previous next


Δαρεῖος; Dâryavas).


Surnamed Hystaspis (or son of Hystaspes), a satrap of Persia, born B.C. 548, and belonging to the royal line of the Achaemenides. His father Hystaspes had been governor of the province of Persia. Seven noblemen of the highest rank, among whom was Darius, conspired to dethrone the Magian Smerdis (q.v.), who had usurped the crown after the death of Cambyses, and, having accomplished their object (B.C. 521), resolved that one of their number should reign in his stead. According to Herodotus (iii. 84), they agreed to meet at early dawn in the suburbs of the capital, and that he of their number whose horse should first neigh at the rising of the sun should possess the kingdom. If we believe the historian, who gives two accounts of the matter, Darius obtained the crown through an artful contrivance on the part of his groom. It is more probable, however, that, in consequence of his relationship to the royal line, his election to the throne was the unanimous act of the other conspirators. It is certain, indeed, that they reserved for themselves privileges which tended at least to make them independent of the monarch, and even to keep him dependent upon them. One of their number is said to have formally stipulated for absolute exemption from the royal authority, as the condition on which he withdrew his claim to the crown; and the rest acquired the right of access to the king's person at all seasons, without asking his leave, and bound him to select his wives exclusively from their families. How far the power of Darius, though nominally despotic, was really limited by these privileges of his nobles, may be seen from an occurrence which took place in the early part of his reign, in the case of Intaphernes, who had been one of the partners in the conspiracy. He revenged himself, it is true, for an outrage committed by this individual, by putting him to death; but before he ventured to take this step, he thought it necessary to sound the other four, and to ascertain whether they would make common cause with the offender.

Nevertheless, Darius was the greatest and most powerful king that ever filled the throne of Persia. Cyrus and Cambyses had conquered nations; Darius was the true founder of the Persian State. The dominions of his predecessors were a mass of countries only united by their subjection to the will of a common ruler, which expressed itself by arbitrary and irregular exactions. Darius first organized them into an empire, of which every member felt its place and knew its functions. His realm stretched from the Aegean to the Indus, from the steppes of Scythia to the Cataracts of the Nile. He divided this vast tract into twenty satrapies or provinces, and prescribed the tribute which each was to pay to the royal treasury, and the proportion in which they were to supply provisions for the army and for the king's household. A highway, on which distances were regularly marked and spacious buildings placed to receive all who travelled in the king's name, connected the western coast with the seat of government; and along this road couriers trained to extraordinary speed transmitted the king's messages. See Cursus Publicus; Persia.

Darius, in the very beginning of his reign, meditated an expedition against the Scythians to check their incursions for all time to come by a salutary display of the power and resources of the Persian Empire. His march, however, was delayed by a rebellion which broke out at Babylon. The ancient capital of Assyria had been secretly preparing for revolt during the troubles that followed the fall of Smerdis, and for nearly two years it defied the power of Darius. At length the strategy of Zopyrus, a noble Persian, who sacrificed his person and his power to the interest of his master, is said to have opened its gates to him (circa B.C. 516). When he was freed from this care he set out for the Scythian war (B.C. 513 or 508).

Rock-cut Tomb of Darius.

The whole military force of the Empire was put in motion, and the numbers of the army are rated at seven or eight hundred thousand men. This expedition of Darius into Scythia has given rise to considerable discussion. The first point involved is to ascertain how far the Persian monarch penetrated into the country. According to Herodotus (iv. 83), he crossed the Thracian Bosporus, marched through Thrace, passed the Danube on a bridge of boats, and then pursued a Scythian division as far as the Tanaïs. Having crossed this river, he traversed the territories of the Sauromatae as far as the Budini, whose city he burned. Beyond the Budini he entered upon a vast desert, and reached the river Oarus, where he remained some considerable time, erecting forts upon its banks. Finding that the Scythians had disappeared, he left these works only half finished, turned his course to the westward, and, advancing by rapid marches, entered Scythia, where he fell in with two of the divisions of the enemy. Pursuing these, he traversed the territories of the Melanchlaeni, Androphagi, and Neuri, without being able to bring them to an engagement. Provisions failing, he was eventually compelled to recross the Danube (see Histiaeus), glad to have saved a small portion of his once numerous army. According to other accounts (Strab. 305), Darius only came as far as the sandy tract between the Danube and the Tyrus, in the present Bessarabia, where, in afterdays, Antigonus was taken prisoner by the Scythians, with his whole army.

Another expedition undertaken by command of Darius was an invasion of India (Herod.iv. 44), the date, however, being doubtful. In this affair he was more successful, and conquered a part of the Punjab; not, however, the whole country, as some modern writers erroneously represent.

Some time after this, Miletus having revolted, and Aristagoras, its ruler, having solicited aid from the Athenians for the purpose of enabling it to maintain its independence, they sent twenty ships, to which the Eretrians added five more, in order to requite a kindness previously received from the Milesians. Aristagoras, upon the arrival of this fleet, resolved to make an expedition against Sardis, the residence of the Persian satrap. Accordingly, landing at Ephesus, the confederates marched inland, took Sardis, and drove the governor into the citadel. Most of the houses in Sardis were made of reeds, and even those that were built of brick were roofed with reeds. One of these was set on fire by a soldier, and immediately the flames spread from house to house and consumed the whole city. The light of the conflagration showing to the Greeks the great numbers of their opponents, who were beginning to rally, being constrained by necessity to defend themselves, as their retreat was cut off by the river Pactolus, the former retired through fear and regained their ships (B.C. 501). Upon the receipt of this entelligence, Darius, having called for a bow, put an arrow into it, and shot it into the air, with these words, “Grant, O God, that I may be able to revenge myself upon the Athenians.” After he had thus spoken, he commanded one of his attendants thrice every time dinner was set before him, to exclaim, “Master! remember the Athenians.” Mardonius, the king's son-in-law, was intrusted with the care of the war. After crossing the Hellespont, he marched down through Thrace, but, in endeavouring to double Mount Athos, he lost 300 vessels and, it is said, more than 20,000 men (B.C. 492). After this he was attacked in the night by the Brygi, who killed many of his men and wounded Mardonius himself. He succeeded, however, in defeating and reducing them to subjection, but his army was so weakened by these circumstances that he was compelled to return ingloriously to Asia. Darius, only animated by this loss, sent a more considerable force, under the command of Datis and Artaphernes, with orders to sack the cities of Athens and Eretria, and to send to him all the surviving inhabitants in fetters. The Persians took the isle of Naxos and the city of Eretria in Euboea, but were defeated with great slaughter by the Athenians and Plataeans under the celebrated Miltiades at Marathon (B.C. 490). Their fleet was also completely unsuccessful in an attempt to surprise Athens after the battle. (See Miltiades; Marathon.) The anger of Darius was doubly inflamed

Cuneiform and Hieroglyphical Forms of “Darius.”

against Athens by the result at Marathon; and he resolved that the insolent people, who had invaded his territories, violated the persons of his messengers, and put his generals to a shameful flight, should feel the whole weight of his arm.

The preparations he now set on foot were on a vast scale and demanded a longer time. For three years all Asia was kept in a continual stir; in the fourth, however, Darins was distracted by other causes—by a quarrel between his two sons respecting the succession to the throne, and by an insurrection in Egypt. In the following year, before he had ended his preparations against Egypt and Attica, he died, and Xerxes (q.v.) ascended the throne, in B.C. 485. Darius had reigned for thirtysix years. His memory was always held in veneration by the Persians and the other nations comprehended under his sway, whom he governed with much wisdom and moderation.


The second of the name was styled Ὦχος. See Ochus; Cyrus


The third of the name, and the last king of Persia, was son of Arsames, who had for his father Osthames, one of the sons of Darius Ochus. His true name was Codomannus, and he had, before coming to the throne, acquired some reputation for personal courage, chiefly through an exploit which he had performed in one of the expeditions against the Cadusians, when he accepted a challenge from one of their stoutest warriors, and slew him in single combat. The eunuch Bagoas (q.v.) raised him to the throne, not so much, however, on this account, as because they had previously been friends, and because, perhaps, there was no other prince of the blood on whose gratitude he could safely rely. Codomannus, upon his accession (B.C. 336), which took place about the time when Philip of Macedon died, assumed the name of Darius. He soon discovered that Bagoas, who may have intended at length to seize the throne himself, designed that he should share the fate of his last two predecessors. A cup of poison had been prepared for him. But, having detected the plot, he called Bagoas into his presence and compelled him to drink the deadly draught.

The reign of Darius Codomannus was early disturbed by the invasion of Alexander. The Persian monarch, however, did not take the command of his forces until after the battle of the Granicus had been fought (334 B.C.), and Alexander had advanced as far as Cilicia. He then proceeded to meet the invader, in all the pomp of royalty, but with an army ill fitted to contend against such an antagonist. Resolving to hazard an encounter, contrary to the advice of his Greek allies, Darius engaged in the battle of Issus, but was compelled to flee from the field with so much precipitation as to leave behind him his bow, shield, and royal mantle (333 B.C.). His camp was plundered, and his mother, wife, and children fell into the hands of the conqueror. In vain, after this, did Darius supplicate for terms of peace. Alexander went on in his career of victory; and in a second pitched battle at Gaugamela, commonly called the battle of Arbela (q.v.), Darius again fought, and again was compelled to flee (331 B.C.). His plan was now to advance into Media, lay waste the country through which he passed, and seek refuge finally on the other side of the Oxus, where he hoped that the conqueror would be content to leave him unmolested. Alexander allowed four months to elapse before he again set out in pursuit of Darius. He then advanced by forced marches in pursuit of him, and learned eventually that the monarch was a prisoner in the hands of Bessus (q.v.), one of his own satraps. A still more active pursuit now commenced, and the unhappy king, refusing to proceed any farther, was left mortally wounded in a chariot, while Bessus and his accomplices took to flight, accompanied by 600 horse. Darius expired before Alexander saw him (B.C. 330).

Alexander ordered his body to be buried in the sepulchre of his ancestors with royal magnificence, took charge of the education of his children, and married his daughter (Alex.; Arrian, Exp. Al.).


The eldest son of Artaxerxes Mnemon, put to death for conspiring against his father (Artax.).

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.84
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.44
    • Strabo, Geography, 7.3
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: