Darius the Great or Darius I (Old Persian: Dārayava(h)uš, New Persian: داریوش Dāryuš; Hebrew: דָּרְיָוֶשׁ, Modern: Darəyaveš, Tiberian: Dāryāwéš; c. 550–486 BCE) was the fourth Persian king of the Achaemenid Empire. He ruled the empire at its peak, when it included much of West Asia, the Caucasus, parts of the Balkans (Thrace-Macedonia, and Paeonia), most of the Black Sea coastal regions, parts of the North Caucasus, Central Asia, as far as the Indus Valley in the far east and portions of north and northeast Africa including Egypt (Mudrâya), eastern Libya, and coastal Sudan.
Darius ascended the throne by overthrowing Gaumata, a claimed usurper. The new king met with rebellions throughout his kingdom and quelled them each time. A major event in Darius's life was his expedition to punish Athens and Eretria for their aid in the Ionian Revolt and subjugate Greece. Although ultimately ending in failure at the Battle of Marathon, Darius succeeded in the re-subjugation of Thrace, expansion of the empire through the conquest of Macedon, the Cyclades and the island of Naxos and the sacking of the city of Eretria.
Darius organized the empire by dividing it into provinces and placing satraps to govern it. He organized Achaemenid coinage as a new uniform monetary system, along with making Aramaic the official language of the empire. He also put the empire in better standing by building roads and introducing standard weights and measures. Through these changes, the empire was centralized and unified. Darius also worked on construction projects throughout the empire, focusing on Susa, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Babylon, and Egypt. He had the cliff-face Behistun Inscription carved to record his conquests, an important testimony of the Old Persian language.
|Darius the Great|
|King of Kings|
King of Persia
King of Babylon
Pharaoh of Egypt
King of Countries
Relief of Darius I in Persepolis
|King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire|
|Reign||September 522 BCE to|
October 486 BCE (36 years)
|Pharaoh of Egypt|
|Reign||September 522 BCE to|
October 486 BCE (36 years)
|Died||October 486 BCE|
(aged approximately 64)
Dārīus and Dārēus are the Latin forms of the Greek Dareîos (Δαρεῖος), itself from Old Persian Dārayauš (𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎢𐏁; d-a-r-y-uš/Dārayauš), which is a shortened form of Dārayavaʰuš (𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁, d-a-r-y-v-u-š/Dārayavaʰuš). The longer form is also seen to have been reflected in the Elamite Da-ri-(y)a-ma-u-iš, Babylonian Da-(a-)ri-ia-(a-)muš, Aramaic drywhwš (𐡃𐡓𐡉𐡅𐡄𐡅𐡔), and possibly the longer Greek form Dareiaîos (Δαρειαῖος). The name is a nominative form meaning "he who holds firm the good(ness)", which can be seen by the first part dāraya, meaning "holder", and the adverb vau, meaning "goodness".
At some time between his coronation and his death, Darius left a tri-lingual monumental relief on Mount Behistun, which was written in Elamite, Old Persian and Babylonian. The inscription begins with a brief autobiography including his ancestry and lineage. To aid the presentation of his ancestry, Darius wrote down the sequence of events that occurred after the death of Cyrus the Great. Darius mentions several times that he is the rightful king by the grace of Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god. In addition, further texts and monuments from Persepolis have been found, as well as a clay tablet containing an Old Persian cuneiform of Darius from Gherla, Romania (Harmatta) and a letter from Darius to Gadates, preserved in a Greek text of the Roman period. In the foundation tablets of Apadana Palace, Darius described in Old Persian cuneiform the extent of his Empire in broad geographical terms:
Darius the great king, king of kings, king of countries, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid. King Darius says: This is the kingdom which I hold, from the Sacae who are beyond Sogdia to Kush, and from Sind (Old Persian: 𐏃𐎡𐎭𐎢𐎺, "Hidauv", locative of "Hiduš", i.e. "Indus valley") to Lydia (Old Persian: "Spardâ") - [this is] what Ahuramazda, the greatest of gods, bestowed upon me. May Ahuramazda protect me and my royal house!— DPh inscription of Darius I in the foundations of the Apadana Palace
Herodotus, a Greek historian and author of The Histories, provided an account of many Persian kings and the Greco-Persian Wars. He wrote extensively on Darius, spanning half of Book 3 along with Books 4, 5 and 6. It begins with the removal of the alleged usurper Gaumata and continues to the end of Darius's reign.
Darius was the eldest of five sons to Hystaspes and Rhodugune in 550 BCE. Hystaspes was a leading figure of authority in Persia, which was the homeland of the Persians. The Behistun Inscription of Darius states that his father was satrap of Bactria in 522 BCE. According to Herodotus, Hystaspes was the satrap of Persis, although most historians state that this is an error. Also according to Herodotus (III.139), Darius, prior to seizing power and "of no consequence at the time", had served as a spearman (doryphoros) in the Egyptian campaign (528–525 BCE) of Cambyses II, then the Persian Great King; this is often interpreted to mean he was the king's personal spear-carrier, an important role. Hystaspes was an officer in Cyrus' army and a noble of his court.
Before Cyrus and his army crossed the Aras River to battle with the Armenians, he installed his son Cambyses II as king in case he should not return from battle. However, once Cyrus had crossed the Aras River, he had a vision in which Darius had wings atop his shoulders and stood upon the confines of Europe and Asia (the known world). When Cyrus awoke from the dream, he inferred it as a great danger to the future security of the empire, as it meant that Darius would one day rule the whole world. However, his son Cambyses was the heir to the throne, not Darius, causing Cyrus to wonder if Darius was forming treasonable and ambitious designs. This led Cyrus to order Hystaspes to go back to Persis and watch over his son strictly, until Cyrus himself returned. Darius did not seem to have any treasonous thoughts as Cambyses II ascended the throne peacefully; and, through promotion, Darius was eventually elevated to be Cambyses's personal lancer.
There are different accounts of the rise of Darius to the throne from both Darius himself and Greek historians. The oldest records report a convoluted sequence of events in which Cambyses II lost his mind, murdered his brother Bardiya, and was killed by an infected leg wound. After this, Darius and a group of six nobles traveled to Sikayauvati to kill an usurper, Gaumata, who had taken the throne by pretending to be Bardiya during the true king's absence. Many modern historians believe that Gaumata was in fact the true heir Bardiya, with the historical account being altered by Darius to make the coup d'état appear more legitimate.
Darius's account, written at the Behistun Inscription, states that Cambyses II killed his own brother Bardiya, but that this murder was not known among the Iranian people. A would-be usurper named Gaumata came and lied to the people, stating he was Bardiya. The Iranians had grown rebellious against Cambyses's rule and on 11 March 522 BCE a revolt against Cambyses broke out in his absence. On 1 July, the Iranian people chose to be under the leadership of Gaumata, as "Bardiya". No member of the Achaemenid family would rise against Gaumata for the safety of their own life. Darius, who had served Cambyses as his lance-bearer until the deposed ruler's death, prayed for aid and in September 522 BCE, along with Otanes, Intaphrenes, Gobryas, Hydarnes, Megabyzus and Aspathines, killed Gaumata in the fortress of Sikayauvati.
Impression of a cylinder seal of King Darius the Great hunting in a chariot, reading "I am Darius, the Great King" in Old Persian (𐎠𐎭𐎶𐏐𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁𐎴 𐏋, "adam Dārayavaʰuš xšāyaθiya"), Elamite and Babylonian. The word 'great' only appears in Babylonian. British Museum, excavated in Thebes, Egypt.
Herodotus provides a dubious account of Darius's ascension: Several days after Gaumata had been assassinated, Darius and the other six nobles discussed the fate of the empire. At first, the seven discussed the form of government; a democratic republic (Isonomia) was strongly pushed by Otanes, an oligarchy was pushed by Megabyzus, while Darius pushed for a monarchy. After stating that a republic would lead to corruption and internal fighting, while a monarchy would be led with a single-mindedness not possible in other governments, Darius was able to convince the other nobles.
To decide who would become the monarch, six of them decided on a test, with Otanes abstaining, as he had no interest in being king. They were to gather outside the palace, mounted on their horses at sunrise, and the man whose horse neighed first in recognition of the rising sun would become king. According to Herodotus, Darius had a slave, Oebares, who rubbed his hand over the genitals of a mare that Darius's horse favored. When the six gathered, Oebares placed his hands beside the nostrils of Darius's horse, who became excited at the scent and neighed. This was followed by lightning and thunder, leading the others to dismount and kneel before Darius in recognition of his apparent divine providence. In this account, Darius himself claimed that he achieved the throne not through fraud, but cunning, even erecting a statue of himself mounted on his neighing horse with the inscription: "Darius, son of Hystaspes, obtained the sovereignty of Persia by the sagacity of his horse and the ingenious contrivance of Oebares, his groom."
According to the accounts of Greek historians, Cambyses II had left Patizeithes in charge of the kingdom when he headed for Egypt. He later sent Prexaspes to murder Bardiya. After the killing, Patizeithes put his brother Gaumata, a Magian who resembled Bardiya, on the throne and declared him the Great King. Otanes discovered that Gaumata was an impostor, and along with six other Iranian nobles including Darius, created a plan to oust the pseudo-Bardiya. After killing the impostor along with his brother Patizeithes and other Magians, Darius was crowned king the following morning.
Following his coronation at Pasargadae, Darius moved to Ecbatana. He soon learned that support for Bardiya was strong, and revolts in Elam and Babylonia had broken out. Darius ended the Elamite revolt when the revolutionary leader Aschina was captured and executed in Susa. After three months the revolt in Babylonia had ended. While in Babylonia, Darius learned a revolution had broken out in Bactria, a satrapy which had always been in favour of Darius, and had initially volunteered an army of soldiers to quell revolts. Following this, revolts broke out in Persis, the homeland of the Persians and Darius and then in Elam and Babylonia, followed by in Media, Parthia, Assyria, and Egypt. By 522 BCE, there were revolts against Darius in most parts of the Achaemenid Empire leaving the empire in turmoil. Even though Darius did not seem to have the support of the populace, Darius had a loyal army, led by close confidants and nobles (including the six nobles who had helped him remove Gaumata). With their support, Darius was able to suppress and quell all revolts within a year. In Darius's words, he had killed a total of eight "lying kings" through the quelling of revolutions. Darius left a detailed account of these revolutions in the Behistun Inscription.
