The Achaemenid Empire began in 550 BC but went through a period of long and slow decline over its 220-year history. The end of the Persian Government occurred around 330 BC according to the Bible Timeline Chart with World History. Palace intrigue and revolts from other territories contributed to the deterioration, but the most potent yet unexpected threat to the Persian Empire was the rise of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great. A man of great ambitions, he inherited his father’s professional Macedonian army and was backed by Greek forces who resented the Persian invasion in their lands.
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The court of the last three Achaemenid kings was full of intrigue and violence according to Greek historian Diodorus. It was said that the Persian king Artaxerxes III was murdered by his own eunuch and military official Bagoas who replaced him with the king’s youngest son Arses (Artaxerxes IV). To ensure that only he would influence the king, Bagoas had Arses’ brothers killed as well. However, this act angered the new king. Bagoas had Arses and his whole family killed after he found that the new king was not as cooperative as he had hoped.
Bagoas then replaced Arses with the royal family’s distant relative Darius III whom he thought would be easier to control. He planned to get rid of the new king again when he found that Darius III would not submit to him, but the new Persian king was aware of his plans. The ill-fated Bagoas was forced to drink the poison he prepared for Darius.
The rise of Alexander and his forces proved too much for Darius III and the Persian army and their allies were first defeated in the Battle of Granicus in Anatolia. He was then forced to flee to Persia when he and his forces were defeated by Alexander at the Battle of Issus. Alexander turned south to the Persian territories of Phoenicia instead of pursuing Darius into Achaemenid heartland. Sidon, Aradus, and Byblos immediately surrendered when faced with a strong army. Tyre held out—with devastating consequences. The Phoenician city was besieged by Alexander’s forces and it resulted in a massacre of many of the city’s residents.
The city of Gaza also experienced the same fate as Tyre. This ended the Persian domination in the cities on the Asian coast of the Mediterranean. On the other hand, the Egyptians frequently rebelled against their Persian rulers in the past so it was not surprising that they welcomed the Macedonian king and his forces to get rid of the Persians. After he had established a Greco-Macedonian government in Phoenicia, Palestine, and Egypt, Alexander marched back to Asia and met Darius III in the battle for the last time. He defeated Darius in the Battle of Gaugamela near Arbela and the Persian king fled to Ecbatana to raise another army. He and Alexander were not fated to meet again as he would be killed by the Bactrian satrap Bessus, who proclaimed himself king after the murder of Darius.
Alexander used the opportunity to present himself as the legitimate king and heir of the vast Persian empire by “avenging” the death of Darius. He had Darius’ body sent back to Persepolis in a funeral fit for his status as the former king of Persia and had him buried properly. Alexander then proclaimed himself ruler of the Persian empire and ended the 220-year Persian rule in parts of western and central Asia, as well as North Africa.
Picture By This vector image was created by Ali Zifan – http://www.reed.edu/humanities/hum110/assets/images/maps/fall/AchaemenidEmpirePersepolisetc.jpgUsed a blank map of the world from here., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44459656
Waters, Matthew W. Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE. New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2014
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