In the narrow sense (Persis, Pārsa), Persia defines the country lying in the folds of the southern Zagros mountains. From the start of the first millennium bce, an Iranian population lived in close contact with the Elamite inhabitants here (see elam). This led to the emergence of the Persian ethnos and the kingdom of Anshan, which appears fully on the historical scene beginning with the conquests of *Cyrus (1) the Great. Even with the extension and consolidation of the *Achaemenid empire under *Darius I, Persia proper retained a prominent place in the way in which the Great Kings visualized their territorial power. At the same time, members of the Persian aristocracy received the highest governorships and offices in the central and provincial government. In this respect, the empire created by Cyrus and his successors may be described as Persian.The history of this large empire has been neglected for a long time: between the fall of *Babylon (539) and *Alexander (3) the Great's arrival (334–332), the Near East has resembled a gigantic historiographical ‘no-man's land’.