An Iranian dynasty named after the legendary founder Achaemenes. The Achaemenid or Persian Empire was created by Cyrus the Great who overthrew Astyages the Mede in 550 B.C. At its greatest extent the Empire stretched from the Balkans to the Indo-Iranian borderlands and included both Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Empire came to an end with the defeat of Darius III by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.

Anatolian Plateau.

The central highlands of modern Turkey map


A Lydian princess who was given in marriage to the Median king Astyages by her father, Alyattes king of Lydia, as part of the peace treaty that followed the "Battle of the Eclipse". Aryenis was thus a sister of Croesus. The overthrow of her husband by Cyrus the Great gave Croesus just reason to cross the Halys River.


Last king of the Median Empire and the builder of Pteria. Husband of Aryenis and thus brother-in-law of Croesus, overthrown by CyrustheGreat c. 550 BC.

Battle of the Eclipse.

According to Herodotus a war between the Medes and the Lydians was brought to an end in its sixth year when a fierce battle was dramatically terminated by a total eclipse of the sun. The battle was followed by a peace treaty between the two combatants. Modern calculations establish the eclipse itself took place in the late afternoon of May 28, 585 B.C. There is no independent source against which Herodotus' account can be checked.

Battle of Pteria.

The modern name for the battle between Croesus and Cyrus the Great that, according to Herodotus, was fought in the territory of Pteria. The traditional date is in the late summer or autumn of 547, but this could be a year or two too early.


Today Cappadocia is a region of spectacular volcanic landscape, riddled with rock-cut churches and dwellings, that has justly become a centre for tourism. The Roman province of Cappadocia, with its capital at Caesarea Mazaca, later called Caesarea Cappadociae, modern Kayseri; was, however, much larger. The name Cappadocia most probably owes its origin to the establishment of the Persian Satrapy (Province) of Katpatuka which, with a new capital at Mazaca, would presumably have been a creation of Cyrus the Great in the 540s. If this is correct, the use of the term Cappadocia by Herodotus in describing events in the first half of the 6th century is anachronistic.


Today a region of the northeastern Mediterranean coast in Turkey bounded by the Taurus Mountains to the north and the Anti-Taurus on the east. This is a reflection of the Roman Provinces of Rough and Smooth Cilicia. In the mid First Millennium B.C. Cilicia appears to have been largely the heir to Late Bronze Age Kizzuwatna and, therefore, to have extended on to the Central Anatolian Plateau for a considerable distance north of the Taurus. Following the fall of Assyria (612 B.C.) Cilicia was nominally under Babylonian control but was ruled by a local kings who bore the title Syennensis.


Last and most famous king of ancient Lydia, the richest man in the ancient world. Brother-in-law of the Median king Astyages. Defeated by Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid dynasty in (traditionally) 547 BC.


King of the Medes and father of Astyages. It was under Cyaxares' rule that Median power was extended over part of northern Mesopotamia and Anatolia.

Cyrus the Great.

Also known as Cyrus the Second, he was the first king of the Achaemenid Empire. He seized power by overthrowing Astyages, the king of the Medes, in 550 B.C. He extended Persian power over all of Anatolia, Mesopotamia and much of eastern Iran.


One of the most important oracular temples (temples where the gods could be questioned) in the ancient Greek world was that dedicated to the god Apollo at Delphi. The priesthood would have gained great geo-political knowledge in the course of relaying questions to Apollo and dispensing the god's answers, and in this way gained considerable influence over much of the Aegean. That Croesus could hardly have gone to war without approval from this Greek oracle is an indication of the intensity of international relations.


The modern city of Hamadan in central Iran. It was the capital of the Medes and became the summer residence of the Achaemenids. Herodotus described the city as being ringed with seven concentric walls, the battlements of which were coated with gold and silver and various colours, but this account was probably not meant to be taken literally. Recent and ongoing excavation is beginning to produce the first archaeological evidence of its ancient splendour.

Euxine Sea.

Literally the Hospitable Sea (Pontus Euxinus), the Greek name used by Herodotus for what is now called the Black Sea.

Halys River.

The modern Kizilirmak (Red River) rises near Sivas, at the eastern end of the Central Anatolian Plateau, and makes a great arc through Cappadocia before turning northwards to eventually flow into the Black Sea. The Halys formed the eastern boundary of Phrygia in the time of king Midas (8th century B.C.) and became the boundary between Lydia and Media according to the peace treaty that followed the "Battle of the Eclipse" (585 B.C.). It seems possible that, in the first half of the sixth century B.C., the river also formed a border between Media and Cilicia. Earlier, in the Second Millennium B.C., the territory within the "Great Bend of the Halys" was the heartland of Hittite civilisation.


Herodotus of Harlicanassus, the "Father of History"; fourth century Greek historian whose work, The Histories, is the main source for the Medes and Pteria.


