Darius I (Old Persian: Dārayava(h)uš, New Persian: داریوش
Dāryuš; Hebrew: דָּרְיָוֶשׁ, Modern Darəyaveš,
Tiberian Dāreyāwéš; c. 550–486 BCE) was the fourth king of
the Persian Achaemenid Empire. Also called Darius the Great, 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
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, the alleged magus
Bardiya with the assistance of six other Persian noble
families; Darius was crowned the following morning. 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
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 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,
Babylon and Egypt. He had the cliff-face Behistun
Inscription carved to record his conquests, an important testimony of
Old Persian language.
Darius is mentioned in the biblical books of Haggai, Zechariah, and
2 Primary sources
3 Early life
5 Early reign
6 Military campaigns
6.1 Invasion of
6.2 Babylonian revolt
6.3 European Scythian campaign
6.4 Persian invasion of Greece
10 See also
13 Further reading
14 External links
Main article: Darius (given name)
Dārīus and Dārēus are the
Latin forms of the Greek Dareîos
(Δαρεῖος), itself from
Old Persian Dārayava(h)uš
Aramaic dryhwš), which is a shortened
form of Dārayava(h)uš (𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁). 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, 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".
Behistun Inscription and Herodotus
At some time between his coronation and his death, Darius left a
tri-lingual monumental relief on Mount Behistun, which was written in
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
Persepolis have been found, as well as a clay tablet
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.
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
continues to the end of Darius's reign.
In the book of Daniel the king's name changes from 'king of the
Chaldeans = Babylonians' to 'king of the Persians' which also occurred
between the kingships of
Darius I and Xerxes. Additionally the 120
satraps mentioned in Daniel 6:1 can be translated as 20 tribute owing
Book of Ezra
Book of Ezra (chapter 6, verses 1 to 11) describes the decree to
continue reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, specifying
financial support and supplies for the temple services. This decree is
dated approximately 519 BCE. Between Cyrus and Darius, an exchange
of letters with King Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes is described (chapter 4,
verse 7), the grandson of Darius I, during whose reign Ezra and
Nehemiah came to Jerusalem. The generous funding of the temple gave
Darius and his successors the support of the Jewish
priesthood. The Elephantine papyri however mention the high
priest Johanan of Ezra 10:6 as a contemporary of Darius II.
Darius is mentioned in the near-contemporary biblical books of Haggai
and Zechariah (two of the Twelve Minor Prophets), whose account is
also reflected in the later books of Ezra–Nehemiah.
Egypt at the Temple of Hibis
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. Darius's inscription
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
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. Hystaspes was an officer in Cyrus's 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
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
Cambyses II ascended the throne peacefully; and, through
promotion, Darius was eventually elevated to be Cambyses's personal
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
Bardiya during the true king's absence. Many modern historians
believe that Gaumata, in fact, was the true heir Bardiya, with the
historical account being altered by Darius to make the coup d'etat
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, Intraphrenes,
Megabyzus and Aspathines, killed
Gaumata in the
fortress of Sikayauvati.
Herodotus provides a dubious account of Darius's ascension: Several
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 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,
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
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
favored 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
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.
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Darius I to Gadatas, satrap in Ionia, about his management
of a paradise (royal garden). Greek copy made during the Roman Era,
found near Magnesia ad Mæandrum.
Following his coronation at Pasargadae, Darius moved to Ecbatana. He
soon learned that support for
Bardiya was strong, and revolts in Elam
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
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
Balkans (Thrace-Macedonia, Bulgaria-Paeonia) in the west, to
Indus Valley in the east.
Eastern border of the Achaemenid Empire
Main article: Achaemenid invasion of the
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
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
Drangiana back to Persia.
Archers frieze from Darius' palace at Susa. Detail of the beginning of
the frieze, left
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
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
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
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.
European Scythian campaign
Main article: European Scythian campaign of Darius I
Scythians were a group of north Iranian nomadic tribes, speaking
Iranian language (Scythian languages) who had invaded Media, killed
Cyrus in battle, revolted against Darius and threatened to disrupt
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
Danube to wage war on the Scythians. Darius invaded
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
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
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,
that the ruins of the forts were still standing in his day. After
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
Persian invasion of Greece
Main article: First Persian invasion of Greece
See also: Ionian Revolt
Map showing key sites during the Persian invasions of Greece
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
stepping stones towards the conflict that was yet to come between
Persia and certain of the leading Greek city states.
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
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
Achamenid Family Tree
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.
Tomb of Darius the Great, located next to other Achaemenid kings at
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
In 1923 German archaeologist
Ernst Herzfeld made casts of the
cuneiform inscriptions on Darius's tomb where he records his Parsi
ancestry for posterity, “parsa parsahya puthra ariya ariyachitra”,
meaning, “a Parsi, the son of a Parsi, 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
Freer Gallery of Art and
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Darius I, imagined by a Greek painter, 4th century BCE
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
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
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.
Gold darics such as this one (with a purity of 95.83%) were only
issued by the king himself. (c. 490 BCE).
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
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
The daric was called dārayaka within the empire and was most likely
named after Darius. 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.
By the grace of Ahuramazda am I king; Ahuramazda has granted me the
kingdom. — Darius, on the Behistun Inscription
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
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
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.
Some scholars identify Dhul-Qarnayn, a figure mentioned in Quran, with
Reconstruction drawing of the Palace of Darius in Susa
The ruins of
Tachara palace in Persepolis
During Darius's Greek expedition, he had begun construction projects
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
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
Aryandes on the charge of treason. When Darius returned to
Persis, he found that the codification of Egyptian law had been
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.
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
Darius the Mede
Tomb of Darius I
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^ a b Boardman 1988, p. 54.
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Herodotus 2015, pp. 352.
^ Chaliand 2004, p. 16.
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Definitions from Wiktionary
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Learning resources from Wikiversity
Born: 550 BCE Died: 486 BCE
King of Kings
King of Kings of Persia
522 BCE–486 BCE
Pharaoh of Egypt
Median and Achaemenid kings
Median (728–550 BC)
Achaemenid (550–330 BC)
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II)
Darius the Great (Darius I)
Xerxes the Great (Xerxes I)
Darius II Nothus
Artaxerxes II Mnemon
Artaxerxes III Ochus
Artaxerxes IV Arses
Darius III Codomannus
Artaxerxes V Bessus
Italics indicate kings not directly attested and so possibly
Protodynastic to First Intermediate Period (<3150–2040 BC)
Narmer / Menes
Narmer / Menes
Merenre Nemtyemsaf I
Merenre Nemtyemsaf II
Neferkare III Neby
Neferkare IV Khendu
Neferkare V Tereru
Neferkare VI Pepiseneb
Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period (2040–1550 BC)
Sekhemkare Amenemhat V
Ameny Antef Amenemhet VI
Mershepsesre Ini II
New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period (1550–664 BC)
Osorkon the Elder
Late Period and Hellenistic Period (664–30 BC)
Alexander the Great
Philip III Arrhidaeus
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy III Euergetes
Ptolemy IV Philopator
Ptolemy V Epiphanes
Ptolemy VI Philometor
Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator
Ptolemy VIII Euergetes
Ptolemy IX Soter
Ptolemy X Alexander I
Ptolemy XI Alexander II
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos
Ptolemy XV Caesarion
21st to 23rd
List of pharaohs
ISNI: 0000 0001 2095 6470
BNF: cb126902644 (data)