The Achaemenids were Iran’s earliest recorded dynasty. They ruled a vast territory from the Aegean to Afghanistan. They left no written texts. In the core Middle East they replaced the Babylonians and allowed the Israelites back home. Their religion was Zoroastrianism; Darius I (521–486 BCE) claimed to rule in the name of a supreme deity (Ahura Mazda). They proclaimed religious toleration and allowed the peoples of their vast empire an unprecedented degree of autonomy. There was a generous attitude towards other people’s cultures and religions. They promoted agriculture, developed irrigation, and constructed magnificent gardens. The king’s favour with the deity rested on his ‘righteousness’, which meant treating poor and rich alike. This was the first federal regime.
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