, the Persians decided that each area was to have a ruler called a satrap. The satrap was the equivalent to a modern day governor of an area. The satrap enforced the king’s laws and taxes. The Persian empire had around 20-30 satraps. 


In the Persian culture, each person was allowed to keep their own religion, however most Persians followed the prophet Zoroaster’s teachings. This religion was called Zoroastrianism and it believed in one god called Ahura Mazda.

Fighting the Greeks

The First War

The Persian king, Darius I, wanted to conquer the Greeks as he felt that they were causing rebellions within the Persian empire. Therefore Darius attacked Greece in 490 B.C., capturing some Greek city-states. However when Darius attempted to conquer the Greek city, Athens, he was defeated by the Athenians (led by Themistocles) at the battle of Marathon. The battle of Marathon ended Darius’ campaign, forcing him to retreat back to his empire, alongside his army. Darius began preparations for another war with Greece, however he had died during the preparations and did not live to see another war with Greece.

The Second War

In 480 B.C., Xerxes I (Darius I’s son), waged war with Greece, in an attempt to finish what his father Darius had started. Xerxes prepared a great army of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. This army was one of the largest armies ever assembled during the ancient times. Xerxes won the battle of Thermopylae after finally defeating a small Spartan army. However, Xerxes’ navy was defeated by a small Greek fleet at the Battle of Salamis, forcing the Xerxes to retreat. Xerxes then abandoned his campaign, leaving a small fighting force behind for a future campaign. Xerxes’ small fighting force was defeated by a united Greek army at the battle of Plataea.

Fall of the Persian Empire

Starting in the year 334 B.C., the Persian empire was conquered the Greeks who were led by Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire all the way from Egypt to the borders of India.




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