Bas-relief of Darius seated, giving audenice .
Supplicant to Darius I performing
Proskynesis ( kissing toward ) to Darius I by
touching the lips . The incense burners mark
the limit of the approach to the throne
550 B.C - 486 B.C.
Ruled 522 - 486 B.C.
The death of Cambyses (B.C. 522) left the conspirators, who had possession of the capital, at liberty to develop their projects, and to take such steps as they thought best for the consolidation and perpetuation of their power. The position which they occupied was one of peculiar delicacy. On the one hand, the impostor Gaumata had to guard against acting in any way which would throw suspicion on his being really Smerdis, the son of Cyrus. On the other, he had to satisfy the Magian priests, to whom he was well known, and on whom he mainly depended for support, if his imposture should be detected.
Darius the Great
These priests must have desired a change of the national religion, and to effect this must have been the true aim and object of the revolution. But it was necessary to proceed with the utmost caution. An open proclamation that Magism was to supersede Zoroastrianism would have seemed a strange act in an Achaemenian prince, and could scarcely have failed to arouse doubts which might easily terminate in discovery.
The Magian brothers shrank from affronting this peril, and resolved, before approaching it, to obtain for the new government an amount of general popularity which would make its overthrow in fair fight difficult. Accordingly the new reign was inaugurated by a general remission of tribute and military service for the space of three years? measure which was certain to give satisfaction to all the tribes and nations of the Empire, except the Persians. Persia Proper was at all times exempt from tribute. Further to confirm his uncertain hold upon the throne, the Pseudo-Smerdis took to wife all the widows of his predecessor.
However, as time went on, and no discovery was actually made, Gaumata grew bolder, and ventured to commence that reformation of religion which he and his order had so much at heart. He destroyed the Zoroastrian temples in various places, and seems to have put down the old worship, with its hymns in praise of the Zoroastrian deities. He instituted Magian rites in lieu of the old ceremonies, and established his brother Magians as the priest-caste of the Persian nation.
The changes introduced were no doubt satisfactory to the Medes, and to many of the subject races throughout the Empire. They were even agreeable to a portion of the Persian people, who leant towards a more material worship and a more gorgeous ceremonial than had contented their ancestors. If the faithful worshippers of Ormazd saw them with dismay, they were too timid to resist, and tacitly acquiesced in the religious revolution.
Seal of Darius
Suspicions grew into a general belief and conviction that the monarch seated on the throne was not Smerdis the son of Cyrus, but an impostor. Yet still there was for a while no outbreak. It mattered nothing to the provincials who ruled them, provided that order was maintained, and that the boons granted them at the opening of the new reign were not revoked or modified. Their wishes were no doubt in favor of the prince who had remitted their burdens; and in Media a peculiar sympathy would exist towards one who had exalted Magism. Such discontent as was felt would be confined to Persia, or to Persia and a few provinces of the north-east, where the Zoroastrian faith may have maintained itself.
At last, among the chief Persians, rumors began to arise. These were sternly repressed at the outset, and a reign of terror was established, during which men remained silent through fear. But at length some of the principal nobles, convinced of the imposture, held secret council together, and discussed the measures proper to be adopted under the circumstances. Nothing, however, was done until the arrival at the capital of a personage felt by all to be the proper leader of the nation in the existing crisis.
Darius takes Action
This was Darius, the son of Hystaspes, a prince of the blood royal who probably stood in the direct line of the succession, after the death of Cambyses . At the early age of twenty he had attracted the attention of Cyrus, who suspected him even then of a design to seize the throne. He was now about twenty-eight years of age, and therefore at a time of life suited for vigorous enterprise which was probably the reason why his father, Hystaspes, who was still alive, sent him to the capital, instead of proceeding thither in person. Youth and vigor were necessary qualifications for success in a struggle against the holders of power; and Hystaspes no longer possessed those advantages. He therefore yielded to his son that headship of the movement to which his position would have entitled him
Darius ends the Conspiracy
Darius, on his arrival at the capital, was at once accepted as head of the conspiracy, and with prudent boldness determined on pushing matters to an immediate decision. Overruling the timidity of a party among the conspirators, who urged delay, he armed his partisans, and proceeded, without a moment's pause, to the attack. According to the Greek historians, he and his friends entered the palace in a body, and surprised Gaumata in his private apartments, where they slew him after a brief struggle. But the authority of Darius discredits the Greek accounts, and shows us, though with provoking brevity, that the course of events must have been very different. The Magus was not slain in the privacy of his palace, at Susa or Ecbatana, but met his death in a small and insignificant fort in the part of Media called "the Maesan plain," or, more briefly, "Nisaea," whither he appears to have fled with a band of followers. Whether he was first attacked in the capital, and escaping threw himself into this stronghold, or receiving timely warning of his danger withdrew to it before the outbreak occurred, or merely happened to be at the spot when the conspirators decided to make their attempt, we have no means of determining. We only know that the scene of the last struggle was Sictachotes, in Media; that Darius made the attack accompanied by six Persian nobles of high rank; and that the contest terminated in the slaughter of the Magus and of a number of his adherents, who were involved in the fall of their master.
Nor did the vengeance of the successful conspirators stop here. Speeding to the capital, with the head of the Gaumata in their hands, and exhibiting everywhere this proof at once of the death of the late king and of his imposture, they proceeded to authorize and aid in carrying out, a general massacre of the Magian priests, the abettors of the later usurpation. Every Magus who could be found was slain by the enraged Persians; and the caste would have been well-nigh exterminated, if it had not been for the approach of night. Darkness brought the carnage to an end; and the sword, once sheathed, was not again drawn. Only, to complete the punishment of the ambitious religionists who had insulted and deceived the nation, the day of the massacre was appointed to be kept annually as a solemn festival, under the name of the Magophonia; and a law was passed that on that day no Magus should leave his house.
The accession of Darius to the vacant throne now took place (Jan. 1, B.C. 521). When Darius reached the capital, with the head of the Pseudo-Smerdis in his possession, he no doubt proceeded at once to the palace and took his seat upon the vacant throne. No opposition was offered to him. The Persians gladly saw a scion of their old royal stock installed in power. His first care was to recompense the nobles to whom he owed his position by restoring to them the privileges of which they had been deprived by the pseudo-Smerdis, namely, the right of free access to the king, as well as the right of each individual to a funeral pyre; but the usurper had won the affection of the people, and even the inhabitants of those countries which had been longest subject to the Persian sway did not receive the new sovereign favourably. Darius found himself, therefore, under the necessity of conquering his dominions one after the other
The measures with which the new monarch inaugurated his reign had for their object the re-establishment of the old worship. He rebuilt the Zoroastrian temples which the Magus had destroyed, and probably restored the use of the sacred chants and the other accustomed ceremonies. It may be suspected that his religious zeal proceeded often to the length of persecution, and that the Magian priests were not the only persons who, under the orders which he issued, felt the weight of the secular arm. His Zoroastrian zeal was soon known through the provinces; and the Jews forthwith resumed the building of their temple, trusting that their conduct would be consonant with his wishes. This trust was not misplaced: for, when the Samaritans once more interfered and tried to induce the new king to put a stop to the work, the only result was a fresh edict, confirming the old decree of Cyrus, forbidding interference, and assigning a further grant of money, cattle, corn, etc., from the royal stores, for the furtherance of the pious undertaking.
Darius piercing rebel with lance
The Persian empire, like those of the Babylonians and Medes, had consisted hitherto of nothing but a fortuitous collection of provinces under military rule, of vassal kingdoms, and of semi-independent cities and tribes; there was no fixed division of authority, and no regular system of government for the outlying provinces. The governors assigned by Cyrus and Cambyses to rule the various provinces acquired by conquest, were actual viceroys, possessing full control of an army, and in some cases of a fleet as well, having at their disposal considerable revenues both in money and in kind, and habituated, owing to their distance from the capital, to settle pressing questions on their own responsibility, subject only to the necessity of making a report to the sovereign when the affair was concluded, or when the local resources were insufficient to bring it to a successful issue. For such free administrators the temptation must have been irresistible to break the last slender ties which bound them to the empire, and to set themselves up as independent monarchs. The two successive revolutions which had taken place in less than a year, convinced such governors, and the nations over which they bore rule, that the stately edifice erected by Cyrus and Cambyses was crumbling to pieces, and that the moment was propitious for each of them to carve out of its ruins a kingdom for himself; the news of the murder, rapidly propagated, sowed the seeds of revolt in its course in Susiana, at Babylon, in Media, in Parthia, in Margiana, among the Sattagydes, in Asia Minor, and even in Egypt itself
It may be suspected that the religious element entered into some of these struggles, and that the unusual number of the revolts and the obstinate character of many of them were connected with the downfall of Magism and the restoration of the pure Zoroastrian faith, which Darius was bent on effecting
Revolt of Babylon
A brief sketch of these various revolts must now be given. They commenced with a rising in Susa, where a certain Atrines assumed the name and state of king, and was supported by the people.
