The Persian Empire ca. 500 B.C.E.
The Persian Empire would, by the sixth century B.C.E., become the most powerful and the largest empire in the world. The empire was expressly expansionist, always looking to add new territory to its control, and with its well-trained and well-equipped army, was able to do so. This map depicts the extent of the Persian Empire, stretching from the western shores of Greece, through Asia Minor and east to the Indus river. The empire also included vast territories in Egypt (near the southern coast of the Mediterranean) and stretched from the northern coast of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea north to the Black Sea. The inset shows two of the most important Persian campaigns: in 490 B.C.E., led by Darius, and in 480 B.C.E., led by Xerxes. Each of these brought the Persians into conflict with the Greeks (whose territory they wanted as their own). In famous battles like Thermopylae, the Greeks repelled the Persian invaders despite being vastly outnumbered.