Arrogant, powerful, wise, heroic, conqueror, and a superior leader are a few words that describe Dariuss I reign and the life that he lived. Darius I is one of the greatest leaders of any nation to ever live. Darius was always well dressed; he was clearly distinguishable from others by his gold scepter, long square beard, fancy jewelry, and a high flat-topped tiara. He wore robes of purple embroidered in gold, fine crimson trousers, and boots. He sat underneath a purple canopy all people were to fall or bow to the great king. His great authority was reflected in his title: Great King, King of Kings, or King of Persia.
His conquests are magical his reign is superior. His ability to consolidate power over his great empire is amazing in its self. He ruled for a thirty-six year period providing his empire with a new form of state organization. From the military down to small provinces and courts Darius had left his mark on Persia. His vast accomplishments helped Persia for many years to come. If it werent for Alexander the Great, Darius I would be a man everyone knows. His great undertakings should not go unnoticed for he propelled Persia into an even greater empire.
Darius I great reign was inscribed on a gigantic rock face facing the main caravan route Ecbatana to Babylon. Known as the Bisitun Inscription, the inscription claims that he is the rightful successor as the King of Persia. The throne was to be given to Gautmata pretending to be Cambyses brother. In 522 B. C. Darius defeated Gautmata and took over as the Great King of Persia. Darius took over as King at the young age of twenty-eight. The first two years of his reign were spent suppressing rebellions, the most famous in Babylon in 520.
After he successfully crushed the rebellion Darius committed himself to reorganizing Persia and securing its outer borders. He reorganized the immense empire into twenty satrapies (like small provinces). He built highways, created a postal system, reformed the currency, encouraged commerce, and was deeply liked by the large portion of his ethnically diverse empire. By reorganizing his empire into twenty satrapies Darius was able to collect taxes from each individual satrapy. The taxes were a fixed annual tax rate or tribute. The provincial system allowed different ethnicities to practice their own religious preference.
The people were pleased with Darius and his decision not to press one religion on his empire. Even though Darius himself was a great worshipper of Ahuramazda. Ahuramazda was said to be the god who invented the earth, man, the sky, and the creator of happiness. Darius allowing his people to retain their customs and religion was the greatest achievement of the Achaemenid Dynasty. Darius allowed the Jews to complete the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem in 516. This propelled the Achaemenid Dynasty to rule the empire for over two centuries. Satraps ran the satrapies for the King.
Satrap is known in the English language as a petty tyrant. The satraps were ordered to command the provincial armed forces, to collect imperial taxes, and of course to enforce the Kings will. Satraps had immense power and money. Unlike provincial German princes in the medieval era Darius was able to put a check and balance system on his satraps. Darius established a traveling bureaucracy to drop in on his satraps to make sure they were being faithful to the people and to his income. All of his checks were unannounced; if appointments were made satraps could easily cover-up any wrong doing.
Darius was able to control his satrapies by his impeccable highways he had built. These great highways were also a great transportation system for trade routes. Darius built the longest road in the world which extended from Elamite to Epheus on the Aegean coast, cumulating a total over seventeen hundred miles! His postal system was made possible by these great highways. With vast trade and the ever-growing amount of people on these highways made it safe for travel. Important posts were setup at cities such as Babylon, Memphis, Ecbatana, Pasargrade, and Perseopolis.
These posts made rapid communication through the empire possible. The postal system was made up of horses for transportation. Darius found out how far a rider and a horse could travel everyday before needing a rest. Fourteen miles turned out to be the answer, so every fourteen miles a fresh rider and a fresh horse was waiting to continue the delivery. It took only a week for the Kings command to reach the farthest parts of his empire. With this speedy delivery system if revolts were to break out they could be dealt with quickly. The King would be able to be in contact with his satraps on a weekly basis.
The famous phrase of the U. S. Postal Office comes from this time period, Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night will stop the royal messages. Darius also had a great canal built between the Nile and he Red Sea. Now ships could have direct access to the Mediterranean to the Red Sea without having to use a land route or going all the way around Africa. More importantly the unbroken waterways now connected the eastern and western ends of the empire. Dariuss canal is now the modern day Suez Canal. The arrogant side of Darius is inscribed on the walls of his canal, found in 1866 by laborers on the Suez Canal.
The inscriptions read This canal was dug out as I commanded, and ships went from Egypt through this canal into Persia as was my desire(Achaemenide Map). Now with the connection of the eastern and western empires Darius ruled an area of almost two million square miles including ten million people. Persia enjoyed a great economic prosperity early in Dariuss reign. Darius stimulated the economy by promoting agriculture and trade. Agriculture would increase trade would increase revenue in the satrapies and the increased revenue would mean in creased taxes.
He also provided a common system of weights and measures while at the same time issuing a gold coinage. The empire used these funds to build better irrigation systems and encourage different manufacturing enterprises. People also used ingots, which was melted down gold or silver used for trade. Ingots were weighed for trade, the heavier the ingot the more it was worth. Dariuss gold coins were known as Darics, surely named after himself. The satraps were able to make coins of silver and bronze but the King could issue gold coins. Creating a single coinage made trade easier as well as unifying Persias commercial empire.
