Top Ten Achaemenid Empire Artifacts

Top Ten Achaemenid Empire Artifacts

       The Achaemenid Persian Empire (c. 550–330 BC), also known as the First Persian Empire or First Iranian Empire, was a Persian empire in Western Asia, founded in the 6th century BC by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation. The dynasty draws its name from king Achaemenes, who ruled Persia between 705 BC and 675 BC. The empire expanded to eventually rule over significant portions of the ancient world which at around 500 BC stretched from the Indus Valley in the east, to Thrace and Macedon on the northeastern border of Greece, making it the biggest empire the world had yet seen. The Achaemenid Empire would eventually control Egypt as well. It was ruled by a series of monarchs who unified its disparate tribes and nationalities by constructing a complex network of roads. Calling themselves the Pars after their original Aryan tribal name Parsa, Persians settled in a land which they named Parsua, bounded on the west by the Tigris River and on the south by the Persian Gulf. This became their heartland for the duration of the Achaemenid Empire. It was from this region that eventually Cyrus the Great would advance to defeat the Median, the Lydian,and the Babylonian Empires, opening the way for subsequent conquests into Egypt and Asia Minor. At the height of its power after the conquest of Egypt, the empire encompassed approximately 8 million km2 spanning three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. It is noted in Western history as the antagonist foe of the Greek city states during the Greco-Persian Wars, for emancipation of slaves including the Jewish people from their Babylonian captivity, and for instituting infrastructures such as a postal system, road systems, and the usage of an official language throughout its territories. The empire had a centralized  bureaucratic administration under the Emperor and a large professional army and civil services, inspiring similar developments in later empires. The historical mark of the Achaemenid Empire went far beyond its territorial and military influences and included cultural, social, technological and religious influences as well. Many Athenians adopted Achaemenid customs in their daily lives in a reciprocal cultural exchange, some being employed by, or allied to the Persian kings. The impact of Cyrus the Great’s Edict of Restoration is mentioned in Judeo-Christian texts and the empire was instrumental in the spread of Zoroastrianism as far east as China. Even Alexander the Great, the man who would set out to conquer this vast empire, would respect its customs, by enforcing respect for the royal Persian kings including Cyrus the Great, and even by appearing in proskynesis, a Persian royal custom, despite stern Macedonian disapproval. A notable engineering achievement is the Qanat water management system, the oldest and longest of which is older than 3,000 years and longer than 44 miles (71 km). In 480 BC, it is estimated that 50 million people lived in the Achaemenid Empire or about 44% of the world’s population at the time, making it the largest empire by population percentage.

  1. Cyrus Cylinder

    The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several fragments, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) in 1879. It is currently in the possession of the British Museum, which sponsored the expedition that discovered the cylinder. The cylinder was created following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when Cyrus’ army invaded and conquered the Neo-Babylonian Empire, incorporating it into the Persian Empire. The text on the Cylinder praises Cyrus the Great, listing his genealogy as a king from a line of kings. The Babylonian king Nabonidus, who was defeated and deposed by Cyrus, is denounced as an impious oppressor of the people of Babylonia and his low-born origins are implicitly contrasted to Cyrus’s kingly heritage. The victorious Cyrus is portrayed as having been chosen by the chief Babylonian god Marduk to restore peace and order to the Babylonians. The text states that Cyrus was welcomed by the people of Babylon as their new ruler and entered the city in peace. It appeals to Marduk to protect and help Cyrus and his son Cambyses. It exalts Cyrus’s efforts as a benefactor of the citizens of Babylonia who improved their lives, repatriated displaced people and restored temples and cult sanctuaries across Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the region. It concludes with a description of the work of Cyrus in repairing the city wall of Babylon, in which he found a similar inscription by an earlier king of Babylon. The Cylinder’s text has been linked by some as corroborative evidence of Cyrus’ policy of the repatriation of the Jewish people following their Babylonian captivity, (an act that the Book of Ezra attributes to Cyrus), as the text refers to the restoration of cult sanctuaries and repatriation of deported peoples. Some scholars, dispute this interpretation, noting that the Cyrus Cylinder identifies only Mesopotamian sanctuaries, and makes no mention of Jews, Jerusalem, or Judea. The Cylinder has also been interpreted by some including the United Nations as an early “human rights charter,” though the British Museum and other scholars reject this as anachronistic and a misunderstanding of the Cylinder’s status as a generic foundation deposit. It was adopted as a symbol by the Shah of Iran’s pre-1979 government, which put it on display in Tehran in 1971 to commemorate 2,500 years of the Iranian monarchy.
    Links: Top Ten British Museum Artifacts, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_Cylinder,
  2. Golden Rhyton

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    Links: Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  3. Kalardasht Gold Cup

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    Links: Top Ten Chalices/Cups, Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  4. Janus Gold Mug

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    Links: Top Ten Chalices/Cups, Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  5. Golden Rhyton from Ecbatana Tehran

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    Links: Top Ten Chalices/Cups, Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  6. Gold Bracelet

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    Links: Top Ten Pieces of Ancient Jewelry, Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  7. Gold Chariot and Other Gold Artifacts from the Oxus Treasure

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  8. Proskynesis Relief

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    Links: Relieves and Petroglyphs, Top Ten Middle Eastern Relieves,
  9. Relieves

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    Links: Relieves and Petroglyphs, Top Ten Middle Eastern Relieves,
  10. Bonus: Silver Ryon

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  11. Rams Head Sculpture

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    Links: Top 100 Busts,
  12. Administrative Tablet with Cuneiform Writing

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  13. Ahura Mazda

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  14. Bonus: Tomb of Cyrus the Great

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    Links: Top Ten Tombs,
  15. Links: Artifacts, Top Ten Middle Eastern Artifacts, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achaemenids,