'Ancient Histoy of Iran' Midterm Essay

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'Ancient Histoy of Iran' Midterm Essay

Post  Athkara on Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:31 am

Thought i'd post the second part (haven't done the first part yet) of my midterm for 'Ancient Histoy of Iran' just for the hell of it. I've got 2 more days before it's due. Feel free to proof-read it and offer any suggestions (please... I'm just lazy and don't like having to do my own work). Rolling Eyes

Also, I apologize beforehand if the essay actually turns out to be a fun/interesting read. Laughing

---------Managing an Empire

---------Under the reign of Achaemenid kings, the Persian Empire reached a truly astonishing extent – not just in land area, but equally grand in cultural and religious makeup. Key to this was the martial might of the Achaemenid military machine. Without a powerful army the empire would fall, as has happened to many before and since. For the army is the final instrument, of last resort not only in maintaining civil order, but more importantly, in protecting against foreign enemies. However, this is not to say that Achaemenid armies were the sole force that maintained the empire; the institutions of government and religion, and the practice of domestic policy, external diplomacy, and propaganda provided the necessary framework for the survival and prosperity of the empire.

---------First, an examination of the geographical boundaries of the Persian Empire will help provide a contextual understanding of how and why the Achaemenids occupied the territories they did. Starting in India, the Indus River was the furthest eastern extent. To the northeast the Amu Darya was the natural barrier between the sedentary peoples of the empire and the nomads of the steppes. Further west, the territory between the Black and the Caspian seas was barred by the Caucasus Mountains. Asia Minor was protected by the Black, Aegean, and Mediterranean Seas. To the south Egypt bordered the Sahara Desert, and Syria and Mesopotamia bordered the Arabian Desert. Combined, these geographical features created natural barriers that were defensible and helped separate the Persian Empire from its neighbors.

---------As has been mentioned earlier, the Persian military was the final source of authority which enabled the Achaemenids to rule their vast territory. For it is not possible, in all cases, to convince a people to be peaceful subjects through kindness and tolerance; nor is it always possible to encourage peace with foreign powers through diplomacy alone. However a conquered people do not like being reminded that their kings rule over them by virtue of a strong army. Thus the rulers used more sublime language to establish their legitimacy.
For instance, an inscription made by Darius I in Persepolis, “(1—5) Great Ahuramazda, greatest of gods – he created Darius the king, he bestowed on him the kingdom. By the favor of Ahuramazda Darius is king… (12—22) Says Darius the King: May Ahuramazda bear me aid, with all the gods. And may Ahuramazda protect this land from an enemy army, from famine, from the Lie!... This I pray for as a boon from Ahuramazda, with all the gods!” (Boyce, p.105). Darius adopts a religious diction here and portrays himself as a savior, chosen by Ahura Mazda to protect the people from evil; this inscription acts as propaganda more than anything else. A more literal inscription might have read ‘…By the grace of Persian armies Darius is king… my armies will protect this land from any enemy army…’ For it must be kept in mind that when Darius assumed the throne in 522BC he was faced with revolts in Elam, Babylonia, Media, Armenia, Sagartia, Parthia, Margiana, Persis, and Arachosia (Frye, p.98 ).

---------Another note to the importance of the Achaemenid military were Darius’ reforms, which created standing, professional armies known as spada or ‘combined forces’ which made clear divisions between infantry, cavalry, camels, chariots, and elephants. To make best use of the armies, they would need to be able to respond to crises quickly. Accordingly, “There were royal garrisons all over the country, divided between city (arka) and country (chora) garrisons. Their maintenance was ensured by the satraps from local resources… The function of the garrisons was the protection of the country and the quick mobilization of detachments in critical periods.” (Wiesehofer, p.93). However, with a large seaboard, a navy is necessary to work in concert with a land army in defensive or aggressive operations. Because of this necessity the Achaemenids maintained a fleet which they “kept in constant readiness and mainly stationed in Cilicia.” (Wiesehofer, p. 93).

