I’m slowly working my way through Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World, a book I’d been dying to read and finally got last summer, and I just hit the brief excursus on Elamite (which is probably related to Dravidian). I had not realized that Elamite was still spoken when Alexander conquered the area (and possibly as late as the Arab conquest), nor had I realized that Elam became the heart of the Old Persian empire:
Two generations later, in 522 BC, Darius (Dārayavauš), the Persian heir to Anshan, took control of the whole Persian empire, which by now extended from Egypt and Anatolia to the borders of India. Despite two abortive Elamite rebellions shortly after his accession, he chose Elam as the hub of this empire, with Susa itself (known to him as Šušan) as the administrative capital, and Parša, i.e. Anshan, as the site for a new ceremonial capital, to be better known in the West by its Greek name of Persepolis.
He goes on to make the following interesting observation:
The Persians had never prized literacy very highly. Famously, their leaders were educated in three things only: to ride a horse, to shoot a straight arrow, and to tell the truth. So their Elamite neighbours, with two thousand years of cuneiform education behind them, were well placed to be extremely useful in the more humdrum side of empire-building.
Which means the Elamites played the same role with respect to the Old Persians as the Persians played with respect to the Turks a millennium and a half later.
An amusing sidelight: “Nevertheless, Elamite must have continued to be spoken in Elam [after a long period of Akkadian domination], since in 1300 BC it springs back to life as the official language, replacing Akkadian for all written purposes, except curses.” (Emphasis added.)