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There never was an Achaemenid Empire!

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    Posted: 26 Apr 2015 at 13:30

There never was an Achaemenid Empire!

By Sabah DARA

Kent, UK.      March 2015





1.       Introduction

2.       The so-called Achaemenid empire

3.       Evidences disproving the existence of the Achaemenid Empire

4.       Circumstances of emergence of the term Achaemenid Empire

5.       Medea, the timid Empire that was raped by nomads

6.       Conclusion



Though this article was sparked by the Voice of Kurdistan’s editorial questioning the circumstances of the creation of the Nawroz celebration, and despite the importance of this issue, I am not going to enter into this detail, but rather go beyond, into scrutinizing the controversial and rather fugitive status of the so called Achaemenid empire whose role has been so exaggerated in traditional literature as to overshadow the role of the authentic entity  i.e. the Medean Empire!

Not only information related to the transition from the Medean to the Achaemenid Empires was surrounded by a blurred atmosphere of vagueness, but also nothing reliable is known about this important “earthquake” in the political prehistory of the Near East.


N.B. The term Parthian will be used in the rest of this article to imply this people as well as the Achaemenids.


The so-called Achaemenid Empire

This empire according to the traditional literature was founded in 550 B.C. by Cyrus the Great following a palace coup d’état against his own uncle, the king of Medea.

Despite being classified as a Persian empire, nothing in its description suggests to us that it was dominated by the Achaemenids and/or the Persians!

If the Parthians (Old name of the Persians) were mentioned in Medean and Assyrian scripts as nomad, mercenaries and whose homeland was a vassal state, the word “Achaemenid” on the other hand was and is still a fugitive word that nobody has “deciphered” yet! It is possible that Achaemenid was the name of an ancient tribe whose name was exploited by the Parthians as a “historic filler” of the gap in their history in the Pre-Cyrus period.

What is known or rather unknown about the Achaemenids is their ethnic origin, homeland, and relationship to the Parthians, and the reasons behind sticking their name on the Medean Empire.

A slightly better depiction exists for the Parthians since their presence as nomad migrants originating from north eastern and eastern Iran and their settlement in northern Iran starting from the 9th century B.C. is already being evidenced.

But these information in no way would justify naming an empire that stretched from the Aegean Sea to the Strait of Hormuz to a peculiar tribe like the Achaemenids, nor to give a prominent position to the Parthians within the Medean Empire when their (Parthians) role was confined to military activities similar to that of the other 27 ethnic armies composing the Medean Imperial army.

The key points that we intend to highlight here are the following;

·       Without evidence, naming the Medean Empire as Achaemenid is considered a “fake” because history is in essence based on evidences, without it it is considered as a myth or a tale.

·       Parthians were not Zagrosians and were ethnically un-related to the Elamites or the Medes implying that they were of an alien ethnic origin; they spoke a different language; their past activities is unknown; and their homeland never was cited in any historical document belonging to that epoch.

                         Trying to superpose this information on to the foundation of the so called “Achaemenid Empire” would pose a problem so unrealistic as to provoke a “satiric smile” which is not surprising because witty issues usually dissimulate awful events and the issue in queston is not an exception as shown below.

                         Whatever the intension of those behind the imposition of the terms “Achaemenids” and “Parthians” on the history of Iran and Zagros was, the illegal deed they carried out left the Zagrosians with an un-healed wound over the past two thousand years.

                         Replacing the Medean Empire by the Achaemenid empire not only denied the authentic people of Medea from their own right to the empire, but they “chopped off” this empire from the prehistory of the Kurds, which in its turn left these latter devoid of any connection with their own prehistory.

                         The Achaemenid issue created such an impermeable wall between the Kurds and their past that the history of this people is depicted by the regional peoples as a joke!    


Evidences disproving the existence of theAchaemenid Empire

The best assumption that can be made regarding the Parthians connection to the Medean Empire was their role in the army from the early period of their settlement in northern Iran in the 9th century B.C. apart from that, nothing else worthy of mention can be added!


