Nebuchadnezzar turned Babylon into a magnificent capital city. Centuries later, writers in the ancient world still spoke of it with awe and wonder. Surrounding the city was a moat and an 85-foot thick wall. Streams of people passed through nine great gateways dedicated to different gods. The famous Ishtar Gate, uncovered by modern archaeologists, was made of bright blue glazed bricks and decorated with lions symbolizing the goddess Ishtar, mythical dragons symbolizing the god Marduk, and bulls symbolizing the god Hadad. In the center of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar enlarged and beautified ziggurats to the gods and restored the temple honoring Marduk, the city's chief god.

Babylonian Astronomy

Under Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians pushed the frontiers of learning into new areas. Priest-astrologers were especially eager to understand the stars and planets, which they believed had a great influence on all events on Earth. Their observations of the heavens contributed to the growing knowledge of astronomy.

Rise of the Persian Empire

The thick walls built by Nebuchadnezzar failed to hold back new conquerors. In 539 B.C., Babylon fell to the Persian armies of Cyrus the Great. The Persians eventually controlled a wide sweep of territory that stretched from Asia Minor to India, including present-day Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

In general, Persian kings were tolerant of the people they conquered. They respected the customs and religious traditions of the diverse groups in their vast empire.

Darius Unites Many Peoples

The real unification of the Persian empire was accomplished under the emperor Darius I, who ruled from 522 B.C. to 486 B.C. A skilled organizer, Darius set up a bureaucracy, or a system of managing government through various bureaus or departments run by appointed officials. The efficient, well-run Persian bureaucracy became a model for later rulers.

To rule his vast empire, Darius divided the empire into provinces, each headed by a governor called a satrap. Each satrapy, or province, had to pay taxes based on its resources and wealth. Special officials, known as “the Eyes and Ears of the King,” visited each province to check on the satraps.

As shown in the map, the Persian Empire, circa 500 B C, stretched from eastern Greece and northern Egypt eastward into the region of present-day Iran and Afghanistan.

Analyze Maps

Study the locations of the Persian capitals. Were they well placed for rule over the entire empire?

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments