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

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