Persian Empires

521 B.C to 628 A.D.

The term "Persian Empires" here refers to the powers that ruled in the Middle east and central Asia up until the time of the Islamic explosion. The area covered by these empires varied, covering at various times, modern Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and eastern Mediterranean.

The Iranian plateau was settled about 1500 BC by Aryan tribes, the most important of whom were the Medes, who occupied the northwestern area, and the Parsa (Persians), who emigrated from Parsua, a land west of Lake Urmia, into the southern region of the plateau, which they named Parsamash. The first leader of the Persians was Hakhamanish, or Achaemenes, who lived about 681 BC. The Persians were dominated by the Medes until the accession to the Persian throne in 558 BC of Cyrus the Great, an Achaemenid. He overthrew the Median rulers, conquered the kingdom of Lydia in 546 BC and that of Babylonia in 539 BC and established the Persian Empire as the main power of the region. He defeated King Croesus of Lydia in 546 BC. His son and successor, Cambyses II, extended the Persian realm even further by conquering the Egyptians in 525 BC.

The earliest coins had been issued by the kings of Lydia in western Asia Minor, in the 7th century BC. The idea was taken over by the Persians when they conquered Lydia.

This Persian empire ended with the defeat of King Darius III, at Issus, by Alexander the Great in 333 BC. After the death of Alexander, the area was ruled by one of his Generals, Seleucus and his successors.

Shortly after the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC) members of the Parni tribe living east of the Caspian Sea gradually gained control over much of Iran and Mesopotamia. They were ruled by the Arsacid dynasty, also called Arshakuni, who formed the Parthian kingdom. It's first proper rule was Arsaces I (c.250 - c.248 BC).

By the first century BC, the Seleucid Empire was crumbling and by the end of the century was in the hands of Rome. After that, Rome and Parthia were in constant war over territory.

In 224 AD, Ardashir defeated and killed the Parthian king Artabanus V in a battle at Susiana (Hormuz), thus initiating the Sassanid dynasty. According to tradition, Sassan, the ancestor of the Sassanian kings, was a high dignitary in the temple of Anahita at Stakhr. His son, Papak, who succeeded him in this office, married the daughter of a local prince, from whom he seized power by a coup d'etat, and his accession in AD 208 was the starting point for a new era. His younger son, Ardashir, proclaimed himself king of Persia, gaining first the province of Fars and then neighbouring provinces. The Sassanids invaded India and conquered several neighbouring kingdoms including Armenia. The revitalised empire soon became a thorn in the side of Rome.

The last Sassanian, Yezdirgird III, was assassinated in 651 when most of Persia was lost to the Arabs.

Persia Bibliography Table of Parthian and Sassanian Rulers

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Persian Empire; Darius I or Xerxes
521 BC - 465 BC
AR Siglos (Shekel)
Tarsos, Cilicia: Datames
Persian Satrap, 378-362 BC
AR Stater
Parthia; Mithradates II
123 BC - 88BC
AR Drachm
Parthia; Orodes II
57 BC - 37 BC
AR Drachm
Parthia; Phraates IV
38 BC - 2 BC
AR ??Drachm
Parthia; Vonones II
51 AD
AR ??Drachm
Parthia; Partamaspates
116 AD
AR Drachm
Parthia; Vologases III
105 AD - 147 AD
AR Drachm
Sassanian Persia; Shapur I
240 AD - 271 AD
AR Drachm
Sassanian Persia; Yazdgard II
438 AD - 457 AD
AR Drachm
Sassanian Persia; Peroz I
459 AD - 484 AD
AR Drachm
Sassanian Persia; Khushru I
531-579 AD
AR Drachm
Sassanian Persia; Hormazd IV
579 AD - 590 AD
AR Drachm
Sassanian Persia; Kushru II
591 AD - 628 AD
AR Dirhem

Ancient Greek World
Alexander and his successors
The Celts
Persian Empires
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