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Achaemenid dynasty

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
House of Achaemenes
Place of originPersis
Founded705 BCE
FounderAchaemenes (traditional)
Final rulerDarius III
TitlesShah of PersiaKing of BabylonPharaoh of Egypt
Estate(s)Achaemenid Persian Empire
Dissolution330 BCE
Cadet branches

The Achaemenid dynasty (Old Persian: 𐏃𐎧𐎠𐎶𐎴𐎡𐏁𐎡𐎹 Haxāmanišyaʰ; Persian: هخامنشی Haxâmaneši; Ancient Greek: Ἀχαιμενίδαι Achaimenidai; Latin: Achaemenides)[1] was a royal house that ruled the Persian Empire, which eventually stretched from Egypt and the Balkans in the west to Central Asia and the Indus Valley in the east.[2][3][4]


The history of the Achaemenid dynasty is mainly known through Greek historians, such as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon. Additional sources include the Hebrew Bible, other Jewish religious texts, and native Iranian sources. According to Herodotus, the Achaemenids were a clan of the Pasargadae tribe:

These were the leading tribes, on which all the other Persians were dependent, namely the Pasargadae, Maraphians, and Maspioi. Of these, the Pasargadae are the most noble and include the family of Achaemenids, the Kings of Persia, who are descendants of Perseus.[5]

Darius the Great, in an effort to establish his legitimacy, later traced his genealogy to Achaemenes, Persian "Haxāmaniš".[6] His son was given as Teispes, and from him came in turn Ariaramnes, Arsames, and Hystaspes. However, there is no historical evidence for any of these.[7]


The Persian Empire was a hereditary monarchy, though the spirit of eldest son succession was often violated through palace intrigues. The historical kings as given in Greek sources are:

