DARIUS THE GREAT
|Darius Relief of Darius I in Persepolis|
Drius, the son of Hystatspes, commaner of the lmmortal Army ( sepâh-e jâvid) assumed power in the year 522 B. C. after he had crushed other claimants to the throne. As a rasult of his election as king, sovereignty to the throne. As a resuit of his election as king, sovereignty passed from the line of Cyrus the Great to a different branch of the Achaemenian family.
Cambyses had left no heir to succeed him when he died. The rule of his brother Smerdis (Bardiya) in eastern Iran meant excessive freedom to the subject states, which spelled danger to the unity of the Empire. Darius had perceived this danger clearly on the death of Cambyses, and with the overthrow of the rule of the imposter Smerdis, he succeeded in acguiring control of the Empire.
The quelling of disturbancesʹ
The first two years of Dariusʹ rule were fully spent in putting down uprisings which occurred in all the Achaemenian lands. There were eight serious rebellions. Addition to this there was refractory behaviour in Bactriana (Balkh), Arachosia (Rokhkhaj), Egypt, Asia Minor and fought, the whole Empire once again submitted to Darius. The king ordered these victories to be recorded high up on a rock by the kermânshâh to Hamadân road. Above the inscription is the figure of the shâh, Darius, under the protection of Ahurâmazdâ, Great Lord. The eight conquered kings, bound in ropes, line up at his feet. The inscription itself tells of his victories.
The beginning of the conquests
When he had assured himself that he was firmly established in power. Darius embarked in his policy of expansion and conquest, and as Cyrus had done before him, began to extend his borders both in the east and west. tn the west, his target was the rich, flouishing lands of Greece. In the east he sought to acquire influence in India and to find an outlat to the indian Ocean. He began his career in the east and conquered the entie region of Gandhara and East India as far as the River Indus. At the confiuence of the River Indus and the River Kabul he despatched a band of sailors who reached the Indian Ocean, and then made their way to Egypt by crossing the persian Gulf and the Red sea. Darius ordered a canal to be dug in the vicinity of the site of the present Suez canal so that the River Nile would be Joined to the Red sea, By means of the sea route, the most remote lands in the west were thus joined to the farthest points east making a system of communications which was of vital importance to the chaemenians, both politicaiiy and economically. Favoured thus by good fortune, Darius began his preparations for his attack on Greece.
The invasion of Greece
|The Persian Empire under Darius 490 BC in a modern overview map|
The origins of the war with Greece go back to the time of Cyrus the Great, who conquered the Greek – occupied provinces in Asia Minor, which consisted of a number of prosperous and flourishing city states. Asia Minor was also of great strategic imprortance, as it lay midway Weast between East and West and was regarded as the gateway to Greece.
Darius did nit begin with a direct attack on Greece. He proceeded by way of Central Asia and Southern Russia, crossed the Danube, reached the Balkan peninsula and took Eastern Thrace. We know that the forests of the Balkan peninsula were of the utmost importance to the Greeks who bulit their merchant fleet and warships from the timer. In following a longer, roundabout route, it might have been Dariusʹ intention to close the roads from Northern Greece to these forests, and thus prevent the importation of timber. With the seizure of Egypt and Libya by Cambyses, and the provinces of Asia Minor — the granaries of Greece — by Darius, the country was cut off from food supplies on one side and faced a blockade of timber imports on the other. This was an all – round economic blocade which facilited the conquest of the country.
Before beginning his direct attack on Greece, Darius sent a fleet of thirty ships on a scouting mission to the straits of the Mediterranean Sea, The task was carried out well and the way was smoothed for the campaign. The preliminaries over, the time was now ripe for the invasion. In the year 498 B. C. the persians once again passed through the Straits of the
|Darius as Pharaoh of Egypt at the Temple of Hibis|
Hellespontus and began to invest the coastal lands one after the other. The Greek states, which under Athenian or Spartan rule had for long fought among themselves, reacted to the persian victories by ceasing their hostility and uniting. The Greek provinces in Asia Minor also ejected their oarsian goyernor and joined the alliance. This led finally to the lonian Alliance against persia. Some really fierce fighting ensued and in the battles of Salamis 498 B.C. and Marsyas 497 B.C. Darius was victorious, and the persians once again seized lonian lands. Milletus surrendered after resisting for two years and some of her inhabitanst were sent in captivity to Susa. As a result of these victories, the very heartlands of Greece now found themselves under attack and the persian troops began to disembark from their ships.
