The Big Map


  • The Map: after much discussion we decided NOT to have any modern states named on the map - partly to duck controversy (Israel/Palestine/ Palestinian authority - for example), partly because naming the states is a valuable lesson for the learners. Modern states shown are: Italy, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine (West Bank and Gaza), Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Cyprus; Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait.

  • Task: Spend some time looking carefully at this map. What modern countries are inside the old Persian Empire? Draw or photocopy a modern map, then use colour to show the extent of the lands ruled by Xerxes. How far was it from the Aegean coast of Asia Minor (Ionia, where Greeks lived) to the capital, at Persepolis?

The Persians took only 30 years to expand from an obscure tribe living in what's now south-west Iran (called Persis by the Greeks, and today called Pars or Fars) to the rulers of an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean coast of Turkey to Pakistan, from Egypt to Afghanistan.

How did they do it? Their success was down to two men, Cyrus and Darius, who established principles for ruling their territory that have changed little to this day. These principles were:

  1. strong central government, with a single unchallenged ruler

  2. effective communication

  3. a strong and well-equipped army

  4. tolerance of other cultures, especially religion

  • Discuss: how would these principles apply to running a a family, a class, a school, a football team, a city, a country, an empire?

The rulers themselves changed over the centuries {12}, but as long as they stuck to these founding principles, the Persians remained secure and successful. Alexander of Macedon (in the 4th century BC) – Alexander the Great – was able to defeat them in their homeland (and largely then because of a weak ruler), as were the Arabs in the 8th century AD. But Alexander and the Arabs, like all invaders of Persia throughout their history, soon found themselves becoming “persianized”.