Achaemenid rulers
Cyrus I late 7th century BCE King of the city of Anshan in Persia[8]
Cambyses I early 6th century–559 BCE Vassal of Astyages, king of the Medes (r. 584-550), and married to his daughter Mandane.[9]
Cyrus II 559–530 BCE Conquered the Mede empire c. 550, thus founding the Persian Empire;[10] conquered Lydia in 545, which already controlled several Hellenic cities on the Anatolian coast; soon extended his control to include them; released the Hebrews enslaved by the Babylonians in 538.
Cambyses II 530–522 BCE Focused his efforts on conquering Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia.[11]
Bardiya (or Smerdis or Tanyoxarces) 522 BCE There is some confusion about this person. He was either Cambyses II's brother or an imposter - a Mede priest (Magus) pretending to be the brother.[12]
Darius I ("the Great") 522–486 BCE Cousin and brother-in-law of Cambyses II; succeeded to the throne as the result of a coup that ousted Bardiya;[13] continued the expansion of the Persian Empire into western Anatolia and Thrace; made war on the Scythians;[14] invaded mainland Greece in 490 to punish Athens for helping the Ionian city-states revolt in 499. This effort ended with the Athenian victory at the battle of Marathon.[15]
Xerxes I 486–465 BCE Quelled a revolt in Egypt,[16] then invaded Greece in 480 to finish what his father had started; ravaged Athens after the populace had abandoned the city, but lost sea and land battles at Salamis, Plataea, and Mycale and was forced to withdraw from both the Greek mainland and Anatolian Greece.[17] He probably signed a peace treaty with Athens in 469 after the Battle of Eurymedon (Peace of Callias).[18]
Artaxerxes I 465–424 BCE Came to the throne after a series of palace murders;[19] defeated an Athenian force in 454 that was aiding an Egyptian revolt (which began in 460);[20] granted asylum to Themistocles;[21] signed a second peace with Athens in 449 after losing a naval battle to Cimon’s fleet off Cyprus.[22]
Xerxes II 424 BCE First in line for the throne; murdered after 45 days by Sogdianus.[23]
Sogdianus (Secydianus) 424–423 BCE Bastard son of Artaxerxes I; murdered Xerxes II; murdered in turn by his half brother Ochus seven months later.[24]
Darius II ("Ochus") 423–404 BCE Entered into an alliance with Sparta after Athens’ losses during the Sicily campaign in 412.[25]
Artaxerxes II 404–358 BCE Was the target of Cyrus the Younger’s “anabasis” – his ill-fated march “up country” to usurp the throne from his brother;[26] supported Athens in the Corinthian War (supplying Conan with a fleet of ships),[27] then switched sides to support Sparta; was eventually able to dictate terms to both sides, imposing the “King’s Peace” in 387, which permanently ceded all the Anatolia cities to Persia.[28] Had to put down repeated revolts in Egypt, during which he hired out-of-work Athenian strategoi.[29] Endured a series of satrap revolts in the later years of his reign.[30]
Artaxerxes III ("Ochus") 358–338 BCE Also came to the throne as a result of a series of palace murders;[31] revolt of Artabazus in Phrygia;[32] additional revolts in Egypt, Phoenicia and Cyprus;[33] gave modest help to the Greeks’ attempt to rein in Philip II’s increasing power in Macedon (siege of Perinthus in 340).[34]
Artaxerxes IV ("Arses") 338–336 BCE Placed on the throne as an adolescent by Bagoas, advisor to the King, after Bagoas had poisoned Artaxerxes III; poisoned by Bagoas when he threatened to punish him for his crimes.[35]
Darius III 336–330 BCE Placed on the throne by Bagoas; poisoned Bagoas when he learned of a plot to kill him.[36] Spent most of his reign fighting Alexander III of Macedon; captured and killed by the Bactrian satrap Bessos after Alexander's conquest was complete.[37]
Artaxerxes V ("Bessus") 330–329 BCE Satrap of Bactria; assumed title of "King" after death of Darius III; tried to resist Alexander, but was betrayed by his generals and killed by Darius' brother, Oxathres.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kuhrt & Sancisi-Weerdenburg 2006.
  2. ^ "ACHAEMENID DYNASTY". www.iranicaonline.org. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  3. ^ Bresciani, Edda (1998). "EGYPT i. Persians in Egypt in the Achaemenid period". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol VIII, Fasc. 3. pp. 247–249.
  4. ^ Eusebius. Chronicle. p. 149.
  5. ^ Herodotus, The Histories, i.126.3. The Greeks believed that the Persians were descend from the hero Perseus. See vii.61.
  6. ^ "Behistun (3) - Livius". www.livius.org. Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  7. ^ "ACHAEMENID DYNASTY – Encyclopaedia Iranica". iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  8. ^ Cyrus II had his genealogy inscribed on a fired clay cylinder found in the foundations of the ancient city of Babylon.  It reads, in part: “I am Cyrus, king of the universe, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world, son of Cambyses, the great king, king of the city of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, the great king, ki[ng of the ci]ty of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, the great king, king of Anshan, the perpetual seed of kingship, whose reign Bel and Nabu love, and with whose kingship, to their joy, they concern themselves.” Now in the British Museum, which has a translation of the text on its website: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1880-0617-1941
  9. ^ The story of how Astyages dreamed that he would be supplanted by the son of his daughter, sent Cyrus away to be exposed on a mountainside, later met him as a young boy, relented his desire to kill him, and sent him to live with his parents was related in great detail by Herodotos, i.95-122.
  10. ^ Herodotos related how Cyrus eventually fulfilled the prophecy (prior note) and conquered the Medes in i.123-130.
  11. ^ Herod., iii.1-38.
  12. ^ [1] The brother and the Magus were called by other names in various ancient sources.  According to Herod. (iii.61 ff.) both brother and Magus were named Smerdis; according to Ctesias of Cnidos (Persika, xii, translated by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones and James Robson, Ctesias’ History of Persia: Tales of the Orient, London: Routledge, 2010, 177 ff.) the brother was Tanyoxarces, the Magus, Sphandadates; according to the  Behiston Inscription (Persian text, cited above), the brother was Smerdis, the Magus, Gaumâta; in the Elamite text of the inscription, the Brother was Bardiya, the Magus, Orospastes. (https://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/bardiya-son-of-cyrus).
  13. ^ Herod., iii.70-79, 85-87.
  14. ^ Herod., book iv.
  15. ^ Herod., vi.95-116.
  16. ^ Herod., vii.7.
  17. ^ Herod., books vii-ix.
  18. ^ There are any number of sources for the treaty. For this as the possible date, see Plato, Menexenus, 241d-242a.
  19. ^ Ancient sources describing these events include, Diodorus Siculus, Ctesias, Justin, Aelian, and Aristotle. Their various version have points of agreement and divergence. See Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander, 563-567 for a review and summary.
  20. ^ Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, i.104, 109-10.
  21. ^ Thuc., i.137.3-138.2.
  22. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, xii.4.4-6.
  23. ^ "Photius' Excerpt of Ctesias' Persica - Livius". www.livius.org. Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  24. ^ Ctesias, §49-52; Diodorus, xii.71. See also Briant, 588-91.
  25. ^ Thuc., viii.17-18, 58.
  26. ^ Related in Xenophon's Anabasis.
  27. ^ Xenophon, Hellenica, iv.3.11, 8.1-2, 8.6-10; Diodorus, xiv.39.1-3.
  28. ^ Xen., v.1.25-36.
  29. ^ Diodorus, xv.29; Demosthenes, Against Timotheus, xlix.3; Plutarch, Life of Artaxerxes, §24.
  30. ^ Diodorus, xv.90.
  31. ^ Plutarch, Life of Artaxerxes, §26-30; Justin, x.1-3; Aeolian, Varieties of History, ix.42; Valerius Maximus, Facta et dicta memorabilia, ix.2.7.
  32. ^ Diodorus, xvi.21-22.1-2.
  33. ^ See Briant, 682-85 for discussion and sources.
  34. ^ Diodorus, xvi.75.1.
  35. ^ Diodorus, xvii.5.3-5.
  36. ^ Diodorus, xvii.5.6.
  37. ^ Curtius, History of the Life and Reign of Alexander the Great, v.8.35; Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, xi.15; Diodorus Siculus, xvii.73
  38. ^ Curtius, vii.5.20-22; Justin, xii.5; Diodorus Siculus, xvii.83.7.


  • Briant, Pierre, From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire (2002). Translated by Peter T. Daniels. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns. ISBN 1-57506-031-0.
  • Kuhrt, Amélie; Sancisi-Weerdenburg, Helen (2006). "Achaemenids". In Salazar, Christine F.; Landfester, Manfred; Gentry, Francis G. (eds.). Brill’s New Pauly. Brill Online.