The Assyrians and the Persians
Assyrian and Persian Empires in History
The Assyrian Empire (1200 – 330 B.C).
On the battlefield Assyrian troops were known as ruthless soldiers, in conquered regions they lived up to be brutal conquerors, and in politics effective and innovative administrators. They inhabited the lands of western Asia and Egypt. Their God was a God of war who they called “Ashur”. They were an “iron fisted” people who compromised nothing and ruled with rigidity, allowing no room for passivity since they believed in complete control. Drafting was a common practice that they used to sustain their military force. The emergence of separate power bases were prevented through keeping provinces small and “checking” independent-minded individuals along with meeting rebellions with ferocious reprisals. Both; their military (100,000 – 200,000) and commercial power dated back to the Bronze Age. They were also skillful workers of iron who mastered heating and cooling techniques, which, they used in making weapons and uniforms. Assyrians were among the first to employ regular Calvary units as the main strike force when initiating battle. Inhabiting what is known today as northern Iraq, they spoke a Semitic language. They were the first empire to rule the two great river valleys, which constituted the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates. Their knowledge of the cosmos was not limited to abstract reasoning; they made great strides in astronomy and were able to predict solstices, equinoxes, and lunar eclipses. Mass deportation was also common practice in their regions . For example; it is believed that the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel resulted out of mass deportation by the Assyrians.
The Persian Empire (550 – 330 B.C.)
This empire was a more social and economically successful civilization. King Cyrus the Great helped them conquer the Medes. The Persian Empire was so great that it stretched from central Asia and North West India in the eastern regions, to Macedonia and Libya in the western regions. This empire was ruled by their elite class but, it was not limited to them. Some native helpers who borrowed administrative methods from the Assyrians also became valuable resources within the power structure. Their domain was separated into provinces, called satrapies, and there were 20 of them. Each province had a governor and their secretary was regularly checked by the Kings “eye”- a traveling inspector. Persians were also known to allow certain degree of freedom to the people they conquered. Remaining respectful to the subjects religious customs and practices helped assure grater cooperation. They themselves, however, followed a Zoroastrianism religion which demanded all people in their empire to unite under common Persian leadership. Not much technical knowledge of their religion is known due to the fact that little in the area of records survived. Basic findings on it shows that it was founded by a Greek reformer and prophet named Zarathustra who deeply believed in ethical dualism (the conflict between good and evil). This form of “universal kingship” helped influence future rulers like; Alexander "the great" because its principles were simple and reasonable. Primary language spoken in the Persian kingdom was Aramaic which, they believed facilitated literacy and recordkeeping.
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