Evidences of general nature

·       The Greek never used the name Achaemenid Empire in their documents, while their diplomatic and warfare affaires with the Medes used to be called “The Median Affaires”.

·       Nothing in the profile of the Parthians allows them to be attributed a leading role within an Empire that was founded on Zagrosian homeland, whose authentic leaders were from Anzan ([1]), and the bulk of its army were ethnic Zagrosians Mede, Elamites, Lurs, and Zagrosians from Anatolia.

·        Parthians were of nomadic background as explained below:

·        Absence of any historical records relating to this people prior to the inclusion of their region as a vassal province attached to the Medean Empire.

·        Absence of any cultural background.

·        Lack of any information about their language or religion.

·       Lack of any indication to their ethnic belonging, though their geographic location point to a region inhabited by Turkic speaking people.


Evidences based on culture

  • There was no pre-Achaemenid culture in the eastern region of Iran from which the Parthian tribes came! Hence, there is no logic in linking the Medean civilization with those tribes.  
  • How can we call the empire in question Achaemenid or Parthians when the language, religion, homeland, culture, royal dynasties, names of the dignitaries, city names were all of Medean-Elamite background?
  • Nawroz is a Zagrosian celebration that dates back at least to the 4th Millennium; Parthian adoption of this anniversary date is another indication to the domination of the Medes in the Empire.
  • Even if the possibility of a Parthian military domination of the Empire was assumed, that would change the overall picture since their low culture would oblige them to abide by the desire of the much sophisticated Medes.
  • Assuming the Parthians were skillful and intelligent people that participated in setting up the Empire; did they acquire this skill in their own homeland or in southwestern Iran? The first possibility is inapplicable because the Parthian homeland did not show any significant signs for cultural activities, while if the skill is acquired in SW Iran, which was under the control of the Medes, then the Parthians are considered as Medes and not Parthians!


Achaemenid Monarchs were not Achaemenids

  • Neither Cyrus the Great, nor any of the Monarchs that followed were of Achaemenid origin.
  • Evidence showing the Zagrosian origin of Cyrus:
    • If Cyrus is taken as an Achaemenid, what was the reason for having a name of Zagrosian origin (Kur + Ush = “Kurdish belief” or “Kurdish blood” according to the dictionary of the Zagrosian language of Mesopotamia i.e. Sumerian). In fact, all the kings of the empire bore Zagrosian names.
    • If Cyrus was Achaemenid, what made him show off his Anshanic (Elami) origin?
    • The Cyrus Cylinder which meticulously lists the genealogy of this Emperor does not mention the word Achaemenids! Similar ignorance of the Achaemenid is expressed in an inscription from Pasargadae, ascribed to Cyrus. This means that the word Achaemenid must have been inserted into the history of Iran at a later date most probably during the reign of the Parthians in 247 B.C.


Language based evidences

·       Old Iranian that was the official language of the Empire was in fact a Zagrosian language whose vocabulary was entirely Kurdish. There is no trace of any alien language in Old Iranian be it Achaemenid, Persian, or any other language. This assertion is forcibly liable to resuscitate a question about the logic behind claiming the existence of an empire whose official language is alien to the people of that empire!

·       Since language is a mirror of the cultural and power status of the people that speak it and that it has an interactive relationship with the surrounding languages, therefore strong languages influence weak languages. Superposing this on the Parthian-Medean languages permits us to conclude that the former language was entirely integrated within the second since no trace was left of the Parthian dialects or language. Consequently, the power house of the empire in question should have been located within the Medean camp.

·       Compared to Kurdish that still preserves a rich vocabulary, Persian seems to have undergone profound penetration of Arabic words (c, 50 %) that must have taken place in the aftermath of the Moslem conquest of Iran in the 7th century. This unusually high rate of loan words points to the existence of a receptive environment instigated by the lack of intimate “symbiosis” between the Persian speakers and their language! By the time of the Muslim conquest, Persians within the Sassanid Empire might have realized that the language they spoke did not belong to them but to the Kurds! This inference reminds us with an Old Iranian proverb that says: “If you want to hear pure Persian, go to Kurdistan”.


