Darius I.

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Drawing of the Darius figure with inscription (ΔΑΡΕΙΟΣ, top right) from the “ Perservase ” by the Apulian Darius painter ; around 340/20 BC Chr.

Dareios I (New Persian داریوش, DMG Dāriyūš , Old Persian Dārayavauš , Babylonian Dariamuš , Elamish Dariyamauiš , Aramaic Dryhwš or Biblical Aramaic דַּרְיָוֶשׁ Darjaweš , ancient Greek Δαρεῖος , Latin Darius ; * 549 BC Chr .; † 486 BC BC), often also called Darius the Great , was from 522 BC. Chr. Great King of the Persian Achaemenid Empire and the ninth king of the dynasty of Achaemenids. Its Persian name means "maintaining the good".

Along with Cyrus the Great, Darius I is considered the most important great king of the ancient Persian Empire. One of the achievements that contribute to this assessment is the renewal of the imperial structures. His administrative reforms were regarded as exemplary long after the end of the Achaemenid Empire; perhaps they even influenced the organization of the Roman Empire . He also promoted the arts, especially architecture. The founding of Persepolis and the construction activity in other residential cities, especially in Susa, bear witness to this .

Primary sources

Persian sources

There are numerous archaeological sources for the reign of Darius. The justification report in Bisutun as well as numerous inscriptions from all over the empire testify to his political work. There are also numerous ruins in Persepolis, Pasargadae, Naqsch-e Rostam, Susa, Babylon and other places, from which indications of the administration of the Persian Empire at its time can be obtained; the most important here are the administrative notes from Persepolis in the form of clay tablets in Elamite .

Greek sources

The histories of Herodotus cover the entire reign of Dareios, but must be viewed critically. In addition, Darius is described in the drama The Persians by Aeschylus . It reflects the contemporary Greek image of Darius; this is where Dareios' probable motives for his wars of conquest become apparent. It is also occasionally mentioned by other ancient Greek authors.


The book of Ezra (chapter 6, verse 1) of the Tanach describes the decree and precise instructions for the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple . His completion and inauguration in the sixth year of Darius reign (March 515 BC) are mentioned (chapter 6, verse 15). An alleged correspondence between Cyrus and Darius and King Ahasuerus (Artaxerxes - Darius' grandson) is described (chapter 4, verse 7), during whose reign Ezra and Nehemiah came to Jerusalem. The generous financing of the temple construction brought Darius and his successors the support of the Jewish priesthood. Darius I is said to be identical to Darius the Medes mentioned in the book of Daniel (chapter 6, verse 29) , who after the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus II became king of the Chaldeans instead of Belšazar ; at the specified time, however, he was not yet in power.

Life and domination

Descent and youth

Darius I was born around 549 BC. Born as the son of Hystaspes . Hystaspes, governor of Parthia under the Persian kings Cyrus II and Cambyses II , came from the Persian Achaemenid family. Like all sons of princes, Dareios I received a court education.

Lineage of Dareios I according to the Behistun inscription

The climb

From Cambyses II he was raised to his personal lance bearer . In this capacity Darius accompanied him in 522 BC. On his campaign against Egypt . There Cambyses is said to have learned that in the Persian heartland, in the capital Ekbatana , his brother Bardiya (Greek: Smerdis) had risen against him. Cambyses doubted the brother's betrayal and had reason to suspect his murder. He left immediately to quell the uprising, but died while retreating, presumably in an accident; Herodotus also suggests the possibility of an assassination attempt.

There are two versions of the following events: The official version, which is based on Dareios' own representation in the rock inscription of Bisutun / Behistun , and which was also adopted by Herodotus, is the following:

In order to avenge Cambyses, Darius returned to Persia and was able to win six friends from his youth for the overthrow of the "false Bardiya", a certain Gaumata , brother of the governor Oropastes . In the nearby Ekbatana fortress Sikayawautish he met Gaumata and killed him. As supposedly the last direct male descendant of the Achaemenid line next to his father Hystaspes and his grandfather Arshama I , who both renounced the royal dignity, Darius saw himself as the rightful successor of Cambyses. With this justification he was crowned Great King in Pasargadae , the ceremonial capital of the empire, despite opposition. To further legitimize his rule, he married Atossa , a daughter of Cyrus, who would bear him a worthy heir to the throne.

