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June 10, 20216 months ago

Mohammad Ketabchi

Dr. Ketabchi was a Full Professor at the Computer Engineering Department of Santa Clara University, and the director of the Object and Multimedia Technologies Research Laboratory when he founded Savvion. He is well-known for his pioneering research in object-oriented database management systems and object-oriented application development technologies. » Read more

June 10, 20216 months ago

Farzad Naimi

Farzad Naimi is a co-founder of LiteScape and brings 19 years of successful Silicon Valley startup leadership to LiteScape. Farzad is responsible for leading the LiteScape team and managing its strategic direction.
Farzad started his high-tech career at a start up, Centex Telemanagement, as the head of Engineering and Technology, and led Centex Telemanagement to its IPO, which preceded its subsequent acquisition by WorldCom. Farzad continued his career as Executive Vice President and COO at Prestige International, Japan’s largest Customer Relationship Management organization that later had a successful IPO in Japan. » Read more

February 23, 202210 months ago

Iran-Iraq war

Cyaxares of Media - Ahasuerus of the Bible, Book of Daniel - had unified his tribes and allied them with Babylonia to take Nineveh and destroy Assyria. He furthered his realm by investing Urartu and pushing towards Lydia. His son Astyages - the biblical Darius the Mede of the Book of Daniel - allied his land with the Persians by marrying his only daughter to Cambyses, the King of Anzan (Persia). Their son Cyrus, heir of the thrones of Persia and Media, was destined to become the founder of the Empire.

How this came about is not quite clear. It is sure that Astyages had introduced Babylonian and Assyrian court ceremonial, with its worship of the god-like king, into Media, which was repugnant to his tribes. Cyrus renounced his vassalage and stopped paying tribute. The Median army was defeated close to Parsagad (Pasargadae) when much of it defected to Cyrus, and the Persians and Medes were united (533 B.C.). Cyrus accepted his Median grandfather as senior advisor, incorporating his Medes as equal partners into the empire and then negotiated the federation of Elam and Urartu as first satrapies, setting the peculiar pattern of the “federal” Empire which followed. The Medes and Persians comprised the nobility and ruling caste and did not have to pay taxes, in return for which exemption they formed and recruited the bulk of the army.

Croesus, King of Lydia, used the news of the civil war in Iran to attack the Median border provinces. Cyrus responded by leading his army through northern Mesopotamia. A battle was joined at the Cilician Gates, which after heavy losses on both sides ended with a draw. Cyrus feinted withdrawal, Crocuses returned to Sardis and disbanded his army, since winter had set in and snow could be expected at any moment. Cyrus waited for several weeks and then marched his army in forced marches to Sardis, to surprise Croesus completely. Herodotus reports that Cyrus’ progress was so swift that he “arrived his own messenger”. The Lydian cavalry rallied and attacked with desperate force only to be foiled by another Cyrus stratagem. Knowing that horses shied away from camels and that no infantry levies were available to Croesus at the time, he put his camel troops into the first line of battle. He thus invested all of Lydia (547) and secured Asia Minor as well as the strategically important area north of Syria. Unlike his Mesopotamian predecessors, who executed the conquered kings, Cyrus incorporated the old rulers into his government and the humbled Croesus, whose egotism and wealth are a favorite subject of Greek legend, became a major advisor. From King of the Persians, king of Anzan, Cyrus had become King of Kings. King of All Lands. The attack on Mesopotamia was mounted, Babylon was taken in 538 and within 14 years after the unification of Persians and Medes the empire encompassed the entire Persian highland, Mesopotamia and Transoxiana in Central Asia.


During his ensuing eastern campaign Cyrus defeated Vistashpa, King of Chorasmia and first convert of the prophet Zoroaster, incorporating his land into the Persian Empire. Cyrus died later in the same campaign in 530 B.C. in battle against the Amazon Queen of the Sogdians in Transoxiana.

The Persians did not come only as conquerors, but as revolutionary innovators. They brought stability and order through the famed Laws of the Medes and Persians, as well as an unheard-of respect for existing religious institutions, which guaranteed freedom of worship and accepted the religions of all peoples. They permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem and granted them aid funds to reconstruct their temple, or to settle wherever they wanted in the Achaemenian Empire. Large Jewish communities still exist in Iran from that time. (Isfahan and Shiraz are modern cities believed to have grown out of original Jewish settlements). A general tax of 10% was charged which guaranteed security and freedom from military service - a system adopted 1,000 years later by Islam.

In arid areas the Persian method of irrigation - the qanat system - was introduced and large areas of land made fertile. This proved a resounding success in the Egyptian oases, and in westernmost China. Safe roads permitted unrestricted travel and commerce between the Indus River, Transoxiana, Siberia, and the Mediterranean. Trade was facilitated by one monetary unit, the Daric, of equal value and grade in all parts of the empire.

It should therefore not be astonishing that many of the small Greek trading communities in Asia Minor supported Persian rule and believed they had everything to lose by Greek nationalism. There was a strong “Persian” party In Athens The Persian Wars between “civilized” Greece and “barbarian” Persia were started, according to the Greek father of history Herodotus, by the “mischief” of the Athenians, looting Lydian cities under Persian protection, for profit.

The unity of the Persian homeland was strengthened by the development of three capitals. For winter, the reception of foreigners and general business: Susa in Elam. For summer and the archives: Median Hamadan, the Ecbatana of the Bible. For the spring festival and New Year’s celebration: Persepolis - whose very existence was unknown to foreigners. Pasargadae continued to be used for the coronation ceremonies of new kings.

A system of royal governors (satraps) was worked out, nobles who were related to the king by blood, or who had proven their merit. The centrifugal tendencies in such a great empire were combated by an intelligence service of trusted servants of the king, sent to control the administration of the provinces and reporting at least once a year directly to him - probably at the New Year’s festival in Persepolis. The military administration of each province was under an army general, directly responsible to the king rather than to the local satrap. The basic structure of this highly original administration was initiated by Cyrus the Great and perfected by Darius the Great after he had to combat revolutions in almost all satrapies.


Egypt was added to the empire under Cambyses (529-522). A canal was dug between the Nile and the Red Sea, facilitating transport between the Mediterranean and the eastern shore of Africa and India.

The system worked excellently until sloth and maladministration, incapable rulers, continuous blood letting amongst the nobles, neglect and incompetence of military leadership led to its collapse under Alexander’s thrust in 330 B.C.

February 19, 202210 months ago

Ancient Iran through Ages (728BCE to CE651)



Medes / Median (Mâdhâ) Dynasty;  728-550BCE

 2achaemenid hakhmaneshiyn dynasty  550-330bce

Achaemenid (Hakhâmaneshiyân) Dynasty;  550-330BCE

3achaemenid hakhmaneshiyn dynasty  550-330bce

Parthian /Arsacid (Ashkâniân) Dynasty;  247BCE-CE224


Sasanid / Sasanian (Sâsâniân) Dynasty;  CE224-640

6modern iran

Modern Iran

The Achaemenid dynasty of Iran






ABSTRACT: The Achaemenid dynasty of Iran was the first and the largest empire that the ancient world had seen, extending from Anatolia and Egypt across western Asia to northern India and Central Asia. Its formation began in 550 BCE, when King Astyages of Median dynasty, who dominated much of Iran-proper and eastern Anatolia, was defeated by his southern neighbor Cyrus the Great (r. 559–530 BCE). This upset the balance of power in the Near East. The Lydians of western Anatolia under King Croesus took advantage of the fall of Media to push east and clashed with Persian forces. The Lydian army withdrew for the winter but the Persians advanced to the Lydian capital at Sardis, which fell after a two-week siege. The Lydians had been allied with the Babylonians and Egyptians and Cyrus now had to confront these major powers. The Babylonian empire controlled Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean. In 539 BCE, Persian forces defeated the Babylonian army at the site of Opis, east of the Tigris. Cyrus entered Babylon and presented himself as a traditional Mesopotamian monarch, restoring temples and releasing political prisoners. The one western power that remained unconquered in Cyrus’ lightning campaigns was Egypt. It was left to his son Cambyses to rout the Egyptian forces in the eastern Nile Delta in 525 BCE After a ten-day siege, Egypt’s ancient capital Memphis fell to the Persians.
A crisis at court forced Cambyses to return to Persia but he died en route and Darius the Great emerged as king (r. 521–486 BCE), claiming in his inscriptions that a certain “Achaemenes” was his ancestor. Under Darius the empire was stabilized, with roads for communication and a system of governors (satraps) established. He added northwestern India to the Achaemenid realm and initiated two major building projects: the construction of royal buildings at Susa and the creation of the new dynastic center of Persepolis, the buildings of which were decorated by Darius and his successors with stone reliefs and carvings. These show tributaries from different parts of the empire processing toward the enthroned king or conveying the king’s throne. The impression is of a harmonious empire supported by its numerous peoples. Darius also consolidated Persia’s western conquests in the Aegean. However, in 498 BCE, the eastern Greek Ionian cities, supported in part by Athens, revolted. It took the Persians four years to crush the rebellion, although an attack against mainland Greece was repulsed at Marathon in 490 BCE
Darius’ son Xerxes (r. 486–465 BCE) attempted to force the mainland Greeks to acknowledge Persian power, but Sparta and Athens refused to give way. Xerxes led his sea and land forces against Greece in 480 BCE, defeating the Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae and sacking Athens. However, the Greeks won a victory against the Persian navy in the straits of Salamis in 479 BCE It is possible that at this point a serious revolt broke out in the strategically crucial province of Babylonia. Xerxes quickly left Greece and successfully crushed the Babylonian rebellion. However, the Persian army he left behind was defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE
Much of our evidence for Persian history is dependent on contemporary Greek sources and later classical writers, whose main focus is the relations between Persia and the Greek states, as well as tales of Persian court intrigues, moral decadence, and unrestrained luxury. From these we learn that Xerxes was assassinated and was succeeded by one of his sons, who took the name Artaxerxes I (r. 465–424 BCE). During his reign, revolts in Egypt were crushed and garrisons established in the Levant. The empire remained largely intact under Darius II (r. 423–405 BCE), but Egypt claimed independence during the reign of Artaxerxes II (r. 405–359 BCE). Although Artaxerxes II had the longest reign of all the Persian kings, we know very little about him. Writing in the early second century A.D., Plutarch describes him as a sympathetic ruler and courageous warrior. With his successor, Artaxerxes III (r. 358–338 BCE), Egypt was reconquered, but the king was assassinated and his son was crowned as Artaxerxes IV (r. 338–336 BCE). He too was murdered and replaced by Darius III (r. 336–330 BCE), a second cousin, who faced the armies of Alexander III of Macedon (“the Great”). Ultimately Darius III was murdered by one of his own generals and Alexander claimed the Persian empire. However, the fact that Alexander had to fight every inch of the way, taking every province by force, demonstrates the extraordinary solidarity of the Persian empire and that, despite the repeated court intrigues, it was certainly not in a state of decay.










The rise of the Persians under the Cyrus the Great

The ruling dynasty of the Persians settled in Fars in south-western Iran (possibly the Parsumash of the later Assyrian records) traced its ancestry back to an eponymous ancestor, Haxamanish, or Achaemenes. There is no historical evidence of such a king’s existence.


Traditionally, three rulers fall between Achaemenes and Cyrus the Great (Kurosh): Teispes (Chishpesh), Cyrus I, and Cambyses I (Kambujiya). Teispes, freed of Median domination during the so-called Scythian interregnum, is thought to have expanded his kingdom and to have divided it on his death between his two sons, Cyrus I and Ariaramnes. Cyrus I may have been the king of Persia who appears in the records of Ashurbanipal swearing allegiance to Assyria after the devastation of Elam in the campaigns of 642-639 BCE, though there are chronological problems involved with this equation. When Median control over the Persians was supposedly reasserted under Cyaxares (Kiyâksâr), Cambyses I is thought to have been given a reunited Persia to administer as a Median vassal. His son, Cyrus II, married Mandan (Mândânâ) the daughter of Astyages and in 559 BCE inherited his father’s position within the Median confederation. Cyrus II certainly warranted his later title, Cyrus the Great.


He must have been a remarkable personality, and certainly he was a remarkable Emperor. He united under his authority several Persian and Iranian groups including Medes who apparently had not been under his father’s control. He then initiated diplomatic exchanges with Nabonidus of Babylon (556-539 BCE), which justifiably worried Astyages. Eventually, he openly rebelled against the Medes, who were beaten in battle when considerable numbers of Median troops deserted to the Persian standard. Thus, in 550 BCE, the first Iranian Empire built by the the Median dynasty became the first Persian Empire, and the Achaemenid Emperors appeared on the international scene with a suddenness that must have impressed and frightened many.