One of the significant events of Darius's early reign was the slaying of Intaphernes, one of the seven noblemen who had deposed the previous ruler and installed Darius as the new monarch. The seven had made an agreement that they could all visit the new king whenever they pleased, except when he was with his wife. One evening, Intaphernes went to the palace to meet Darius, but was stopped by two officers who stated that Darius had retired for the night. Becoming enraged and insulted, Intaphernes drew his sword and cut off the ears and noses of the two officers. While leaving the palace, he took the bridle from his horse, and tied the two officers together. The officers went to the king and showed him what Intaphernes had done to them. Darius began to fear for his own safety; he thought that all seven noblemen had banded together to rebel against him and that the attack against his officers was the first sign of revolt. He sent a messenger to each of the noblemen, asking them if they approved of Intaphernes's actions. They denied and disavowed any connection with Intaphernes's actions, stating that they stood by their decision to appoint Darius as King of Kings.
Taking precautions against further resistance, Darius sent soldiers to seize Intaphernes, along with his son, family members, relatives and any friends who were capable of arming themselves. Darius believed that Intaphernes was planning a rebellion, but when he was brought to the court, there was no proof of any such plan. Nonetheless, Darius killed Intaphernes's entire family, excluding his wife's brother and son. She was asked to choose between her brother and son. She chose her brother to live. Her reasoning for doing so was that she could have another husband and another son, but she would always have but one brother. Darius was impressed by her response and spared both her brother's and her son's life.
After securing his authority over the entire empire, Darius embarked on a campaign to Egypt where he defeated the armies of the Pharaoh and secured the lands that Cambyses had conquered while incorporating a large portion of Egypt into the Achaemenid Empire.
Through another series of campaigns, Darius I would eventually reign over the territorial apex of the empire, when it stretched from parts of the Balkans (Thrace-Macedonia, Bulgaria-Paeonia) in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east.
In 516 BCE, Darius embarked on a campaign to Central Asia, Aria and Bactria and then marched into Afghanistan to Taxila in modern-day Pakistan. Darius spent the winter of 516–515 BCE in Gandhara, preparing to conquer the Indus Valley. Darius conquered the lands surrounding the Indus River in 515 BCE. Darius I controlled the Indus Valley from Gandhara to modern Karachi and appointed the Greek Scylax of Caryanda to explore the Indian Ocean from the mouth of the Indus to Suez. Darius then marched through the Bolan Pass and returned through Arachosia and Drangiana back to Persia.
After Bardiya was murdered, widespread revolts occurred throughout the empire, especially on the eastern side. Darius asserted his position as king by force, taking his armies throughout the empire, suppressing each revolt individually. The most notable of all these revolts was the Babylonian revolt which was led by Nebuchadnezzar III. This revolt occurred when Otanes withdrew much of the army from Babylon to aid Darius in suppressing other revolts. Darius felt that the Babylonian people had taken advantage of him and deceived him, which resulted in Darius gathering a large army and marching to Babylon. At Babylon, Darius was met with closed gates and a series of defences to keep him and his armies out. Darius encountered mockery and taunting from the rebels, including the famous saying "Oh yes, you will capture our city, when mules shall have foals." For a year and a half, Darius and his armies were unable to retake the city, though he attempted many tricks and strategies—even copying that which Cyrus the Great had employed when he captured Babylon. However, the situation changed in Darius's favour when, according to the story, a mule owned by Zopyrus, a high-ranking soldier, foaled. Following this, a plan was hatched for Zopyrus to pretend to be a deserter, enter the Babylonian camp, and gain the trust of the Babylonians. The plan was successful and Darius's army eventually surrounded the city and overcame the rebels.
During this revolt, Scythian nomads took advantage of the disorder and chaos and invaded Persia. Darius first finished defeating the rebels in Elam, Assyria, and Babylon and then attacked the Scythian invaders. He pursued the invaders, who led him to a marsh; there he found no known enemies but an enigmatic Scythian tribe.
The Scythians were a group of north Iranian nomadic tribes, speaking an Iranian language (Scythian languages) who had invaded Media, killed Cyrus in battle, revolted against Darius and threatened to disrupt trade between Central Asia and the shores of the Black Sea as they lived between the Danube River, River Don and the Black Sea.
Darius crossed the Black Sea at the Bosphorus Straits using a bridge of boats. Darius conquered large portions of Eastern Europe, even crossing the Danube to wage war on the Scythians. Darius invaded European Scythia in 513 BC, where the Scythians evaded Darius's army, using feints and retreating eastwards while laying waste to the countryside, by blocking wells, intercepting convoys, destroying pastures and continuous skirmishes against Darius's army. Seeking to fight with the Scythians, Darius's army chased the Scythian army deep into Scythian lands, where there were no cities to conquer and no supplies to forage. In frustration Darius sent a letter to the Scythian ruler Idanthyrsus to fight or surrender. The ruler replied that he would not stand and fight with Darius until they found the graves of their fathers and tried to destroy them. Until then, they would continue their strategy as they had no cities or cultivated lands to lose. Despite the evading tactics of the Scythians, Darius' campaign was so far relatively successful. As presented by Herodotus, the tactics used by the Scythians resulted in the loss of their best lands and of damage to their loyal allies. This gave Darius the initiative. As he moved eastwards in the cultivated lands of the Scythians in Eastern Europe proper, he remained resupplied by his fleet and lived to an extent off the land. While moving eastwards in the European Scythian lands, he captured the large fortified city of the Budini, one of the allies of the Scythians, and burnt it.
Darius eventually ordered a halt at the banks of Oarus, where he built "eight great forts, some eight miles distant from each other", no doubt as a frontier defence. In his Histories, Herodotus states that the ruins of the forts were still standing in his day. After chasing the Scythians for a month, Darius's army was suffering losses due to fatigue, privation and sickness. Concerned about losing more of his troops, Darius halted the march at the banks of the Volga River and headed towards Thrace. He had conquered enough Scythian territory to force the Scythians to respect the Persian forces.
