By: Prof. A. Shapur
Darius’ Empire with a population of some 35
million people over 70 distinct ethnic
groups, which was stretched some 2,600 miles
from the Indus River in the east and the
Aegean sea in the west, and 2,300 mile from
Armenia in the north to the first cataract
of the Nile in the south.
I the Great was the third
Achaemenid king of kings (r. 29 September
522-October 486 B.C.E.). He was born in 550
B.C.E. (cf. Herodotus, 1.209), the eldest
son of Vištāspa (Hystaspes) and *Vardagauna
(Gk. Rhodog(o)u‚nź, NPers. Golgūn; Justi,
Namenbuch, p. 261; Hinz, 1975a, p. 270).
Before his accession to the throne he served
Cambyses (529-22 B.C.E.) as a spear bearer
in Egypt (Herodotus, 3.139).
The primary sources are of four basic kinds.
First, there is Darius' record relief (DB)
at Bīsotūn (q.v.; for the Old Persian text,
see now Schmitt; for the Babylonian text,
with some variants, see von Voigtlander); an
additional fragment of the relief (Seidl)
and one of the Babylonian inscription (von
Voigtlander, pp. 63-65) are also known, as
are substantial portions of an Aramaic
version (Greenfield and Porten). The second
category includes texts and monuments from
Persepolis (Schmidt; Kent, Old Persian;
Cameron; Hallock, 1969; cf. evaluations by
Lewis, 1977, pp. 4-26; idem, 1990; Bivar,
CAH2, pp. 204-10; Tuplin, pp. 115 ff.),
Susa (Schmidt, I, pp. 29-33), Babylon
(Strassmaier; Oppenheim, pp. 559-60;
Cardascia, pp. 5-8; Haerinck; van Dijk and
Mayer, no. 88; Stolper, 1985, esp. pp.
41-60; Dandamayev, 1992, pp. 3, 5, 10-11 and
passim), and Egypt (Posener; Schmidt, I, pp.
26-27; Bresciani, pp. 507-09; Ray, pp.
262-66; Hinz, 1975b; Lloyd). A fragmentary
Old Persian inscription from Gherla, Rumania
(Harmatta), and a letter from Darius to
Gadates, preserved in a Greek text of the
Roman period (F. Lochner-Hüttenbach, in
Brandenstein and Mayrhofer, pp. 91-98) also
belong to this category. The third source is
a detailed and colorful narrative by
Herodotus (books 3-6; cf. How and Wells).
Finally, there are briefer notices by other
classical authors (listed and analyzed by
Meyer, pp. 3-7; Prašek, II, pp. 10-11;
Drews, pp. 20 ff.) and a few references in
the Bible (q.v. i.).
Accounts of Darius' accession and
rebellions in the provinces
Darius began his "autobiography" in the
trilingual (Old Persian, Elamite,
Babylonian) inscription on the rock face at
Bīsotūn with a genealogy purporting to
establish his right to the Achaemenid throne
(DB 1.1-11; Table 2), followed by a long
account of the Magian usurper Gaumāta (DB
1.26-61). According to this version, after
Gaumāta's death at the hands of Darius some
provincial magnates rebelled, but Darius
slew them all (DB 1.72-3.92). Thereafter his
rule was established throughout the empire.
He immediately published at Bīsotūn and
elsewhere inscriptions providing an exact
record of these events, explaining the
causes of the rebellions (DB 4.34:
"Falsehood [drauga-] made them
rebellious"; see Schaeder, 1941, pp. 31-32)
and his own success (DB 4.61-67).
In Herodotus' version Cambyses left
Patizeithes, a Magian, as "steward of his
household" (3.61, 3.63, 3.65) and went to
Egypt, whence he sent a trusted Persian,
Prexaspes, to murder his full brother
Smerdis (i.e., Bardiya, q.v.) in secret
(3.31). Only a few Persians, among them
Darius, knew of this murder, so that
Patizeithes was able to place upon the
throne his own brother, also called Smerdis
and "greatly resembling the son of Cyrus"
(3.61). The imposter was discovered, in the
eighth month of his reign, by the Persian
noble Otanes (Utāna; 3.68). Five other
Persian nobles, Aspathines (Gobryas
(Gau-buruva), Intaphernes (Vindafarnah),
Megabyzus (Bagabuxša), and Hydarnes
(Vidarna), joined Otanes; Darius had also
"hastened to Susa to accomplish the death of
the Magian" (3.71). The seven exchanged
oaths and at Darius' urging entered the
imposter's castle and slew him and his
brother (3.71-78); then, joined by other
Persians, they slaughtered many Magians
(3.71). According to Herodotus, "All peoples
of Asia mourned his loss exceedingly, save
only the Persians" (3.67), who continued to
celebrate the anniversary of this slaughter
(3.79). The seven leaders then debated the
most suitable mode of government for Persia
(for a detailed discussion, see Gschnitzer,
1977; idem, 1988). Otanes urged democracy,
but Darius' view that monarchy was "the rule
of the very best man in the whole state"
prevailed (3.80-88). The seven then resolved
to ride out together the next morning and to
accept as ruler of the kingdom the one of
their number whose horse neighed first after
the sun was up (3.84). Darius' groom,
Oebares, devised a stratagem that caused his
master's horse to neigh first, whereupon
Darius was saluted as king (3.84; cf.
Widengren, 1959, pp. 244, 255). About the
ensuing rebellions Herodotus remarked only
that there had been a period of "troubles"
after Cambyses' death (3.126), though he did
include the story of Oroetes (see below), as
well as a legendary account of the revolt of
Babylon and its recapture through a
Ctesias reported that before leaving for
Egypt Cambyses had ordered a Magian named
Spendadates to kill and impersonate
Tanyoxarkes, the younger son of Cyrus and
Amytis and satrap of the Bactrians,
Chorasmians, Parthians, and Carmanians.
After Cambyses' death Spendadates ascended
the throne but was betrayed by one of his
own associates. Then seven Persians,
Ataphernes, Onaphas, Mardonius, Hydarnes,
Norondabates, Barisses, and Darius, plotted
and slew him, and Darius won the throne
through the "horse trick." Since then the
Persians had celebrated the anniversary of
the slaughter of the Magians (Ctesias, in
Jacoby, Fragmente, no. 688 frag.
13.18). Xenophon reported that Tanaoxares,
identified as Cyrus' younger son and satrap
of Media, Armenia, and Cadusia, had
quarreled with Cambyses upon the accession
of the latter (Cyropaedia 8.8.2), and
Plato (Leges 3.694-95; Epistulae
7.332A) added that in the quarrel one had
killed the other. According to Trogus
(Justin, 1.9), the trusted friend chosen to
kill the "son of Cyrus" was Cometes (i.e.,
Gaumāta), who did so after Cambyses' death
and placed his own brother Oropastes ("who
resembled Smerdis very much") on the throne.
The rest follows Herodotus' version.
Most historians have accepted Darius'
testimony as trustworthy and have used it to
check and correct classical accounts (cf.
Gershevitch), but others have argued for his
mendacity (e.g., Balcer; Bickerman and
Tadmor; Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp.
78-89; Cook, pp. 8-9, 46-57; Culican, pp.
64-65; Dandamaev, 1963; Nyberg, pp. 74-75;
Olmstead, 1938, pp. 392-416; idem, 1948, pp.
107-18; Rost, 1897a, pp. 107-10, 208-10;
idem, 1897b; Wiesehöfer; Winckler; Young,
pp. 53-62). The present author subscribes to
the former view. In 1889 Hugo Winckler (p.
128) suggested that "perhaps" Darius had
lied in claiming to be related to Cyrus the
Great (cf. Rost, 1897a, p. 107; idem,
1897b). Subsequently such scholars as A. T.
Olmstead, A. R. Burn, and Muhammad A.
Dandamayev elaborated on this hypothesis.
Their main arguments are of nine basic
types. First, Darius' insistence that all
his opponents lied arouses suspicion of his
own trustworthiness, especially as Herodotus
(3.72) had quoted Darius as defending a
justifiable untruth (Olmstead, 1938, p. 397;
cf. Dandamaev, 1976, p. 121; Balcer, p. 59).
This assessment involves a highly biased
interpretation of Darius' motives, whereas
Herodotus' report is unreliable; not only
did he comment elsewhere on the Persians'
high regard for truth (1.136), but also it
has been suggested that this casuistry "is
purely Greek" (How and Wells, I, p. 276 n.
4; similarly Meyer, p. 35 n. 1). Second, it
has been argued that Darius was not a royal
prince, let alone the rightful heir
(Olmstead, 1938, p. 394; Burn, p. 95). As
Cambyses and Bardiya had left no sons,
however, the nearest to the throne would
have been Aršāma (q.v.), Darius'
grandfather, who was then too old to take
the field. His son Vištāspa (Hystaspes) was
in charge of Parthia and Hyrcania (DB
2.92-98) and could not have led an army to
Media undetected. The task thus fell to
Darius, one of "the Achaemenids" whom
Cambyses had besought on his deathbed to
restore the Persian monarchy (Herodotus,
3.65, 3.73). Darius' right was supported by
other living Achaemenids, including
Bardiya's daughter and sisters (Herodotus,
3.88). Third, it has been doubted that a
mighty satrap, a son of Cyrus (i.e.,
Bardiya), could disappear without arousing
suspicion (Olmstead, 1938, p. 396; Nyberg,
pp. 75-76; Dandamaev, 1976, p. 116; Boyce,
II, pp. 80-81). Nevertheless, with the help
of court officals the death of Artaxerxes II
(q.v.) was kept secret for nearly a year
Stratagemata 7.17) and in the Islamic
period that of the Buyid “Azad-al-Dawla
(q.v.) for three months (Margoliouth and
Amedroz, Eclipse VI, pp. 78-79).
The fourth argument is based on Herodotus'
report that the "true" and "false" Bardiyas
were so alike that even the former's mother
and sisters were deceived (Olmstead, 1938,
p. 396). Yet elsewhere Herodotus reported
that Bardiya's mother had died much earlier
(2.1) and that his sister, Queen Atossa
(q.v), was kept under strict confinement by
the false Bardiya precisely to prevent her
from communicating with others (3.68;
Shahbazi, 1971, p. 43). Fifth, the date
Darius claimed for the slaying of Gaumāta
was deemed by Olmstead (1938, pp. 397-98)
not to agree with that in Babylonian
documents, which give his reign as having
lasted "one year and seven months," but
Olmstead's chronology was proved incorrect
by Arno Poebel (1939). Sixth, in his
inscription Darius identified his opponents
precisely, except for Gaumāta, whom he
styled merely as "the Magian," giving the
impression that the latter was fictitious
(Dandamaev, 1976, p. 119; cf. Bickerman and
Tadmor, pp. 246-61; Boyce,
Zoroastrianism II, pp. 85-86). But in
the Babylonian version of Darius'
inscription at Bīsotūn (1.18) it is
specified that Gaumāta was "a Mede, a
Magian," which, incidentally, is evidence
that he was not a priest but a Median
nobleman from the tribe of the Magi (as
Benveniste adduced in 1938, p. 17, with
Herodotus, 1.101; it should be noted that in
the Babylonian text, l. 23, Gaumāta's
followers are called "nobles").
A seventh argument involves the Babylonian
tablets, which, according to Olmstead (1938,
p. 403), proved false Darius' repeated claim
that he had made the majority of his
expeditions "in the same year after I became
King." Walther Hinz (1942), Richard Hallock
(1960), and Riekele Borger have shown,
however, that the period from Darius' first
dated victory (13 December 522) to his last
(28 December 521) fell within one year,
including an intercalated month. Eighth, in
Aeschylus' contemporary play Persae
(773-76) Darius' ghost announces that after
a son of Cyrus "ruled Mardos, a disgrace to
his country and ancient throne, whom
Artaphernes slew by guile." Olmstead argued
that Aeschylus thus had no doubt that Mardos
was a legitimate ruler (1938, p. 396;
similarly Dandamaev, 1976, p. 120). But in
fact Aeschylus merely indicated that
Cambyses was followed by a disgraceful king
officially known as Mardos (Bardiya); no
legitimacy is implied (Burn, p. 94 n. 44).
Finally, Darius' marriages to Bardiya's
daughter and sisters have been interpreted
as moves to gain necessary legitimacy
(Olmstead, 1938, pp. 396-97). On the
contrary, however, they are evidence of
Darius' innocence of Bardiya's murder, for
otherwise family vengeance would certainly
not have permitted him to survive for
thirty-six more years (Prašek, I, p. 265).