Almost simultaneously a pretender appeared in Babylon, who gave out that he was the son of the late king, Nabonidus, and bore the world-renowned name of Nebuchadnezzar III ). The Babylonians, who had at first welcomed Cyrus so warmly, and had fondly imagined that they had made him one of themselves, as they had made so many of their conquerors for centuries past, soon realised their mistake. The differences of language, manners, spirit, and religion between themselves and the Persians were too fundamental to allow of the naturalisation of the Persians .
Darius, regarding this second revolt as the more important of the two, while he dispatched a force to punish the Susianians, proceeded in person against the Babylonian pretender. Nebuchadrezzar had taken advantage of the few weeks which had elapsed since his accession, to garrison the same positions on the right bank of the Tigris, as Nabonidus had endeavoured to defend against Cyrus at the northern end of the fortifications erected by his ancestor. A well-equipped flotilla patrolled the river, and his lines presented so formidable a front that Darius could not venture on a direct attack. He arranged his troops in two divisions, which he mounted partly on horses, partly on camels, and eluding the vigilance of his adversary by attacking him simultaneously on many sides, succeeded in gaining the opposite bank of the river. The Babylonians, striving in vain to drive him back into the stream, were at length defeated , and they retired in good order on Babylon. Six days later, they fought a second battle at Zazanu, on the bank of the Euphrates, and were again totally defeated. Nebuchadrezzar escaped with a handful of cavalry, and hastened to shut himself up in his city. Darius soon followed him, but if he cherished a hope that the Babylonians would open their gates to him without further resistance, as they had done to Cyrus, he met with a disappointment, for he was compelled to commence a regular siege and suspend all other operations, and that, too, at a moment when the provinces were breaking out into open insurrection on every hand. However, Babylon was ill prepared for a siege, and was soon taken, the pretender falling into the hands of his enemy, who caused him to be executed.
Revolt in Susa
Meanwhile, in Susa, Atrines, the original leader of the rebellion, had been made prisoner by the troops sent against him, and, being brought to Darius while he was on his march against Babylon, was put to death. But this severity had little effect. A fresh leader appeared in the person of a certain Martes, a Persian who, taking example from the Babylonian rebel, assumed a name which connected him with the old kings of the country, and probably claimed to be their descendant, but the hands of Darius were now free by the termination of the Babylonian contest, and he was able to proceed towards Susiana himself. This movement, apparently, was unexpected; for when the Susianians heard of it they were so alarmed that they laid hands on the pretender and slew him.
Revolt in Media
A more important rebellion followed. Media, however, yielded unfortunately to the solicitations of a certain Xathrites, and its revolt marked almost the beginning of a total break-up of the empire. The memory of Astyages and Cyaxares had not yet faded so completely as to cause the Median nobles to relinquish the hope of reasserting the supremacy of Media; the opportunity for accomplishing this aim now seemed all the more favourable, from the fact that Darius had been obliged to leave this province almost immediately after the assassination of the Usurper, and to take from it all the troops that he could muster for the siege of Babylon. A Median monarch was set up, who called himself Xathrites, and claimed descent from the great Astyages. Several of the nomadic tribes still remained faithful to him, but all the settled inhabitants of Media ranged themselves under the banner of the pretender, and the spirit of insurrection spread thereupon into Armenia and Assyria Darius, seeing how formidable the revolt was, determined to act with caution.
Darius could not think of abandoning the siege of Babylon, and of thus both losing the fruits of his victories and seeing Nebuchadrezzar reappear in Assyria or Susiana. On the other hand, his army was a small one, and he would incur great risks in detaching any of his military chiefs for a campaign against the Mede with an insufficient force. He decided, however, to adopt the latter course, and while he himself presided over the blockade, he simultaneously dispatched two columns to Media, under the command of the Persian Vidarna, one of the seven; the other to Armenia, under the Armenian Darsh.
Vidarna, encountered Khshatrita near Marush, in the mountainous region of the old Namri, on the 27th of Anaka, and gave him battle; but though he claimed the victory, the result was so indecisive that he halted in Kambad at the entrance to the gorges of the Zagros mountains, and was there obliged to await reinforcements before advancing further. Darsh, on his side, gained three victories over the Armeniansne near Zuzza on the 8th of Thuravara, another at Tigra ten days later, and the third on the 2nd of Thagarshh, at a place not far from Uhyaut he also was compelled to suspend operations and remain inactive pending the arrival of fresh troops. Half the year was spent in inaction on either side, for the rebels had not suffered less than their opponents, and, while endeavouring to reorganise their forces, they opened negotiations with the provinces of the north-east with the view of prevailing on them to join their cause. Darius, still detained before Babylon, was unable to recommence hostilities until the end of 520 B.C. He sent Vaumisa to replace Darsh as the head of the army in Armenia, and the new general distinguished himself at the outset by winning a decisive victory on the 15th of Anaka, near Izitush in Assyria; but the effect which he hoped to secure from this success was neutralised almost immediately by grievous defections.
The rebels had hitherto been confronted by the local militia, brave but inexperienced troops, with whom they had been able to contend on a fairly equal footing: the entry into the field of the veteran regiments of Cyrus and Cambyses changed the aspect of affairs, and promptly brought the campaign to a successful issue. Darius entered Media by the defiles of Kerend, reinforced Vidarna in Kambad and crushed the enemy near the town of Kundurush, on the 20th of Adukanh, 519 B.C. Khshatrita fled towards the north with some few horsemen, doubtless hoping to reach the recesses of Mount Elburz, and to continue there the struggle; but he was captured at Bag and carried to Ecbatana. His horrible punishment was proportionate to the fear he had inspired: his nose, ears, and tongue were cut off, and his eyes gouged out, and in this mutilated condition he was placed in chains at the gate of the palace, to demonstrate to his former subjects how the Achenian' king could punish an impostor. When the people had laid this lesson sufficiently to heart, Khshatrita was impaled; many of his principal adherents were ranged around him and suffered the same fate, while the rest were decapitated as an example. Babylon and Media being thus successfully vanquished, the possession of the empire was assured to Darius, whatever might happen in other parts of his territory, and henceforth the process of repressing disaffection went on unchecked. Immediately after the decisive battle of Kundurush, Vaumisa accomplished the pacification of Armenia by a victory won near Autiya, and Artavardiya defeated Vahyazda for the first time at Eakh in Persia. Vahyazda had committed the mistake of dividing his forces and sending a portion of them to Arachosia. Viva, the governor of this province, twice crushed the invaders, and almost at the same time the Persian Darsh of Bactriana was triumphing over Frada and winning Margiana back to allegiance.
Revolt in Parthia and Hyrcania
The rebellion was thus crushed in its original seat, but it had still to be put down in the countries whereto it had extended itself. Parthia and Hyrcania, which had embraced the cause of the pretender, were still maintaining a conflict with their former governor, Hystaspes, Darius's father. Darius marched as far as Rhages to his father's assistance, and dispatched from that point a body of Persian troops to reinforce him. With this important aid Hystaspes once more gave the rebels battle, and succeeded in defeating them so entirely that they presently made their submission.
Revolt in Sagartia
Troubles, meanwhile, had broken out in Sagartia. A native chief, Tritantaechmes moved probably by the success which had for a while attended the Median rebel who claimed to rule as the descendant and representative of Cyaxares, came forward with similar pretensions, and was accepted by the Sargartians as their monarch. This revolt, however, proved unimportant. Darius suppressed it with the utmost facility by means of a mixed army of Persians and Medes, whom he placed under a Median leader, Tachamaspates. The pretender was captured and treated almost exactly in the same way as the Mede whose example he had followed. His nose and ears were cut off; he was chained for a while at the palace door; and finally he was crucified at Arbela.
