Darius (Gr. ; Heb. Daryavesh; Pers. Dariyavus, in several inscriptions), the name of several kings of Media and Persia. I. Darius the Mede, represented in the book of Daniel as the successor of Belshazzar. According to the theory of Markus von Niebuhr, the personal name of Astyages, the grandfather of Cyrus, was Darius, Astyages being a national and not a personal name, and that king the Darius the Mede of the book of Daniel. Another hypothesis is that he was identical with the Cyaxares II. mentioned by Xenophon in the Cyropaedia as the son of Astyages and maternal uncle of Cyrus, who married his daughter. Being an indolent, luxurious man, Cyaxares, according to Xenophon, left the real exercise of power entirely in the hands of Cyrus, who succeeded him; and his name may for this reason have been passed over by other historians, who represent Cyrus as the immediate successor of Astyages. Josephus seems to have adopted this view, since he says that Babylon was taken by Darius and Cyrus his kinsman, and that Darius was the son of Astyages and was known among the Greeks by another name, which he does not mention.
Still another theory is that Darius the Mede was a member of the royal Median family, and was merely viceroy at Babylon for two years, until Cyrus came to reign there in person. This appears to be corroborated by the expression in Daniel, "Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans." In the words of Rawlinson, "Upon the whole, it must be acknowledged that there are scarcely sufficient grounds for determining whether the Darius Medus of Daniel is identical with any monarch known to us in profane history, or is a personage of whose existence there remains no other record." II. Darius Hystaspis, son of Hystaspes (Pers. Vistaspa or Ustaaspi), of the royal race of the Achaameni-dae, reigned 521-486 B. C. According to Herodotus, he was marked out for the empire during the life of Cyrus, who saw him in a dream with wings overshadowing Asia and Europe. Cambyses dying without issue, and no other son of Cyrus surviving, Darius was the hereditary successor to the throne.
He conspired with Otanes and five other nobles to dethrone the psuedo-Smerdis (the Gomates of the Behistun inscription), whom the magi had made king of Persia during the absence of Cambyses. After the death of the usurper, Otanes wished to establish a democracy, but the others voted to set up a monarchy, and agreed that the seven should ride out at sunrise the next day, and that he whose horse first neighed should be declared king. Darius, according to Herodotus, secured the prize by a trick, in collusion with his groom, who stationed a mare well known to his master's horse in the suburbs through which they were to ride. To strengthen himself on the throne, he married a daughter of Otanes, a daughter of Smerdis, and two daughters of Cyrus, one of whom, Atossa, attained great influence at his court. He was a monarch of great abilities, enterprising, despotic, and cruel, and may be regarded as the organizer of the Persian empire. He was a zealous adherent of the ancient Aryan or dualistic religion of his nation, and restored its supremacy over the rival creed of Magism. He divided Persia into 20 satrapies, determined the amount of their contributions in produce or precious metals, and established stated communication by means of couriers between the 127 provinces of the empire.
The siege of Babylon, which revolted and defended its independence with the most desperate determination, lasted, according to Herodotus, 20 months. The city was conquered only by the self-sacrifice of Zopyrus, who, having horribly mutilated his face, went over into the besieged city, complained of the king's cruelty, became commander of the defending army, and betrayed it to Darius. The monarch wreaked his vengeance by impaling 3,000 of the chief citizens, and destroying the walls of the city (517). This narrative of the Greek historian, however, is not supported by the inscription of the monarch himself (see BEHISTUN), according to which Babylon twice revolted from him. To chastise the Scythians around the northern shores of the Black sea for ancient incursions into Asia, he started with 700,000 men from Susa, his capital, passed the Bosporus on a bridge built by a Samian Greek, traversed Thrace, and crossed the Danube, following the nomads, who had only to retreat, driving their herds before them and filling up the wells in their route, in order to conquer the invaders, without a battle, by famine and the hardships of the march.
