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Dareius I.

1. DAREIUS, the eldest son of Hystaspes (Gustasp), was one of the seven Persian chiefs who destroyed the usurper SMERDIS, after whose death Dareius obtained the throne. Hee was a member of the royal family of the Achaemenidae (Hdt. 1.209), in a branch collateral to that of Cyrus. The meaning of the genealogy given by Xerxes (Hdt. 7.11) seems to be this:

When Cyrus undertook his expedition against the Massagetae, Dareius, who was then about twenty years old, was left in Persis, of which country his father Hystaspes was satrap. The night after the passage of the Araxes, Cyrus dreamt that he saw Dareius with wings on his shoulders, the one of which overshadowed Asia and the other Europe. Inferring that Dareius had formed a conspiracy against him, Cyrus sent back Hystaspes into Persis to watch his son. (Hdt. 1.209, 210.) Dareius attended Cambyses to Egypt as one of his bodyguard. (Hdt. 3.139; SYLOSON.) After the detection of the imposture of the Magian, Dareius went to Snsa just at the time when the conspiracy against the usurper was formed, and he was associated with the six other conspirators, who, by his advice, resolved to act without delay. [SMERDIS.] The discussions among the Persian chiefs, which ensued upon the death of the Magian, ended in favour of the monarchical form of government, which was advocated by Dareius, and Dareius himself was chosen to the kingdom by a sign, which had been agreed on by the conspirators, and which Dareius, with the aid of his groom Oebares, contrived to obtain for himself, B. C. 521. This account, instead of being a fiction, is quite in accordance with the spirit of the Persian religion. (Heeren's Asiatic Researches, ii. p. 350; comp. Tac. Germ. 10.)

The usurpation of Smerdis seems to have been an attempt on the part of the Medes to regain their supremacy. The conspirators against him were noble Persians, and in all probability the chiefs of Persian tribes. Their discussion about the form of government to be adopted is evidently related by Herodotus according to Greek rather than Oriental notions. The proposition to share the supreme power among themselves seems to be what Herodotus means by an aristocracy, and this scheme may be traced in the privileges for which the conspirators afterwards stipulated with Dareius, but it is very difficult to conceive in what sense a democracy could have been proposed. At all events, the accession of Dareius confirmed both the supremacy of the Persians, and the monarchical form of government. The other conspirators stipulated for free admission to the king at all times, with one exception, and for the selection of his wives from their families. A dispute soon arose respecting the exercise of the former privilege between the royal servants and Intaphernes, one of the seven; and Dareius, thinking, from the conduct of Intaphernes, that a conspiracy had been formed against himself, put him to death with all his male relations except two. (Hdt. 3.118, 119.) He henceforth enjoyed undisputed possession of his throne; but we find the seven employed in distant governments and expeditions.

It was in the reign of Dareius that the consolidation of the Persian empire was effected, so far at least as it ever was; for in truth it never possessed a sure principle of cohesion. Cyrus and Cambyses had been engaged in continual wars, and their conquests had added to the Persian empire the whole of Asia (up to India and Scythia), except Arabia. (Hdt. 3.88.) After strengthening himself by alliances with the royal house, from which he took three wives, namely, the two daughters of Cyrus, Atossa and Artystone, and Parmys, the daughter of Cyrus's son Smerdis, and with the chief of the seven, Otanes, whose daughter Phaedime he married, and after erecting a monument to celebrate his acquisition of the kingdom, he began to set in order the affairs of his vast empire, which he divided into twenty satrapies, assigning to each its amount of tribute. Persis proper was exempted from all taxes, except those which it had formerly been used to pay. From the attention which he paid to his revenues, and from his love of money, Dareius was called by the Persians κάπηλος. (3.89, 117.) A detailed account of his satrapies and revenues is given by Herodotus. (3.90, &c.) His ordinary residence was at Susa, which he greatly improved. (Aelian, N.A. 1.59; Plin. Nat. 6.27. s. 31.)

