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Control of Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor, was important to the Persian Empire largely for the same reasons it would be important in the centuries that followed: it lay on the crossroads between Asia and Europe, and has long, strategically important coastlines along both the Mediterranean and Black Seas. An ancient civilization, the history of the region once known as Anatolia would be the scene of many of history’s most important confrontations. Among the great empires that sought to control this region was the Persian Empire, which conquered it in the 6th Century B.C.
The expansion of the Persian Empire, of course, came at the expense of those who came before it, in this case, the Medes. During the reign of Cyrus the Great (550-529 B.C.), the Persians, like numerous imperialist armies before and since, expanded as far as it was capable of governing. Westward expansion meant advancing towards the shores of the Mediterranean, thereby giving them control of important trade routes as well as of the harbors needed to both advance militarily and, conversely, to prevent their use by potential opponents.
Empire building is a matter of conquering and administering territory, and defending it against usurpers. At this, the Persians were successful for two hundred years, with only Alexander the Great eventually capable of defeating them. Modern-day Turkey, of which Anatolia is a major part, remains a strategically important region for its control of the maritime passages between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and for its significance as the point where Asia and Europe meet. That geopolitical significance was as widely-acknowledged thousands of years ago as it is today. That is why Anatolia was important to the Persian Empire.
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