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So The Political Abroach to the Classical World
no steps to oppose the danger. Cyrus delayed his attack until
he had secured the northern empire. In a spectacular series of
campaigns he reconquered the whole Median Empire and beyond
it. Croesus of Lydia, whose ambition had led him to cross the
Halys into Cappadocia, provoked his special attention. The
result we are told by Herodotus; Sardis fell before the Persian
advance, Lydia and the Ionian cities of the Aegean coast became
provinces of the empire. For the next five years Cyrus was
employed in conquering the east, then in 539 he turned south
to Babylonia. Meeting with little resistance, he entered the
great gates of Babylon and took the hands of its god. Nabonidus'
general Belshazzar perished; the writing on the wall had warned
in vain.
With the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses, the Persian Empire
was complete. From the Nile to the Black Sea and the Caspian,
from the Aegean almost to the borders of India, stretched that
amazing empire which Alexander still more astonishingly set
himself to win. At the new capital Persepolis, Darius the
Achaemenid perfected his organization of the known world. In
the course of their long experience the Assyrians had made great
progress in imperial administration. It was they who had first
divided their territorial possessions into provinces under district
governors, each with a staff of subordinate officials, and each
with the duty of sending regular reports to the king. The
Persian satrapies were organized after the model of these
provinces, but more elaborately; each satrap was surrounded by
a miniature court of officials and dignitaries. Each province had
had to pay tribute to Assyria and tithes to the royal temples.
Darius fixed a quota for each satrapy and an elaborate staff of
officials to see that it was paid. The Assyrian system of royal
roads was adopted and carried much farther by the Persians,
whose empire was traversed by a network of highways, valuable
for military purposes and used for swift communication by the
well organized courier service.