Map of the Persian Empire

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Map of the Persian Empire Circa 500 B.C.
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The Medo-Persian empire is considered the most powerful of the ancient empires. At the height of its power, during the reign of Darius I the Great, the empire controlled more than 2.9 million square miles (7.5 million square kilometers) of land and spanned three continents (Asia, Africa and Europe). Its control extending eastward into India and reached westward to Greece. Its capitals were Persepolis and Susa, with its kings sometimes residing in Babylon.

It is estimated that in 480 B.C. the empire had 50 million people living until its control. This hugh amount was roughly 44% of the world's population at the time, making Persia the largest empire ever in terms by population percentage.

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Kings of the Persian Empire

(Name, dates reigned B.C., notes)

Cyrus the Great
559 - 530
Conquered the Median Empire in 549 B.C. and the Babylonian empire in 539. Cyrus is considered the founder of the empire and its first true ruler. King Cyrus was known as a "singularly noble and just monarch." One of his first acts, after gaining control of Jews held in Babylonian captivity, was to authorize their return to Jerusalem (as is stated in the book of 2Chronicles 36:22 - 23).

Cambyses II
529 - 522
Son of Cyrus the Great

Son of Cyrus the Great

Darius I the Great
521 - 486
Rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem resumes and is completed (Ezra 6:15). Under Darius' reign the empire reaches its peak in power and land controlled.

Xerxes I the Great
485 - 465
Son of Darius I. Ahasuerus (Xerxes in the Greek), the Persian King named in the book of Esther (Esther 1), was likely Xerxes I.

Artaxerxes I
464 - 424
Son of Xerxes I. Authorized his cupbearer, Nehemiah the prophet, to rebuild Jerusalem's walls.

Xerxes II
Son of Artaxerxes

424 - 423
Son of Artaxerxes

Darius II Nothius
423 - 405
Son of Artaxerxes

Artaxerxes II
404 - 359
Son of Darius II. Considered the longest reigning Persian king.

Artaxerxes III
358 - 338
Son of Artaxerxes II

Artaxerxes IV Arses
337 - 336
Son of Artaxerxes III

Darius III
336 - 330
Great-grandson of King Darius II. Last king of the empire. Darius is defeated by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. at the battle of Arbela near Nineveh. Persia subsequently falls and Alexander captures Babylon.

Additional Study Materials
Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
Map of Palestine under King Herod
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* Dates for Persian kings adapted from
The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings by Edwin R. Thiele

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