The seven months of the reign of Smerdis had produced much confusion throughout the whole empire. His remission of all taxes for three years, if it be true, must have caused Dareius some trouble in reimposing them. It cannot be doubted that the governors of the provinces would seize the opportunity to assume a sort of independence. We have an example in the conduct of Oroetas, the governor of Sardis, who, in addition to his cruel and treacherous murder of Polycrates and other acts of tyranny, put to death a noble Persian, Mitrobates, the governor of Dascylium in Bithynia, with his son, and killed a royal messenger whom Dareius sent to rebuke him. Dareius was prevented from marching against Oroetas in person, on account of his recent accession to the throne and the power of the offender; but one of his courtiers, named Bagaeus, effected the death of Oroetas by gaining over his body-guard of 1000 Persians. In consequence of this event the Greek physician Democedes fell into the hands of Dareius, and cured him of a sprained ankle, and was established at his court--a most important event in the history of the world, for Democedes used his influence with Atossa to persuade Dareius to attack Greece. [DEMOCEDES.] Dareius sent him, with fifteen noble Persians, to examine the coasts of Greece, of which they made a sort of map. Democedes escaped from his companions, who, after a great variety of adventures, got back safe to Dareius. (Hdt. 3.135-138.)

The great struggle between the despotism of Asia and the freedom of Europe was now beginning. The successive rulers of Western Asia had long desired to extend their dominion across the Aegean into Greece; but both Croesus and Cyrus had been prevented from making the attempt, the former by the growth of the Persian power, the latter by his wars in Central Asia. Dareius, who already, as seen in the dream of Cyrus, overshadowed Asia with one wing, now began to spread the other over Europe. He attacked Samos under the pretext of restoring SYLOSON, but his further designs in that quarter were interrupted by the revolt of the Babylonians, who had profited by the period of confusion which followed the death of Cambyses to make every preparation for rebellion. After a siege of twenty months, Babylon was taken by a stratagem of ZOPYRUS, and was severely punished for its revolt, probably about B. C. 516.

The reduction of Babylon was soon followed by Dareius's invasion of Scythia (about B. C. 513, or 508 according to Wesseling and Clinton). The cause of this expedition is very obscure. Herodotus (4.1, 83) attributes it to the desire of Dareius to take vengeance on the Scythians for their invasion of Media in the time of CYAXARES,--far too remote a cause, though very probably used as a pretext. Ctesias says, that on the occasion of a predatory incursion into Scythia by the satrap of Cappadocia, the Scythian king had sent a letter of defiance to Dareius, and that this provoked him to the war. The only rational motives which can now be assigned are the desire of curbing tribes which had been, and might be again, dangerous to the empire, especially during the projected invasion of Greece; and perhaps too of laying open the way to Greece by the conquest of Thrace. The details of the expedition also are difficult to trace. Dareius crossed the Thracian Bosporus by a bridge of boats, the work of MANDROCLES, a Samian engineer, and commemorated his passage by setting up two pillars, on which the names of the tribes composing his army were recorded in Greek and Assyrian letters. Thence he marched through Thrace to the delta of the Danube, where he found a bridge of boats already formed by his fleet, which had been sent round in the mean time to the mouth of the river. This bridge he would have broken up after the passage of his army; but by the advice of Coes, the commander of the forces of Mytilene, lie left it guarded by the Greeks, many of whom served in his fleet, under their tyrants, with orders to break it up if he did not return within sixty days. The sixty days elapsed, and MILTIADES, the tyrant of the Thracian Chersonese, endeavoured to prevail on his fellow officers to take Dareius at his word, and thus to cut off his retreat; but HISTIAEUS, the tyrant of Miletus, pointed out the probability that, if so serious a blow were inflicted on the Persian power, they, the tyrants, who were protected by Persia, must fall. The bridge was therefore preserved, but a feint was made of destroying it, in order to deceive the Scythians, who were thus rendered less active in the pursuit of Dareius. The king was now in full retreat, his expedition having entirely failed, through the impossibility of bringing the Scythians to an engagement. If we are to believe Herodotus, he had penetrated far into the interior of Russia, and yet he had not been much distressed for provisions ; and he recrossed the Danube with so large an army, that he detached a force of eighty thousand men for the conquest of Thrace, under Megabazus, who subdued that country and Paeonia, and received the symbols of submission, earth and water, from Amyntas, the king of Macedonia. Dareius re-entered Asia by the Hellespont, which he crossed at Sestos, and staid for some time at Sardis, whence he sent Otanes to reduce those maritime cities on the north coast of the Aegean, Hellespont, and Bosporus, which still remained independent. The most important conquest of Otanes, were Byzantium, Chalcedon, and the islands of Imbrus and Lemnos. [OTANES.] Dareius himself then returned to Susa, leaving Artaphernes governor of Sardis.

