Creating Early Empires
The documents below highlight the various methods used by early empire builders to create and maintain vast empires.
ESSAY: Using only the documents below, please describe THREE METHODS used by the early empire builders to create and maintain their vast empires.
Before you begin working on this, you should read “how to write a document based essay.” You will find the requirements for this assignment there.
One of the requirements of this paper is that it must have a thesis statement. The thesis statement MUST be underlined.
The most effective thesis statement is a detailed one. Please look at the directions and the link provided for tips on creating an effective thesis statement. If your essay does not have a thesis statement, do not expect an A. Below is an example of a very simple thesis statement.
*Please note how this thesis statement outlines the THREE METHODS that will be covered in the essay. If your thesis statement does not do this, it will not be sufficient.
The early empire builders used a combination of METHOD ONE, METHOD TWO, and METHOD THREE to create and maintain their vast empires.
It is the expectation that you will use ALL of the documents provided in this packet in a meaningful way. Failure to use the documents will result in a failing grade for this assignment.
Required source Documents for the essay
Again, you must use ALL of TEN of the documents below. If you email me to ask if you really need to use all of them, I will not respond. You do not need to quote from each source but examples from ALL of them should make at least one meaningful appearance in the essay.
Documents 1-4 Background: The Assyrians were a Semitic-speaking people who built a massive empire that included Mesopotamia, parts of the Iranian plateau and Asia Minor, Syria, Canaan, and portions of Egypt. The might of their military and the kings who commanded them is highlighted in the first four passages.
King Sennacherib (704-681 B.C.E.) Describes a Battle with the Elamites in 691
At the command of the god Ashur, the great Lord, I rushed upon the enemy like the approach of a hurricane…I put them to rout and turned them back. I transfixed the troops of the enemy with javelins and arrows…I cut their throats like sheep…My prancing steads, trained to harness, plunged into their welling blood as into a river; the wheels of my battle chariot were bespattered with blood and filth. I filled the plain with the corpses of their warriors like herbage…As to the sheikhs of the Chaldeans, panic from my onslaught overwhelmed them like a demon. They abandoned their tents and fled for their lives, crushing the corpses of their troops as they went…In their terror they passed scalding urine and voided their excrement into their chariots.
King Sennacherib Describes His Siege of Jerusalem in 701
As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts, and the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth-ramps, and battering rams brought thus near to the walls combined with the attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breaches, as well as sapper work. I drove out of them 200, 150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them booty. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earthwork in order to molest those who were leaving his city’s gate.
King Ashurbanipal (669-627 B.C.E.) Describe His Treatment of Conquered Babylon
I tore out the tongues of those whose slanderous mouths had uttered blasphemies against my god Ashur and had plotted against me, his god fearing prince; I defeated them completely. The others, I smashed alive with the very same statues of protective deities with which they had smashed my own grandfather Sennacherib – now finally as a belated burial sacrifice for his soul. I fed their corpses, cut into small pieces, to dogs, pigs, …vultures, the birds of the sky, and also to the fish of the ocean. After I had performed this and thus made quiet again the hearts of the great gods, my lords, I removed the corpses of those whom the pestilence had felled, whose leftovers after the dogs and pigs had fed on them were obstructing the streets, filling the places of Babylon, and those who had lost their lives through the terrible famine.
The Banquet Stele of Assurnasirpal II (c. 865 BCE)
Background: Inscribed on a stone pillar next to his throne room, the banquet stele of Neo-Assyrian ruler Assurnasirpal II (r. 883–859 BCE) describes the extravagant ten-day celebration he hosted on the occasion of the palace’s completion and demonstrates his power over subject lands.
(102) When Ashur-nasir-apli, king of Assyria, consecrated the joyful palace, the palace full of wisdom, in Kalach [and] invited inside Ashur, the great lord, and the gods of the entire land; 1,000 fat oxen, 1,000 calves [and] sheep of the stable, 14,000 . . . sheep which belonged to the goddess Ishtar my mistress, 200 oxen which belonged to the goddess Ishtar my mistress, 1,000 . . . -sheep, 1,000 spring lambs, 500 ayalu-deer, 500 deer, 1,000 ducks [i¸s¸sūrū- rabûtu], 500 ducks [usū], 500 geese, 1,000 wild geese, 1,000 qaribu-birds, 10,000 pigeons, 10,000 wild pigeons, 10,000 small birds, 10,000 fish, 10,000 jerboa, 10,000 eggs, 10,000 loaves of bread, 10,000 jugs of beer, 10,000 skins of wine, 10,000 containers of grain [and] sesame, 10,000 pots of hot . . . , 1,000 boxes of greens, 300 [containers of] oil, 300 [containers of] malt, 300 [containers of] mixed raqqatu-plants, 100 [containers of] kudimmus, 100 [containers of] . . . , 100 [containers of] parched barley, 100 [containers of] ubuhšennu-grain, 100 [containers of] fine billatu, 100 [containers of] pomegranates, 100 [containers of] grapes, 100 [containers of] mixed zamrus, 100 [containers of] pistachios, 100 [containers of] . . . , 100 [containers of] onions, 100 [containers of] garlic, 100 [containers of] kunipb ˇus, 100 bunches of turnips, 100 [containers of] biˇnbiˇnu-seeds, 100 [containers of] giddū, 100 [containers of] honey, 100 [containers of] ghee, 100 [containers of] roasted abšu-seeds, 100 [containers of] roasted šu’u-seeds, 100 [containers of] karkartu-plants, 100 [containers of] tiatu-plants, 100 [containers of] mustard, 100 [containers of] milk, 100 [containers of] cheese, 100 bowls of m-ïzu-drink, 100 stuffed oxen, 10 homers of shelled dukdu nuts, 10 homers of shelled pistachios, 10 homers of . . . , 10 homers of h ˇabbaququ, 10 homers of dates, 10 homers of titip, 10 homers of cumin, 10 homers of sahūnu, 10 homers of . . . , 10 homers of andahšu, 10 homers of šišanibu, 10 homers of simberu-fruit, 10 homers of h ˇašú, 10 homers of fine oil, 10 homers of fine aromatics, 10 homers of . . . , 10 homers of na¸s¸sabu-gourds, 10 homers of zinzimmu-onions, 10 homers of olives; when I consecrated the palace of Kalach, 47,074 men [and] women who were invited from every part of my land, 5,000 dignitaries [and] envoys of the people of the lands Suhu, Hindanu, Patinu, Hatti, Tyre, Sidon, Gurgumu, Malidu, Hubushkia, Gilzanu, Kumu, [and] Musasiru, 16,000 people of Kalach, [and] 1,500 zar-ïqū of my palace, all of them—altogether 69,574 [including] those summoned from all lands and the people of Kalach—for ten days I gave them food, I gave them drink, I had them bathed, I had them anointed. [Thus] did I honour them [and] send them back to their lands in peace and joy.
Documents 5-8 Background: Cyrus the Great founded the Persian Empire in 550 BCE. Under Darius the Great, the empire reached its height and stretched from Eastern Europe, across parts of Africa, the Middle East, and to the Indus River Valley. It is
considered by many historians to be the world’s first superpower. It was known for not only its sheer size, but also the success of its leaders in creating one united government despite the diversity of its many subjects.
Kurash (Cyrus) the Great:
Kurash Prism: The Decree of Return for the Jews, 539 BCE
Background: In the document below, Cyrus the Great has issued a decree freeing the Jewish people from their captivity in Babylon. He allows them to return home and returns their stolen goods to them.
I am Kurash [ “Cyrus” ], King of the World, Great King, Legitimate King, King of Babilani (Babylon), King of Kiengir and Akkade, King of the four rims of the earth, Son of Kanbujiya, Great King, King of Hakhamanish, Grandson of Kurash, Great king, King of Hakhamanish, descendant of Chishpish, Great king, King of Hakhamanish, of a family which always exercised kingship; whose rule Bel and Nebo love, whom they want as king to please their hearts. When I entered Babilani as a friend and when I established the seat of the government in the palace of the ruler under jubilation and rejoicing, Marduk, the great lord, induced the magnanimous inhabitants of Babilani to love me, and I was daily endeavoring to worship him…. As to the region from as far as Assura (Assyria) and Susa, Akkade, Eshnunna, the towns Zamban, Me-turnu, Der as well as the region of the Gutians, I returned to these sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which used to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I also gathered all their former inhabitants and returned them to their habitations. Furthermore, I resettled upon the command of Marduk, the great lord, all the gods of Kiengir and Akkade whom Nabonidus had brought into Babilani to the anger of the lord of the gods, unharmed, in their former temples, the places which make them happy.
From The Hebrew Bible, Ezra 1:1-8:
Background: In this document, the Jewish people describe Cyrus the Great’s decree allowing them to return to their homeland and the kindness bestowed upon them.
In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: “All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him! Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, and goods, together with free will
offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.’ Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites—everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so—prepared to go up to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbors gave them help in every way, with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, and with many precious gifts besides all their free-will offerings. King Cyrus, too, had the utensils of the house of the Lord brought forth which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his god. Cyrus, king of Persia, had them brought forth by the treasurer Mithredath, and counted out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.
Herodotus (c.490-c.425 BCE): Describes the State of the Organization of Persia
Background: The Greek historian Herodotus is considered “History’s First Historian”. In the account below, he describes the organization of the Persian state under Darius the Great.
III.88: Thus was Darius, son of Hystaspes, appointed king; and, except the Arabians, all they of Asia were subject to him; for Cyrus, and after him Cambyses, had brought them all under. The Arabians were never subject to the Persians, but had a league of friendship with them from the time when they brought Cambyses on his way as he went into Egypt; for had they been unfriendly, the Persians could never have made their invasion.
And now Darius contracted marriages of the first rank, according to the notions of the Persians: to wit, with two daughters of Cyrus, Atossa and Artystone; of whom, Atossa had been twice married before, once to Cambyses, her brother, and once to the Magus, while the other, Artystone, was a virgin. He married also Parmys, daughter of Smerdis, son of Cyrus; and he likewise took to wife the daughter of Otanes, who had made the discovery about the Magus. And now when his power was established firmly throughout all the kingdoms, the first thing that he did was to set up a carving in stone, which showed a man mounted upon a horse, with an inscription in these words following: “Darius, son of Hystaspes, by aid of his good horse” (here followed the horse’s name), “and of his good groom Oibares, got himself the kingdom of the Persians.”
III.89: This he set up in Persia; and afterwards he proceeded to establish twenty governments of the kind which the Persians call satrapies, assigning to each its governor, and fixing the tribute which was to be paid him by the several nations. And generally he joined together in one satrapy the nations that were neighbors, but sometimes he passed over the nearer tribes, and put in their stead those which were more remote. The following is an account of these governments, and of the yearly tribute which they paid to the king: Such as brought their tribute in silver were ordered to pay according to the Babylonian talent; while the Euboic was the standard measure for such as brought gold. Now the Babylonian talent contains seventy Euboic minae. During all the reign of Cyrus, and afterwards when Cambyses ruled, there were no fixed tributes, but the nations severally brought gifts to the king. On account of this and other like doings, the Persians say that Darius was a huckster, Cambyses a master, and
Cyrus a father; for Darius looked to making a gain in everything; Cambyses was harsh and reckless; while Cyrus was gentle, and procured them all manner of goods…
(The remainder of the passage lists the contents of the tribute paid by the regions of the empire.)
The Behistun Inscription (520 BCE), Darius I
Background: To commemorate his consolidation of power over the Persian state, Darius I (r. 522–486 BCE) commissioned the trilingual Behistun inscription excerpted here; it was posted on a major road connecting Mesopotamia with western Iran.
4.31–2. Saith Darius the King (*Note: This is old English. It simply means “King Darius said”) : These IX kings I took prisoner within these battles.
4.33–6. Saith Darius the King: These are the provinces which became rebellious. The Lie made them rebellious, so that these [men] deceived the people. Afterwards Ahuramazda (Zoroastrian god) put them into my hand; as was my desire, so I did unto them.
4.36–40. Saith Darius the King: Thou who shalt be king hereafter, protect thyself vigorously from the Lie; the man who shall be a Lie-follower, him do thou punish well, if thus thou shalt think, “May my country be secure!”
4.40–3. Saith Darius the King: This is what I did; by the favor of Ahuramazda, in one and the same year I did [it]. Thou who shalt hereafter read this inscription, let that which has been done by me convince thee; do not thou think it a lie.
4.43–5. Saith Darius the King: I turn myself quickly to Ahuramazda, that this [is] true, not false, [which] I did in one and the same year. . . .
4.52–6. Saith Darius the King: Now let that which has been done by me convince thee; thus to the people impart, do not conceal it: if this record thou shalt not conceal, [but] tell it to the people, may Ahuramazda be a friend unto thee, and may family be unto thee in abundance, and may thou live long!
4.57–9. Saith Darius the King: If this record thou shalt conceal, [and] not tell it to the people, may Ahuramazda be a smiter unto thee, and may family not be to thee!
4.59–61. Saith Darius the King: This which I did, in one and the same year by the favor of Ahuramazda I did; Ahuramazda bore me aid, and the other gods who are.
4.61–7. Saith Darius the King: For this reason Ahuramazda bore aid, and the other gods who are, because I was not hostile, I was not a Lie-follower, I was not a doer of wrong—
neither I nor my family. According to righteousness I conducted myself. Neither to the weak nor to the powerful did I do wrong. The man who cooperated with my house, him I rewarded well; whoso did injury, him I punished well.
4.67–9. Saith Darius the King: Thou who shalt be king hereafter, the man who shall be a Lie-follower or who shall be a doer of wrong—unto them do thou not be a friend, [but] punish them well.
4.69–72. Saith Darius the King: Thou who shalt hereafter behold this inscription which I have inscribed, or these sculptures, do thou not destroy them, [but] thence onward protect them; as long as thou shalt be in good strength!
Zhou Succession Crisis (c. 1043 BCE) King Wu
Background: The Shangshu (Book of History) is a Chinese record that preserves an account of the transition of power (c. 1043 BCE) from King Wu to the Duke of Zhou, in which ancestors were consulted via oracle bones and the mandate from heaven was in doubt.
After he had completed the conquest of the Shang people, in the second year, King Wu fell ill and was despondent. The two lords, the duke of Shao and Taigong Wang, said, “For the king’s sake let us solemnly consult the tortoise oracle.” But the duke of Zhou [King Wu’s younger brother, named Dan] said, “We must not distress the ancestors, the former kings.”
The duke of Zhou then offered himself to the ancestors, constructing three altars within a single compound. . . . Then he made this announcement to the Great King, to King Chi, and to King Wen, his great grandfather, grandfather, and father, and the scribe copied down the words of his prayer on tablets:
“Your chief descendant So-and-so [King Wu’s personal name is tabooed] has met with a fearful disease and is violently ill. If you three kings are obliged to render to Heaven the life of an illustrious son, then substitute me, Dan, for So-and-so’s person. I am good and compliant, clever and capable. I have much talent and much skill and can serve the spirits. . ..”
Then he divined with three tortoises, and all were auspicious. He opened the bamboo receptacles and consulted the documents, and they too indicated an auspicious answer. The duke of Zhou said to the king, “According to the indications of the oracle, you will suffer no harm.”
[The king said,] “I, the little child, have obtained a new life from the three kings. I shall plan for a distant end. I hope that they will think of me, the solitary man.”
After the duke of Zhou returned, he placed the tablets containing the prayer in a metal-bound casket. The next day the king began to recover.
[Later, King Wu died and was succeeded by his infant son, King Cheng. The duke of Zhou acted as regent and was slandered by King Wu’s younger brothers, whom he was eventually forced to punish.]
In the autumn, when a plentiful crop had ripened but had not yet been harvested, Heaven sent great thunder and lightning accompanied by wind. The grain was completely flattened and even large trees were uprooted. The people of the land were in great fear. The king and his high ministers donned their ceremonial caps and opened the documents of the metal-bound casket and thus discovered the record of how the duke of Zhou had offered himself as a substitute for King Wu. . ..
The king grasped the document and wept. “There is no need for us to make solemn divination about what has happened,” he said. “In former times the duke of Zhou toiled diligently for the royal house, but I, the youthful one, had no way of knowing it. Now Heaven has displayed its terror in order to make clear the virtue of the duke of Zhou. I, the little child, will go in person to greet him, for the rites of our royal house approve such action.”
When the king came out to the suburbs to meet the duke of Zhou, Heaven sent down rain and reversed the wind, so that the grain all stood up once more. The two lords ordered the people of the land to right all the large trees that had been blown over and to earth them up. Then the year was plentiful.
Indian Brahman Priesthood (before 7th cent. BCE), from The Upanishads
Background: The Upanishads, tells a story dating to the seventh century BCE or earlier of a young man struggling to determine his place in Indian Vedic society. Each text gives a glimpse of the practical and ideological forces that bound peoples and empires together in the first millennium BCE
1. Satyakâma, the son of Gabâlâ, addressed his mother and said: ‘I wish to become a Brahmakârin [religious student], mother. Of what family am I?’
2. She said to him: ‘I do not know, my child, of what family thou art. In my youth when I had to move about much as a servant [waiting on the guests in my father’s house] I conceived thee. I do not know of what family thou art. I am Gabâlâ by name, thou art Satyakâma [Philalethes]. Say that thou art Satyakâma Gâbâla.’
3. He going to Gautama Hâridrumata said to him, ‘I wish to become a Brahmakârin with you, Sir. May I come to you, Sir?’
4. He said to him: ‘Of what family are you, my friend?’ He replied: ‘I do not know, Sir, of what family I am. I asked my mother, and she answered: “In my youth when I had to move about much as a servant, I conceived thee. I do not know of what family thou art. I am Gabâlâ by name, thou art Satyakâma,” I am therefore Satyakâma Gâbâla, Sir.’
5. He said to him: ‘No one but a true Bráhmana would thus speak out. Go and fetch fuel, friend, I shall initiate you. You have not swerved from the truth.’ Having initiated him, he chose four hundred lean and weak cows, and said: ‘Tend these friend.’
He drove them out and said to himself. ‘I shall not return unless I bring back a thousand.’ He dwelt a number of years [in the forest], until the cows became a thousand.’
Creating Early Empires