This story of the “false Bardiya”, which was already questioned in antiquity, no longer holds up to the skepticism of ancient historians Pierre Briant , Fritz Gschnitzer , Robert Rollinger , Alexander Demandt , Maria Brosius and Josef Wiesehöfer . Today it is assumed that Dareios had the story spread in order to subsequently legitimize his accession to the throne as the savior of the empire. It is particularly noticeable that no one mentions the death of the real Bardiya at the time, although Cyrus had given him control over the entire east of the Persian Empire. Dareios claims in the Behistun inscription that Gaumata was able to deceive Bardiya's immediate environment, including his wife, for months; but this seems as good as impossible: the alleged impostor was probably the real Bardiya. It is not clear whether Darius himself killed this one.

Research today largely agrees that Darius was only largely related to Cyrus II and Cambyses II. Cyrus II saw himself as a descendant of Teispes and accordingly referred to himself as Teispide . The later change made by Dareios I to his family tree with Achaimenes as the founder of the dynasty served more to underpin his claims to the throne. The only surviving inscription in which Cyrus referred to himself as an Achaemenid has meanwhile been identified as a forgery from the time of Darius. Ultimately, the change in genealogy did not have a decisive effect, but without Achaimenes, Darius had the stigma of not being able to refer to any royal ancestor in a direct line. An ancestor, Ariaramna I. , was probably of Cyaxares II. Deposed and his reign Cyrus I handed over. The exact processes of this early period are, however, in the dark due to the poor source situation.

Early rule

After the coronation in Pasargadae, Darius moved to Ekbatana, where he learned of revolts by his opponents in Elam and Babylonia . The Elamite uprising was nipped in the bud when the leader Ashina was captured and executed in Susa . In Babylonia, Nidintu-Bel, who allegedly descended from Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus , had himself under the name of Nebuchadnezzar III. raised to king. After three months he was deposed and killed by Darius, who had gone to Babylon with a force. While Darius was still in Babylon, a new revolt was sparked in Bactria by a man named Frada. The actual satrap of Bactria, however, was loyal to Darius and was able to drive Frada into the desert of today's Turkestan , where he was later seized and executed.

At the same time a man arose in Persis , the ancestral land of the Persians, who also claimed to be Bardiya; there was renewed unrest in Elam. Serious unrest and fighting also broke out in Media , Parthia , Assyria , Egypt , with the Sattagyds and again in Babylonia. Towards the end of the year 522 BC Almost the entire Persian Empire was in turmoil.

However, Darius could rely on a loyal force led by close confidants, so that, according to him, the uprisings were put down one after the other within a year. In September 522 BC The first revolts followed in Babylon, which, apart from a short interruption, lasted until December 521 BC. Lasted. In May 521 BC BC Nebuchadnezzar IV had proclaimed himself the new king of Babylon and was almost seven months later by Darius like Nebuchadnezzar III before. killed. In this respect, Darius' statement relates to the period from his first to the last combat action. After Gaumata's murder, Dareios claimed to have defeated a total of eight " kings of lies ". End of 521 BC BC peace reigned in the empire, only the border in the north was still severely threatened. 517 BC This area was also pacified and the saks living here made tribute payments. Darius describes the suppression of these uprisings in detail in the Behistun inscription .

Foreign policy

The Persian Empire and neighboring territories around 500 BC Chr.


After the rule in the interior of the empire had been consolidated, it was necessary to forestall possible threats that could emanate from the eastern border. So the area of ​​the Sattagyden was finally annexed to the Persian Empire, and Persian troops advanced as far as the Indus valley , which could also be completely subdued. The Gandharians , who had been under Persian rule for a long time and were considered to be the bravest Indian tribe, proved to be particularly valuable for this campaign of conquest . The Indus valley was not only interesting from a security point of view. There were many rich cities in the fertile plains, and gold dust was extracted in the Indus itself. Furthermore, the conquest finally allowed unlimited trade with the Indian subcontinent. Trips by the Skylax of Karyanda and the Nearchus along the coast of the Persian Gulf had served this purpose before.

Egyptian names of Darius I.
Horus name
x ib
With excellent
(effective) will
Throne name
Hiero Ca1.svg
ra s t
Hiero Ca2.svg
S: twt-Rˁ
offspring of Re
Proper name
Hiero Ca1.svg
wA M8
Hiero Ca2.svg

Libya and Egypt

Egypt had fallen away from the empire at the beginning of the rule of Darius and was recaptured only with difficulty. The satrap Aryandes, already appointed by Cambyses, played an important role here . Darius visited 518 BC Personally the country. This act is generally viewed as the final suppression of the uprising and incorporation of Egypt into the Persian Empire.