Cyrus the Great immediately set out to expand his conquests. After apparently convincing the Babylonians that they had nothing to fear from Iran, he turned against the Lydians under the rule of the fabulously wealthy Croesus. Lydian appeals to Babylon were to no avail. He then took Cilicia, thus cutting the routes over which any help might have reached the Lydians. Croesus attacked and an indecisive battle was fought in 547 BCE on the Halys River. Since it was late in the campaigning season, the Lydians thought the war was over for that year, returned to their capital at Sardis, and dispersed the national levy. Cyrus, however, kept coming. He caught and besieged the Lydians in the citadel at Sardis and captured Croesus in 546 BCE. Of the Greek city-states along the western coast of Asia Minor, heretofore under Lydian control, only Miletus surrendered without a fight. The others were systematically reduced by the Iranian armies led by subordinate generals. Cyrus himself was apparently busy elsewhere, possibly in the east, for little is known of his activities between the capture of Sardis and the beginning of the Babylonian campaign in 540 BCE.


Nowhere did Cyrus display his political and military genius better than in the conquest of Babylon. The campaign actually began when he lulled the Babylonians into inactivity during his war with Lydia, which, since it was carried to a successful conclusion, deprived the Babylonians of a potential ally when their turn came. Then he took maximum advantage of internal disaffection and discontent within Babylon.


Nabonidus was not a popular king. He had paid too little attention to home affairs and had alienated the native Babylonian priesthood. Second Isaiah, speaking for many of the captive Jews in Babylon, was undoubtedly not the only one of Nabonidus’ subjects who looked to Cyrus as a potential deliverer. With the stage thus set, the military campaign against Babylon came almost as an anticlimax. The fall of the greatest city in the Middle East was swift; Cyrus marched into town in the late summer of 539 BCE, seized the hands of the statue of the city Babylonian-God Marduk as a signal of his willingness to rule as a Babylonian and not as a foreign conqueror, and was hailed by many as the legitimate successor to the throne. In one stride Cyrus carried Iranian power to the borders of Egypt, for with Babylon came all that it had seized from the Assyrians and had gained in the sequel.


Little is known of the remainder of Cyrus’ reign. The rapidity with which his son and successor, Cambyses II, initiated a successful campaign against Egypt suggests that preparations for such an attack were well advanced under Cyrus. But the founder of Iranian power was forced to turn east late in his reign to protect that frontier against warlike tribes who were themselves in part Iranians and who threatened the plateau in the same manner as had the Medes and the Persians more than a millennium earlier. One of the recurrent themes of Iranian history is the threat of peoples from the east. How much Cyrus the Great conquered in the east is uncertain. What is clear is that he lost his life in 529 BCE, fighting somewhere in the region of the Oxus and Jaxartes rivers.










On the death of Cyrus the Great the empire passed to his son, Cambyses II (529-522 BCE). There may have been some degree of unrest throughout the empire at the time of Cyrus’ death, for Cambyses apparently felt it necessary secretly to kill his brother, Bardiya (Smerdis), in order to protect his rear while leading the campaign against Egypt in 525 BCE. The pharaoh Ahmose II of the 26th dynasty sought to shore up his defences by hiring Greek mercenaries, but as a medium was betrayed by the Greeks. Cambyses successfully managed the crossing of the hostile Sinai Desert, traditionally Egypt’s first and strongest line of defence, and brought the Egyptians under Psamtik III, son and successor of Ahmose, to battle at Pelusium. The Egyptians lost and retired to Memphis; the city fell to the Iranian control and the Pharaoh was carried off in captivity to Susa in mainland Iran.


Three subsidiary campaigns were then mounted, all of which are reported as failures: one against Cartage, but the Phoenician sailors, who were the backbone of the Iranian navy, declined to sail against their own colony; one against the oasis of Amon (in the Egyptian desert west of the Nile), which, according to Herodotus, was defeated by a massive sandstorm; and one led by Cambyses himself to Nubia. This latter effort was partly successful, but the army suffered badly from a lack of proper provisions on the return march. Egypt was then garrisoned at three major points: Daphnae in the east delta, Memphis, and Elephantine, where Jewish mercenaries formed the main body of troops.


In 522 BCE news reached Cambyses of a revolt in Iran led by Gaomata (Gaomâtâ) an impostor claiming to be Bardiya (Bardiyâ), Cambyses’ brother. Several provinces of the empire accepted the new ruler, who bribed his subjects with a remission of taxes for three years. Hastening home to regain control, Cambyses died-possibly by his own hand, more probably from infection following an accidental sword wound. Darius, a leading general in Cambyses’ army and one of the princes of the Achaemenid family, raced homeward with the troops in order to crush the rebellion in a manner profitable to himself.


Cambyses has been rather mistreated in the sources, thanks partly to the prejudices of Herodotus’ Egyptian informers and partly to the propaganda motives of Darius I (the Great).


Cambyses is reported to have ruled the Egyptians harshly and to have desecrated their religious ceremonies and shrines. His military campaigns out of Egypt were all reported as failures. He was accused of suicide in the face of revolt at home. It was even suggested that he was mad. There is, however, little solid contemporary evidence to support these charges.







Darius the Great

Darius I, the Great, tells the story of the overthrow of Bardiya and of the first year of his own rule in detail in his famous royal inscription cut on a rock face at the base of Bisitun mountain, a few miles east of modern Bakhtaran. Six leading Achaemenid nobles assisted in slaying the false Bardiya and together proclaimed Darius the rightful heir of Cambyses. Darius was a member of the Achaemenid royal house. His great-grandfather had been Ariaramnes, son of Teispes, who had shared power in Persia with his brother Cyrus I. Ariaramne (Âriyâramna)s’ son, Arsames (Ârshâm), and his grandson, Hystaspes (Histâspa, Darius’ father), had not been kings in Persia, as unified royal power had been placed in the hands of Cambyses I by Cyaxares. Neither is named a king in Darius’ own inscriptions. Hystaspes was, however, an important prince of the blood, who at the time of revolt of the false Bardiya had apparently been the governor of Parthia. Darius himself was in the mold of Cyrus the Great—a powerful personality and a dynamic ruler.


It took more than a year (522-521 BC) of hard fighting to put down revolts associated with Bardiya’s claim to the throne and Darius’ succession to power. Almost every province of the empire was involved in the conflict, including Persia and, most particularly, Media. A balanced policy of clemency backed by the swift and thorough punishment of any captured rebel leader, in combination with a well-co-ordinated and carefully timed distribution of loyal forces, eventually brought peace to the empire and undisputed power to Darius. He then turned his attention to the organization and consolidation of his inheritance, and it was for this role-that of lawgiver and organizer-that he himself, to judge from his inscriptions, most wished to be remembered.


Such activities, however, did not prevent Darius from following an active expansionist policy. Campaigns to the east confirmed gains probably made by Cyrus the Great and added large sections of the northern Indian subcontinent to the list of Iranian-controlled provinces. Expansion in the west began about 516 BCE when Darius moved against the Hellespont as a first step toward an attack on the Scythians along the western and northern shores of the Black Sea. The real strategic purpose behind this move probably was to disrupt and if possible to interrupt Greek trade with the Black Sea area, which supplied much grain to Greece. Crossing into Europe for the first time, Darius campaigned with comparatively little success to the north of the Danube. He retreated in good order, however, with only limited losses, and a bridgehead across the Hellespont was established.


Perhaps in part in response to these developments, perhaps for more purely internal reasons, the Ionian Greek cities on the west coast of Asia Minor revolted against Iranian rule in 500 BC. The Iranian were apparently taken by surprise, and at first the rebellion prospered. The Ionians received some limited assistance from the Athenians and in 498 BCE felt strong enough to take the offensive. With one hand Darius negotiated; with the other he assembled a counterattack. The first Iranian military efforts proved only partially successful, however, and the Ionians enjoyed another respite in the years 496-495 BC. A renewed Iranian offensive in 494 BCE was successful. The Greek fleet was badly beaten off Miletus, and the Iranian land army began a systematic reduction of the rebel cities. About 492 BCE Mardonius, a son-in-law of Darius, was made special commissioner to Ionia. He suppressed local tyrants and returned democratic government to many cities. In time the wounds caused by the revolt and its suppression healed, and by 481 BCE Xerxes was able to levy troops in this region with little trouble.


By 492 BCE Mardonius had also recovered Iranian Thrace and Macedonia, first gained in the campaign against the Scythians and lost during the Ionian Revolt. There followed the Iranian invasion of Greece that led to Darius’ defeat at the Battle of Marathon late in the summer of 490 BC. The “Great King” was forced to retreat and to face the fact that the Greek problem, which had probably seemed to the Iranians a minor issue on the western extremity of the empire, would require a   more concerted and massive effort. Thus began preparations for an invasion of Greece on a grand, co-ordinated scale. These plans were interrupted in 486 BCE by two events: a serious revolt in Egypt, and the death of Darius.




Xerxes I

Xerxes (486-465 BC), Darius’ eldest son by Queen Atossa, was born after his father had come to the throne; he had been designated official heir perhaps as early as 498 BC, and while crown prince he had ruled as the King’s governor in Babylon. The new king quickly suppressed the revolt in Egypt in a single campaign in 485 BC. Xerxes then broke with the policy followed by Cyrus and Darius of ruling foreign lands with a fairly light hand and, in a manner compatible with local traditions, ruthlessly ignored Egyptian forms of rule and imposed his will on the rebellious province in a thoroughly Iranian style. Plans for the invasion of Greece begun under Darius were then still further delayed by a major revolt in Babylonia about 482 BC, which also was suppressed with a heavy hand.


Xerxes then turned his attention westward to Greece. He wintered in Sardis in 481-480 BCE and thence led a combined land and sea invasion of Greece. Northern Greece fell to the invaders in the summer of 480, the Greek stand at Thermopylae in August of 480 came to nought, and the Iranian land forces marched on Athens, taking and burning the Acropolis. But the Iranian fleet lost the Battle of Salamis, and the impetus of the invasion was blunted. Xerxes, who had by then been away from Asia rather long for a king with such widespread responsibilities, returned home and left Mardonius in charge of further operations. The real end of the invasion came with the Battle of Plataea, the fall of Thebes (a stronghold of pro-Iranian forces), and the Iranian naval loss at Mycale in 479 BC. Of the three, the Iranian loss at Plataea was perhaps the most

decisive. Up until Mardonius was killed, the issue of the battle was probably still in doubt, but, once leaderless, the less organized and less disciplined Iranian forces collapsed. Time and again in later years this was to be the pattern in such encounters, for the Iranian never solved the military problem posed by the disciplined Greek hoplites.


The formation of the Delian League, the rise of Athenian imperialism, troubles on the west coast of Asia Minor, and the end of Iranian military ambitions in the Aegean followed rapidly in the decade after Plataea. Xerxes probably lost interest in the proceedings and sank deeper and deeper into the comforts of life in his capital cities of Susa, Ecbatana, and Persepolis. Treasury intrigues, which were steadily to sap the strength and vitality of the Achaemenid Empire, led to the assassination of the Great King in 465 BC.



Artaxerxes I to Darius III

The death of Xerxes was a major turning point in Achaemenid history. Occasional flashes of vigour and intelligence by some of Xerxes’ successors were too infrequent to prevent eventual collapse but did allow the empire to die gradually. It is a tribute to Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darius that the empire they constructed was as resilient as it proved to be after Xerxes.


The three kings that followed Xerxes on the throne- Artaxerxes I (465-425 BC), Xerxes II (425-424 BC), and Darius II Ochus (423-404 BC)-were all comparatively weak individuals and kings, and such successes as the empire enjoyed during their reigns were mainly the result of the efforts of subordinates or of the troubles faced by their adversaries. Artaxerxes I faced several rebellions, the most important of which was that of Egypt in 459 BC, not fully suppressed until 454 BC. An advantageous peace (the Peace of Callias) with Athens was signed in 448 BC, whereby the Iranian agreed to stay out of the Aegean and the Athenians agreed to leave Asia Minor to the Achaemenids. Athens broke the peace in 439 BCE in an attack on Samos, and in its aftermath the Iranians made some military gains in the west. Xerxes II ruled only about 45 days and was killed in a drunken stupor by the son of one of his father’s concubines. The assassin was himself killed by Darius II, who rose to the throne through palace intrigue. Several revolts marred his reign, including one in Media, which was rather close to home.


The major event of these three reigns was the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens that lasted, with occasional pauses, from 460 to 404 BC. The situation was ripe for exploitation by the famous “Persian archers,” the gold coins of the Achaemenids that depicted an archer on their obverse and that were used with considerable skill by the Iranian in bribing first one Greek state and then another. Initially, the Iranian encouraged Athens against Sparta and from this gained the treaty of Callias. Then, after the disastrous Athenian campaign against Sicily in 413 BC, the Iranian intervened on Sparta’s side. By the treaty of Miletus in 412 BC, Iran recovered complete freedom in western Asia Minor in return for agreeing to pay for seamen to man the Peloponnesian fleet. Persian gold and Spartan soldiers brought about Athens’ fall in 404 BC. Despite the fact that the Iranian played the two sides against each other to much advantage, they should have done better. One observes a certain lack of control from Susa by the king in these proceedings, and the two principal governors in Asia Minor who were involved, Tissaphernes of Sardis and Pharnabazus of Hellespontine Phrygia, seemed to have permitted a personal power rivalry to stand in the way of a really co-ordinated Iranian intervention in the Greek war.


Artaxerxes II came to the throne in 404 BCE and reigned until 359 BC. The main events of his long rule were the war with Sparta that ended with a peace favourable to the Iranian; the revolt and loss to the empire of Egypt; the rebellion of Cyrus the Younger, brother of the king; and the uprising known as the revolt of the satraps.


Sparta, triumphant over Athens, built a small empire of its own and was soon involved in a war against the Iranian, the principal issue again being the Greek cities of Asia Minor. While Sparta played one Iranian governor in Anatolia against the other, the Iranian spent gold in Greece to raise rebellion on Sparta’s home ground. The Iranian rebuilt their fleet and placed a competent Athenian admiral, Conon, in command. The contest continued from 400 to 387, with Sparta forced to act on an ever-shrinking front. A revitalized Athens, supported by Iran, created a balance of power in Greece, and eventually Artaxerxes was able to step in, at Greek request, and dictate the so-called King’s Peace of 387-6 BC. Once again the Greeks gave up any claim to Asia Minor and further agreed to maintain the status quo in Greece itself. When Egypt revolted in 405 BC, Iran was unable to do much about it, and from this point forward Egypt remained essentially an independent state.


Cyrus the Younger, though caught in an assassination attempt at the time of Artaxerxes’ coronation, was, nevertheless, forgiven, thanks to the pleadings of the Queen Mother, and was returned to the command of a province in Asia Minor. But he revolted again in 401 BCE and, supported by 10,000 Greek mercenaries, marched eastward to contest the throne. He was defeated and killed at the Battle of Cunaxa in Mesopotamia in the summer of 401. The Greek mercenaries, however, were not broken and, though harried, left the field in good order and began their famous march, recorded in the Anabasis of Xenophon, north to the Black Sea and home. Probably no other event in late Achaemenid history revealed more clearly to the Greeks the essential internal weakness of the Achaemenid Empire than the escape of so large a body of men from the very heart of the Great King’s domain.


Since 379 BCE Greek mercenaries had been gathered together in order to mount a campaign against Egypt. An attack in 373 failed against the native 30th dynasty. On the heels of this failure came the revolt of the satraps. Several satraps, or provincial governors, rose against the central power, and one, Aroandas, a late satrap of Armenia, went so far as to stamp his own gold coinage as a direct challenge to Artaxerxes. The general plan of the rebels appears to have been for a combined attack. The rebel satraps were to co-ordinate their march eastward through Syria with an Egyptian attack, under the pharaoh Tachos (Zedhor), supported by Greek mercenaries. The Egyptian attack was called off because of a revolt in Egypt by Tachos’ brother, and Artaxerxes managed to defeat the satraps who were left alone to face the Great King’s wrath. How different would have been the wrath of Darius! Several of the

satraps, including Aroandas, were actually forgiven and returned to their governorships. In general the impression is that, in the end, rather than fight the central authority, the satraps were willing to return to their own provinces and plunder there in the name of the Great King. Perhaps they saw that they actually had more authority and more control over real events in their own provincial territories than Artaxerxes had in his empire.


Plot and counterplot, harem intrigue, and murder brought Artaxerxes III to the throne in 359 BC. He promptly exterminated many of his relatives who might have challenged his rule-all to no avail, for revolts continued to rock the empire. A fresh attempt to win back Egypt was thrown back in 351-350. This setback encouraged revolt in Sidon and eventually in all of Palestine and Phoenicia. Parts of Cilicia joined the rebellion but the revolt was crushed the same year it had begun, 345 BC. Peace was achieved only temporarily; mercenaries from Thebes and the Argives, as well as from the Greek cities of Asia Minor, gathered for a new attempt on Egypt, which, led by Artaxerxes III himself, succeeded in 343 BC. But the local dynasty fled south to Nubia, where it maintained an independent kingdom that kept alive the hopes of a national revival. Iran then misplayed its hand in Greece by refusing aid to Athens against the rising power of Philip II of Macedon. In 339 BCE Iranian troops were fighting alone in Thrace against the Macedonians, and in the following year, at the Battle of Chaeronea, Philip extended his hegemony over all of Greece-a united Greece that was to prove impervious to Persian gold.


Artaxerxes was poisoned by his physician at the order of the eunuch Bagoas. The latter made Arses king (338-336 BC) in hopes of being the power behind the throne, but Arses did not bend easily to Bagoas’ will. He attempted to poison the kingmaker but was himself killed in retaliation. Bagoas then engineered the accession of Darius III, a 45-year-old former satrap of Armenia. So many members of the royal house had been murdered in the court intrigue that Darius probably held the closest blood claim to the throne by virtue of being the grandnephew of Artaxerxes II. Darius was able to put down yet another rebellion in Egypt under Khababash in 337-336 BC, but the beginning of the end came soon afterward, in May 334, with the loss of the Battle of Granicus to Alexander the Great. Persepolis fell to the invader in April 330, and Darius, the last Achaemenid, was murdered in the summer of the same year while fleeing the conqueror. His unfinished tomb at Persepolis bears witness to his lack of preparation.


Alexander did not win his victories easily, however, and the catalog of troubles that marked the latter part of the Achaemenid Empire-rebellions, murders, weak kings trapped in the harem, missed chances, and foolish policies-cannot be the whole story. The sources, mostly Greek, are often prejudiced against the Iranian and tend to view events from but a single point of view. No government could have lasted so long, found its way somehow through so many difficulties, and in the end actually have fought so hard against the conqueror without having much virtue with which to balance its vices.



Achaemenid society and culture

Achaemenid society and culture was in reality the collective societies and cultures of the many subject peoples of the empire. From this mosaic it is sometimes difficult to sort out that which is distinctively Persian or distinctively a development of the Achaemenid period and therefore perhaps an early Iranian contribution to general Middle Eastern society and culture.



The languages of the empire were as varied as its peoples. The Iranian, at least originally, spoke Old Persian, a south-western dialect of Iranian (Median was a north-western Iranian dialect), but they were illiterate. Their language was first written when Darius commanded that a script suitable for this purpose be invented so that he might inscribe the record of his rise to power at Bisitun (the inscriptions in Old Persian are attributed to earlier kings as either late historical forgeries or as probably written during the reign of Darius). That few could read Old Persian might be the reason why Darius at Bisitun established the tradition that royal inscription should be trilingual in Old Persian, Babylonian, and Elamite. Old Persian was never a working written language of the empire. Elamite, written on clay tablets, appears to have been the language of many of the administrators in Fars and, it may be assumed, in Elam. Archives of administrative documents in Elamite have been found at Persepolis. Aramaic, however, was the language of much of the empire and was probably the language most used in the imperial bureaucracy. The beginnings of the strong influence of Aramaic on Persian, which is so evident in the Pahlavi (Middle Persian) of Sasanian times, can already be seen in the Old Persian royal inscriptions of late Achaemenid times.




Social organization 

Little is known of Iranian social organization in the period. In general, it was based on feudal lines that were in part drawn by economic and social function. Traditional Indo-Iranian society consisted of three classes, the warriors or aristocracy, the priests, and the farmers or herdsmen. Crosscutting these divisions was a tribal structure based on patrilineal descent. The titleking of kings, used even in the 20th century by the shahs of Iran, implies that the central authority exercised power through a pyramidal structure that was controlled at levels below the supreme authority by individuals who were themselves, in a certain sense, kings. Traditionally the king was elected from a particular family by the warrior class; he was sacred, and a certain royal charisma attached to his person.


Such a method of organizing and controlling society undoubtedly changed under the influences and demands of imperial power and underwent much modification as Iranians increasingly borrowed social and political ideas from the peoples they ruled. Even in later times, nevertheless, there is evidence that the original Iranian concepts of kingship and social organization were still honoured and remained the ideals of Iranian culture.




Iranian religion in the pre-Achaemenid and Achaemenid periods is a subject on which there is little scholarly agreement. When the Iranians first entered the semilight of the protohistoric period, they were certainly polytheists whose religious beliefs and practices closely paralleled other Indo-Iranian group at the same stage in history. Their gods were associated with natural phenomena, with social, military, and economic functions, and with abstract concepts such as justice and truth. Their religious practices included, among others, animal sacrifice, a reverence for fire, and the drinking of the juice of the haoma plant, a natural intoxicant.


Around 1800 BCE there arose in the north-east of the Irnaina plateau the great Iranian religious prophet and teacher Zarthushtra (Zoroaster). The history of the religion that he founded is even more complicated and controversial than the history of pre-Zoroastrian Iranian religion. Yet certain features of his religious reform stand out. He was an ethical prophet of the highest rank, stressing constantly the need to act righteously and to speak the truth and abhor the lie. In his teaching, the lie was almost personified as the Druj, chief in the kingdom of the demons, to which he relegated many of the earlier Indo-Iranian deities. His god was Ahura Mazda, who, it seems likely, was a creation in name and attributes of Zoroaster. Though in a certain sense technically monotheism, later Zoroastrianism viewed the world in strongly dualistic terms, for Ahura Mazda and the “Lie” were deeply involved in a struggle for the soul of man. Zoroaster, as might be expected, attempted to reform earlier Iranian religious practices as well as beliefs. He first rejected and then perhaps allowed the practice of the haoma cult in a modified form, he clearly condemned the practice of animal sacrifice, and he elevated to central importance in the ritual a reverence for fire. Fire worship, however, is a misnomer since the Zoroastrians have never worshipped fire but rather have revered it as the symbol par excellence of truth.


The crucial question is: were the Achaemenids Zoroastrians or at least followers of the prophet in the terms in which they understood his message? Possibly Cyrus the Great was, probably Darius the Great was, and almost certainly Xerxes and his successors were. Such a simple answer to the question is possible, however, only if we understand that Zoroastrianism as a religion had already undergone considerable development and modification since Zoroaster’s lifetime, influenced by beliefs and practices and by the religions of those subjects of Achaemenids with whom the expanding Zoroastrians had intimate contact.


The god of the Achaemenid king of kings was the great Ahura Mazda, from whom they understood they had received their empire and with whose aid they accomplished all deeds. Xerxes and his successors mention other deities by name, but Ahura Mazda remains supreme. Darius the Great names only Ahura Mazda in his inscriptions. More significant, however, is Darius’ tone, which is entirely compatible with the moral tone of Zoroaster and, in some instances, even compatible with details of Zoroaster’s theology. During the reigns of Darius and Xerxes, the archaeological record reveals that religious rituals were in force that were also compatible with an evolved and evolving Zoroastrianism. The haoma cult was practiced at Persepolis, but animal sacrifice is not attested. More important, fire clearly played a central role in Achaemenid religion.


There may have been religious overtones in the quarrel between Cambyses and Darius on the one hand and the false Bardiya, a Magian or Median priest, on the other. Certainly there were religious as well as political motivations behind Xerxes’ suppression of the Daeva worshippers and the destruction of their temple. It is possible that there was some conflict among the royal Achaemenids, who were followers of one form of Zoroastrianism, the supporters of a different version of Zoroastrianism as practiced by other Iranians, believers in older forms of Iranian religion, and foreign religions, which in the light of the Prophet’s teachings were reprehensible. Compromises and syncretism, however, probably could not be prevented. Though the Zoroastrian calendar was adopted as the official calendar of the empire in the reign of Artaxerxes I, by the time of Artaxerxes II, the ancient Iranian god Mithra and the goddess Anahita had been accepted in the royal religion alongside Ahura Mazda.


Thus, in a sense, the Achaemenid kings were Zoroastrians, but Zoroastrianism itself was probably no longer exactly the religion Zoroaster had attempted to establish. What the religion of the people beyond court circles may have been is almost impossible to say. One suspects that a variety of ancient Iranian cults and beliefs were prevalent. The Magi, the traditional priests of the Medes, may have wielded more influence in the countryside than they did at court, and popular beliefs and practices may have been more deeply influenced by contact with other peoples and other religions. Later classical Zoroastrianism, as known in the Sasanian period, was an amalgam of such popular cults, of the religion of the Achaemenid court, and of the teachings of the Prophet in their purer form




Achaemenid art, like Achaemenid religion, was a blend of many elements. In describing, with justifiable pride, the construction of his palace at Susa, Darius says:

The cedar timber-a mountain by name Lebanon-from there it was brought . . . the yaka-timber was brought from Gandara and from Carmania. The gold was brought from Sardis and from Bactria . . . the precious stone lapis-lazuli and carnelian . . . was brought from Sogdiana. The . . . turquoise from Chorasmia . . . The silver and ebony . . . from Egypt . . . the ornamentation from Ionia . . . the ivory . . . from Ethiopia and from Sind and from Arachosia . . . The stone-cutters who wrought the stone, those were Ionians and Sardians. The goldsmiths . . . were Medes and Egyptians. The men who wrought the wood, those were Sardians and Egyptians. The men who wrought the baked brick, those were Babylonians. The men who adorned the wall, those were Medes and Egyptians.


This was an imperial art on a scale the world had not seen before. Materials and artists were drawn from all the lands ruled by the Great King, and thus tastes, styles, and motifs became mixed together in an eclectic art and architecture that in itself mirrored the empire and the Iranian’ understanding of how that empire ought to function. Yet the whole was entirely Persian. Just as the Achaemenids were tolerant in matters of local government and custom, as long as Iranian controlled the general policy and administration of the empire, so also were they tolerant in art so long as the finished and total effect was Persian. At Pasargadae, the capital of Cyrus the Great and Cambyses in Fars, the Persian homeland, and at Persepolis, the neighbouring city founded by Darius the Great and used by all of his successors, one can trace to a foreign origin almost all of the several details in the construction and embellishment of the architecture and the sculptured reliefs, but the conception, planning, and overall finished product are distinctly Iranian and could not have been created by any of the foreign groups who supplied the king of kings with artistic talent. So also with the small arts, at which the Iranian excelled: fine metal tableware, jewellery, seal cutting, weaponry and its decoration, and pottery. It has been suggested that the Iranian called on the subject peoples for artists because they were themselves crude barbarians with little taste and needed quickly to create an imperial art to match their sudden rise to political power. Yet excavations at sites from the protohistoric period show this not to have been the case. Cyrus may have been the leader of Persian tribes not yet so sophisticated nor so civilized as the Babylonians or Egyptians, but, when he chose to build Pasargadae, he had a long artistic tradition behind him that was probably already distinctly Iranian and that was in many ways the equal of any. Two examples suffice: the tradition of the columned hall in architecture and fine gold work. The former can now be seen as belonging to an architectural tradition on the Iranian Plateau that extended back through the Median period to at least the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. The rich Achaemenid gold work, which inscriptions suggest may have been a speciality of the Medes, was in the tradition of the delicate metalwork found in Iron Age II times at Hasanlu and still earlier at Marlik. In its carefully proportioned and well-organized ground plan, rich architectural ornament, and magnificent decorative reliefs, Persepolis, primarily the creation of Darius and Xerxes, is one of the great artistic legacies of the ancient world.


The organization and achievement of the empire

At the centre of the empire sat the king of kings. Around him was gathered a court composed of powerful hereditary landholders, the upper echelons of the army, the harem, religious functionaries, and the bureaucracy that administered the whole. This court lived mainly in Susa but in the hot summer months went to Ecbatana (Hamadan), probably in the spring to Persepolis in Fars, and perhaps sometimes to Babylon. In a smaller version it travelled with the king when he was away in the provinces.


The provinces, or satrapies, were ruled by governors (satraps), technically appointed by the central authority but who often became hereditary subkings, particularly in the later years, of the empire. They were surrounded and assisted in their functions by a court modelled on that of the central government and were powerful officials. The great king was nevertheless theoretically able to maintain considerable control in local affairs. He was the last court of appeal in judicial matters. He controlled directly the standing military forces stationed in the provinces, though as time went on, the military and civil authority in the provinces tended to become combined under the satrap. The king was also aided in keeping control in the provinces by the so-called king’s eyes, or better, the king’s ears, officials from the central government who travelled throughout the empire and who reported directly back to the king on what they learned. The number of satrapies and their boundaries varied greatly from time to time; at the beginning of Darius’ reign there were 20 provinces. In general, as time went on, the number of satrapies increased, partly because of the need to reassert control over the satraps by decreasing their power base, partly because the feudal structure that underlay Iranian society required rewarding more and more people with a role in government, and partly because the original 20 satrapies were undoubtedly simply too large to permit efficient administration.


The army was a particularly important element within the empire. It, too, developed and changed with time. After Cyrus the Persian tribal levy, based on the responsibility of all male Iranian to fight for the king, was replaced by a professional army supplemented by a troop levy from the subject peoples in time of intensive military activity. The elite of the standing army were the 10,000 “immortals” composed of Persians and Medes, 1,000 of whom were the personal guard of the king. The person who controlled this elite, as did Darius on the death of Cambyses, usually controlled all. The troops of the imperial levy fought with the regular army in national units, were armed according to their individual customs, but were usually officered by Persians. Permanent bodies of troops were stationed at strategic points throughout the empire, and, to judge from the garrison at Elephantine in Egypt, these were actually military colonies, firmly settled into the local countryside. Greek mercenaries were used with increasing frequency in later years, and many Greeks fought faithfully for Persian silver.


Both the civil and the military administration, as well as public and private trade, were greatly facilitated by the famous royal Achaemenid road system. Communications throughout the empire were better than any previous Middle Eastern power had maintained. The famous road from Susa to Sardis in western Asia Minor is the best known of these imperial highways. It was an all-weather road, maintained by the state. Over it ran a governmental postal system based on relay stations with remounts and fresh riders located a day’s ride apart. The speed with which a message could travel from the provinces to the king at Susa was remarkable.


On the whole, Iranian rule sat lightly on the subject peoples, at least under the early Achaemenids. It was a conscious policy of Cyrus and Darius to permit conquered nations to retain their own religion, customs, their methods of doing business, and even to some extent their forms of government. Cyrus’ attitude toward the Babylonians, which led to his being accepted as the rightful successor of Nabonidus, his willingness to permit the Jews to return to Palestine and to their own way of life, and his successors’ concern that this promise be honoured; Cambyses’ behaviour in Egypt and his acceptance by the Egyptians as founder of a legitimate new Egyptian dynasty; and the policy adopted under Mardonius toward the Ionian cities following their rebellion are all examples of such a policy. Perhaps even too often in the later empire, rebellious peoples, governments, and leaders were forgiven and not suppressed with the thoroughness sometimes characteristic of other regimes. Lapses from this policy, such as Xerxes’ violent reaction to rebellion in Babylon, stand out in the record.


Law played an important role in the administration of the empire, and stories of Persian justice abound in the Greek sources. Darius particularly wished to be remembered as the great lawgiver, and law reform was one of the cornerstones in his program for reorganizing the empire. To judge from the Babylonian evidence, two sets of law, possibly administered by two sets of courts, were in force in the provinces. One was the local law undoubtedly based on custom and previous local codifications; the other was the Iranian, or imperial, law, based ultimately on the authority of the great king. A new word for law appeared in the Middle East in Achaemenid times, the Iranian data, and was borrowed by the Semitic languages used in the empire. In Babylonian and Aramaic, sources give evidence for Iranian judges called by the Iranian word data-bar. These were probably the judges of the imperial courts. With legal reform came reform and unification of tax structures. The tax structure of the empire was apparently based on the principle that all the conquered lands were the actual property of the king. Thus taxes were rather rents, and the Iranian and their land, Fars, by virtue of not being a conquered people, were always tax-free. Each satrapy was required to pay a fixed yearly amount in gold or silver and each vassal state paid a fixed tribute in kind. Again going on the Babylonian evidence, where in previous times agricultural taxes were levied in fixed amounts regardless of the fluctuating quality of the harvest, under Darius all land was surveyed, an estimate of its yield based on an average of the harvests over several years was from time to time established, and taxes were levied in fixed amounts based on a percentage of that average yield. This was not quite an income tax, since it was not based on a percentage of each year’s production, but it was at least a reasonable figure based on a reasonable average production.


Breakdowns often occurred in the Achaemenids’ effort to maintain a productive balance between local social structures, customs, laws, and government and the demand of the empire. The failure of the Iranian to find such a balance when dealing with what was, for them, that extremely strange system of social and political organization, the Greek polis, or city-state, probably lay at the heart of their never-ending troubles in Ionia as much as did the power and ambitions of mainland Greeks. Yet even the Ionians, at the best of times, often realized the mutual advantages and benefits of the king’s peace and a unified western Asia under a tolerant central administration.


The economy of the empire was very much founded on that king’s peace; it was when the peace broke down with ever-increasing frequency during the last century of Achaemenid rule that the economy of the empire went into a decline that undoubtedly contributed significantly to eventual political and military collapse. Wealth in the Achaemenid world was very much founded on land and on agriculture. Land was the principal reward that the king had available for those who gave service or who were in positions of great political or military power in the empire. Under Darius there was a measure of land called a “bow” that was originally a unit considered sufficient to support one bowman, who then paid his duty for the land in military service. At the other end of the scale were enormous family estates, which often increased in size over the years and which were or became hereditary holdings. They were often administered by absentee landlords. Such major landholdings were, as one would expect, usually in the hands of Iranians, but non-Iranians were also able to amass similar wealth and power, thereby testifying once again to the inherent tolerance with which the empire was administered. The Achaemenids themselves took a positive role in the encouragement of agriculture by investing state funds and effort in irrigation and the improvement of horticulture.


They also invested in and endeavoured to encourage trade, a major source of imperial wealth. The effect of the state-maintained road system on the encouragement of trade has already been mentioned. Equal attention was paid to the development of seaborne trade. State-sponsored voyages of exploration were undertaken in order to search for new markets and new resources. Darius completed a project, begun by the Egyptians, of linking the Nile with the Red Sea by a canal, so that routes across the Arabian Sea and into the Persian Gulf could be used to link the eastern and western ends of his empire. As part of the same program, port development on the Persian Gulf coast was encouraged. An imperial standardization of weights and measures, efforts to encourage the development and use of coinage, and the standardization in the king’s name of that coinage were all policies intended to encourage commerce and economic activity within the realm. Banking played a role in the economy. Documents have survived from a family banking business in Babylonia-the house of Murashu and Sons of Nippur-covering the years c. 455-403 BC; the firm evidently prospered greatly by lending money and by acting as a middleman in the system of tax collection. Interest rates were high, but borrowers were numerous.


As time went on, there were more and more such borrowers, for the later empire is marked by a general economic decline.


The principal cause for this decline was the unsettled political conditions, but other, more indirect causes were unwise government interference in the economy, overtaxation, and the removal of too much hard money from the economy. Gold and silver tended to drain into the treasury of the central government from the provinces, and too little found its way back into the economy. Disastrous inflation was the result. The large sums of money paid to foreign mercenaries and as bribes to foreign governments must have also contributed to an unfavourable balance of payments that in turn stimulated inflation. Such conditions hardly strengthened the empire and must have contributed, in ways that cannot be documented with certainty, to the political unrest that was their own main cause.


Ultimately, the achievement of the Achaemenid dynasty was that they ruled with much creative tolerance over an area and a time that, for both the Middle East and for Europe, saw the end of the ancient and the beginning of the modern world. In one sense, the ancient Middle East died when Cyrus marched into Babylon. Others would argue that its death came when Alexander burned Persepolis. The question remains open. What is clear is that the Achaemenid Empire, the largest anyone had ever yet tried to hold together and one that was not to be surpassed until Rome reached its height, was a profound force in western Asia and in Europe during an important period of ferment and transition in human history. That period witnessed major developments in art, philosophy, literature, historiography, religion, exploration, economics, and science, and those developments provided the direct background for the further changes, along similar lines, that made the Hellenistic period so important in history. Hellenism probably would not have been possible, at least not in the form we know it, if it had had to build directly on the rather more narrow and less ambitious base of the individual civilizations of Bablyon, Egypt, or Greece. In a sense the Achaemenid dynasty passed on a concept of empire that, much modified by others, has remained something of a model throughout history of how it is possible for diverse peoples with variant customs, languages, religions, laws, and economic systems to flourish with mutual profit under a central government. In narrower terms, but for the Iranians themselves no less important, the Achaemenid Empire was the beginning of the Iranian nation, one of the pivotal peoples in the modern


June 3, 20211 year ago

Alia Sabur

Alia has been setting records and making history starting with reading at 8 months old. Her IQ was determined off the charts. She went from 4th grade to college, earning a B.S. in Applied Mathematics summa cum laudeÊfrom Stony Brook University at age 14, the youngest female in American history. She then earned an M.S. and Ph.D. (ABD) in Materials Science and Engineering from Drexel University. Alia is the youngest ever to receive fellowships and awards from the Dept of Defense, NASA, GAANN and NSF. Also multi-talented, Alia has been performing with orchestras since her solo debut at 11 with the Mozart Concerto where she was billed a music prodigy. She has also performed with musicians as diverse as Lang Lang and Smash Mouth. She enjoys performing as an orchestral » Read more

Historical Periods

The First inhabitants of Iran were a race of people living in western Asia. When the Aryans arrived, they gradually started mingling with the old native Asians. Aryans were a branch of the people today known as the Indo-Europeans, and are believed to be the ancestors of the people of present India, Iran, and most of Western Europe.

Recent discoveries indicate that, centuries before the rise of earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, Iran was inhabited by human. But the written history of Iran dates back to 3200 BC. It begins with the early Achaemenids, The dynasty whose under the first Iranian world empire blossomed.

Cyrus the Great was the founder of the empire and he is the first to establish the charter of human rights. In this period Iran stretched from the Aegean coast of Asia Minor to Afghanistan, as well as south to Egypt. The Achaeamenid Empire was overthrown by Alexander the Great in 330 BC and was followed by The Seleucid Greek Dynasty.

After the Seleucids, we witness about dozen successive dynasties reigning over the country, Dynasties such as Parthian, Sassanid, Samanid, Ghaznavid, Safavid, Zand, Afsharid, Qajar and Pahlavi. In 641 Arabs conquered Iran and launched a new vicissitudinous era. Persians, who were the followers of Zoroaster, gradually turned to Islam and it was in Safavid period when Shiite Islam became the official religion of Iran.

Since Qajar dynasty on, due to the inefficiency of the rulers, Iran intensely begins to decline and gets smaller and smaller. The growing corruption of the Qajar monarchy led to a constitutional revolution in 1905-1906. The Constitutional Revolution marked the end of the medieval period in Iran, but the constitution remained a dead letter.
During World Wars I and II the occupation of Iran by Russian, British, and Ottoman troops was a blow from which the government never effectively recovered.

In 1979, the nation, under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, erupted into revolution and the current Islamic republic of Iran was founded.

Throughout Iran’s long history, in spite of different devastating invasions and occupations by Arabs, Turks, Mongols, British, Russians, and others, the country has always maintained its national identity and has developed as a distinct political and cultural entity.

History of Iran


The early hisotroy of Iran may be divided into three phases:

(1) the prehistoric period beginning with the earliest evidence of man on the Iranian Plateau (c. 100,000 BCE) and ending roughly at the start of the 1st millennium BCE;

(2) the proto-historic period covering approximately the first half of the 1st millennium BC; and

(3) the period of the Achaemenid dynasty (6th to 4th century BC), when Iran entered the full light of written history. The civilization of Elam, centered off the plateau in lowland Khuzestan, is an exception, for written history began there as early as it did in neighbouring Mesopotamia (c. 3,000 BC).



The sources for the prehistoric period are entirely archaeological. Early excavation in Iran was limited to a few sites. In the 1930s archaeological exploration increased rapidly, but work was abruptly halted by the outbreak of World War II. After the war ended, interest in Iranian archaeology revived quickly, and since 1950 numerous excavations have revolutionized the study of prehistoric Iran.

For the proto-historic period the historian is still forced to rely primarily on archaeological evidence, but much information comes from written sources as well. None of these sources, however, is both local to and contemporary with the events described. Some sources are contemporary but belong to neighboring civilizations that are only tangentially involved in events in the Iranian Plateau; for example, the Assyrian and Babylonian cuneiform records from lowland Mesopotamia. Some are local but not contemporary, such as the traditional Iranian legends and tales that supposedly speak of events in the early 1st millennium BC. And some are neither contemporary nor local but are nevertheless valuable in reconstructing events in the proto-historic period (e.g., the 5th-century-BC Greek historian Herodotus).


Palaeolithic (ca. 100,000-10,000B.C.E)

Enigmatic evidence of man’s presence on the Iranian Plateau as early as Lower Palaeolithic times comes from a surface find in the Baktaran Valley. The first well-documented evidence of human habitation is in deposits from several excavated cave and rock-shelter sites, mainly located in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran, dated to Middle Palaeolithic or Mousterian times (c. 100,000 BC). There is every reason to assume, however, that future excavations will reveal Lower Palaeolithic man in Iran. The Mousterian flint-tool industry found there is generally characterized by an absence of the Levallois technique of chipping flint and thus differs from the well-defined Middle Palaeolithic industries known elsewhere in the Middle East. The economic and social level associated with this industry is that of fairly small, peripatetic hunting and gathering groups spread out over a thinly settled landscape.

Locally, the Mousterian is followed by an Upper Palaeolithic flint industry called the Baradostian. Radiocarbon dates suggest that this is one of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic complexes; it may have begun as early as 36,000 BC. Its relationship to neighbouring industries, however, remains unclear. Possibly, after some cultural and typological discontinuity, perhaps caused by the maximum cold of the last phase of the Würm glaciation, the Baradostian was replaced by a local Upper Palaeolithic industry called the Zarzian. This tool tradition, probably dating to the period 12,000 to 10,000 BC, marks the end of the Iranian Palaeolithic sequence.


The Mesolithic (ca. 10,000-5500 B.C.E).

Evidence indicates that the Middle East in general was one of the earliest areas in the Old World to experience what the Australian archaeologist V. Gordon Childe called the Neolithic revolution. That revolution witnessed the development of settled village agricultural life based firmly on the domestication of plants and animals. Iran has yielded much evidence on the history of these important developments. In the early Mesolithic, evidence of significant shifts in tool manufacture, settlement patterns, and subsistence methods, including the fumbling beginnings of domestication of both plants and animals, comes from such important western Iranian sites as Asiab, Guran, Ganj-e Dareh, and Ali Kosh. Similar developments in the Zagros, on the Iraqi side of the modern border, are also traceable at sites such as Karim Shahir and Zawi Chemi-Shanidar. This phase of early experimentation with sedentary life and domestication was soon followed by a period of fully developed village farming as defined at important Zagros sites such as Jarmo, Sarab, upper Ali Kosh, and upper Guran. All of these sites date wholly or in part to the 8th and 7th millennia.

By approximately 6,000 BC these patterns of village farming were widely spread over much of the Iranian Plateau and in lowland Khuzestan. Tepe Sabz in Khuzestan, Hajji Firuz in Azerbaijan, Godin Tepe VII in northeastern Luristan, Tepe Sialk I on the rim of the central salt desert, and Tepe Yahya VI C-E in the southeast have all yielded evidence of fairly sophisticated patterns of agricultural life (Roman numerals identify the level of excavation). Though distinctly different, all show general cultural connections with the beginnings of settled village life in neighbouring areas such as Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Soviet Central Asia, and Mesopotamia.



Chalcolithic (ca. 5,500-3,500 B.C.E.)





(Susa II-III = Late Uruk-Jemdet Nasr-Early Dynastic I, ca. 3500-2800 B.C.E.)




Bronze Age

(Susa IV = Early Dynastic II-Old Babylonian, ca. 3000-1350 B.C.E.)




Iron Age I-II (ca. 1350-800 B.C.E.)


History of Elam

For a long time scholars confused Elam with Susiana, equivalent to the plain and lower Zagros foothills in the present Persian province of Khûzestân. Two important factors have recently modified this understanding, however. First, Tal-e Malyan (Mâlîân) in Fârs has been identified as the ancient center of the component kingdom of Anshan (q.v.; Hansman; Lambert; Reiner, 1973b), and, second, it has been established that Susa and Elam were distinct entities (Vallat, 1980). In fact, during the several millennia of its history the limits of Elam varied, not only from period to period, but also with the point of view of the person describing it. For example, Mesopotamian sources permit establishment of a relatively detailed map of Elam in the late 3rd millennium B.C.E., owing in particular to the “Geography of Sargon of Akkad” (ca. 2300 B.C.E.; Grayson; Vallat, 1991), a Neo-Assyrian representation of the extent of Sargon’s conquests. It seems that Mesopotamians in the late 3rd millennium B.C.E. considered Elam to encompass the entire Persian plateau, which extends from Mesopotamia to the Kavîr-e Namak and Dašt-e Lût and from the Caspian (q.v.) to the Persian Gulf. Elamite cultural, if not political, influence in that period extended far beyond those limits, however, reaching Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the southern shores of the Persian Gulf (Amiet, 1986). It should be emphasized that during the last centuries of the 3rd millennium Susiana was sometimes a political dependency of the Mesopotamian empires centered first on Akkad and later on Ur and was included only for a brief period in the Elamite confederation, which embraced the kingdoms of Awan (probably in the Zagros), Simaški (in Assyrian Šimaški; see Steve, 1989, p. 13 n. 1; probably extending from Kermân to the Caspian), and Anshan (the present province of Fârs with its natural outlet to the Persian Gulf in the vicinity of Bûšehr, q.v.). Furthermore, this entire definition was Meso-potamian. For the people of the Persian plateau, Awanites and Simaškians, Elam meant the country of Anshan (Vallat, 1980; idem, 1991; idem, 1993).

When the Elamites, in alliance with the people of Susiana, brought an end to the empire of Ur in 2004 B.C.E., they annexed Susiana, where the Epartid, or sukkalmah, dynasty was founded by the ninth king of Simaški; the dynasty thus had its origins on the plateau. It is difficult to determine the eastern limits of the Epartid kingdom, but the decline of its power in the 18th century B.C.E. (see below) probably led to a reduction of influence in the east. As for the “kings of Anshan and Susa” of the Middle Elamite period (1500-1100 B.C.E.), according to the available documents, they controlled at least the territory of the present-day provinces of Khûzestân and Fârs with Bûšehr.

In the 1st millennium B.C.E. the spread of populations speaking Indo-Iranian languages and dialects onto the Persian plateau forced the Elamites to relinquish one area of their empire after another and to take refuge in Susiana, which only then became coterminous with Elam. It is this reduced territory that is referred to in the annals of Aššurbanipal (q.v.; see, e.g., Aynard, pp. 38-61), the Achaemenid inscriptions (Weissbach), and the Bible and Apocrypha (Daniel 8:2; Esdras 4:9).

Despite recent progress, Elamite history remains largely fragmentary. Because there are few indigenous sources, attempts at reconstruction must be based primarily on Mesopotamian documentation. By far the largest proportion of the known Elamite texts have been excavated at Susa, a city that, from its foundation ca. 4000 B.C.E., alternated between subjection to Mesopotamian and Elamite power (Amiet, 1979). The earliest levels excavated at the site furnished remarkable pottery that has no equivalent in Mesopotamia, whereas in the succeeding period (levels 22-17 in the excavations conducted by Le Brun, 1978, pp. 177-92) the archeological material is identical with that of Mesopotamia in the Uruk period. From about 3200 B.C.E. the influence of the Persian plateau can be observed in the presence of numerical and then proto-Elamite tablets identical with those found in smaller numbers at different sites on the plateau, as far away as Šahr-e Sûkhta in Sîstân (Vallat, 1986). The proto-Elamite script (see iii, below), which has defied all efforts to decipher it, remained in use until about 2700 B.C.E., but it was in the little-known period that followed, between the end of the Proto-Elamite period and the establishment of the dynasty of Awan, that Elam began to emerge from anonymity. The first attestation of the name of the kingdom is in a text of the king Enmebaragesi of Kish, who ruled in about 2650 B.C.E. But it is only from the beginning of the Akkadian period that Elam really enters into history. In the following survey the variable orthography of proper names has been standardized, in the interests of simplification.

The Old Elamite period (ca. 2400-1600 B.C.E.)

In the Old Elamite period three dynasties ruled in succession (Table 1). The kings of the first two, those of Awan and Simaški, are mentioned in the king list from Susa of the Old Babylonian period (Scheil, 1931). In this document twelve names are mentioned, followed by the phrase “twelve kings of Awan,” then by twelve more names and the phrase “twelve Simaškian kings.” In contrast to similar texts from Mesopotamia, neither a regnal year nor any mention of parentage appears in this simple document; nor is there any indication that the two lists are exhaustive. But, despite the somewhat artificial character of this document, some of the individuals mentioned are also known from other sources, Susian or Mesopotamian. The third dynasty, that of the Epartids, often called “of the sukkalmahs” because of the title borne by its members, was contemporary with the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia.

The Awan dynasty (ca. 2400-2100 B.C.E.). The Awan dynasty was partially contemporary with that of Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 B.C.E.), and its last king, Puzur-Inšušinak, is thought to have reigned in the time of Ur-Nammu (2112-2095 B.C.E.), founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur (Wilcke, p. 110). At that point the information in the sources becomes more explicit, for the Mesopotamians were attracted by the natural riches of the Persian plateau that they themselves lacked (wood, stone, metals). The records of their military campaigns provide important indications for the reconstruction of the history and geography of Elam.

Although nothing is known of the first seven kings enumerated in the Old Babylonian king list, the eighth and ninth are mentioned (in inverse order) in reports of the campaigns of Sargon and his son Rimuš (Hirsch, pp. 47-48, 51-52; Gelb and Kienast, pp. 180-81, 188, 206-07). The primary purpose of these Akkadian expeditions was the economic exploitation of Elamite territory, including Marahaši (Baluchistan, q.v. i-ii). It seems, however, that they were raids, rather than real conquests of this vast territory. The Akkadian king Maništusu (2269-55 B.C.E.) continued to fight in the south, where he achieved a victory at Šehirum on the Persian Gulf, which he then crossed in order to subdue an alliance of thirty-two cities on the Arabian coast (Gelb and Kienast, pp. 220-21). In the reign of the Akkadian Naram-Sin a treaty (König, 1965, no. 2) was concluded between Naram-Sin’s vassal ruling at Susa and a king of Awan, perhaps Hita (Cameron, p. 34); it is the first known Elamite text to have been written in cuneiform characters, but interpretation remains difficult.

