Capitals: Babylon, Pasargadae, Ecbatana, Susa, Persepolis
Official Languages: Old Persian, Aramaic, Babylonian,Median, Greek, Elamite, Sumerian, Egyptian
Established: 550 BC/BCE
Disestablished: 330 BC/BCE
Cyrus revolted against the Median Empire in 553 BC/BCE, and in 550 BC/BCE succeeded in defeating the Medes, capturing Astyages and taking the Median capital city of Ecbatana. Once in control of Ecbatana, Cyrus styled himself as the successor to Astyages and assumed control of the entire empire. By inheriting Astyages' empire, he also inherited the territorial conflicts the Medes had had with both Lydia and the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
King Croesus of Lydia sought to take advantage of the new international situation by advancing into what had previously been Median territory in Asia Minor. Cyrus led a counterattack which not only fought off Croesus' armies, but also led to the capture of Sardis and the fall of the Lydian Kingdom in 546 BC/BCE. Cyrus placed Pactyes in charge of collecting tribute in Lydia and left, but once Cyrus had left Pactyes instigated a rebellion against Cyrus. Cyrus sent the Median general Mazares to deal with the rebellion, and Pactyes was captured. Mazares, and after his death Harpagus, set about reducing all the cities which had taken part in the rebellion. The subjugation of Lydia took about four years in total.
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 Ionian Revolt in 499 BC/BCE, and associated revolts in Aeolis, Doris, Cyprus and Caria, were military rebellions by several regions of Asia Minor against Persian rule, lasting from 499 to 493 BC/BCE. At the heart of the rebellion was the dissatisfaction of the Greek cities of Asia Minor with the tyrants appointed by Persia to rule them, along with the individual actions of two Milesian tyrants, Histiaeus and Aristagoras. In 499 BC/BCE, the then tyrant of Miletus, Aristagoras, launched a joint expedition with the Persian satrap Artaphernes to conquer Naxos, in an attempt to bolster his position in Miletus (both financially and in terms of prestige). The mission was a debacle, and sensing his imminent removal as tyrant, Aristagoras chose to incite the whole of Ionia into rebellion against the Persian king Darius the Great.
Xerxes I (485–465 BC/BCE, Old Persian Xšayārša "Hero Among Kings"), son of Darius I, vowed to complete the job. He organized a massive invasion aiming to conquer Greece. His army entered Greece from the north, meeting little or no resistance through Macedonia and Thessaly, but was delayed by a small Greek force for three days at Thermopylae. A simultaneous naval battle at Artemisium was tactically indecisive as large storms destroyed ships from both sides. The battle was stopped prematurely when the Greeks received news of the defeat at Thermopylae and retreated. The battle was a strategic victory for the Persians, giving them uncontested control of Artemisium and the Aegean Sea.
From 412 BC/BCE Darius II, at the insistence of Tissaphernes, gave support first to Athens, then to Sparta, but in 407 BC/BCE, Darius' son Cyrus the Younger was appointed to replace Tissaphernes and aid was given entirely to Sparta which finally defeated Athens in 404 BC. In the same year, Darius fell ill and died in Babylon. His death gave an Egyptian rebel named Amyrtaeus the opportunity to throw off Persian control over Egypt. At his death bed, Darius' Babylonian wife Parysatis pleaded with him to have her second eldest son Cyrus (the Younger) crowned, but Darius refused. Queen Parysatis favoured Cyrus more than her eldest son Artaxerxes II. Plutarch relates (probably on the authority of Ctesias) that the displaced Tissaphernes came to the new king on his coronation day to warn him that his younger brother Cyrus (the Younger) was preparing to assassinate him during the ceremony. Artaxerxes had Cyrus arrested and would have had him executed if their mother Parysatis had not intervened. Cyrus was then sent back as Satrap of Lydia, where he prepared an armed rebellion. Cyrus assembled a large army, including a contingent of Ten Thousand Greek mercenaries, and made his way deeper into Persia. The army of Cyrus was stopped by the royal Persian army of Artaxerxes II at Cunaxa in 401 BC/BCE, where Cyrus was killed. The Ten Thousand Greek Mercenaries including Xenophon were now deep in Persian territory and were at risk of attack. So they searched for others to offer their services to but eventually had to return to Greece.
Bagoas went back to the Persian capital with Artaxerxes, where he took a leading role in the internal administration of the Empire and maintained tranquillity throughout the rest of the Empire. During the last six years of the reign of Artaxerxes III, the Persian Empire was governed by a vigorous and successful government.
The Persian forces in Ionia and Lycia regained control of the Aegean and the Mediterranean Sea and took over much of Athens' former island empire. In response, Isocrates of Athens started giving speeches calling for a 'crusade against the barbarians' but there was not enough strength left in any of the Greek city-states to answer his call.
Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon) defeated the Persian armies at Granicus (334 BC/BCE), followed by Issus (333 BC/BCE), and lastly at Gaugamela (331 BC/BCE). Afterwards, he marched on Susa and Persepolis which surrendered in early 330 BC/BCE. From Persepolis, Alexander headed north to Pasargadae where he visited the tomb of Cyrus, the burial of the man whom he had heard of from the Cyropedia.