Timeline of the Persian Empire

From 3400 B.C.E. to 642 C.E.

Scythian emissaries meeting with Darius.

Franciszek Smuglewicz / Wikimedia Commons / PD-Art

The Persian Empire, or modern-day Iran, had a rich past full of highs and lows for the region's people. The following timeline of major events in Persia's history is based on a Library of Congress Persia timeline.

Early History

  • c. 3400 BCE - the Elamite kingdom emerges in southwestern Iran and Mesopotamia.
  • c. 2000 BCE - Nomadic peoples—Scythians, Medes, and Persians—move from Central Asia to the Iranian plateau.

6th Century B.C.E.

  • c. 553-550 BCE - Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great) overthrows the Median king and becomes ruler of Persia and Media; he founds the Achaemenid Empire.
  • 539 BCE - Cyrus captures Babylon and releases Jews from captivity.
  • 525 B.C. - Cyrus's son Cambyses II conquers Egypt.
  • 522 BCE - Darius I becomes king. He re-establishes and extends the empire, carrying out administrative reorganization.

5th Century B.C.E.

  • 490 BCE - Darius invades the Greek mainland and is defeated at the Battle of Marathon.

4th Century B.C.E.

  • 334 BCE - Alexander the Great begins a Persian campaign. He completes his conquest of Persia and Mesopotamia in 330 BCE.
  • 323 BCE - The death of Alexander leads to the division of the empire among generals. Seleucids emerge as principal heirs in Iran.

3rd Century B.C.E.

  • 247 BCE - The Parthians overthrow the Seleucids, establishing their own dynasty.

3rd Century C.E.

  • 224 CE - Ardeshir overthrows the last Parthian ruler, establishing the Sassanian dynasty with the capital at Ctesiphon.
  • 260 CE - Shahpur I wages a campaign against the Romans, taking emperor Valerian captive.

7th Century

  • 637 - Muslim armies capture Ctesiphon and the Sassanian Empire begins to crumble.
  • 641-42 - The Sassanian army is defeated at Nahavand. Iran comes under Muslim rule.