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1. Introduction

Cyrus the Great's rise to power and his transformation of Persia from a small, subservient state into a hegemonic empire has been the subject of much historical interest. However, this paper, while using something of a traditional historical perspective, attempts to link this pivotal period in ancient history to the analytical framework of modern political science, particularly the two sub-fields of democratic theory and international relations. Cyrus's rise is not simply the grasp for power of one man, nor is it solely the rationalized self-interest of a state apparatus. On the contrary, Cyrus exploded the pre-existing international balance-of-power system by harnessing the power of interest groups. This was not strictly through cynical, realist manipulation, but rather by genuine political cooperation, in which each interest group entered rationally into an alliance with the nascent state regime of Cyrus's Achaemenid Persia.

In this paper, I seek to explain how three international systems were interconnected by the almost-cyclical forces of domestic demands for less oppression, the normal demands of states on the international level, and the pathologies of ancient foreign policy. I chose these three systems as my case studies because they are solid cases on their own but strangely also form one large detailed case study when taken together of how ancient pre-democratic states and the international systems that they hold up like pillars are transformed. The first system is a (largely) hegemonic power arrangement dominated by the singular power of Assyria. The second system was the post-Assyrian balance of power system that roughly divvied up power between the destroyers of Assyria and the other survivors of the late Assyrian imperial system. The third system is the most hegemonic system of the three, ruled by the Achaemenid Persian Empire.

The intersection between domestic regime type and the level of fragmentation of the international system is extremely critical in this paper and reveals valuable results that affect both the study of ancient and modern regimes. I describe the regime types used in this article as pre-democratic. This implies that these regime types developed before democracy and this is true, but the term does not imply that pre-democratic regime types lose their relevance after the development of democracy of the Greek type. These regimes are not labeled as simply non-democratic because they are combinable with democratic and other institutions and their ideas should not always be viewed as contrary to democracy. Representationalism pre-exists democracy and is certainly independent of it, but it can be combined with direct democracy as well.

Power arrangements within ancient pre-democratic states varied. It is easy to clump these institutions together, but some, like Persia separated the royal power from the bureaucratic power, decentralized power and actively sought the viewpoints of every group of person. Others, like Assyria, were truly oppressive authoritarian regimes. The division between representationalist and authoritarian regimes is more helpful than the authoritarianism/democracy dichotomy. Philip Pettit's theory of republicanism as set forth first in his pivotal work, Republicanism, emphasizes the ethics of non-domination as the core of free polities. The domestic balance of power is the core of republicanism. Persia had this domestic balance of power, Assyria did not. (1)

This article also looks at the dimension of external fragmentation. The international system can be made up of many smaller powers, a smaller number of regional powers, or one mostly hegemonic power. However, the various powers in a fragmented system can either have the same ideology or institutions or different ones from one another or the hegemonic powers of other eras. Persia was of a different domestic regime type and was thus able to offer better deals to the domestic interest groups in its competitors' territory. Thus, this article shows the interaction between domestic regime type, international fragmentation, and international actors' impact on the domestic politics of competing states.

Before going through the historical narrative of my three case studies, a few words are required as to my units of analysis. Understandably, using the term "interest group" to describe an ancient organization or group of people may be unorthodox, if not entirely novel; however, it is essential to realize that such groups did exist in the 7th and 6th-centuries BC. Such interest groups included religious faiths, more specific religious cults and institutions, aristocratic and mercantile class interests, ethnic groups, and even localities. These groups could exert pressure on Cyrus and other leaders of the time or be actively courted by such leaders to not only accomplish their immediate goals, but to ensure stability after the initial fruition of political objectives. Cyrus is by no means the only ancient political leader who successfully utilized the power of interest groups, but since his example makes for an elegant illustration of how interest group-inclusive domestic and foreign policies can vastly benefit an up-and-coming ruler and regime, he is the central figure of the latter part of this story.

This article is important because it combines the Political Theory viewpoints of republicanism and representation theory with the study of International Relations in terms of foreign influence over other countries' domestic audiences and the concept of fragmentation of the system. It also links the study of ancient and modern polities and shows that modern political science is applicable back through history. Ultimately, future research will show that the study of ancient regimes can benefit modern regimes today as well.

2. From Assyria to the Balance of Power System

Conceptually, the situation in the ancient Near East changed dramatically in a short space of time (twice in less than one century). Firstly, the dominant power of the early Iron Age, the Neo-Assyrian Empire, or simply Assyria, collapsed in about twenty years after the death of its last strong ruler, Ashurbanipal, in 627 BC. This regime's demise was not felt merely locally, but was so monumental that even Herodotus recorded the fall of its capital, Nineveh, essentially as the first event leading to the Greco-Persian Wars. The fall of Nineveh in 612 BC and similar events led to the total obliteration of the power that had more or less controlled most of the ancient Near East for over two hundred years. Assyrian policy had been strictly realist in perspective; that is no alliances were seen as more valuable than the national interest and no enemy too foul to become, albeit temporarily, an ally. The Assyrians tried to control Babylon and the surrounding area, leading to over a hundred years of almost constant war in the style of a counter-insurgency campaign, which exhausted Assyria financially and which never could stop Babylon from once again revolting. The increasingly draconian efforts to crush the Babylonians made it impossible for the Assyrians to ever reconcile with the Babylonian people. (2)

Moreover, the Assyrians' raids, conquests, and excesses made them hated among groups as disparate as Phoenicians, Medes, and, especially, the Elamites. Long allies with Babylon, Elam was the subject of an early version of "a final solution," in which Assyria attempted to wipe the nation, and its people, off the face of the earth, a goal it nearly achieved, halted only by the difficult terrain of the mountains. The horrors of genocide and mass slaughter were calculated to cow potential opponents and rebels. More specifically these policies were intended to help strengthen Assyria, and by that the ethnic Assyro-Akkadian nobility, in order to strangle Babylon and crush the insurgency. However, these actions only made it harder for Assyria to win, leading ultimately to brutal reprisals on the part of the Medians and the Babylonians, as recorded by the various Chronicles of Nabopolassar. (3)

After a coalition of powers, largely the Medes and the Babylonians, finally destroyed the despotic power of Assyria, a rough balance of power seemed to settle into place. A quartet of "great powers" took control of large chunks of the Near East, with Media and Babylon taking most of Assyria's former territory. Lydia and Egypt joined these two nations as the main powers of the day. While this post-Assyrian system resembled in many ways a balance of power system, a formal alliance of every member of this elite group with one another never took place. Immediately, before the dust over the defeated Assyrian cities of Harran and Nineveh had settled, Egypt and Babylon went to war over the Levantine provinces of Assyria. Babylon won this fight and drove Egypt back and while peace was probably restored between them in time, it was a tense peace of exhaustion more than one of amity. (4)

3. Babylon and Media

Babylon and the Medes began this period, from 605 BC to about 550 BC, as firm allies however, at some point this changed. It would appear that only toward the end of Nebuchadnezzar II's reign, if not later, did Babylonian--Median relations turn south. Nebuchadnezzar did not merely marry a Median princess; however, he also built the entire Hanging Gardens of Babylon for her. I hardly think that this is evidence of a cooling of the friendship between the two nations; on the contrary, I believe Nebuchadnezzar, at least for most of his reign, was solidly pro-Median. (5)

As to exactly when the relations cooled is uncertain; however, the reasons why this occurred seem much clearer. Northern Mesopotamia, particularly the city of Harran seems to have been at stake between Babylon and Media. Moreover, the status of Cilicia was mostly likely also an issue. In 585 BC, when Media and Lydia fought a famous battle at the Halys River that was interrupted by an eclipse, Babylon and Cilicia jointly volunteered to broker a peace agreement (one of the earliest such diplomatic interventions thus discovered). This resulted both in peace and a marriage alliance between Lydia and Media, presumably creating an official international system of alliances involving all of the major powers except Egypt. However, Cilicia's newfound status as something of a "middle power" would be its downfall as Babylon began to interfere in its affairs. Neriglissar, a usurper who followed the rule of Nebuchadnezzar's son, invaded Cilicia and battled its king Appuasu, but could not decisively defeat him. Nabonidus seems also to have engaged in wars with Cilicia. However, whether Cilicia was supported or controlled by another major power at this time, though this is a crucial detail, is wholly unclear at this time. (6)

What is clear, however, is that the conflict in Cilicia not only damaged relations between major powers, but also placed the King of Cilicia, known as the Syenessos in classical Greek, in a tight spot, leading the local government to be favorably disposed to anyone who could relieve them of the Babylonian menace. The situation involving the city of Harran was more complex. Whether the Medes initially held it as part of a compromise between Cyaxares of Media and Nabopolassar of Babylon or whether the Medes simply seized it during the wars in Assyria is irrelevant because this only seems to have become an issue either late in Nebuchadnezzar's reign, or more likely, around the time of the ascendancy of Nabonidus to the throne. Nabonidus was another usurper, supported by his son Belshazzar, and was additionally of Aramaean heritage. It is possible that both his mother and father were Aramaean priests in Harran, but certainly at least his mother was a priestess of the Aramaean version of the old god Sin, who had once been pivotal to Neo-Sumerian religion. Now, the archaic and foreign religious beliefs of Nabonidus conflicted with the conservative but ironically newer beliefs of the Babylonian people. More importantly, Nabonidus's religious reforms came up against the various entrenched traditional priesthoods, such as those of Ishtar, Samas (also spelled Shamash in English), Nabu, and especially that of Marduk. (7)

At first Nabonidus tread carefully promoting Sin of Harran, but not neglecting other gods. Over time, he sidelined Marduk and most other gods and only patronized the temples of Sin, Samas, and one particular form of Ishtar (he ignored the primary temple of Ishtar in Uruk). He now perpetuated his trinity of gods, with Sin being portrayed as father to the other two, according to one version of archaic mythology. His reforms were resisted by the traditional priesthoods, but not ferociously enough to drive him from power, so he left his son Belshazzar as regent in Babylon and went to Taima in the northern part of the Arabian Desert (modern Saudi Arabia) from which he continued to reign in a sort of half-exile. Meanwhile, Belshazzar returned religion to that of the traditional polycentric form, dominated by Marduk but also giving due reverence to each major group. Nabonidus did very little for a good decade before he finally returned to Babylon when Cyrus began to pose an immediate threat to the empire. (8)

