Cyrus the Great was a Persian king who lived in the 6th century BC. He founded the Achaemenid Empire, one of the largest empires in the world. He was known for respecting the religions and cultures of the lands he conquered, and his policies. Under his reign (and throughout the entirety of the Persian empire), people were allowed religious freedom, and slavery was banned. Alexander the Great even looked up to him.
The Persian Empire was split up into states called a satrapy; each one governed by a satrap (basically a governor).
Herodotus states that Persian youths, from their fifth year to their twentieth year, were instructed in three things – to ride a horse, to draw a bow, and to speak the Truth. Lying was the worst sin you could commit and it was punishable by death. He also says that Persians loved wine, and were often drunk during important councils. They would wait until they were sober the next day before deciding on anything.
Darius the Great created the first imperial navy in the world, yet it was soldiered by foreigners–mostly Greeks, Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Cypriots. The navy greatly bolstered their peace-keeping efforts, and opened up trade routes.
Darius invaded Greece in retaliation against the Ionian revolts, and fell during the battle of Marathon. His son, Xerxes continued where his father left off with a second invasion, fighting in the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis. Xerxes was not the oldest son of Darius, but he was chosen as his successor because he was the oldest son with Atossa, Cyrus’ daughter.
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