Bruce Morrison » First Age of Empires, 1570 B.C.–200 B.C.

First Age of Empires, 1570 B.C.–200 B.C.

The first large empires develop in Africa and Asia between 1570 B.C. and 200 B.C.


Section 1: The Egyptian and Nubian Empires

Section 2: The Assyrian Empires

Section 3: The Persian Empire

Section 4: The Unification of China


Section 1: The Egyptian and Nubian Empires

Two empires along the Nile, Egypt and Nubia, forge commercial, cultural, and political connections.


Nomadic Invaders Rule Egypt



  • About 1640 B.C., Asian warriors, theHyksos, use chariots to conquer Egypt


Hebrews Migrate to Egypt

  • Hebrews move to Egypt from Canaan around 1650 B.C.
  • Egyptians resent the presence of Hebrews and Hyksos in Egypt


Expulsion and Slavery

  • Egyptians drive out the hated Hyksos
  • Hebrews lose protection of Hyksos; are enslaved


The New Kingdom of Egypt


Technological Changes

  • About 1570 to 1075 B.C. pharaohs create New Kingdom, a powerful empire
  • Army uses bronze weapons and chariots to conquer other lands


Hatshepsut’s Prosperous Rule


  • Hatshepsut—pharaoh whose reign most noted for her trade expeditions, not war


Thutmose the Empire Builder

  • Thutmose III, Hatshepsut’s stepson, expands Egypt’s empire
  • Invades Palestine, Syria, and Nubian region around the upper Nile River
  • Egypt most powerful and wealthy during reign of New Kingdom pharaohs


The Egyptians and the Hittites

  • Around 1285 B.C. Egyptians battle the Hittites in Palestine
  • Egypt’s pharaoh, Ramses II, and the Hittite king sign a peace treaty


An Age of Builders

  • New Kingdom pharaohs built great palaces, magnificent temples
  • Valley of the Kingsnear Thebes is home to royal tombs
  • Ramses IIbuilds impressive temples with enormous statues of himself




The Empire Declines


Invasions by Land and Sea

  • “Sea Peoples” (possibly Philistines) cause great destruction in Egypt
  • Libyan raids on villages and Palestine rebellions weaken empire


Egypt’s Empire Fades

  • Weakened empire breaks into smaller kingdoms
  • From around 950 to 730 B.C. Libyan pharaohs rule Egypt, erect cities


The Kushites Conquer the Nile Region


Egypt and Kush

  • From 2000 to 1000 B.C., Egypt dominates kingdom ofKush in Nubia


The People of Nubia

  • Live south of Egypt near division of Blue Nile and White Nile
  • Nile River is a great trade route for goods and ideas
  • Nubians link Egypt and Mediterranean to African interior through trade


The Interaction of Egypt and Nubia

  • Egyptian culture influences Nubia and beyond to southern Africa
  • About 1200 B.C., Nubia gains independence but keeps Egyptian culture


Piankhi Captures the Egyptian Throne

  • In 751 B.C., Kushite king Piankhi conquers Egypt, ousts Libyans
  • Assyrians overcome Kushites and take Egypt


The Golden Age of Meroë



  • Kushites settle inMeroë; join in trade with Africa, Arabia, India


The Wealth of Kush

  • Meroë becomes important center for iron weapons and tools
  • Iron products transported to Red Sea, exchanged for luxury goods


The Decline of Meroë

  • Meroë thrives from about 250 B.C. to A.D. 150, then declines
  • Aksum, 400 miles southeast, dominates North African trade
  • Has port on Red Sea, defeats Meroë in A.D. 350


Section 2: The Assyrian Empire

Assyria develops a military machine and establishes a well-organized administration.


A Mighty Military Machine



  • Assyria uses military might to acquire empire across Southwest Asia


The Rise of a Warrior People

  • After invasions inMesopotamia, Assyrians develop warlike behavior
  • Assyrian king Sennacherib brutally destroys enemies


Military Organization and Conquest

  • Glorified armies wear metal armor, copper helmets, leather protection
  • Use iron weapons, engineering skill, and brute force to conquer cities
  • Kill, enslave, or banish captive peoples to distant lands


The Empire Expands


Kings of Assyria

  • Defeat Syria, Palestine, Babylonia between 850 and 650 B.C.


