Abstract: Empire, Authority and Autonomy in the Achaemenid Persian Empire

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (ca. 550-330 BCE) was enormous, incorporating thousands of miles and many different cultures within its boundaries. How in the world could a sociopolitical entity this size manage the affairs of governance in an age before rapid transit or instant communication? Thanks to textual, visual, and archaeological materials, we can reconstruct some of the intricate and sophisticated ways this empire governed its people and the ways those individuals and cultures responded to imperial presence. Tonight's talk includes government archives, palaces adorned with relief sculptures, food and alcohol, gender relations, mortuary remains, and communication systems — including the original Pony Express and the (literal!) use of smoke and mirrors — in its consideration of ancient Persia. It will illuminate some of the ways in which the empire founded by Cyrus the Great was vast, complex, cohesive, responsive, and vibrant.

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