Category: achaemenid empire

The army of the Persian Empire had enough archers that they were said to be able to “block out the sun.” You might remember the Spartan’s famous answer to that: great, we “can fight in the shade.”

Were those ancient chroniclers exaggerating? We do not know, but conservative estimates of the Persian army’s capabilities was that they had 50,000 men in their army. Yes, that’s a conservative estimate. Previous armies in the region are believed to have fought with mainly infantry, with archers being a supporting group; we know the Persians innovated by increasing the numbers of archers. Let’s crunch some numbers. 

As a conservative estimate, let’s say there are about 20,000 archers in the Persian battle line. Each archer can fire about 5 arrows a minute. And their quivers held 120 arrows, but let’s assume they had to go hunting for dinner the last few nights, and give them 100 arrows. When you do the math, that means the Persian Army could fire 100,000 arrows a minute. And they could do that for as long as their arms held out, or until their arrows run out, so about 20 minutes.

The Persian army could fire 100,000 arrows a minute, for 20 minutes. As a conservative estimate. Now, I’ve never been on an ancient battle field, but that sounds like it could block out the sun.

The exact date of the founding of Persepolis is not known. It is assumed that Darius I began work on the platform and its structures between 518 and 516 BCE. He wanted his new city of Persepolis to be an international showpiece, and the seat of his vast Achaemenian Empire.

We know this because Darius I boasted about building Persepolis – at Persepolis. There is an excavated foundation inscription that reads, “And Ahuramazda was of such a mind, together with all the other gods, that this fortress (should) be built. And (so) I built it. And I built it secure and beautiful and adequate, just as I was intending to.” He was boasting a little – Persepolis was not actually completed for a hundred years.

But the security and splendor of Persepolis lasted only two centuries. One of which, remember, was when it was being built. So the security and splendor of Persepolis really only lasted one century. Its majestic audience halls and residential palaces perished in flames when Alexander the Great conquered and looted Persepolis in 330 B.C. and, according to Plutarch, carried away its treasures on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels.

A tomb in northern Iraq, first exposed by construction workers in 2013, concealed the remains of at least six individuals. Along with dozens of ceramic vessels, a bracelet decorated with snake heads was found among the burials and helps date the tomb to the end of the Achaemenid Empire, or just after it. So somewhere between 400 and 550 BCE.

Sometime later, between 700 and 1600 CE, the tomb was reused and five more people were buried on top of the ancient skeletons.