In an era long passed, mighty empires were forged from nothing and rose to the heights of power. Join host Peter Weller, an actor and a professor at Syracuse University as he travels the world to show the engineering feats that gave rise to some of the greatest civilizations known to man. From Rome to the Pharaohs' Egypt, from Greece to Carthage, from the Aztecs to the Maya and more, this new program from the History Channel uses computer graphics to explore the architectural, political and cultural glory of the world's greatest empires.
Runtime: 60 minutes
Engineering An Empire - Achaemenid Empire - Netflix
The Achaemenid Empire (; c. 550–330 BC), also called the First Persian Empire, was an empire based in Western Asia, founded by Cyrus the Great. Ranging at its greatest extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 million square kilometers. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration (through satraps under the King of Kings), for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires. By the 7th century BC, the Persians had settled in the southwestern portion of the Iranian Plateau in the region of Persis, which came to be their heartland. From this region, Cyrus the Great advanced to defeat the Medes, Lydia, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, establishing the Achaemenid Empire. Alexander the Great, an avid admirer of Cyrus the Great, conquered most of the empire by 330 BC. Upon Alexander's death, most of the empire's former territory came under the rule of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire, in addition to other minor territories which gained independence at that time. The Iranian elites of the central plateau reclaimed power by the second century BC under the Parthian Empire. The Achaemenid Empire is noted in Western history as the antagonist of the Greek city-states during the Greco-Persian Wars and for the emancipation of the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The historical mark of the empire went far beyond its territorial and military influences and included cultural, social, technological and religious influences as well. Despite the lasting conflict between the two states, many Athenians adopted Achaemenid customs in their daily lives in a reciprocal cultural exchange, some being employed by or allied to the Persian kings. The impact of Cyrus's edict is mentioned in Judeo-Christian texts, and the empire was instrumental in the spread of Zoroastrianism as far east as China. The empire also set the tone for the politics, heritage and history of modern Iran.
Engineering An Empire - Formation and expansion - Netflix
By the 5th century BC the Kings of Persia were either ruling over or had subordinated territories encompassing not just all of the Persian Plateau and all of the territories formerly held by the Assyrian Empire (Mesopotamia, the Levant, Cyprus and Egypt), but beyond this all of Anatolia and Armenia, as well as the Southern Caucasus and parts of the North Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, all of Bulgaria, Paeonia, Thrace and Macedonia to the north and west, most of the Black Sea coastal regions, parts of Central Asia as far as the Aral Sea, the Oxus and Jaxartes to the north and north-east, the Hindu Kush and the western Indus basin (corresponding to modern Afghanistan and Pakistan) to the far east, parts of northern Arabia to the south, and parts of northern Libya to the south-west, and parts of Oman, China, and the UAE.
In 559 BC, Cambyses I the Elder was succeeded as the king of Anšān by his son Cyrus the Great, who also succeeded the still-living Arsames as the King of Persia, thus reuniting the two realms. Cyrus is considered to be the first true king of the Persian Empire, as his predecessors were subservient to the Medes. Cyrus the Great conquered Media, Lydia, and Babylon. Cyrus was politically shrewd, modeling himself as the “savior” of conquered nations, often allowing displaced people to return, and giving his subjects freedom to practice local customs. To reinforce this image, he instituted policies of religious freedom, and restored temples and other infrastructure in the newly acquired cities (Most notably the Jewish inhabitants of Babylon, as recorded in the Cyrus Cylinder and the Tanakh). As a result of his tolerant policies he came to be known by those of the Jewish faith as “the anointed of the Lord.” His immediate successors were less successful. Cyrus' son Cambyses II conquered Egypt in 525 BC, but died in July 522 BC during a revolt led by a sacerdotal clan that had lost its power following Cyrus' conquest of Media. The cause of his death remains uncertain, although it may have been the result of an accident. According to Herodotus, Cambyses II had originally ventured into Egypt to take revenge for the pharaoh Amasis's trickery when he sent a fake Egyptian bride whose family Amasis had murdered, instead of his own daughter, to wed Cambyses II. Additionally negative reports of mistreatment caused by Amasis, given by Phanes of Halicarnassus, a wise counsellor serving Amasis, further bolstered Cambyses's resolve to venture into Egypt. Amasis died before Cambyses II could face him, but his successor Psamtik III was defeated by Cambyses II in the Battle of Pelusium. While Cambyses II was in Egypt, the Zoroastrian priests, whom Herodotus called Magi, usurped the throne for one of their own, Gaumata, who then pretended to be Cambyses II's younger brother Bardiya (Greek: Smerdis or Tanaoxares/Tanyoxarkes), who had been assassinated some three years earlier. Owing to the strict rule of Cambyses II, especially his stance on taxation, and his long absence in Egypt, “the whole people, Perses, Medes and all the other nations,” acknowledged the usurper, especially as he granted a remission of taxes for three years. Cambyses II himself would not be able to quell the imposters, as he died on the way back from Egypt. The claim that Gaumata had impersonated Bardiya (Smerdis), is derived from Darius the Great and the records at the Behistun Inscription. Historians are divided over the possibility that the story of the impostor was invented by Darius as justification for his coup. Darius made a similar claim when he later captured Babylon, announcing that the Babylonian king was not, in fact, Nebuchadnezzar III, but an impostor named Nidintu-bel. According to the Behistun Inscription, Gaumata ruled for seven months before being overthrown in 522 BC by Darius the Great (Darius I) (Old Persian Dāryavuš, “who holds firm the good”, also known as Darayarahush or Darius the Great). The Magi, though persecuted, continued to exist, and a year following the death of the first pseudo-Smerdis (Gaumata), saw a second pseudo-Smerdis (named Vahyazdāta) attempt a coup. The coup, though initially successful, failed. Herodotus writes that the native leadership debated the best form of government for the empire. It was agreed that an oligarchy would divide them against one another, and democracy would bring about mob rule resulting in a charismatic leader resuming the monarchy. Therefore, they decided a new monarch was in order, particularly since they were in a position to choose him. Darius I was chosen monarch from among the leaders. He was cousin to Cambyses II and Bardiya (Smerdis), claiming Ariaramnes as his ancestor. The Achaemenids thereafter consolidated areas firmly under their control. It was Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great who, by sound and farsighted administrative planning, brilliant military maneuvering, and a humanistic world view, established the greatness of the Achaemenids and, in less than thirty years, raised them from an obscure tribe to a world power. It was during the reign of Darius the Great (Darius I) that Persepolis was built (518–516 BC) and which would serve as capital for several generations of Achaemenid kings. Ecbatana (Hagmatāna “City of Gatherings”, modern: Hamadan) in Media was greatly expanded during this period and served as the summer capital. Ever since the Macedonian king Amyntas I surrendered his country to the Persians in about 512-511, Macedonians and Persians were strangers no more as well. Subjugation of Macedonia was part of Persian military operations initiated by Darius the Great (521–486) in 513 – after immense preparations – a huge Achaemenid army invaded the Balkans and tried to defeat the European Scythians roaming to the north of the Danube river. Darius' army subjugated several Thracian peoples, and virtually all other regions that touch the European part of the Black Sea, such as parts of nowadays Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, before it returned to Asia Minor. Darius left in Europe one of his commanders named Megabazus whose task was to accomplish conquests in the Balkans. The Persian troops subjugated gold-rich Thrace, the coastal Greek cities, as well as defeating and conquering the powerful Paeonians. Finally, Megabazus sent envoys to Amyntas, demanding acceptance of Persian domination, which the Macedonians did. The Balkans provided many soldiers for the multi-ethnic Achaemenid army. Many of the Macedonian and Persian elite intermarried, such as the Persian official Bubares who married Amyntas' daughter, Gygaea. Family ties the Macedonian rulers Amyntas and Alexander enjoyed with Bubares ensured them good relations with the Persian kings Darius and Xerxes I. The Persian invasion led indirectly to Macedonia's rise in power and Persia had some common interests in the Balkans; with Persian aid, the Macedonians stood to gain much at the expense of some Balkan tribes such as the Paeonians and Greeks. All in all, the Macedonians were “willing and useful Persian allies. Macedonian soldiers fought against Athens and Sparta in Xerxes' army. The Persians referred to both Greeks and Macedonians as Yauna (”Ionians", their term for “Greeks”), and to Macedonians specifically as Yaunã Takabara or “Greeks with hats that look like shields”, possibly referring to the Macedonian kausia hat.
The empire took its unified form with a central administration around Pasargadae erected by Cyrus the Great. The empire ended up conquering and enlarging the Median Empire to include many more territories, for example in Europe, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, Egypt, and Central Asia. During the reigns of Darius I and his son Xerxes I it engaged in military conflict with some of the major city-states of Ancient Greece, and although it came close to defeating the Greek army, this war ultimately led to the empire's overthrow.
Engineering An Empire - References - Netflix