"The Hittites came to power in the first half of the Second Millennium B.C., in the earlier part of the Late Bronze Age. In the 14th century forces of the Hittite Empire clashed with Egypt for control of North Syria. The Hittite capital was Hattusha, some 50 km to the northwest of Kerkenes. The Hittite Empire collapsed sometime after 1200 B.C. but attempted to re-established itself at Carchemish on the Euphrates River. In the 9th century B.C. Neo-Hittite states emerged on the Central Anatolian Plateau and in North Syria. These Neo-Hittite Kingdoms appear to have all vanished by the 6th century, but on the Central Anatolian Plateau we are very poorly informed about events and cultures after the end of the 8th century when inscriptions in hieroglyphic Luwian (an Indo-European language used by the Hittites for public inscriptions) cease.


Greeks from Iona on the western coast of modern Turkey. The Ionian cities were said to have been founded by refugees from the Dorian invasions under their legendary leader Ion at the end of the Late Bronze Age.

Iron Age.

The period between the collapse of the Late Bronze Age (c.1180 BC) and the establishment of Roman Rule in Asia Minor.


Labynetus the Babylonian was, according to Herodotus, one of the brokers of the international peace treaty between the Medes and the Lydians that followed the "Battle of the Eclipse" (585 B.C.). The name has long been understood to be the Greek version of Nabonidus, but if this was the same Nabonidus who was to become King of Babylon there are problems of chronology that still require full resolution.


An Iron Age kindom in south-west Turkey. The boundary between Lydia and the Median Empire was fixed at the Halys River following the Battle of the Eclipse. Incorporated into the Achaemenid Empire after the capture of Sardis by Cyrus the Great.


An indo-european people whose capital was at Ectabana, modern Hamadan in Iran. The Medes together with the Babylonians overthrew the Assyrian Empire in 612 BC. After the Battle of the Eclipse in 585 BC the western border of the Median Empire was fixed at the Halys River.

Median Empire.

The empire of the Medes extending from Iran to the Halys River.

Mount Daha.

A mountain sacred to the Hittites and associated with the city of Zipallanda. Identified with Kerkenes Dag, Gurney, 1995.


The ancient Neo-Assyrian city of Kalhu (biblical Calah), on the Tigris River some 30 km south of Mosul in northern Iraq. It was destroyed by the Medes between 614 and 612 B.C.


Modern Mosul in northern Iraq, Nineveh became the largest and most important Neo-Assyrian royal capital. It was sacked by the combined forces of the Medes and Baylonians in 612 B.C. Dramatic evidence of the final assault, in the form of slain humans and animals in the Haizi Gate, has recently been dug up. The fall of Nineveh effectively ended the Neo-Assyrian Empire.


The name of a place in Cappadocia according to Herodotus and known to have been a Median city by Stephanos of Byzantium. Thought to be the city on the Kerkenes Dag, Summers, 1997.


Modern Sart in south-west Turkey, capital of Lydia. After capture by Cyrus the Great in, traditionally, 547 BC, it became the seat of the Achaemenid satrapy.


Because of its natural harbours the ancient Greek colony of Sinope, modern Sinop, was the most important port on the southern shore of the Black Sea.


The kings of Cilicia were called Syennensis, a term that seems to have come to denote the office rather than being a personal name. The same thing happened, for instance, to both Midas and Caesar.


The term Herodotus uses for what we might best call Anatolians, i.e. the native peoples of the Plateau.

Thales of Miletus.

Thales lived in the first half of the sixth century in the East Greek city of Miletus. Thinker, scientist and politician, he was the founder of rational philosophy. Thales was the only pre-Socratic (before Socrates) philosopher to be counted as one of the Seven Sages. Aristotle thought he was the father of astronomy. None of his works, if indeed he ever wrote any, have survived.


Republic since 29 October 1923, 780,580 square km, population c. 63,000,000. For more facts, check out CIA World Factbook.


The Neo-Assyrian term for the lands of Mount Ararat, a lofty volcanic mountain in the high massif of Eastern Turkey. From the 9th century B.C. Hurrian tribes came together to form a kingdom which flourished in this region. By the late 7th century Urartu had become the extensive Empire that today we call Urartu. The capital city was Tushpa on the shores of Lake Van. At its height Urartu was able to threaten even mighty Assyria, using the advantage of the natural strength provided by its mountain fastness. Urartu fell, with every fortress apparently destroyed by violent attack and fire, in the mid 7th century B.C. It is not known who the attackers were, but they could well have included, or even been led by, the Medes.


A city of the Hittite Empire period that was an important cultic centre. It is mentioned in texts, written in cuneiform script on clay tablets that were discovered at Hattusha, which refer to religious festivals. The city is associated with a sacred mountain that was called Mount Daha. It is thought that Zippalanda is to be identified with the site at Kushakli (Yozgat), a few kilometers north of Kerkenes, and that Kerkenes itself was Mount Daha.