Persia and Alexander

  1. The Persian Empire

    1. Much of what we know about Achamenid Persia come from Greek and Roman sources, as most Persian sources have been lost 

    2.  Cyrus the Great (mid-500s BCE) expands on old Persian heartland (Iran) to build major empire, under the Achaemenid dynasty

      1. initially an empire of conquest and loot

      2. needed to expand in order to pay for expansion

      3. in time becomes more trade based

      4. connected into monsoonal, Mediterranean, and central Asian trade routes (Silk Road)

      5. invested heavily in roads and communications, canals

    3. Toleration as empire-building tool

      1. left many local laws and customs in place

      2. promoted local religions, helping to build and maintain temples

      3. this promoted loyalty, discouraged rebellion

      4. Promoted an ideology of an empire of all nations

      5. Persian Empire c. 500 BCE

  2. Greece

    1. Greek homeland resource poor, but productive in olives

    2. Turn to sea trade and colonization for survival

    3. City-state based culture - high levels of completion between city-states

    4. Emphasis on citizenship and civic duties, defined differently in different cities

      1. Sparta develops a notion of citizenship based on discipline, self-sacrifice, courage, military service

      2. Athens develops a form of citizenship participation in civic institutions, and a modest degree of democracy,

        1. all male citizens vote in the Ekklisia after c.500 BCE

        2. could pass legislation, conduct trials, declare, war, exile citizens

      3. wide variation in other Greek cities

    5. Along with Phoenicians, become key figures in Mediterranean commerce and trade

    6. Begin colonization in Black Sea and Mediterranean for excess population, new trade opportunitie


  3. The Greco-Persian Wars

    1. Persia expanded into Greek region in order to control trade routes and gain tribute

    2. In rare display of unity, peninsular Greeks fight back

      1. Athens triggers Persian attack by aiding the Ionian Rebellion of Greek city-states under Persian rule in Anatolia (modern Turkey)

      2. But Persia is defeated in two invasion attempts in 490 BCE and 480 BCE

        1. Darius I attempts to conquer all Greece in 490 BCE with a relatively small force, but is defeated by Athens and its allies at Marathon (this gives rise to the legend of Pheidippides)

        2. Xerxes I returns in 480 BCE with a larger force. Though the Greek stand at Thermopylae is best remembered, naval victories by the Greeks sealed the Persian defeat

        3. Notably, Macedonia, Alexander's home region, is liberated from Persian rule by the Greek victory in 480/79 BCE

    3. Athens attempts to impose empire on Greeks, sparking the Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 BCE)

    4. Weakened by these wars, peninsular Greece in conquered by Phillip of Macedon (also called Macedonia) in 338 BCE

  4. Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE)

    1. Inherits Macedonian throne when Phillip is assassinated in 336 BCE

      1. Macedonians spoke a Greek dialect, and by the time of Alexander had absorbed much of the culture of the Greeks to the south (Attic Greece)

      2. But the culture was different: herditary monarchy vs. city-state "republics"; more rural, fewerer and smaller cities, more dependent on ranching

    2. Begins immediate path of conquest in Persian lands

    3. Conquers Persian Empire, Egypt - pushes into central Asia and India/Pakistan region

    4. Empire and route of Alexander

    5. Death in 323 BCE leads to collapse of empire

    6. Hellenistic Kingdoms

      1. Alexander's empire dissolves into a set of Greek-ruled kingdoms

      2. the farther from Greece, the sooner Greek control fades (though in eastern Mediterranean remain in control in most areas until rise of Rome)

      3. spreads Greek culture and language in a broad area moving east from the Mediterranean