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Middle East Jasmine Dispatch

Achaemenians: In the beginning...
April 22, 2000

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Tower with ancient inscriptions 'On colums, and towers, rocks, and mountain cliffs, the ancient people scribed messages that echo thousand of years later'
In the beginning (well almost the beginning, 2nd century BCE) there were Elamites, Aryans, Medes, Parthians, and Persians in the region of Iran. They were later joined by the Kasits, Assyrians, Urartians, and the Scythians.

Interesting, don't you think! Or are you just as confused as I was when I first read about these ancient Persian settlers and tribes. Duuuh... umm, Ura-what's?... Schythi-who?

If you were then you'll be glad to know that we aren't alone in our confusion. (Whew!) Most historians don't have much information on these ancient peoples either. The fact is that, while they brought certain domestic and agricultural skills to the region, they weren't particularly influential or successful beyond that.

Expert Fact

Expert Photo Did you know that the first declaration of human rights was written by Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire?

Dr. Badi Badiozamani is the author of "Iran & America: Rekindling a Love Lost" (soon to be published), is a scholar, journalist and expert on Iran.
So who blazed the Iranian trail? Well, I'll tell you. But first lets set the scene! Remember that most Persian citizens back then were the descendants of our friends the Urartians and the Scythians, who were farmers and part of a not-so-sophisticated agriculture-based society. For three hundred years Persia remained a pretty insignificant character in world events. But by 559 BCE, a man named Cyrus, better known as Cyrus the Great, fathered the Achaemenian Dynasty, leaving more than a hefty reputation behind.

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As we remember from the "Party On, Iran!" dispatch, the Achaemenians set the scene! I mean they really out did themselves. Cyrus, Darius I, Xerxes I, Ataxerxes, and his son, and his son after him, ruled for over 200 years. Not only were they wise and great kings, they laid the foundation of what we now know as Iran. It's hard to imagine that people who lived over two thousand years ago could have any significance in today's world. But these guys did that and more. However, modesty was not their best quality. They knew they were extraordinary and they patted themselves on the back again and again.

How do I know you ask. Well, let's just say they made their mark (and a lasting impression it was).

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I first noticed it as we were driving through a middle-of-no-where desert town in the Fars Province of Southern Iran. Never to sure where Hadi, our friend and fearless guide, is taking us we've learned to enjoy the ride and the surprise upon arrival. This day was no different. After hours of driving, we noticed a small barricade ahead. We slowed down, exchanged small talk and a few rials to cover the entry fee and were on our way. But to where I wondered, as I unsuccessfully searched the barren scenery outside. There was nothing along the single-lane dirt road that seemed worth a fee. The only thing that did seem to grow in the distance was a cement monument of sorts.

As it turned out, the dry and empty desert that we stumbled upon was not always a deserted no-man's land. It was once the capital city of Persia, under Cyrus the Great - Achaemenian Mark #1. In its heyday, Pasargadae sprawled out with such immense proportion that we had to visit all of its remains by bus. The first structure we came to was the tomb of Cyrus the Great. It was a magnificent tomb floating high above us, with steadfast determination. It's hard to believe that this amazing cenotaph was once even taller than it is today. How did they do that? Next were rows and rows of staggering broken columns; columns that once rose to lift Cyrus' glorious palace into the heavens.

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Alexander the Great rode from Persian victorious while the tombs of Darius, Xerxes, and Aratxerxes stare down helplessly from their rock cut burial sites.
As we remember from earlier dispatch, Cyrus' kingdom included parts of Turkey, Iraq, Greece, Syria and Israel. His son, Cambyes II, headed into Egypt. Then Darius, one of the most notable of all Achaemenian rulers, continued to expand the empire by stretching it out towards India in the east and the Aegean Sea in the west. But he didn't allow these "foreign affairs" to interfere with domestic planning. Darius the Great had even greater goals in mind and set his sights on building a capital city. So he moved further south from Pasargadae to Persepolis and began to erect his masterpiece there -- Achamenaian Mark #2. I didn't know much about Persia before coming to Iran, but I knew about Persepolis. Talk about a reputation that precedes you. This archaeological dream was discovered in 1930, preserved by the sand and dust that buried it, and is known internationally as one of the greatest cities of the ancient world.

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I am Brian King of Kings...doh! Wrong translation!... I am Darius King if Kings, that's it.
Darius was followed by his son Xerxes who finished his father's business of conquering and expanding the empire. And he was successful until he met his match in Alexander the Great. Alex, who had stormed down from Macedonia had successfully conquered most of the Middle East and even spent six months of his reign ruling from the Perseopolis capital until he burned it down in 331 BCE. Rumor has it that he savagely destroyed the grand city in retaliation for the damage caused to Athens by Xerxes.

The golden doors and jeweled furnishings were all looted and left for centuries while the tombs of Darius, Xerxes, and Aratxerxes stared down helplessly from their rock cut burial sites - Achamenaian Mark #3. Even in death they are remembered in grandeur. These spectacular tombs are cut into the side of a cliff in intricate detail and massive proportion.


steadfast - firm in belief
cenotaph - a tomb or a monument built in honor of a person whose remains are elsewhere
grandeur - large and striking in size and appearance

Finally, Achamenaian Mark #4, is the message written to all from the Kings themselves. But these declarations were not quilled onto a roll of golden parchment. No that would have been too temporary. Darius and Xerxes chose a more enduring medium and carved these words into the side of a cliff in Hamadan! Written in three languages the message reads:

Darius... one king of many, one Lord of many. I am Darius, the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men... King in this great earth far and wide.

Related Links

Picture and talks about throne-hall
Aerial view of ruins
Pictures of persepolis
History of Persepolis

Not bad, for the first most enduring rule of Persia; the dynasty that put this nation on the map in grand scale.

Stay tuned for more! The Great Persian Tour is still underway and there's lots more to come!!!


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

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Kavitha - Welcomed into the Folds of a Kurdish Village
Monica - A Jewish Pilgrimage…to Iran!
Team - Earth Day: a Celebration and a Reminder

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