THE ACHAEMENID EMPIRE
Larger than any empire before it, the Achaemenid Empire placed Persia at the centre of a 2-million-square-mile territory, stretching from eastern Europe to Pakistan. It started to grow during the reign of Cyrus the Great, leader of a nomadic ethnic group called the Persians. After uniting his own people, he continued to invade the lands east and west of Iranian territory. Implementing a system in which local leaders were given satrapies (or power over their own domains), Cyrus the Great could devolve administrative duties while retaining the position of ‘King of Kings’.
Under Darius the Great, the empire stretched to its greatest extent. Continuing to make use of Cyrus’s strategy, the Achaemenid kingdoms thrived, even taking some territory from their arch-rival, Greece. Subjugating large parts of Macedonia, Persia was well-positioned for an invasion of the rest of the country.
However, Xerxes’ failed invasion meant all Persia’s European dominions were lost. But Persia’s dealings with Greece were not yet over. In 334 BC, over a century after Xerxes’ death, Alexander the Great would plough through Mesopotamia, claiming much of its territory for Macedonia. Recognising the genius of its creators, though, he kept the old administrative systems in place.
The Macedonian general also made sure to pay his respects to the empire’s founder, Cyrus, when he visited his tomb in Pasargadae. Horrified that people had looted it, he insisted upon a full restoration of the legendary emperor’s tomb. It has become a national symbol of Iran, a place where people come together to celebrate Iranian New Year and the man who founded their great civilisation.
When Alexander the Great saw the destruction, he ordered that Cyrus’s tomb be restored
The tomb of Cyrus the Great was looted and the body removed