Therefore, Babylon had two core problems that could be exploited by any cunning enemy: its ambitions in Cilicia had stirred up a political and military hornet's nest and the religious turmoil in the Babylonian capital significantly disaffected major interest groups. Media, the nation from which the Persians arose and which was its first victim, also had such weaknesses. "A new people," in the sense that the Medians had no history of literacy or administration, they were totally new to controlling an empire of both significant ethnic diversity and huge size. Media was never able to fully mobilize either its natural resources or its manpower and it never sought to utilize the Elamites of southwestern Iran. It is disputed as to whether the Elamites were conquered by the Medians, the Babylonians, or by neither, however at most Elam was a series of divided, weak states after the near-annihilation it had suffered at the hands of the Neo-Assyrians. Part of Elam, the kingdom of Anshan did fall to Teispes the Achaemenid and his successors, which included Cambyses I and his famous son, Cyrus II. Even if Susa and other major cities were not conquered outright, they were not free to express themselves in a serious political manner due to the proximity of two giant powers. Neither Media nor Babylon tried to incorporate this learned but defeated people into their regimes, resulting in another disaffected group looking for a savior. When Cyrus needed early supporters, he predictably would gain the broad support of Elamites. (9)

4. The Rise of Cyrus in Anshan

Media had other problems. It lacked a well-established bureaucracy, had no infrastructure to compare with the later Achaemenid Empire, and had a divided aristocratic class. The Median aristocracy was the sole basis of support for the regime other than the various vassal states held in subjection by Cyaxares and his successor Astyages. The reason for the split in the Median aristocratic class is not to clear though Herodotus does tell us the probably fantastic story that Astyages killed the Median noble Harpagus's son and made him eat him at a banquet. As grotesque and improbable as this story is, it may contain a seed of truth as Astyages was not well liked by the Median aristocracy. A total disrespect of certain nobles, or perhaps the entire class, would clearly have disaffected them. Moreover, the Median aristocracy was not particularly different from the Persian aristocracy, except in that they were wealthier, so they were another potential supportive interest group of Cyrus when he began contemplating revolution sometime after he succeeded his father in 559 B.C. (10)

What happened next is not always clear from the sources, but although the chronology of certain events is sometimes confused, a general outline is certain. Despite what it might have looked like to an outsider, the four major powers were not at all in lockstep prior to the mid-550s, when Cyrus first became active in rebellion against Astyages. Lydia had a firm alliance with Media and could be relied upon to support it if called upon (Media never had a chance to do so). Egypt was off in its corner and probably did not particularly care about Media one way or the other. However, Babylon, particularly Nabonidus harbored a grudge against Media, over the city of Harran, probably his birthplace and the vital religious center of the cult of Sin. Before he went to Tayma as described above, he encouraged Cyrus to revolt against Astyages and marched upon Harran both to give his ally some support and because it was his ultimate political objective. After he accomplished the recovery of Harran, he renovated its temple and spread his religious reforms all over his realm, then retired to Taima. He probably considered his alliance with Cyrus, brief as it was, over. (11)

Meanwhile, Cyrus fought for several years against the Medians, ultimately leading to an invasion of Persia by the king's army. Harpagus, the leader of the army, defected to Cyrus as did much of the army (most of the rest of the army simply fled after "fighting badly on purpose"). Another army led by the king was defeated by Harpagus and Cyrus and the king was captured. Media surrendered soon after this and a number of Median aristocrats immediately entered Cyrus's service, including not only Harpagus but Mazares and the first Gobryas (there were potentially several important ones in this period), who may not have been a full-blooded Mede, as will be discussed later. The first of the many "loose" interest groups up for grabs in the post-Assyrian power vacuum, namely the Median aristocracy, was won over, to which I must hasten to add was the Persian aristocracy which gained wealth and power for the first time in its history. (12)

5. Cyrus and the Elamites

Elamites gained entry into Cyrus's inner circle at some point, and probably had some influence on him from the beginning, as the Kingdom of Anshan under Cyrus and his father's rule was an ethnically mixed Elam-Persian entity where practically all of the literate men were Elamite or trained by Elamite teachers. Elamite influence was so deep-seated that even persons with Iranian (Median or Persian names) could have some Elamite blood in them or be otherwise profoundly influenced by Elamite culture. An alliance with Elamites (in Anshan and later in Susiana and even upon Babylon's borders) was both necessary and easily obtained by Cyrus. Cyrus's Persians spoke Old Persian, a language with no alphabet at this time. The only alphabets available to them were Aramaic, Akkadian, and Elamite. Of these, Akkadian and Elamite gained an early powerbase in Persia though Aramaic became important early and dominated outside of the core provinces or satrapies in later years. Akkadian had once been the standard language of writing and was still common enough for business and international discourse that it became important for the rising Persian bureaucracy. However, Elamite became the first language of the early Achaemenid chancellery and other organs of the imperial bureaucracy. It was the language of most of the bureaucrats, who were members of the Elamite scribal and bureaucratic class, as well as the second language of many of the Persian nobles who entered the bureaucracy. (13)