Darius's European expedition was a major event in his reign, which began with the invasion of Thrace. Darius also conquered many cities of the northern Aegean, Paeonia, while Macedonia submitted voluntarily, after the demand of earth and water, becoming a vassal kingdom. He then left Megabyzus to conquer Thrace, returning to Sardis to spend the winter. The Greeks living in Asia Minor and some of the Greek islands had submitted to Persian rule already by 510 BCE. Nonetheless, there were certain Greeks who were pro-Persian, although these were largely based in Athens. To improve Greek-Persian relations, Darius opened his court and treasuries to those Greeks who wanted to serve him. These Greeks served as soldiers, artisans, statesmen and mariners for Darius. However, the increasing concerns amongst the Greeks over the strength of Darius's kingdom along with the constant interference by the Greeks in Ionia and Lydia were stepping stones towards the conflict that was yet to come between Persia and certain of the leading Greek city states.
When Aristagoras organized the Ionian Revolt, Eretria and Athens supported him by sending ships and troops to Ionia and by burning Sardis. Persian military and naval operations to quell the revolt ended in the Persian reoccupation of Ionian and Greek islands, as well as the re-subjugation of Thrace and the conquering of Macedonia in 492 BC under Mardonius. Macedon had been a vassal kingdom of the Persians since the late 6th century BC, but retained autonomy. Mardonius' 492 campaign made it a fully subordinate part of the Persian kingdom. These military actions, coming as a direct response to the revolt in Ionia, were the beginning of the First Persian invasion of (mainland) Greece. At the same time, anti-Persian parties gained more power in Athens, and pro-Persian aristocrats were exiled from Athens and Sparta. Darius responded by sending troops led by his son-in-law across the Hellespont. However, a violent storm and harassment by the Thracians forced the troops to return to Persia. Seeking revenge on Athens and Eretria, Darius assembled another army of 20,000 men under his Admiral, Datis, and his nephew Artaphernes, who met success when they captured Eretria and advanced to Marathon. In 490 BCE, at the Battle of Marathon, the Persian army was defeated by a heavily armed Athenian army, with 9,000 men who were supported by 600 Plataeans and 10,000 lightly armed soldiers led by Miltiades.
The defeat at Marathon marked the end of the first Persian invasion of Greece. Darius began preparations for a second force which he would command, instead of his generals; however, before the preparations were complete, Darius died, thus leaving the task to his son Xerxes.
Darius was the son of Hystaspes and the grandson of Arsames. Both men belonged to the Achaemenid tribe and were still alive when Darius ascended the throne. Darius justifies his ascension to the throne with his lineage. He claimed he could trace his ancestors back to Achaemenes, even though he was only distantly related. With this in mind, Darius married Atossa, daughter of Cyrus, with whom he had four sons: Xerxes, Achaemenes, Masistes and Hystaspes. He also married Artystone, another daughter of Cyrus, with whom he had two sons, Arsames and Gobryas. Darius married Parmys, the daughter of Bardiya, with whom he had a son, Ariomardus. Furthermore, Darius married Phratagune, with whom he had two sons, Abrokomas and Hyperantes. He also married another woman of the nobility, Phaidyme, the daughter of Otanes. It is unknown if he had any children with her. Before these royal marriages, Darius had married an unknown daughter of his good friend and lance carrier Gobryas from an early marriage, with whom he had three sons, Artobazanes, Ariabignes and Arsamenes. Any daughters he had with her are not known. Although Artobazanes was Darius's first-born, Xerxes became heir and the next king through the influence of Atossa; she had great authority in the kingdom as Darius loved her the most of all his wives.
After becoming aware of the Persian defeat at the Battle of Marathon, Darius began planning another expedition against the Greek-city states; this time, he, not Datis, would command the imperial armies. Darius had spent three years preparing men and ships for war when a revolt broke out in Egypt. This revolt in Egypt worsened his failing health and prevented the possibility of his leading another army. Soon after, Darius died. In October 486 BCE, the body of Darius was embalmed and entombed in the rock-cut sepulchre that had been prepared for him several years earlier.
Xerxes, the eldest son of Darius and Atossa, succeeded to the throne as Xerxes I; however, prior to Xerxes's accession, he contested the succession with his elder half-brother Artobarzanes, Darius's eldest son who was born to his commoner first wife before Darius rose to power.
In 1923 German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld made casts of the cuneiform inscriptions on Darius's tomb where he records his Persian ancestry for posterity, “parsa parsahya puthra ariya ariyachitra”, meaning, “a Persian, the son of a Persian, an Aryan, of Aryan family (Inscription at Naqsh-i-Rustam, near Persepolis, Iran). They are currently housed in the archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Early in his reign, Darius wanted to reorganize the structure of the empire and reform the system of taxation he inherited from Cyrus and Cambyses. To do this, Darius created twenty provinces called satrapies (or archi) which were each assigned to a satrap (archon) and specified fixed tributes that the satrapies were required to pay. A complete list is preserved in the catalogue of Herodotus, beginning with Ionia and listing the other satrapies from west to east excluding Persis which was the land of the Persians and the only province which was not a conquered land. Tributes were paid in both silver and gold talents.
Tributes in silver from each satrap were measured with the Babylonian talent. Those paid in gold were measured with the Euboic talent. The total tribute from the satraps came to an amount less than 15,000 silver talents.
