The ancient Persian Empire contributed immensely to the growth and development of the world around us, up to the point we are now. The Persian Empire was known for its achievements in all fields, and the development of its culture was able to contribute much of the concepts and systems relevant in the modern world, like the postage system.
Keep reading this historian-based article to find out all the most notable accomplishments of the Persian Empire.
What Was the Persian Empire Known For?
Throughout History, Persians sustained a great reputation for their almost unparalleled success in government, military, and society. Their founder, Cyrus the Great, implemented a viable system that catered to most parts of their day. His most notable successor, Darius I was able to build on this system and allow for even more monumental achievements.
The Persian Empire’s achievements encompass a wide range of fields. Persians are mostly known for imposing a successful model of centralized, bureaucratic administration via satraps.
Its multicultural policy and building infrastructures, such as road and postal systems, yielded prosperity across its lands. The empire’s successes inspired the usage of similar systems in later civilizations.
System of Government
Cyrus the Great established the empire in a multi-territorial system, overseen from four capitals: Pasargadae, Babylon, Susa, and Ecbatana. What’s more, the Persians permitted a certain amount of local autonomy via the system of satrapies. Satrapies were governed entities that were ordered based on their geographical locations.
The ‘satrap’ was the governor in charge of the regional administration. Moreover, a general was the head of the region’s military and maintained order and a ‘state secretary’ who was responsible for official documents. The general and the state secretary were subordinate to the satrap and reported to the emperor’s central government.
For various times in history, there were 20 and 30 satrapies in ancient Persia. This set an example for the administration of later civilizations.
Societal Innovations: Persians Discussed Human Rights
Perhaps, the most significant contribution of Persian Empire is the recognition of human rights.
The Cyrus Cylinder, known as the world’s first human rights reference, was one of Cyrus’s prized possessions. He turned his just ideas into a pack of rights and inscribed them in Akkadian cuneiform script over a clay cylinder in 534 BC.
Moreover, the concept and implementation of human rights originated from ancient Persia. After Cyrus conquered the city of Babylon in 539 BC, the slaves were freed and granted the liberty of choosing their preferred religion.
The Achaemenid Empire thus established racial equality and gave its citizens a choice of religion. This was among the peculiar customs of those times as other cultures withheld these liberties and the virtually equal rights for female citizens.
Religion and Faith
The monotheistic religion of Zoroastrianism was founded around 1500-1000 BC by the prophet Zoroaster. Zoroastrianism held that there was just one true God who reigned supreme, Ahura Mazda.
The religion also maintained that life’s right path was to submit oneself to Ahura Mazda’s will through “principles of Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds.” Zoroastrianism also became the first faith to fully incorporate the notions of heaven, hell, and purgatory.
Economic Contributions: Standardizing Coins
King Darius I was the first to implement standardized coinage. This helped stabilize the economy and unite the empire even more. In addition, cultural Exchange and trade became far more accessible after the king did that.
During the era of ancient Persia, the establishment of private banks took place. The Bank of Egibi was perhaps the most well-known of its times since it was involved in the business of pawnshops, money borrowing, and accepted deposits for safekeeping as well.
What’s more, the Persians invested their capital in real estate, agriculture, and vessels that transported funds or merchandise. More notably, they used checks for the withdrawal of money kept in their then-current accounts.
The Postal System: Inventing the First Mail
Ancient Persia also implemented the world’s premier postal system. Riders and animal-drawn carts alike transported and delivered mail, which was predominantly administrative letters, from posts to their various destinations.
The Greek historian Herodotus noted that the regular postal system commenced during the rule of Cyrus the Great. The system was very fast, with an endless supply of men and horses situated along the road networks at various posts during the long dispatches. Messengers never discontinued their mission despite any harsh weather conditions.
The system of messengers was known as Chapaar. Relay posts were nearby one another, and thus, men and horses could embark on their journeys without nourishment or rest.
These relay posts were known as Chapaar–Khaneh, where messengers stopped to relay their mail packets to other messengers or switch their horses. Later, Darius the Great extended the post stations across roads all over the empire.
