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The Immortals of Persian King Darius

The Immortals of Persian King Darius


Darius I the Great. The Behistun Inscription, 6th century BC.

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The Archers frieze from Darius I palace at Susa, c. 510-c. 500 BC. Found in the collection of the Louvre, Paris.

(Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Darius I
558? - 486/485 B.C.

Occupation: Persian King

Darius I, known as Darius the Great, was an Achaemenid Great King and empire builder.

~ At Persepolis, Darius had inscribed the extent of his empire: from the Sakas beyond Sogdiana to the Kush, and from Sind to Sardis, according to Touraj Daryaee [citation below].

~ Satrapies had been used by his predecessors, but Darius refined the process. He divided his empire into 20 of them and added security measures to reduce revolt.

~ He was responsible for the Persian Empire's capital at Persepolis and for many other building projects, including

~ Roads through his empire (notably the Royal Road with messengers stationed along it so no one man had to ride more than a day to deliver the post).

~ As king of Egypt in the Late Period, he was known as a law-giver, and for completing a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea.

~ He was also renowned for irrigation (qanat) projects), and a coinage systems.

~ Darius had at least 18 children. His successor was the oldest son of his first wife, Atossa, making Xerxes a grandson of Cyrus the Great.

~ Darius and his son Xerxes are associated with the Greco-Persian or Persian Wars.

~ The last king of the Achaemenid Dynasty was Darius III, who ruled from 336 - 330 B.C. Darius III was a descendant of Darius II (ruled 423-405 B.C.), who was a descendant of King Darius I.

Accession of Darius: Darius I is known as Darius the Great. He ruled from c. 522-486/485, probably after conspiring successfully to eliminate his predecessor Cambyses' possibly rightful successor, Gautama. Darius claimed Cambyses had murdered his own brother. Then Cambyses died naturally. When a man whom Darius called an imposter claimed the throne, Darius and his followers killed him, thereby restoring the rule to the family: Darius claimed descent from an ancestor of Cyrus [source: Krentz]. This and details of Darius' violent treatment of rebels are inscribed in a relief at Bisitun (Behistun), whose text was circulated throughout the Persian Empire.

In the Behistun Inscription, Darius explains why he has the right to rule. He has the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda on his side. He claims descent through four generations to the eponymous Achaemenes, the father of Teispes who was the great-grandfather of Cyrus. Darius says his father was Hystaspes, whose father was Arsamnes, whose father was Ariamnes, a son of Teispes. Cyrus did not claim a genealogical connection to Achaemenes; that is, unlike Darius, he didn't say Teispes was a son of Achaemenes [source: Waters].

Death of Darius: Darius died in the final weeks of November 486 B.C., following an illness at about the age of 64. His coffin was buried at Naqš-i Rustam. On his tomb is inscribed a memorial stating what Darius wanted said about himself and his relationship with Ahura Mazda. It also lists the people over whom he claimed power:

"Media, Elam, Parthia, Aria, Bactria, Sogdia, Chorasmia, Drangiana, Arachosia, Sattagydia, Gandara, India, the haoma-drinking Scythians, the Scythians with pointed caps, Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Egypt, Armenia, Cappadocia, Lydia, the Greeks, the Scythians across the sea, Thrace, the sun hat-wearing Greeks, the Libyans, the Nubians, the men of Maka and the Carians." [Source: Jona Lendering.]

There are two parts to the inscription all written in cuneiform using Old Persian and the Aryan script.

Pronunciation: /də'raɪ.əs/ /'dæ.ri.əs/

Also Known As: Nickname: kapelos 'retailer'; Darius I Hystaspes


Darius the Great References:

  • Peter Krentz' The Battle of Marathon
  • "The Construction of the Past in Late Antique Persia," by Touraj Daryaee Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte Vol. 55, No. 4 (2006), pp. 493-503.
  • "Cyrus and the Achaemenids," by Matt Waters; Iran Vol. 42, (2004), pp. 91-102.

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