As a crossroads of tribal migration and military campaigns, Azerbaijan underwent a series of invasions and was part of several larger jurisdictions before the beginning of the Christian era.
Persian and Greek Influences
In the ninth century B.C., the seminomadic Scythians settled in areas of what is now Azerbaijan. A century later, the Medes, who were related ethnically to the Persians, established an empire that included southernmost Azerbaijan. In the sixth century B.C., the Archaemenid Persians, under Cyrus the Great, took over the western part of Azerbaijan when they subdued the Assyrian Empire to the west. In 330 B.C., Alexander the Great absorbed the entire Archaemenid Empire into his holdings, leaving Persian satraps to govern as they advanced eastward. According to one account, Atropates, a Persian general in Alexander's command, whose name means "protected by fire," lent his name to the region when Alexander made him its governor. Another legend explains that Azerbaijan's name derives from the Persian words meaning "the land of fire," a reference either to the natural burning of surface oil deposits or to the oil-fueled fires in temples of the once-dominant Zoroastrian religion.
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