The Cyrenaica had already submitted to the Persians during the Egyptian campaign of Cambyses, but was able to regain its independence in the turmoil of 522/21. Aryandes conquered the cities of Cyrene and Barke in an allegedly extremely insidious and brutal campaign and extended the area of ​​his satrapy to the Great Syrte . As Persian inscriptions show, the non-Greek inhabitants of eastern Libya were also under Persian rule.

Thracians and Scythians

It can be assumed that Darius also saw the Saks as a threat to the northern border of the empire, despite their vassal status. They settled the area from the Aral Sea to what is now Ukraine . Apparently the Saks were to be attacked and surrounded from their western border. So was 513 BC A campaign on the European mainland prepared. In Byzantium as an inscription found there was demonstrated a pontoon bridge over the Bosphorus beaten. The army crossed to Thrace and brought it under Persian rule. In the mouth of the Danube they met the Saks, who, however, forced the Persians to retreat. At the Danube border, which was then fortified, the Saks remained a threat to the Persian Empire.


With the campaign of the years 513/12 BC For the first time since Cyrus' campaign in Asia Minor, the Persians came into closer contact with the Greeks. Many areas of the eastern Mediterranean that were settled by Greeks were under Persian rule, but the Persians were very little interested in this country. When, in the course of the subjugation of Thrace, Macedonia also became a vassal of Persia, the independent Greeks believed that they themselves would soon fall into the field of vision of the great king. Athens tried to prevent this by adopting 506 BC. Concluded an alliance with the Persian Empire. On the Persian side, this was understood as formal submission.

Although the Ionian Greeks living on the coast of Asia Minor enjoyed numerous privileges among the Persians - they were even granted their own satrapy - they rose in 500 BC. The Athenians broke the treaty of alliance and sent military support. 499 BC The capital of the satrapy Lydia , Sardis , was captured and destroyed in the 3rd century BC . The Persians responded with massive counter-attacks. Military actions also took place in Cyprus .

The end point of this " Ionian Uprising " is the capture and destruction of the city of Miletus in 494 BC. BC, who was considered the leader in the revolt. In order to prevent later unrest, 492 BC. A punitive expedition led by Mardonios was sent to Greece, but it failed. Thrace and Macedonia, which had fallen from the empire in the course of the Ionian uprising, were regained, but the expedition against Athens failed because the Persian fleet crashed into a storm on Mount Athos .

Two years later, another campaign under Datis and Artaphernes was initially successful. Persian supremacy in the Aegean was expanded and Eretria was destroyed. The Persian army landed shortly afterwards on the plain of Marathon , where it wanted to bring about an open field battle against the Athenians. The strategy was changed after several days and Athens was to be attacked directly with the fleet; When the army was reloaded on the ships, the Athenians attacked under the leadership of the Miltiades and destroyed part of the Persian army. Then they rushed to Athens, which prevented the city from surrendering. The Persians then withdrew.

This battle of Marathon has been assigned a world historical significance and has been portrayed as a success in the unification of the free West against oriental despotism. Meanwhile, however, historians have argued that the Persians' intent was only to punish the Athenians as unfaithful allies, and not to subjugate Greece. It was only Darius' son Xerxes I who undertook a large-scale invasion of mainland Greece. Despite the failure at Athens, the western border was considered pacified, as the Ionian coast was again firmly in Persian hands.

Domestic politics

Administration and military

In the early years of his rule Darius carried out a large-scale administrative reform, the main part of which was the establishment of unified provinces, the satrapies. The extent and location of the individual satrapies as well as the form and amount of their taxes is uncertain, since the sources, Herodotus' list of satrapies and Persian royal inscriptions, differ widely. A large bureaucratic apparatus, best known from Egyptian records, stood by the satraps. The language of the chancellery was Elamite until the reign of Artaxerxes I and was then replaced by Aramaic . The appointment of the satrap by the great king and the fact that such a satrap - with a few known exceptions - held the office until his death suggests that his post resembled that of an under- or even vassal king. The powers of a satrap in his province were enormous, and he only had to justify himself to the great king, but had to pay tribute and military service to him. According to Herodotus, the satrap Aryandes carried out military campaigns on his own and is said to have minted his own coins. Like the great king and the highest officials at his court, the satraps also had their own seals .

