It's that somewhat random time of year again, where I set aside a bit of time to celebrate a holiday that intersects with our narrative. This year that means Purim, the Jewish celebration of the Book of Esther. Esther tells the story of a Jewish woman turned Achaemenid queen in the court of Ahasuerus (maybe Xerxes, maybe an Artaxerxes, probably a bit of both). Esther and her cousin Mordecai have to foil the genocidal plans of t...
Late in the summer of 480 BCE, the Persian invasion force under King Xerxes came to blows with the Greek Allies for the first time. The famous twin battles at Thermopylae and Artemisium played out surrounded by a series of smaller sacks and skirmishes. After three days of fighting, the Greek attempt to block the Persians in narrow passes failed and the Persian army pushed south, conquering Phocis, Boeotia, and ultimately: Attica an...
Before launching into the actual warfare between the Persian Empire and Greek city states, it's worth examining how the Greeks prepared for war. Athens prepared by building a navy, everyone prepared by planning to deploy their armies, and we'll explore the whole history of the famous "300" Spartans.
Season's Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Shab-e Yalda Mubarak, or a pleasant solstice festival of your choice. This is not a holiday episode, but a fundraising announcement to tell you about some new features that will appear on the podcast, HistoryOfPersiaPodcast.com, and Patreon going into 2021. Just like last time, I hate to just ask for money, so I've included a mini-episode about Persian coinage.--- Sup...
From 484-481 BCE, Xerxes directed his subjects to prepare for war in Greece. This didn't just mean assembling soldiers and ships, but also preparing the infrastructure of the western empire to receive one of the largest armies ever assembled. 200,000 soldiers from across the Persian empire converged on the Hellespont in the spring of 480 and began the march to Hellas.
Casting Through Ancient Greece
In 486 BCE, Darius the Great died while Egypt was in revolt. Over the following years, Xerxes put his empire back in order. First in Egypt, then twice in Babylon, the new king defeated rebel kings. The traditional nobility of the two most ancient and prestigious satrapies in the empire were punished, and Xerxes asserted himself as the King of Kings.
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In 486 BCE, Darius the Great died and passed the Persian Empire on to his son, Xerxes. With plans to invade Greece in development, and Egypt in open revolt, the Achaemenid house had to pause and deal with the succession. Darius became the first king entombed at Naqsh e Rostam while Xerxes competed with his elder half-brother for power.
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This is the second part of the two-part discussion on the life and times of Zoroaster. This time, I discuss the Zoroastrian conception of reality and how it is portrayed in the Gathas as well as the legacy of Zarathustra in Zoroastrianism, Iran, and Europe.
Zoroastrianism: An Introduction by Jenny Rose
By audience demand, we're headed back in time. Before wrapping up the reign of Darius, it's time to look back to the bronze age and talk about Zarathustra Spitama, the prophet more often known in the west as Zoroaster. This is the first of a two part series on the life and teachings of Zoroaster, as presented in the Gathas - 5 hymns to Ahura Mazda believed to be composed by Zoroaster himself.
Darius the Great is one of Persia's most infamous kings for many reasons. An illegitimate heir who reunified the empire. The king of the first war with Greece. Conqueror of territory at the far reaches of Persian control. He was many things. He was also a reformer and an administrator who oversaw the implementation of new systems of taxation, record keeping, and political organization. Those reforms formed the basis of Persian ...
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.
There were many Duksis (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 Irdabam...
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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Nearly a decade after Aristagoras first went into revolt, and longer since the Athenians had reneged on their offerings of earth and water, the Persian Army came to take Darius' revenge on Athens. For the first time, a Persian army landed on the Greek mainland. They made their camp on an unremarkable open plain that would soon be seared into Greek history forever: Marathon.
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Even once the Ionian cities themselves were defeated, the consequences of their Revolt were ongoing. In 492 BCE, a new general, Mardonius, took to the field to settle matters in the Balkans. Two years later, the Persians turned their sites on Athens and Eretria in retribution for the aid they sent to the Ionians. In 490, Artaphernes and Datis launched the first Persian invasion of mainland Greece.
Even with Miletus defeated, the other rebel cities in shambles, Cyprus under control, and their armies victorious, the Persians had not heard the last of Ionian resistance. While the Greek rebels were fighting against the Persian Empire, the deposed tyrant Histiaeus was making plans to try and carve out a new niche for himself in Persian territory.
It is a dark time for the Ionian Revolt. Although Sardis has been destroyed, Persian troops have driven the Rebel forces from Aeolis and pursued them across Anatolia.
Facing the renewed Persian Fleet, a group of Greek cities led by Dionysius of Phocaea has established a new plan on the nearby island of Lade.
The Persian satrap Artaphernes, ready to end this rebellion, has dispatched the army and the navy to retake Miletus....
While three Persian land armies were spreading out over western Anatolia to contain and defeat the Ionian Greek rebels and their allies, a fourth army was headed to the island of Cyprus. The Cypriot King of Salamis, Onesilos had usurped his brother's throne and incited his neighbors to rebellion. In our first "Battle of Salamis" the Persians retake the strange and strategic island.
This time I have something a little different. In place of a regular narrative episode this week, I have my recent interview with Dr. Michael Bonner, author of the new book: The Last Empire of Iran. This jumps far ahead of our current point in the narrative story, all the way to the Sassanid Persian Empire of the 4th-8th centuries CE.
Dr. Bonner and I discussed the origins, sources, conflicts, and fall of Iran's last pre-Islami...
The History of Persia is now on Lyceum! Lyceum is a new podcast app with a hand-curated catalog of high quality educational podcasts ranging from history to science to politics to arts. It's a really awesome app that I personally recommend.
It is also a new venue to access Bonus episodes and ad free listening previously only available through Patreon.
Listen now in the App Store and Google Play or at Lyceum.fm--- Support...