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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Interview: Sean Manning

Armed Force in the Teispid-Achaemenid Empire: Past Approaches, Future Prospects by Sean Manning (Franz Steiner Verlag, 2021).

I sat down with Dr. Sean Manning, author of the new book: Armed Force in the Teispid-Achaemenid Empire: Past Approaches, Future Prospects to discuss the military might of the Persian Empire (and why it’s so hard to find anything written about it). That includes both the academic nuances of which sources deserve primacy, and ever exciting topics of arms, armor, and tactics.

Dr. Manning’s research represents an invaluable resource for anyone trying to engage with the military history of Achaemenid Persia – especially when we try to disentangle it from the Greek Wars.
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PhD Dissertation via the University of Innsbruck


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The Scythians: Nomad Warriors of the Steppe by Barry Cunliffe

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Episode 41: The Greatest

Head of an Achaemenid nobleman or prince via Wikimedia Commons

To round out our series on Darius’ royal family, it’s only fair to talk about the men of the family. After all, like it or not, the narrative will follow them going forward. Grandpa Arsames, the fascinating Hystaspes, and all of Darius’ brothers, sons, and cousins get their own time in the spotlight. Then, it’s time to prepare for the competition to become the Greatest.
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Episode 40: Heiresses to the Empire

Cylinder Seal of Irdabama’s steward, Rashda. Depicting a royal woman and her servants in Neo-Elamite style (Brosius, 2006).

There were many Duksish (royal women) in Darius’ household, and there would be many more in future generations of the Achaemenid family, but three women in particular standout above the rest. Most famously we know of Atossa, daughter of Cyrus and mother of Xerxes, from our Greek sources. Thanks to the documents of the Persepolis Fortification Archive we also know about the remarkable wealth and influence of Artystone and Irdabama as Persian women in the early 5th century BCE.
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Episode 39: Rise of Achaemeneis

The head of a bronze statue often used to represent Achaemenid women (though it may actually be a beardless man) via Livius

Our sources for Achaemenid history are clearly biased towards the stories of men in the ancient world, but we actually know a lot about Achaemenid women. To fully understand the whole royal family, it’s time to get a better understanding of the role Royal Women – the Duksish – played in Persian society.
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Re- Introducing The Persian Royal Family Tree Project

I am pleased to announce some big developments in the ongoing family tree project. First and foremost, I was finally able to eliminate the confusing Dropbox-download and online Geneanet options. The full family tree is now completely online. Unfortunately I still can’t host it here because of the limitations enforced by WordPress. Instead, I’ve created a dedicated Wix site just for the family tree. See here or the Family Tree tab of the menu above.

The second major announcement is that I have completed the Achaemenid Family tree. Everyone from Achaemenes to Darius III and Alexander is now included. In the Complete 700-700 version of the tree (see here), this extends to most of the foreign dynasties with marriage-connections to the Achaemenids. There are some some further branches of the Argead Macedonian family to add, but the Achaemenid portions are complete.