What’s so great about the Persians?
The Persians get a bum rap from history. In Greek history, the Persians are the villains. For instance, they first tried to conquer Greece and the Greeks defeated them in the battles of Marathon and Salamis. Then, they suffered payback when the Macedonian general Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire two centuries later. As historical antagonists, the Persians are the huge evil empire coming to conquer the tiny Greek city-states and strangle Western Civilization in its cradle.
However, the real Persian Empire harbors one of the great untold stories of history. We all know about the Greek wars, but how did the Persian Empire become so enormous in the centuries before they encountered the Greeks? At least partly by being nice to the people they conquered. For instance, the Bible records the Persian king Cyrus releasing the Jews from captivity in Babylon and allowing them to return home to Judea. The Persians aren’t quite as evil as they’ve been portrayed, and as empires go the Achaemenids were not the worst.
I’m a big fan of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast. A few years ago he produced three episodes about the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the “Kings of Kings” podcast, he tells the story from the Persian point of view. If you are interested in learning more about the ancient Persians this is a very good place to start.
Content warning: the ancient world was not a nice place. Anything that happens on “Game of Thrones” happened for real. Even so, the Persians were fairly enlightened by the standards of the time.