Other evidence confirms Darius' testimony.
First, as J. V. Pra‚šek (I, p. 265) noted,
many foreigners, Greeks in particular,
served Darius, and some wrote about his
affairs unfavorably (e.g., Herodotus,
3.118-19, 3.133, 4.43), yet none suggested
that he was a usurper. Second, although a
Persian king was expected to conduct his
royal duties openly in the capital, the
false Bardiya lived secluded in a castle in
the mountains (between Holwān and Hamadān;
Marquart, 1905, II, p. 159), and, fearing
detection, he "never quitted the citadel nor
ever gave audience to a Persian nobleman"
(Herodotus, 3.68). To claim that this
residence was, in fact, the summer capital
(Dandamaev, 1976, p. 137) is to ignore the
fact that the summer capital was in Ecbatana
and that 29 September was too late to be
summer in Media. Third, upon his accession
the false Bardiya had abolished taxes and
military service "for all nations under his
rule for a period of three years"
(Herodotus, 3.67), the actions of a usurper
desperate for popular support and fearful of
the warrior nobility, who had the means to
raise new armies. No Persian prince would
have thus undermined royal authority
(Widengren, 1968, p. 521). In addition,
under Persian law the king was required to
name a successor before leaving on a
dangerous expedition. Cyrus had appointed
Cambyses, and later Xerxes I (486-65) chose
his uncle Artabanus (Herodotus, 1.208, 7.2,
7.52; cf. 7.53, 8.54). That Cambyses left
Patizeithes, a Median official, as his
viceroy (3.65) is evidence that his brother
Bardiya was already dead. Poebel (1938, p.
314) thus concluded that "Darius, in full
accord with his earnest claim to personal
veracity, had no intention whatever to
exaggerate, as has been assumed, nor that he
consciously indulged in any inaccuracy,
however small it might be" (sic).
Chronology of Darius' reign.
Darius' second and third regnal years were
devoted to consolidating his authority. A
fresh rebellion in Elam was suppressed by
Gobryas (DB 5.3-14), and Oroetes, satrap of
Sardis, was executed for the murders of
Polycrates, tyrant of Samos; Mithrobates,
satrap of Phrygia; and the latter's son
(Herodotus, 3.120-29). Darius himself
marched against "the rebellious Scythians"
of Central Asia, who threatened the northern
and eastern flanks of the empire; he crossed
the Caspian Sea, defeated the group known as
the Pointed-Hat Scythians (Sakā
tigraxaudā), captured their "king,"
Skunxa, and installed a loyal leader in his
stead (DB 5.20-33; for detailed commentary,
see Shahbazi, 1982, pp. 189-96). On his
return he added the image of Skunxa and an
account of the Elamite and Scythian
campaigns to the reliefs at Bīsotūn. In
autumn 517 he traveled to Egypt and
succeeded in pacifying the rebellious
Egyptians by showing respect for their
religion and past glory and by ordering the
codification of their laws; in turn he
received their obeisance and reverence
Strategemata 7.11.7; Diodorus,
1.95.4-5; for details, see Bresciani, pp.
507-09; Ray, pp. 262-64). After he returned
to Persia Darius executed Intaphernes for
treason (Herodotus, 3.118-19) and sent a
naval reconnaissance mission down the Kabul
river to the Indus; it explored the eastern
borderlands, Sind, the Indian Ocean, and the
Red Sea and arrived in Egypt near modern
Suez thirty months later (Hinz, 1976, p.
198; Bivar, CAH2, pp. 202-04).
Following this expedition "Darius conquered
the Indians [of Sind], and made use of the
sea in those parts" (Herodotus, 4.44).
A major event in Darius' reign was his
European expedition. The region from the
Ukraine to the Aral Sea was the home of
north Iranian tribes (Rostovtzeff; Vasmer)
known collectively as Sakā (Gk. Scythians).
Some Sakā had invaded Media (Herodotus,
1.103-06), others had slain Cyrus in war
(1.201, 1.214), and some groups had revolted
against Darius (DB 2.8). As long as they
remained hostile his empire was in constant
danger, and trade between Central Asia and
the shores of the Black Sea was in peril
(Meyer, pp. 97-99). The geography of Scythia
was only vaguely known (Figure above), and
it seemed feasible to plan a punitive
campaign through the Balkans and the
Ukraine, returning from the east, perhaps
along the west coast of the Caspian Sea
(Meyer, pp. 101-04; Schnitzler, pp. 63-71).
Having first sent a naval reconnaissance
mission to explore shores of the Black Sea
(cf. Fol and Hammond, pp. 239-40), in about
513 Darius crossed the Bosporus into Europe
(Shahbazi, 1982, pp. 232-35), marching over
a pontoon bridge built by his Samian
engineer, Mandrocles. He continued north
along the Black Sea coast to the mouth of
the Danube, above which his fleet, led by
Ionians, had bridged the river; from there
he crossed into Scythia (Herodotus, 4.87-88,
4.97). The Scythians evaded the Persians,
wasting the countryside as they retreated
eastward. After following them for a month
Darius reached a desert and began to build
eight frontier fortresses; owing to Scythian
harassment of his troops and the October
weather, which threatened to hinder further
campaigning, he left them unfinished and
returned via the Danube bridge. He had,
however, "advanced far enough into Scythian
territory to terrify the Scythians and to
force them to respect the Persian forces"
(Herodotus, 4.102-55; cf. Meyer, pp. 105-07;
Macan, pp. 2-45; Prašek, II, pp. 91-108;
Rostovtzeff, pp. 84-85; Junge, 1944, pp.
104-05, 187-88; Schnitzler, pp. 63-71; Fol
and Hammond, pp. 235-43; Łernenko, with
further references). Shortly afterward
Megabyzus reduced gold-rich Thrace and
several Greek cities of the northern Aegean;
Macedonia submitted voluntarily (Herodotus,
4.143, 5.1-30), and Aryandes (q.v.), satrap
of Egypt, annexed Cyrene (Libya; 4.167,
4.197-205). Four new "satrapies" were thus
added to Darius' empire: Sakā tyaiy
paradraya "Overseas Scythians," Skudra
(Thrace and Macedonia), Yaunā takabarā
or Yaunā tyaiy paradraya
(Thessalians and Greek islanders), and
By 510 B.C.E. the Asiatic Greeks and many
islanders had accepted Persian rule and were
being governed by tyrants responsible to
Darius. There were also pro-Persian parties,
the "Medizing Greeks," in Greece itself,
especially at Athens (Herodotus, 6.115,
6.124; Gillis, pp. 39-58; on the term
"Medism," see Graf). Darius encouraged these
tendencies and opened his court and
treasuries to those Greeks who wanted to
serve him—as soldiers, artisans, mariners,
and statesmen (Junge, 1944, pp. 98 ff.).
