Jump to: ISBEConcordanceThesaurusHebrewLibrarySubtopicsTermsResources
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

pur'-shanz, -zhanz (parac, also equals PERSIA, PERSIS (which see); adjective parci Hebrew, and parcay, Aramaic.; Persai, adjective only in Nehemiah 12:22 Daniel 6:28; Achaem. Persian Parsa, name of both country and people; does not occur in Avesta):


1. Three Classes

2. Tribal and Clan Divisions

3. Achemenian Dynasty


1. Writing

2. Institutions and Customs


1. Cyrus

2. Capture of Babylon

3. Cambyses

4. Pseudo-Smerdis

5. Darius I

6. Darius' Suez Canal

7. Xerxes I

8. Artaxerxes II

9. Xerxes II

10. Later Persian Kings



The Persians are not mentioned in the Bible until the exilic books (2 Chronicles 36:20, 22, 23 Ezra 1:1, 2, 8; Ezra 3:7 Esther 1:19, etc.; Daniel 5:28; Daniel 6:8, 12, 15, 28), being previously included under the Medes (Genesis 10:2), as they were by Thucydides, and even by Xenophon often.

Archaemenes (Hakhamanish)

Teispes (Chaishpish, Sispis)

Cyrus Ariaramnes (Ariyaramna)

Cambyses Arsames (Arshama)

Cyrus the Great Hystaspes (Vishtaspa)

Cambyses Darius I

Xerxes I (Ahasuerus)

Artaxerxes I (Longimanus)

Xerxes II Sogdianus Darius II

(Nothos, Ochos)

Artaxerxes III (Ochos) (Sisygambis, a daughter)


Darius III (Codomannus)

(Neh. 12:22; 1 Macc. 1:1)

I. Affinity.

Being of the same stock as the Medes they shared the name Aryans (Achaem. ariya; Av. airya; Sanskrit, arya, "noble"); compare the Naqsh i Rustam Inscription, where Darius I calls himself "a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, of Aryan descent" (II. 13, 14). Tradition assigns as their earliest known habitat the so-called Airyanem Vaejo ("Aryan germ"), a district between the Jaxartes and the Oxus (Vendidad I), whence they migrated gradually to what was afterward known as Persis (modern Fars), including probably part of Elam.

1. Three Classes:

The Avesta shows that the Medo-Pers community was divided into 3 classes (zantu): the Athravans or fire-priests, the Rathaestars or charioteers, and the Vastryafshuyans or cattle-rearers (compare the three original Hindu castes, the Brahmans, the Kshattriyas and the Vaisyas). A fourth class, the artisans or Hutis, came later. But these were classes, not castes.

2. Tribal and Clan Divisions:

They were also divided into tribes, clans (Achaem. vith; Av. vis; compare vicus) and families or households (Achaem. tauma; Av. nmana). Herodotus (i.125) mentions ten Persian tribes, the chief being the Pasargadae, to which belonged the Achemenian clan (phretre) which included the royal family. This dynasty traced its origin to Achaemenes (Chakhamanish) according to Darius and Herodotus.Oxus (Vendidad I), whence they migrated gradually to what was afterward known as Persis (modern Fars), including probably part of Elam.

3. Achemenian Dynasty:

The following scheme will serve to show the descent of the line of Persian kings mentioned in the Bible and in secular history up to the time of the fall of the dynasty in 331 B.C.

II. Civilization.

1. Writing:

The Persians had indulged less in luxury than the Medes, until their conquest of Media and other lands under Cyrus the Great gave them the opportunity, which they were not slow to embrace, being famed for their readiness to adopt foreign customs. Writing was introduced from Babylonia through Elam.

2. Institutions and Customs:

This cuneiform character was afterward superseded by one derived from Syria, from which came the Avestic writing, which, in its corrupt Pahlavi form, lasted until the Arabian conquest imposed the Arabic character on the people. The Achemenian kings probably borrowed from Babylon and further developed their system of royal posts (Esther 8:14) or messengers (and even the words aggaroi, and astandai, used to denote them, are almost certainly Babylonian). Of these men's pace it was said, "No mortal thing is quicker." The custom of showing special honor to the "Benefactors of the King" (Herodotos viii.85: orosaggai equals Av. uru plus sanh, "widely renowned") is referred to in Esther 6:1, 2, 3, and that of covering the (head and) face of a criminal condemned to death (with a large black cap) (Esther 7:8, 9) occurs in the Shahnamah also.

(1) The King.

The king was an arbitrary ruler with unlimited power, the council of seven princes who stood nearest to the throne (Esther 1:14; compare Herodotos iii. 70-84) having no share in the government.

(2) The Army.

As soldiers, the Persians were famous as archers and javelin-throwers; they were also skilled in the use of the sling, and above all in riding. Boys were taken from the women's into the men's part of the house at the age of 5, and were there trained in "riding, archery and speaking the truth" until 20 years old. In Darius' inscriptions, as well as in the Avesta, lying is regarded as a great crime.

(3) Marriage.

The Persians practiced polygamy, and marriages between those next of kin were approved of. Pride and garrulity are mentioned as distinctive of the Persian character.

III. History.

1. Cyrus:

Persian history, as known to us, begins with Cyrus the Great. His ancestors, for at least some generations, seem to have been chiefs or "kings" of Anshan, a district in Persia or Elam. Cyrus himself (Western Asiatic Inscriptions, V, plate 35) gives his genealogy up to and including Teispes, entitling all his ancestors whom he mentions, kings of Anshan. Phraortes, king of the Medes, is said to have first subjugated the Persians to that kingdom about 97 years before Cyrus (Herodotus i.102). Cyrus himself headed his countrymen's revolt against Astyages, who advanced to attack Pasargadae (549 B.C.). His army mutinied and surrendered him to Cyrus, whom the Greeks held to be his grandson on the mother's side. Cyrus, becoming supreme ruler of both Medes and Persians, advanced to the conquest of Lydia. He defeated and captured Croesus, overran Lydia, and compelled the Greek colonies in Asia Minor to pay tribute (547 B.C.).

2. Capture of Babylon:

He overthrew the Sute (Bedouin) across the Tigris the following year, and was then invited by a large party in Babylonia to come to their help against the usurper Nabunahid, whose religious zeal had led him to collect as many as possible of the idols from other parts of Babylonia and remove them to Babylon, thereby increasing the sacredness and magnificence of that city but inflicting injury on neighboring and more ancient sanctuaries. Defeating Nabunahid's army and capturing the king, Cyrus sent his own forces under Gobryas (Gubaru, Gaubaruva)to take possession of Babylon. This he did in June, 538, "without opposition and without a battle." The citadel, however, where Belshazzar "the king's son" was in command, held out for some months, and was then taken in a night attack in which "the king's son" was slain. Cyrus made Gobryas viceroy of Chaldea, and he "appointed governors in Babylonia (Cyrus' "Annalistic Tablet"). When Gobryas died within the year, Cyrus' son Cambyses was made viceroy of the country, now become a province of the Persian empire. Cyrus restored the gods to their sanctuaries, and this doubtless led to permission being given to the Jews to return to Jerusalem, taking with them their sacred vessels, and to rebuild their temple. Cyrus was killed in battle against some frontier tribe (accounts differ where) in 529 B.C. His tomb at Murghab, near the ruins of Pasargadae, is still standing.

3. Cambyses:

Cyrus' son and successor, Cambyses, invaded Egypt and conquered it after a great battle near Pelusium (525 B.C.). During his absence, a Magian, Gaumata, who pretended to be Smerdis (Bardiya), Cambyses' murdered brother, seized the throne. Marching against him, Cambyses committed suicide.

4. Pseudo-Smerdis:

After a reign of 7 months, the usurper was overthrown and slain by Darius and his 6 brother-nobles (their names in Herodotus iii.70 are confirmed with one exception in Darius' Besitun Inscription, column iv, 80-86). Darius became king as the heir of Cambyses (521 B.C.). But in nearly every part of the empire rebellions broke out, in most cases headed by real or pretended descendants of the ancient kings of each country.

