West civ fall 2010 Lecture 2


Remember that Lecture 1 left off with the collapse of Hammurabi's unified Amorite Empire in Mesopotamia and the end of the Middle Kingdom Period in Egypt (roughly 1500 BCE).


Northern Kingdoms circa 2000-1500 BCC (Assyrians, Hurrians, Hittites, Kassites, and Mitannians)


Several powerful kingdoms influenced by Mesopotamia emerged to the north of Babylon just as the Old Babylonian Empire was at its apogee.


Assyrians:  a Semitic people settled in northern Mesopotamia and eastern Anatolia, built a large empire (the Old Assyrian Empire) based on trade.  They were Influenced by Sumerian culture, used Sumerian written language (but spoke own Semitic language; adopted many Sumerian gods; absorbed Sumerian mythology, art, and literature.  Assyrians cities in northern Mesopotamia and Anatolia had trade links with Mesopotamia and also western trade routes.  This helped spread the culture of Mesopotamia to west. 


Hurrians:  Assyrians influenced the Hurrians, who had established city-states (but no centralized kingdom) in Anatolia and northern Syria.  They introduced Mesopotamian culture to the Hittites.


Hittites:  a militaristic Indo-European people, migrated to Anatolia about 2000 BCE, adapted to  Hurrian and Assyrian urban cultures, learned Sumerian cuneiform, etc.  By 1700 BCE, Hittites conquered much of Anatolia; circa 1650 BCE formed a centralized kingdom in Anatolia. 


Hittite Expansionism:   Hittite efforts to control the region's trade led to conflict with the Assyrians to the east, whose border territories they conquered and plundered.  Marched south into Syria, plundered the Hurrian city states; in 1595 BCE, Hittite King Mursilis conquered and plundered Babylon and left it an abandoned shell.  (Mursilis returned to his own capital, which was in upheaval; was murdered; his kingdom then collapsed.


The Kassites:  After the Hittites left Babylon in 1590s, the Kassites (a big ?) seized the city; they too absorbed Sumerian culture and traditions, and ruled Babylon until about 1000 BCE.


Mitannians:  around 1590s, the Mitians moved into the devastated Hurrian lands of Syria.  Culture similar to Hittites.  Mitannians seized power in Hurrian cities; created a centralized kingdom:  Mitanni.


Mitannian expansionism:  Mitannian cavalry and chariot-born archers made their armies quicker and more deadly than those of their neighbors:  smashed the infantry of the much larger Assyrian empire, forced the wealthy Assyrians to pay them tribute.  Staved off invasion from the Hittites by forming an alliance with an even more powerful kingdom—Egypt.



Egypt:  the New Kingdom period (1550-1075 BCE)


The Hykos period (1650-1550):  About 1650 BCE, the Hyksos became the first "foreigners" to conquer Egypt.  Established a kingdom in the Nile delta that ruled much of country.  (Small independent Egyptian remained in Thebes; Nubia broke free.)  Hyksos probably Amorites (like Hammurabi).  Adopted some Egyptian political traditions, but did not blend cultures as in Sumer.  Egyptians later portrayed Hyksos rule as disastrous, but Hyksos trade around the Mediterranean helped make Egypt an even greater international power as the Hittites were beginning to decline.


Restoration of unified Egyptian monarchy (New Kingdom period (1550-1075 BCE):  about 1550 BCE, the pharaoh Ahmose of Thebes drove out the Hyksos out and united Egypt under his rule in the process.  Ahmose first in new dynasty of kings (# 18, circa 1550 -1300 BCE) in New Kingdom period.


New Kingdom pharaohs used history to emphasize their legitimacy—built huge monuments to the greatness of Egypt's culture and past; claimed continuous unbroken line of god-rulers went back to the beginning of time.


Egyptian expansionism in the New Kingdom period (1550-1075 BCE):  Egypt became more militaristic and expansionist.  Adopted military tactics from the Hyksos, learned to use the wheel, war chariots.  Made "pre-emptive strikes" against rivals; sought security though military dominance.  Used warfare to control resources, e.g., Thutmosis I (1504-1491 BCE) invaded Nubia to the south to capture its gold mines (a key to dominating trade networks).  Set up military bases in Palestine and Syria.    