The last king in the king list, Puzur-Inšušinak (Gelb and Kienast, pp. 321-37), conquered Susa, then Anshan, and he seems to have managed to impose an initial unity on the Elamite federation by subduing also the king of Simaški. His successors, however, were unable to hold Susa within the Elamite sphere. Puzur-Inšušinak left several documents in his name at Susa. Some are inscribed in Akkadian and others in linear Elamite, a script of which only a few signs have been deciphered with certainty (Vallat, 1986; see v, below); these signs may have been derived from proto-Elamite. But the establishment of the Elamite kings at Susa was of short duration. Several years later Šulgi of Ur (2094-47) retook the city with the surrounding region, which once again became an integral part of the Mesopotamian empire and remained so until that empire collapsed.

The Simaški dynasty (ca. 2100-1970 B.C.E.). Of the twelve Simaškian kings mentioned in the king list from Susa, nine have been documented elsewhere (Stolper, 1982, pp. 42-67). The first part of this period was characterized by incessant Meso-potamian attacks on the Persian plateau; the principal objective, though rarely attained, seems to have been Simaški, the homeland of the Elamite kings, in the area of modern Kermân. These campaigns alternated with periods of peace, marked by dynastic marriages. For example, Šu-Sin of Ur, after having given one of his daughters in marriage to a prince of Anshan, led at least two expeditions to the southeastern coast of the Caspian (Kutscher, pp. 71-101). It seems that the Mesopotamians alternated between peaceful and more forcible approaches, in order to obtain the raw materials they needed. But Mesopotamian power was weakening. The last king of the dynasty of Ur, Ibbi-Sin (2028-04), was unable to penetrate very deeply into Elamite territory, and his agent Ir-Nanna no longer controlled more of the eastern empire than the countries along a northwest-southeast line from Arbela to Bašime on the north bank of the Persian Gulf (Thureau-Dangin, pp. 148-51). In 2004 the Elamites, allied with the “Susianans” under the leadership of Kindattu, sixth king of Simaški, conquered Ur and led Ibbi-Sin away to Elam as a prisoner.

The Epartid or sukkalmah dynasty (ca. 1970-1600 B.C.E.). This long period of nearly three centuries still seems one of the most confused in Elamite history, despite the greater abundance and variety of the available documentation. Modern historians (König, 1931; Cameron, p. 229; Hinz, p. 183) have been misled by three factors that have completely distorted historical reconstruction.

First, the order of succession and the genealogy of the rulers of this period were distorted by a misinterpretation of the expression “son of the sister of Šilhaha” (Ak. mâr ahâti(-šu) ša Šilhaha). It was believed that the correct translation of mâr ahâti was “nephew,” as in Mesopotamia, and that the term referred to a real biological relationship. The result was a theory about the division of power between the direct and collateral lines specific to Elam. The reality was quite different: The words “son of the sister of Šilhaha” do not mean “nephew” but rather “son that Šilhaha sired with his own sister” and are evidence of royal incest, which ensured the legitimacy of the heir. Furthermore, the expression was only a title, as is confirmed by its use for centuries after the death of Šilhaha, for example, by Untaš-Napiriša and Hutelutuš-Inšušinak. It may be added that this Akkadian expression was rendered in Elamite as ruhu-šak, ruhu meaning “son” when referring to the mother and šak “son” when referring to the father. There is thus no question of the word “sister” (Vallat, 1990, p. 122; idem, 1994).

A second factor, which played just as negative a role in historical reconstruction as the first, is a text of Šilhak-Inšušinak, who enumerated those of his royal predecessors who had restored a temple of Inšušinak (König, 1965, no. 48); the majority of historians have considered that this enumeration provides a chronological scheme that has only to be completed by insertion of the names of kings who are not mentioned in it. Although generally early sovereigns are mentioned first in the text and the most recent ones last, within each group there are obvious contradictions with other documents. These distortions result from enumeration according to lineages; sometimes the direct line is given, then the collateral lines, but sometimes the collateral lines precede the direct line, without relation to actual chronology. For the sukkalmah period the order is Eparti (Ebarat), Šilhaha, Siruk-tuh, Siwe-palar-huppak, Kuk-Kirmaš, Atta-hušu, Temti-halki, and Kuk-Našur. Although the sequence Eparti, Šilhaha, Siruk-tuh, Siwe-palar-huppak in the direct line is correct, the two kings mentioned next, Kuk-Kirmaš and Atta-hušu, are not in the correct place, for they ruled between the reigns of Šilhaha and Siruk-tuh. Kuk-Kirmaš was thus a collateral, as is confirmed by the fact that in this list he is designated “son of Lankuku,” an individual unknown elsewhere, who probably never ruled; it is probable that he was the brother of a sukkalmah who died without a direct heir or whose heir was too young to reign. Further confirmation comes from the inscriptions of certain high functionaries who served him after having been in the service of Idaddu II, tenth king of Simaški. He could thus not have reigned in the 15th century B.C.E., as had been incorrectly supposed. Temti-halki and Kuk-Našur, the last two sukkalmahs known, were probably in the direct line.

Finally, an inscription of Atta-hušu (Sollberger, 1968-69, p. 31; Vallat, 1989, no. 101) has been considered as evidence that Eparti, Šilhaha, and Atta-hušu were contemporaries, constituting the first “triumvirate” of the dynasty. In fact, from different documents, particularly cylinder seals (q.v.) of servants of these sovereigns, it is possible to demonstrate (Vallat, 1989, no. 34) that between Šilhaha and Atta-hušu six sukkalmahs or sukkals exercised power: Pala-iššan, Kuk-Kirmaš, Kuk-sanit, Tem-sanit, Kuk-Nahhunte, and Kuk-Našur I, a group that reigned in the 20th century B.C.E. and not in the 16th century, as most commentators have believed (e.g., Hinz and Koch, p. 555).

Taking into account the corrected interpretations on these three points, it is possible today to write a coherent, though incomplete, history of the Epartid dynasty. The Simaškian kings who succeeded Kindattu were installed at Susa after the fall of the empire of Ur. The Simaškians Idaddu I and Tan-Ruhurater II (who married Mekubi, daughter of Bilalama of Ešnunna in Mesopotamia) built or restored temples at Susa. But Eparti II, though named as the ninth Simaškian king in the king list, was the founder of a new dynasty, called the Epartids by modern historians. It is surprising that the first Epartid sovereigns reigned at the same time as the last “Simaškian kings,” Idaddu II, Idaddu-napir, and probably Idaddu-temti. Eparti, the first of his dynasty, was at least partially contemporary with the sukkalmah-sukkal group (see below); the second, Šilhaha, is mentioned in two documents from the time of Atta-hušu, contemporary with Sumu-abum (1894-81 B.C.E.), the first king of the first dynasty of Babylon. The last Epartid, Idaddu-temti, is known only from the king list. It is not known how power was divided, for, although Idaddu II and Idaddu-napir are attested at Susa, Kuk-Kirmaš bore the title, among others, “sukkal of Elam, of Simaški, and of Susa” (Thureau-Dangin, pp. 182-83), which implies that he ruled the entire Elamite confederation. Despite these titles, it is probable that the last Simaškians governed the eastern part of the empire while the first Epartids governed the western part.

At any rate Eparti, Šilhaha, and their immediate successors lived in troubled times. Rulers of several Mesopotamian states attempted to retake Susa from the Elamites. Several raids are known, particularly those of Gungunum of Larsa, and it was perhaps because of such a raid that Atta-hušu seized power. In fact, there are several indications that he was a usurper: Unlike all his predecessors and successors Atta-hušu was not associated with any other sovereign in the economic and juridical documents. His titles, too, are unusual. Although he called himself “son of the sister of Šilhaha,” it was probably in order to legitimate himself a posteriori; he also bore the title “shepherd of the people of Susa,” which no other dynast during that period assumed, with the exception of a certain Tetep-mada, who may have been his successor.

The name of Siruk-tuh, which appears on a tablet from Šemšarra, permits linkage of Elamite history with Mesopotamian chronology, for he was contemporary with the Assyrian Šamši-Adad I (1813-1781 B.C.E.). But the best-known sukkalmah of the dynasty is Siwe-palar-huppak, who for at least two years was the most powerful person in the Near East. According to the royal archives of Mari, kings as important as Zimri-Lim of Mari and Hammurabi of Babylon addressed him as “father,” while calling each other “brother” and using the word “son” for a king of lesser rank (Charpin and Durand). But the interventions of Siwe-palar-huppak and his brother and successor, Kudu-zuluš, in Mesopotamian affairs (as far away as Aleppo) did not last long (Durand, 1986; idem, 1990; Charpin, 1986; idem, 1990). Siwe-palar-huppak’s suzerainty was broken by an alliance led by Hammurabi, which put an end to Elamite ambitions in Mesopotamia.

The reigns of Kutir-Nahhunte I and his thirteen successors as sukkalmah or sukkal down to Kuk-Našur III, the last known sukkalmah, are documented only in the juridical and economic records from Susa (Scheil, 1930; idem, 1932; idem, 1933; idem, 1939) and in some rare royal inscriptions (Thureau-Dangin, pp. 184-85; Sollberger and Kupper, pp. 262-64). These documents suggest that daily life in Susa and Elam was quite insular. Although no military activity is noted in the documents, it is astonishing that so many royal or princely names are attested at the same time. For example, Kutir-Nahhunte is associated with five potential heirs: Atta-mera-halki, Tata, Lila-irtaš, Temti-Agun, and Kutir-Šilhaha; only the last two, however, attained supreme power, the status of sukkalmah. Following them Kuk-Našur II, a contemporary of Ammisáaduqa, king of Babylon (1646-26 B.C.E.); Temti-raptaš; Simut-wartaš II; Kuduzuluš II; and Sirtuh exercised power in an order that cannot yet be established with certainty, despite association with royal names in the texts. The three last known sukkalmahs, Tan-Uli and his two sons Temti-halki and Kuk-Našur III, all three of whom were styled “son of the sister of Šilhaha,” constituted a group that is linked by no document to its predecessors. These different factors raise the question whether, during the second half of this period, palace intrigues had not replaced international conflicts.

This dynasty, which was remarkable for its duration, was also characterized by a progressive “semitization” of the royal line; owing to the annexation of Susiana to the Elamite empire, the sukkalmahs ensured that Susa would remain a major center. This process is reflected in different spheres. For example, the Elamites did not impose their language on the Susians; the vast majority of the documents from this period excavated at Susa, most of them juridical or economic texts related to daily life in the name of the sukkalmah or a sukkal, were written in Akkadian. Similarly, the Susians preserved their Suso-Mesopotamian pantheon, at the head of which was Inšušinak, the tutelary divinity of the city (see vi, below). Gods of Elamite origin were rare. Finally, this semitization, or westernization, is illustrated by the titulary. The title “king of Anshan and Susa” borne by Eparti, the founder of the dynasty, was soon abandoned in favor of titles that had belonged to Mesopotamian functionaries posted in Susiana or Elam during the Ur III period. The supreme power was held by the sukkalmah. It happened that the ruler delegated certain powers to his children, who were then given the title “sukkal of Elam and of Simaški” while in charge of the eastern provinces of the empire and “sukkal of Susa” when governing Susiana. This last title could be replaced by “king of Susa.”

It is thus necessary to set aside the theory of the division of Elamite power (Cameron, pp. 71-72). The succession to the throne was based on male primogeniture, with, however, an important additional element: the different degrees of legitimacy exemplified by the primacy of endogamy over exogamy. The child born to a union of the king with an Elamite princess, that is, a foreigner, was legitimate. The child born to a union of the king with his own sister had a higher degree of legitimacy. An elder son born to the marriage of a sovereign with a princess outside the family (exogamy) thus had to cede the throne to a younger brother born to a later union of the king and his sister (endogamy). The supreme degree of legitimacy was accorded to the son born to a union of the king with his own daughter. That was the case some centuries later with Hutelutuš-Inšušinak, who seems to have been the son of Šutruk-Nahhunte by his daughter Nahhunte-utu (Vallat, 1985). In the eventuality that a sovereign had no male heir or an heir was too young to exercise power then, as often elsewhere, power was secured by a collateral branch (Vallat, 1994).

The association of a “sukkal of Elam and of Simaški” and a “sukkal of Susa” with the supreme authority of the sukkalmah was not the rule. It sometimes happened, however, that the king associated his children in power for practical reasons: It is probable that, as in the Achaemenid period, the court left the extreme heat of Susa in summer and took refuge on the more temperate plateau. It was thus prudent to leave a trusted man in charge of the low countries.

The Middle Elamite period (ca. 1500-1100 B.C.E.).

The Middle Elamite period was marked by a sharp reversal from the preceding period. It was, in fact, characterized by an “elamization” of Susiana. The kings (Table 2) abandoned the title sukkalmah or sukkal in favor of the old title “king of Anshan and of Susa” (or “king of Susa and of Anshan” in the Akkadian inscriptions). The Akkadian language, still in use under the first family of rulers, the Kidinuids, became rare in the inscriptions of the later Igihalkids and Šutrukids. Furthermore, in this period the Elamite pantheon was imposed in Susiana and reached the height of its power with the construction of the politicoreligious complex at Chogha Zanbîl (q.v.).


The “dynasty” of the Kidinuids (ca. 1500-1400 B.C.E.). 

The term “dynasty” for the Kidinuids is perhaps improper, for there is no indication of any filial relationship among the five rulers who succeeded one another in an order that is not yet certain: Kidinu, Inšušinak-sunkir-nappipir, Tan-Ruhurater II, Šalla, and Tepti-Ahar (Steve, Gasche, and De Meyer, pp. 92-100). Susa and Haft Tepe (ancient Kabnak) have furnished evidence (Reiner, 1973b; Herrero) of a break between the period of the sukkalmahs and the Middle Elamite period. The first element was the titulary: Kidinu and Tepti-ahar styled themselves “king of Susa and of Anzan,” thus linking themselves with an old tradition. Both also called themselves “servant of Kirwašir,” an Elamite divinity, thus introducing the pantheon from the plateau into Susiana. As in the preceding period, however, they continued to use Akkadian in all their inscriptions.


The Igihalkid dynasty (ca. 1400-1210 B.C.E.). 

Until quite recently the Igihalkid dynasty seemed one of the best known in Elamite history. It was believed (e.g., Stolper, 1984, pp. 35-38) that, following a raid by the Mesopotamian Kassite ruler Kurigalzu II (1332-08 B.C.E.) against a certain Hurpatila, king of Elam, Igi-halki seized power, in about 1320, power that he than passed on to his six successors, the most celebrated of whom was Untaš-Napiriša, who built the famous ziggurat at Chogha Zanbîl (ca. 1250). This period ended with Kidin-Hutran, who put an end to the grandeur of the Kassites by winning two victories over Enlil-nadin-šumi (1224) and Adad-šuma-iddina (1222-17).

Combined information from a letter now in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin (Van Dijk, 1986) and two fragments of a statue rediscovered in the Louvre (Steve and Vallat, pp. 223-38) has, however, led to a complete revision of this scheme. The letter in Berlin is a Neo-Babylonian document written in Akkadian, whereas the statue fragments contain an inscription in Elamite. The letter was addressed by an Elamite king whose name is lost but who may well have been Šutruk-Nahhunte (see below) to assert his claim to rule Babylonia; the name of the person to whom it was addressed is also not preserved in the letter. In support of his claim the king mentioned the names of all the Elamite kings who had married Kassite princesses, followed by the names of the children born of these unions. For example, the immediate successor of Igi-halki, Pahir-iššan, married the sister or daughter of Kurigalzu I, whose reign ended in 1374 B.C.E., which implies that the Igihalkid dynasty was older by about a century than had previously been thought. Furthermore, two previously unknown kings, Kidin-Hutran, son of Untaš-Napiriša (who could not have been the Kidin-Hutran who fought the Kassites), and his son Napiriša-untaš, are mentioned in this text. As the fragments of the Louvre statue are attributed to another Kidin-Hutran, son of Pahir-iššan, there must have been three kings of the same name in this dynasty: Kidin-Hutran I, son of Pahir-iššan; Kidin-Hutran II, son of Untaš-Napiriša; and Kidin-Hutran III, whose paternity is unknown. The number of kings known to have succeeded to the Elamite throne has thus been raised from seven to ten, without any certainty that the list is complete. In fact, the first surviving description of this dynasty occurs in a text of the Šutrukid Šilhak-Inšušinak (König, 1965, no. 48), in which he enumerated those of his predecessors who had restored a temple of Inšušinak. As for the Berlin letter, only the dynasts who married Kassite princesses or their children are mentioned in it. A king who belonged in neither of these two categories would remain unknown. Finally, it can now be confirmed that Hurpatila was not an Elamite king but king of a country known as Elammat (Gassan).

The main characteristic of this dynasty is to have “elamized” Susiana; the religious complex at Choghâ Zanbîl, ancient Dur-Untaš (or Âl Untaš-Napiriša), is evidence of this policy, which had been initiated under the “Kidinuids.” Whereas the Epartids had adopted their titulary, gods, and language from the Susians, the Igihalkids emphasized the Elamite aspect of Susiana. Documents written in Akkadian are thus especially rare from their rule, and most are only curses against those who might tamper with dedicated works, as if such outrages could come only from Mesopotamia. Second, the old royal title “king of Anshan and of Susa” was revived. Finally and most important, the gods of the plateau appeared in force in Susiana. For example, the attitude of Untaš-Napiriša at Chogha Zanbîl is revealing. The king began by constructing a small ziggurat in the middle of a courtyard 105 m2 surrounded by temples. This first ziggurat bore the obligatory dedication to the tutelary god of Susa and Susiana, Inšušinak. But very quickly the king changed his mind and undertook construction of a large ziggurat. The small one was destroyed, and the buildings that surrounded the square courtyard were incorporated in the first story of the new monument, which consisted of five stories, each smaller in area than the one below (Ghirshman; Amiet, 1966, pp. 344-49). It must be emphasized that the new building was dedicated jointly to Napiriša, the principal god of Anshan, and to Inšušinak, who was always mentioned second, or even third when Kiririša, the associate of Napiriša, was also named. The primacy of the Elamite component over that of Susa was thus reflected on the divine plane. But the situation was even more complex. Within three concentric walls at Chogha Zanbîl temples were constructed for different gods of the new Suso-Elamite pantheon, and it seems that all the constituent elements in the Elamite confederation were represented (Steve, 1967). For example, Pinikir, Humban, Kirmašir, and Nahhunte probably belonged to the Awanite pantheon, whereas Ruhurater and Hišmitik were of Simaškian origin. Among the Anshanite gods the pair Napiriša and Kiririša, as well as Kilah-šupir and Manzat, can be mentioned. Other divinities of Suso-Mesopotamian origin, like Inšušinak, Išmekarab, Nabu, Šamaš, and Adad, helped to establish a balance between Elamite and Susian power. The creation of this city from nothing had more a political than a religious character, for it implied the cultural and political subjugation of Susiana by the old Elamite confederation. Curiously, this huge complex was quickly abandoned. No king other than Untaš-Napiriša left his name there, and Šutruk-Nahhunte reported having carried some inscriptions from Dur-Untaš to Susa. Nothing is known of the two immediate successors of Untaš-Napiriša, Kidin-Hutran II and Napiriša-Untaš. The campaigns led by the last sovereign of the dynasty, Kidin-Hutran III, against the Kassite kings Enlil-nadin-šumi and Adad-šuma-iddina of Babylonia are evidence that the good relations that had existed between the two royal families had quickly deteriorated.


The Šutrukid dynasty (ca. 1210-1100 B.C.E.). 

Under the Šutrukids Susa regained its greatness, which had been somewhat eclipsed by Chogha Zanbîl, and Elamite civilization shone in all its glory. The riches of Šutruk-Nahhunte and his three sons and successors, Kutir-Nahhunte II, Šilhak-Inšušinak, and Hutelutuš-Inšušinak permitted these new “kings of Anshan and of Susa” to undertake frequent military expeditions against Kassite Mesopotamia and to embellish the Elamite empire and particularly Susiana with luxuriously restored temples.

Šutruk-Nahhunte, son of Hallutuš-Inšušinak, perhaps following the Babylonian rejection of the Elamite claims to sovereignty in the Berlin letter discussed above, undertook several campaigns against Mesopotamia, whence he carried off a number of trophies, which he had inscribed with his name. It is thus known that he raided Akkad, Babylon, and Ešnunna, from the last of which he carried off the statues of Maništusu. It was he who brought to Susa such renowned documents as the code of Hammurabi and the stele of Naram-Sin. In 1158 B.C.E. he killed the Kassite king, Zababa-šuma-iddina, and placed his own eldest son, Kutir-Nahhunte, on the throne of Babylon. When Šutruk-Nahhunte died Kutir-Nahhunte succeeded him and continued his policy in Mesopotamia, putting an end to the long Kassite dynasty by deposing Enlil-nadin-ahi (1157-55 B.C.E.). He reigned only a short time before he was succeeded by his brother Šilhak-Inšušinak, who left a large number of inscriptions in Elamite, recording his numerous campaigns against Mesopotamia, on one hand, and, on the other, dedicating to the gods temples that he built or restored; for example, on one stele twenty temples “of the grove” in Susiana and Elam are mentioned (König, 1965, no. 48). The last king of the dynasty, Hutelutuš-Inšušinak, who called himself sometimes “son of Kutir-Nahhunte and of Šilhak-Inšušinak” and sometimes “son of Šutruk-Nahhunte, of Kutir-Nahhunte, and of Šilhak-Inšušinak,” was probably a son of Šutruk-Nahhunte by his own daughter, Nahhunte-utu (Vallat, 1985, pp. 43-50; idem, 1994), apparently another example of incest in the royal Elamite family. Less brilliant than his predecessors, Hutelutuš-Inšušinak had to abandon Susa briefly to Nebuchadnezzar (1125-04 B.C.E.). He took refuge at Anshan, where he built or restored a temple (Lambert; Reiner, 1973b), then returned to Susa, where his brother Šilhina-amru-Lagamar may have succeeded him. With this king Elamite power faded from the political scene for a long time.


The Neo-Elamite Period (1100-539 B.C.E.).

The essential element that distinguished the Neo-Elamite period was the massive arrival of Iranians on the Iranian plateau, which had the result of reducing still further what remained of the former Elamite empire. Although these invaders appeared only late in the Elamite texts, they were documented in Assyrian sources, where two groups of Medes were distinguished: the Medes or “powerful Medes” and the “distant Medes” or “Medes who live beside Mount Bikni, the mountain of lapis lazuli.” The first group, which occupied the region around Ecbatana (q.v.; modern Hamadân), was well-known because of its frequent and often warlike contacts with the Assyrians, but the second group, which encompassed all the tribes that held territories between the region around modern Tehran and eastern Afghanistan was not; the Achaemenids (and following them Herodotus) designated the latter group by their proper names: Parthians, Sagartians, Arians, Margians, Bactrians, Sogdians, and probably neighboring peoples. In the Assyrian annals, however, all these Iranian tribes were confused under the general appellation “distant Medes.” An identification of Mount Bikni with Damâvand (q.v.; Cameron, p. 149) or Alvand (Levine, 1974, pp. 118-19) must thus be rejected. An identification with the sources of lapis lazuli in Badakhšan was not only credited by some classical authors but also lends a certain coherence to history, whether recorded by Assyrians, Elamites, or Iranians (Vallat, 1993).

The slow progression of the Medes and the Persians across the plateau pushed the Elamites in the region of Anshan toward Susiana, which had been the second center of their empire for almost a millennium and a half. The country of Anshan gradually became Persia proper while Susiana then—and only then—became known as Elam. In most sources of the period, particularly those from Mesopotamia, Susiana is designated as Elam. Nevertheless, the Neo-Elamite kings (Table 3) still called themselves “king of Anshan and of Susa,” except for the last three, Ummanunu, Šilhak-Inšušinak II, and Tepti-Humban-Inšušinak.


Neo-Elamite I (ca. 1100-770 B.C.E.). 

No Elamite document from this first phase of two and a half centuries provides any historical information. The tablets from Malyan (Stolper, 1984), which M.-J. Steve (1992, p. 21) attributes to the beginning of the period, reveal that Anshan was still at least partially Elamite, for almost all the individuals mentioned in them had names of Elamite origin. Mesopotamian tablets from the same period offer very little additional information; it is known only that the Babylonian king Mar-biti-apla-usáur (984-79 B.C.E.) was of Elamite origin and that Elamite troops fought on the side of the Babylonian king Marduk-balassu-iqbi against the Assyrian forces under Šamši-Adad V (823-11 B.C.E.).


Neo-Elamite II (ca. 770-646 B.C.E.). 