The Highway: Inventing Roads B.C.
Darius I the Great started the network of highways in Persia to ensure swift travel and contact among the four capital cities. Such roads were also crucial in the operation of the postal system. Thus, Darius’ highway organization and the postal system became the order of the day, even until now, and inspired other means of communication.
The Qanat (Water System)
Qanat is a Persian term for managing underground water. The Qanat structure consisted of an underground horizontal tunnel connected to a mother well and some vertical channels that conduct the water up the ground. The Persians used the Qanat for irrigation or other purposes.
The system dates back to before Achameneid’s time. It was first found in Yazd. As the city is dry and located in the desert, locals created Qanats to solve this problem. Nowadays, it is considered one of the most significant Persian Empire inventions.
The Refrigerator: Ancient Systems Inspiring Modernity
The ancient Iranians created the world’s first refrigerator, one of the most remarkable Persian Empire contributions.
Of course, it wasn’t electrical with a motor, but this structure inspired the idea of the refrigerator we have now. Yakhchal is the Persian word for the fridge, meaning ice pit, as Persians stored ice and edible things inside it.
People of ancient Persia became skilled at building and utilizing the Yakhchal around the year 400 BC. They created it from raw materials of sand, clay, egg whites, goat hair, and ash in specific proportions to make it resistant to heat transfer and water.
Cultivation and Landscaping of Gardens
Qanat water systems helped aid the intricate cultivation and landscaping of gardens frequently featured in Persia’s architecture. Cyrus the Great spent a great deal of his time in such landscaped gardens even before attending the empire’s affairs.
These gardens served as oases of escape from one’s daily life, providing a serene environment for relaxation and private meditation or even gatherings of friends and companions. Hence, they were known as Pairi-daeza, which means Paradise.
Elite Military Units and Uniforms
The Median king Cyaxares (625-585 BC) started the division of military troops into several units, such as the cavalry, the archers, and the infantry. When Cyrus the Great conquered Media, he incorporated his reforms into the earlier structure.
He organized his forces into regiments composed of 10 lesser components, i.e., a company contained 10 men, a battalion had 10 companies, a division incorporated 10 battalions, and a corp included 10 divisions.
Various units were equipped with their uniforms of several colors: blue, purple, and yellow. The Persians also established elite fighting units; a famous example of theirs is the infamous 10,000 Persian Immortals.
Sports and Games: Creating Active Forms of Entertainment
Backgammon, which is a typical game to date, was devised by the Persians around 3000 BC. Hence, it is one of the oldest board games in existence.
In recent times, the game is played between two players, and a dice roll moves the game pieces. A player will win the game if they can remove the entire amount of their pieces from the board earlier than their opponent does.
What’s more, Polo was first created in Persia in 600 BC, and ‘Chogan’ is the Persian term for it. In other words, Polo is the world’s first team sport. It was a practice for reinforcing the army in the Achaemenid time but became very popular in the Parthian era. Due to the relationships with other countries and Persians’ immigration, it turned into a world-known sport in the Sassanid time.
In Ancient Persia, Chogan had two types: one was without any horse for kids and the other with horses for youngsters. The most important difference of polo compared to other historical sports like wrestling or footrace is that it had its own rules since the beginning, and the challenge was primarily due to the ball. It is one of the most famous Persian empire inventions.
In this article, we discussed the several contributions that the Persian empire was known for.
Here are some of the additions of ancient Persia to the modern world:
- The Persian empire is responsible for several contributions to the world
- The Cyrus cylinder is the first document on universal human rights
- Persia first utilized highways and postal systems
- Other innovations of the Persian Empire was the underground water systems and the refrigerator
- Backgammon and Polo are also dated back to Persia
Cyrus the Great implemented universal human rights, and many more of the most recognizable concepts, customs, inventions, transport systems, and even games in the modern day came from Persia.
So isn’t it genuinely extraordinary how many of the things most of us have in our home today were invented thousands of years ago?