Prehistory: The Persian Empire Conquers Mesopotamia, Egypt, Libya, Kush, the Indus Valley and the Early Greek City States

Cyrus the Great Biography - Facts, Childhood, Family Life ...

Cyrus the Great, first emperor of Persia

Episode 17 Oxus Civilization and Powerful Persia

The Big History of Civilizations (2016)

Dr Craig G Benjamin

Film Review

According to Benjamin, the dry climate and lack of river valleys in Central Asia limited prehistoric settlement to a handful of agrarian villages around desert oases. Anau (in modern day Turkmenistan) and Oxus were two of the region’s ancient cities. Anau, which traded with Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, collapsed around 2400 BC. Oxus, which emerged around the same time as Anau, consisted of clusters of settlements around oases in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Associated with the early use of soma,* it was the fifth largest ancient civilization on Earth. It would be absorbed by the Persian empire in the first century BC.

The latter arose on the Iranian plateau east of Mesopotamia around 559 BC, when king Cyrus overthrew the Medean king and united Mesopotamia, Egypt, Libya and Kush. Between 521 and 486 BC, Cyrus III expanded the Persian empire to include the Indus Valley, the Balkans, Thrace and Macedonia. He appointed 23 local governors (satraps), who created administrative networks made run by local subjects.

Persia required all subjects of conquered territories to pay tribute (tax) to Persia as well as submit to conscription into the Persian army. Other tax revenue included customs duties, sales tax and rent on royal properties. In return, the emperor provided farmers with seed grain and fruit seedlings, subsidized cottage manufacturing and explorers, built ports and 8,000 miles of roads and dug a canal connecting the Red Sea and Nile.

The Persian empire was the world’s largest to that date. It started to decline during the fifth millennium when a number of conquered Greek city states rebelled. Following Persia’s conquest by Alexander the Great, his Greek successors systematically dismantled the Persian empire.


*Soma was a combination of cannabis and opium used in Zoroastrian and Hindu religious ceremonies. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, during the 5th century BC the Scythians poured soma on hot rocks in their steam baths and inhaled the vapors.

The film can be viewed free on Kanopy with a library card.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/oxus-civilization-and-powerful-persia

The Ancient Use of Psychodelic Herbs

DMT: A Lost History

Chris Rice (2015)

Film Review

This is a documentary about ancient civilizations’ use of psychodelic plants in religious ceremonies. Unlike his more recent Hidden History of Cannabis, the evidence Rice presents is this film is more circumstantial. Yet in my view, the documentary leaves little doubt that dimethyltryptamine (DMT) containing plants were used in religious ceremonies in ancient Egypt, India, Persia, Greece and possibly ancient Israel.

DMT is the active ingredient in ayahuasca, a psychodelic herb used throughout early South American cultures. It currently shows great promise in the treatment of alcohol and other drug addictions and PTSD (see Ayahuasca and Addiction). It can be smoked or taken by mouth. When taken by mouth, it must be combined with a second herb containing an MAO inhibitor to keep it from being degraded in the gut.

The ancient Egyptians derived DMT from  the acacia plant (Acacia nilotica), which they referred to as “The Tree of Life.”

The ancient Hindu Vedas refer to “soma,” an elixir that allegedly enabled practitioners to “commune with God.” Rice believes soma was derived from DMT containing herbs and may be responsible for much of the psychodelic art produced in ancient India. Sacred Zorastrian texts from ancient Persia also refer to “soma.” Ancient Greek texts refer to mystical ceremonies involving similar herbal elixirs.

Rice points to evidence that the “manna” (literally gift from God) provided to Israelites in their flight out of Egypt may actually have been DMT-containing mushrooms. A number of the original gospels describe to Christ offering “mana” to his disciples, though most of them were removed from the Catholic Bible when emperor Constantine banned the Gnostic sects.

The section of the film I found most interesting describes how use of DMT persisted in the rituals of numerous secret societies, including the Freemasons. Although there is no written record of Freemasonry prior to the 17th century, their oral tradition contains accounts of early Masonic rituals involving potions made from the acacia tree.