Assyrian Rule

  • Creates central authority over local governors of dependent regions
  • Collects taxes and tribute from conquered lands


Assyrian Culture

  • Rulers build great cities, including capital at Nineveh
  • Carved sculptures of military campaigns and the lion hunt
  • King Ashurbanipal builds library of 20,000 tablets;Epic of Gilgamesh


The Empire Crumbles


Early Warnings

  • Empire spread thin, cruelty earns many enemies, Ashurbanipal dies


Decline and Fall

  • Army of Medes and Chaldeans destroys Nineveh (612 B.C.); library survives


Rebirth of Babylon Under the Chaldeans

  • Chaldeansmake Babylon capital of own empire
  • KingNebuchadnezzarbuilds legendary hanging gardens of Babylon
  • Builds tallziggurats; astronomers make discoveries about solar system
  • Chaldean Empire falls to Persians; they adopt Assyrian inventions


Section 3: The Persian Empire

By governing with tolerance and wisdom, the Persians establish a well-ordered empire that lasts for 200 years.


The Rise of Persia


The Persian Homeland

  • Persia (ancient Iran) has fertile land and minerals
  • Medes and Persians rise to power there


Cyrus the Great Founds an Empire

  • Starting in 550 B.C., Persian king Cyrus conquers neighboring lands
  • Governs with tolerance toward conquered peoples
  • Honors local customs, including religious ones
  • Allows Jews to return to Israel and rebuild temple of Jerusalem


Persian Rule


Cambyses and Darius

  • Cyrus’s son, Cambyses, conquers Egypt but rules unwisely
  • Dariusseizes control, establishes stability; expands empire to India


Provinces and Satraps

  • Darius divides empire into 20 areas of local administration
  • Appointssatraps—governors—to rule each area
  • Builds Royal Road to make communication within empire easier
  • Issues coins that can be used throughout empire


The Persian Legacy



  • Persian thinker called Zoroaster develops new religion


Zoroaster’s Teachings

  • Life is a battleground between good and evil
  • One god will judge us by how well we fight for good
  • Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam


Political Order

  • Through tolerance and good government, Persians bring political order
  • Preserve earlier cultures, find new ways to live and rule


Section 4: The Unification of China

The social disorder of the warring states contributes to the development of three Chinese ethical systems.


Confucius and the Social Order


Zhou Dynasty

  • Lasted 1027 to 256 B.C.; ancient values decline near end of dynasty


Confucius Urges Harmony

  • End of Zhou Dynasty is time of disorder
  • Scholar Confucius wants to restore order, harmony, good government
  • Stresses developing good relationships, including family
  • Promotesfilial piety—respect for parents and ancestors
  • Hopes to reform society by promoting good government


Confucian Ideas About Government

  • Thinks education can transform people
  • Teachings become foundation forbureaucracy, a trained civil service
  • Confucianismis an ethical system of right and wrong, not a religion
  • Chinese government and social order is based on Confucianism


Other Ethical Systems


Daoists Seek Harmony

  • Laoziteaches that people should follow the natural order of life
  • Believes that universal force called Dao guides all things
  • Daoismphilosophy is to understand nature and be free of desire
  • Daoists influence sciences of alchemy, astronomy, medicine


Legalists Urge Harsh Rule

  • Legalismemphasizes the use of law to restore order; stifles criticism
  • Teaches that obedience should be rewarded, disobedience punished


I Ching and Yin and Yang

  • I Ching (The Book of Changes) offers good advice, common sense
  • Concept ofyin and yang.two powers represent rhythm of universe
  • Yin: cold, dark, soft, mysterious; yang: warm, bright, hard, clear
  • I Ching and yin and yang explain how people fit into the world


The Qin Dynasty Unifies China


The Qin Dynasty

  • Qin Dynasty replaces Zhou Dynasty in third century B.C.


A New Emperor Takes Control

  • Emperor Shi Huangdi unifies China, ends fighting, conquers new lands
  • Creates 36 administrative districts controlled by Qin officials
  • With Legalist prime minister, murders Confucian scholars, burns books
  • Establishes anautocracy, a government with unlimited power


A Program of Centralization

  • Shi Huangdi builds highways, irrigation projects; increases trade
  • Sets standards for writing, law, currency, and weights and measures
  • Harsh rule includes high taxes and repressive government


Great Wall of China

  • Emperor forces peasants to build Great Wall to keep out invaders


The Fall of the Qin

  • Shi Huangdi’s son loses throne to rebel leader; Han Dynasty begin