(For a list of Achemenean provinces (satrapies), see the end of the writeup. A rough geography: Lydia occupied the western half of modern Asian Turkey. Skundra occupied the European part. The Babylonian Empire stretched from just west of Persia (modern Iran) to the modern nations of Israel, Lebanon and Syria. The Median Empire covered a huge stretch to the north, bordering on Lydia on the west and Gandhara (modern Afghanistan) in the east. Sind was the easternmost province, bordering on the Hindu kingdoms of India.)

In 593, the ancient kingdom of Babylon was taken by a group of invaders new to the region -- the Persians. These Indo-Iranian peoples followed the Medes from a location now though to be in Central Asia to modern day Iran. There, the monarch, Achemenes, created the Achemenean Empire. The Medes and Persians were so closely related that this event could even be seen as simply a new Median dynasty.

In 648, Ashurbanipal invaded Elam from the west. The Persians, taking advantage of the opportunity, seized the eastern provinces. While this increased Persian influence in the region, the Persian state remained virtual vassals to the Medes.

Persia rose to power under Cyrus the Great. His first victory occured when the Medean ruler, Astyages, invaded Persia around 550. Cyrus easily captured Astyages (whose army had left him) at Pasargadae. Cyrus, not one to leave a good opportunity alone, delivered another blow to the Medes by capturing their capital Hamadan (Ectabana). In 547, the now-Persian province of Media was attacked by the Lydians, under King Croesus. (The Lydians are famous for creating the first coinage the world had ever known) However. Croesus' invasion was repulsed, and he retreated to winter at his capital, Sardis. However, Cyrus unexpectedly turned up at Sardis during the winter and took it after a fourteen day siege. And, as mentioned in 539, Cyrus completed his most-remembered deed, the capturing of Babylonia. He posed as the God Marduk and overthrew the (in Cyrus' opinion) corrupt king Nabondius and was welcomed by the Babylonians. Cyrus had now established the greatest empire in the history of the world. Nine years after his conquest of Babylon, he was killed at Sakas and succeeded by his son, Cambyses. During Cambyses' reign, Egypt and Libya became part of the empire. Cambyses was probably murdered by his brother Smerdis, who was killed by Darius (621-496) who was not a direct descendant of the previous kings, but was a member of the Achemenid house.

Darius quickly crushed all rebellions in a year and turned his thoughts to conquest, In 520, he attacked the Caspian Scythians and by 518, Persian control extended to the Indus. He invaded Europe in 513, capturing Thrace but failing at his objective of defeating the Black Sea Scythians. He put down a rebellion of the Ionian Greeks from 499-494, and then decided to remove the root cause of the problem -- the mainland Greeks. Howver, his force was crushed in 490 by the Athenians at Marathon, prompting Darius to begin an all-out invasion of Mainland Greece. However, he died before he could complete his plan.

His son, Xerxes, carried his father's plan into action... and was defeated horribly at Salamis in 480 and Platea in 479. This was the end of Achemenean expansion.

Another achievement of Darius' was the streamlining and regularising of the empire's affairs. He created a system of 20 satrapies, or provinces, each ruled by a satrap. He standardised tributes (figures given below for provinces). Persia, obviously, was exempt from these tributes. The Persians borrowed and improved the Assyrian postal system. Darius moved the capital from Pasargadae to Persepolis and the administrative capital from Hamadan to Susa. Darius' successors abandoned cuneiform in favour of the Assyrian alphabet. Persia, at Xerxe's range was a huge empire, uniting many peoples. This political unity was essential to later, important developments that led to The Classical World.

Persian Provinces and Tribute: