The Supreme State

Achaemenid Iran & Alexander


The Supreme State
by atahouri

Iran’s ancient history may be difficult to grasp through modern perception especially with the Western mainstream knowledge of the Roman Empire, scholars are exposing an impressively liberal and powerful administration without boundaries.

The establishment of Achaemenid Iran was the alliance of Iranian tribes in 539 BC when Cyrus the Great became King of the known world. Iran did not have one administrative centre: there was no single capital. The Royal cities of Susa, Persepolis, Babylon, Ekbatana and Sardis were all political, economic and military centres of the known world with the exception of Persepolis which was mostly a ceremonial capital for religious events.

It is probably better to think of Achaemenid Iran as a diverse collection of sub-cultures living in a supreme cultural environment. The administration encouraged a multilingual society. Aramaic was the written administrative language in the Iranian courts rather than ancient Farsi or ancient Kurdish which was the language of the people dominating world affairs. In addition to Zoroastrianism which was the religion of the Iranian monarchy the Kings encouraged the rituals of all religions and funded the building of religious sites such as the construction of temples for Assyrians in Babylon and Jews in Palestine.

Ancient Iran consisted of states including Armenia, India, Fars, Greece, Kurdistan, Anatolia, Cyprus, Arabia, Turkestan, Ethiopia, Egypt and states presently part of China and Russia. Every nation state maintained its own way of rule, religion, and culture. When dominating the known world Achaemenids did not imprison, exile or kill other Kings. Supreme rulers of Iran would often engage other Kings in diplomacy with the priority to embrace nations in harmony, as a result enhancing their alliance. Every nation state was ordered to preserve its own Kingship. Although some regional conflicts occurred security and trade was rarely affected. Iranians created the idea of having a ruler who could maintain security and social stability. This person consulted with religious clerics, collaborated with state Kings and ordered the supreme military 'Immortals’ which consisted of the best fighters from different regions of ancient Iran. The world referred to this supreme leader as the ‘King of Kings’.

It was common for Iranian leaders to have intercultural marriage with neighbouring ethnicities from all over the region and power in Iran was not limited to the Fars or Kurds as described by Western historians who tend to draw Fars (Persians) parallels with Imperial Romans.

The Western and Iranian perspective of Achaemenid history also tends to make a great deal of misunderstanding about Alexander the Great in his rise as a king of the Achaemenid dynasty.

Any state within the realm of the Achaemenid dynasty was regarded to be part of the supreme state of Iran and Greek-Macedonia was within the realm but for a person to ascend to Achaemenid royalty an engagement had to be made to establish a royal bond, which was formed by Alexander's mother.

Every year a festival would be held where state kings from Egypt to China would send their ambassadors with a unique gift to the King of Kings. On one occasion a Greek King offered his daughter to the supreme king. Her name was Olympias and Darius III, Achaemenid king at the time accepted her but then due to impolite behaviour from Olympias, he decided to send her as a gift to Phillip of Macedon who married her. However before making this decision, Darius impregnated Olympias. Knowing this Phillip still married Olympias who barred Darius' child and kept Alexander's lineage a secret until he grew older.

When Alexander had knowledge of his real father he decided its his right to claim his title as a royal Achaemenid and began his campaign to fight for the throne. First reluctant to accept a grown up Alexander to take his position Darius confronted Alexander in a war. Nearing the end of this confrontation Alexander received a letter from Darius calling him his son and requesting that he marries his daughter. Alexander followed his real father's instructions, adopted customs of an Achaemenid king and continued to rule the kingdom like his predecessors.

Alexander's Greek generals became increasingly aggravated over his decision to remain in the Achaemenid palaces, not returning to Macedon with the royal treasury. Furthermore he adopted Darius' advisors over his Greek Macedonians and then requested his generals to integrate into the Achaemenid administration, to become satraps in the provinces of the kingdom and to take a wife there.

Alexander's wife Queen Statira was not able to provide Alexander with a child forcing Alexander to marry again, this time the daughter of Bactrian nobleman named Roxanne. At this point distrust had grown between Alexander and his generals due to maintaining iranian policies like his Achaemenid predecessors. This lead to assassination attempts from his Greek generals until a successful poisoning of wine led to his death. Soon after, a power struggle occurred with the generals seizing their place as the next king of kings. Having conveniently planned Alexander's murder, Cassander took the throne as ruler of Iran. Shortly after Alexander's death, Roxanne gave birth to a boy who would become heir to the throne. When the boy reached the age of 12, Cassander ordered his death.

Amir Tahouri


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Greece vs Persia etc.

by Spike on

Fair enough.  But the author seems to imply that all of Greece was incorporated into Persia.  I'm not sure that colonies count.  That's an interesting point about Xerxes' admiral at Salamis.  Thanks for the enlightenment.


Mr. Atahouri, excuse me what is "Farsi"? I don't find it in the

by obama on

English dictionary!  You want to glorify the Persian history, yet deny its legitimate name?  Fars? There was no Fars then, it was Pars! As you might know the arabs coudn't pronounce the "P", after islamic invasion, then the p changed to F. However, since we writing in ENGLISH, it is called Persia and........ Unless, you are writing for Iranians only which in that case, why don't your write in persian?

Ari Siletz

Spike, Achaemenian Greek subjects

by Ari Siletz on

The part of ancient Greece in Europe was not in the Persian Empire, but the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, most notably Ionia, were conquered and incorporated into Persia. The support of mainland Grecians for the revolts of the Greeks in Asia minor was the main reason for the subsequent Greco-Persian wars. In the battle of Salamis, Xerxes had a brilliant Greek naval commander, Queen Artemisia. 


Yes, very good

by divaneh on

Genghis khan's mother was also a maid in the palace of the Mohammad Khaarazm Shah and was impregnated by the king one night when he was drunk. The king later sacked Genghis's mother to avoid the embarrassment. And there you go, Genghis was also son of an Iranian king who came to claim his throne. Do I need to tell you who the real father of Saed Ibn Abi Vaghas was? I got it from the same source that the author has used for the Alexander story.

Darius Kadivar

FYI/How Art Made the World: The Art of Persuasion (BBC)

by Darius Kadivar on

This should interest you in this regard ...

BBC Documentary - How Art Made the World: The Art of Persuasion 1/2 :


BBC Documentary - How Art Made the World: The Art of Persuasion 2/2:


Alexander the Great went one step further than Darius in developing the political logo. A brilliant military strategist, Alexander set his sights on capturing the Persian empire around 330 BC, and within a few short years defeated the Persian armies and captured Persepolis. As a foreign invader, Alexander knew he had to win the hearts and minds of his new subjects, and he clearly understood the power of the logo art technique used by Darius. But Alexander had to come up with his own image unique -- and he did, he minted his own face on a coin. He instinctively understood that the human face was a powerful tool, and that people were influenced by what they saw in it.

But Alexander's political portrait - something entirely revolutionary at the time - wasn't thought up over night. On the contrary, from a small ivory head of Alexander's found in his father's tomb, it became clear to archeologist that Alexander's image had been designed for him long before he ever went to war with the Persians.


Greece was part of Iran?

by Spike on

When did the Persians succeed in their attempted invasions of Greece?  I guess we've forgotten about Salamis and Marathon.  What about the battle of the Granicus?  And Iranianduee3, don't worry, the US will be back on it's feet soon.  I'm sorry you hate the country that played such a leading role in the elimination of Nazism, Communism etc.  If the US is so bad, why are so many people from all over the world literally dying to come live here?  True, we've only got a couple hundred years under our belts, but you can't hold us responsible for the date of our birth.  



by Vishtaspa on

I had to laugh. You clearly haven't talked to enough Italians or Indians! These people have just as much pride as your average Iranian does in his nation's ancient accomplishments. To assert otherwise is flat-out misinformed opinion.


Which brings up a larger point about self-loathing among Iranians. Why is it that those of us such as Raoul insist on projecting negative attributes exclusively to Iranians ("being so absorbed by mythology, fairytales and stories about the past") and positive ones to other nationalities ("never brag about their successful they are today")?


There are plenty of successful Iranians out there today who have plenty to offer the world such as advancements in physics (Camran Vafa, co-theorizer of Vafa-Witten Theorem), medicine (Tofy Mussivand, inventor of the world's first artifical heart device), journalism (Christiane Amanpour, CNN correspondent) athletics (Leila Vaziri, world record holder in the 50m backstroke, Hossein Rezazadeh, Olympic Gold-Medalist and World-Record holding weightlifter) technology (Rouzbeh Yassini, inventor of the cable modem), business (Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay) and a plethora of other filmmakers, musicians, authors and intellectuals. India, Italy and Egypt are by no means successful, democratic states and are extremely dysfunctional. All three of them are run by wildly corrupt governments. Of course the IRI is downright evil, but let's try not to romanticize, shall we? The grass isn't always greener on the other side.


And while we're on the topic, let's not forget that the heritage of India that you describe as being "far superior to any nation" has deep Persian roots, from its venerated Persianate Mughalai cuisine with its fluffy Polos and yogurt and Murgh chicken dishes, to its Urdu Ghazal poetry to the tones of the Setar, to the de facto symbol of India itself, the Taj Mahal, more reminiscent of Isfahan than Delhi or Mumbai, designed in classical Persian style by Persian architects as a monument of love to Shah Jahan's (oh look, they borrowed our language, too!)  Persian wife. I guess it's OK for you to admire all of that, but when it's Iranians doing it with regard to their own culture it bothers you? Curious.


So yes, all of the nations you mentioned, Iran included, have reasons to be proud, past & present; maybe actually talk to a few Italians or Indians or Egyptians about their history, and you'll see the same sense of slightly (and for the most part, harmlessly) over-inflated pride.


The last thing we need is another self-loathing Iranian.


Good blog

by Abarmard on

Thanks for this informative piece.

Raoul1955, you obviously haven't been in any of those countries that you claim do not "brag" about their history, culture, and international influences. What exists as historical "brag" (as you call it) is far more available in articles, blogs, and common individual in their native lands compared to Iran. I believe that we actually do not "brag" as much as we should.

What we were has nothing to do with what we are today, but can lead us to believe that some residents in that great land were able to overcome obstacles (as many other great nations had) to be called the great Persian Empire: one of largest in the world.

Cheers to you.

Ari Siletz

Much appreciated humanbeing

by Ari Siletz on



ari, mehman

by humanbeing on

time to hit the books! i'll get back to you guys with some 'materiel' once i collect it.



by Mehman on

But I don't know how much he varied the plot of the novel.

Ari Siletz

Thanks Mehman

by Ari Siletz on

Your comment appeared while I was replying to humanbeing. As you see, there are differences between the above story and the Shahnameh. Did Ferdowsi use this Roman novel as a source and vary the plot?

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

In the Shahnameh Alexander defeats Dara, the Persian king, so let's say Dara is Darius III. The birth story has elements of the myth above, but not quite the same. In the Shahnameh, the Greek king Filqus (let's say Philip) loses a battle to the Persian king Darab (Dara's father). As a peace making gesture filqus gives his daughter Nahid (Olympias?) to Darab in marriage. She becomes pregnant with Alexander from Darab. Before giving birth however she has bad breath one night and Darab sends her back to Greece where Alexander is born. In this way Alexander is given some legitimacy as a descendant of Persian kings and half brother to Darius III which he defeated.


Do you know of other Alexander myths that legitimzie him as a Persian king? 