5. Darius I:

After at least 3 years' struggle Darius' authority was firmly established everywhere. He then divided the empire into satrapies, or provinces (dahyava), of which there were at first 23 (Beh. Inscription, column i, 13-17), and ultimately at least 29 (Naqsh i Rustam Inscription, 22-30). Over these he placed satraps of noble Persian or Median descent, instead of representatives of their ancient kings. His empire extended from the Indus to the Black Sea, from the Jaxartes to beyond the Nile.

6. Darius' Suez Canal:

Darius united the latter river with the Red Sea by a canal, the partly obliterated inscription commemorating which may perhaps be thus restored and rendered: "I am a Persian; with Persia I seized Egypt. I commanded to dig this canal from the river named the Nile (Pirava), which flows through Egypt, to this sea which comes from Persia. Then this canal was dug, according as I commanded. And I said, `Come ye from the Nile through this canal to Persia.' " Darius' expedition into Scythia, his success in subduing the rebellion among the Asiatic Greeks, his attempts to conquer Greece itself and his overthrow at Marathon (499-490 B.C.) are part of the history of Greece. A rebellion in Egypt had not been repressed when Darius died in 485 B.C.

7. Xerxes I:

Xerxes I, who succeeded his father, regained Egypt, but his failure in his attempts to conquer Greece largely exhausted his empire. In 464 B.C. he was murdered. His son Artaxerxes I, surnamed "the longarmed," succeeded him, being himself succeeded in 424 B.C. by his son Xerxes II, who was murdered the following year. This ended the legitimate Achemenian line, the next king, Darius II (styled Nothos, or "bastard," as well as Ochos), being one of Artaxerxes' illegitimate sons (we pass over Sogdianus' brief reign).

8. Artaxerxes II:

Artaxerxes II, Mnemon, succeeded his father and left the throne to his son Artaxerxes III, Ochos. The latter was murdered with all his sons but the youngest, Arses, by an Egyptian eunuch Bagoas, probably in revenge for Artaxerxes' conduct in Egypt (338 B.C.).

9. Xerxes II:

Arses was murdered by Bagoas 3 years later, when Darius III, Codomannus, the son of Sisygambis, daughter of Artaxerxes II, and her husband, a Persian noble, ascended the throne.

10. Later Persian Kings:

Darius was completely overthrown by Alexander the Great in the battle of Gaugamela or Arbela, 331 B.C., and shortly after fell by an assassin's hand. This ended the Persian empire of the Achaemenides, the whole of the lands composing it becoming part of the empire of Macedon.

IV. First Mention in Inscriptions.

Persia (Parsua) is first mentioned as a country in an inscription of Rammanu Nirari III (WAI, I, plate 35, number 1, l. 8), who boasts of having conquered it and other lands (he reigned from 812 to 783 or from 810 to 781 B.C.).


Besides the main authorities mentioned in the text, we learn much from Spiegel, Die Altper-sischen Keilinschriften, Arrian, Thucydides, Polybius, Strabo, Curtius.

W. St. Clair Tisdall

Strong's Hebrew
4990. Mithredath -- two Persians
... 4989, 4990. Mithredath. 4991 . two Persians. Transliteration: Mithredath Phonetic
Spelling: (mith-red-awth') Short Definition: Mithredath. ...
/hebrew/4990.htm - 5k

6540. Paras -- a country in W. Asia which conquered Bab.
... Transliteration: Paras Phonetic Spelling: (paw-ras') Short Definition: Persians. ...
NASB Word Usage Persia (2), Persians (4). Persia, Persians. ...
/hebrew/6540.htm - 6k

6539. Paras -- a country in W. Asia which conquered Bab.
... Persia, Persians. Of foreign origin; Paras (ie Persia), an Eastern country, including
its inhabitants -- Persia, Persians. 6538, 6539. Paras. 6540 . ...
/hebrew/6539.htm - 6k

