Under pressure from the Assyrian empire of Mesopotamia, the small kingdoms of the western Iranian plateau coalesce into increasingly larger and more centralized states. The defeat of the Median kingdom in northwestern Iran leads to the rapid growth of the Achaemenid Persian empire centered in southwestern Iran. Following the invasion of the region by the forces of Alexander of Macedon, the Parthians reestablish an Iranian-centered empire across the Near East.
Learn more about the geography of Iran.
9th century B.C. Medes and Persians, both speaking Indo-European languages, are first reported in the Iranian highlands as threats to the Assyrian empire of northern Mesopotamia.
ca. 8th7th century B.C. The inhabitants of the mountainous region of western Iran (modern Luristan), manufacture an astonishing variety of bronze objects, including weapons, standards, jewelry, horse ornaments, and vessels.
ca. 646 B.C. The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal sacks Susa, ending Elamite supremacy.
612 B.C. The Median king Cyaxares, allied with King Nabopolassar of Babylon, destroys the capital cities of Assyria. The following short-lived Median kingdom, with its capital at Ecbatana (modern Hamadan) in the Zagros Mountains, extends from northwestern Iran into Anatolia.
559486 B.C. The Persian king Cyrus II (the Great, r. ca. 559530 B.C.) lays the foundation for the Achaemenid empire by successively overthrowing Media, Lydia, and the Babylonian empire. Under Darius I (the Great, r. 522486 B.C.), the Achaemenid realm stretches from Greece and Egypt to Central Asia and India. The Persian Royal Road is built, running from Sardis (in Anatolia) to Susa, facilitating trade, taxation, and communications.
ca. 500425 B.C. Foreign craftsmen help construct Persepolis using architectural and artistic styles from Iranian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Lydian, and Greek traditions to produce a distinctly Achaemenid form of art. Stone relief carvings portray the diverse subjects of the empire bringing tribute to the king.
331247 B.C. The armies of Alexander of Macedon defeat the Persians. Upon Alexander's death in Babylon, his successors divide the empire. Iran, Mesopotamia, and Syria fall under the rule of Seleucus I, who founds the Seleucid dynasty. Hellenistic art and culture emerge from a fusion of the various Near Eastern and classical Greek traditions.
247 B.C. Arsaces I founds the Parthian (Arsacid) dynasty in northern Iran. By 113 B.C., his successors control much of the former Seleucid empire and move their capital from Iran to Ctesiphon on the Tigris.
ca. 53 B.C. The Roman legions under Crassus suffer a decisive defeat at the hands of the Parthians, at Haran (ancient Carrhae) in northern Mesopotamia.