The majority of the satraps were of Persian origin and were members of the royal house or the six great noble families. These satraps were personally picked by Darius to monitor these provinces. Each of these provinces were divided into sub-provinces with their own governors which were chosen either by the royal court or by the satrap. To assess tributes, a commission evaluated the expenses and revenues of each satrap. To ensure that one person did not gain too much power, each satrap had a secretary who observed the affairs of the state and communicated with Darius, a treasurer who safeguarded provincial revenues and a garrison commander who was responsible for the troops. Additionally, royal inspectors who were the "eyes and ears" of Darius completed further checks on each satrap.
The imperial administration was coordinated by the chancery with headquarters at Persepolis, Susa, and Babylon with Bactria, Ecbatana, Sardis, Dascylium and Memphis having branches. Darius chose Aramaic as a common language, which soon spread throughout the empire. However, Darius gathered a group of scholars to create a separate language system only used for Persis and the Persians, which was called Aryan script which was only used for official inscriptions.
Darius introduced a new universal currency, the daric, sometime before 500 BCE. Darius used the coinage system as a transnational currency to regulate trade and commerce throughout his empire. The Daric was also recognized beyond the borders of the empire, in places such as Celtic Central Europe and Eastern Europe. There were two types of darics, a gold daric and a silver daric. Only the king could mint gold darics. Important generals and satraps minted silver darics, the latter usually to recruit Greek mercenaries in Anatolia. The daric was a major boost to international trade. Trade goods such as textiles, carpets, tools and metal objects began to travel throughout Asia, Europe and Africa. To further improve trade, Darius built the Royal Road, a postal system and Phoenician-based commercial shipping.
The daric also improved government revenues as the introduction of the daric made it easier to collect new taxes on land, livestock and marketplaces. This led to the registration of land which was measured and then taxed. The increased government revenues helped maintain and improve existing infrastructure and helped fund irrigation projects in dry lands. This new tax system also led to the formation of state banking and the creation of banking firms. One of the most famous banking firms was Murashu Sons, based in the Babylonian city of Nippur. These banking firms provided loans and credit to clients.
In an effort to further improve trade, Darius built canals, underground waterways and a powerful navy. He further improved and expanded the network of roads and way stations throughout the empire, so that there was a system of travel authorization for the King, satraps and other high officials, which entitled the traveller to draw provisions at daily stopping places.
While there is no absolute consensus about the adherence of the kings before Darius, such as Cyrus and Cambyses, it is well established that Darius was an adherent of Zoroastrianism or at least a firm believer in Ahura Mazda. As can be seen at the Behistun Inscription, Darius believed that Ahura Mazda had appointed him to rule the Achaemenid Empire. Darius had dualistic philosophical convictions and believed that each rebellion in his kingdom was the work of druj, the enemy of Asha. Darius believed that because he lived righteously by Asha, Ahura Mazda supported him. In many cuneiform inscriptions denoting his achievements, he presents himself as a devout believer, perhaps even convinced that he had a divine right to rule over the world.
In the lands that were conquered by his empire, Darius followed the same Achaemenid tolerance that Cyrus had shown and later Achaemenid kings would show. He supported faiths and religions that were "alien" as long as the adherents were submissive and peaceable, sometimes giving them grants from his treasury for their purposes. He had funded the restoration of the Israelite temple which had originally been decreed by Cyrus, was supportive towards Greek cults which can be seen in his letter to Gadatas, and supported Elamite priests. He had also observed Egyptian religious rites related to kingship and had built the temple for the Egyptian god, Amun.
During Darius's Greek expedition, he had begun construction projects in Susa, Egypt and Persepolis. He had linked the Red Sea to the river Nile by building a canal (Darius Canal) which ran from modern Zaqāzīq to modern Suez. To open this canal, he travelled to Egypt in 497 BCE, where the inauguration was carried out with great fanfare and celebration. Darius also built a canal to connect the Red Sea and Mediterranean. On this visit to Egypt he erected monuments and executed Aryandes on the charge of treason. When Darius returned to Persis, he found that the codification of Egyptian law had been finished.
Additionally, Darius sponsored large construction projects in Susa, Babylon, Egypt, and Persepolis. In Susa, Darius built a new palace complex in the north of the city. An inscription states that the palace was destroyed during the reign of Artaxerxes I, but was rebuilt. Today only glazed bricks of the palace remain, the majority of them in the Louvre. In Pasargadae Darius finished all incomplete construction projects from the reign of Cyrus the Great. A palace was also built during the reign of Darius, with an inscription in the name of Cyrus the Great. It was previously believed that Cyrus had constructed this building, however due to the cuneiform script being used, the palace is believed to have been constructed by Darius.
In Egypt Darius built many temples and restored those that had previously been destroyed. Even though Darius was a Zoroastrian, he built temples dedicated to the Gods of the Ancient Egyptian religion. Several temples found were dedicated to Ptah and Nekhbet. Darius also created several roads and routes in Egypt. The monuments that Darius built were often inscribed in the official languages of the Persian Empire, Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian and Egyptian hieroglyphs. To construct these monuments Darius employed a large number of workers and artisans of diverse nationalities. Several of these workers were deportees who had been employed specifically for these projects. These deportees enhanced the empire's economy and improved inter-cultural relations. At the time of Darius's death construction projects were still under way. Xerxes completed these works and in some cases expanded his father's projects by erecting new buildings of his own.
Darius the GreatBorn: 550 BCE Died: 486 BCE
| King of Kings of Persia
522 BCE–486 BCE
| Pharaoh of Egypt|
The Achaemenid Empire (; 𐎧𐏁𐏂,Xšassa (Old Persian) "The Empire" c. 550–330 BC), also called the First Persian Empire, was an empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great. Ranging at its greatest extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 (or 8) million square kilometers. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration (through satraps under the King of Kings), for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.By the 7th century BC, the Persians had settled in the south-western portion of the Iranian Plateau in the region of Persis, which came to be their heartland. From this region, Cyrus the Great advanced to defeat the Medes, Lydia, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, establishing the Achaemenid Empire. Alexander the Great, an avid admirer of Cyrus the Great, conquered most of the empire by 330 BC. Upon Alexander's death, most of the empire's former territory came under the rule of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire, in addition to other minor territories which gained independence at that time. The Iranian elites of the central plateau reclaimed power by the second century BC under the Parthian Empire.The Achaemenid Empire is noted in Western history as the antagonist of the Greek city-states during the Greco-Persian Wars and for the emancipation of the Jewish exiles in Babylon. The historical mark of the empire went far beyond its territorial and military influences and included cultural, social, technological and religious influences as well. Despite the lasting conflict between the two states, many Athenians adopted Achaemenid customs in their daily lives in a reciprocal cultural exchange, some being employed by or allied to the Persian kings. The impact of Cyrus's edict is mentioned in Judeo-Christian texts, and the empire was instrumental in the spread of Zoroastrianism as far east as China. The empire also set the tone for the politics, heritage and history of Iran (also known as Persia).Achaemenid architecture
Achaemenid architecture (Persian: includes all architectural achievements of the Achaemenid Persians manifesting in construction of spectacular cities used for governance and inhabitation (Persepolis, Susa, Ecbatana), temples made for worship and social gatherings (such as Zoroastrian temples), and mausoleums erected in honor of fallen kings (such as the burial tomb of Cyrus the Great). The quintessential feature of Persian architecture was its eclectic nature with elements of Assyrian, Egyptian, Median and Asiatic Greek all incorporated, yet producing a unique Persian identity seen in the finished product. Achaemenid architecture is academically classified under Persian architecture in terms of its style and design.Achaemenid architectural heritage, beginning with the expansion of the empire around 550 B.C.E., was a period of artistic growth that left an extraordinary architectural legacy ranging from Cyrus the Great's solemn tomb in Pasargadae to the splendid structures of the opulent city of Persepolis. With the advent of the second Persian Empire, the Sassanid dynasty (224–624 C.E.), revived Achaemenid tradition by construction of temples dedicated to fire, and monumental palaces.Perhaps the most striking extant structures to date are the ruins of Persepolis, a once opulent city established by the Achaemenid king, Darius the Great for governmental and ceremonial functions, and also acting as one of the empire's four capitals. Persepolis, would take 100 years to complete and would finally be ransacked and burnt by the troops of Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.E. Similar architectural infrastructures were also erected at Susa and Ecbatana by Darius the Great, serving similar functions as Persepolis, such as reception of foreign dignitaries and delegates, performance of imperial ceremonies and duties, and also housing the kings.Ariaramnes
Ariaramnes (Old Persian: 𐎠𐎼𐎡𐎹𐎠𐎼𐎶𐎴 Ariyāramna, "He who brings peace to the Aryans (i.e. Iranians)") was a great uncle of Cyrus the Great and the great-grandfather of Darius I, and perhaps the king of Parsumash, the ancient core kingdom of Persia.
Ariaramnes was most likely the brother of Cyrus I of Anshan and son of Teispes, but this is not certain. In any case, he was a member of the Achaemenid House. As supported by the relief at Bisitun he was the first king of a separate Achaemenid branch that ran parallel to the reigns of Cyrus I and his son Cambyses I. As the grandfather of Darius the Great, this line ultimately absorbs the Dynasty and dominates the Persian Empire.Artaphernes (son of Artaphernes)
Artaphernes (Greek: Ἀρταφέρνης), son of Artaphernes, was the nephew of Darius the Great, and a general of the Achaemenid Empire. He was a Satrap of Lydia from 492 to after 480.
He was appointed, together with Datis, to take command of the expedition sent by Darius to punish Athens and Eretria for their support for the Ionian Revolt. Artaphernes and Datis besieged and destroyed Eretria, but were beaten by the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. Ten years later, Artaphernes is recorded as being in command of the Lydians and Mysians in the Second Persian invasion of Greece.Bactria (satrapy)
Bactria was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire. The first mention of Bactria comes in 520 BCE at the Behistun inscription. Bactria was a special satrapy in that it was ruled by a crown prince or an intended heir. The capital of Bactria was Bactra, and the region also sometimes included Sogdia. During the reign of Darius the Great, the Bactrians and the Aeglians were placed in one tax district, which was supposed to pay 360 talents every year.Bardiya
Bardiya (Old Persian: 𐎲𐎼𐎮𐎡𐎹 Bardiya), also known as Smerdis among the Greeks (Ancient Greek: Σμέρδις Smerdis) (possibly died 522 BC), was a son of Cyrus the Great and the younger brother of Cambyses II, both Persian kings. There are sharply divided views on his life. He either ruled the Achaemenid Empire for a few months in 522 BC, or was impersonated by a magus called Gaumāta (Old Persian: 𐎥𐎢𐎶𐎠𐎫), until he was toppled by Darius the Great.Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription (also Bisotun, Bistun or Bisutun; Persian: بیستون, Old Persian: Bagastana, meaning "the place of god") is a multilingual inscription and large rock relief on a cliff at Mount Behistun in the Kermanshah Province of Iran, near the city of Kermanshah in western Iran, established by Darius the Great (550–486 BC). It was crucial to the decipherment of cuneiform script as the inscription includes three versions of the same text, written in three different cuneiform script languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian (a variety of Akkadian). The inscription is to cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone is to Egyptian hieroglyphs: the document most crucial in the decipherment of a previously lost script.
