||This article is incomplete. (March 2017)
The Persian Empire (Persian: شاهنشاهی ایران shāhanshāhi-ye irān) is one of a series of imperial dynasties centered in Persia (modern–day Iran). The first of these was the Achaemenid Empire established by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC with the conquest of Median, Lydian and Babylonian empires. It covered much of the Ancient world when it was conquered by Alexander the Great. Several later dynasties "claimed to be heirs of the Achaemenids". Persia was then ruled by the Parthian Empire which supplanted the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, and then by the Sassanian Empire which ruled up until the mid-7th century.
While many of these empires referred to themselves as Persian, they were often ruled by ethnic Medes, Babylonians, or Parthians. Iranian dynastic history was interrupted by the Arab conquest of Persia in 651 AD, establishing the even larger Islamic caliphate, and later by the Mongol invasion.
The main religion of ancient Persia was the native Zoroastrianism, but after the seventh century, it was replaced by Islam.
The Safavid Empire was the first Persian empire established after Arab conquest of Persia by Shah Ismail I. From their base in Ardabil, the Safavid Persians established control over parts of Greater Iran and reasserted the Iranian identity of the region, thus becoming the first native dynasty since the Sasanian Empire to establish a unified Iranian state.