These operations were succeeded by a period of profound peace (about B. C. 505-501). The events which interrupted it, though insignificant in themselves, brought on the struggle in which the Athenians first, and then the other Greeks, repulsed the whole power of Persia. These events belong to the history of Greece, and to the biographies of other men. [ARISTAGORAS; HISTIAEUS ; HIFPIAS; MARDONIUS; MILTIADES ; ARTAPHERNES, &c.; Thirlwall's Hist. of Greece, 2.100.14.) It is a debated question whether Dareius was accidentally involved in his war with Greece by the course of events, or whether he simply took advantage of the opportunity to carry out a long cherished design. Herodotus took the latter view, which seems to be borne out fully by the invasion of Seythia, the reduction of Thrace, and some minor circumstances. The period of peace which preceded the war was, no doubt, simply a matter of necessity, after the wars of the early part of the reign, and especially after the Scythian disaster. Even Thirlwall, who takes the other view (p. 191), attributes elsewhere an aggressive policy to Dareius (p. 199). So great, however, was Dareius's ignorance of the strength of the free states of Greece, that the force sent to subdue them was quite inconsiderable when compared with the army which marched to the invasion of Scythia. The battle of Marathon convinced him of his error, but still left him the idea that Greece must be easily crushed by a greater armament. He therefore called out the whole force of his empire; but, after three years of preparation, his attention was called off by the rebellion of Egypt, and the dispute between his sons for the succession [ARIABIGNES ; XERXES]; and the decision of this dispute was very soon followed by his death, B. C. 485, after a reign of 36 years, according to Herodotus Compp. Clinton, F. H. vol. ii. p. 313), or 31, according to Ctesias.

There are two other events in the reign of Dareius which deserve notice : namely, the expedition against Libya, at the time of the Scythian expedition (Hdt. 4.145-205), and the voyage of Scylax of Caryanda down the Indus, which led to the discovery and subjugation of certain Indian tribes, whose position is uncertain (4.44). Diodorus (1.33, 58, 95) mentions some particulars of his relations to Egypt, from which it appears that he devoted much attention to public works and legislative reforms in that as well as in the other parts of his empire.

The children of Dareius were, by the daughter of Gobryas, whom he had married before he came to the throne, Artabazanes and two others; by Atossa, Xerxes, Hystaspes, Achaemenes, and Masistes ; by Artystone, Arsames and Gobryas; by Parmys, Ariomardas; and by Phrataguna, the daughter of his brother Artanes, Abrocome and Hyperanthe. Diodorus mentions a daughter, Mandane. The inscriptions at Persepolis in which his name appears are fully described by Grotefend (Beilage) and Höckh. (Vet. Med. et Pers. Monum.) Höckh shews that the sepulchre which Dareius caused to be constructed for himself is one of those in the hill called Rachmed. (Hdt. 3.70-160, iv.-vi., 7.1-4; Ctes. Pers. 14-19, ed. Lion; Diod. 2.5, 10.17, 11.2, 57, 74; Justin, 1.10, 2.3, 5, 9, 10, 7.3. For his relations to the Jews, see Ezra, 4.5, 5.1; Hagg. 1.1 ; 2.1; Zech. 1.1; J. AJ 11.3.1.)

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hide References (25 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (25):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 10.17
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.74
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.2
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.57
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.209
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.118
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.139
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.160
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.70
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.1
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.145
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.83
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.11
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.210
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.119
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.135
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.138
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.88
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.205
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 11.3.1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.27
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 1.33
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 1.58
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 1.95
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 2.5
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