Revolt in Bactria
During his absence in the provinces of the north-east Persia itself revolted against his authority, and acknowledged for king an impostor, Frada, who, undeterred by the fate of Gomates, and relying on the obscurity which still hung over the end of the real Smerdis, assumed his name, and claimed to be the legitimate occupant of the throne. The Persians at home were either deceived a second time, or were willing to try a change of ruler; but the army of Darius, composed of Persians and Medes, adhered to the banner under which they had so often marched to victory, and enabled Darius, after a struggle of some duration, to re-establish his sway. The impostor suffered two defeats at the hands of Artabardes, one of Darius's generals, while a force which he had detached to excite rebellion in Arachosia was engaged by the satrap of that province and completely routed. The so-called Smerdis was himself captured, and suffered the usual penalty of unsuccessful revolt, crucifixion.
Babylon Revolts Again
Before, however, these results were accomplished while the fortune of war still hung in the balance? fresh danger threatened. Encouraged by the disaffection which appeared to be so general, and which had at length reached the very citadel of the Empire, Babylon revolted for the second time. A man, named Aracus, an Armenian by descent, but settled in Babylonia, headed the insurrection, and, adopting the practice of personation so usual at the time, assumed the name and style of "Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabonidus." Less alarmed on this occasion than at the time of the first revolt, the king was content to send a Median general against the new pretender. This officer, who is called Intaphres, speedily chastised the rebels, capturing Babylon, and taking Aracus prisoner. Crucifixion was again the punishment awarded to the rebel leader.
The governor of Egypt
The governor of Egypt, Aryandes, had shown a guilty ambition in a more covert way. Understanding that Darius had issued a gold coinage of remarkable purity, he, on his own authority and without consulting the king, issued a silver coinage of a similar character. There is reason to believe that he even placed his name upon his coins; an act which to the Oriental mind distinctly implied a claim of independent sovereignty. Darius taxed him with a design to revolt, and put him to death on the charge, apparently without exciting any disturbance
After this Darius set himself to win the affection of his Egyptian province, or, at least, to render its servitude bearable. With a country so devout and so impressed with its own superiority over all other nations, the best means of accomplishing his object was to show profound respect for its national gods and its past glory. Darius, therefore, proceeded to shower favours on the priests, who had been subject to persecution ever since the disastrous campaign in Ethiopia. Cambyses had sent into exile in Elam the chief priest of Saishat Uza-harrni who had initiated him into the sacred rites; Darius gave permission to this important personage to return to his native land, and commissioned him to repair the damage inflicted by the madness of the son of Cyrus. Uzaharrni, escorted back with honour to his native city, re-established there the colleges of sacred scribes, and restored to the temple of the lands and revenues which had been confiscated. Greek tradition soon improved upon the national account of this episode, and asserted that Darius took an interest in the mysteries of Egyptian theology, and studied the sacred books, and that on his arrival at Memphis in 517 B.C., immediately after the death of an Apis, he took part publicly in the general mourning, and promised a reward of a hundred talents of gold to whosoever should discover the successor of the bull
The Behistun Inscription
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Video of the Behistun Inscription fast forward to 0:53
Behistun is Located along the ancient trade route linking the Iranian high tea with Mesopotamia and features remains from the prehistoric times to the Median, Achaemenid, Sassanian, and Ilkhanid Periods. The principal monument of this archaeological website is the bas-relief and cuneiform inscription ordered by Darius I .
Finally, the revolts put down and tranquility returned to the empire, Darius had the Behistun Inscription engraved to prove his legitimacy to the throne ( as being a descendant of Achaemenes " My father is Hystaspes; the father of Hystaspes was Arsames; the father of Arsames was Ariaramnes; the father of Ariaramnes was Teispes; the father of Teispes was Achaemenes ") and the overthrow of the pretender Gaumata. The Behistun Inscription is carved on cliff on the royal Road from Babylon and Ecbatana .The date of the Behistun Inscription is fixed by internal evidence to about B.C. 516-515 other words, to the fifth or sixth year of the reign of Darius. Its erection seems to mark the termination of the first period of the reign, or that of revolt, and the commencement of the second period, or that of tranquility, internal progress, and patronage of the fine arts by the monarch. It was written in three different cuneiform scripts : Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian .
Site Behistun Inscription at Bagastana
To the left of Darius are two servants,his bow carrier Intaphrenes and his lance carrier Gobryas . Darius is holding a royal bow ( also seen on Persian coins ) and the figure of Gaumata is underfoot . Nine representatives of the rebel leaders are to the right, with a Scythian in a pointed hat at the extreme right . Floating above is the god Ahura-Mazda.
Satrapies of the Persian Empire
Under his organizing genius the empire was divided into satrapies, each ruled by a satrap, whose powers were checked by a general and a secretary of State, all three officials reporting direct to the capital. Inspectors of the highest rank were also sent out in com- mand of strong bodies of troops to report on the satrap and other officials. The system prevented rebellions, and probably the satrap was not interfered with in his administration.
It was natural that Darius, having with so much effort and difficulty reduced the revolted provinces to obedience, should proceed to consider within himself how the recurrence of such a time of trouble might be prevented. His experience had shown him how weak were the ties which had hitherto been thought sufficient to hold the Empire together, and how slight an obstacle they opposed to the tendency, which all great empires have, to disruption. But, however natural it might be to desire a remedy for the evils which afflicted the State, it was not easy to devise one. Great empires had existed in Western Asia for above seven hundred years, and had all suffered more or less from the same inherent weakness; but no one had as yet invented a cure, or even conceived the idea of improving on the rude system of imperial sway which the first conqueror had instituted. It remained for Darius, not only to desire, but to design not only to design, but to bring into action entirely new form and type of government. He has been well called "the true founder of the Persian state." He found the Empire a crude and heterogeneous mass of ill-assorted elements, hanging loosely together by the single tie of subjection to a common head; he left it a compact and regularly organized body, united on a single well-ordered system, permanently established everywhere .
Satrap receiving an embassy of Greeks. Umbrella is symbol of royalty
It was the first, and probably the best, instance of that form of government which, taking its name from the Persian word for provincial ruler, is known generally as the system of "satrapial" administration. Its main principles were, in the first place, the reduction of the whole Empire to a quasi-uniformity by the substitution of one mode of governing for several; secondly, the substitution of fixed and definite burdens on the subject in lieu of variable and uncertain calls; and thirdly, the establishment of a variety of checks and counterpoises among the officials to whom it was necessary that the crown should delegate its powers, which tended greatly to the security of the monarch and the stability of the kingdom. A consideration of the modes in which these three principles were applied will bring before us in a convenient form the chief points of the system.
Uniformity, or a near approach to it, was produced, not so much by the abolition of differences as by adding one and the same governmental machinery in all parts of the Empire. He took care that each should preserve its own local dynasty, language, writing, customs, religion, and peculiar legislation, besides the right to coin money stamped with the name of its chief or its civic symbol. It is an essential feature of the satrapial system that it does not aim at destroying differences, or assimilating to one type the various races and countries over which it is extended. On the contrary, it allows, and indeed encourages, the several nations to retain their languages, habits, manners, religion, laws, and modes of local government. Only it takes care to place above all these things a paramount state authority, which is one and the same everywhere, whereon the unity of the kingdom is dependent. The authority instituted by Darius was that of his satraps. He divided the whole empire into a number of separate governments? number which must have varied at different times, but which seems never to have fallen short of twenty. Over each government he placed a satrap, or supreme civil governor, charged with the collection and transmission of the revenue, the administration of justice, the maintenance of order, and the general supervision of the territory. These satraps were nominated by the king at his pleasure from any class of his subjects, and held office for no definite term, but simply until recalled, being liable to deprivation or death at any moment .
Native magistrates and kings still bore sway in Phoenicia* and Cyprus, and the shahs of the desert preserved their authority over the marauding and semi-nomadic tribes of Idumasa, Nabatsea, Moab, and Ammon, and the wandering Bedouin on the Euphrates and the Khabur. Egypt, under Darius, remained what she had been under the Saitic and Ethiopian dynasties, a feudal state governed by a Pharaoh, who, though a foreigner, was yet reputed to be of the solar race; the land continued to be divided unequally into diverse principalities, Thebes still preserving its character as a theocracy under the guidance of the pallacide of Amon and her priestly counselors, while the other districts subsisted under military chieftains. Our information concerning the organisation of the central and eastern provinces is incomplete, but it is certain that here also the same system prevailed. In the years of peace which succeeded the troubled opening of his reign, that is, from 519 to 515 B.C., Darius divided the whole empire into satrapies, whose number varied at different periods of his reign from twenty to twenty-three, and even twenty-eight .