As key members of the bureaucracy and as the holders of the language of official writing, Elamites had a lot of power in this period. However, the Elamites were not politically united in 550 BC, the time around which Media fell to the Persian ruler. Susa was under the influence of Babylon, if not actually under its rule, and as it was the largest center of Elamite learning and culture, as well as arguably the largest population center of the Elamite people, it stands to reason that Cyrus was under tremendous pressure to recover Susa from Nabonidus' lax Babylonian empire. When he did so is not clear, however he eventually did so. From a strategic viewpoint, it made plenty of sense as a staging ground against Babylon; however as an interest-group-pleaser, it was brilliant. It also was one of the most ancient and cultured cities in the ancient Near East and the place where much of the Persian bureaucracy would be placed, since it was closer to Babylonia and the eventual western provinces of the empire than the Persian homeland. (14)

6. Moving Against Lydia

Before moving against Babylon, Cyrus was restrained in his freedom of action by Lydia, the wealthiest and strongest nation remaining in play. Its ruler, Croesus, had had an alliance with the defeated Media and was also jealous of the Persian's new territories. Croesus brashly invaded Cappadocia, a key border territory of the old Median Empire recently secured by Persia. Cyrus responded quickly and fought Croesus to a stand-still at Pteria. He then waited for the Lydians to disband their mercenaries and march home to Sardis and then he marched in winter with his army so quickly that the Lydians did not realize he was invading Lydia until they saw his army assembled near the walls of Sardis. Cyrus won the battle and stormed the city of Sardis before Lydia's allies, Egypt, Bablyon, and Sparta could come to its rescue. The irony is that the system finally decided to unite against a common enemy but did so too late and mobilized far too late to save the Lydians, Sardis, or Croesus's crown. (15)

The fall of Sardis, from a political science point of view, was the key moment when the old system died and was the tipping point when the new hegemony began to pick up new territories, resources, and above all, new interest groups to incorporate. After Lydia fell, Cyrus went east to conquer the less developed peoples of Ira and central Asia and left the hard work of pacifying the rest of Anatolia to his generals. The first satrap of governor of Sardis was the fascinatingly enigmatic Tabalus. Herodotus describes him as a Persian, but I think that he is wrong. At the same time as Tabalus became governor, a native Lydian, Pactyes, became Treasurer, and keeper of the fabled wealth of Croesus. It seems contradictory to me for a new conqueror to sympathize with local interests with one high appointment of a native while imposing an ethnic Persian governor upon the people. Of course this inconsistency could explain the revolt of Pactyes almost immediately after most of the Persian armies left in 546 BC, but I feel certain that Tabalus was not an ethnic Persian or at least not a member of the generic aristocracy, but a special case of sorts. (16)

Tabalus's name is the giveaway here. Shear off the "-us" ending which simply makes his name a proper noun and you have "Tabal." Tabal was an ancient name for the region between Cilicia and Cappadocia proper (it could be considered a part of southern Cappadocia as well). Also Tabala is a place name in Lydia. Either way "Tabal" is an Anatolian name rooted in the native Luwian language and with connections to the Neo-Hittite kingdoms of the early Iron Age era. Thus, Tabalus could have been a Lydian, though this seems unlikely from a political point of view. Much more likely Tabalus is not the man's name at all but a title or nickname, much like Cilician Syenessos, who is also written about in Herodotus. Therefore, Tabalus is simply the designation of Tabalus's home; that is Tabal, meaning he was some form of Cappadocian or other, similar native Anatolian from the Medo-Persian controlled regions. Perhaps he had some Median and Persian blood ties from the immediate post-Assyrian period, however he was almost certainly born and raised in the local native Anatolian traditions and may have even understood Lydian. Additionally, being a subject of Persia and before that Media, his loyalty, despite his Anatolian ethnicity, was above question. (17)

Actually, this makes a great deal of sense politically. Cyrus needed a first governor that he thought could and would deal fairly with the newly subjugated Lydians, who knew the area to some extent, and who would be utterly loyal to Cyrus. If my hypothesis is correct, Tabalus would have been the perfect candidate for the first satrap of Lydia. Clearly, Cyrus was not only trying to win over the interest group of the Lydians, but was using this appointment to promote loyal Cappadocian-Persians. Truly, ethnicity did not matter as much in the Achaemenid period that it had in either the Assyrian or Neo-Babylonian administrations (remember that part of Nabonidus's woes during this period was his Aramaean ancestry).