The greater part of his army was lost when he returned, leaving the sick and aged behind, and a body of troops under Megabazus in Thrace, which conquered the Paeones and transplanted them to Phrygia. Another expedition conquered a part of India, and the explorations down the Indus, and around the shores of the Erythraean sea, under Scylax, a Carian Greek, even gained maritime glory for the monarch. The revolt of the Ionians, the support given them by the Athenians and Eretrians, and particularly the burning of Sardis (500), incited Darius to an expedition against Greece. After the conquest of Miletus, an army under Mardonius and a fleet were sent to subdue the Greeks; but the attacks of the Scythian tribes in Thrace, and tempests off Mount Athos, compelled both to return, and the Athenians rejected with scorn the demand for earth and water made by the heralds of the great king. Another army, sent with 600 vessels under the command of Datis and Artaphernes, conquered Naxos, but spared the sacred island of Delos (while the other Cy-clades submitted without a struggle), destroyed the betrayed Eretria on the island of Euboea, and landed in Attica. But the victory of the Athenians under Miltiades at Marathon (490) defeated the army of Darius, though not his hope of subduing Greece. Arming the whole force of his empire, he was checked by a revolt in Egypt, soon after which he died, leaving the accomplishment of his revenge to his son Xerxes. Like Cyrus, Darius favored the Jews, and it was during his reign that they rebuilt the temple of Jerusalem. III. Darius Oflius (the latter being his name before his accession), surnamed by the Greeks Nothus (the bastard), reigned 424-405 B. 0. He became king by putting to death his natural brother Sogdianus, who had killed Xerxes II., the only legitimate son of Artaxerxes I. He was a weak prince, ruled by his favorites, and especially by his queen Parysatis, a cunning and ambitious woman.
His reign was disturbed by rebellions, among which that of Amyrtaeus in Egypt was particularly successful. His governors in Asia Minor, Tissaphernes and Cyrus (the younger), his son, extended the influence of Persia in the affairs of Greece, which during his reign was distracted by the Peloponnesian war. His successor was his son Artaxerxes II. Mnemon. IV. Darius Codomannns, the last ruler of the Persian empire, 336-330 B. C. His father was Arsames, the son of Ostanes, who was a brother of Artaxerxes Mnemon. His mother. Sisygambis, was either the sister or cousin of his father, it is uncertain which, the marriage of brother and sister not being uncommon among Persians of high rank. The eunuch Bagoas, chief minister of Artaxerxes Ochus, having assassinated that monarch and his successor Arses, and all the royal princes, placed Codomannus upon the throne, who assumed the name of Darius. He appears to have had no connection with the crimes of Bagoas, and one of the first acts of his reign was to put the eunuch to death. He was remarkable for personal beauty and bravery.
In the year in which he ascended the throne Philip of Macedon was assassinated, and succeeded by Alexander. Before the death of Philip a portion of the Macedonian troops had crossed into Asia, and immediately on his accession Darius commenced preparations to resist their advance. The death of Philip and the perils by which Alexander was surrounded at home freed Darius from any immediate apprehension, and he relaxed his efforts; but he renewed them as soon as the European campaigns of Alexander showed that he would probably become a formidable enemy. He got ready a fleet, sent troops from the interior of the empire into Asia Minor, despatched emissaries to Greece to stir up such states as were most hostile to Alexander, and placed a large body of Greeks in the pay of Persia under the command of Memnon the Rhodian. He gained some advantages over the Macedonian troops in Asia, which gave the Persian satraps a low opinion of their enemy, and they made no resistance when Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Mysia with about 35,000 men. The Persian satraps first opposed Alexander at the river Granicus, with a force largely composed of Greek mercenaries.
They were completely defeated, and in the course of the following year Alexander made himself master of Asia Minor. In the spring of 333 Memnon died, and Darius, seeing that he must bring his whole force against the Macedonian invader, collected an army estimated at from 300,000 to 600,000 men. The combatants met on the shores of the gulf of Issus, in a narrow defile, where the great numerical superiority of the Persians was of little advantage, and they were totally defeated. The mother, wife, sister, and several other members of the family of Darius were captured by Alexander, and were treated kindly. Alexander now turned his forces in another direction, crossing Syria and invading Egypt, and Darius had nearly two years in which to prepare for another effort to save his empire. He made two ineffectual attempts to obtain peace by negotiation, offering to cede the whole of Asia Minor, and to pay an immense ransom for his family. His overtures were rejected, and he set about preparing for the final struggle.
He assembled an army, it is said, of more than 1,000,000, and awaited the attack of Alexander in a great plain between the Zab and the Tigris, near a village called Gaugamela, a short distance south of the ruins of Nineveh. Previous to the battle his headquarters had been at Arbela on the other side of the Zab, and hence the action is known in history as the battle of Arbela. Alexander's army numbered somewhat less than 50,000; but the discipline and bravery of the Macedonian troops and the genius of their commander triumphed. The Persian army was completely routed, and Darius fled to Ec-batana in Media (October, 331 B. C). Here he collected a new force. Early in the following year Alexander set out in pursuit. Darius fled through Rhagae, the Elburz mountains, and the deserts of Parthia, followed by Alexander. When almost overtaken, he was assassinated by Bessus, satrap of Bactria. Pierced with wounds, he was left upon the road, where he was found by the Macedonians. He asked and received a glass of water, for which he thanked the giver, expressed his gratitude for the kind treatment extended to his family by Alexander, and expired.
Alexander on coming up covered the body with his mantle, and sent it to Persepolis to be buried in the tombs of the Persian kings.