However, this relationship cannot be directly compared with the feudal principality of the Middle Ages, since the great king exercised the undisputed central power. For example, the great king had the opportunity to raise an army under his personal - or personally delegated - leadership with an imperial contingent. The very name of this imperial contingent indicates that troop contingents from the entire imperial territory - sorted according to individual ethnic groups - were raised here. In addition, Darius introduced a standing army, which replaced the militia troops of his predecessors. One of the tasks of this army was to maintain internal security - similar to modern police troops - and there were garrisons in all major cities. There were also associations that were responsible for border security. From Egypt they are known as mercenary associations stationed in border towns. The royal bodyguard, known as the Immortals , was also used in war.

economy and society

In addition, a road network was created that connected all the important areas of the empire with one another. Of these “ royal roads ” the one that led from Ephesus or Sardis to Susa , actually even to Persepolis , is the best known because Herodotus describes it in detail in his histories . Trade and traffic were also facilitated by the building of a bridge over the Bosporus and the completion of a canal from the Red Sea to the Nile, which the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II had already started.

from Eckhel : A brief introduction to ancient numismatics; Vienna, 1787

Under Darius, a currency based on coins was introduced for the entire empire for the first time , which consisted of a gold coin, the Dareikos , and a silver coin, the Siglos . This proved to be particularly beneficial for domestic trade.

Because of his business acumen, which showed up during the reorganization of the administration, he was nicknamed "the shopkeeper" by the conservative Persian nobility.

All peoples of the empire were allowed to practice their own customs and religions. Nevertheless, some felt disadvantaged because they were either - like Egypt - not satisfied with Persian suzerainty, or because the illusion of the continued existence of their old empires such as Media, Lydia and Babylonia had been destroyed by the splitting of their former territories into several satrapies. The Ionians, who enjoyed numerous privileges under the Lydians and who were ultimately able to “Hellenize” the Lydian kingdom, that is, were able to shape it in Greek, did not have this power over the great king. The Ionic uprising can perhaps also be understood from this dissatisfaction.

However, not all traditions were broken. The personal union of the great king with the king of Media and Babylonia continued. Like Cyrus and Cambyses, Dareios named his son and Crown Prince Xerxes I king of Babylon. He himself also continued to bear the title of Egyptian Pharaoh .

Under Darius, a Pax Persica , a "Persian Peace", a state of inner peace, which was shaped by a careful approximation of the empire structures and in which the empire had a secure, orderly unit, was created. This found expression in the fact that Darius no longer stylized himself as "King of the Persians", but as "King of countries and peoples" and had the representative peoples of the empire represented as equal on reliefs in the royal palaces. The Persians only had privileges in taxes. There was no satrap for them, nor did they have to pay tribute to the king.

Threats to Inner Peace

Most of Darius's reign was at peace in the kingdom. Egypt alone was an insecure province. Here the satrap Aryandes had considerably expanded his power and, according to Herodotus, is even said to have minted his own coins based on the model of the darikos. Whether this is to be regarded as a revolt against Dareios can be doubted, since the satraps in general had a great deal of power and coins were increasingly minted in the provinces in later times. In 486 BC BC, however, there was an open uprising, which was probably promoted by Egyptian forces; Aryandes was already around 500 BC. Died. Xerxes I , the successor of Darius, had to put down this revolt ; According to Herodotus, this is the reason why he initially refrained from a planned invasion of Greece.

Apart from the Saks living in the northern border area of ​​the empire , whose activities are not known at the time of Darius, the only other source of unrest at the time of Darius was the western Ionian border. It came here in 499 BC. To the uprising, which can be seen as the beginning of the Persian Wars. Otherwise the situation in the empire was stable.

Religious politics

Dareios continued the policy of Cyrus, which allowed every inhabitant to practice their religion freely, provided that Ahuramazda was accepted as the supreme deity. A positive mention of this practice can be found in the book Ezra of the Tanakh , in which the alleged support for the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem is mentioned. Doubts about the representation are appropriate, however, since the Greek Xenophon only adopted this policy in the education of Cyrus (also title: Kyrupädie / Cyropädie) around 362 BC. Mentioned. The work does not represent any actual historical events. Inscriptions from Dareios himself about the support of the new building are missing.

Darius promoted Zoroastrianism , although it remains unclear how the ancient Persian sages were worshiped during this time. The supreme god was Ahura Mazda , who tolerated no other gods besides himself. It is believed that Darius inherited this religion from his father.