Of course, the revolt of Pactyes demonstrated that the Lydians were still of rebellious temperament, but Cyrus seems to have been vindicated in choosing Tabalus as his satrap. We do not know what ultimately happens to him; however, we do know that he held the citadel of Sardis with his loyal troops and was eventually relieved by Mazares, called a Mede by Herodotus. Clearly, Cyrus had no more trouble appointing Medes to high command than Cappadocians or Lydians. Mazares crushed the rebellion, but Ionia's conquest was not completed until the omnipresent Harpagus was sent to conquer them. Cyrus had already secured victory by granting Miletus's request for special privileges as they had enjoyed Croesus, while denying the same requests from the other cities. One by one, the divided and confused cities fell to the brilliant Harpagus. At around the same time Cilicia surrendered to Cyrus, no doubt happy to be rid of Babylonian pressure. Cyrus and his regime guaranteed semi-autonomy for Cilicia and the Syenessis became a satrap of the province and kept his king's crown. Cilicia was a vital win for the Persians as it gave them control of the Babylonians' northwestern border. Yet another interest group had come over to the Persians without much pressure even being applied. (18)

7. Nabonidus's Errors

Susa was secured sometime before 540 BC. At the same time, the Governor of Gutium, Gobryas, who seems to have been a Babylonian appointee defected, with his large army, to Cyrus. Gobryas is presented as a Mede or even a Persian, but both his location (eastern Babylonia along the Elamite border) his various names (including the Elamite Ugbaru) and his readiness to join the Persian liberator of Elam, makes it clear that he was partly an Elamite, either culturally, ethnically, or by marriage (or all of the above). The border regions of the east and north secured, as well as the vital and friendly city of Susa in Elamite Susiana, Cyrus began mustering for war by 540 B.C. Nabonidus finally returns to Babylon but instead of rallying his nation behind him, he institutes even more radical religious reforms. (19)

More religious interest groups, such as the cult of Samas in Sippar are disaffected when he seizes their temple, the Ebabbar, and gives it over to the cult of Sin. Ironically, by this time, he probably did not even have Harran in his control anymore, but was promoting the cult of Sin of Harran over those cults that could actually help him in the coming war. Therefore, it is easy to understand how Cyrus conquered Babylonia. He crushed the army at Opis and then marched into the Babylonian heartland. Sippar, the barrier city to Babylon, surrendered without a fight, chiefly because its chief interest group, the cult of Samas, hated Nabonidus for taking away their temple. The Persian army then marched against Babylon. Nabonidus fled and though he was later captured, he lost control of the capital almost immediately, as the gates were thrown open without a fight and the troops of Gutium under Gobryas simply marched into the city. The city was not mistreated at all; instead traditional religious festivals were fully restored by Gobryas, a trend continued by Cyrus and his son Cambyses after they later entered the city. (20)

8. Cyrus after Babylon Falls

What Cyrus and his cohorts did after the conquest of Babylon is just as important as the events leading up to the fall of the capital city. Commerce and religious traditions were respected and the various groups which had supported, or at least cooperated, with the Persians were rewarded in various ways. The statues of the gods and other icons of the various religious interest groups were returned, as well as the religious utensils of the monotheistic Jews, whose captivity in Babylon was officially ended by Cyrus as part of the religious toleration program encapsulated in the Cyrus Cylinder. In addition Cyrus allowed the temple to be rebuilt and an official, who may have been a Jew, but who was probably a traditional Babylonian was sent to carry out the construction program. Clearly, Cyrus did not forget the interest groups that helped win Babylonia once he captured the city. (21)

He did not forget the Cult of Samas or the priests of Marduk, Nabu, and Ishtar. Their statues were returned to their temples and the government once more officially supported the traditional religious groups. Cambyses was briefly set up a king of Babylon, but he soon ran into trouble with the traditionalists, as he insisted on wearing Elamite dress during an ancient ritual whereby he was to grasp the hands of the gods Nabu and Marduk. He was not allowed to hold hands with Marduk, but might have been allowed to grasp those of Marduk's son Nabu, the crown prince of the gods much as Cambyses would once again be rendered as crown prince of the empire rather than the king. Outrage at Cambyses's behavior may have resulted in him losing the kingship, but he regained popularity in the city by working as a local administrator. The clash of interests for the Achaemenids, whereby they had to balance Elamite/Persian traditions on one hand and their relations with traditional Babylonians, was thus present at this early stage but dealt with in a way that both sides could respect. Babylon continued to be patronized by both king and crown prince and the traditional akitu festival continued to be practiced, despite the trouble involved in the first attempt. (22)

Also important is that the statues of the gods of Susa are specifically mentioned in the Cyrus Cylinder as returning to Susa. Elamites were a vital interest group and this move was utterly important for them, as it was partial fulfillment of their goals of cultural recovery from Babylonian and Median oppression. Therefore, many different interest groups were served by the religious toleration program and the program strengthened the regime immensely. Dealing with the newly conquered peoples was therefore less difficult, as the Persians had a proven method of coopting new interest groups into the empire. (23)

The Phoenicians are one vitally important interest group that was won over in the period after 539-538 BC (the year or so of consolidation in Babylon). Phoenicia was conquered, but really the cities surrendered without much of fight, if any. Phoenicia was ripe for the Persians, a group that had not only been mistreated by the Assyrians, but also by the Babylonians that the Persians had just defeated. As a result, the Phoenicians proved to very loyal supports of the early regime. The local Phoenician kings remained in power, much like the Syenessos of Cilicia, and the major cities, particularly Sidon and Tyre, became more prosperous than they had been in centuries. The Phoenician merchant classes were no longer restricted by imperial economic policies, but unleashed throughout the Mediterranean to make the Persians money. They also brought warships to the nascent Persian navy. The Persians had no ships of their own but once the Phoenicians joined them, they became masters of the eastern Mediterranean. It is with the acquisition of Phoenicia that Persia truly becomes the hegemonic power of its era. (24)

Therefore, by the death of Cyrus circa 530 BC, the tiny nation of Anshan had become the largest, most powerful state in history up to that point. Of course, it did not stop growing at this point, but conquered Egypt, the last vestiges of the old system under the second king, Cambyses II, the former regent of Babylon. With the fall of Egypt, the cycle of dominance was complete as Assyria had truly been replaced with a hegemon even more vastly powerful. Persia was very different from Assyria, especially in that it tried to have as loose as possible of a regime in each region. (25)

This regime proved to be relatively quite stable, lasting over two centuries despite troubles with the pesky European Greeks and the recalcitrant Egyptians. Darius the Great became the third Achaemenid king to be ruler over this entity and he dealt with many small revolts, as depicted memorably in the massive Behistun Inscription. However, the important thing to understand about these revolts is not that they occurred but how small in scope and popular support as well as in short duration. All of these revolts occurred in the space of perhaps a few years and many of them ended because of loyal members of the ethnic or other interest groups that led the revolt. For example Martiya, a rebel in Elam, who was likely Persian and not an Elamite, was defeated or captured by Elamites and delivered to the king. These revolts were not nearly as popular as revolts against most ancient empires and the fact that Darius defeated them so quickly shows that he was dealing with small groups of the disaffected, having most of the base of the important interest groups firmly adhered to the regime's standard. Thus even in the darkest moments of the early empire, the interest group-based approach was still effective in saving the central administration. (26)

To conclude the historical part of this paper, the old regime of Assyria fell apart due to its abuse of various interest groups, to be replaced by a group of successor states that failed to win over key interest groups and who further weakened each other by conspiring against other nations. In the end, Cyrus and his allies were able to harness these interest groups, with the result being the utter destruction in the space of less thirty years (including Cambyses's reign) of the pre-existing order and its replacement with a hegemonic system the likes of which had never existed before and which never quite existed afterwards. This case study is very important because I feel it really revolutionizes the way in which we look at large-scale systems as well as the processes of foreign policy.

9. Conclusion

Cyrus was a rational decision-maker, but not in the traditional, realist sense. He was not the only decision maker, did not think in terms of a national interest per se, and did not make alliances for the short term, only to break them like a realist is supposed to act. He created a lasting, flexible framework based on shared, mutual interests and his conception of the state neither would bear the idea of the nation nor understand nation interests in the traditional framework. Cyrus was not the figurehead of a kind of state government based upon rationalized self-interest but rather the king of interest groups and peoples, over which a loose, federated government was set in order to meet both popular demands and the demands of the state. Models of domestic structures affecting foreign policy as well as models of liberalism adhere more closely, if imperfectly, to this case study, and to the many other examples of interest-group-caused regime change in the ancient world.

Having looked at this triad of cases (Assyria, the post-Assyrian balance of power system, and the early Persian Imperial system, from largely an IR and comparative-historical perspective, it is important to switch gears and go back and look at them from a democratic theory perspective and see what are the implications for modern democracies. As can be seen from the Appendix (Figure 1), a two-by-two table can be made showing the four theoretical typologies of the internal representation and external fragmentation of dominant states within international systems.

The internal representation variable is a spectrum qualitatively measuring the relative ability of domestic interest groups to both influence state-level policy and to defend their basic human rights from oppression. Representation here does not mean to imply a formal representative body, but instead the substantive ability to be heard by the powerful by both local elites and interest groups involving broader support. The bureaucracy provides the representation in high internal representation pre-democratic states of the sort addressed in this paper. A republic is a system of government that has checks and balances as a core of its ethic of non-domination. A bureaucratic republic is one in which the checks and balances are based on the bureaucracy not on formal electoral institutions. Courts can be part of this bureaucracy. Bureaucratic republics are based on the principle of bureaucratic representation that a broad, decentralized bureaucracy that welcomes competing but cooperating interest groups from various demographic and geographical origins represents both elites and people of non-elite classes of all major ethnic, religious, socio-economic, and regional groups. (27)

As for the external fragmentation variable, the relative hegemony or balance of power between the dominant powers is qualitatively measured on a spectrum. While the second measure needs no further illustration than the historical information provided above, the first measure needs more justification. In other words, the post-Assyrian system was clearly a relatively high external fragmentation typology and the Assyrian and Persian systems clearly are low external fragmentation, but the representation typologies need more explanation.

