The end of the sixth century - World History

The end of the sixth century - World History
Posted on 29-12-2022

The end of the sixth century ( 520 ) Darius I organizes Persia, the Roman republic, and Athenian democracy arise.

If throughout the sixth century we have found notable cultural and religious developments, the most interesting political events took place in its last years. The Persian Empire was ruled by what would be one of its most efficient rulers, King Darius I. However, the first years of his reign were difficult. When he apparently had the reins of power in his hand a dangerous rebellion broke out in Babylon. A man of impressive appearance and easy eloquence claimed to be the son of Nabonidus and proclaimed himself king under the name of Nebuchadnezzar III. He raised defenses along the Tigris and prepared to prevent Darius I from crossing them when he arrived from Media. Darío I did not want a direct confrontation, but made his men cross the river in small groups and at points very far from each other, and then ordered them to meet in the enemy rear, which caught the men of the enemy by surprise. Nebuchadnezzar III, defeated them and marched on Babylon in 519.

Darío I did not stand out so much for his military exploits as for the efficiency with which he organized the empire. He divided it into twenty independent provinces called satrapies, at the head of each of which he placed a viceroy or satrap (protector of the kingdom). He did however slightly extend the border of the empire to the east. In 518 he created the satrapies of Gandhara and Sind,in the Indus Valley. He had good roads built and created a system of horse messengers invaluable in holding his territories together. He reorganized finances, stimulated trade, minted money, and standardized weights and measures.

Although Darius I was a Mazdean, his attitude towards other religions was extremely tolerant, he granted the Babylonians the right to worship their gods, and he did the same in Egypt, who considered him a good king despite being a foreigner. The Persian kings were included in the XXVII dynasty of Egyptian kings. The Jews took advantage of the situation to request permission from Darius I to rebuild the temple, which had been denied to them under the reign of Cyrus II. Darío I did not object, and in 516 the so-called second temple was finished.

Darius I had established the capital of his empire in Susa, the old capital of Elam, but he ordered the construction of a new city about 40 km south of Pasargadae, destined to be the new capital, although it was never occupied as such. In practice it never went beyond being a royal residence. It is known as Persepolis.A work by Darius I that was to prove extremely valuable to historians was a gigantic effigy of him that he had carved in a high, almost inaccessible place, where he inscribed the story about the false Smerdis as we know it. The inscription was in Old Persian, Elamite, Akkadian, and Aramaic. Thanks to her, in 1833, Akkadian was deciphered and, later, in turn, Sumerian was deciphered from it.

Meanwhile, Hipparchus, who together with his brother Hippias ruled Athens as a tyrant, fell in love with a young man named Harmodius, with whom Aristogiton was also in love , who chose to assassinate Hipparco. To hide his personal motives, he tried to give political overtones to the matter by actually killing the two tyrants with the support of some nobles. But the plans did not go as planned, but Hipías stayed alive and ordered the execution of the conspirators. However, the event so embittered and disappointed him that in his dismay he drastically changed his form of government and began a reign of terror. Naturally, discontent spread among the Athenians and Aristogiton became a martyr.

In 514 Ho-hü became lord of the state of Wu, under whose rule he began to stand out against the worn-out Central Kingdoms.

Meanwhile, once the empire was organized, Darius I became interested in territorial expansion. He set his eyes on Europe and in 512 he advanced on Thrace. He advanced along the Black Sea coast to the mouth of the Danube. In this campaign, new Greek colonies fell into Persian power, including the Thracian Chersonese, conquered by Miltiades for Athens long ago, as well as some of the northern Aegean islands. King Amyntas II of Macedonia recognized Persian rule, but his kingdom was not invaded and he retained the throne. The Persian Empire had reached its maximum extent.


Returning to Athens, the people's discontent with the tyrant Hippias was channeled by the Alcmeanic Cleisthenes, Megacles' grandson, who built a beautiful temple to the Delphic authorities at his family's expense. This induced the oracle to advise the Spartans to help the Athenians achieve their freedom. The Spartans readily agreed. Since taking over the Peloponnese they had managed to remove all tyrannies from the region, and now they had the opportunity to continue their work further north. In 510, the Spartan king Cleomenes I marched on Attica, defeated Hippias and sentenced him to exile. Sparta thought they had restored the oligarchy to Athens, but the "oligarchy" was headed by Cleisthenes, and since the time of the curse, the Alcmaeonids had been democrats, so Cleisthenes used his authority to reorganize Athens under a democratic regime in the style of Solon.

That same year a decisive battle was fought in the south of Italy, for which Crotona definitively destroyed its rival Sybaris. Foodies had become famous for their fondness for the most refined luxuries. It was said that a connoisseur made himself a mattress stuffed with rose petals, but that he said it was uncomfortable because one of the petals was wrinkled. Regarding the battle, the Greek historians recounted that the Sybarites had taught the horses to dance for the parades, and that the Crotonians took advantage of the fact and brought musicians to the front, so that the horses began to dance when they heard the music and they disorganized the Sybarite army.

Iron smelting spread in China around this time.

In 509 Rome managed to get rid of Etruscan domination. King Tarquin the Proud used his power in Rome to subdue the other Latin cities. At that time Rome was at war with the Volsci, who inhabited the southeast of Lazio. While the king was at the front, a revolt led by a cousin of his, Tarquin Collatinus, and by a patrician named Lucius Junius Brutus , triumphed in the city.(Lucio Junio ​​the stupid). The king had apparently executed Brutus's father and older brother, and he himself would have been executed as well had he not successfully pretended to be feeble-minded, whence came the name which he later bore proudly, in memory of his cleverness. stratagem. Brutus was remembered as a hero and thus the name Brutus was honorably applied to many Romans in later centuries despite its literal meaning. Regarding Colatino, Roman historians recounted that his wife was raped by the king's son, an incident that sparked the rebellion.

