Episode 24: Darius the Great

From The History of Darius the Great by Jacob Abbott, 1904

With most of the Persian Empire firmly under his control in 519 BCE, Darius the Great set off to earn that title by conquering surrounding territories and spreading Achaemenid territory to its greatest ever extent. He pushed the boundaries of the known world and established an empire that stretched that spanned nearly 4,000 miles from North Africa to the Indus River Valley.
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Episode 23: The Lyin’ Kings

The major figures of the Behistun Inscription, from left to right: The Noblemen; Gobryas and Intaphrenes. The King; Darius. The Rebels; Gaumata (beneath Darius), Assina, Nidintu-Bel, Fravartish, Martiya, Ciçataxma, Vahyazdata, Arakha, Frada, and Skunkha.

Picking right back up in the late summer of 521 BCE, I’m talking about the rest of the rebellions against Darius. That’s the last three campaigns against the Liar Kings from the Behistun Inscription, the strangely absent rebellion in Egypt, and the other rebels that were excluded from the famous monument before concluding with personal betrayal for the new King of Kings.
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Episode 18: The Tyrant and The Kings

Polykrates by Mikhail I. Kozlovsky, 1790 in bronze, in the Russian Museum. The piece depicts the crucifixion of the tyrant. From Stebanoid via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

The story of Polykrates, the Tyrant of Samos, intersects repeatedly with the history of the Persian empire during his life. From his rise to power in the vacuum left when Miletus was conquered, to his alliance with Egypt against the Persians, and finally to his death on the orders of a Satrap. His story feeds directly into the history around Oroites, the Satrap of Sparda (the kingdom formerly known as Lydia). Oroites tried to seize some power for himself in events that prepare our narrative for the chaotic years following Cambyses’ death.
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Episode 17: The Mad King

Cambyses killing the Apis Bull as depicted in a sketch from the 1881 Illustrated History of the World from Ward, Lock, and Co.

The story of Cambyses isn’t just the conquest of Egypt, but also the dark side of it. According to Herodotus Cambyses was a mad king, driven to paranoia and acts of terrible violence while he was Egypt. The Greek Historian, as well as the Behistun Inscription, tell how Cambyses II murdered his family members and drove his own empire into open revolt. This episode describes the Persian tragedy of the King of King’s fall into madness.

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Episode 16: Pharaoh Cambyses

In 525 BCE, the Persian army crossed into Egypt, in what seems to have been the culmination of years of antagonism between the the new empire and the last great kingdom of the Near East. To accomplish his task, the new King of Kings, Cambyses, mustered all his resources. He assembled a huge land army, constructed Persia’s first navy, and formed alliances from the Greek islands in the Aegean to tribal kings in Arabia. Over the following three years, he established and consolidated Persian rule over the kingdom of the two lands, bringing one of the oldest civilizations in the world under Persian domination.
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Archaeologists May Have Found 2,500-year-old Persian Military Base in Northern Israel

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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 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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