From the Mediterranean to the Indus Valley

Briant, Pierre. 2021. From the Mediterranean to the Indus Valley: Modalities and imitations of the Achaemenid imperial space. In: Yuri Pines, Michal Biran & Jörg Rüpke (eds.), The limits of universal rule. Eurasian empires compared, 49–78. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great (550–530 BCE), expanded by his successors, Cambyses (530–522) and most importantly Darius the Great (522–486), was conquered by Alexander the Great between 334 and 323. After the wars between the successors of the Macedonian conqueror, also known as the Diadochi, the empire imploded into several competing kingdoms (the Hellenistic kingdoms). From a geopolitical global perspective, the establishment of the empire of the Great Kings put an end to a very long period of territorial divisions among several kingdoms and empires, such as those existing around 550 (Pharaonic Egypt, the Lydian Kingdom in Asia Minor, the neo-Babylonian kingdom in Mesopotamia and in the Fertile Crescent, the Median kingdom in the surroundings of Hamadan/Ecbatana, etc.). The Achaemenid historical phase represents thus a singular moment in the longue durée: it is the first and last time in history that these peoples and countries were united within a unitary state structure for more than two centuries. This would later be called the Persian-Achaemenid Empire, in line with the name of the reigning dynasty.