The defeat of Marathon
The entry of persian troops into Greece marked the first clash brtween East and West, the East ensuring her superiority over the West by acquiring conteol of the Mediterranean Sea and occupation of territories of the Greeks. Sitill undefeated, the persians conquered Eretria after a long siege and sent the entire population to Susa.
Once again, the victory of the persians caused the Greek states to put aside their differences and form what later became the Delos Alliance againt the common enemy. Finally, Darius was defeated on the plains of Marathon and obliged to retreat. This defeat was the first and last ever to be suffered by the Achaemeninan monarch, and though the persians themselves regarded it as an unimportant local incident, it meant a lot to the Greeks, and drove home a number of points: first, the persian army was not invincible, as they had previously thought. Secondly, by means of a united front it was possible to resist enemy attacks. This was the lesson the Greeks learnt Which proved useful in laster campaigns and influenced their future relations with persia.Though Darius failed to add further to his conguests, he continued nevertheless to retain what he had gained up to that time.
The results of the clash between East and West
Darius I imagined by a Greek painter
4th century BCE
Relatons between Greece and persia continued to subsist thus for centuries; the culminating point was Alexander’s attack on persia. Apart from the political and economic changes which took place, the encounter brought abut great cultural development which contributed significantly to world civilization. Iran became the highway of eastern and western thought, and was thus responsible for the development of whole series of fruitful cultural contacts.
when Darius died in 486 B.C. he left extensive territories. In his own words:
“Darius the king says: By the favour of Ahuramazdaʹ [are] the countries, which I seized, remote from persia. I ruled over them; they bore me tribute. What was said to them by me, that they did.My law, that help them. Media – Elam – Parthia – Aria – Bactria – Sogdiana – Drangiana – Arachosia – Sattagydia – the Men of Maka – Gandhare – India – the naoma drinking Scythians – the pointed helmeted Scythinans – baby lonia – Assyria – Arabia – Egypt – Armenia – Cappadocia – Sardis – the lonians, those of the sea and those beyond the sea – Skudra1- the libyans – the Ethiopans – the Carians 2. …..Darius the king says: Much which was ill – done thet I made beautiful.”
Darius chose to rule in the same way thet Cyrus had done. Taking care that the various creeds, religions and customs of the subject nations should suffer no harm, he divided up his realms into twenty states. At the head of each he appointed a persian governor, the shahrbân, chosen from one of the great persian families, or even the royal family. Egual in rank to the shahrbâni, an army commander responsible for military functions was sent to each state. Other high – ranking officials sent from the central government to the provinces included the tax – collerctor, who on the kingʹs orders had to remit the taxes to Royal Treasury every year. The amount varied according to the wealth and resources of the particular province, and might have been in cash or kind. Enormous sums were involved the triute thus collected was not only spent on incerasing royal grandeur but also on city building and such things as would bestow greatness on the Empire.
PERSEPOLIS: showplace of the splendour and civilization of the Achaemenians
Tomb of Darius the Great located next
to other Achaemenian kings at
Darius know well that in order to rule the vast Empire, it was necessary to acquire power through both spiritual and material means. He tried therefore to strengthen the foundations of his rule and to bring a biut unity between the states. In all his inscriptions which survive, he regards homself as the manifestation of Ahurâmazdâ and the executor of his divine laws on earth, and continually brings this to the notice of the subject nations, realizing that spiritual power is important to strengthen material power.
Darius had palaces and edifices put up in his chosen capital, Susa, and strove to the utmost to embellish them. This was to show off his night in the very heart of the Empire, to which each day numerous amnassadors, learned men and travellers from far and wide would come. Then he ordered persepolis to be built in pârsa, the heartland of the Empire, from where the lization of the Achaemenians might there be centred. All this was achieved by Darius, who was one of the finest statesmen and graeatest warriors of ancient times.