Greek fear of growing Persian might and
Persian annoyance at Greek interference in
Ionia and Lydia made conflict between them
inevitable, however (Meyer, pp. 277-80;
Hignett, pp. 83-85). When, in 500 B.C.E.,
deposed oligarchs of Naxos in the Cyclades
appealed to Artaphernes (see ARTAPHRENEŚS),
Darius' brother and satrap of Lydia, he sent
a fleet to Naxos; partly owing to a falling
out with Aristagoras (q.v.), tyrant of
Miletus, the expedition failed, however.
Aristagoras then organized the "Ionian
revolt." Eretrians and Athenians supported
him by sending ships to Ionia and burning
Sardis. Military and naval operations
continued for six years, ending with the
Persian reoccupation of all Ionian and Greek
islands. The prudent statesman Artaphernes
then reorganized Ionia politically and
financially. As anti-Persian parties gained
ascendance in Athens, however, and
aristocrats favorable to Persia were exiled
from there and from Sparta, Darius
retaliated by sending a force, led by his
son-in-law Mardonius, across the Hellespont.
Owing to a violent storm and harassment by
Thracians he was defeated. Darius then sent
a second expedition (of about 20,000 men;
Hignett, p. 59) under Datis (q.v.) the Mede,
who captured Eretria and, guided by Hippias,
exiled tyrant of Athens, landed at Marathon
in Attica. In the late summer of 490 the
Persians were defeated by a heavily armed
Athenian infantry (9,000 men, supported by
600 Plataeans and some 10,000 lightly armed
"attendants") under Miltiades (Meyer, pp.
277-305; Hignett, pp. 55-74).
Darius the Great in Egyptian Style -
Picture Courtesy of Iran Archaeology
Research Centre - 1972 (Click to
Courtesy of Marco Prins and Jona
Lendering - Livius.com
Meanwhile, Darius was occupied with his
building programs in Persepolis, Susa,
Egypt, and elsewhere (Hinz, 1976, pp.
177-82, 206-18, 235-42). He had linked the
Nile to the Red Sea by means of a canal
running from modern Zaqāzīq in the eastern
Delta through Wādī Tūmelāt and the lakes
Bohayrat al-Temsāh and Buhayrat al-Morra
near modern Suez (Hinz, 1975b; Tuplin,
1991). In 497 he again traveled to Egypt,
"opened" his "Suez canal" amid great
fanfare, executed Aryandes for treason,
erected several commemorative monuments, and
returned to Persia, where he found that the
codification of Egyptian law had been
completed (Bresciani, p. 508); a statue of
Darius in Egyptian style, found at Susa (EIr.
II, p. 575 fig. 40), reflects the influence
of this journey. Following Datis' defeat at
Marathon Darius resolved to lead a punitive
expedition in person, but another revolt in
Egypt (possibly led by the Persian satrap;
Bresciani, p. 509) and failing health
prevented him. He died in October 486 and
was entombed in the rock-cut sepulcher he
had prepared at Naqš-e Rostam (see Schmidt,
III, pp. 80-90, pls. 18-39). He had already
designated as his successor Xerxes, his
eldest son by Queen Atossa (XPf, 27-31;
Kent, Old Persian, p. 150; Ritter,
pp. 20-23, 29-30); the throne thus returned
to Cyrus' line.
Cyrus and Cambyses had incorporated Elam,
Media, Lydia, Babylonia, Egypt, and several
eastern Iranian states into a loose
federation of autonomous satrapies, subject
to irregular taxation (Herodotus, 3.89;
3:120-29; 4.165-67, 200-05; cf. DB 3.14,
3.56; Meyer, pp. 46-47; Lehmann-Haupt, cols.
85-90; Ehte‚cham, pp. 110-27; Petit, pp.
16-97). They had relied heavily on
non-Persian officials and the established
institutions of the subject states
(Dandamaev, 1975; idem, 1992, pp. 3 ff.;
Bivar, Camb. Hist. Iran, pp. 610-21),
which encouraged particularism among Iranian
magnates and nationalism among conquered
nations. These tendencies resulted in chaos
and rebellion and led to the destruction of
the Achaemenid federation in 522 B.C.E.
(Schaeder, 1941, p. 32; Junge, 1944, pp.
41-43, 51; Stolper, 1985, p. 6). Darius thus
faced the task of reconquering the satrapies
and integrating them into a strong empire.
The accomplishment of his first year was
"the actual creation, for the first time, of
a real empire: a governmental structure
based on the army, on certain classes of the
society whose loyalty was to the throne and
not to some specific geographical region,
and on the charisma, intelligence and moral
fortitude of one man, Darius" (Young, p.
63). Darius knew that an empire could
flourish only when it possessed sound
military, economic, and legal systems, as is
clear from his prayer "May Ahuramazda
protect this country from a [hostile] army,
from famine, from the Lie" (DPd 15-17; Kent,
Old Persian, p. 135; cf. Tuplin, pp.
144-45). Once he gained power, Darius placed
the empire on foundations that lasted for
nearly two centuries and influenced the
organization of subsequent states, including
the Seleucid and Roman empires (Stolper,
1989, pp. 81-91; Kornemann, pp. 398 ff., 424
ff.; Junge, 1944, pp. 150, 198 n. 46).
Himself a soldier of the first rank "both
afoot and on horseback" (DNb 31-45; Kent,
Old Persian, p. 140), Darius provided
the empire with a truly professional army.
Earlier Achaemenids had relied on regional
contingents, especially cavalry, apparently
recruited as the need arose. Darius put his
trust mainly in Iranians, including Medes,
Scythians, Bactrians, and other kindred
peoples (see ARMY i.3) but above all
Persians: "If you thus shall think, 'May I
not feel fear of (any) other,' protect this
Persian people" (DPe 18-22; Kent, Old
Persian, p. 136). Thenceforth the
mainstay of the imperial army was an
infantry force of 10,000 carefully chosen
Persian soldiers, the Immortals, who
defended the empire to its very last day
(Curtius Rufus, 3.3.13).
