Episode 15: The Army That Conquered The World

The Immortals at court as depicted on the walls of Darius I’s palace in Susa with colored bricks. You can see the elaborate colors and patterns of their robes and what equipment they carried. If you look on their front feet, you can see the silver counterweight that gave them the name “Apple Bearers.” Photo from Jakob Harlun via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

In preparation for Cambyses’ invasion of Egypt, we’re covering the early Persian armies. These are the armies that helped Cyrus the Great conquer the known world. They started as troops levied from Persia and Media, but grew to incorporate every facet of the empire and built on the history of Near Eastern warfare to form a disciplined and organized system.

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Episode 14: Princes, Princesses, Kings, and Queens

Bardiya/Smerdis (left) and Cambyses (right) as depicted in the 15th century by William Caxton.

The narrative lurches forward again with a discussion of the new cast, so to speak. Meet Cambyses, Atossa, Bardiya, Artystone, and Roxane: the children of Cyrus the Great and the new royal family of the Persian Empire. This time I’m breaking down marriage customs, inheritance rights, and political training. Or to put that another way: incest, dividing the empire, and the next round of political power plays. Cyrus the Great is gone, and his empire would never be quite the same again. 

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Episode 13: Kingship 101

One of the possible locations for Cambyses’ tomb: a ruined tower at Pasargadae, also called the Prison of Solomon. Credit to Soroush90gh via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

What did it mean to be an early king of Persia? They were divine, but not quite. Warriors and economists. The king of Persia, but also Babylon, Egypt, and many other lands. Legitimacy came in many forms, and this episode explores them.

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Episode 12: Iranian Religion

Artists depiction of Zoroaster, founder and prophet of Zoroastrianism, in Yazd, Iran. Image credit: Msanta20 via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

It’s time to introduce religion into the mix, starting with the origins and background of ancient Iranian traditions in general, and then narrowing in on the most famous and significant: Zoroastrianism. This episode explores the traditions and gods of the Indo-European steppe peoples as they migrated and became the Iranians, Persians and Medes included. I’ll also discuss the reforms and doctrines of the ancient prophet Zoroaster who established a religion centered around a single supreme god, Ahura Mazda.

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Episode 11: King of Kings

Tomyris dipping the head of Cyrus the Great in a dish of blood. Queen Tomyris Receiving the Head of Cyrus, King of Persia by Mattia Preti, 17th century.

Returning to the narrative, it’s time to see what Cyrus got up to in the final decade of his rule, after conquering Babylon. He traveled around his empire, between a collection of important capital cities, founded cities, and constructed monuments. He also conquered. This episode pushes the narrative eastward into the provinces of Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia and explores some of the events that happened there. Then it’s time to finish the story of Cyrus the Great, with one last campaign on the northeastern frontier.


Episode 10: Governing An Empire

King Cyrus (front) with future Satrap Harpagus (back) as depicted in the 18th Century Tapestry: The Defeat of Astyages. Designed by Maximilien de Haese, Woven by Jac. van der Borght (1771-1775). Currently housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

What exactly is a Satrap? Is there such a thing as a Satrapy? How did all of these people manage to talk to one another? All this, and more as the History of Persia celebrates double-digits with a break down of how the Persian Empire was actually organized and managed during the Teispid Period.

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Episode 9: Who Are You Again?

Gallery of art and architecture described in the episode, click on a picture to see it full size. Left to right: Palace S at Pasargadae, the Seal of Cyrus I sketched, side by side Gate R today and restored sketch. Bottom: Tomb of Cyrus the Great. Captions posted as a comment on each image All images from Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

This time we’re taking a break from the narrative for a bit. Now that this show has all of Cyrus’s major conquests under its belt, its probably worth getting a sense of what these Persians were actually like. This episode covers art, architecture, clothing, and the major cultural influences of the early Persian period, under the Teispid kings. Let’s see what the world around Cyrus the Great might have looked like.

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Family Tree: The Next Generation

The insanity that is trying to keep track of these people. Each color circle corresponds to a different person. Each circle is that person being duplicated to try and keep all of this straight. This is really going to be the stage that we need these trees the most.

The next stage in the Achaemenid Family Tree is here with the children of Cyrus the Great, and a few other necessaries. Now with short biographical blurbs, references for what episode to find each figure in, and incest. Quite a few entries, especially the children of Cyrus, have references for episodes that won’t be released for many more weeks, but might give you a sense of my trajectory if you poke around enough.

A new, online only option is available for those that don’t want to download the HTML version through Geneanet. It’s not as nice of an interface as the download, for full explanation, check out the Family Tree page from the menu above. Download instructions available there as well.

My suggestion, even though we haven’t gotten to her yet, click on Atossa, daughter of Cyrus the Great.

UPDATED DOWNLOAD as of April 16, 2019

Geneanet online link