ersia is today the country of Iran.
By the 5th century B.C.E., it was the largest empire the world had ever seen, surpassing the size of their Assyrian predecessors.
Cyrus Is Desirous
In 539 B.C.E., King Cyrus decided to expand the boundaries of Persia. He began by conquering Babylon. Unlike Assyrian kings, Cyrus was known for his mercy rather than his cruelty.
For example, he allowed the Hebrews, who had been captives in Babylon for over fifty years to return to the holy city of Jerusalem, instead of turning them into slaves. He returned sacred items that were stolen from them and allowed the rebuilding of their capital and the temple.
Cyrus also allowed the Hebrews to continue living and worshiping as they chose. The Jewish prophet, Isaiah, called Cyrus "God's shepherd," and said that "God would go before him and level the mountains."
The Empty Quarter is the largest area of continuous sand in the world.
Cyrus's generosity toward the Jews was not an isolated event. He and his successors employed a policy of adaptation and reconciliation toward all of their new subjects. They cooperated with local rulers and interfered as little as possible in matters that did not directly relate to their rule. They respected local traditions and even adopted some of their subjects' religious practices for themselves.
A Kinder, Gentler Kingdom
Rather than destroy local economies for their own selfish gain, the Persians worked to increase trade throughout their kingdom. They standardized weights, developed official coinage, and implemented universal laws.
The Persian leaders required cooperation and imposed a 20 percent tax on all agriculture and manufacturing. They also taxed religious institutions, which despite their wealth had previously not been taxed.
The Persians themselves paid no taxes.
The Persian kings — especially Cyrus and, later, Darius I (522-486 B.C.E.) — developed a model for the administration of a large empire that was copied...