The country the Persians conquered and peopled was in no way a political backwater. As early as the beginning of the second millennium, the Elamite kings bore the title "king of Ansan and Susa.” The Elamite kingdom thus occupied both the plain (Susa) and the High Countiy (Ansan). At the site of Ansan itself (Tall-i Malyan), Elamite tablets dated to the end of the second millennium have been discovered. These texts attest to the existence of an Elamite administration in the region, and considerable building activity (temples, palace) testifies to the authority of the "kings of Ansan and Susa” in the southern Zagros during the second millennium.
But after this time, the Elamite kingdom, in the chronological phase called Neo-Elamite II (ca. 750-653), weakened considerably. The dynasty was ravaged by continual internecine struggles. It is possible that several "kings” coexisted from the beginning of the seventh century on. At this date, the center of gravity of the kingdom was no longer in the highlands, but on the plain, where the texts reveal three “royal towns”: Susa, Madaktu (a stronghold situated on the Duwairij River), and Hidalu (in the first foothills of the Zagros). In 691, the Elamite and Babylonian armies waged a brutal war against the Assyrian forces, with both sides claiming victory.
It seems that the dependence of Ansan on Susa became increasingly remote and merely formal, with the Neo-Elamite kings unable to assert their authority there in any concrete way. In particular, they had to do battle many times with the Neo-Assyrian kings, who mounted frequent expeditions against Elam, forcing the king to "flee to the mountain.” The Elamites, for their part, attempted several times to support Babylonian revolts against Assyria, without much success. The battle of Halule (691) was nothing more than a respite. In 646, Assurbanipal launched a broad, victorious offensive, which resulted in the capture and sack of Susa and the (temporary) disappearance of the Elamite kingdom. It is perhaps in this context that Teispes, Gyrus IPs great-grandfather, arrogated to himself the title “king of Ansan,” thus proclaiming himself successor to the Elamite kings in the highland that was to take the name Persis.
The problem of absolute chronology is more difficult. An inscription of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal (669-ca. 630) mentions the submission of Kuras, king of Parsumas, who shortly after 646 sent tribute to Nineveh and sent his oldest son, Arukku, as a hostage. It has long been held that this Kuras was none other than Gyrus I himself, king of Persia (Parsumas). But this interpretation is now being questioned. The proposed equivalence between Parsumas and Persia is uncertain, and Parsumas is probably distinct from Ansan (though this point is still under discussion). Since the chronology of Cyrus
II is securely established (559-530), it would be necessary under this hypothesis to lower the chronology of the first Persian kings, whose approximate dates would otherwise be: Teispes (ca. 635-610), Cyrus 1 (ca. 610-585), Cambyses I (ea. 585-559). Moreover, the settlement of this Iranian population in the region of Ansan was certainly much earlier. It is generally agreed that, having come from the northern Zagros, rather than directly from the Iranian Plateau, the Iranians moved gradually into Ansan toward the end of the second millennium.