Example:  Egypt had alliance with the Mitanni, but in 1460-1390s BCE repeatedly invaded the Mitanni kingdom.  Long-term results negative for Egypt:  Hittites and the Assyrians stepped in to fill vacuum left by the Mitanni, posed a greater threat to Egypt.


Social Consequences of Militarism:   The pharaohs' armies plundered conquered lands and brought back riches and slaves.  Plunder went to pharaohs, who distributed it to the favorites and retainers—esp. to army commanders, who became wealthy hereditary aristocrats.


Pharaohs also used spoils of war to build massive monuments to themselves, huge royal tombs, and massive temples to their gods, like the temple of Karnak near Thebes.


Power and Religion in New Kingdom Period:  Karnak and other large temples dedicated to the god Amon ("the Hidden"), or Amon-Ra (Amon as the sun god).  New Kingdom pharaohs claimed close connection to Amon (e.g., several pharaohs named Amenhotep = "Amon is pleased."  Therefore pharaohs favored Karnak, and its priests built up political power (Priesthood of Amon = highest level of Egyptian aristocracy in this period).  


For about 150 years, Amon was the most important of Egypt's gods.  Karnak priests said all other gods =manifestations of Amon.  (E.g., Ra and Ptah were aspects of Amon.)  Big upheaval in 1350 BCE.   

Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (circa 1350 BCE) broke with cult of Amon, worshiped Aten (Ra made visible) as the primary god.   Changed own name to Akhenatan—"He is effective for Aten"; built new capital city named after Aten. 


Akhenatan introduced major theological reform.  Cult of Aten = one god, Aten, source of all light and life.  His symbol = disk of sun, or rays of light.   WHY DO THIS?  Unclear—probably involved breaking political power of the priests of Amon.


New cult of Aten not popular (esp, with Amon priests and army officers):  it died with Akhenatan and his queen, Nefertiti.  Their son, Pharaoh Tutankhaten (probably influenced by Amon priests) declared his father a heretic, destroyed father’s monuments, abandoned new capital; changed own name to Tutankhamon and restored link between king and the god Amon.   (This was "King Tut," who died in his teens, which ended Dynasty 18.)


International Relations in the late Bronze Age:  Major states (Egypt, the Mitanni, the Hittites, the Assyrians, Babylon, etc.) had contact with one another through warfare, but also through diplomacy and trade.  Kings wrote each other letters using Sumerian as common language; letters indicated relative status of powers (e.g., “my brother,” “my father").   Exchanged gifts that reinforced status differences (smaller states’ gifts = tribute to "superiors").   Kings also used marriages as diplomatic tools:  married daughters into other royal households to cement power relations.  (For a small state, marrying into the great power royal family = favor and support.)


Note:  Polygamy = the rule among elites in the Bronze Age.  Pharaoh, for instance, married his sister, but had children with other wives in his harem.  True also among smaller peoples (for instance, the Hebrews).


International Trade in Late Bronze Age:  Also trade connections between civilizations.  Land-caravan routes linked east (Persian and India) to the west (Egypt and the Mediterranean); sea routes across the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean in the East, Black Sea and Caspian Sea in the North, the Mediterranean in the West.


Elites in all major states wanted luxury goods imported from other lands—glass from the Palestine (Canaan), silverwork and precious stone work from Egypt, pottery from the Aegean, etc. 


Major trading power cities and the birth of the alphabet:   Much late Bronze Age trade passed through port cities on the eastern Mediterranean coast, which became wealthy city states--e.g., Ugarit and Byblos.  (Byblos exported papyrus (for writing), and the city's name became Greek word for Book, which is where we get the word Bible.)   


In port cities, many languages and cultures blended, so and artisans speaking a dozen different languages.  In Byblos and Ugarit, merchants developed simplified versions of Sumerian cuniform writing to keep business records—sound-symbols that were easy to memorize and faster to write than Sumerian.  These = first simplified alphabetical systems.  Alphabetical writing would be picked up by peoples in the NE Mediterranean region, around the Aegean Sea.