Darius ruled about 50 million people in the
largest empire the world had seen (Meyer, p.
85). His subjects (kāra) or their
lands (dahyu) were several times
listed, and also depicted, in varying order
at Bīsotūn and Persepolis (Junge, 1944, pp.
132-59; Kent, 1943; Ehte‚cham, pp. 131-63;
Walser; Hinz, 1969, pp. 95-113; Calmeyer),
but the definitive account is carved on his
tomb (EIr. V, p. 722 fig. 46). In the
relief on his tomb Darius and his royal fire
are depicted upon the imperial "throne"
supported by thirty figures of equal status,
who symbolize the nations of the empire, as
explained in the accompanying inscription
(DNa 38-42). The text reflects Darius'
status, ideals, and achievements. He
introduces himself as "Great King, King of
Kings, King of countries containing all
kinds of men, King in this great earth far
and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian,
a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan
[=Iranian], having Aryan lineage" (DNa 8-15;
Kent, Old Persian, p. 138). Next "the
countries other than Persis" are enumerated
in what is clearly intended to be a
geographical order. According to Herodotus
(3.89), Darius "joined together in one
province the nations that were neighbors,
but sometimes he passed over the nearer
tribes and gave their places to more remote
ones." Applying this scheme to the lands
recorded in the record relief, it is
possible to distinguish, beside Persis, six
groups of nations, recalling the traditional
Iranian division of the world into seven
regions (Shahbazi, 1983, pp. 243-46 and fig.
3; cf. Plato, Leges, 3.695c, where it
is reported that power was divided among
seven leading Persians). The sevenfold
division of Darius' empire, revealing his
geographical conception, is as follows: (1)
the central region, Persis (Pārsa), which
paid no tribute, though some of its
districts sent commodities (Herodotus, 3.97;
Koch; cf. Briant, pp. 342-501), possibly to
pay for garrisons; (2) the western region
encompassing Media (Māda) and Elam (Ūja);
(3) the Iranian plateau encompassing Parthia
Aria (Haraiva), Bactria (Bāxtri), Sogdiana
(Sugda), Chorasmia (Uvārazmiya), and
Drangiana (Zrankā; cf. Herodotus, 3.93,
according to whom these lands paid little
tribute); the borderlands: Arachosia
(Harauvati), Sattagydia (’atagu), Gandara
(Gandāra), Sind (Hindu), and eastern Scythia
(Sakā); (5) the western lowlands: Babylonia
(Bābiru), Assyria (Aθurā),
Arabia (Arabāya), and Egypt (Mudrāya); (6)
the northwestern region encompassing Armenia
(Armina), Cappadocia (Katpatuka), Lydia
(Sparda), Overseas Scythians (Sakā tyaiy
paradraya), Skudra, and Petasos-Wearing
Greeks (Yaunā takabarā); and (7) the
southern coastal regions: Libya (Putāyā),
Ethiopia (Kūša), Maka (Maciya), and Caria
(Karka, i.e., the Carian colony on the
Persian Gulf; Schaeder, 1932, p. 270;
Shahbazi, 1983, p. 245 n. 28; Figure 2).
Early in his reign Darius established twenty
archi (provinces), called
"satrapies," assigning to each an archon
(satrap) and fixing tribute to be paid by
neighboring "nations," joined together in
each satrapy (Herodotus, 3.89). The list is
preserved in the confused but invaluable
catalogue of Herodotus (3.90-97; for
detailed analysis, see Junge, 1941; Leuze,
pp. 25-144; Lehmann-Haupt, cols. 91-109;
Ehte‚cham, pp. 96-102, 127-63; for
Babylonian data, see also Dan-damayev, 1992,
pp. 8-12 and passim). It begins with Ionia
and lists the rest in a sequence from west
to east, with the exception of "the land of
the Persians," which did not pay tax. The
nations in each satrapy are enumerated. The
fixed annual tributes to Darius' treasury
were paid according to the Babylonian talent
in silver but to the Euboic talent (25.86
kg) in gold (3.89). The total yearly
tribute, according to Herodotus' somewhat
contradictory calculations, seems to have
been less than 15,000 silver talents (3.95).
Most of the satraps were Persian, members of
the royal house or of the six great noble
families (Meyer, pp. 47 ff.; Schaeder, 1941,
p. 18; cf. Petit, pp. 219-26). They were
appointed directly by Darius to administer
these tax districts, each of which could be
divided into subsatrapies and smaller units
with their own governors, usually nominated
by the central court but occasionally by the
satrap (see ACHAEMENID DYNASTY ii). To
ensure fair assessments of tribute, Darius
sent a commission of trusted men (cf. OPers.
*hamara-kāra-; Stolper, 1989, p. 86;
Dandamayev, 1992, p. 36) to evaluate the
revenues and expenditures of each district
(cf. Plutarch, Moralia 172F;
Polyaenus, Stratagemata 7.11.3).
Similarly, after the Ionian revolt his
brother Artaphernes calculated the areas of
Ionian cities in parasangs and fixed their
tributes (OPers. bāji-) at a rate
"very nearly the same as that which had been
paid before the revolt," a rate that
continued unaltered down to Herodotus' time
(Herodotus, 6.42). Contemporary Babylonian
documents attest the existence of a detailed
land register in which property boundaries,
ownership (of cattle and probably other
movable goods, as well as of urban and rural
real estate), and assessments were recorded
(Stolper, 1977, pp. 259-60; Dandamayev,
1992, pp. 11-12). In the Persepolis Elamite
texts officials who "write people down" and
"make inquiries" are mentioned (see Tuplin,
p. 145, with references). To prevent
concentration of power in one person, each
satrap was normally accompanied by a
"secretary," who observed affairs of the
state and communicated with the king; a
treasurer, who safeguarded provincial
revenues; and a garrison commander, who was
also responsible to the king. Further checks
were provided by royal inspectors with full
authority over all satrapal affairs, the
so-called "eyes" and "ears" of the king
(Meyer, pp. 39-89; Kiessling; Schaeder,
1934; Ehtecham, pp. 56-62; Frye, 1984, pp.
