The first Achamaenid king, Cyrus, conquered the Elamites some 500 years before the birth of Christ. He established a palace at Pasgardae (pictured above), between Shiraz and Isfahan, and his tomb remains there to this day. Under his successors Persia developed its first empire with leaders such as Darius I, who rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem and Xerxes, whose westward ambitions were thwarted by the Greeks. It was during this period that the Zoroastrian religion first came to prominence and cuneiform scripts was developed for recording events and transactions. The great palace of Takht-e-Jamshid, or Persepolis was constructed just north of Shiraz, and the first Jews, liberated from Babylon, were settled in Isfahan.
The last of the Achamaenids was Darius II who after an exchange of insulting presents with Alexander the Great was finally defeated in battle by Alexander and later assassinated by his own generals. Tradition has it that the Kuh-e-Sofeh, the mountain which dominates Isfahan from the south, was the scene of this battle which Darius watched from its slopes.