---------It is apparent that Achaemenid kings knew propaganda was a valuable tool which could be used to help legitimize their rules. For instance, in an inscription by Darius I at Naqsh-i Rustam, “What is right, that is my desire. I am not a friend to the wicked man. I am not hot-tempered. What things develop in my anger, I hold firmly in check by my thinking power.” (Boyce, p.105). This is clearly propaganda; Darius does not offer specific examples, but merely repeats that he is essentially a just ruler. Religion was also an important aspect of the propaganda, such as in the Behistun inscription, “(VI.61—9) Says Darius the King: ‘For this reason Ahuramazda bore (me) aid, and the other gods who are, because I was not disloyal, I was not a follower of the Lie (Drauga, = Av. Drug), I did not do wrong – neither I nor my family. I walked in justice.” (Boyce, p.104). From Darius I onwards, the Achaemenid kings make constant references to Ahura Mazda in their inscriptions. Thus it can be deduced that the Achaemenids practiced Zoroastrianism and adopted it as the main religion of the empire.

---------The Achaemenids clearly resettled people to maintain public order, “…the Achaemenids practiced the time-honored custom of transferring populations. Herodotus alone tells us of the Egyptians sent to Bactria (IV.204), Thracians to Asia (V.15), Ionians to Susa (VI.20) and Greeks in Khuzistan (VI.119).” (Frye, p.118). Peripheral benefits of this practice would have been to stimulate economic growth in the regions these populations were sent to, and also provide a larger pool of men who could be conscripted into the armies in time of war. In fact the Han dynasty in China instituted this same practice; relocating surrendered nomad peoples to where they could be kept under control, and establishing military colonies along the northern border to protect against incursions by the aggressive nomads of Inner Mongolia. The presence of this same practice of transferring populations in the Persian Empire – and the at-times troublesome presence of the nomadic peoples of Central Asia, suggests it was likely used for the same reasons and to the same effects as in the Han dynasty.

---------This brings up another point about the Achaemenids; in order to carry out such major programs, and maintain and coordinate large armies, the power of the government needed to be centralized. When Darius I came to the throne, he did just that. Under Darius, the empire was divided into twenty-three satrapies; each governed by a Satrap, and in some instances co-governed by local kings.

---------While the twenty-three satrapies helped reduce the work of governing the empire to a manageable level, it was the network of roads that allowed this to happen. For central to such a governing system is the communication between the imperial government and the satrapies; in fact, “The central administration did keep in close contact with provincial centers by developing the Assyrian tradition of an efficient ‘postal service’ over a network of roads, perhaps the most famous of which was the royal road from Sardis to Susa.” (Frye, p.110). Further, “These roads were equally suitable for military purposes such as the rapid transportation of soldiers, military vehicles, material and luggage, and for civilian use, including the conveyance of men, animals and goods and the transmission of news.” (Wiesehofer, p.77).

---------Also of immense importance to the empire was the wealth it could accumulate. Being such a large country, the Achaemenids had ready access to many markets of trade, which would help produce large revenues that could be taxed. The most profitable form of trade was sea trade. Darius I recognized this and completed a canal linking the Nile River to the Red sea, allowing easy trade between the East and West. Darius had further ideas, and “was also interested in developing Elam into a ‘maritime province’. Thus Susa was eventually to be connected with the sea, and – by settling (deported) Greeks and Carians with maritime experience in southern Babylonia and Elam – Persian maritime authority in the Gulf was to be secured.” (Wiesehofer, p.78 ). This project however, was never undertaken.

---------In the end, the Achaemenid Empire enjoyed the success and greatness it achieved because of a competent and efficient coordination of its military strength, centralized government, religion, and propaganda. Under their collective reign Persia flourished and experienced great prosperity. However, once their armies deteriorated to where they were not sufficiently strong enough to repel foreign invaders, the empire was doomed to fall; as it did when faced with the might of the Macedonians under Alexander.

_________________
The emperor, escaping into an inner apartment, said, “Why didn’t you warn me earlier, before things came to this!”
The eunuch replied, “I didn’t dare speak out, and that’s why I’m still alive. Anyone who had dared speak out would have been put to death long ago – he wouldn’t be around now!”

