7 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Persian Empire

The Persian Empire, also known as The Achaemenid Empire, lasted from 550 until circa 330 BC when Alexander the Great defeated it. This ancient civilization was a very well-developed and fascinating nation in terms of culture and history. Below you can find some interesting facts you might not know about the Persian Empire.


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The Persians created World’s First Human Rights Charter

Cyrus Cylinder

Cyrus Cylinder. Source: Wikipedia

Although the Greeks were the ones who invented democracy, the world’s first human rights charter came to be in Persia, back in 539 BC. The charter, shaped like a cylinder, was created under the orders of King Cyrus the Great – the very founder of the Persian Empire. It contains the concepts that are familiar to anyone who’s ever read a human rights charter today – equality for all races, languages and religion. After all, the Persian Empire was quite diverse. The charter is written in the Akkadian language and is known as the Cyrus Cylinder.

They were the pioneers of refrigerator technology

Yakhchal of Yazd Province

Yakhchal of Yazd Province. Source: Wikipedia

Of course, the Persian Empire didn’t invent the huge white refrigerators produced by LG that we use on a daily basis. However, their technology known as Yakhchals was quite helpful in preserving food. In essence, their “refrigerators” were large underground chambers built with the help of nature, or more precisely wind. The wind catchers, combined with ice and heat-resistant mud bricks on top, helped with preserving the food during the (very) hot Persian summers.

They invented Paradise

Paradise Garden

Paradise Garden. Source: Wikipedia

Not in the literal sense, obviously – although the Paradise Gardens could arguably be seen as such. The term for beautiful, well-groomed gardens was “pairi-daeza”, which is where the English word “Paradise” comes from. Persian extreme climate conditions made it hard to tend to Paradise Gardens, but that just made them all the more impressive. The gardens, also founded by Cyrus the Great, were considered to be places for taking refuge for people, as well as animals, which makes the term “Paradise Gardens” all the more appropriate.

They followed Zoroastrianism

Ahura Mazda of Zoroastrianism

Ahura Mazda of Zoroastrianism. Source: Flickr

The world’s first monotheistic religion was rigorously followed by the Persians. Prophet Zoroaster was a very significant person for the people of the Persian Empire. However, since it was such a diverse nation, each culture was allowed to follow their own religion. Nevertheless, Zoroastrianism is considered to be a defining feature of the culture of the Persian Empire. Unlike the religion of the Ancient Greeks, Zoroastrianism didn’t consider gods to be of the same nature as men.

Persian Empire was a model bureaucratic nation

Some Satraps

Some Satraps. Source: Wikipedia

Indeed, the Empire had a very solid government and societal structure. The class division in the society was very clear. While the person ruling over the entire Empire was the King, the nation was divided into provinces, each ruled by a governor known as “The Satrap”. This was fist done by King Darius in order to prevent each region from gaining too much power and conspiring against him. The Satraps were very good at enforcing law and order, and worked extensively with the Empire’s military forces. However, the kings did not usually trust the Satraps, and frequently used spies in order to prevent corruption in all provinces.

They ruled over almost a half of the world’s entire population

Achaemenid Empire Map

Achaemenid Empire Map. Source: Wikipedia

In 480 BC, the population of the Persian Empire was 50 million, which at the time was 44% of the world’s entire population. This figure was, and still remains, the highest for any empire in the history of the world. For comparison, the population of the United Kingdom today is also about 50 million.

Emperors called themselves “The King of Kings”

Relief of Darius in Persepolis

Relief of Darius in Persepolis. Source: Wikipedia

The Persian emperors demanded total and complete obedience from their subjects – hence their distrust of the local Satraps. Each emperor called himself “The King of Kings” in order to establish and enforce their status and make sure that the subjects understood that the King was the most important figure in the Empire.

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