The other reigning power in the region of modern day Iran was Media. The Medes had originally been the dominant Iranian group in the region, coming into power
when Cyaxares formed a coalition with the king of Babylon to overthrow the
domination of the Assyrians.
I. Cyaxares - Cyaxares united with Nabopolassar of Babylon, to overthrow the cruel Assyrians and free themselves of Assyrian
domination. They finally succeeded in destroying the Assyrian capital of Ninevah in 612 BC, and continued their rise to power.
Cyaxares was succeeded by his son, Astyages.
II. Astyages - Reigned until 550 BC, when Cyrus the
Great overthrew him and united these two ancient and powerful kingdoms, establishing the Medo-Persian Empire.
III. Mandane - daughter of Asyages, mother of Cyrus the Great. (She did not reign herself, but is included here to show the line of descent.)
IV. Cyrus the Great - His reign actually began in 550 BC when he overthrew his grandfather to unite
the Medes and Persians into one empire. Cyrus was
the perfect one to unite the two kingdoms, being half Persian and half Mede, and descending from the ruling family of each.
The Medo- Persian, or Achaemenid Empire
I. Cyrus the Great - 539–530 BC: - As we stated, his reign actually began in in 550 BC when he overthrew his Median
grandfather to take the throne. However, for Biblical purposes, his reign began with the conquering of Babylon in 539 BC. Rather than
treating the conquered people with the harsh cruelty of other conquerors, Cyrus treated them fairly, and was very tolerant of the religions and
customs of the people he conquered. In the first chapter of Ezra, he issued the first decree in 538 BC allowing the Jews who had been brought in
captivity to Persia to return to their homeland to rebuild the temple. (This second temple become known as Zerubbabel’s Temple)
II. Cambyses II - 530-522 BC: - After Cyrus' death, his son Cambyses ruled for eight years, continuing his father's
military campaigns. His most notable victory was conquering Egypt in 525 BC. While Cambyses was in Egypt, an imposter calling himself Smerdis
proclaimed himself king and reigned for 10 months in 522 BC. The real Smerdis, (whose Persian name was Bardis), was the younger brother of
Cambyses. Cambyses had ordered him to be secretly assassinated, but since this was not known to the people, the phony Smerdis was able
to seize the throne. This impersonator’s real name was Gaumata, a Magian priest from Media. (The Magi were star-worshipers and astologers.)
When Cambyses learned of this imposter and his attempts to seize the throne, he immediately set out for Persia, but he died in Syria. It is
uncertain whether his death was an accident or suicide, but in either case, he left behind no heir to the throne.
III. Darius I - 522-486 BC: - Known to history as Darius the Great, he was a distant cousin of Cambyses.
Through his father Hystaspesas, Darius belonged to the royal Achaemenid family, as did Cyrus the Great and his son Cambyses, but to a different
branch of that family. However, upon learning of the death of Cambyses, Darius at once set out to gain the throne for himself. Darius killed the
pretend Smerdis, and was declared king in 522 BC, despite his somewhat tenuous connection to the royal line. He immediately married married
Atossa, (daughter of Cyrus the Great, and sister or half-sister Cambyses II) to strengthen his position as king.
It was not an easy transition,
however. There were a number of revolts, including those associated with the rightful Smerdis’s claim to the throne. It took more than a year of
hard fighting before Darius finally emerged victorious as the undisputed ruler of the Persian Empire. Darius I ruled from 522-486 BC, establishing
his citadel, or capital, at Susa. Darius also began work on the city of Persepolis, (although it would not be finished for another 100 years)
which served both as a ceremonial center and a center of
This symbolic capital city of the Medo-Persian Empire was burned to the ground when the Archaemenid empire fell to the Greek empire in 330 BC
under the leadership of Alexander the Great. The destruction of the city was incited by Thais, a Greek hertairai (a class of educated and refined upper-class
prostitutes) from the city of Athens. Thais traveled with Alexander on his
compaigns, and apparently incited him to destroy Persepolis as retribution for Xerxes' burning of the old Temple of Athena in 480 BC during the Persian Wars.. Thais was also
a mistress of Ptolemy I, one of Alexander's generals who later inherited the area including Egypt upon Alexander's death.
IV. Xerxes - 486-465 BC: - Xerxes was the son of Darius the Great; grandson of Cyrus the Great. His mother
was Atossa, a daughter of Cyrus the Great. He was not the oldest son, but the first one born to Darius after he became king. It was probably due to
the influence of his mother that he succeeded his father to the throne. The Greek form of his name is Ahasuerus, the Persian form is Khashayarsha.
This is the Ahasuerus in the Bible story of Esther. (Many think the king named in Esther is Artaxerxes II Mnemon, but the dates do not bear that out.) He was first married to Queen Vashti, daughter of Belshazzar, the last King of Babylon, before marrying Esther.
V. Artaxerxes I (Longimannus) 465-424 BC - Son and successor of Xerxes, Artaxerxes I died in the citadel of
Susa, and was immediately succeeded by his eldest son Xerxes II. However, Xerxes II never actually reigned as king; he was assassinated by
his brother Secydianus after only six weeks.
VI. Darius II (Ochus) - 423–404 BC: - The illegitimate son of Artaxerxes I, by a Babylonian concubine, Ochus had
previously been satrap, or governor, of Hyrcania. He executed his half brother, Secydianus, for his assassination of Xerxes II in an attempt to
usurp the throne. After defeating Secydianus, Ochus adopted the name of Darius II on his accession. He was also known as Nothus (Bastard).
VII. Artaxerxes II (Mnemon) 404–358 BC: - The oldest son of Darius II, succeeded his father to the throne. He
reigned for 46 years, making him the longest reigning of the Achaemenid kings. On the day of his coronation, he was warned that his brother,
Cyrus the Younger, planned to assassinate him during the ceremony, to seize the throne for himself. Artaxerxes had Cyrus arrested, but did
not execute him due to the intervention of their mother. Instead, he sent Cyrus the Younger to Lydia, giving him the position of satrap, or
While there, however, Cyrus amassed an army for another attempt to seize the throne. The brothers met on the battlefield in 401 BC,
where Cyrus was killed. Darius then learned that his oldest son, Darius III, was planning to assassinate him. He had his son executed instead,
and his third son, Ariaspes, became his heir. Ariaspes committed suicide after being accused of conspiring to assassinate his father also.
Thus the fourth son of Artaxerxes II, Arsames, became heir. Unfortunately, he was was also murdered, and so Artaxerxes II was succeeded by
his second son, Artaxexes III.
VIII. Artaxerxes III (Ochus) 358–338 BC: - Artaxerxes had been a satrap, and commander of his father's army,
prior to ascending to the throne. Immediately upon becoming king, he ordered the execution of over 80 of his nearest relatives in order to secure
his throne. He was murdered by Bagoas, the power-hungry Vizier of Persia, and his youngest son succeeded to the throne.
IX. Artaxerxes IV (Arses)- 338 - 336 BC: - As the youngest son of Artaxerxes III, Artaxerxes IV was never expected
to succeed to the throne. His unexpected succession came about in 338 BC, when Bagoas murdered his father. However, when Bagoas found
out he could not make Artaxerxes a mere puppet king under his control, Bagoas killed him also, in 336 BC, and placed a distant relative, a man
named Codomannus, on the throne in his place. Codomannus was the last surviving legitimate heir to the Persian throne, a descendant of one of
the brothers of Artaxerxes IV.
X. Darius III (Codomannus) 336 - 330 BC: - A distant relative of the royal house, Codomannus adopted the name
Darius III upon taking the throne. He soon sought to be free of the influence of his assassin benefactor. Bagoas then tried to kill Darius as well,
with poison, but Darius was warned and forced Bagoas to drink the poison himself. He was the last king of the Medo-Persian Empire, reigning
from 336 - 330 BC, when the Persian Empire fell to Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire.
Empire existed from 550–330 BC, when it in turn fell to the Greek Empire. Cyrus continued conquering new territory until his death in 530 BC.
He conquered Lydia in 546 BC, defeating King Croesus, and went on to conquer Babylon in 539 BC.