– Shiji: Biography of the Second Emperor of Qin, Qin Ershi
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Re: 'Ancient Histoy of Iran' Midterm Essay

Post  Athkara on Thu Feb 07, 2008 6:00 pm

Yay, here's part one. Now I can start worrying about my English midterm tomorrow. pale

---------Religion and the Achaemenids

---------The adoption of any state sponsored religion would have had a huge impact on how the people of the empire regarded the legitimacy of the regime. For religion can help add the appearance of credibility to propaganda, and can itself be used as propaganda. Thus, in order to understand why Cyrus II, Cambyses II, and their inheritors instituted the religious policies they did, one must examine the situation of the Persian Empire under their rules.

---------While it is difficult and at times impossible to attempt to reconstruct the religious makeup of the empire as a whole, much evidence exists pertaining to the religions of the Achaemenid kings. Thus, by establishing the likely religions the kings practiced, the inference can be made that this religion, if it was not held by a large majority of the people of the empire, it was certainly the one most supported and backed by the government – and therefore the de-facto religion of the state.

---------The timeline of Achaemenid dominion can be divided into two distinct periods in regard to the imperial religious policy. The first division consists of the rules of Cyrus II and Cambyses II, while the rules of the following kings defines the second division. In the first division, the kings were tolerant and practiced the local customs. But during the second division this was no longer the case. Here the kings practiced Persian customs and constantly reference ‘Ahura Mazda’, making it seem nearly certain that Zoroastrianism was the ‘official’ religion of the empire in this timeframe.

---------Under Cyrus the empire was still in its infancy; he had managed to conquer what would come to be the core territory for the Achaemenids. However, grand as his achievements were, they were just that – conquest. To the majority of the people, their rulers were foreigners, who had quite recently been bitter enemies. From this insight stems the question of how did Cyrus keep such an adverse population under control and prevent the empire from fragmenting and witnessing a revival of the states he had just destroyed. Aside from the obvious answer of his command of the Persian armies, it is apparent that Cyrus was tolerant of the local religions and customs. This practice, in combination of course with ample government propaganda seems to have been enough to keep the various peoples subdued – at least for the time-being.

---------One pertinent episode to examine is Cyrus’ capture of Babylon in 539 BC. Here, “Cyrus himself […] did not initiate any great changes, his attitude towards Babylon was not too dissimilar to that of the Assyrian kings in regard to the ancient city, one of awe and respect, but also as a protector. He used the ancient titles and protocol in Akkadian, such as, ‘I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, legitimate king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four rims (of the world)’, and he further honored Marduk and the other gods.” (Frye, p. 89). This paints a picture of a tolerant and benevolent Cyrus.

--------- In this case in particular, it would have been most unwise to disregard the local customs. After all, the very reason Babylon surrendered peacefully was because King Nabonidus “put an end to the regular offerings (and) he in[terfered in the cultic centers; x x x he] established in the sacred centers. By his own plan, he did away with the worship of Marduk, the king of the gods, he continually did evil against Marduk's city. Daily, [...] without interruption, he imposed the corvée upon its inhabitants unrelentingly, ruining them all.” (Cyrus Cylinder, ln.9-10). Though much of this would have been propaganda, the city might very well have risen up against Cyrus if he had followed his predecessor’s example. Elsewhere as well Cyrus exhibited the same conformity to tradition; essentially, his religious ‘strategy’ can be summed up by the saying ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’.

