Persian rule created the first land-based world empire, which became one of the first superpowers in the Near East. The Achaemenid dynasty controlled a vast amount of territory, stretching from northern Libya to Central Asia from the 16th century BC. For over 200 years, its kings fostered international communication and cultural exchange to an unprecedented degree, developing a unique imperial image rooted in the diverse and sophisticated cultures of the regions they ruled. Beginning with a brief introduction to the period, the author surveys the Near Eastern context for the emergence of Persian power. She draws on both Classical and Near Eastern evidence to explain the diversity of available source material and trace the development of the dynasty, supplementing the historical framework with descriptions of the royal palaces and luxury court culture characteristic of Persian rule, as well as accounts of the mechanics of administration within the empire. The book closes by placing Alexander's invasion in a Persian context and showing the transformation and rediscovery of the heritage of ancient Persia over the next two millennia.