106-26; see also Hirsch, pp. 101-43; Tuplin;
Petit, pp. 109-72).
Coordination of the imperial administration
was the responsibility of the chancery, with
headquarters at Persepolis, Susa, and
Babylon (Junge, 1944, pp. 78 ff.; Hinz,
1971; idem, 1976, pp. 226-31; idem, 1979),
although such chief cities of the empire as
Bactria, Ecbatana (q.v.), Sardis, Dascylium
(q.v.), and Memphis also had branches
(Ehtecham, pp. 58-62; Tuplin, with full
references). Bureaucratic organization was
deeply rooted in the Near East (Schaeder,
1941, p. 17), but Darius reformed it in
accordance with the needs of a centralized
empire. Aramaic was retained as the common
language, especially in trade, and "imperial
Aramaic" soon spread from India to Ionia,
leaving permanent traces of Achaemenid
organization (see ART IN IRAN iii, pp.
571-72). Elamite and Babylonian, written in
cuneiform, were used in western Asia, and
Egyptian, written in hieroglyphics,
prevailed in Egypt. Early in his reign,
however, Darius appears to have commissioned
a group of scholars to create a writing
system specifically for Persian (Junge,
1944, p. 63; Hinz, 1973, pp. 15-27;
Mayrhofer, pp. 175, 179); the result was the
creation of what Darius called "Aryan"
script (Old Persian cuneiform, q.v.; cf. DB
4.88-89; Schmitt, p. 73 and n. 89), the
simplest cuneiform system, which bears clear
traces of having been modeled on the
Urartian signs (Mayrhofer, p. 179). Although
this script was merely "ceremonial," used
for official inscriptions only, it
nevertheless contributed to the distinctive
identity of the Persian empire.
In keeping with his "very clear creative
role" in the patronage of "an Achaemenid
canon for imperial art, edicts and
administrative mechanisms" (Root, p. 8),
Darius introduced (before 500 B.C.E.; Root,
pp. 1-12) a new monetary system based on
silver coins (Gk. sķglos) with an
average weight of 8 g and gold coins
weighing 5.40 g, equaling in value 20 silver
coints). The gold coin, *dārayaka-,
Gk. dareiko‚s, was probably named
after Darius (see DARIC), as ancient sources
attest (cf. Meyer, p. 75 n. 2; Schwyzer, pp.
8-19; Kent, Old Persian, p. 189 [cf.
W. B. Henning apud Robinson, p. 189 n. 1];
Brandenstein and Mayrhofer, p. 115; Hinz,
1975a, p. 83; Cook, p. 70; Bivar, Camb.
Hist. Iran, p. 621; for a different
In order to enhance trade, Darius built
canals, underground waterways, and a
powerful navy (Hinz, 1976, pp. 206 ff.). He
further improved the network of roads and
way stations throughout the empire, so that
"there was a system of travel authorization
by King, satrap, or other high official,
which entitled the traveller to draw
provisions at daily stopping places"
(Tuplin, p. 110; cf. Hallock, 1978, p. 114;
Lewis, 1977, pp. 4-5; Bivar, CAH2,
pp. 204-08). Some standardization of weights
and measures was also effected (see Bivar,
Camb. Hist. Iran, pp. 621-37). Darius
appointed loyal subjects, primarily
Persians, to senior posts but was eager to
listen to and follow the advice of
non-Persian counselors as well (Cook, pp.
71-72). He recognized the kinship between
the Greeks and Persians and promoted an
"open door" policy under which Hellenic
aristocrats could enter his service and
receive honored positions (Junge, 1944, pp.
Darius sponsored large construction projects
in Susa, Babylon, Egypt, and Persepolis
(Hinz, 1976, pp. 235-42). The monuments were
often inscribed in the scripts and languages
of the empire: Old Persian, Elamite,
Babylonian, and Egyptian hieroglyphs. Large
numbers of workers and artisans of diverse
nationalities, some of them deportees
(Dandamaev, 1975; Koch) were employed on
these projects, enhancing both the Persian
economy and intercultural relations. The
king was also deeply interested in
agriculture. In his letter to Gadates, a
governor in Asia Minor, he echoed the
Avestan statement (Vd. 3.4, 23) "the
Earth feels most happy . . . where one of
the faithful cultivates corn, grass and
fruits" (Lochner-Hüttenbach, in Brandenstein
and Mayrhofer, pp. 91-92). Darius'
codification of Egyptian law has been
mentioned above; he also sanctioned various
other local codes (Schaeder, 1941, pp.
25-26; Tuplin, pp. 112-13). Little need be
said about Darius' religion. It is clear
that he felt himself chosen by Ahura Mazdā:
"Ahuramazda, when he saw this earth in
commotion, thereafter bestowed it upon me,
made me king. I am king, by the favor of
Ahuramazda I put it down in its place" (DNa
30 ff.; Kent, Old Persian, p. 138);
"Ahuramazda is mine; I am Ahuramazda's" (DSk
Old Persian, p. 145). These
sentiments echo Zoroaster's utterances and
attest Darius' piety (Hinz, 1976, pp.
242-45). With characteristic Achaemenid
tolerance (Schaeder, 1941, pp. 22, 34),
however, Darius supported alien faiths and
temples "as long as those who held them were
submissive and peaceable" (Boyce,
Zoroastrianism II, p. 127). He funded
the restoration of the Jewish temple
originally decreed by Cyrus (Ezra 5:1-6:15),
showed favor toward Greek cults (attested in
his letter to Gadatas), observed Egyptian
religious rites related to kingship
(Posener, pp. 24-34, 50-63), and supported
Elamite priests (Boyce, Zoroastrianism
II, pp. 132-35). In H. H. Schaeder's opinion
(1941, p. 29), "the great politics of the
King reveal his clear understanding of what
were possible and what necessary . . .;
[and] the organizations which he established
in the empire earn him the title of the
greatest statesman of ancient East."
J. M. Balcer,
Herodotus and Bisitun. Problems in
Ancient Persian Historiography,
Stuttgart, 1987. E. Benveniste, Les
Mages dan l'ancien Iran, Paris,
E. J. Bickerman and H.
Tadmor, "Darius I, Pseudo-Bardiya and
the Magi," Athenaeum, N.S. 56,
1978, pp. 239-61.
