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Darius

Darius

 

DariusDarius, the first of that name who became King of Persia, was the son of Hystaspes, a Persian nobleman of the royal family of the Achalmenides. According to the great cuneiform inscription of King Darius, sculptured on the mountain-wall at Behistun, his father, Hystaspes, was entmsted with the satmpy of Hyrcania and Parthia by King Cambyses. He gives the genealogy of his own family thus:

 1,Achaemenes 2,Teispes 3.Cyrus 4.Cambyses 5.Cyrus The Great 6.Cambyses 7.Ariarame  8.Arsanes(Hystaspes)9.Darius.

 

Immediately after Darius assumed the sceptre of Persia (B.C. 521), Babylon revolted uuder Nidintabel, a pretender, who called himself "Nabuchadnezzar the son of Nabonidus," the last Babylonian king. Darius overthrew the pretender in two battles at Zazan and laid siege to the city. It was taken June B.C. 519 after a blockade of nearly two years, the Persians penetrating iuto the city during a festival, by marching along the dry channel of the Euphrates. Nidintabel was captured and executed. It is this siege and capture which Herodotus transfers to the age of Cyrus.  

 

Legends soon gathered around the events attending the capture of Babylon. A favorite story relates that Darius, on arriving at Babylon, found that the inhabitants had cut canals, filled their magazines and granaries. In the course of twenty months the Persians were no further advanced than on the first day. At last, when they were utterly disheartened, Zopyrus, a noble Persian, sacrificed himself to assure them the victory. Cutting off his nose and ears, he fled into the city and pretended to be a fugitive from the cruelty of the Persian King. Being entrusted with a command, he led some sorties of the besieged and gained some advantages. When he had thus sufficiently won the confidence of the Babylonians to be placed in charge of the walls, he opened two of the gates for the entrance of his countrymen, who thus became masters of the city. By the order of the king three thousand Babylonians were impaled, the walls were leveled to the ground, and the eity repeopled with foreign colonists. All antiquity applauded the setf.sacrificing treachery of Zopyrus, on the word of Herodotus.

 

Parthia and Hyrcania revolted under the lead of a certain Phraortes, and Darius had great difficulty in suppressing the rebellion. Suddenly quitting Babylon, he penetrated Media, and threw himself fiercely upon the enemy. Phraortes fled towards the mountains in the North, but was afterwards captured. His chastisement was atrocious, his nose and ears and tongue were cut off; his eyes were torn from their sockets; finally he was impaled. Of his principal partisans, some were impaled, and others beheaded. But it seems that one war engendered another: the ephemeral success of a second false Bardes evoked a second false Nebuchadnezzar. Darius had hardly left Babylon when an Annenian, Aracha, gave himself out as the son of Nabonidus. A general of Darius, however, vanquished and executed him (B.C.513).      

 

Having vanquished all these rebels, Darius at last had opportunity to exhibit to the world his remarkable genius for organization. For the first time in history centralization became a political fact. Hitherto the Great King had not concerned himself to suppress the local dynasties, but rather enconraged the people to maintain their language,customs, religion, laws, and all their particular constitutions. The Jews had pennission to finish the collstnlctiou of their Temple; the Greeks of Asia retrained their various governments, Phoenicia retained its kings and judges, Egypt its hereditary monarchs. But above these local authorities there was a power unique, superior to all and everywhere the same. The King was tbe source of all authority. "It is true that a council, consisting of seven nobles, and a hereditary subnobility, sat without the will of the king; but this relic of a period when Persia had not yet become an empire had little power or influence agaillst the bureaucracy, the members of which owed their offices to all irresponsible despot. The centralization of Persia stands in marked contrast to the decentralization of Greece.

 

The Persian empire was divided into twenty-three satra. pies. Each satrap was responsible for a fixed tribute, but. beyond that he enjoyed the full power of a king. It was of
course the interest of the crown to prevent the provinces from being exhausted. The danger to the government caused by the power of the satrap and his distance from the central authority was diminished in several ways. Royal scribes were employed to send reports of the satraps and of their actions to the king. At irregular times an officer of the
court came to inspect the province. It seems also that the important fortresses were always entrusted to an independent officer. But on the frontiers of the empire necessarily the offices of satrap and commander were often united in the one person for the purpose of prompt suppression of popular disturbances. These three rivals, satrap, scribe, general, balanced and held each other in check so as to make a revolt of either if not impossible, at least difficult.

 

Despite some defects of detail, the fiscal system introduced by Darius conduced to the stability of the government. No more was the death of each king the signal for revolts in the provinces, which occupied the greater parrt of the reign of the successor in suppressing. Darius not only had the glory of organizing the Persian empire he invented a form of government which served thereafter as a model for the great Oriental States. His renown as an administrator has even overshadowed his military fame. By reason of its previous conquests, Persia had now issue for its energies only in two directions, on the east into India, on the west into Greece.

 

About 512 B.C., Darius invaded the Punjab in Northern India and acquired extensive territory, of which he fanned a new satrapy. Declining to push his conquests further east, he had a fleet constructed and placed under the orders of Scylax, a Greek admiral, who descended the Indus river to its mouth. Hence he set sail westward, and arrived in less
than thirty months at the coast of Arabia. Darius next directed his attention to securing his northwest frontier. The coast of the Dlack Sea was explored, the Dosphorus was
bridged, and the steppes of Southern Russia were swept by the Persian army. Meanwhile Thrace had been reduced, and Macedonia made a tributary kingdom.

 

But in 501 B.C. came the Ionic revolt, when Sardis was burnt by the Athenians. Darius, bent on vengeance, no longer delayed to lislen to Hippias, the exiled tyrant of Athens. He sent envoys to demand the submission of Athells and the restoration of the tyrant When satisfaction was refused, Mardonius was sent against the offending city with a large army. But his fleet was wrecked off Mount Athas. Two years later (B.C 490) the Persian army under Datis was again hurled against Attica; but Athenian valor at Marathon drove back the power hitherto held invincible, and saved Greece. For three years Asia was astir with preparations for crushing the audacious Atheuians. Fortunately for Atheus, Egypt now revoited (B.C. 487) and diverted the blow which would have fallen upon Greece. Before the Egyptian revolt could be suppressed Darius died, in the sixty.third year of his age and the thirty-sixth of his reign (B.C 486).

 

Darius

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