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The Achaemenid Empire was the largest and most significant of the Persian Empires , and followed the Median Empire as the second great empire of the Iranians. It is noted in western history as the foe of the Greek city states in the Greco-Persian Wars , for freeing the Israelites from their Babylonian captivity , for its successful model of a centralized bureaucratic administration, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World ), and for instituting Aramaic as the empire's official language . Because of the Empire's vast extent and long endurance, Persian influence upon the language, religion, architecture, philosophy, law and government of nations around the world lasts to this day. At the height of its power, the Achaemenid dynasty encompassed approximately million square kilometers, held the greatest percentage of world population to date, stretched three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa) and was territorially the largest empire of classical antiquity.
In the border between history and legend, historical novelists have taken up the challenge of defining who Arthur and the men and women around him may have been. Rosemary Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset was the earliest and is still among the best portrayals of an Arthur figure in a realistic fifth century setting, and more recent novelists have followed her lead. Others have been inspired by the legend to create fantasy worlds which borrow, to a greater or lesser degree, from what we know of the history. In The Mists of Avalon , Marion Zimmer Bradley reimagined the Arthurian legends from a pagan, feminist perspective. Though her novel includes many fantasy elements, it also incorporates ideas from early Welsh sources that show Arthur at odds with the Christian church. Her novel brought a new perspective to the King Arthur legend that reflects glimmers of what may have been a real controversy between Celtic pagans and Christians during the post-Roman period.