Zoroastrianism was cautiously promoted. The skinny remained the highest caste of priests, and at the behest of the great king, sacrifices were also made to the Iranian, Elamite and Babylonian gods. Ahuramazda is the only god to be found in the royal inscriptions alone. It is believed that the statue that Darius had erected for his wife Artystone was a statue of the Persian mother goddess Anahita .

Either Darius paid lip service to Zoroastrianism, or it did not exist at all; the god Ahuramazda can also be proven in pre-Zarathustrian times. The worship of Ahuramazda as the only god according to Zoroastrian commandments could not be enforced. From the time of Artaxerxes II , official cult acts in honor of Anahita and Mithras are proven, both of which found followers in the Sassanid period .

The ruins of Persepolis . In the foreground the treasure house, in the back right the Dareios palace.

Construction activity

Darius wanted to move the imperial center from the Medic Ekbatana and Mesopotamian Babylon to the ancestral land, Persis . In their immediate vicinity was Elam with its old royal city Susa, which Darius expanded into his main residence and which retained this function until the end of the empire. In Persis itself he had a residence built in an older city that had been the administrative center. The city was called Parsa , following the custom of giving the capital of a country the same name as the country . The Greeks called it Persepolis .


The archer frieze from the palace of Darius I, detail of the left end. The frieze is now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

In Susa , a new palace complex was created in the north of the city. A terrace was laid out on which a reception hall (old Persian Apadana ) and a palace were built. Under Artaxerxes I , this palace was destroyed by fire, but was later rebuilt. Only reliefs made of glazed bricks have survived, most of which are now in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.


The construction work in Persepolis was similar to that in Susa. Here, too, an apadana was set up on a terrace. A small palace was built next to it, presumably for private use. However, this structure was much smaller than the one in Susa. The third building on the terrace was a treasure house, which had to be expanded during the reign of Darius. Administration buildings were erected below the terrace; however, these have hardly been archaeologically developed to date. Both in Persepolis and in Susa the buildings were erected by craftsmen from all over the empire and made of materials from various countries. The various peoples of the empire with gifts and costumes that were typical for their countries are depicted on reliefs on the staircases.


Presumably during the reign of Cyrus, Pasargadae lost its role as the seat of government and became the ceremonial and probably religious capital of the empire. Buildings that were probably started by Cyrus were finished by Darius; a new palace was also built. The construction is reminiscent of that of Susa and Persepolis. A building inscription in the name of Cyrus was affixed to a building, but the fact that the cuneiform script used here was first introduced under Darius speaks for itself.


In Egypt, too, there is evidence of brisk building activity by Darius, mainly in the religious field. Numerous temples were built during his reign, or restored, including the Temple of Hibis and Qasr el-Ghueda in the oasis Kharga , the temple of Ptah in Memphis , the Nechbet temple at El Kab and the Temple of Busiris . Darius' construction work can also be verified in Karnak , Fayyum and Sais . Building material was partly obtained from the quarries of Wadi Hammamat , where rock inscriptions of Darius can be found. Another significant achievement is the completion of an 84-kilometer-long canal already begun under Pharaoh Necho II , which led from the eastern branch of the Nile over the Wadi Tumilat to the Red Sea , thus connecting Persia with Egypt. Steles were found along the canal that were inscribed in Egyptian , Old Persian , Elamite and Akkadian .

Artistic and architectural development under Darius

Capital from Susa, now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris
Relief of a winged sphinx made of glazed bricks from the palace of Darius in Susa

Under Darius, a turning point took place in the field of art and architecture: there are only a few archaeological sources from the time of Cyrus and especially of Cambyses; however, these few existing ones suggest the continuation of local traditions. A well-known relief from the time of Cyrus in Pasargadae indicates Elamite influence. Only the tomb of Cyrus stands out in its form, and no direct models are known for this building.

Under Darius, the most diverse artistic and architectural style elements from all over the empire were consciously brought together. The monumental, with fluting provided columns of palaces and public buildings seem, apart from building material and the dimension in the shaft at the Greek, however, are probably created by Mesopotamian models. The capitals show mainly Egyptian influences.

As several scientists from the field of ancient oriental studies and Egyptology suspect, the floor plans of the palaces in Persepolis are of Egyptian origin. The excavators of Amarna already felt reminded of Persepolis when looking at the palace floor plans (Gerd Gropp). In contrast, the palaces of Persepolis, according to Indologists and increasingly also from ancient historians, acted as models for palaces in India and buildings in Greece.

