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Persian Wars of Conquest

B.C. 550 to 512

Persian Empire — versus — Medes, Lydia, Babylon, Egypt and Scythia

The Persian Empire was the great rival of Ancient Greece during its Golden Age. It came to prominence under Cyrus the Great in 550 B.C., and lasted until it was overthrown by the Macedonians under Alexander the Great in 331 B.C.. During this period, Persia was the largest, richest and most powerful empire the world had known, encompassing the formerly great kingdoms of Medes (modern Iran), Babylon (modern Iraq and Syria), Lydia (modern Turkey), and Egypt, and at its peak stretched from Thrace in Europe to India.

Conquests of Cyrus the Great : 560-529 B.C.

 Persians besieging a City.

Cyrus the Great was the grandson of Astyages, King of Medes, and with the help of a traitorous minister, overthrew his grandfather. The surrounding kingdoms of Lydia and Babylon were alarmed by this course of events, and especially concerned by the size of the army Cyrus had gathered in the process of putting his new kingdom in order. Croesus of Lydia marched into Median territory to meet Cyrus at Pteria, but the battle was inconclusive, and he retired to Sardis to prepare reinforcements. Cyrus pursued him into Lydia, besieged the capital, and took the city by storm. Instead of killing Croesus however, Cyrus made him a principal minister. To the south of Medes and Lydia lay the rich kingdom of Babylon, the principle city of which was protected by enormous walls, and was built on either side of the Euphrates River. Since the place could not possibly be taken by assault, Cyrus a channel to route the river around the city, and when the river lowered, his army march up through the dry riverbed. The final campaign of Cyrus was an invasion of Scythia, in which he was killed.

Battle / Outcome
Battle of Pteria
Drawn Battle (Persians vs. Lydians)
In B.C. 547 Croesus marched into Median territory to met Cyrus the Great in an inconclusive Battle. He retreated to Sardis to prepare a greater army, but Cyrus pursued.
Siege of Sardis
Persians defeat Lydia
In B.C. 546 Croesus returned to Sardis after an inconclusive battle with Cyrus in order to gather a larger army. Cyrus however, pursued him to his own city, and besieged it. Although Sardis was a strongly fortified city, the Perians found a breach and stormed the city.
Siege of Babylon
Persians defeat Babylonians
In B.C. 539, Cyrus the Great conquered the great city Babylon, under the last Babylonian King, Belshazzar, by diverting the flow of the Euphrates River into irrigation channels. He was then able to lower the level of the river flowing into the city enough so that his armies could storm the city from the river bank
Battle of Massagetae
Scythians defeat Persians
In B.C. 529 Cyrus crossed the Bosporus and led an army against Scythia. He was subsequently killed during a battle with the Massagetae, under Queen Tomyris.

Short Biography
Astyages King of Medes, who was overthrown by his grandson Cyrus the Great.
Croesus Wealthy monarch of Lydia who lost his kingdom to Cyrus the Great.
Belshazzar Last King of Babylon.
Tomyris Queen of the Scythians. Her army defeated and killed Cyrus the Great.
Cyrus the Great Prince of Persia who overran Medes, Lydia and Assyria to create the Persian Empire.
Harpagus Minister of Astyages who betrayed him in favor of Cyrus.

Story LinksBook Links
Conquest of Lydia  in  Cyrus the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Conquest of Babylon  in  Cyrus the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Death of Cyrus  in  Cyrus the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
King Croesus is Defeated  in  Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  A. J. Church
Cyrus Overthroweth Astyages  in  Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  A. J. Church
City of Babylon, Cyrus Taketh It  in  Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  A. J. Church
Cyrus Maketh War Against the Massagetae  in  Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  A. J. Church
Cyrus the Great  in  Soldiers and Sailors  by  C. F.  Horne
Fortune of Croesus  in  Historical Tales: 10—Greek  by  Charles  Morris
Cloud in the East  in  On the Shores of the Great Sea  by  M. B.  Synge

Book Links
Cyrus the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  Alfred J. Church

Conquests of Cambyses and Darius : 525-512 B.C.

