DARIUS I and XERXES I
- PERSIA, the country in southwest Asia between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf now known as Iran.
- The Persians were dominated by the Medes until the accession to the Persian throne in 558 BC of Cyrus the Great, an Achaemenid.
- He conquered the kingdom of Lydia in 546 BC and Babylonia in 539 BC.
- His son, Cambyses II, extended the Persian empire even further by conquering the Egyptians in 525 BC.
- DARIUS I (the Great) (522 - 486 BC) ascended the throne in 521 BC. He defeated King Croesus of Lydia in 546 BC, from where he probably discovered the concept of money.
- Between 499 and 493 BC he crushed a revolt of the Greek Ionians living under Persian rule along the west coast of Asia Minor.
- He then invaded the Greek peninsular to punish the Greeks for supporting the rebels. He was defeated at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC and Darius died while preparing a new expedition.
- XERXES I (486 - 465 BC) was the son of Darius I.
- After subduing a rebellion in Egypt, he spent three years preparing to re-invade Greece.
- Xerxes is supposed to have crossed the Hellespont (Dardanelles) by a bridge of boats more than a kilometre long.
- During the spring of 480 BC he marched his forces through Thrace, Thessaly, and Locris.
- At Thermopylae the Spartan king, Leonidas I, and his men famously defended the narrow pass, so delaying the Persians for ten days.
- Xerxes then advanced into Attica and burned Athens.
- At the naval Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, his fleet was defeated by a much smaller flotilla of Greek ships commanded by the Athenian Themistocles.
- Xerxes retreated to Asia Minor, leaving his army in Greece under the command of his brother-in-law, Mardonius, who was slain at Plataea the following year. Xerxes was murdered at Persepolis by Artabanus, captain of the palace guard.