While, however, they remained in office they were despotic?hey represented the Great King, and were clothed with a portion of his majesty?hey had palaces, Courts, body-guards, parks or "paradises," vast trains of eunuchs and attendants, well-filled, seraglios. They wielded the power of life and death. They assessed the tribute on the several towns and villages within their jurisdiction at their pleasure, and appointed deputies allied sometimes, like themselves, satraps cities or districts within their province, whose office was regarded as one of great dignity. They exacted from the provincials, for their own support and that of their Court, over and above the tribute due to the crown, whatever sum they regarded them as capable of furnishing. Favors, and even justice, had to be purchased from them by gifts. They were sometimes guilty of gross outrages on the persons and honor of their subjects. Nothing restrained their tyranny but such sense of right as they might happen to possess, and the fear of removal or execution if the voice of complaint reached the monarch.
Reforms of the Army
Besides this uniform civil administration, the Empire was pervaded throughout by one and the same military system. The services of the subject nations as soldiers were, as a general rule, declined, unless upon rare and exceptional cases. Order was maintained by large and numerous garrisons of foreign troops Persians and Medes quartered on the inhabitants, who had little sympathy with those among whom they lived, and would be sure to repress sternly any outbreak. All places of much strength were occupied in this way; and special watch was kept upon the great capitals, which were likely to be centres of disaffection. Thus a great standing army, belonging to the conquering race, stood everywhere on guard throughout the Empire, offending the provincials no doubt by their pride, their violence, and their contemptuous bearing, but rendering a native revolt under ordinary circumstances hopeless. The Persian troops, native militia and auxiliary forces quartered in the province, were placed under the orders, moreover, of a general, who was usually hostile to the satrap and the secretary. These three officials counterbalanced each
The military organization of the empire was defective. Darius maintained an imperial body-guard, consisting of 2,000 cavalry and 2,000 infantry, below whom ranked the ten thousand ' Immortals '. This force of guards was supported by bodies of Persians and Medians, posted at various important centres, who might perhaps also claim to be considered as regular troops. In case of war, large numbers of untrained levies were assembled by each province, differing in language, equipment, and manner of fighting from one another. Such a force was necessarily unwieldy, and as will be seen, was unable to face comparatively small numbers of drilled and disciplined Greeks fighting in rugged ground suitable to their tactics.
The assessment of the taxation upon the different portions of his province was left to the satrap. We do not know on what principles he ordinarily proceeded, or whether any uniform principles at all were observed throughout the Empire. But we find some evidence that, in places at least, the mode of exaction and collection was by a land-tax. The assessment upon individuals, and the actual collection from them, devolved, in all probability, on the local authorities, who distributed the burthen imposed upon their town, village, or district as they thought proper. Thus the foreign oppressor did not come into direct contact with the mass of the conquered people, who no doubt paid the calls made upon them with less reluctance through the medium of their own proper magistrates.
If the taxation of the subject had stopped here, he would have had no just ground of complaint against his rulers. The population of the Empire cannot be estimated at less than forty millions of souls.
Unfortunately the Achaemenian monarchs hoarded much of the gold, -as a reserve in time of need, and thereby hindered the development of commerce.
Persian subjects in many parts of the Empire paid, besides their tribute, a water-rate, which is expressly said to have been very productive. The rivers of the Empire were the king's; and when water was required for irrigation, a state officer superintended the opening of the sluices, and regulated the amount of the precious fluid which might be drawn off by each tribe or township. For the opening of the sluices a large sum was paid to the officer, which found its way into the coffers of the state. Further, it appears that such things as fisheries and if so, probably salt-works, mines, quarries, and forests?ere regarded as crown property, and yielded large sums to the revenue. They appear to have been farmed to responsible persons, who undertook to pay at a certain fixed rate, and made what profit they could by the transaction. The price of commodities thus farmed would be greatly enhanced to the consumer
The condition of Persia Proper was also purely exceptional. Persia paid no tribute, and was not counted as a satrapy. Its inhabitants were, however, bound, when the king passed through their country, to bring him gifts according to their means. This burthen may have been felt sensibly by the rich, but it pressed very lightly on the poor, who, if they could not afford an ox or a sheep, might bring a little milk or cheese, a few dates, or a handful of wild fruit. On the other hand, the king was bound, whenever he visited Pasargadae, to present to each Persian woman who appeared before him a sum equal to twenty Attic drachmas, or about sixteen shillings of our money. This custom commemorated the service rendered by the sex in the battle wherein Cyrus first repulsed the forces of Astyages.
While the claims of the crown upon its subjects were definite and could not be exceeded, the satrap was at liberty to make any exactions that he pleased beyond them. There is every reason to believe that he received no stipend, and that, consequently, the burthen of supporting him, his body-guard, and his Court was intended to fall on the province which had the benefit of his superintendence. Like a Roman proconsul, he was to pay himself out of the pockets of his subjects; and, like that class of persons, he took care to pay himself highly.
This reform in the method of government was displeasing to the Persian nobles, whose liberty of action it was designed to curtail, and they took their revenge in sneering at the obedience they could not refuse to render. Cyrus, they said, had been a father, Cambyses a master, but Darius was only a peddler greedy of gain. The chief reason for this division of the empire into provinces was, indeed, fiscal rather than political: to arrange the incidence of taxation in his province, to collect the revenue in due time and forward the total amount to the imperial treasury, formed the fundamental duty of a satrap, to which all others had to yield.
The Kings Eyes and Ears: Checking Revolts
The control of its great officers is always the main difficulty of a despotic government, when it is extended over a large space of territory and embraces many millions of men. The system devised by Darius for checking and controlling his satraps was probably the best that has ever yet been brought into operation. His plan was to establish in every province at least three officers holding their authority directly from the crown, and only responsible to it, who would therefore act as checks one upon another.
These were the satrap, the military commandant, and the secretary. The satrap was charged with the civil administration, and especially with the department of finance. The commandant was supreme over the troops. The office of the secretary is less clearly defined; but it probably consisted mainly in keeping the Court informed by dispatches of all that went on in the province. Thus, if the satrap were inclined to revolt, he had, in the first place, to persuade the commandant, who would naturally think that, if he ran the risk, it might as well be for himself; and, further, he had to escape the lynx eyes of the secretary, whose general right of superintendence gave him entrance everywhere, and whose prospects of advancement would probably depend a good deal upon the diligence and success with which he discharged the office of "King's Eye" and "Ear." So, if the commandant were ambitious of independent sway, he must persuade the satrap, or he would have no money to pay his troops; and he too must blind the secretary, or else bribe him into silence. As for the secretary, having neither men nor money at his command, it was impossible that he should think of rebellion
But the precautions taken against revolt did not end here. Once a year, according to Xenophon, or more probably at irregular intervals, an officer came suddenly down from the Court with a commission to inspect a province. Such persons were frequently of royal rank, brothers or sons of the king. They were accompanied by an armed force, and were empowered to correct whatever was amiss in the province, and in case of necessity to report to the crown the insubordination or incompetency of its officers. If this system had been properly maintained, it is evident that it would have acted as a most powerful check upon misgovernment, and would have rendered revolt almost impossible
The Royal Road Network
In Darius's idea of government was included rapidity of communication. The Royal Road which ran from Sardes to Susa was kept in comparatively good order, with posts well supplied with horses established at every few miles. The distance was about 1,500 miles, and in view of the rapid movement of couriers in the east, dispatches were- probably received in fifteen days.
Regarding it as of the utmost importance that the orders of the Court should be speedily transmitted to the provincial governors, and that their reports and those of the royal secretaries should be received without needless delay, he established along the lines of routes already existing between the chief cities of the Empire a number of post-houses, placed at regular intervals, according to the estimated capacity of a horse to gallop at his best speed without stopping.
At each post-house were maintained, at the cost of the state, a number of couriers and several relays of horses. When a despatch was to be forwarded it was taken to the first post-house along the route, where a courier received it, and immediately mounting on horseback galloped with it to the next station. Here it was delivered to a new courier, who, mounted on a fresh horse, took it the next stage on its journey; and thus it passed from hand to hand till it reached its destination.