Darius the first was able to secure his borders by having a gigantic standing army. His army was known as the Ten Thousand Immortals, composed mainly of infantrymen. Every time a soldier was killed or could no longer serve in battle a new recruit quickly replaced him. Thus the standing army never shrank. His soldiers were armed with bows, spears, and swords. In battle they had light wicker shields, they wore a cloth headdress and a colorful tunic usually over a metal scale shirt. The soldiers were well protected in battle but very mobile. A thousand soldiers served as Dariuss personal bodyguards.
Soldiers were allowed to bring concubines and servants with them into battle. This must have made the enemy believe that their army was even larger than it actually was. Archers overwhelmed enemies by a barrage of arrows. The Persians were great horsemen and did not use their cavalry for just close combat but soldiers would actually fire arrows from horseback. Persians also brought elephants and camels into battles when in need. They often attached slashing blades to the wheels of their chariots and mowed down their enemy. Early in Dariuss reign he used his great standing army to secure his empires borders.
He conquered new territories along the Indus River in the east and to the Caucasus Mountains in the northwest. By conquering the northwest Darius was able to control a narrow straight that connected the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. By having control over this narrow strip he successfully split Asia and Europe at modern day Istanbul. During Dariuss reign the Persian Empire achieved its highest peak. Persias borders were strong and their economy was sound. Like all good things Dariuss empire would not last forever. Toward the end of Dariuss reign a rebellion from Ionian Greeks broke out.
Ionian Greeks were Greek that actually lived in Asia Minor. The Ionian Greeks had grown tired of the mounting taxes, mandatory military service, and the local government. The rebellion was encouraged by some mainland Greek cities, however their home of Sparta wanted no part with Persia. Athens sent limited help to the Ionians, amassing twenty-five ships. Athens was deeply worried about Persias control over the Black Sea trade. After five years, starting in 499 B. C. the Ionian rebellion was struck down with severity. Four years later in 490 B. C. Persia launched his army to the mainland of Greece to punish them for encouraging a rebellion.
These were the first of the Persian Wars. The first war is the famous war of the Battle at Marathon. Though the Greeks were out numbered they retained the highland on the Marathon Plain giving them the advantage. The charging Greeks fought the Persians in hand-to-hand combat. Persia was a successful close range army. They were known for staying a good distance from their enemy and unleashing an onslaught of arrows upon them. The Persians suffering heavy casualties (6,400 soldiers to Greeces 192) were forced to retreat bank to Persia (Marathon, 1995).
Greeces war hero General Militades sent his best runner Pheidippides back to Sparta to tell them of the majestic news. Pheidippides ran roughly forty kilometers (almost twenty-five miles) (Marathon, Gr 2000). At his arrival he shouted, Victory! and died (Marathon, 1995). Modern day marathons are taken from this incident over two thousand four hundred years ago. Now if you see an individual of Persian decent remember that they are then celebrating their own defeat. It seems weird that almost every month theres a marathon somewhere in the world to celebrate the downfall of a society.
The Battle of Marathon was unquestionably the turning point in the Achaemind Dynasty. Darius began to build another exploration against Greece. It took longer than he planned for he had to suppress rebels on the other side of his empire. In 486 B. C. his planning came to a halt when he was killed in a revolt in Egypt. Xerxes his son took over as King of Kings but was never able to recapture what his father had built. The Persians once again were defeated this time at Platae. Persia had now lost all control over their European territories.
Persia managed to hang on to all its lands for a lingering half century to the end of the Achaemind Dynasty. With the rapid decline of the Persian Empire after the death of Darius, it is safe to say Darius was King of Kings among the Achaemind as well as the Persians. Darius I is one of the greatest political emperors to ever live. His ability to manage such a large area with little travel by himself and little technology. There were no phones, computers, television, or radio to broadcast the news, only men on horseback. His vast system of roads enabled his empire to increase trade, send messages quickly from one satrapy to another.
He built the longest road in the world and made the first postal system possible. Without the immense number of roads he had built the postal system would not have been possible. He constructed what is now the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. His ability to restructure his government into smaller provinces and to check the power of the people that ran the provinces is remarkable. The economy flourished during his thirty-six year reign. He minted his own gold coins to be put into circulation and promoted agriculture and trade.
Darius understood that strong borders, strong economy, and strong communication would make his empire a powerhouse of the world. The most impressive accomplishment by Darius was his religious tolerance. He let people in the provinces worship who or what they wanted. The people loved him for that and gave him support. When thinking of great leaders Darius I should be one of the first ho comes to your mind. Remember when someone tells you that Bill Clintons a good leader you can ask him what he has done. Without Dariuss leadership Persia would never have amassed its great wealth and power at the height of its existence.
Persia set a precedent for all other empires to do one better or fall back into another recession. This well dressed powerful man propelled himself to be one of the greatest leaders to ever live. His accomplishment of the Bisitun Inscription puts the icing on the cake of his reign. In three different languages overseeing a heavily traveled trade route Darius wanted to make sure that everyone could see and read his accomplishments. The Bisitun Inscription describes his arrival to the throne and the power that he possessed over foreign countries and domestic people.
The great battles he won, his inventions, and his family. Darius should never be forgotten. Even though he has religious tolerance of others Darius was devoted to the God Ahuramazda. One of the inscription sums himself up and his empire perfectly. A great god Ahuramazda, who created this earth, who created happiness for man, who made Darius King, one king of many, one lord of many. I am Darius the great king, king of kings, king of countries containing all kinds of men, king in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage.