The Persian Empire is often cast as the long-time enemy of the Greeks and the Romans and an empire that was oppositional in culture. To paraphrase Herodotus, the “father” of history, the Persians ruled an empire that thrived on slavery, not freedom, in stark contrast to the Greeks. The expansion of the Roman empire was often stymied by the presence of the Persians, and more than one Roman emperor was forced to submit to Persian military might in what is now Syria and Iraq. What allowed the Persian Empire to persist from the 6th century BCE up until the 7th century CE? What factors allowed Persian culture to survive for a millennium and thrive in the wake of the Muslim conquest, leading to the creation of one of the most cosmopolitan and learned societies in the pre-modern world? We’ll focus on the creation and evolution of the Persian Empire from its earliest history to its conquest by Muslim forces as well as the culture that defined Persian society.