Persia's classification as relatively high in terms of representation is defensible simply from the comparative-historical cases shown above. Likewise, the above evidence clearly shows that Babylon and Media, the most important powers within the post-Assyrian system, were relatively low on the representation scale. However, I purposefully left out critical information regarding Assyria's typology on this dimension of the two-by-two table because the best evidence of internal lack of representation and oppression pre-dates the period of the three case studies. Thus a short prequel interlude is necessitated to justify my typological scheme.

Before Assyria was the predominant hegemon on the ancient Near East, there were many smaller states all around it. Trevor Bryce, in his recent study of the Neo-Hittite and Aramaean kingdoms to the west of the rising Assyrian power, shows clear evidence that it showed little leniency to those vassal states that were incorporated within its empire. Unlike early Persia, Assyria essentially brought formerly independent states out of the international system into a loose domestic system. However, unlike Persia, the decentralized approach was tactical and not motivated by ideology. As Assyria's thirst for even less fragmentation in the external system increased, it was less willing to deal with internal fragmentation, unlike Persia under Cyrus. The provincialization process under the later Assyrian monarchs in places like the Neo-Hittite states involved an increase in outright oppression and politico-cultural suppression, but also the suppression of local institutions and internal fragmentation. Without a fragmented domestic environment or an inclusive representative bureaucracy (early Persia had both), the Assyrian Empire was an authoritarian system that suppressed minority groups of all sorts in deference to the Assyrians themselves. As a result, the low internal representation typological ruling is a fair one. (28)

As a result of this interlude and my above three related comparative-historical case studies, I conclude that Assyria was a low external fragmentation, low internal representation state, which we call the typological category of authoritarian hegemony. Authoritarian hegemony is actually rare among ancient pre-democratic states, but sadly was the goal for most of them. One could simply call authoritarian hegemony a non-democratic state rather than pre-democratic as here the differences between a modern and ancient authoritarian hegemon would be minimal. Similarly, Media and Babylon were part of a system made up exclusively of low-representation states and thus the post-Assyrian balance of power system embodies the typology of authoritarian competition. This typology is both modern and ancient.

However, modern democracies did not exist back then as they do now. A high representation state in the ancient world would have neither been a modern democracy nor an authoritarian regime. It is precisely this typology, a highly representative state with low amounts of oppression that is misdiagnosed as autocracy when exhibited by modern or ancient regimes. Though I use the term pre-democratic for all three typologies of systems other than that encompassing modern democracies, it is this one typology that best deserves the name. It is pre-democratic in that shares some of the core representationalist features of democracies and resembles it more than the authoritarian types but it is not as advanced as a democracy; thus, the term ancient pre-democratic state. Persia here is a pre-democratic representational hegemonic state and one could imagine a fragmented pre-democratic international system. In democratic peace theory, we have the goal of a fragmented international system composed solely of modern democracies, the most advanced form of ideological successors the ancient pre-democratic representational regime of Persia.

In conclusion, this paper is the beginning rather than the end of the inquiry. While the four basic typologies of international systems (modern and ancient) have been set out, exploring the connections between ancient pre-democratic and modern democratic states is an important piece of the puzzle. Additionally, more cases are needed in order to explain why the pre-democratic states, particularly the represen-tationalist states like Persia, are not true autocracies. The novel typologies and terminology will need even more evidence in order to be accepted by the IR and democratic theory communities; however, I believe the evidence shown here is more than enough to vindicate the beginning of more intensive research in this area. Finally, the idea of the pre-democratic state rather than merely being non-democratic may allow for a developmental process that turns states that look so much like ancient pre-democratic states, such as Afghanistan, into modern democracies.


(1.) Pettit, Philip (1997). Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 11-12, 17, 20.

(2.) Potts, D. T. (1999). The Archaeology of Elam: Formation and Transformation of an Ancient Iranian State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 263-282; Roux, Georges (1992). Ancient Iraq. 3rd edn. London: Penguin, 310-333; Herodotus (1954/2003). The Histories. Trans. by Aubrey de Selincourt, introduction and notes by John Marincola. London: Penguin, 48-49, 78.

(3.) Potts, 282-289; three chronicles of Nabopolassar in Glassner, Jean-Jacques (2004). Mesopotamian Chronicles, Writings From the Ancient World series, ed. by Benjamin R. Foster. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, originally in French published by Les Belles Lettres in 1993 in Paris, 214, 216-227; Bondi, Sandro Filippo (1999). "The Course of History," in The Phoenicians, ed. by Sabatino Moscati. New York, NY: Rizzoli International, 41-44.

(4.) Beaulieu, Paul-Alain (2000). "King Nabonidus and the Neo-Babylonian Empire," in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Vol. I & II, ed. by Jack Sasson. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 969-980, 969-972; Olmstead (1948). 33; Greenewalt, Crawford H., Jr. (2000). "Croesus of Sardis and the Lydian Kingdom of Anatolia," in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Vol. I & II, ed. by Jack Sasson. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1173-1183, 1173-1174.

(5.) Beaulieu, pp. 971, 976.

(6.) Chronicle of Neriglissar and Chronicle of Nabonidus in Glassner, 230, 232-235; Herodotus, 33-34; Greenewalt, 1174; and Beaulieu, 974.

(7.) Dion, Paul M. (2000). "Aramaean Tribes and Nations of First-Millennium Western Asia," in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Vol. I & II, ed. by Jack Sasson. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1284, 1291, 1293; Beaulieu, 972-973; Olmstead, A. T. (1948/1959). History of the Persian Empire. Chicago, IL, and London: The University of Chicago Press, 36.

(8.) Beaulieu, 974-976.

(9.) Potts, 288-290, 291, 294-295, 297; Olmstead, 22-24, 29-33.

(10.) Ibid.

(11.) Roux, 384-38; Beaulieu, 976; Herodotus, 33.

(12.) Herodotus, 59-60; Nabonidus, "The Cylinder of Nabonidus from Sippar, Chroncile of Nabonidus," in Glassner, 235.

(13.) Potts, 306-307, 311-314; Garrison, Mark B., and Paul Dion (1999). "The Seal of Ariyaramna in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 58(1): 1-17; Vallat, Francois (1994). "Deux Tablettes Elamites de L'Universite de Fribourg," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 53(4): 263-274.

(14.) Potts, 291, and Olmstead, 45.

(15.) Herodotus, 32-33, 34-37, 39.

(16.) Dusinberre, Elspeth R. M. (2003). Aspects of Empire in Achaemenid Sardis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 35-36, and Herodotus, 68-69.

(17.) Buckler, W. H., and David M. Robinson (1912). "Greek Inscriptions from Sardes I," American Journal of Archaeology 16(1): 11-82; Brown, Truedall S. (1978). "Aristodicus of Cyme and the Branchidae," The American Journal of Philology 99(1): 64-78, 65-67; Esarhaddon (1888). "Cylinder B of the Esarhaddon Inscriptions," transliterated, translated, and edited by Robert F. Harper, Hebraica 4(3): 150-151; Roux, 272, 304, 314.

(18.) Herodotus, 69-75; Brown, 64-68; Olmstead, 39.

(19.) Olmstead, 45.

(20.) Nabonidus, "Seal of Nabonidus from Ur; Chronicle of Nabonidus," Glassner, 237-239.

(21.) Cyrus II, translation by Mordechai Cogan and transcription by Hanspeter Schaudig, ed. and comments by Jona Lendering. "The Cyrus Cylinder," on at and subsequent web-pages, 2006, revised in 2007, in December, 2009; Olmstead, 55-58.

(22.) Cyrus II, The Cylinder of Cyrus; Dandamyev, Muhammad A., "Cambyses," in Encyclopedia Iranica (online version), ed. by Ehsan Yarshater, at, accessed in December, 2009; "Chronicle of Nabonidus," in Glassner, 239.

(23.) Cyrus II, The Cylinder of Cyrus.

(24.) Bondi, 44-45.

(25.) Olmstead, 86-93.

(26.) Darius II, Behistun Inscription; Darius I, translation by L. W. King and R. C. Thompson, ed. and comments by Jona Lendering, "The Behistun Inscription," on at and subsequent web-pages, original translation from 1907, in December, 2009; Potts, 317-318.

(27.) Binetti, Christopher (2011). Ancient Sprouts of the Ancients: The Ancient Roots of Representation in the Greater Mediterranean Region, 3, 5, 27-28, 39, 44, 53. Master's Thesis, Rutgers University, Newark; and Binetti, Christopher (2016). A Better Place to Be: Republicanism as an Alternative to the Authoritarianism-Democracy Dichotomy, 9-10, 13, 16, 26, 28, 38-40, 60, 92-94, 129-130, 139, and 148-149. Dissertation, University of Maryland, College Park.

(28.) Bryce, Trevor (2012). The World of the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms: A Political and Military History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 211-252, on Assyrian conquests and the more fragmented domestic scene earlier on, 262-265, on the provincialization process particularly, and 280-287, for the proof that Assyria intentionally tried to reduce the autonomy of the vassal states and used any excuse to turn them into provinces.

Figure 1 Typologies and Cases of Internal Representation and External

                Low External Fragmentation

Low Internal    Assyrian Imperial System
Representation  (8th--7th centuries BC)
                Authoritarian hegemony typology
                Early Persian Imperial System
High Internal   (mid-6th century--early 5th century
Representation  BC)
                Pre-democratic representationalist
                hegemony typology

                High External Fragmentation

Low Internal    Post-Assyrian Balance of Power System
Representation  (late 7th century--mid 6th-century BC)
                Authoritarian competition typology
                An Ideal Democratic World
High Internal   (non-existent Kantian utopia but EU
Representation  roughly approximates it regionally)
                Democratic peace typology


Ph.D., The University of Maryland, College Park

Received 14 June 2017 * Received in revised form 19 July 2017

Accepted 20 July 2017 * Available online 15 August 2017

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Author:Binetti, Christopher
Publication:Geopolitics, History, and International Relations
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jun 1, 2018

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