What seven key traits characterize any civilization?

What seven key traits characterize any civilization?

Describing The Persian Empire

There are seven basic characteristics of civilizations identified by historians. The characteristics identified include: urban focus, new political and military structures, new social structure based on economic power, material complexity, distinct religious structure, development of writing, and significant artistic and intellectual activity (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2013). The Persian Empire meets all of these characteristics of a civilization.

The Persian Empire was focused on urbanization. Persia was divided into many provinces called satrapies which functioned independently with governors and ruling bodies. The provinces enforced laws and collected taxes for the Empire but in many ways functioned as independent states. This allowed the Empire to concentrate on matters of defense and infrastructure such as road building.

Unlike prior civilizations the Persian Empire also had new political and military structures. While there was an Emperor, the provinces functioned with independence except in matter which concerned the Empire. This was different than prior empires which functioned as for the sole sake of taking money and controlling the subjects. As a result, provinces could grow into city-states. The Persian Empire also had a standing professional army which was maintained by the Empire and would protect the empire from outside forces.

Persia also had vast economic power because the manner in which it was ruled allowed for trade and commerce to be exercised. Particularly, under Cyrus, the Persian Empire was able to prosper through its treatment of provinces and subjects.

Rather than destroy local economies for their own selfish gain, the Persians worked to increase trade throughout their kingdom. They standardized weights, developed official coinage, and implemented universal laws (US History, 2014).

As a result of having achieved an economy of scale, material complexity was able to flourish in the Persian Empire. Some of the material complexity included bureaucratic systems such as mail delivery and road building which would connect the provinces to one another. This allowed for enhanced trade and commerce.

Perhaps one of the crowning achievements of the Persian Empire was the new social structure. Similar to Rome, Persia would acquire constituents from many different areas and would become diverse in its population. Under Darius and Cyrus, the Persian Empire would begin assimilating many groups such as the Jews and other ethnic groups rather than ostracizing them (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2013). By doing this the empire was able to create a strong social order which was diverse and had support from these groups since they were left to practice their religions and customs in peace.

Persia also had a complete system of language and art which was indicative of the culture. However, Zoroastrianism was the original religion developed in Persia which differentiated Persia from other nations which held monotheistic beliefs. The development of Zoroastrianism would eventually significantly impact Christianity with its concepts of heaven and hell.


Duiker, W. J., & Spielvogel, J. J. (2013). The Essential World History Vol I: To 1800 (Vol. 1). Boston, MA: Cengage.

US History. (2014, 1 19). Persian Empire. Retrieved from US History: http://www.ushistory.org/civ/4e.asp

By Sodacan This W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape . — Own work, Based on a photograph hosted at iranica.com (it is our understanding that this photograph shows a reconstruction and not the actual artifact from Persepolis)., CC BY-SA 3.0

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