65: Peace of Callias

Map of the approximate boundaries of the Persian Empire and Greek leagues in the Aegean after the Peace of Callias via Ian Mladjov.

The treaty known as the Peace of Callias supposedly ended the second Greco-Persian War with a formal agreement between Athens and Persia. However, its very existence is the topic of intense historical debate. Despite this, hostilities did cease in 449 BCE, so something must have happened, right?
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64: Fight to the End

A cylinder seal depicting the Achaemenid King executing an Egyptian Pharaoh, usually identified with Cambyses, Artaxerxes I, or Artaxerxes III via Wikimedia

The city of Memphis spent almost five years under siege from 459-454 BCE, as the rebel Pharaoh Inaros tried to take the Egyptian capital and oust the Persian government with the aid of the Athenians. When Persian reinforcements arrived, the rebellion was swept aside with apparent ease. Inaros was captured and Athens was sent reeling, only to make one final attempt on Persian territory in Cyprus.
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63: The Little Pharaoh That Could(n’t)

After Artaxerxes I came to power in 465 BCE, a minor rebellion broke out in western Egypt led by the would-be Pharaoh Inaros II. Inaros quickly came to a stalemate with the local satrap, but in 460 BCE the Egyptian rebel reached out to Athens for aid. The Athenians came in force, broke the stalemate, killed the satrap (and Artaxerxes’ uncle), and joined Inaros as he marched on Memphis.
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62: Death In Quick Succession

Themistocles standing before Artaxerxes for the first time illustrated by Walter Crane in The story of Greece : told to boys and girls by Mary Mcgregor via Wikimedia

In late 465 BCE, Xerxes I – the King of Kings – was murdered in his sleep by his own captain of the guard, Artabanus the Hyrcanian. Artabanus and a group of highly placed conspirators chose their victim’s third son, Artaxerxes to be their puppet on the throne and moved to secure their coup. Unbeknownst to them, Artaxerxes was not easily manipulated. When the conspirators turned on one another, the Achaemenid Empire plunged headfirst into the age of Artaxerxes with a new round of civil wars.
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Elamite Teaser

It completely slipped my mind that the next episode would be due out on Thanksgiving Day. I’ve got family sleeping in my office this week so that’s not happening, but I didn’t want to leave you completely hanging. Fortunately, there might be some pre-Persian history that catches your interest over on The Oldest Stories.
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61: Blood on the Eurymedon

Most of the decade following the first offensive Greek campaigns against Xerxes’ forces are lost to us. There are hints at great battles and rapid Athenian expansion, but almost nothing is certain until the Battle of the Eurymedon. In the mid-460s BCE, the Persian fleet had recovered enough to stage a renewed offensive, but the Athenian general Kimon had advanced warning. He commanded a fleet from Athens’ Delian League and made a preemptive strike in southern Anatolia, where he destroyed the fleet and routed the Persian army. This battle at the mouth of the Eurymedon River once again changed the direction of Persia’s war with Athens, effectively kicking Persian military power out of the Aegean for decades to come.

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60: Given Against The Demons

The Vendidad is a strange and unique document. It’s one part mythology, one part law code, and one part ritual manual. A collection of phrases and verses from a partly remembered oral tradition were composed at point A, strung together at point B, and written down at point C, all seemingly centuries apart. Dogs are great. Tortoises are not. Otters are the best. Flies are the worst. Strap in, and Do. Not. Hurt. The Water Dogs.

Dogs are sacred, so you’re absolutely getting pictures of my sacred “house dog.”

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59: Holy War

An Old Persian copy of the Daiva Inscription discovered at Persepolis, via Livius.org

Early in Xerxes’ reign, an infamous and dramatic story of religious conflict was inscribed at Persepolis. When Xerxes became king he put down a rebellion, but in the process encountered a community dedicated to a god or gods he considered false and immoral. As consequence he destroyed their sanctuary and worshiped Ahura Mazda in their place.
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58: Persia’s First Family

Xerxes depicted in Guillaume Rouillé’s Promptuarium Iconum Insigniorum, 1553

As the reign of another king draw’s toward a close, it’s time to look at the royal family. Xerxes’ household was like a microcosm of early Achaemenid history. His mother, Atossa, drew a direct connection back to Cyrus, his uncles, cousins, and siblings were woven into the political scene of his reign. Herodotus’ catalog of Persian commander’s is also a catalog of the Great King’s family, and many of them held positions of power as Satraps across the empire. The royal family is also an opportunity to look forward, and introduce the next generation of kings, satraps, generals, and rebels.
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57: Xerxes at Home

The modern ruins of Xerxes’ Gate of All Nations via Wikimedia.

It’s time to return to the imperial heartland and tour the “city” that Xerxes’ built. The foundations may have been laid by Darius, but Xerxes was the one who turned Persepolis from a construction project into a shining palace complex in the Iranian plateau.
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