The inscription is approximately 15 metres high by 25 metres wide and 100 metres up a limestone cliff from an ancient road connecting the capitals of Babylonia and Media (Babylon and Ecbatana, respectively). The Old Persian text contains 414 lines in five columns; the Elamite text includes 593 lines in eight columns, and the Babylonian text is in 112 lines. The inscription was illustrated by a life-sized bas-relief of Darius I, the Great, holding a bow as a sign of kingship, with his left foot on the chest of a figure lying on his back before him. The supine figure is reputed to be the pretender Gaumata. Darius is attended to the left by two servants, and nine one-meter figures stand to the right, with hands tied and rope around their necks, representing conquered peoples. A Faravahar floats above, giving its blessing to the king. One figure appears to have been added after the others were completed, as was Darius's beard, which is a separate block of stone attached with iron pins and lead.Cassandane
Cassandane or Cassandana (Ancient Greek: Κασσανδάνη Kassandanē) was an Achaemenian Persian noblewoman and the "dearly loved" wife of Cyrus the Great. She was a daughter of Pharnaspes. She bore four children for Cyrus (may be 5 based on the documented children listed under Cyrus the Great): Cambyses II, who succeeded his father and conquered Egypt; Smerdis (Bardiya), who also reigned as the king of Persia for a short time; a daughter named Atossa, who later wed Darius the Great; and another daughter named Roxana.Her daughter Atossa later played an important role in the Achaemenid royal family, as she married Darius the Great and bore him the next Achaemenid king, Xerxes I. Atossa had a "great authority" in the Achaemenid royal house and her marriage with Darius I is likely due to her power, influence and the fact that she was a direct descendant of Cyrus. When Cassandane died, all the nations of Cyrus' Persian empire observed "a great mourning". This is reported by Herodotus. According to a report in the chronicle of Nabonidus, there was a public mourning after her death in Babylonia lasting for six days. According to a suggestion by M. Boyce, Cassandane's tomb is located at Pasargadae.European Scythian campaign of Darius I
The European Scythian campaign of Darius I was a military expedition into parts of European Scythia by Darius I, the king of the Achaemenid Empire, in 513 BC. The Scythians were an East Iranian-speaking people who had invaded Media, revolted against Darius and threatened to disrupt trade between Central Asia and the shores of the Black Sea as they lived between the Danube and Don Rivers and the Black Sea. The campaigns took place in parts of the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper, while principally in what is modern-day Ukraine and southern Russia.
The Scythians managed to avoid a direct confrontation with the Persian army due to their mobile lifestyle and lack of any settlement (except Gelonus), while the Persians suffered losses due to the Scythians' scorched earth tactic. However, the Persians conquered much of their cultivated lands and damaged their allies, forcing the Scythians to respect the Persian force. Darius halted the advance to avoid further losses, and built a defence line.Finn mac Blatha
Finn, son of Blath, son of Labraid Condelg, son of Cairpre, son of Ollom Fotla, was, according to medieval Irish legend and historical tradition, a High King of Ireland. He took power after he killed the previous High King, Eochu Apthach, whose disastrous year on the throne had been characterised by constant plague. He ruled for twenty, or twenty-two, or thirty years, depending on the source consulted, until he was killed by Sétna Innarraid, son of Bres Rí. The Lebor Gabála Érenn synchronises his reign with that of Darius the Great of Persia (522–485 BC). The chronology of Geoffrey Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éirinn dates his reign to 725–705 BC, that of the Annals of the Four Masters to 952–930 BC.Gobryas
Gobryas (Ancient Greek: Γοβρύας; Old Persian: 𐎥𐎢𐎲𐎽𐎢𐎺 g-u-b-ru-u-v, reads as Gaub(a)ruva?; Elamite: Kambarma) was a common name of several Persian noblemen.Hydarnes
Hydarnes (Greek: Ὑδάρνης, from Old Persian Vidarna- possibly New Persian H(a)idar), son of Bagābigna, was a Persian nobleman of the Achaemenid Empire in the late 6th and early 5th centuries BC. He was one of the seven conspirators against the usurper, Gaumâta, who killed him and then proclaimed Darius I as the Persian king. His name appears in the Behistun inscription among the six conspirators who supported the rise of Darius the Great. Hydarnes then served Darius I as a commander and remained influential during his reign.Megabates
Megabates (Greek: Μεγαβάτης; dates unknown) was a Persian military leader in the late 6th and early 5th centuries BC. According to Herodotus he was a cousin of Darius the Great and his brother Artaphernes, satrap of Lydia.