According to Xenophon, the messengers traveled by night as well as by day; and the conveyance was so rapid that some even compared it to the flight of birds. Excellent inns or caravanserais were to be found at every station; bridges or ferries were established upon all the streams; guard-houses occurred here and there, and the whole route was kept secure from the brigands who infested the Empire. Ordinary travelers were glad to pursue so convenient a line of march; it does not appear, however, that they could obtain the use of post-horses even when the government was in no need of them
The most celebrated of the post-roads was that which ran from Sardes to Susa through Lydia and Phrygia, crossing the Halys, traversing Cappadocia and Cilicia, and passing through Armenia and across the Euphrates, until at length, after passing through Mati and the country of the Coss0ns, it reached Elam. This main route was divided into one hundred and eleven stages, which were performed by couriers on horseback and partly in ferry-boats, in eighty-four days. Other routes, of which we have no particular information, led to Egypt, Media, Bactria, and India, and by their means the imperial officials in the capital were kept fully informed of all that took place in the most distant parts of the empire.
The coinage of Darius consisted, it is probable, both of a gold and silver issue. It is not perhaps altogether certain that he was the first king of Persia who coined money; but, if the term "daric" is really derived from his name, that alone would be a strong argument in favor of his claim to priority. In any case, it is indisputable that he was the first Persian king who coined on a large scale, and it is further certain that his gold coinage was regarded in later times as of peculiar value on account of its purity. His gold darics appear to have contained, on an average, not quite 124 grains of pure metal, which would make their value about twenty two shillings of our money. They were of the type usual at the time both in Lydia and in Greece flattened lumps of metal, very thick in comparison with the size of their surface, irregular, and rudely stamped. The silver darics were similar in general character, but exceeded the gold in size. Their weight was from 224 to 230 grains, and they would thus have been worth not quite three shillings of our money. It does not appear that any other kinds of coins besides these were ever issued from the Persian mint. They must, therefore, it would seem, have satisfied the commercial needs of the people.
The most ancient type of daric was thick and irregular in shape, and rudely stamped, but of remarkable fineness, the amount of alloy being never more than three per cent. The use of this coinage was nowhere obligatory, and it only became general in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, where it met the requirements of international traffic and political relations, and in the payment of the army and the navy. In the interior, the medium of exchange used in wholesale and retail commercial transactions continued to be metals estimated by weight, and the kings of Persia themselves preferred to store their revenues in the shape of bullion; as the metal was received at the royal treasury it was melted and poured into clay moulds, and was minted into money only gradually, according to the whim or necessity of the moment
Architectural Works of Darius
In the second period of his reign, that which followed on the time of trouble and disturbance, Darius (as has been already observed) appears to have pursued mainly the arts of peace. Bent on settling and consolidating his Empire, he set up everywhere the satrapial form of government, organized and established his posts, issued his coinage, watched over the administration of justice, and in various ways exhibited a love of order and method, and a genius for systematic arrangement. At the same time he devoted considerable attention to ornamental and architectural works, to sculpture, and to literary composition.
He founded the royal palace at Susa, which was the main residence of the later kings. Cyrus chose the site of Persepolis, but it was Darius who built the terrace and the great palaces. At Persepolis he certainly erected one very important building; and it is on the whole most probable that he designed he did not live to execute the Chehl Minor itself the chief of the magnificent structures upon the great central platform. The massive platform itself, with its grand and stately steps, is certainly of his erection, for it is inscribed with his name. He gave his works all the solidity and strength that is derivable from the use of huge blocks of a good hard material. He set the example of ornamenting the stepped approached to a palace with elaborate bas-relief's. He designed and caused to be constructed in his own lifetime the rock-tomb at Nakhsh-i-Rustam, in which his remains were afterwards laid .
From the Imperium Persarum map 1764
During this period of comparative peace, which may have extended from about B.C. 516 to B.C. 508 or 507, the general tranquility was interrupted by at least one important expedition. The administrational merits of Darius are so great that they have obscured his military glories, and have sent him down to posterity with the character of an unwarlike monarch
The first grand expedition was towards the East. Cyrus, as we have seen, had extended the Persian sway over the mountains of Afghanistan and the highlands from which flow the tributaries of the Upper Indus. From these eminences the Persian garrisons looked down on a territory possessing every quality that could attract a powerful conqueror. Fertile, well-watered, rich in gold, peopled by an ingenious yet warlike race, which would add strength no less than wealth to its subjugators, the Punjab lay at the foot of the Sufeid Koh and Suliman ranges, inviting the attack of those who could swoop down when they pleased upon the low country. It was against this region that Darius directed his first great aggressive effort. Having explored the course of the Indus from Attack to the sea by means of boats, and obtained, we may suppose, in this way some knowledge of the country and its inhabitants, he led or sent an expedition into the tract, which in a short time succeeded in completely reducing it. The Punjab, and probably the whole valley of the Indus, was annexed, and remained subject till the later times of the Empire. The results of this conquest were the acquisition of a brave race, capable of making excellent soldiers, an enormous increase of the revenue, a sudden and vast influx of gold into Persia, which led probably to the introduction of the gold coinage, and the establishment of commercial relations with the natives, which issued in a regular trade carried on by coasting-vessels between the mouths of the Indus and the Persian Gulf.
There has been no archaeological evidence of the Persian Empire in the Punjab region so far .
Scylax explores the Indus
From the Iranian plateau they beheld from afar the immense plain of the Hapta Hindu (or the Punjab). Darius invaded this territory, and made himself master of extensive districts which he formed into a new satrapy, that of India, but subsequently, renouncing all idea of pushing eastward as far as the Granges, he turned his steps towards the southeast. A fleet, constructed at Peuka and placed under the command of a Greek admiral, Scylax of Caryanda, descended the Indus by order of the king; subjugating the tribes who dwelt along the banks as he advanced, Scylax at length reached the ocean, on which he ventured forth, undismayed by the tides, and proceeded in a westerly direction, exploring, in less than thirty months, the shores of Gedrosia and Arabia.
The Gold Ants of India
According to Herodotus, in the Indian regions there are produced ants, which are in size smaller than dogs but larger than foxes, for there are some of them kept at the residence of the king of Persia, which are caught here. These ants then make their dwelling under ground and carry up the sand just in the same manner as the ants found in the land of the Hellenes, which they themselves also very much resemble in form; and the sand which is brought up contains gold. Such is the gear of the Indians and such their method of harnessing when they go after the gold. They go expressly at that hour of day that will allow them to be in their hunt for gold when the heat is greatest; for by reason of the heat the ants will have vanished underground. The Indians then come to the place with bags, and after they have filled their bags with sand, they make off for home as fast as they can. For, as the Persians say, the ants become aware of them by smell and pursue them. There is nothing quicker than these ants, and so, if the Indians did not get well ahead of them while the ants were collecting, not one of the men would escape alive.
In a 1996 New York Times article, the mystery of the 'gold digging ants 'may now be solved. In one of the most inaccessible regions of the Himalayas along the upper Indus River, a French ethnologist named Michel Peissel and other explorers say they found marmots throwing up gold-bearing soil from deep underground as they dig their burrows. It is also reported that the indigenous Minaro people living there say that for generations they have collected gold dust from the marmots' work. So why did Hotos and other ancient writers describe the furry marmots as ants? Peissel's favored explanation is that confusion set in because in Persian the word for marmot is equivalent to "mountain ant." In addition, marmots are unusually large in the Himalayas, with bushy fur and a large fox-like tail. They have razor-sharp teeth and claws. "They can be ferocious if one tampers with their burrows, which is just what the gold-seekers did," Peissel says .
War Council of Darius , Darius in Center
The next important expedition of probably of still greater magnitude took exactly the opposite direction. The sea which bounded the Persian dominion to the west and the north-west narrowed in two places to dimensions not much exceeding those of the greater Asiatic rivers. The eye which looked across the Thracian Bosphorus or the Hellespont seemed to itself to be merely contemplating the opposite bank of a pretty wide stream. Darius, consequently being master of Asia Minor, and separated by what seemed to him so poor a barrier from fertile tracts of vast and indeed indefinite extent, such as were nowhere else to be found on the borders of his empire, naturally turned his thoughts of conquest to this quarter. His immediate desire was, probably, to annex Thrace; but he may have already entertained wider views, and have looked to embracing in his dominions the lovely isles and coasts of Greece also, so making good the former threats of Cyrus on the right flank of an army marching into Europe a vast and formidable power of Scythia .
