Persian Dynasties

Achaemenid Alexander/Seleucid Parthian Sasanid
Dates 539-330bce 330-323bce / 323-83bce (after 247, moving west) 247 bce – 224 ce (conquest of Mesopotamia 155 bce) 224-651 ce
Founder Cyrus “the Shepherd” (r. 558-530bce) Alexander (d. 323bce) Mithradates I (r. 171 bce-
Origins Medes and Persians (SW Iran) Macedonia Iran
founding culture pastoral nomads Hellenic semi-nomadic horseriders Persians
Crucial successors Darius (r. 521-486bce) conquerer and administrator.

Xerxes (r. 486-451) Expanded war with Greeks.

General Seleucus (r. 305-281bce) Shapur I (239-272 bce) stabilized Western borders; fought off Rome
Government satraps with overlapping supervision Weak empire, driven west by Parthians revived satraps, but weaker center revived Achaemenid systems.
Other great things standardization of laws, coins, taxes; Persian Royal Road and postal couriers; qanat (underground irrigation canals) Hellenistic cities (Alexandrias), populated by Greeks. Introduction of Greek culture, trade with Mediterranean Active international trade and new crops. Captured Romans as engineers.
Zoroastrianism Zarathustra (7-6c bce). Strong State support, esp. Darius Hostile: destroyed temples and killed magi (losing oral traditions). Tolerated, but not strongly State-supported revival. Oral Gathas compiled in Avesta. Theology develops
Downfall Greeks and other rebellious provinces; Alexander, drawing on Philip’s unification. foreigners, in spite of success of Greek colonists. Finally wiped out by Romans. Pressure from Rome (1c ce), rebellious satraps, Sasanid uprising. Constant border conflicts with Rome/Byzantium, Hindu Kush. Death blow is Arab Islamic expansion.

© 2003 – Jonathan Dresner

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