Why was the Persian Empire important?
About 2,500 years ago, the Persian Empire was the largest political unit in the entire world. By comparison, around this time the ancient Greeks were divided and mostly limited to the Greek peninsula itself; the ancient Romans were little more than a functioning city themselves.
The Persians were responsible for many major achievements in human history. They were one of the first authorities to delegate power to regions, creating satraps, or governors, who were practically kings themselves. Other powers might conquer a region and subject it to cruelty, but the Persians would expand and annex a nation, create a satrapy, and expect good governance and strong tax contributions. They did not force their religion, Zoroastrianism, onto the population. The Persians were also famous for incorporating aspects of these new regions into their empire, including decorating the capital with their art. This helped inspire loyalty throughout the empire.
The Persian Empire was a major hub for learning and was probably the most intellectually advanced civilization of that time. Its position between major cultures—Indian, Egyptian, and Greek—made it possible to spread knowledge ranging from mathematics to astronomy to medicine. The Royal Library of Ashhurbanipal, in modern-day Iraq, is probably the oldest library in the world and contained a huge number of texts, including the Epic of Gilgamesh.
While the Persian Empire was a major world power for much of the period of its existence, roughly beginning in the 6th century B.C., its enduring importance comes in the contributions to world civilization it left behind.
The Persian Empire saw economic exchange first develop from a barter economy to one based on the trade of coined money for goods and services. The Persian daric, introduced by Cyrus the Great, became the basis for this first, major currency.
The rulers of the Persian Empire also cultivated the Zorastrian religion. Zorastrianism has been credited as the basis for beliefs common in later religions including the notion of an eternal conflict between good and evil.
Finally, through its managed hierarchy of administration, with political authority flowing from the center to the provincial satraps, the Persian Empire provided a template for political organization used by governments to this day.
The Persian Empire was important for many reasons. This empire was a huge one. It covered territory from Egypt to Turkey and up to the area near the Indus River.
The Persians tended to respect the people they conquered. Instead of interfering in local events, they worked with local rulers and also adopted some of the local customs and traditions.
The Persians also tried to build up trade throughout the regions they controlled. They developed a money system, had laws that applied throughout their empire, and developed a standard set of weights and measures. The Persians weren’t interested in raiding the local economies that they controlled. They wanted to develop them.
The Persians developed their empire in a manner that future empires would emulate. The Persians created a mail system. They built roads and developed a communication system throughout their empire. Their laws applied throughout their empire.
The Persians also developed a religion based on one G-d. This religion believed that our life on earth was in preparation for an afterlife.
The Persians made important contributions as a result of their empire.
Because of its sheer size, the Persian Empire integrated a broad range of cultures and civilizations into a fairly unified trade and economic network that facilitated cultural diffusion as well as the spread of money. The Persian Empire also provided a link between the Near East and civilizations in the Indian subcontinent and China. The Persian state religion, Zoroastrianism, has been viewed by many scholars as influential in many the major Western religions, which share the Zoroastrian belief in a stark, good versus evil dichotomy in the world. Finally, when the Persian Empire fell to Alexander the Great, it became the structure through which Greek learning and culture spread throughout the Near East. Hellenistic culture, in many ways, can be thought of as a syncretic mix of Greek culture and the many cultures of the Persian Empire.
The Persian Empire was one of the largest empires in the world, and its culture still forms the basis of many middle eastern civilisations today.