It is greatly to the credit of Darius that he saw this peril and took effectual measures to guard against it. The Scythian expedition was no insane project of a frantic despot, burning for revenge, or ambitious of an impossible conquest. It has all the appearance of being a well-laid plan, conceived by a moderate and wise prince, for the furtherance of a great design, and the permanent advantage of his empire. The lord of South-Western Asia was well aware of the existence beyond his northern frontier of a standing menace to his power. A century had not sufficed to wipe out the recollection of that terrible time when Scythian hordes had carried desolation far and wide over the fairest of the regions that were now under the Persian dominion. It was at any rate essential to strike terror into the hordes of the Steppe Region in order that Western Asia might attain a sense of security. It was still more essential to do so if the north-west was to become the scene of war, and the Persians were to make a vigorous effort to establish themselves permanently in Europe. Scythia, it must be remembered, reached to the banks of the Danube. An invader, who aspired to the conquest even of Thrace, was almost forced into collision with her next neighbor.
Darius crossed the Bosphorus 514B.C.
Darius, having determined on his course, prefaced his expedition by a raid, the object of which was undoubtedly to procure information. He ordered Ariaramnes, satrap of Cappadocia, to cross the Euxine with a small fleet, and, descending suddenly upon the Scythian coast, to carry off a number of prisoners. Ariaramnes executed the commission skillfully, and was so fortunate as to make prize of a native of high rank, the brother of a Scythian chief or king. From this person and his companions the Persian monarch was able to obtain all the information which he required. Thus enlightened, he proceeded to make his preparations. Collecting a fleet of 600 ships, chiefly from the Greeks of Asia, and an army estimated at from 700,000 to 800,000 men, which was made up of contingents from all the nations under his rule, he crossed the Bosphorus by a bridge of boats constructed by Mandrocles a Samian; marched through Thrace along the line of the Little Balkan, receiving the submission of the tribes as he went; crossed the Great Balkan; conquered the Getae, who dwelt between that range and the Danube; passed the Danube by a bridge, which the Ionian Greeks had made with their vessels just above the apex of the Delta; and so invaded Scythia. The natives had received intelligence of his approach, and had resolved not to risk a battle. They retired as he advanced, and endeavored to bring his army into difficulties by destroying the forage, driving off the cattle, and filling in the wells. But the commissariat of the Persians was, as usual, well arranged. Darius remained for more than two months in Scythia without incurring any important losses. He succeeded in parading before the eyes of the whole nation the immense military power of his empire. He no doubt inflicted considerable damage on the hordes, whose herds he must often have captured, and whose supplies of forage he curtailed. It is difficult to say how far he penetrated. Herodotus was informed that he marched east to the Tanais (Don), and thence north to the country of the Budini, where he burnt the staple of Gelonus, which cannot well have been below the fiftieth parallel, and was probably not far from Voronej. It is certainly astonishing that he should have ventured so far inland, and still more surprising that, having done so, he should have returned with his army well-nigh intact.
The expedition had not only failed to secure the submission of the Scythians, but apparently provoked reprisals on their part, and several of their bands penetrated ere long into the Chersonnesus. It nevertheless was not without solid result, for it showed that Darius, even if he could not succeed in subjugating the savage Danubian tribes, had but little to fear from them; it also secured for him a fresh province, that of Thrace, and, by the possession of Macedonia, brought his frontier into contact with Northern Greece. The overland route, in any case the more satisfactory of the two, was now in the hands of the invader.
It is beyond dispute that he returned with the bulk of his army, having suffered no loss but that of a few invalid troops whom he sacrificed. Attempts had been made during his absence to induce the Greeks, who guarded the bridge over the Danube, to break it, and so hinder his return; but they were unsuccessful. Darius recrossed the river after an interval of somewhat more than two months, victorious according to his own notions, and regarded himself as entitled thenceforth to enumerate among the subject races of his empire "the Scyths beyond the sea." On his return march through Thrace, he met, apparently, with no opposition. Before passing the Bosphorus, he gave a commission to one of his generals, a certain Megabazus, to complete the reduction of Thrace, and assigned him for the purpose a body of 80,000 men, who remained in Europe while Darius and the rest of his army crossed into Asia.
Megabazus appears to have been fully worthy of the trust reposed in him. In a single campaign (B.C. 506) he overran and subjugated the entire tract between the Propontis and the Strymon, thus pushing forward the Persian dominion to the borders of Macedonia. Among the tribes which he conquered were the Perinthians, Greeks; the Pseti, Cicones, Bistones, Sapaei, Dersaei and Edoni, Thracians; and the Paeoplae and Siripasones, Pseonians. These last, to gratify a whim of Darius, were transported into Asia. The Thracians who submitted were especially those of the coast, no attempt, apparently, being made to penetrate the mountain fastnesses and bring under subjection the tribes of the interior.
Megabazus in Macedonia
The first contact between Persia and Macedonia possesses peculiar interest from the circumstances of the later history. An ancestor of Alexander the Great sat upon the throne of Macedon when the general of Darius was brought in his career of conquest to the outskirts of the Macedonian power. The kingdom was at this time comparatively small, not extending much beyond Mount Bermius on the one hand, and not reaching very far to the east of the Axius on the other. Megabazus saw in it, we may be sure, not the fated destroyer of the Empire which he was extending, but a petty state which the mere sound of the Persian name would awe into subjection. He therefore, instead of invading the country, contented himself with sending an embassy, with a demand for earth and water, the symbols, according to Persian custom, of submission. Amyntas, the Macedonian king, consented, to the demand at once; and though, owing to insolent conduct on the part of the ambassadors, they were massacred with their whole retinue, yet this circumstance did not prevent the completion of Macedonian vassalage. When a second embassy was sent to inquire into the fate of the first, Alexander, the son of Amyntas, who had arranged the massacre, contrived to have the matter hushed up by bribing one of the envoys with a large sum of money and the hand of his sister, Gygsea. Macedonia took up the position of a subject kingdom, and owned for her true lord the great monarch of Western Asia.
Megabazus, having accomplished the task assigned him, proceeded to Sardis, where Darius had remained almost, if not quite, a full year His place was taken by Otanes, the son of Sisamnes, a different person from the conspirator, who rounded off the Persian conquests in these parts by reducing, probably in B.C. 505, the cities of Byzantium, Chalcedon, Antandrus, and Lamponium, with the two adjacent islands of Letnnos and Imbrus. The inhabitants of all were, it appears, taxable, either with having failed to give contingents towards the Scythian expedition, or with having molested it on its return?rimes these, which Otanes thought it right to punish by their general enslavement.
Darius in Susa
Darius, meanwhile, had proceeded to the seat of government, which appears at this time to have been Susa. He had perhaps already built there the great palace, whose remains have been recently disinterred by English enterprise; or he may have wished to superintend the work of construction. Susa, which was certainly from henceforth the main Persian capital, possessed advantages over almost any other site. Its climate was softer than that of Ecbatana and Persepolis, less sultry than that of Babylon. Its position was convenient for communicating both with the East and with the West.
The Ionian Revolt
The presence of Darius in Asia Minor, and his friendliness towards the tyrants who bore sway in most of the Greek cities, were calculated to elate those persons in their own esteem, and to encourage in them habits and acts injurious or offensive to their subjects. Their tyranny under these circumstances would become more oppressive and galling. At the same time the popular mind could not fail to associate together the native despot and the foreign lord, who (it was clear to all) supported and befriended each other. If the Greeks of Asia, like so many of their brethren in Europe, had grown weary of their tyrants and were desirous of rising against them, they would be compelled to contemplate the chances of a successful resistance to the Persians. And here there were circumstances in the recent history calculated to inspirit them and give them hopes. Six hundred Greek ships, manned probably by 120,000 men, had been lately brought together, and had formed a united fleet. The fate of the Persian land-army had depended on their fidelity. It is not surprising that a sense of strength should have been developed, and something like a national spirit should have grown up in such a condition of things.
Darius thought that when satraps should rule over the European as well as over the Asiatic coasts of the Aegean, all these turbulent Greeks would be forced to live at peace with one another and in awe of the sovereign, as far as their fickle nature would allow. It was not then, as is still asserted, the mere caprice of a despot which brought upon the Greek world the scourge of the Persian wars, but the imperious necessity of security, which obliges well-organised empires to subjugate in turn all the tribes and cities which cause constant trouble on its frontiers. Darius, who was already ruler of a good third of the Hellenic world, from Trebizond to Barca, saw no other means of keeping what he already possessed, and of putting a stop to the incessant fomentation of rebellion in his own territories, than to conquer the mother-country as he had conquered the colonies, and to reduce to subjection the whole of European Hellas.
