Asian culture encompasses many fascinating countries and a myriad of traditions across a vast landscape. Many may come to mind when one thinks of Asian culture, and so many are underappreciated. One such underappreciated culture is that of the Achaemenid empire.
Persian culture is somehow always forgotten when discussing the collective culture of South and Central Asia, despite its contributions in shaping how the world sees Asian culture. The Achaemenid Empire is among the oldest civilizations of the world, and spanned several centuries, from 550–330 BCE. This was an empire that rose under the rule of Cyprus II of Persia, who is more famously known as Cyprus the Great. Under his rule, the Achaemenid Empire expanded from the Balkans to the Indus Valley, roughly 5.5 million square kilometers.
The Achaemenid Empire is considered to be a feudal society whose people were divided into three classe; the nobility, the bondsmen and the slaves. The power of the king and the nobility depended heavily on the support they drew from the aristocracy of the tribes in the Persian empire. This system was initially practical, but eventually led to a system that had the Persian nobility at the head of the military. The nobles found themselves excused from menial labour such as farming and herding, and spent their time honing their skills in archery and horseriding, grooming themselves to be elite warriors.
Aside from being incredible warriors, the Persians of this era were also incredible artists, known famously for their architecture, rock carvings, metalwork and weaving. Some of the more well-known metalwork of this time is called the Oxus Treasure, consisting of a series of artifacts discovered in the 1870s, that included a miniature golden chariot, coins and bracelets adorned with griffins.
Since the empire itself was so vast, the number of languages spoken by the Achaemenid people varied. Cyrus the Great has been remembered as a ruler who did not impose his own religion (zoroastrianism) or language on his people. Hebrew scriptures have praised Cyrus the Great for his work. The Persians were originally illiterate but still spoke Old Persian, however, it seemed this was not the official administrative language of the empire. Archives of administrative documents were written in Elamite. It has, however, been agreed that the language of the bureaucracy was Aramic. In fact, the influence of Aramic on Persian can be seen even today.