As in the entire history of the ancient Orient, relief is the predominant art form under the Achaemenids . It appears in combination with inscriptions, on palace walls and stairways. Among the predecessors of Darius, relief art was mainly influenced by Elamite models. Under Darius there are clear Mesopotamian (especially Assyrian) influences. The reliefs were painted and often framed with valuable materials; for example, some of the beards on the reliefs in Persepolis were made of lapis lazuli . Babylonian influences are particularly evident in the reliefs in Susa, some of which date from the time of Darius. The reliefs in Susa are made of colored, glazed bricks, reminiscent of the processional street and the Ishtar gate in Babylon.

Sculpture also flourished under Darius . Small and large statuettes and figures were made of valuable materials such as lapis lazuli and ivory. In addition, a colossal statue of Darius himself from Egypt is preserved, which was probably brought to Susa under the ruler and was found there. The statue shows the ruler in Elamite costume and Persian regal insignia, but has inscriptions in Egyptian hieroglyphics and cuneiform. Smaller works of art and artful objects of daily use are made of precious metal, especially gold and silver. A lot of such items have been found in the Oxus Treasure . Few pieces of fabric and a larger carpet were also found, which also indicate a high level of skill in this area.

Death of Dareios

According to Herodotus , Darius immediately after his defeat at the Battle of Marathon began to prepare a new expedition against Greece. However, he was in the year 486 BC. Interrupted by a revolt in Egypt. During this time Darius died at the end of the year 486 BC. BC, probably in October or November, but neither the exact date nor the cause of death is known ( Ktesias of Knidos only mentions a general disease). In December of the year 486 BC His son Xerxes I already ruled as the new great king. Dareios was buried in the rock grave built for him during his lifetime in Naqsch-e Rostam .

Personal environment


Darius was the son of Hystaspes , a satrap of Parthia, a son of Arshama I - both men were still alive when Darius ascended the throne. His mother's name was Rhodogune . In the inscription of Behistun, Dareios traces his family tree back to the progenitor Achaimenes . Even with his grandson, however, Darius indicates a separation from the line to which Cyrus and Cambyses belong. This suggests that Darius belonged to the Persian nobility, but was only distantly related to the great kings Cyrus and Cambyses. For these reasons Darius married Atossa , a daughter of Cyrus, when he ascended the throne . With her he had four sons, Xerxes , Achaimenes , Masistes and Hystaspes . With another daughter of Cyrus, Artystone , he had two sons, Arsames and Gobryas .

From the immediate royal environment, Darius took Parmys , the daughter of Bardiya, as his wife, with whom he had a son, Ariomardus . In addition, Dareios married another woman from the Persian nobility, Phaidime , the daughter of his co-conspirator Otanes . It is not known whether and how many children came from this marriage. Eventually Darius married his niece Phratagone . From this marriage there were two sons, Abrokomas and Hyperanthes .

Before he ascended the throne, Darius had married the daughter of his future co-conspirator, Gobryas . This marriage had three sons, Artobazanes , the firstborn son of Darius, Ariabignes and Ariamenes . No daughters are known.

Although Artobarzanes claimed the succession for himself as the firstborn, Xerxes as the firstborn grandson of Cyrus was the given heir to the throne. His mother Atossa had the greatest influence on state affairs and on Darius himself. That is why Aeschylus lets Atossa appear as the only woman from the royal court in his drama The Persians . Herodotus claims that Darius loved Artystone the most and had a statue made in her honor.

The "Seven Persians"

When Dareios returned from Egypt, he could count on the support of six nobles who later became the most privileged men in the empire. Dareios must have known them from his youth, some of them may have been relatives. Otanes (old Persian Hutana) belonged to the high nobility and possibly had access to the royal court of Gaumata . He was a Mede and was viewed by the Greeks as a stepbrother of Cyrus I , but this is refuted by the Behistun inscription , which gives his father's name as Tukra. In addition, the conspirators Gobryas (old Persian Gaubaruwa), who probably belonged to an old Elamite noble family, Intaphrenes (Windafarna), Ardumaniš , Hydarnes (Widarna) and Megabyzos I (Bagabuchša). These conspirators later formed the elite of the empire with their families. They held positions that were otherwise reserved for relatives of the great king. The dominance of seven noble families can be proven up to the Sassanid Empire .

Dareios also honored the six co-conspirators with images on royal reliefs. Not all of them are always depicted, but at least some always appear in the function of royal dignitaries. Intaphrenes, who was the first to be named by Darius among the conspirators, soon fell out of favor because he disturbed the king while he was sleeping with a woman. While Intaphrenes was being executed, his family was spared and retained their privileged position. This episode told by Herodotus can be confirmed by a careful study of the king's inscriptions.


Like no other Achaemenid king, Dareios maintained a large-scale propaganda machine through which he was present throughout his domain. His inscriptions can even be found in Thrace, Egypt and the Bosporus area, i.e. in countries far from the heartland of the empire. In it he presents himself with his full name and claims not only the rule of his empire, but of all countries and peoples. This formula appears almost unchanged in all of the inscriptions commissioned by him:

"I am Darius the king, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenid, king of kings."

The inscription of Behistun, as well as that on his grave in Naqsch-e Rostam , depicts Darius as an ideal model for all his subjects. His sense of justice and self-control are particularly emphasized, an assessment that is also found in Herodotus and Xenophon. Furthermore, Darius describes himself as a master in all the arts required by a good man: horse riding, archery and spearfighting. Last but not least, he shows himself to be the enemy of liars and lies; he describes the competitors he defeated at the beginning of his rule as "kings of lies".

Rock tomb of Darius I in Naqsch-e Rostam


For the Greeks, Darius was an opponent, with his invasion of Greece in 490 BC. BC failed in the Battle of Marathon , the Persian Wars began . Nevertheless, the contemporary Greek playwright Aeschylus portrayed him positively. In his drama The Persians , Darius is a wise king who strongly condemns the campaign of his son Xerxes.

The image of Dareios is primarily shaped by his work as a renewer of the empire and opponent of the Greeks in the Persian Wars. It is noticeable that even among the Greeks it does not appear in a bad light; the portrayal of Herodotus remains comparatively objective and neutral. Events that could defame Darius, such as the Libyan campaign, are attributed to other people there, or, like the invasion of Greece, are shown in shortened form. Some things are left out completely, like the battles for rule in 522/21 BC. Chr.

Modern research and findings from archeology characterize Dareios mainly positively. Heidemarie Koch depicts him as a tolerant ruler who cares about the well-being of his subjects. Others, such as Josef Wiesehöfer and Pierre Briant , are more critical with their judgment, but also admit that Dareios is of outstanding importance.


  • 549 BC Chr. Birth of Dareios.
  • 525 BC BC Dareios accompanies Cambyses II as a royal lance-bearer to Egypt .
  • 522 BC BC Usurpation of the gaumata . Death of Cambyses. Darius returns to Persia and is crowned king.
  • 522 BC BC Dareios is from Nebuchadnezzar III. deposed as king of Babylon for three months (usurpation).
  • 521 BC Darius is deposed as king of Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar IV for seven months (usurpation).
  • 521 BC End of the uprisings against Dareios.
  • 519 BC BC Victory over the sak ruler Skunxa.
  • 518 BC BC Dareios travels to Egypt.
  • 515 BC BC Foundation of Persepolis . Birth of Xerxes I.
  • 513 BC Conquest of Cyrenaica . Campaign against the Scythians . Conquest of Thrace .
  • 512 BC Introduction of the Dareikos .
  • 507 BC Alliance with Athens .
  • 500 BC Inauguration of the Bubastis Canal , the first Suez Canal .
  • 499 BC Chr. Ionian revolt . Destruction of Sardis .
  • 494 BC Conquest of Miletus . End of the Ionian Uprising.
  • 492 BC Failed invasion of Greece by Mardonios .
  • 490 BC Chr. Failed invasion of Greece by Datis and Artaphernes .
  • 486 BC BC uprising in Egypt. Death of Dareios.


