The Medes and Persians

Sharing a common Aryan ancestry (tribal people from contemporary Russia), the Medes migrated to occupy contemporary western Iran south of the Caspian Sea (northern Iran), and the Persians settled in contemporary southwest Iran towards the Persian Gulf (southern Iran).

The Assyrians (based in contemporary Iraq), dominating the Middle East during 900-612 B.C., began to lose power at the edges of their empire. To the north, the Scythians (contemporary lower Russia around the Caucasus mountain range) began to assert their dominance of northwest Iran. To the south, Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar’s father, began to assert his authority in Babylon against the Assyrians.

By 625 B.C., the Medes led by Cyaxares (ruled 625-585 B.C.) united Iran and established control over northern Mesopotamia. The Medes’ southwestern expansion was checked by the rising power of the Babylonians, and in an alliance together, Babylon overthrew the Assyrians with the capture of of Nineveh in 612 B.C. The Assyrians would attempt to contest with an alliance with Egypt but would lose their empire with the loss of their last fortified city Carchemish in 605 B.C.

Cyaxares installed Cambyses I (ruled 580-559 B.C.) to manage a region called Anshan (Persia), and when Cyaxares died in 585 B.C., his son Astyages (ruled 585-550 B.C.) ascended to the throne. To maintain an alliance with the Persians, Astyages gave his daughter Mandane to Cambyses I who fathered Cyrus II of Persia (Cyrus the Great); thus, Cyrus the Great had a Persian father and a Median mother.

When Cyrus the Great begins his conquest by first taking Media and capturing his grandfather king Astyages, it is the beginning of the First Persian Empire. It would be known as the Achaemenid Empire and, by 480 B.C., become one of the largest empires in history encompassing upwards of 50 million people.


Tanner JP, The Historical Background to the Book of Daniel, from the website of

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