A. D. H. Bivar,
"Achaemenid Coins, Weights and
Measures," Camb. Hist. Iran II,
Idem, "The Indus Lands,"
CAH2 IV, pp. 194-210.
R. Borger, Die
Chronologie des Darius-Denkmals am
Behistun-Felsen, Göttingen, 1982.
W. Brandenstein and M.
Mayrhofer, Handbuch des Altpersischen,
E. Bresciani, "The
Persian Occupation of Egypt," Camb.
Hist. Iran II, pp. 502-28.
P. Briant, Rois,
tributs et paysans. E“tudes sur les
formations tributaires du Moyen-Orient
ancien, Paris, 1982.
A. R. Burn, Persia and
the Greeks. The Defense of the West, c.
546-478 B.C., London, 1962.
P. Calmeyer, "Zur Genese
altiranischer Motive VIII. Die
'Statistische Landcharte des
Perserreiches,'" AMI, N.F. 15,
1982, pp. 105-87; 16, 1983, pp.
G. G. Cameron, "The
Persian Satrapies and Related Matters,"
JA 32, 1973, pp. 47-56. G.
Cardascia, Les archives des Murašū,
E. V. Łernenko,
Skifo-persidskaya vo„na (The
Scytho-Persian war), Kiev, 1984.
J. M. Cook, The
Persian Empire, London, 1983. M. A.
Dandamaev (Dandamayev), Iran pri
pervykh Akhemenidakh, Moscow, 1963;
rev. ed. tr. H. D. Pohl as Persien
unter den ersten Achämeniden (6.
Jahrhundert v. Chr.), Wiesbaden,
Idem, "Forced Labour in
the Persian Empire," AoF 2, 1975,
Idem, A Political
History of the Achamaenid Empire,
tr. W. J. Vogelsang, Leiden, 1989.
Idem, Iranians in
Achaemenid Babylonia, Costa Mesa,
J. J. A. van Dijk and W.
R. Mayer, Texte aus dem Rźš-Heiligtum
in Uruk-Warka, Baghdader
Mitteilungen, Beiheft 2, 1980.
R. Drews, The Greek
Accounts of Eastern History,
Cambridge, Mass., 1973.
M. Ehte‚cham, L'Iran
sous les Ache‚me‚nides, Fribourg,
A. Fol and N. G. L.
Hammond, "Persia in Europe, Apart from
Greece," CAH2 IV, pp. 234-53.
R. N. Frye, The
History of Ancient Iran, Munich,
I. Gershevitch, "The
False-Bardiya," AAASH 27/4, 1979,
Collaboration with the Persians,
D. F. Graf, "Medism. The
Origin and Significance of the Term,"
Journal of Hellenic Studies 104,
1984, pp. 15-30.
J. C. Greenfield and B.
Porten, eds., The Bisitun Inscription
of Darius the Great. Aramaic Version,
Corpus Inscr. Iran., pt. 1, vol. 5,
Texts 1, 1982.
F. Gschnitzer, Die
sieben Perser und das Königtum des
Dareios, Heidelberg, 1977.
Idem, "Zur Stellung des
persischen Stammlandes im
Achaimenidenreich," in Ad Bene et
Fideliter Seminandum. Festgabe für
Karlheinz Deller, Kevelaer and
Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany, 1988, pp.
E. Haerinck, "Le palais
ache‚me‚nide de Babylone," Iranica
Antiqua 10, 1973, pp. 108-32.
R. T. Hallock, "The 'One
Year' of Darius I," JNES 19,
1960, pp. 36-39.
Fortification Tablets, Chicago,
Idem, "The Use of Seals
on the Persepolis Fortification
Tablets," in M. Gibson and
R. D. Biggs, eds.,
Seals and Sealing in the Ancient Near
East, Malibu, Calif., 1978, pp.
Idem, "The Evidence of
the Persepolis Tablets," Camb. Hist.
Iran II, pp. 588-609. J. Harmatta,
"A Recently Discovered Old Persian
Inscription," AAASH 2, 1954, pp.
C. Hignett, Xerxes'
Invasion of Greece, Oxford, 1963.
W. Hinz, "Zur
Behistun-Inschrift des Dareios," ZDMG
96, 1942, pp. 326-49.
Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969,
Hofverwaltung," ZA 61, 1971, pp.
Idem, Neue Wege im
Altpersischen, Wiesbaden, 1973.
Sprachgut der Nebenüberlieferungen,
Idem, "Darius und der
Suezkanal," AMI, N.F. 8, 1975b,
pp. 115-21. Idem, Darius und die
Perser. Eine Kulturgeschichte der
Achämeniden, 2 vols., Baden-Baden,
S. W. Hirsch, The
Friendship of the Barbarians,
Hanover, N.H., 1985.
W. W. How and J. Wells,
A Commentary on Herodotus, 2
vols., Oxford, 1961.
P. J. Junge, "Satrapie
und Nation," Klio 34, 1941, pp.
1-55. Idem, Dareios I. König der
Perser, Leipzig, 1944.
R. G. Kent, "Old Persian
Texts. The Lists of Provinces," JNES
2, 1943, pp. 302-06.
M. Kiessling, Zur
Geschichte der ersten Regierungsjahre
des Darius Hystaspes, Leipzig,
H. Koch, Persien zur
Zeit des Dareios. Das Achämenidenreich
im Lichte neuer Quellen. Kleine
Schriften aus dem vorgeschichtlichen
Seminar der Philipps-Universität Marburg
25, Marburg, 1988.
E. Kornemann, Römische
Geschichte II, Leipzig, 1940.
C. F. Lehmann-Haupt,
"Satrap," in Pauly-Wissowa IIA/1, cols.
O. Leuze, Die
Satrapieneinteilung in Syrien und im
Zweistromlande von 520 bis 320, 2
vols., Halle, 1935; repr. in 1 vol.,
D. M. Lewis, Sparta
and Persia, Leiden, 1977.
Idem, "The Persepolis
Fortification Texts," in H.
Sancisi-Weerdenburg and A. Kuhrt, eds.,
Achaemenid History IV, Leiden,
1990, pp. 1-6.
A. B. Lloyd, "The
Inscription of Udjahorresnet. A
Collaborator's Testament," Journal of
Egyptian Archaeology 68, 1982, pp.
R. W. Macan,
Herodotus. The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth
Books II, London, 1895.
Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran
II, Leipzig, 1905, pp. 158-62.
M. Mayrhofer, "Über die
Verschriftung des Altpersischen,"
Historische Sprachforschung 102,
1989, pp. 174-84.
E. Meyer, Geschichte
des Altertums IV, Basel, 1954.
H. S. Nyberg, "Das Reich
der Achämeniden," in F. Valjavec, ed.,
Historia Mundi III, Munich, 1954,
A. T. Olmstead, "Darius
and His Behistun Inscription," AJSLL
55, 1938, pp. 392-416.
Idem, The Persian
Empire, Chicago, 1948, pp. 107-18.
A. L. Oppenheim, "The
Babylonian Evidence of Achaemenid Rule
in Mesopotamia," Camb. Hist. Iran
II, pp. 529-87.
T. Petit, Satrapes et
satrapies dans l'empire ache‚me‚nide de
Cyrus le Grand aą Xerxes Ier,
A. Poebel, "Chronology of
Darius' First Year of Reign," AJSLL
55, 1938, pp. 142-65, 285-314. Idem,
"The Duration of the Reign of Smerdis,
the Magian, and the Reigns of
Nebuchadnezzar III and Nebu-chadnezzar
IV," AJSLL 56, 1939, pp. 121-45.
G. Posener, La
premieąre domination perse en E“gypte,
J. V. Pra‚šek,
Geschichte der Meder und Perser bis zur
makedonischen Eroberung, 2 vols.,
Gotha, 1906-10; repr. Darmstadt, 1968;
rev. P. R. Rost, OLZ 1, 1898, pp.
J. D. Ray, "Egypt 525-405
B.C.," CAH2 IV, pp. 254-86.
H. W. Ritter, Diadem
und Königsherrschaft. Untersuchungen zu
Zeremonien und Rechtsgrundlagen des
Herr-schaftsantritts bei den Persern,
bei Alexander dem Grossen und im
Hellenismus, Wiesbaden, 1965.
E. S. G. Robinson, "The
Beginnings of Achaemenid Coinage," NC,
1958, pp. 187-93.
M. C. Root, "Evidence
from Persepolis for Dating of Persian
and Archaic Greek Coinage," NC,
1988, pp. 1-12.
P. R. Rost,
"Untersuchungen zur altorientalischen
Gesellschaft 41/1, Leipzig, 1897,
pp. 107-10, 208-10.
Iranians and Greeks in South Russia,
2nd ed., New York, 1969.
H. H. Schaeder, "Die
Ionier in der Bauinschrift des Dareios
von Susa," Jahrbuch des Deutschen
Archäologischen Instituts, 1932, pp.
Idem, "Iranica. I. Das
Auge des Königs," in Abh. der
Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu
Göttingen, Phil.-hist. Kl., 3rd
series 10, 1934, pp. 3-24.
Idem, Das persische
Weltreich, Breslau, 1941.
E. F. Schmidt,
Persepolis I-III, Chicago, 1953-70.
R. Schmitt, The
Bisitun Inscriptions of Darius the
Great. Old Persian Text. Corpus
Inscr. Iran, pt. 1, vol. I, Texts 1,
H. J. Schnitzler, "Der
Sakenfeldzug Dareios' des Grossen," in
R. Stiehl and G. A. Lehmann, eds.,
Antike und Universalgeschichte.
Festschrift für Erich Stier,
Münster, 1972, pp. 52-71.
E. Schwyzer, "Awest.
und byzantin. a‚spron. Beiträge
Münznamenforschung," IF 49, 1931,
U. Seidl, "Ein Relief
Dareios' I in Babylon," AMI, N.F.
3, 1976, pp. 125-30.
A. Sh. Shahbazi,
Jahān-dārī-e Dāryūš-e Bozorg,
Tehran, 1350 Š./1971.
Idem, "Darius in Scythia
and Scythians in Persepolis," AMI,
N.F. 15, 1982, pp. 189-235.
Idem, "Darius' 'Haft
Kišvar'," AMI, Suppl. 10,
Berlin, 1983, pp. 239-46.
M. Stolper, "Three
Iranian Loan-words in Late Babylonian
Texts," in L. Levine, ed., Mountains
and Lowlands, Malibu, Calif., 1977,
and Empire, Leiden, 1985.
Idem, "On Interpreting
Tributary Relationships in Achaemenid
Babylonia," in P. Briant and C.
Herrenschmidt, eds., Le tribut dans
l'empire perse. Actes de la table ronde
de Paris, 12-13 de‚cembre 1986,
Paris, 1989, pp. 147-56.
J. N. Strassmaier,
Inschriften von Darius, Leipzig,
C. Tuplin, "The
Administration of the Achaemenid
Empire," in I. Carradice, ed.,
Coinage and Administration in the
Athenian and Persian Empires. The Ninth
Oxford Symposium on Coinage and Monetary
History, Oxford, 1987, pp. 109-64.
Idem, ""Darius' Suez
Canal and Persian Imperialism," in H.
Sancisi-Weerdenburg and A. Kuhrt, eds.,
Achaemenid History VI. Asia
Minor and Egypt. Old Cultures in a New
Empire, Leiden, 1991, pp. 237-83.
M. Vasmer, Die Iranier
in Südrussland, Leipzig, 1923.
E. N. von Voigtlander,
The Bisitun Inscription of Darius the
Great. Babylonian Version, Corpus
Inscr. Iran, pt. 1, vol. II, Texts 1,
G. Walser, Die
Völkerschaften auf den Reliefs von
Persepolis, Berlin, 1966.
G. Widengren, "The Sacral
Kingship of Iran," in Studies in the
History of Religions, Numen, Suppl.,
Leiden, 1959, pp. 242-57.
Idem, "Über einige
Probleme in der altpersischen
Geschichte," in J. Meixner and G. Kegel,
eds., Festschrift für L. Brandt zum
60 Geburtstag, Opladen, Germany,
1968, pp. 517-33.
J. Wiesehöfer, Der
Aufstand Gaumāta's und die Anfänge
Dareios' I, Bonn, 1978.
Untersuchungen zur altorientalischen
Geschichte, Leipzig, 1889.
T. Cuyler Young, Jr.,
"The Persian Empire," CAH2 IV,