Only after the middle of the 8th century B.C.E. does the Babylonian Chronicle (Grayson, 1975) provide the elements of a historical framework, particularly the role of Elam in the conflicts between Babylonians and Assyrians. The king Humban-nikaš (743-17 B.C.E.), son of Humban-tahra and brother of Humban-umena II, came to the aid of Merodach-baladan against the Assyrian Sargon II, which seems to have had little permanent result, as his successor, Šutruk-Nahhunte II (716-699), son of Humban-umena II, had to flee from Sargon’s troops during an attempt on the region of De@r in 710. The Elamite was again defeated by Sargon’s troops two years later; finally he was beaten by Sargon’s son Sennacherib, who dethroned Merodach-baladan and installed his own son Aššur-nadin-šumi on the throne of Babylon. Šutruk-Nahhunte was then murdered by his brother Hallušu, mentioned in the Babylonian Chronicle (698-93). After several skirmishes with the troops of Sennacherib, Hallušu was assassinated and replaced by Kudur, who quickly abdicated the throne in favor of Humban-umena III (692-89). Humban-umena recruited a new army, including troops from Ellipi, Parsumaš, and Anshan, in order to assist the Babylonians in the battle against the Assyrians at Halule on the Tigris in 691. Each side proclaimed itself the victor, but Babylon was taken by the Assyrians two years later. Elamite relations with Babylonia began to deteriorate during the reign of Humban-haltaš II (680-75), son of Humban-haltaš I (688-81), which may explain why his brother and successor, Urtak (674-64), at first maintained good relations with the Assyrian king Aššurbanipal (668-27), who helped him by sending wheat during a famine. But peaceable relations with Assyria also deteriorated, and it was after a new Elamite attack on Mesopotamia that the king died. He was replaced on the throne by Te-Umman (664-53 B.C.E.). The new king was the object of a new attack by Assurbanipal, who, after the battle of the Ulaï in 653, put an end to the king’s life. After this victory Aššurbanipal installed in power the son of Urtak, who had taken refuge in Assyria. Humban-nikaš II (Akkadian Ummanigaš) was installed at Madaktu, an advance post toward Mesopotamia, and Tammaritu at Hidalu, a retreat in the eastern mountains on the road to Anshan. These two towns thus functioned as capitals from the beginning of the 7th century, to the detriment of Susa. The war that broke out between Aššurbanipal and his brother Šamaš-šum-ukin, whom he had installed on the throne of Babylon, provided some respite for the Elamites, who profited from it to fight among themselves. Tammaritu captured the throne of Humban-nikaš II and was in turn driven out to Assyria by Indabigaš, who was himself killed by Humban-haltaš III in 648. The collapse of the Elamite kingdom seems even clearer when it is realized that a certain Umba-habua reigned at Bupila and that Pa’e was called “king of Elam” at Bît-Imbi. The coup de grace, however, was delivered by Aššurbanipal in 646, when he sacked Susa after having devastated the whole of Susiana (Streck; Aynard; Grayson, 1975).

The defeat of the Elamites was, however, less devastating than Aššurbanipal made it appear in his annals, for after his victory the Elamite kingdom rose from the ashes with Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Humban-umena III.


Neo-Elamite III (646-539?B.C.E.). 

So far nothing has been known about the century between the sack of Susa by Aššurbanipal in 646 and the conquest of Susiana, thus of Elam, by the Achaemenids, perhaps by Cyrus in 539. This apparent gap in the history was owing in fact to two errors of interpretation by modern scholars, who, first, considered that the Neo-Elamite kings Šutruk-Nahhunte, son of Humban-umena; Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Humban-umena; and sometimes even Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada, were the names of a single sovereign (Hinz, 1964, pp. 115-20). Now, it is possible to show that they belonged to three different individuals. The first, who reigned from 717 to 699, is known from the Mesopotamian sources. He was the son of Humban-umena II (ca. 743), whereas Šutur-Nahhunte was the son of Humban-umena III (692-89) and reigned after the fall of Susa. As for Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada, he was a petty king in the region of Èza/Malâmîr in the first half of the 6th century (Vallat, 1995).

The second error of interpretation was to have considered the names of the Elamite kings mentioned in the Mesopotamian documents as simple distortions of the names of kings known from their inscriptions at Susa. For example, it was believed that the name Šutruk-Nahhunte was rendered Šutur-Nahhunte in Assyria and Ištar-hundu in Babylonia. Again, it can be demonstrated from internal analysis of the Elamite documents that these identifications are erroneous and that, with the exception of Šutruk-Nahhunte II, all the Neo-Elamite kings known from Susian inscriptions reigned after Aššurbanipal’s sack of Susa (Vallat, 1996).

For this period no text furnishes a synchronism with Mesopotamia. Nevertheless, one group of more than 300 tablets (Scheil, 1909) can be dated by the iconography of their seal impressions to the first quarter of the 6th century. Analysis of the language of these documents, which was no longer classical but not yet Achaemenid, reveals details that permit a chronology in relation to other inscriptions. In addition, on one of these tablets a king (Ummanunu) and on another the name of Humban-kitin, who was probably the son of Šutur-Nahhunte, are mentioned (Vallat, 1995). It is thus possible to locate the reigns of Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Humban-umena III; Hallutaš-Inšušinak, son of Humban-tahra II; and Atta-hamiti-Inšušinak, son of Hutran-tepti in the second half of the 7th century. Ummanunu, who is mentioned in the tablets from the Acropolis, appears to have been the father of Šilhak-Inšušinak II, himself the father of Tepti-Humban-Inšušinak. These three individuals ruled in succession between 585 and about 539, at a time when Elamite royalty seems to have been fragmented among different small kingdoms, though it is not possible to determine that there was any sort of vassal relationship with the king of Susa. It is thus known that Šutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada ruled in the region of Malâmîr; Humban-šuturuk, son of Šati-hupiti, probably in the region of Kesat in what was later Elymais; and the first Achaemenids over the city of Anshan. It is interesting to note that the three kings at the end of the 7th century (Šutur-Nahhunte, Hallutaš-Inšušinak, and Atta-hamiti-Inšušinak) still called themselves “king of Anzan and of Susa” or “enlarger of the kingdom of Anzan and of Susa,” whereas Ummanunu and Šilhak-Inšušinak II bore the simple title “king,” without any further specification, and Tepti-Humban-Inšušinak did not even allude to his royal position! This last known king of Elam did boast, however, of having led a campaign in the Zagros.


The Achaemenid period (539-331 B.C.E.).

With the Achaemenids in general and Darius I (q.v.) in particular Susa regained its previous greatness, but Elam lost its independence, becoming the third “province” of the empire, after Persis and Media. Curiously, in that period, though the country was called Elam (Elamite Hatamtu, Akkadian NIM) in the sources, in Old Persian it was called Susiana (Uja). Susa eclipsed the other capitals, like Anshan and Pasargadae, in Cyrus’ time and even Persepolis, founded by Darius himself, and Ecbatana. It is striking, for example, that officials traveling to such distant destinations as Egypt, India, or Arachosia departed from Susa and returned to Susa, as confirmed in numerous archival tablets found at Persepolis (Hallock, nos. 1285-1579). Furthermore, these documents were written in Elamite, as if Darius had wished to make use of a class of scribes belonging to an already existing administration. The majority of royal inscriptions were written in Old Persian, Akkadian, and Elamite versions, but Elamite had by then absorbed Iranian influences in both structure and vocabulary. The Elamite gods, after having benefited from a final revival of the cult under Darius and Xerxes, disappeared forever from the documents. Elam was absorbed into the new empire, which changed the face of the civilized world at that time.


The Elamite Empire

The Iranian Plateau did not experience the rise of urban, literate civilization in the late 4th and early 3rd millennia on the Mesopotamian pattern, but the lowland Khuzestan did. It was the Elamite Civilization.


Geographically, Elam included more than Khuzestan; it was a combination of the lowlands and the immediate highland areas to the north and eaSusa remained in office, and the brother of the old viceroy nearest to him in age became the new viceroy. Only if all brothers were dead was the prince of Susa promoted to viceroy, thus, enabling the overlord to name his own son (or nephew) as the new prince of Susa. Such a complicated system of governmental checks, balances, and power inheritance often broke down, despite bilateral descent and levirate marriage (i.e., the compulsory marriage of a widow to her deceased husband’s brother). What is remarkable is how often the system did work; it was only in the Middle and Neo-Elamite periods that sons more often succeeded fathers to power.
Elamite history can be divided into three main phases: the Old, Middle, and Late, or Neo-Elamite, periods. In all periods, Elam was closely involved with Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria, sometimes through peaceful trade, more often through war. In like manner, Elam was often a participant in events on the Iranian Plateau. Both involvements were related to the combined need of all the lowland civilizations to control the warlike peoples to the east and to exploit the economic resources of the plateau.

1. Old Elamite Period
The earliest kings in the Old Elamite period may date to approximately 2700 BC. Already conflict with Mesopotamia, in this case apparently with the city of Ur, was characteristic of Elamite history. These early rulers were succeeded by the Awan (Shustar) dynasty.



The 11th king of this line entered into treaty relations with the great Naram-Sin of Akkad (c. 2254-c. 2218 BC). Yet, there soon appeared a new ruling house, the Simash dynasty (Simash may have been in the mountains of southern Luristan). The outstanding event of this period was the virtual conquest of Elam by Shulgi of the 3rd dynasty of Ur (c. 2094-c. 2047 BC). Eventually, the Elamites rose in rebellion and overthrew the 3rd Ur dynasty, an event long remembered in Mesopotamian dirges and omen texts. About the middle of the 19th century BC, power in Elam passed to a new dynasty, that of Eparti. The third king of this line, Shirukdukh, was active in various military coalitions against the rising power of Babylon, but Hammurabi (c. 1792-c. 1750 BC) was not to be denied, and Elam was crushed in 1764 BC. The Old Babylon kingdom, however, fell into rapid decline following the death of Hammurabi, and it was not long before the


Elamites were able to gain revenge. Kutir-Nahhunte I attacked Samsuiluna (c. 1749-c. 1712 BC), Hammurabi’s son, and dealt so serious a defeat to the Babylonians that the event was remembered more than 1,000 years later in an inscription of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. It may be assumed that, with this stroke, Elam once again gained independence. The end of the Eparti dynasty, which may have come in the late 16th century BC, is buried in silence.

2. Middle Elamite Period

After two centuries for which sources reveal nothing, the Middle Elamite period opened with the rise to power of the Anzanite dynasty, whose homeland probably lay in the mountains northeast of Khuzestan. Political expansion under Khumbannumena (c. 1285-c. 1266 BC), the fourth king of this line, proceeded apace, and his successes were commemorated by his assumption of the title “Expander of the Empire.” He was succeeded by his son, Untash-Gal (Untash (d) Gal, or Untash-Huban), a contemporary of Shalmaneser I of Assyria (c. 1274-c. 1245 BC) and the founder of the city of Dur Untash (modern Chogha Zanbil).


In the years immediately following Untash-Gal, Elam increasingly found itself in real or potential conflict with the rising power of Assyria. Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria (c. 1244-c. 1208 BC) campaigned in the mountains north of Elam. The Elamites under Kidin-Khutran, second king after Untash-Gal, countered with a successful and devastating raid on Babylonia.


In the end, however, Assyrian power seems to have been too great. Tukulti-Ninurta managed to expand, for a brief time, Assyrian control well to the south in Mesopotamia. Kidin-Khutran faded into obscurity, and the Anzanite dynasty came to an end.


After a short period of dynastic troubles, the second half of the Middle Elamite period opened with the reign of Shutruk-Nahhunte (c. 1160 BC). Two equally powerful and two rather less impressive kings followed this founder of a new dynasty, whose home was probably Susa, and, in this period, Elam became one of the great military powers of the Middle East. Tukulti-Ninurta died about 1208 BC, and Assyria fell into a period of internal weakness and dynastic conflict. Elam was quick to take advantage of this situation by campaigning extensively in the Diyala River area and into the very heart of Mesopotamia. Shutruk-Nahhunte captured Babylon and carried off to Susa the stela on which was inscribed the famous law code of Hammurabi. Shilkhak-In-Shushinak, brother and successor of Shutruk-




Nahhunte’s eldest son, Kutir-Nahhunte, still anxious to take advantage of Assyrian weakness, campaigned as far north as the area of modern Kirkuk. In Babylonia, however, the 2nd dynasty of Isin led a native revolt against such control as the Elamites had been able to exercise there, and Elamite power in central Mesopotamia was eventually broken. The Elamite military empire began to shrink rapidly. Nebuchadrezzar I of Babylon (c. 1124-c. 1103 BC) attacked Elam and was just barely beaten off. A second Babylonian attack succeeded, however, and the whole of Elam was apparently overrun, ending the Middle Elamite period.
It is noteworthy that during the Middle Elamite period, the old system of succession to, and distribution of, power appears to have broken down. Increasingly, son succeeded father, and less is heard of divided authority within a federated system. This probably reflects an effort to increase the central authority at Susa in order to conduct effective military campaigns abroad and to hold Elamite foreign conquests. The old system of regionalism balanced with federalism must have suffered, and the fraternal, sectional strife that so weakened Elam in the Neo-Elamite period may have had its roots in the centrifugal developments of the 13th and 12th centuries.
Neo-Elamite Period

A long period of darkness separates the Middle and Neo-Elamite periods. In 742 BC a certain Huban-nugash is mentioned as king in Elam. The land appears to have been divided into separate principalities, with the central power fairly weak.


The next 100 years witnessed the constant attempts of the Elamites to interfere in Mesopotamian affairs, usually in alliance with Babylon, against the constant pressure of Neo-Assyrian expansion. At times they were successful with this policy, both militarily and diplomatically, but, on the whole, they were forced to give way to increasing Assyrian power. Local Elamite dynastic troubles were, from time to time, compounded by both Assyrian and Babylonian interference. Meanwhile, the Assyrian army whittled away at Elamite power and influence in Luristan. In time, these internal and external pressures resulted in the near total collapse of any meaningful central authority in Elam. In a series of campaigns between 692 and 639 BC, in an effort to clean up a political and diplomatic mess that had become a chronic headache for the Assyrians, Ashurbanipal’s armies utterly destroyed Susa, pulling down buildings, looting, and sowing the land of Elam with salt.


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