Circumstances of emergence of the term Achaemenid Empire

 In brief, we believe that the Achaemenid and/or Persian issue was inserted into the history of Iran during the Parthian period (247 B.C.-224 A.D).

In order to give a clear picture to illustrate the circumstances surrounding the intrusion of this people into a world created by the Zagrosians from a scratch since the Farming Revolution of the 10th Millennium, we have divided the development leading to the final coercion of the term Achaemenid empire in the traditional literature into four stages:

·        The Assyrian stage (9th -6th century B.C.)

·        The Greek stage (6th-4th century B.C.)

·        The Selucide stage (312-247 B.C.)

·        The Parthian stage (247 B.C.-224 A.D.)


The Assyrian stage (9th -6th century B.C.)

From their early period of settlement in northern Iran in the 9th century B.C., the Parthians seemed to be playing on all cords in order to accomplish their goal of putting an end to their nomad way of living by settling in their new promised land.

While playing mercenary soldiers roles with the Elamites and the Medes, they were tempted to flirt with the Assyrians through accepting vassalage to that Mesopotamian each time the Zagrosian reign of power was shaken.

That “5th column role” played by the Parthian tribes might have played decisive roles in facilitating the frequent Assyrian incursion into Zagros.

Over the centuries that followed, Parthian settlements increased, their name and role started gradually to be familiarized in Iran, and they started to adapt themselves to the local customs and tradition particularly the Elamite/ Medean language and they created a language for themselves through the distortion of the Elamite/Medean language.

Hence the beginning of the end of the nomadic way of life started and an embryo of the future Parthian people was born.

Absence of evidence about the linguistic or cultural features of the Parthians oblige us to assume that they adopted everything from the Elamites/ Mede civilization that had been around for many centuries.

Parthian activities throughout this period seems to have been sidelined or insignificant or that their role was restricted to the role of mercenaries.


The Greek stage (6th century -331 B.C.)

Following the defeat of the Assyrians in 609 B.C. at the hands of the Medes, these latter started to expand their empire westward and eastward to cover the region extending from Greece to Baluchistan.

Though historical record mainly of Greek origin do not mention a great deal about the Parthians despite their participation in the Medean Imperial army, it is suspected that their 5th column activities would have been reactivated with the Greek and that they might have played a decisive role in the defeat of the Medes at the hands of Alexander the Great in 331 B.C.

Our justification for the accusation brought against the Parthians is based on the following arguments:

·       If the Parthians did not hesitate to collaborate with the Assyrians, nothing would prevent them from repeating it with the Greeks.

·       Their nomadic way of life would have encouraged them to be “flirting” with any party wishing to employ their services.

·       Parthians best skill was as mercenary soldiers which are a term sufficient to identify the profile of those involved in it.

·       The relatively quick rise of the Parthians to power and the foundation of a state of their own indicates that during the Greek period and that of the Seleucids that followed, Parthians were not suffering from the invaders as was the case with the Medes who were subjected to a systematic plan of revenge, plunder, deportation, ruin.... Alexander the Great army came to Zagros to take revenge from the Medes.

·       There was no common denominator between the highly cultured Medes and the nomad Parthians; this distinctly sharp contrast between the profile of these two groups and the superiority in social and official rank of the Medes would have created a great deal of grudges among the Parthians.



The Selucide stage (312-247 B.C.)

Parthian collaboration with the Seleucids is highly probable and corroborated by their prompt response in founding the Parthian state in 247 B.C.

If the Parthians were subjected to hardship during this period, they would n’t have been able to set up their own state as soon as the Seleucid rule ended.


The Parthian stage (247 B.C.-224 A.D.)

This period was accompanied by the introduction of the Greek styled Phoenician abjadi that literally put an end to the use of the cuneiform in which Medean and Elamite scripts were written up to that time.

Consequently, the region became “history-less” because from that time on, no body was able any more to read the cuneiform and history had to be written anew by those making the law i.e. the Parthians.

Because writing the history of Iran anew meant the history of the Zagrosians starting with the Medes, and since exposing the past in this manner would nullify the role of the Parthians, therefore, these latter invented their own history through the glorification of their role and the inertion of the Achaemenid Empire.

Medea, the timid Empire that was raped by nomads


Contrary to what is being diffused in traditional literature about the Medean Empire in emphasizing that it was around for a short period of time before being taken over by the Achaemenids.

We wish here to emphasis the fact that the duration of the Medean Empire was from 615 B.C. to 331 B.C. which implicitly denies the role of the fictitious entity called Achaemenid.

This empire was composed of twenty eight semi-autonomous states including that of Parsua, the Parthians homeland.


Reasons to emphasis the Medean identity of the Empire that was falsely called Achaemenid:

·       Recalling once again that the language used in the Medean Empire was Old Iranian that is almost concordant with modern Kurdish.

·       The entire list of the emperors cited in relation to Medea and the so called Achaemenid Empire were bearing Zagrosian names and of Zagrosian origin

  • Medean civilization was not “parachuted” into the Near East from the sky; it was the offspring of more than 10,000 years of cultural dynamism that produced Gobekli Tepe, the Farming Revolution, the Indo-European Migration and language, the Sumerian Civilization, the Ziggurats, the first religion in the world (Zoroastrian), and the 1st empire in the world. How dare pseudo-historian snatch the Medean civilization on behalf of some fugitive nomads whose names are not even mentioned in historical books?
  • If the Parthian were so advanced and powerful as to found an empire and a civilization:
    • What stopped them from carrying out that task in their own country?
    • Why did they found it in Zagros?
    • Why were they so shy to use their own language in that empire?
    • How is it that their own homeland in Parsua is “history-less”?
    • Why were the imperial capitals (Susa, Acbatan, Persepolis, Pasargade) situated within and around Zagros?
    • Why did they adopt the Zoroastrian religion?



  • Cyrus the great was a Medean monarch belonging to a proud dynasty from Anzan! He did not need to attach his origin to a fugitive name like Achaemenid.   
  • The Parthians in 550 B.C. were neither more powerful than the war hardened Elamites or Medes, nor their nomadic way of life had anything worthy to compete with that of the Zagrosians.
  • Medean Empire could not have vanished on behalf of some nomad tribes!  
  • All that is said at this stage is that the Achaemenid Empire is a fake because there is no contemporaneous evidence proving its existence under that name.

·       Whatever the identity of the Achaemenid people, the civilization behind the empire recorded in their name was entirely the work of the Medes

·       In the same way that Old Iranian was a fabricated as a replacement for Medean language; the Achaemenid Empire was similarly “doctored” to replace the Medean Empire.

  • Herodotus, and the fugitive history he created around the Medes: All the history of the Medean Empire had Greek records particularly that of Herodotus as reference. This  source of information cannot have been unbiased or precise for the following reasons:

o   Contrary to the common belief about Herodotus as being the Father of History, this man was in reality far from this profile since his historic accounts particularly those concerning the Near East were full of errors. Moreover, his own compatriots used to nickname him “The father of lies!”.

o   Herodotus was Greek and his region was vassalized on behalf of the Medean Empire for several centuries. It would have been unimaginable to consider his writing or the writing of any other Greek of that epoch neutral because of the grudges created against the Medes as a result of their domination to their country.

    • The way Herodotus used to refer to those belonging to the Medean Empire was either as Persians or Medes! His ignorance of the Medean or Parthian dialect and the fact that he never set foot in the Near East would not have put him in a position to write about these two peoples.
    • Apparently Greek writers did not differentiate between Medes and Persians, and hence their mention would have depended on the location of the author, and presence of this or that type of Medean soldiers in the area in question.
    • In fact for an ancient Greek, too close attachment to the occupiers of their region was articulated as Medeanized which is an implicit denial to the Persian role within the Imperial army.([2])



[1] This is a historic town in central Zagros near Elam.

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