3566. Koresh -- a Pers. king
... Cyrus. Or (Ezra 1:1 (last time), Ezra 1:2) Koresh {ko'-resh}; from the Persians;
Koresh (or Cyrus), the Persian king -- Cyrus. see HEBREW 'ab. 3565, 3566. ...
/hebrew/3566.htm - 6k


From the Ancient Monuments of the Egyptians, Persians, and Indians ...
... From the ancient monuments of the Egyptians, Persians, and Indians? From
the ancient monuments of the Egyptians, Persians, and ...
/.../mede/a key to the apocalypse/from the ancient monuments of.htm

A Second Overthrow of the Persians by the Romans.
... Book VII. Chapter XX."A Second Overthrow of the Persians by the Romans.
Now the emperor of the Romans dwelling in Constantinople ...
/.../the ecclesiastical history of scholasticus/chapter xx a second overthrow of.htm

Of the Expedition against the Persians.
... Book III. Chapter XVI."Of the expedition against the Persians. No sooner
had the Persians heard of the death of Constantius, than ...
/.../chapter xvi of the expedition against.htm

How Cyrus, King of the Persians, Delivered the Jews Out Of
... From The First Of Cyrus To The Death Of Alexander The Great. CHAPTER 1.
How Cyrus, King Of The Persians, Delivered The Jews Out Of. ...
/.../josephus/the antiquities of the jews/chapter 1 how cyrus king.htm

How the Armenians and Persians Embraced Christianity.
... Book II. Chapter VIII."How the Armenians and Persians embraced Christianity.
Subsequently the Christian religion became known ...
/.../the ecclesiastical history of sozomenus/chapter viii how the armenians and.htm

Propagation of Christianity among the Persians by Maruthas Bishop ...
... Book VII. Chapter VIII."Propagation of Christianity among the Persians
by Maruthas Bishop of Mesopotamia. About this same time ...
/.../chapter viii propagation of christianity among.htm

In Regard to the Persians, we have Already Said that Though they ...
... Chapter LXV. In regard to the Persians, we have already said that though
they do not build? In regard to the Persians, we have ...
/.../origen/origen against celsus/chapter lxv in regard to.htm

Fire-Worship of the Persians.
... Book IV. Chapter XXIX."Fire-Worship of the Persians. "First among whom
is named a certain king Nimrod, the magic art having been ...
/.../unknown/recognitions of clement /chapter xxix fire-worship of the persians.htm

Renewal of Hostilities Between the Romans and Persians after the ...
... Book VII. Chapter XVIII."Renewal of Hostilities between the Romans and Persians
after the Death of Isdigerdes King of the Persians. ...
/.../chapter xviii renewal of hostilities between.htm

Recapitulation of Theologies and Cosmogonies; System of the ...
... Chapter XLIII."Recapitulation of Theologies and Cosmogonies; System of the Persians;
Of the Babylonians; The Egyptian Notion of Deity; Their Theology Based ...
/.../chapter xliii recapitulation of theologies and.htm

Persians (6 Occurrences)
...PERSIANS. ... As soldiers, the Persians were famous as archers and javelin-throwers;
they were also skilled in the use of the sling, and above all in riding. ...
/p/persians.htm - 20k

Medes (15 Occurrences)
... Arya, "noble." They were closely allied in descent, language and religion with the
Persians, and in secular history preceded their appearance by some centuries ...
/m/medes.htm - 18k

Persia (30 Occurrences)
... Persian Gulf. The Persians were originally a Medic tribe which settled
in Persia, on the eastern side of the Persian Gulf. They ...
/p/persia.htm - 20k

Injunction (8 Occurrences)
... Daniel 6:8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it not
be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which doesn't alter ...
/i/injunction.htm - 9k

Interdict (6 Occurrences)
... Daniel 6:8 Now, O king, establish the interdict, and sign the writing, that it be
not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth ...
/i/interdict.htm - 9k

Repealed (3 Occurrences)
... Esther 1:19 If it please the king, let a royal commandment go from him, and let
it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it cannot ...
/r/repealed.htm - 7k

