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Apical ancestor of the Achaemenid dynasty
King of Persia
Reign 680–655 BC
Successor Teispes
Born 705 BC
Died 655 BC
Issue Teispes
Old Persian Haxāmaniš
House Achaemenid

Achaemenes () (born 705 BC[1]) was the eponymous apical ancestor of the Achaemenid dynasty of rulers from Persis.

Other than his role as apical ancestor, nothing is known of his life or actions. "It is quite possible that Achaemenes was only the mythical ancestor of the Persian royal house [, but] [i]f Achaemenes was a historical personage, he should have lived at the end of the 8th and the first quarter of the 7th century B.C."[2]


(Modern Persian: هخامنش) Greek: Ἀχαιμένης (Achaiménēs), Latin Achaemenes ultimately derives from Old Persian Haxāmaniš (𐏃𐎧𐎠𐎶𐎴𐎡𐏁), as found together with Elamite Ha-ak-ka-man-nu-iš and Akkadian A-ḫa-ma-ni-iš-ʾ in the non-contemporaneous trilingual Behistun inscription of Darius I. The Old Persian proper name is traditionally derived from haxā- ( Sanskrit Sakha) "friend" and manah "thinking power", yielding "having a friend's mind."[3] A more recent interpretation reads haxā- as "follower", giving "characterized by a follower's spirit."[3]


In the Behistun inscription (c. 490 BCE), Darius I portrays Achaemenes as the father of Teispes, ancestor of Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great) and Darius I.[2] The mid-5th century BCE Histories (7.11) of Herodotus has essentially the same story, but fuses two parallel lines of descent from "Teispes son of Achaemenes".

Beyond such brief mentions of the name, nothing is known of the figure behind it, neither from indigenous sources nor from historiographic ones. It may be that Achaemenes was just a mythical ancestor, and not a historical one.[2][4] The Greek writers of antiquity preserve several legends surrounding the figure:[5] The late 4th-century BCE Alcibiades (120e) of (Pseudo-)Plato portrays Achaemenes as the hero-founder of the Persái in the same way that the Greeks are descended from Hercules, and that both Achaemenes and Hercules were sons of Perseus, son of Zeus. This is generally assumed to be a co-identification of Achaemenes with Perses (i.e. the son of Perseus and Andromeda) who in Greek mythology was imagined to be the ancestor of the "Persians". Another version of the tale makes Achaemenes the son of Aegeus, yet another founder-hero of legend. The 3rd-century Aelianus (De nat. anim. 12.21) has Achaemenes being bred by an eagle.

It may also be that the Behistun inscription's claim of descent from Achaemenes was an invention of Darius I, in order to justify the latter's seizure of the throne. Cyrus II does not mention Achaemenes at all in the detailed genealogy given in the Cyrus cylinder.[2] While the patronym haxāmanišiya — "of [the clan of] Achaemenes" — does appear in an inscription at Pasargadae attributed to Cyrus II, "at present it can not be decided for certain whether these texts were written during the reign of Cyrus II himself or, after his death, by an order of Darius I."[2][6] As such, Achaemenes could be a retrograde creation of Darius the Great,[7] made in order to legitimize a dynastic relationship to Cyrus the Great. Darius certainly had much to gain in having an ancestor shared by Cyrus and himself, and may have felt the need for a stronger connection than that provided by his subsequent marriage to Cyrus' daughter Atossa.

In any case, the Achaemenids from Darius onward credited him as the founder of their dynasty. Nothing else is however recorded of his life or actions. Assuming he existed, Achaemenes may have been a 7th-century BC warrior-chieftain who led the Persians, or a tribe of Persians, as a vassal of the Median Empire.


  2. ^ a b c d e Dandamayev, M. A. (1983), "Achaemenes", Encyclopædia Iranica, vol. I, fasc. 4, Costa Mesa: Mazda, p. 414 .
  3. ^ a b Schmitt, Rüdiger (1983), "Achaemenid dynasty", Encyclopædia Iranica, vol. I, fasc. 4, Costa Mesa: Mazda, pp. 414–426 .
  4. ^ Bourke, Stephen (ed.) The Middle East: The Cradle of Civilization Revealed p. 216
  5. ^ Tavernier, Jan (2007), Iranica in the Achaemenid Period (ca. 550-330 B.C.): Linguistic Study of Old Iranian Proper Names and Loanwords, Attested in Non-Iranian Texts, Peeters,  .
  6. ^ Bruce Lincoln. Religion, empire, and torture: the case of Achaemenian Persia, 2007, University of Chicago Press, Page 4-5
  7. ^ Jamie Stokes (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East, Volume 1. Infobase Publishing. pp. 2–3.  
Born: 8th century BC Died: 7th century BC
Preceded by
King of Persia Succeeded by
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