The Medes and the Persians lived in the Middle East on the Iranian Plateau between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. In 550 B.C., the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great united these two peoples. He then expanded Persia's territory westward by conquering Lydia and Babylonia and eastward by conquering territories as far as the Indus River.
BUILDING AN EMPIRE
The son of Cyrus the Great conquered Egypt. The next ruler,
Darius, unified the Persian Empire by building a network of public roads, introducing a uniform set of weights and measures, and establishing several capital cities.
Persia was now larger than any empire up to that time. It stretched more than 3,000 miles from the Nile to the Indus River. The Persians controlled this vast empire by dividing it into provinces, each ruled by a group of local officials loyal to the Persian king. The Persians collected tribute (a payment made as a sign of submission ) and taxes from these provinces. Although they paid tribute, the provinces profited from extensive trade throughout the
At first, the Persians worshiped many gods. In570 B.C., a new religion was introduced into the Persian
Empire by the religious leader Zoroaster. Zoroastrianism taught that there were only two gods: the god of truth, light, and goodness, and the god of darkness and evil. The whole universe was the battleground between these two forces. Those who led good lives would eventually go to Heaven, while those who were evil would be doomed to a fiery Hell
PERSIA'S ACCOMPLI SHMENTS
From the Lydians, Persians learned the practice of using coins. Under the rule of Darius, citizens were encouraged to use coins to purchase goods. Persians were now able to move from bartering to a
"money economy." The use of coins greatly improved trade throughout the empire. The Persians also built hundreds of miles of roads using gravel and stone. The Persian Royal Road was 1,500 miles long with more than 100 stations holding fresh horses. These roads fostered a feeling of unity within the
Persian Empire. Darius established a postal service to make communication easier within the Persian
Empire. Couriers carried letters over the new roads.
In the last chapter, you learned how an early river valley civilization arose along the Indus River and then suddenly collapsed. The Dravidian people living in this region were then conquered by the Aryans. Many historians believe that the Aryans came from Central Asia, crossed the mountain passes through the
Himalayas, and arrived in India about
1,500 B.C. Other historians believe that Aryan culture developed locally.
The Aryans were nomadic peoples who lived by herding cattle and by fighting. They developed iron weapons and horse-drawn chariots which enabled them to conquer their neighbors. Over the next several centuries, Aryan tribes moved into the
Ganges River valley, pushing the
Dravidian people farther south. By 900
B.C., the Aryans had formed citystates in the major river valleys. Each city-state was ruled by its own ruler.
The Aryans developed their own form of writing, known as Sanskrit. Knowledge of Sanskrit became a sign of education and wealth since it was only taught to members of the higher castes.
The Aryans also brought a new religion to India, known as Hinduism
Like many religions, Hinduism provided its believers with an entire way of life. It served as a guide, explaining everything a person should do from birth to death. Hinduism had no single holy book, but various Hindu writings provided guidance. Two texts containing the major beliefs of Hinduism were the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita.
THE CASTE SYSTEM
The mixing of Aryan and Dravidian peoples led to a new social order. To secure their status, the Aryans put into effect new social and religious rules. These rules allowed only Aryans to occupy the higher social classes -such as priests, warriors and land owners. Under this system, people were divided into five