Based on the writings of Herodotus, Megabates is most notable for his joint participation in the failed 499 BC siege of Naxos. With Aristagoras and 200 ships, he was sent by Darius the Great to annex the small Aegean island to the Persian Empire.Herodotus is of the view that this venture failed after a siege of four months because of the mutual dislike between Aristagoras and Megabates. As a result, Herodotus states that it was Megabates who forewarned the Naxians of the ensuing Persian siege, as he and Aristagoras argued after Megabates punished a captain for not setting up a watch. As a result, the people of Naxos gathered supplies and fortified their city to withstand a four-month-long siege. It is believed that Megabates sought to shame Aristagoras at the Persian court because of their dispute during the voyage to Naxos.Megabates followed in his older brother's footsteps and was appointed satrap of Phrygia, with his residence at Dascylium.
One of his sons was Megabazus.Oroetus
Oroetus, or Oroetes, was a Persian Satrap of Lydia from ca. 530-520 BC, during the reigns of Cyrus the Great, Cambyses and Darius the Great, succeeding Harpagus, and being followed by Bagaeus. He is described by Herodotus in the third book of his Histories, where he achieved notoriety for the death of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos:
What I will now relate happened about the time of Cambyses' sickness. The viceroy of Sardis appointed by Cyrus was Oroetes, a Persian. This man purposed to do a great wrong; for though he had received no hurt by word or deed from Polycrates of Samos, nor had even seen him, he formed the desire of seizing and killing him. The reason alleged by most was this: — As Oroetes and another Persian, Mitrobates by name, governor of the province of Dascyleium, sat by the king's door, they fell from talk to wrangling and comparing of their several achievements: and Mitrobates taunted Oroetes, saying, "You are not to be accounted a man; the island of Samos lies close to your province, yet you have not added it to the king's dominion — an island so easy to conquer that some native of it rose against his rulers with fifteen men at arms, and is now lord of it. Some say that Oroetes, angered by this taunt, was less desirous of punishing the utterer of it than of by all means destroying the reason of the reproach, namely Polycrates.
Oroetus became the first satrap recorded as demonstrating insubordination with respect to the central power of Persia. When Cambyses (530-522 BC), who succeeded his father Cyrus, died, the Persian Empire was in chaos prior to Darius the Great (522-486) finally securing control. Oroetus defied Darius' orders to assist him, whereupon Bagaeus (520-517 BC) was sent by Darius to arrange his murder.
After Cambyses had died and the Magians won the kingship, Oroetes stayed in Sardis, where he in no way helped the Persians to regain the power taken from them by the Medes, but contrariwise; for in this confusion he slew two notable Persians, Mitrobates, the governor from Dascyleium, who had taunted him concerning Polycrates, and Mitrobates' son Cranaspes; and besides many other violent deeds, when a messenger from Darius came with a message which displeased him, he set an ambush by the way and killed that messenger on his journey homewards, and made away with the man's body and horse. So when Darius became king he was minded to punish Oroetes for all his wrongdoing, and chiefly for the killing of Mitrobates and his son.Otanes (son of Sisamnes)
Otanes (Greek: Ὀτάνης), son of Sisamnes, was an Achaemenid judge and later Satrap of Ionia during the reign of Darius the Great, circa 500 BC.Palace of Darius in Susa
The Palace of Darius in Susa was a palace complex in Susa, Iran, a capital of the Achaemenid Empire. The construction was conducted parallel to that of Persepolis. Man-power and raw materials from various parts of the empire contributed to its construction. It was once destroyed by fire and was partially restored later. Little has remained from this important complex.Royal Road
The Royal Road was an ancient highway reorganized and rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great (Darius I) of the first (Achaemenid) Persian Empire in the 5th century BCE. Darius built the road to facilitate rapid communication throughout his very large empire from Susa to Sardis. Mounted couriers of the Angarium were supposed to travel 1677 miles (2699 km) from Susa to Sardis in nine days; the journey took ninety days on foot. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote, "There is nothing in the world that travels faster than these Persian couriers." Herodotus's praise for these messengers—"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"— was inscribed on the James Farley Post Office in New York and is sometimes thought of as the United States Postal Service creed.Teispes
Teïspes (from Greek Τεΐσπης; in Old Persian: 𐎨𐎡𐏁𐎱𐎡𐏁 Cišpiš) ruled Anshan in 675–640 BC. He was the son of Achaemenes of Persis and an ancestor of Cyrus the Great. There is evidence that Cyrus I and Ariaramnes were both his sons. Cyrus I is the grandfather of Cyrus the Great, whereas Ariaramnes is great grandfather of Darius the Great.
According to 7th-century BC documents, Teispes captured the Elamite city of Anshan, speculated to have occurred after the Persians were freed from Median supremacy, and expanded his small kingdom. His kingdom was, however, a vassal state of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC). He was succeeded by his second son, Cyrus I.
Rulers of the Achaemenid Empire
|Kings of Kings|
of the Achaemenid Empire
|Satraps of Lydia|
|Satraps of Hellespontine Phrygia|
|Satraps of Cappadocia|
|Greek Governors of Asia Minor cities|
|Dynasts of Lycia|
|Dynasts of Caria|
|Kings of Macedonia|
|Kings of Tyre|
|Kings of Sidon|
|Satraps of Armenia|
|Satraps of Egypt|
|Satraps of Bactria|
|Satraps of Media|
|Satraps of Cilicia|
|Other known satraps|
In most territories, Achaemenid rulers were succeeded by Hellenistic satraps and Hellenistic rulers from around 330 BC
Darius the Great
|Median (728–550 BC)|
|Achaemenid (550–330 BC)|
Italics indicate kings not directly attested and so possibly legendary.