... (n.) The religious system of Zoroaster, the legislator and prophet of the ancient
Persians, which was the national faith of Persia; mazdeism. ...
/z/zoroastrianism.htm - 17k

Revoked (5 Occurrences)
... Daniel 6:8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not
changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be ...
/r/revoked.htm - 8k

Desolation (131 Occurrences)
... From the Chaldeans the rulership of Judea had been transferred to the Persians,
and from the Persians, after an interval of 200 years, to Alexander the Great. ...
/d/desolation.htm - 46k

Chios (1 Occurrence)
... When the Persians overran Asia Minor and oppressed the Greek colonies,
the Chians showed a Pan-Hellenic spirit. They surrendered ...
/c/chios.htm - 11k

What is the significance of the Medo-Persian Empire in biblical history? |

Who was Belshazzar? |

What is the biblical account of Shem, Ham, and Japheth? |

Bible ConcordanceBible DictionaryBible EncyclopediaTopical BibleBible Thesuarus
Persians (6 Occurrences)

Ezra 4:9
then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions, the Dinaites, and the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Shushanchites, the Dehaites, the Elamites,
(See RSV)

Esther 1:19
If it please the king, let a royal commandment go from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it cannot be altered, that Vashti may never again come before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate to another who is better than she.

Daniel 5:28
PERES; your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. Micah

Daniel 6:8
Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which doesn't alter.

Daniel 6:12
Then they came near, and spoke before the king concerning the king's decree: Haven't you signed an decree, that every man who shall make petition to any god or man within thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which doesn't alter.

Daniel 6:15
Then these men assembled together to the king, and said to the king, Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians, that no decree nor statute which the king establishes may be changed.



Related Terms

Medes (15 Occurrences)

Persia (30 Occurrences)

Injunction (8 Occurrences)

Interdict (6 Occurrences)

Repealed (3 Occurrences)


Revoked (5 Occurrences)

Desolation (131 Occurrences)

Chios (1 Occurrence)

Altereth (2 Occurrences)


Altered (4 Occurrences)

Alter (8 Occurrences)

Chariot (102 Occurrences)

Ephesus (20 Occurrences)

Cyrus (20 Occurrences)

Babylon (270 Occurrences)

Decree (82 Occurrences)

Cyprus (12 Occurrences)

Parthians (1 Occurrence)

Attitudes (1 Occurrence)

Persian (4 Occurrences)

Abomination (78 Occurrences)

Money (284 Occurrences)

Taxing (3 Occurrences)

Tax (43 Occurrences)

Issue (59 Occurrences)

Xerxes (24 Occurrences)

Vashti (10 Occurrences)


No (18543 Occurrences)


Lydia (5 Occurrences)

Lycia (1 Occurrence)

Minor (2 Occurrences)

Wife (437 Occurrences)

Issues (8 Occurrences)

Tumultuously (4 Occurrences)


Rabmag (2 Occurrences)

Rab-mag (2 Occurrences)

Establishes (15 Occurrences)

Elam (24 Occurrences)


Establisheth (16 Occurrences)

Desire (565 Occurrences)

Document (9 Occurrences)

Dress (38 Occurrences)

Member (20 Occurrences)

Miletus (3 Occurrences)

Media (14 Occurrences)

Mitylene (1 Occurrence)

Meshech (11 Occurrences)

Magi (4 Occurrences)

Pleaseth (13 Occurrences)

Peres (2 Occurrences)

Persis (1 Occurrence)

Prays (14 Occurrences)

Pharpar (1 Occurrence)

Bondage (55 Occurrences)

Brother's (46 Occurrences)

Bar-jesus (1 Occurrence)

Barjesus (1 Occurrence)

Breeches (6 Occurrences)


Chaldees (13 Occurrences)

Coins (13 Occurrences)


Artaxerxes (14 Occurrences)


Ararat (4 Occurrences)

Ahasuerus (28 Occurrences)


Ahasu-e'rus (30 Occurrences)

Arvad (2 Occurrences)

Axe (19 Occurrences)

Apharsites (1 Occurrence)

Arvadites (1 Occurrence)

Top of Page
Top of Page