منبع: شاهنامه

منبع شاهنامه: یک رمان رومی ترجمه شده در زمان فردوسی به علاوه تخیل خود شاعر: نامعتبر از لحاظ تاریخی




by Iraniandudee3 on

What does the U.s have to offer the world even today? The sec your military and economy collapses on it's ass, you'll have absolutely nothing to be proud of, no culture, and horrible history of greedy degenerates making a bastard of a nation of racists, whores, and low-lives, that's how America's viewed through out the world and will be til the end of human existence. 


yes, the sources

by humanbeing on

of the darius iii story would be interesting. what do they say in the shahname? there are so many narratives of alexander, and it is a typical motif of heroizing the life of an historical figure by giving him regal or divine paternity. in the countless versions of the alexander romance tradition, a variety of paternity versions are offerred, including 'nectanebo' the egyptian. depends on the agenda of the narrator/compilator. i think even in the persian version of the alexander romance, the 'iskandarname', nectanebo comes up again. i am not near any sources at this very moment, but shooting from the hip. i will try to check the narrative of arrian, who is considered a 'no-nonsense' historian (my least favourite type of source, but anyway good for the counterpoint).

btw ari, the plutarch life is my favourite of the myriad alexander narratives.  in it alexander's persona is modelled (a bit deliberately, but who cares?) on achilles.


Raoul: The size and extent of ancient persin empire

by fooladi on

is neither a myth nor a fairy tale. It is a historical fact. Let me know if you need any reference on further reading about the ancient history of Iran and I'd be glad to supply you with.

But I have to agree with you on the unhealthy obsession with ancient history that some of my compatriots seem to suffer from at the expense of ignoring recent events. But in my experience only a small minority of Iranians think this way. It just happens they mostly live abroad and you must have come across them.

The vast majority of iranisns are very much concerned with the state of their country and where it is going to under the islamic regime. This is why we had millions on the streets just a year ago in Iran demmanding an end to this regime. Just watch the space.

Ari Siletz

Darius III was not Alexander's father, but neither was Philip.

by Ari Siletz on

Philip of Macedonia peeked through a chink in the door and saw the Egyptian god Amun disguised as a snake sleeping with his wife, Olympias. Alexander was fathered by Amun--who the Greeks identified with Zeus. The oracle at Delphi told Philip that he would lose the eye that did the spying on his wife. This report according to Plutarch. Philip did actually lose an eye in battle, but here the story becomes less certain: some report that Olympias confirmed the real story of Alexander's paternity and some say she denied it because she was afraid of getting into trouble with Amun's wife (and one can't blame her).                 Whichever way Alexander spun the story of his birth for his Egyptian subjects, it did not include Darius III. Though in a similar political spirit he may have spun a Darius III paternity story after he conquered Persia.  I would be grateful if you cited the source(s) of the Darius III paternity claim. 


Iran consisted of

by Raoul1955 on

the whole ancient world.  LOL.
Have you ever wondered why Italians never brag about the Roman Empire, or Indians bring up their x000 years of history and how rich their culture is, and how successful they are today?  Most of our medical program students are those whose parents or grandparents immigrated from India to America.  They never bring up India although their heritage is far superior to any other nation.   I must add that they were a British colony for decades, but never complain about the British.
Chinese have had x000 years of history and within one generation they transformed from being perceived as drug users to populating our universities as postdocs, researchers, or professors.  They never bring up their x000 years of history!  Ancient Egyptians enjoyed a very rich civilization with architectural marvels that baffle scientists even today, but you never see Egyptians going around and bragging about their x000 years of history.  
Next time when you hear a so-called Iranian bring up x000 years of history and such, the most appropriate response could be: 'And what exactly do you folks have to offer the world NOW, other than hostage taking [they still have three of our hikers in their prison], support for international terrorism, and total lack of respect for human rights?'
Perhaps these people should focus on now and the near future rather than being so absorbed by mythology, fairytales, and stories about the past.
Cheers now,
The one and only Raoul  :-)