The government of Rome was left in the hands of the Senate, but it was necessary to provide someone with the necessary authority to make decisions quickly, so the position of Praetor was created. (the one in front), elected annually by the Senate with the functions of president of government. However, the monarchy left such a bad memory in the history of Rome that, in the centuries that followed, the worst thing that could happen to a politician was to be accused of pretending to become king. The suspicion that a single man could accumulate too much power meant that two praetors were soon elected simultaneously, so that none of their decisions was valid if it was not endorsed by both. With this it was intended that each praetor would take care that the other did not abuse his authority. Shortly after, the praetors were renamed Consuls.(those who sit together), a word from which the verb "consult" derives, since the consuls needed to consult each other in order to carry out any action. This Senate-consul system of government was very similar to that of Carthage. Politics came to be considered the responsibility of everyone (of all patricians, that is), for which reason the state (and by extension the new form of government) came to be called the Republic (public affairs, or of the people). Another double office was also created: each year two Quaestors were elected to oversee criminal trials in the city.

But the exiled king was not resigned to his fate, but asked for help from Lars Porsena, king of the Etruscan city of Clusium, north of Lazio. In 508 he appeared before Rome with an army in a surprise attack. Legend has it that the Romans managed to entrench themselves in the city thanks to Publius Horacio Cocles(the one-eyed) delayed the advance of the Etruscan army by holding it to one side of the wooden bridge over the Tiber while the Romans destroyed it, first with the help of two other men, then alone. When the bridge was destroyed he jumped into the Tiber and swam to the other shore and to safety.

Porsena set out to besiege Rome. According to legend, a young patrician named Cayo Mucio volunteered to infiltrate the enemies and assassinate Porsena, however he was captured and Porsena threatened to burn him with a torch if he did not reveal the conditions of the city and its chances of resisting the siege. However, Mucius's response was to put his hand in the fire himself and wait undaunted for it to be consumed. Impressed, Porsena considered that it was useless to face a people capable of "putting their hand in the fire"for his city (this is where the expression comes from) and he chose to release the man who would since then be known as Cayo Mucio Escévola (the left-handed one) and retire without restoring the monarchy.

The legends of Horace and Mucius were invented by the Romans to hide a less glorious outcome: Rome must have surrendered to Porsena and accepted Etruscan rule on the condition that the monarchy was not restored. It must have seemed like a reasonable deal to the Etruscan king and he left.

In 507 Rome signed a commercial treaty with Carthage.

Meanwhile, the Athenian nobles obtained the support of Sparta to expel Clístenes and put an end to his reform process. The official argument was that the Alcmaeonids were cursed and had to be expelled. The Spartan king Cleomenes I returned to Athens, the Alcmaeonids were expelled and the government was left in the hands of an oligarchy headed by Isagoras. However, Cleomenes I was overconfident. The army that he led was too small, the people rebelled and besieged the Spartans on the Acropolis. Cleomenes I agreed to return to Sparta, Cleisthenes returned and managed to carry out the political reforms.

He divided Attica into a complicated system of groups hardly related to the earlier division based on wealth. His aim was for these groups to be operative while being meaningless, so that the citizens felt simply Athenians. He doubled the number of citizens entitled to vote. He instituted the Assembly of the Five Hundred, divided into ten sections that rotated their functions throughout the year. He increased and regulated the powers of the Citizens' Assembly (Ecclesia), in which he enrolled for the first time a great mass of metics and freedmen . (artisans and freed slaves, until then without the right to vote). He distributed control of the army among ten strategists. The Areopagus, formed by the nobles, continued to administer justice. To protect the system, he established that once a year the citizens with the right to vote would meet in the market square provided with a piece of ceramic where they could write the name of any citizen they considered dangerous for democracy. The pieces were collected in ballot boxes and if the total number of votes exceeded six thousand, the most voted had to leave Attica for ten years. This procedure was called ostracism, for the Greeks called ostraka (shells) to the pieces of pottery used in voting. (They were fragments of broken pottery, cheaper and more abundant than papyrus, and commonly used for writing notes and short messages.)

The region adjacent to Attica was Boeotia, and among its largest cities was Thebes, which aspired to have hegemony in the region. The small city of Plataea refused to accept the Theban domination, and Athens decided to help it. For its part, Thebes allied with Sparta. King Cleomenes I was eager to make up for the dismal role he had played the previous year, and in 506 he attacked Athens from the south while Thebes attacked from the east. For its part, the city of Chalcis, a commercial rival of Athens, joined the Thebans in the attack.

Athens seemed doomed to destruction, but at the last moment Corinth decided not to participate in the Spartan expedition. Corinth's main commercial rival was Aegina, which at this time was a pioneer in the systematic use of currency in commercial relations, and it happened that Athens and Aegina were rivals, so Corinth thought that destroying Athens would be playing Aegina's game. . Sparta was not willing to have her authority in the Peloponnese questioned, so she preferred to be convinced by Corinth and left Thebes standing. The Athenians defeated the Thebans and confirmed the independence of Plataea. Following this defeat, Thebes would maintain a hostile attitude towards Athens throughout the following century. Next Athens attacked Chalcis and won an even greater victory. She forced Chalcis to cede sovereignty over the southern part of the island of Euboea, north of Attica, to her. Its inhabitants came to be considered Athenian citizens with all the rights that this entailed. The city ofEretria, an enemy of Chalcis, also located in Euboea, automatically became an ally of Athens.

The Chinese state of Wu defeated that of Chu, but was immediately invaded by Yue from the north. Wu fought back and was able to continue the war against Chu at the same time.

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