Minoans and Mycenaeans:  Region of Greek islands were a center of trade already in early Bronze Age; sea-going trading peoples built cities on island of Crete.  Crete = center of the Minoan civilization.


Minoan civilization, approx.  1900-1500 BCE: named after (mythic) king Minos.  Large navy and merchant fleet dominated Aegean waterways.  Several cities, largest = fortress city of Knosos.  Urban merchants traded in food, wine, pottery, metalwork, cloth, and luxury goods; imports and exports with other major civilization.  Commerce brought great wealth, used to build massive palaces for the elites.  But historians know little about them…


Minoa was a unified kingdom, with a hereditary ruler.  The king's palace bureaucracy controlled all artisan production and agriculture, redistributed food to the population.  Minoa had an aristocracy of priests, warriors, and merchants.  Its society was entirely patriarchal (male dominated).  High level of artistic development.  Had a system of writing, but language is a mystery.  Polytheistic; their culture and myths had a huge impact on that of the Greek mainland.


Mycenaeans and the population of the Greek mainland:  Greek peninsula settled by Indo-Europeans (Pelasgians) circa 6000 BCE; waves of non-Indo-European invasions around 2000 BCE and 1600 BCE.   Mycenaeans probably result of the mixing of various groups over centuries. 


Mycenaean culture dates from around 1500 BCE.  Early city states = fortresses dominated by war lords, economy based on plunder and piracy.  By 1300s BCE, Minoan influence changed Mycenaean culture = Mycenaeans now had large cities (Mycenea, Thebes, Athens, and Sparta) with economies based on agriculture and trade. 


At some point after 1300, a king unified Mycenaean territory (and Crete).  Mycenaean king =warrior who led a warrior aristocracy, ruled through system of appointed governors and bureaucrats.  Royal palace controlled the economy.


Mycenaean social structure and culture:   The top level of society in Mycenaean cities were the aristocrats (warriors, bureaucrats, priests).  Cities also had free people known as the damos, who had the right to own property and some limited political rights.  (Precursor of Greek concept of the demos). 


Mycenaean culture influenced later Greek culture—e.g., Greeks later worshiped Mycenaean gods like Zeus (chief of the gods), Poseidon (god of the sea), and Dionysos (god of wine); Greeks reworked Mycenaean myths, e.g., story of Hercules.  Greek stories of the Trojan War and the great heroes of the Iliad and the Odyssey (King Agamemnon, Odysseus, Achilles, Hector, Paris, etc.) based on myth-versions of Mycenaean history.  Mycenaean colonies founded around Medeteranian, e.g., in Italy.    


In 1350s-1200 BCE, Mycenaean kingdom engaged in wars/civil wars that spawned famines, epidemics, fires, and other disasters; fell apart circa 1200 BCE.


“The Sea People” and the collapse of the Bronze Age order:  the Mycenaean culture and other major late Bronze Age Mediterranean civilizations collapsed around 1200-1100 BCE; at same time, all came under attack by the “Sea People” (probably the Pelest).  Sea People attacked, plundered, destroyed Mycenaean kingdom; cut off the sea trade routes in eastern Mediterranean and helped bring down the Hittite kingdom; attacked and destroyed the coastal cities of Ugarit and Byblos; around 1170, attacked Egypt.  Egyptians defeated them, but breakdown in international trade added to decline of Egypt, Assyrians, Babylonians. 


Sea People retreated to the lands between Lebanon and Egypt, which became known as Palestine (after the Pelest).



1000-500 BCE:  Hebrews, Middle and Neo-Assyrians, Persians

In 1000-500 BCE, a major change in technology--the shift from Bronze to Iron—gave rise to powerful and expansionist new empires.  Also, a new conception of god emerged—monotheism, the belief in only one god.

The Phoenicians:   Until about 1200 BCE, the territory of the Phoenicians—Canaan—had been under Egyptian dominance.  After being plundered by the Sea People, the Phoenicians became independent and took control over the coastal sea trade.  They had no unified state, but instead had many independent city-states (Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre).  Each city-state had its own king and aristocracy; each had colonies on major Mediterranean trade routes. 

Phoenician colonial expansion:   founded colonies in North Africa (e.g., Carthage and Utica) and in Southern Europe (Palermo in Sicily, Genoa in Italy, Marseilles in France, and Cadiz in Spain, etc.).  Colonies shipped local goods, foods, and raw materials to the Phoenician city-states; were markets for goods from the city-states.  Colonies loyal to/depended on Phoenician city states, but ruled by colonial aristocratic elites. 

Phoenician trade and the use of an alphabet:  Phoenicians power came from control of sea routes.  P. Ships carried luxury goods to/from all corners of the Mediterranean—papyrus, timber (cedar), glass, pottery, textiles, dyes (esp. "purple"), etc.  Large P. cities had artisans famous for shipbuilding and metalwork (e.g., tool and weapons making).

Importance of trade led to use of a simplified alphabet, which allowed merchants and government officials to keep track of complex, fast-paced trade and colonial administration.  Phoenician alphabet spread through colonies, influenced the alphabetical script of other peoples  (e.g., Greek and later Latin alphabets).

Phoenician religion:   Polytheists, worshiped many gods, some closely related to gods of Mesopotamia.   Chief of Canaanite gods = "El."  Gods with popular cults = fertility gods Ba'al (male god of weather) and Ashtart (female fertility and war goddess).  Other gods included Shamash and Yahweh (name of the God of Jews, Christians, and Muslims).

Philistines lived in same region, south of Phoenicians on eastern Mediterranean coast.  Descendents of the Pelest (Sea People); built fortress cities like Gaza and Ashkelon, controlled nearby farmland and villages.  Each Philistine city state had own king and aristocracy; probably had a redistributive economy (king and the temples control property, distribute food).  Culture probably = mix of Mycenaean and Canaanite traditions.

Around 1000 BCE, Philistines defeated the Hebrew tribes, forced them to pay tribute, and tried to make them accept Philistine gods.  (e.g., in Bible, story of Goliath). 

The Hebrews:  Early Hebrew history:  Hebrews probably = amalgam of peoples in Canaan with migrants who fled the Egyptian Nile Delta region during Sea People invasions.   

Basic “text” for ancient Hebrew history = Bible (Christians “Old Testament”).  Text of the Hebrew Bible assembled and edited circa 100 BCE-100 CE, based upon older texts that drew on written and oral Hebrew mythology (often blended in stories from other cultures, too). 

Most central Hebrew stories/mythology = first five books of Bible (5 five books of Moses/Torah):  Genesis (the story of the creation and the establishment of god’s special relationship with the Hebrew tribes), Exodus (the story of Moses taking the Hebrews out of Egypt), and Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (books that lay out god’s laws for the Hebrews).  Torah = a myth-history with the key idea of COVENANT between Hebrew people and their god (Yahweh), who gave them legal-ethical principles.   

Based on other historical records, the Hebrews circa 1200-1000 BCE = semi-nomadic tribes in twelve main tribal territories.  Herding peoples, moved with cycles of pasturing their cattle and goats.  Each tribe represented an extended clan unit, had a family name (e.g., Dan, Reuben, etc.)   Each had a Judge—combination clan leader, religious leader, and judge in disputes.  Limited cooperation between the clans until about 1100 BCE, when two federations formed kingdoms:  Israel in the north, and Judah in the south.

Creation of a unified Hebrew kingdom:  Hebrews invaded by Philistines around 1050 BCE.  (Bible says Hebrews began to worship other gods alongside Yahweh, who punished them by letting Philistines to overrun their lands).  The judge Samuel led movement to unify the Hebrews against the invaders; backed Saul (a northern tribe judge) in creating a unified Israel, with its capital in the north.  Philistines defeated King Saul, he lost popular support; Samuel now backed David (military leader Judah in the south).  Saul exiled David, who fought for the Philistines before killing Saul and taking power as king of the Hebrews.

King David (real historical figure), circa 1000 BCE united Israel and Judah into one kingdom--Israel.  Used military methods/technology learned from the Philistines to defeat Philistines and conquer all of Canaan + eastern kingdoms of Moab, Ammon, and Edom.  Result = state that included almost all of present day Israel and Palestine, parts of present-day Lebanon and Syria.  Under David, Israel became land of villages, farmers, and artisans. 


The Hebrews under kings David and Solomon:  David made his capital the city of Jerusalem, between the old northern and southern kingdoms, and made Jerusalem the center of the cult of the god Yahweh.  David's state was a theocracy; its legitimacy and authority was linked to the cult of a patron god, whose temple was in the capital city. 

Using taxes and compulsory labor, David and Solomon built a massive temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem.  (Worship of Yahweh created a sense of unity among the Hebrew tribes, but the Hebrews probably still worshiped other gods as inferiors to Yahweh.)  The Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem was center for religious rituals (e.g., sacrifice of animal offerings to Yahweh), the god’s “house” was its inner-most sanctum (design of Temple described in detail in Torah).

In ways, King Solomon was “typical” ancient Near Eastern monarch:  promoted religion that reinforced the legitimacy of his rule; used marriage as instrument of diplomacy; kept strict control over the economy; levied taxes and forced labor to pay for massive building projects; built huge army to extend dominance over neighboring state. 

Heavy taxes and conscription led to internal rebellions soon after Solomon's death.  In 942 BCE, the unified kingdom the broke up into two kingdoms:  Israel in the north, which would remain independent until 722 BCE; and Judah in the south, which remained independent until 586 BCE. 

Hebrew religion and the evolution of Monotheism:     the Yahweh cult dominated Hebrew religious life, but did not eliminate worship of other gods.  Among early Hebrews, some groups like the Levites, said Yahweh (Adonai) was the only true god.   (Torah says that when Moses received commandments on Mt. Sinai, Levi's tribe refused to worship golden calf, then helped Moses slay the idolaters; Moses then declared them servants of God.  Levites often temple scribes, used literacy to shape religious doctrine and interpretation.)  But for most early Hebrews, religion = “monolatry” (worship of one god while admitting that others exist).  Torah frequently mentions other gods as rivals to Yahweh (in particular, Ba'al and Shamash, and Ashtart, "the queen of heaven").  In early Hebrew religion, Yahweh not yet seen as all-powerful; often took human form and had human emotional attributes, like other gods in the Near East. 

By late 500s BCE, Yahweh was considered the only true God.  For historians, monotheism was linked to the problem of keeping the Hebrews united despite foreign conquest.

In 800s BCE, the Middle Assyrians conquered Israel (north) and made Judea (south) a “vassal state.”   New rulers forced population in Israel to worship Assyrian gods, insisted that Judea recognize the Assyrian god Assur alongside Yahweh. 

Anti-Assyrian sentiment became focused on worship of Yahweh alone (helped preserve Hebrew identity, prevent total assimilation).  Hebrew “Prophets” demanded purification of faith against the threat of losing identity as a people:  preached that Yahweh was the only God, just and righteous; Hebrew people must worship only him and follow his law as handed down to Moses. 

Later, the Babylonians conquered Judea, destroyed the First Temple, and took thousands of Hebrews to Babylon as slaves in 580s BCE = crisis.  No temple, no place for rituals, so what is center of religion?

New doctrine of Prophet Ezekiel:  only true path to salvation = pure religious devotion to laws and principles God gave Moses.  All that mattered was that the Hebrew people followed God's laws.   States and empires would come and go, but God was eternal.

This = transformation of religion.  God now abstracted from nature and time—creator outside of nature and time ("divine transcendence").   Hebrews now believed God was everywhere always (not just in the temple), eternal, and all-powerful.  God established a special relationship with the Hebrews by giving them laws and rules (to Moses at Mt. Sinai).  This = basic ethical precepts (10 commandments—don't kill, don't give false testimony, etc.), and 600+ laws governing every aspect of life.  Idea= Hebrews follow these commandments and laws, and the one God will keep his covenant with them.

SO, what was a typical Near Eastern temple cult became a monotheist faith in which individuals are expected to behave according to ethical principles taught by a transcendent God, and by doing so fulfill God's promise of salvation (for Jews =“heal the world/make the world whole”).

The Middle Assyrian and Neo Assyrian Empires: 

The Middle Assyrian Empire, 1400s-900s BCE:  The 500 or so years after Hammurabi of Babylon conquered the Old Assyrian Empire is called the Middle Assyrian period.  The power of Assyria in these centuries rose and fell depending upon the military success of their warrior kings.  At its high points, such as under King Tukulit-Ninurata (known in the Bible as Nimrod), the Assyrians ruled most of Mesopotamia (and at times pushed as far as the Mediterranean and Black Seas).  But their empire was never stable, and for most of the Middle Period the Assyrians were a minor kingdom whose military goal was simply to plunder conquered lands and then exact tribute (payments to the Assyrian king). 

The Neo-Assyrian Empire, late 900s-600s BCE:  In the last decade of the 900s BCE, the Assyrian Empire was reorganized and became a great power.  Key was well-organized army with new technology—iron.   Melted iron to make weapons that smashed enemies' bronze swords.  Also, organized their armies into special units (front line spear units, archer and javelin throwing units, chariots-born archer, and engineering units to build siege weapons).  Assyrian army moved faster than its enemies, out-flanked them in the field, smash into their walled cities. Once they took a city, they generally raped, tortured, mutilated, and butchered the inhabitants.

Mid-800s BCE, Assyrians seemed unstoppable, invaded Phoenicia, Israel, and Syria.  These kingdoms joined forces to fight the Assyrians, fought them to a draw.   But in the 740s BCE, Assyrian army under King Tiglath-Pilser III conquered all southern Anatolia (Turkey), most of Syria, Phoenecia, Israel, and Philestia.  The Assyrians forced defeated kingdoms to pay tribute, and crushed any resistance.

Height of Assyrian power was under King Sargon II (722-705 BCE), who named himself after the first great ruler of Sumer and claimed lineage from ancient kings.  His armies conquered all of Sumer, then drove into Egypt and Nubia.   In the 600s BCE, Assyria was only great "super power" in the Near East.

Rule by terror:  The Neo-Assyrians ruled conquered peoples by brute force and terror.  Imposed their god, Assur, on all conquered lands.  If conquered people refused to pay tribute, etc., the Assyrians attacked savagely, butchered the men, raped and butchered the women, burned the children alive, etc.  Assyrian kings ruled their own people in same way:  kept huge "standing armies" in homeland that crushed rebellion or resistance at home.   The central government recruited soldiers from provinces, which were ruled in the king's name by governors.  The governors also used terror to keep the population in line. 

Neo-Assyrian religion, economy and society:  Neo-Assyrian state = theocracy, king was warrior chief and head priest of cult of the god Assur.  Polytheists, with Assur as main god.   Priesthood of Assur = aristocratic elites, also served as the army's office and as government bureaucrats.  State/priesthood controlled economy and all resources.  

Economy:  food sources = irrigated lands of Mesopotamia, plus food imported from conquered lands.  Trade:  at its height, Neo-Assyrian empire controlled almost all commerce in Near East, controlled all major trade routes and all great port cities.  Manufactured goods:  Assyrian kings also promoted artisan production in the empire's many great cities.   This included the most advanced iron smelting and weapons making of that time period.  Kings also ordered elaborate construction projects, like building walled palace in the capital city of Niveveh. 

The Assyrian kings were great patrons of the arts, filling their temples and palaces with sculpture.  One king in particular, Assurbanipal, was a patron of scholarship, and built one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world in Niveveh.

Collapse:  King Assurbanipal died in 627 BCE.  About 20 years later his empire was gone—crushed by conquered peoples who had joined forces against brutal Assyrian colonial rule.  Armies from southern Babylon (the Chaldeons) and the east (the Medes) defeated the Assyrians and burned their cities.   The Babylonian Chaldeons took over the Assyrian empire, which they ruled with the same viciousness as had the Assyrians. But the Chaldeons, even under their most ruthless king (Nebuchadnezzar), were only a shadow of the Assyrians.  In the 500s BCE, other kingdoms began to emerge as great powers.  The strongest of these was the Persians. 

The Persian Empire

King Cyrus and the Origins of the Persian Empire:  Persians were semi-nomadic tribal people in present day Iran, controlled by the Medes in 600s BCE.  In the mid-500s, a tribal chief, Cyrus, united all of the Persian tribes and overthrew the Medes. His army then attacked and conquered the Median kingdom to the north, then Armenians to the northwest, and then the kingdom of the Lydians in western Anatolia (now western Turkey). 

Lydia, a wealthy and culturally advanced kingdom, had dominated western Anatolia's wealthy Greek merchant cities; at the crossroads of several important trade routes, rich in gold and silver.  (Lydians were first people to make gold and silver coins for commerce in exchange for goods--they invented money).  In 546 BCE the Lydian king, Croesus, launched a "preemptive attack" against the Persians.  Persians under Cyrus smashed his army, conquered his lands.  Next, Cyrus invaded and conquered Babylon, in 539 BCE.


Note: Back to Hebrews briefly:  In 586 Nebuchadnezzar, Chaldean king of Babylon, conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and took tens of thousands of Hebrews to Babylon (as hostages and/or slaves.)  In the Bible, this is referred to as the Babylonian Captivity.  In Babylon, worship of Yahweh divorced from Hebrew kingship and priestly power, so Babylonian Judaism focused on ethical practice—living by God’s laws—not Temple rituals. 

When Cyrus took Babylon, he released the Hebrews, who returned to Jerusalem.  He also restored Judea as its own state (under Persian oversight) and gave the Hebrews permission to rebuild their temple (the Second Temple, completed in 516 BCE).  Hebrews returning from Babylon, together with followers of the prophets, transformed Judaism into ethical monotheism (discussed before) _____________________________________________________________ 

King Darius and new methods of imperial rule:  Cyrus' son Cambyses conquered Egypt in 525 BCE.  His successor, Darius I, then consolidated these conquests by dividing the great Persian empire into several provinces, each governed by a local person whom he appointed.  

Unlike Assyrians and Chaldeans, Persians allowed conquered peoples to keep their own laws, gods, and customs, if they paid tribute to the Persian king.    Also “borrowed” much knowledge and technology from conquered peoples (coinage from Lydians, mathematics and astrology from Babylon, architecture and design motifs from Egypt, etc.)

Darius used power to build up empire’s infrastructure: huge building projects included irrigating desert lands, building canals to make trade faster and easier (including a great canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea), and building roads to tie together the empire.  The most important = Royal Road, linked capital city (Persepolis) to the Aegean Sea.  Darius created the first “postal” system—messengers who carried correspondence and goods from post to post along the Royal Road.  Royal messengers were kept King's government informed of news and events taking place across the empire and delivered the kings orders to his governors.

Persian religion (Zoroastrianism):  Persian religion, Zoroastrianism, based on teachings of Zoroaster (real historical figure) in 700s BCE.  He synthesized elements of the tribal religions of the Persian peoples to create a new religion.  Said there is only one god, god not concerned with rituals like animal sacrifices; instead, God wants people to behave according to ethical laws.  So, a  lot in common with the new beliefs that were taking shape in Judaism…

 Zoroaster preached that god—Ahura-Mazda—is force of light, goodness, justice, and love.  All evil comes from a dark force called Ahriman (similar to Satan in Christianity and Islam).  According to the Avesta (the Zoroastrian “bible”), people have free will--can sin or be righteous—but God wants them to be righteous.  (again, similar to Judaism).  God will reward the righteous when the dead are resurrected on judgment day.  (similar to Christianity and Islam).

Zoroaster's version of God had no ties to any kingdom or land—God is of all peoples and places, a "universal" God.  Ethical behavior as obligation to a "universal" God shaped the conduct of the Persian kings, who often were devout Zoroastrians.