In the original revolt appear to have been included only the cities of Ionia and AEolis. Aristagoras ( Aristagoras was the leader of Miletus ). felt that some further strength was needed, and determined to seek it in European Greece. Repulsed from Sparta, which was disinclined to so distant an expedition, he applied for aid to cities on which he had a special claim. Miletus counted Athens as her mother state; and Eretria was indebted to her for assistance in her great war with Chalcis. Applying in these quarters Aristagoras succeeded better, but still obtained no very important help. Athens voted him twenty ships, Eretria five and with the promise of these succors he hastened back to Asia.
Sack of Sardis 502 B.C.
The European contingent soon afterwards arrived; and Aristagoras, anxious to gain some signal success which should attract men to his cause, determined on a most daring enterprise. This was no less than an attack on Sardis, the chief seat of the Persian power in these parts, and by far the most important city of Asia Minor. Sailing to Ephesus, he marched up the valley of the Cayster, crossed Mount Tmolus, and took the Lydian capital at the first onset. Artaphernes, the satrap, was only able to save the citadel; the invaders began to plunder the town, and in the confusion it caught fire and was burnt. Aristagoras and his troops hastily retreated, but were overtaken before they could reach Ephesus by the Persians quartered in the province, who fell upon them and gave them a severe defeat. The expedition then broke up; the Asiatic Greeks dispersed among their cities; the Athenians and Eretrians took ship and sailed home.
Results followed that could scarcely have been anticipated. The failure of the expedition was swallowed up in the glory of its one achievement. It had taken Sardis had burnt one of the chief cities of the Great King. The news spread like wildfire on every side, and was proclaimed aloud in places where the defeat of Ephesus was never even whispered. Everywhere revolt burst out. The Greeks of the Hellespont not only those of Asia but likewise those of Europe the Carians and Caunians of the south-western coast the distant Cyprians broke into rebellion; the Scythians took heart and made a plundering raid through the Great King's Thracian territories;4 vassal monarchs, like Miltiades, assumed independence, and helped themselves to some of the fragments of the Empire that seemed falling to pieces. If a great man, a Miltiades or a Leondias, had been at the head of the movement, and if it had been decently supported from the European side, a successful issue might probably have been secured.
Sack of Miletus
But Aristagoras was unequal to the occasion; and the struggle for independence, which had promised so fair, was soon put down. Despite a naval victory gained by the Greeks over the Phoenician fleet off Cyprus, that island was recovered by the Persians within a year. Despite a courage and a perseverance worthy of a better fate, the Carians were soon afterwards forced to succumb. The reduction of the Hellespontine Greeks and of the AEolians followed. The toils now closed around Ionia, and her cities began to be attacked one by one; whereupon the incapable Aristagoras, deserting the falling cause, betook himself to Europe, where a just Nemesis pursued him: he died by a Thracian sword. After this the climax soon arrived.
Persia concentrated her strength upon Miletus, the cradle of the revolt, and the acknowledged chief of the cities; and though her sister states came gallantly to her aid, and a fleet was collected which made it for a while doubtful which way victory might incline, yet all was of no avail. Laziness and insubordination began and treachery completed the work which all the force of Persia might have failed to accomplish; the combined Ionian fleet was totally defeated in the battle of Lade; and soon after Miletus herself fell. The bulk of her inhabitants were transported into inner Asia and settled upon the Persian Gulf. The whole Ionian coast was ravaged, and the cities punished by the loss of their most beautiful maidens and youths. The islands off the coast were swept of their inhabitants. The cities on the Hellespont and Sea of Marmora were burnt. Miltiades barely escaped from the Chersonese with the loss of his son and his kingdom. The flames of rebellion were everywhere ruthlessly trampled out; and the power of the Great King was once more firmly established over the coasts and islands of the Propontis and the AEgean Sea.
Caria was reconquered during the winter of 494-493, and by the early part of 493, Chios, Lesbos, Tenedos, the cities of the Chersonnesus and of Propontis short, all which yet held out?ere reduced to obedience. Artaphernes reorganised his vanquished states entirely in the interest of Persia. He did not interfere with the constitutions of the several republics, but he reinstated the tyrants. He regulated and augmented the various tributes, prohibited private wars, and gave to the satrap the right of disposing of all quarrels at his own tribunal. The measures which he adopted had long after his day the force of law among the Asiatic Greeks, and it was by them they regulated their relations with the representatives of the great king.
Darius seeks vengeance
It remained, however, to take vengeance upon the foreigners who had dared to lend their aid to the king's revolted subjects, and had borne a part in the burning of Sardis. The pride of the Persians felt such interference as an insult of the grossest kind: and the tale may well be true that Darius, from the time that he first heard the news, employed an officer to bid him daily "remember Athens." The schemes which he had formerly entertained with respect to the reduction of Greece recurred with fresh force to his mind; and the task of crushing the revolt was no sooner completed than he proceeded to attempt their execution. Selecting Mardonius, son of Gobryas the conspirator, and one of his own sons-in-law, for general, he gave him the command of a powerful expedition, which was to advance by way of Thrace, Macedonia, and Thessaly, against Eretria and Athens. At the same time, with a wisdom which we should scarcely have expected in an Oriental, he commissioned him, ere he quitted Asia, to depose the tyrants who bore rule in the Greek cities, and to allow the establishment of democracies in their stead. Such a measure was excellently calculated to preserve the fidelity of the Hellenic population and to prevent any renewal of disturbance. It gave ample employment to unquiet spirits by opening to them a career in their own states and it removed the grievance which, more than anything else, had produced the recent rebellion.
Mardonius having effected this change proceeded into Europe. He had a large land force and a powerful navy, and at first was successful both by land and sea. The fleet took Thasos, an island valuable for its mines; and the army forced the Macedonians to exchange their position of semi-independence for that of full Persian subjects, liable to both tribute and military service. But this fair dawn was soon overcast. As the fleet was rounding Athos a terrible tempest arose which, destroyed 300 triremes and more than 20,000 men, some of whom were devoured by sea-monsters, while the remainder perished by drowning. On shore, a night attack of the Brygi, a Thracian tribe dwelling in the tract between the Strymon and the Axius, brought disaster upon the land force, numbers of which were slain, while Mardonius himself received a wound. This disgrace, indeed, was retrieved by subsequent operations, which forced the Brygi to make their submission; but the expedition found itself in no condition to advance further, and Mardonius retreated into Asia .
The Greco-Persian Wars: Mardonius' Campaign
The treatment of the Persian Envoys to Athens and Persia
The envoys of Darius
During the two year interval between invasions Darius sent envoys to the Greek city-states. The envoys, as was the custom, asked for "earth and water" as a token of submission. Many of the Greek city-states submitted but many did not, including the two most important, Sparta and Athens. The Athenians threw the envoys off the Acropolis and the Spartans threw them down a well where there was plenty of "earth and water". The Athenians even executed the unfortunate translator of the Persian demand for defiling the Greek language. This was major breech of convention even for ancient times . Herodotus considers this and the destruction of temples a major affront to the gods, which was made up for by the sacking of Athens later .
Darius renews his attack
Darius, however, did not allow failure to turn him from his purpose. The attack of Mardonius was followed within two years by the well-known expedition under Datis (B.C. 490), which, avoiding the dangers of Athos, sailed direct to its object, crossing the AEgean by the line of the Cyclades, and falling upon Eretria and Attica.
He therefore decided to direct his next expedition against Athens itself, and he employed the year 491 in concentrating his troops and triremes in Cilicia, at a sufficient distance from the European coast to ensure their safety from any sudden attack. In the spring of 490 the army recruited from among the most warlike nations of the empire?he Persians, Medes, and Sakseent aboard the Phoenician fleet, while galleys built on a special model were used as transports for the cavalry.
The entire convoy sailed safely out of the mouth of the Pyramos to the port of Samos, coasting the shores of Asia Minor, and then passing through the Cyclades, from Samos to Naxos, where they met with no opposition from the inhabitants, headed for Delos, where Datis offered a sacrifice to Apollo, whom he confused with his god Mithra; finally they reached Eub, where Eretria and Carystos vainly endeavoured to hold their own against them.
Eretria was reduced to ashes, as Sardes had been, and such of its citizens as had not fled into the mountains at the enemy's approach were sent into exile among the Kissians in the township of Arderikka.Eretria's punishment warned the Athenians to resist to the uttermost; and the skill of Miltiades, backed by the valor of his countrymen, gave to Athens the great victory of Marathon.
Decisive Battles Marathon, 490 B.C.
