From Bible Encyclopedia
pûr´sha, -zha (פּרס, pāraṣ; Περσίς, Persís; in Assyrian Parsu, Parsua; in Achemenian Persian Pārsa, modern Fārs):
An ancient empire, extending from the Indus to Thrace, and from the Caspian Sea to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The Persians were originally a Medic tribe which settled in Persia, on the eastern side of the Persian Gulf. They were Aryans, their language belonging to the eastern division of the Indo-European group. One of their chiefs, Teispes, conquered Elam in the time of the decay of the Assyrian Empire, and established himself in the district of Anzan. His descendants branched off into two lines, one line ruling in Anzan, while the other remained in Persia. Cyrus II., king of Anzan, finally united the divided power, conquered Media, Lydia, and Babylonia, and carried his arms into the far East. His son, Cambyses, added Egypt to the empire, which, however, fell to pieces after his death. It was reconquered and thoroughly organized by Darius, the son of Hystaspes, whose dominions extended from India to the Danube.
In the Bible (2 Chronicles 36:20, 2 Chronicles 36:22, 2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:1, Ezra 1:8; Esther 1:3, Esther 1:14, Esther 1:18; Esther 10:2; Ezekiel 27:10; Ezekiel 38:5; Daniel 8:20; Daniel 10:1; Daniel 11:2) this name denotes properly the modern province of Fars, not the whole Persian empire. The latter was by its people called Airyaria, the present Iran (from the Sanskrit word ārya, “noble”); and even now the Persians never call their country anything but Iran, never “Persia.” The province of Persis lay to the East of Elam (Susiana), and stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Great Salt Desert, having Carmania on the Southeast. Its chief cities were Persepolis and Pasargadae. Along the Persian Gulf the land is low, hot and unhealthy, but it soon begins to rise as one travels inland. Most of the province consists of high and steep mountains and plateaus, with fertile valleys. The table-lands in which lie the modern city of Shiraz and the ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae are well watered and productive. Nearer the desert, however, cultivation grows scanty for want of water. Persia was doubtless in early times included in Elam, and its population was then either Semitic or allied to the Accadians, who founded more than one state in the Babylonian plain. The Āryan Persians seem to have occupied the country in the 8th or 9th century BC.