---------Cyrus’ successor, Cambyses, continued Cyrus’ approach as can be seen in the aftermath of his conquest of Egypt in 525BC, albeit to considerably less success. “Apparently, the measures of Cambyses to reduce the revenues of many temples raised the priesthood against him. Actually it seems Cambyses followed his father’s policy of respect for local customs and religions, and some inscriptions attest to his quite normal policy in Egypt.”(Frye, p.95). Following in Cyrus’ footsteps, Cambyses had himself crowned Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt. However, unlike Cyrus, it seems Cambyses was not very intent on cooperating with the established priesthood.
---------When Darius I seized the throne, he began the long process of centralizing imperial power. Consolidating the empire allowed Darius to do something his predecessors could not; he was able to choose a single religious tradition for himself to follow, and use in his propaganda. Cyrus and Cambyses before him had to play to the local customs in order to keep order. However Darius, by quelling the revolts in Elam, Babylonia, Media, Armenia, Sagartia, Parthia, Margiana, Persis, and Arachosia, had demonstrated that he could keep the satrapies in check with his armies. As is clear from his numerous inscriptions, Darius adopted the Zoroastrian religion – or their gods at any rate. By doing so, he gained a powerful new tool; he could use religion in propaganda that would be addressed to the entirety of the empire at once – creating for himself a more efficient atmosphere in which to govern.

---------Such a decision followed the same theme of unifying the empire that Darius displayed in the other reforms he enacted; such as creating a new script: “By the favor of Ahura Mazda, this [is] the form of writing [OP dipicica] which I have made, besides, in Aryan …And it was written down and was read aloud before me. Afterwards I have sent this form of writing everywhere into the countries. The people strove [to use it].” (Wiesehofer, p.17). Here Darius’ own words from the Behistun inscription, one can see that he was concerned with a uniform system of communication. Thus it can be said that Darius at least, if not his followers as well, saw religion as a key instrument in the governance of the empire.

---------Following Darius I, Xerxes I continued the new policy of the Zoroastrian gods, however he appears to have been less tolerant than Darius: “(13-16) Says Xerxes the King: By the will of Ahuramazda these are the countries of which I was king… (35-41) And among these countries there was a place where previously Daivas [= Av. Daeva] were worshiped. Then by the will of Ahuramazda I destroyed that sanctuary of Daivas, and I proclaimed: ‘Daivas shall not be worshipped!’ Where earlier Daivas were worshipped, there I worshipped Ahuramazda with due order and rites…” (Boyce, p.105). Here there is a clear break between Darius, who simply proclaimed the virtues of Ahura Mazda, and Xerxes, who has begun to call, at least some of the native gods ‘Daivas’. Another instance occurred after Xerxes suppressed a revolt in Babylon, where he “had the Babylonian ‘stable of idols’ Esagila so thoroughly razed that, when Alexander (331BC) ordered the Marduk temple to be rebuilt, the debris had not yet been completely removed after fifteen years and they had to give up the plan to reconstruct it. Xerxes also had the six-meter-high seated statue of Marduk in massive gold carried off and melted down.” (Wiesehofer, p.53).

---------By the time of Artaxerxes II, the Zoroastrian tradition appears to have been thoroughly established in the Achaemenid Empire. The continual development of a single religion in the empire may have been seen as a way to create a sort of national identity; where the disparate peoples of the empire would eventually come to identify themselves under a single religion and thus be less prone to attempt to rebel in a bid for independence. Either way, the importance and influence of Zoroastrianism over the Persian kings is undeniable.

---------Lastly, it must be remembered that the main use the Achaemenid kings put religion to was as propaganda to help legitimize their rules. This practice was an integral part in the Achaemenid system of governance, which was aimed at maintaining order throughout a vast and culturally diverse empire. However, in the end the propaganda was only effective so long as there was military force to back it up.

_________________
The emperor, escaping into an inner apartment, said, “Why didn’t you warn me earlier, before things came to this!”
The eunuch replied, “I didn’t dare speak out, and that’s why I’m still alive. Anyone who had dared speak out would have been put to death long ago – he wouldn’t be around now!”

– Shiji: Biography of the Second Emperor of Qin, Qin Ershi
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Re: 'Ancient Histoy of Iran' Midterm Essay

Post  svramj on Thu Feb 07, 2008 6:50 pm

nice read
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hi

Post  wasim on Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:07 pm

While it is difficult and at times impossible to attempt to reconstruct the religious makeup of the empire as a whole, much evidence exists pertaining to the religions of the Achaemenid kings. Thus, by establishing the likely religions the kings practiced, the inference can be made that this religion, if it was not held by a large majority of the people of the empire, it was certainly the one most supported and backed by the government – and therefore the de-facto religion of the state.
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