Islamic Beginnings in Ancient Persia

The Iranian plateau, much of the territory of present-day Iran, was first populated in the 9th century BCE, when the Medes people migrated there from Central Asia. The Medes were followed by the Persians in the 8th century BCE, and these two groups laid the foundation for a series of empires that arose on the Iranian plateau over the next thousand years. Around 750 BCE the Medes people formed their own kingdom, called Media, in the northwest plateau, becoming powerful enough by 612 BCE to defeat the older Assyrian Empire to the west. In 550 BCE, however, the Persian leader Cyrus the Great led the Persians into battle against the ruling Medes people, resulting in the unification of the two groups under the name of the victor, the Persians. Cyrus also captured the city of Babylon on the Euphrates River and freed the Jewish captives there, earning himself a place in the Book of Isaiah. The first Persian Empire, the Achaemenid, emerged from Cyrus' victories, and lasted until the 2nd century BCE. The Achaemenid Empire was the largest empire yet seen in the ancient world, extending at its height as far east as the Hindu Kush mountains in present-day Afghanistan. Economically, the Achaemenids established an efficient trade system throughout their empire. Persian words for many commodities spread throughout the region as a result of this commercial activity, some of which are still used in English today. Examples include bazaar, shawl, sash, turquoise, tiara, orange, lemon, melon, peach, spinach, and asparagus.

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