Hippias ( exiled tyrant of Athens ) meanwhile had joined the Persians and had been taken into their confidence, the Persians threatened to attack Athens if they did not accept Hippias, but Athenians preferred to remain democratic despite the danger from Persia .While awaiting the result of the intrigues of his partisans in Athens, he had advised Datis to land on the eastern coast of Attica, in the neighbourhood of Marathon, at the very place from whence his father Pisistratus had set out forty years before to return to his country after his first exile. The position was well chosen for the expected engagement.
The bay and the strand which bordered it afforded an excellent station for the fleet, and the plain, in spite of its marshes and brushwood, was one of those rare spots where cavalry might be called into play without serious drawbacks. A few hours on foot would bring the bulk of the infantry up to the Acropolis by a fairly good road, while by the same time the fleet would be able to reach the roadstead of Phalerum. All had been arranged beforehand for concerted action when the expected rising should take place; but it never did take place, and instead of the friends whom the Persians expected, an armed force presented itself, commanded by the polemarch Callimachus and the ten strategi, among whom figured the famous Miltiades. At the first news of the disembarkation of the enemy, the republic had dispatched the messenger Phidippides to Sparta to beg for immediate assistance, and in the mean time had sent forward all her able-bodied troops to meet the invaders. They comprised about 10,000 hoplites ( A heavily armed foot soldier of ancient Greece ), accompanied, as was customary, by nearly as many more light infantry, who were shortly reinforced by 1000 Plat?ns. They encamped in the valley of Avlona, around a small temple of Heracles, in a position commanding the roads into the interior, and from whence they could watch the enemy without exposing themselves to an unexpected attack.
The two armies watched each other for a fortnight, Datis expecting a popular outbreak which would render an engagement unnecessary, Miltiades waiting patiently till the Lacedaemonians had come up, or till some false move on the part of his opponent gave him the opportunity of risking a decisive action. What took place at the end of this time is uncertain. Whether Datis grew tired of inaction, or whether he suddenly resolved to send part of his forces by sea, so as to land on the neighbouring shore of Athens, and Miltiades fell upon his rear when only half his men had got on board the fleet, is not known.
Rush of the Greeks
At any rate, Miltiades, with the Platans on his left, set his battalions in movement without warning, and charged the enemy with a rush. The Persians and the Sakae broke the centre of the line, but the two wings, after having dispersed the assailants on their front, wheeled round upon them and overcame them: 6000 barbarians were left dead upon the field as against some 200 Athenians and Platans, but by dint of their valiant efforts the remainder managed to save the fleet with a loss of only seven galleys. Datis anchored that evening off the island of Agilia, and at the same moment the victorious army perceived a signal hoisted on the heights of Pentelicus apparently to attract his attention; when he set sail the next morning and, instead of turning eastwards, proceeded to double Cape Sunion, Miltiades had no longer any doubt that treachery was at work, and returned to Athens by forced marches. Datis, on entering the roads of Phalerum, found the shore defended, and the army that he had left at Marathon encamped upon the Cynosargi He cruised about for a few hours in sight of the shore, and finding no movement made to encourage him to land, he turned his vessels about and set sail for Ionia.
The material loss to the Persians was inconsiderable, for even the Cyclades remained under their authority; Miltiades, who endeavoured to retake them, met with a reverse before Paros, and the Athenians, disappointed by his unsuccessful attempt, made no further efforts to regain them. The moral effect of the victory on Greece and the empire was extraordinary.
Up till then the Median soldiers had been believed to be the only invincible troops in the world; the sight of them alone excited dread in the bravest hearts, and their name was received everywhere with reverential awe. But now a handful of hoplites from one of the towns of the continent, and that not the most renowned for its prowess, without cavalry or bowmen, had rushed upon and overthrown the most terrible of all Oriental battalions, the Persians and the Sakae Darius could not put up with such an affront without incurring the risk of losing his prestige with the people of Asia and Europe, who up till then had believed him all-powerful, and of thus exposing himself to the possibility of revolutions in recently subdued countries, such as Egypt, which had always retained the memory of her past greatness.
Herodotus writes that " As long as the Athenians were ruled by tyrants, they had no better success at war than their neighbors, under the relatively new form of democratic government, they became the finest fighters in the world." Men fighting for their freedom ( GK. eleutheria ) have a more compelling reason to fight than those who are only slaves ( Persian bandaka ) of the king .
In the interest of his own power, as well as to soothe his wounded pride, a renewed attack was imperative, and this time it must be launched with such dash and vigour that all resistance would be at once swept before it. Events had shown him that the influence of the Pisistratid had not been strong enough to secure for him the opening of the gates of Athens, and that the sea route did not permit of his concentrating an adequate force of cavalry and infantry on the field of battle; he therefore reverted to the project of an expedition by the overland route, skirting the coasts of Thrace and Macedonia.
Revolt of Egypt
During three years he collected arms, provisions, horses, men, and vessels, and was ready to commence hostilities in the spring of 487, when affairs in Egypt prevented him. This country had undeniably prospered under his suzerainty. It formed, with Cyrene and the coast of Libya, the sixth of his satrapies, to which were attached the neighbouring Nubian tribes of the southern frontier. The Persian satrap, installed at the White Wall in the ancient palace of the Pharaohs, was supported by an army of 120,000 men, who occupied the three entrenched camps of the Saitesaphn and Marea on the confines of the Delta, and Elephantin in the south.
Darius was generous in his gifts to the gods, and even towns as obscure as Edfu was then received from him grants of money and lands. The Egyptians at first were full of gratitude for the favours shown them, but the news of the defeat at Marathon, and the taxes with which the Susian court burdened them in order to make provision for the new war with Greece, aroused a deep-seated discontent, at all events amongst those who, living in the Delta, had their patriotism or their interests most affected by the downfall of the Saite dynasty. It would appear that the priests of Buto, whose oracles exercised an indisputable influence alike over Greeks and natives, had energetically incited the people to revolt. The storm broke in 486, and a certain Khabbisha, who perhaps belonged to the family of Psammetichus, proclaimed himself king both at Sais and Memphis
Darius did not believe the revolt to be of sufficient gravity to delay his plans for any length of time. He hastily assembled a second army, and was about to commence hostilities on the banks of the Nile simultaneously with those on the Hellespont, when he died in 485, in the thirty-sixth year of his reign.
Darius plans to attack yet again, Death of Darius
Still Darius was not shaken in his resolution. He only issued fresh orders for the collection of men, ships, and materials. For three years Asia resounded with the din of preparation; and it is probable that in the fourth year a fresh expedition would have been led into Greece, had not an important occurrence prevented it. Egypt, always discontented with its subject position under a race which despised its religion, and perhaps occasionally persecuted it, broke out into open revolt (B.C. 487). Darius, it seems, determined to divide his forces, and proceed simultaneously against both enemies; he even contemplated leading one of the two expeditions in person; but before his preparations were completed his vital powers failed. He died in the year following the Egyptian revolt (B.C. 486), in the sixty-third year of his age, and the thirty-sixth of his reign, leaving his crown to his eldest son by Atossa, Xerxes.
Tomb of Darius, a little north of Persopolis
Tomb of Darius
The character of Darius
Darius Hystaspis was, next to Cyrus, the greatest of the Persian kings; and he was even superior to Cyrus in some particulars. His military talent has been underrated. Though not equal to the founder of the Empire in this respect, he deserves the credit of energy, vigor, foresight, and judicious management in his military expeditions, of promptness in resolving and ability in executing, of discrimination in the selection of generals, and of a power of combination not often found in Oriental commanders.
Darius was personally brave, and quite willing to expose himself, even in his old age, to dangers and hardships. But he did not unnecessarily thrust himself into peril. He was content to employ generals, where the task to be accomplished did not seem to be beyond their powers; and he appears to have been quite free from an unworthy jealousy of their successes. He was a man of kindly and warm feeling strongly attached to his friends; he was clement and even generous towards conquered foes.
When he thought the occasion required it, he could be severe but his inclination was towards mildness and indulgence. He excelled all the other Persian kings in the arts of peace. To him, and him alone, the Empire owed its organization. He was a skilful administrator, a good financier, and a wise and far-seeing ruler. Of all the Persian princes he is the only one who can be called "many-sided." He was organizer, general, statesman, administrator, builder, patron of arts and literature, all in one. Without him Persia would probably have sunk as rapidly as she rose, and would be known to us only as one of the many meteor powers which have shot athwart the horizon of the East.