Daedala to Dentil Molding Deo to Dysnomia

Darius I

Also known as Darius the Great and Darius Hystaspes, i.e. the son of Hystaspes; he was a descendant of Akhaemenes (Achaemenes).

In Greece, he was known as The Doer; Darius was the king of the Persian Empire for thirty-six years (521-485 BCE); his ascension to the throne of the Persian Empire was foretold in a dream of the first Persian king, Kyrus (Cyrus) the Great; just before Kyrus met his death on the battlefield, he dreamt that Darius had wings and that one wing cast a shadow over Europe and the other cast a shadow over Asia; Kyrus commanded Darius’ father, Hystaspes, to return to the capital city of Susa and to detain Darius; Kyrus intended to charge Darius with treason on the basis of the obviously divinely inspired dream.

Kyrus never returned from the war and the matter of the dream was forgotten when Kyrus’ son, Kambyses (Cambyses), took the throne; the dream would eventually come true but not in a manner which could have been imagined by Kyrus or anyone else.

Kambyses ruled for seven years and five months and after his death, the throne of the Persian Empire was temporally usurped by a Mede named Smerdis.

Darius and six other Persians attacked and killed Smerdis and thus regained the throne; the other six Persians involved in the revolt were: Gobryas, Otanes, Intaphrenes, Megabyzus and Aspathines and Hydarnes (sometimes they are listed as: Vindapana, Utana, Gaubaruwa, Vidarna, Bagabukhsa and Ardumanis).

The question arose as to which form of government they would adopt because the reign of Kambyses had been one of cruelty and indulgence; Darius wanted to re-establish the monarchy and, after much debate, the other six revolutionaries agreed; they also agreed that one of them should be the next king; the seven men rode their horses to a hill-top at dawn and, as pre-agreed, the man who sat atop the horse that neighed first would be the new king; Darius’ horse neighed first and he became the third king of the Persian Empire.

Darius attached himself to the lineage of Kyrus the Great by marrying Kyrus’ daughters, Atossa and Artystone; he also married Parmys, the daughter of Kambyses’ brother who was named Smerdis (but not the Median Smerdis that Darius had killed), and the daughter of Otanes, Phaedyme.

After taking the throne, Darius brought the Persian Empire to new levels of organization and Herodotus carefully documented Darius’ effective and efficient system of taxation; because of his obsession with organization, the Persians referred to Darius as The Huckster.

Darius faced several daunting challenges to his authority after he assumed the throne:

  1. the city of Babylon took advantage of the turmoil caused by the change of government and declared its independence from the Persian Empire; when Darius’ army marched against the Babylonians they were unable to breach the walls of the mighty city and the Babylonians taunted the Persians by saying, “You will take the city when a mule bears an offspring,” meaning of course that the city would never fall to the Persians again; after nineteen months of unsuccessful assaults, a miraculous thing happened: a mule belonging to one of the Persian commanders, Zopyrus, gave birth to a foal; Zopyrus devised a clever but painful plan by which Babylon could be captured; he cut off his nose and ears and surrendered to the Babylonians saying that Darius had mutilated him and that he would assist in the Babylonian defeat of the Persians; Zopyrus gained the trust of the Babylonians and, when the time was right, opened the gates of the city and allowed the Persian army to enter and capture the city;
  2. another trial that Darius was forced to endure was the subjugation of the island of Samos; Darius ordered the Persian commander, Otanes, to subdue Samos without bloodshed or enslavement and to install a man named Syloson as the new ruler of the island; Syloson was the brother of the recently deposed tyrant, Polykrates (Polycrates); when the Persians arrived the ruler of Samos, Maeandrius, willingly handed over control of the island but after prompting from his brother, Kharilaus (Charilaus), he decided to ferment an armed resistance against the Persians and then flee the island with his riches; the result was disastrous for the Samiots and for Darius; Otanes was caught off guard by the uprising and, after the death of many of the Persian captains, he ordered his troops to kill everyone they encountered; Otanes’ overreaction made Syloson the new tyrant of an uninhabited island;
  3. Darius also successfully quelled the Ionian Revolt (circa 500-493 BCE) and subjugated the islands of the Aegean Sea;
  4. Darius then turned his attention towards the conquest of Greece; after sending spies to Greece to survey the country and defenses, Darius began a full scale invasion; he was stopped by the Athenians in a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE and retreated back into Asia Minor.

Darius was succeeded by his son, Xerxes, who ruled from 485-465 BCE.

  • Histories, book 1, chapter 209; book 2, chapter 158; book 3, chapters 38 and 70-160; book 4, chapters 1, 4, 7, 39, 83-98, 118-143 and 200-204; book 5, chapters 12-15, 24 and 105-107; book 6, chapters 24, 30, 48-49, 70, 94, 98 and 119; book 7, chapters 2-4, 28 and 194,
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