 The Babylonians deriding Darius.

Cyrus was succeeded by his son Cambyses, who spent his brief reign campaigning in Egypt. The issue was decided at the battle of Pelusium, and the ancient Empire of Egypt fell under the Persian sway. Cambyses died shortly after, and Darius came to the throne by way of intrigue. Soon after he assumed power, Babylon revolted, and Darius besieged the city, but won it by further intrigue rather than by assault. Some years later, Darius embarked on another campaign to Scythia which was no more successful then that of Cyrus, and Darius scarcely escaped with his life. Further military escapades of Darius involve the Ionian Revolt, and the First and Second Persian Invasions of Greece, which are properly told as part of the Greco-Persian Wars.

Battle / Outcome
Battle of Pelusium
Persians defeat Egyptians
Fought 525 B.C., between the Persians, under Cambyses, and the Egyptians, under Psammeticus. The Egyptians were totally defeated, and this victory was followed by the complete subjugation of Egypt, which became a Persian, satrapy.
Siege of Babylon
Persians defeat Babylonians
Babylon revolted in B.C. 520, soon after Darius came to the throne, and was retaken by an elaborate ruse. A general of Darius mutilated himself and fled to Babylon for protection. After fighting for the Babylonians for some time, and gaining their trust, he turned traitor, and gave the city to Darius.
Battle of Scythia
Scythians defeat Persians
In B.C. 512, Darius invaded Thrace and crossed the Danube, leaving his boats near the river with instructions to wait 60 days for his return. The Scythians, unwilling to meet the Persians in battle, retreated, razing the land before them, and attacking Darius's supply

Short Biography
Cambyses Eldest son of Cyrus. Invaded Egypt, killed brother, then died.
Darius the Great With six conspirators seized the throne of Persia, primarily through craft rather than force.
Zopyrus Loyal Persian General, helped Darius retake Babylon with an elaborate ruse.
Histiaeus Very close advisor to Darius, rescued him from disaster in Scythia, later rebelled. Father in law of Aristagoras.
Psammeticus Last King of Egypt who was defeated by Cambyses at the Pelusium.

Story LinksBook Links
Cambyses  in  Darius the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Revolt of Babylon  in  Darius the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Invasion of Scythia  in  Darius the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Retreat from Scythia  in  Darius the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Persians Conquer Egypt  in  Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  A. J. Church
Babylon Rebelleth Against the King, and is Taken  in  Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  A. J. Church
King Darius Maketh War Upon the Scythians  in  Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  A. J. Church
Bridge of Boats  in  Story of Greece  by  Mary  Macgregor
Darius and the Scythians  in  Historical Tales: 10—Greek  by  Charles  Morris

Book Links
Darius the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Stories of the East From Herodotus  by  Alfred J. Church

Map Links
The Persian Empire
The Persian Empire about 500 B.C.

Image Links
The Siege of Sardis.  in Cyrus the Great The War-Chariot of Abradates.  in Cyrus the Great Darius crossing the Bosporus.  in Darius the Great
The army of Cambyses overwhelmed in the desert. in Darius the Great The Babylonians deriding Darius.  in Darius the Great Babylonian Captives  in Stories of the East From Herodotus
Besieging a City  in Stories of the East From Herodotus Destruction of Cambyses' Army by a Sandstorm  in Greatest Nations: Persia Croesus on the Funeral Pyre  in Greatest Nations: Greece
Cambyses at Pelusium  in Greatest Nations: Greece War Council of Darius (From the Darius Vase)  in Greatest Nations: Greece The Greeks Preserve the Bridge of Darius  in Greatest Nations: Greece
Cyrus the Great in Soldiers and Sailors The Capture of the Citadel  in Stories of the Ancient Greeks