Primary literature

Scientific secondary literature

  • Jürgen von Beckerath : Handbook of Egyptian King Names (= Munich Egyptological Studies , Volume 49). 2nd Edition. von Zabern, Mainz 1999, ISBN 3-8053-2591-6 , pp. 220-221.
  • Pierre Briant : Darius. Les Perses et l'Empire. Decouvertes Gallimard, Paris 1992, ISBN 2-07-053166-X (Basic work on the life of Dareios and the structure of his empire. Lavishly illustrated, recommended even for readers with little knowledge of French).
  • Maria Brosius: The Persians. An introduction. Routledge, London 2006, ISBN 0-415-32089-5 .
  • Alexander Demandt : Darius and the "false Smerdis". In: Alexander Demandt (Ed.): The assassination in history . Berlin / Vienna 1996, p. 1 ff.
  • Leo Depuydt : Saite and Persian Egypt, 664 BC-332 BC (Dyns. 26-31, Psammetichus I to Alexander's Conquest of Egypt). In: Erik Hornung, Rolf Krauss, David A. Warburton (eds.): Ancient Egyptian Chronology (= Handbook of Oriental studies. Section One. The Near and Middle East. Volume 83). Brill, Leiden / Boston 2006, ISBN 978-90-04-11385-5 , pp. 265-283 ( online ).
  • Dietz-Otto Edzard : Real Lexicon of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archeology . Vol. 9. de Gruyter, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-11-017296-8 , p. 206.
  • Gerd Gropp: Observations in Persepolis. In: Archaeological Communications from Iran. Edited by German Archaeological Institute Department Tehran. Special print, Berlin 4. 1971. ISSN  1434-2758 (research impulses on the importance of Persepolis, especially the presumed Egyptian influences in architecture).
  • Fritz Gschnitzer : The Seven Persians and the Kingdom of Dareios. A contribution to the history of the Achaemenids and the analysis of Herodotus. Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg 1977, ISBN 3-533-02598-5 (Lecture paper on the beginnings of the rule of Darius and the analysis of the sources available for this).
  • Walther Hinz : Darius and the Persians. A cultural history of the Achaemenids. 2 vol. Holle, Baden-Baden 1976, (standard work. Basis for the more recent Achaimenid research, especially through the evaluation of the Elamite clay tablets).
  • Heidemarie Koch : Darius the King announces. From life in the great Persian empire. von Zabern, Mainz 1992, ISBN 3-8053-1347-0 (Comprehensive, but not undisputed description of the Achaemenid Persian Empire with a focus on the time of Darius I and numerous illustrations.).
  • Robert Rollinger : The family tree of the Achaemenid royal family, or: the question of the legitimacy of the rule of Darius. In: Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan 30, 1998, pp. 155–209.
  • Thomas Schneider : Lexicon of the Pharaohs. Albatros, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-491-96053-3 , pp. 107-108.
  • Leo Trümpelmann : Between Persepolis and Firuzabad. ( Special volume on the ancient world ) by Zabern, Mainz 1992, ISBN 3-8053-1414-0 .
  • Josef Wiesehöfer : The Gaumāta Uprising and the Beginnings of Darius' I. Diss.Bonn 1978.
  • Josef Wiesehöfer: Ancient Persia. From 550 BC BC to AD 650. Albatros, Düsseldorf 2005, ISBN 3-491-96151-3 (well-written standard work on the history of ancient Persia).

Historical novels

  • Hanns Kneifel : Darius the Great. King of the Persians. Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2001, ISBN 3-404-14465-1 (novel about the figure of Dareios.).
  • Gore Vidal : I Cyrus, grandson of Zarathustra. (English Creation ). Goldmann, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-442-42087-3 (critical novel about the time of the Achaemenid empire under Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes I with an explanation of different perspectives on the empire and studies of neighboring cultures).

Web links

Commons : Dareios I.  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Ezra 6.1  EU
  2. Ezra 6.15  EU
  3. Ezra 4.7  EU
  4. Dan 6.29  EU
  5. a b c d Dietz-Otto Edzard: Real Lexicon of Assyriology and Near Eastern Archeology . Volume 9. de Gruyter, Berlin 2001, p. 206.
  6. Cf. Herodotus 3,89,3 ("λέγουσι Πέρσαι ὡς Δαρεῖος μὲν ἦν").
  7. Mary Boyce : Achaemenid Religion. In: Ehsan Yar Shater: Encyclopaedia Iranica . Volume 1: Āb - Anāhīd. Bibliotheca Persica Press, New York NY 1985; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London / Boston 1985, ISBN 0-7100-9099-4 , pp. 426-429 (specialist article on the role of religion under the Achaemenids).
  8. ^ Herodotus, Historien VII 1,4
  9. Ktesias, Fragment 13, 23.
  10. ^ Matt (Matthew William) Waters: Ancient Persia: a concise history of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE. Cambridge University Press, New York NY 2014, ISBN 978-1-107-00960-8 , p. 114.
  11. Specific translation of the introduction to the Behistun inscription according to H. Koch, It announces Dareios the King ... , p. 17
predecessor Office successor
Cambyses II Persian king
522–486 BC Chr.
Xerxes I.
Cambyses II Pharaoh of Egypt
27th Dynasty
Psammetich IV.
Cambyses II King of Babylonia
522–486 BC Chr.
Interruptions in 522/521 v. Chr.
Xerxes I.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on January 30, 2006 in this version .