Achaemenids, the founders of the Persian Empire, are credited with creating the first major multinational empire in the region due to the vast territories they conquered. Cyrus, the first Achaemenid king, ruled Anshan and originally was a vassal of Media. Gradually he attained the support of most Persian and Median tribes, overthrew the Median king, and became the ruler of both the Persians and the Medes in 549 b.c. at Ecbatana (Agbatana), present-day Hamadan.
The conquests of Alexander the Great spread Hellenism immediately over the Middle East and far into Asia. After his death in 323 B.C., the influence of Greek civilization continued to expand over the Mediterranean world and W Asia. The wars of the Diadochi marked, it is true, the breakup of Alexander's brief empire, but the establishment of Macedonian dynasties in Egypt, Syria, and Persia (the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae) helped to mold the world of that day into a wider unity of trade and learning.
The monotheistic faith of the Jews. The word itself (Yahadut) does not appear in the Bible. It is first found in II Maccabees and in Esther Rabbah (7:11). It appears to have been coined by Hellenized Jews (using the Greek word Judaismos) and denotes both a religious and a national concept.
The institution of slavery extends back beyond recorded history. References to it appear in the ancient Babylonian code of Hammurabi. Its form and nature varied greatly in ancient society. It seems to have been common in the Tigris-Euphrates civilizations and in ancient Persia. In ancient Egypt slave labor was used in building temples and pyramids. The institution was familiar to the ancient Hebrews, according to passages in the Bible.
Caste and class are markers of socioeconomic status; the first is a formalized system of stratification, generally tied to religion, while the second is aligned closely with economic status. Both caste and class determine a large portion of any individual’s experiences.
Classical Era Variations: Africa and the Americas, 500 BCE- 1200 CE
The earliest African state formed in Egypt's Nile valley, where a centralized kingdom had emerged by 3000 BC. By this time desertification had turned the Sahara into a major barrier to travel and the only easy land route between Egypt and tropical Africa lay along the narrow valley of the middle Nile through Nubia.
Mesoamerica is an anthropological term that describes the most populous region of the northern American continent at the time of contact. Stretching from northern Mexico to Honduras, at the beginning of the sixteenth century it was host to a population of perhaps 25 million people, speaking more than 200 languages.
Classic period Mesoamerica was a time of great social development and interaction. With the established adaptation to settled life, the expansion of domesticated plants, the development of the social and ecological landscape, and the construction of major cities from the arid highlands to the tropical lowlands, the great traditions of forest gardening, maize production, temples, and artistry coalesced
Teotihuacan (Nahuatl for “Abode of the Gods”) was Mexico’s first true urban civilization, and it influenced cities throughout Mexico and beyond to Guatemala. Scholars have found remains of more than 2,600 major structures there.
See the impressive documentary From Jesus to Christ. The documentary was one of the first to incorporate a rich new body of scholarly work on early Christianity which emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. You can watch the full program at PBS.