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Darius I of Persia

Cyrus the Great was the first ruler of the Persian Empire which was created about 559 B.C. and he was the first ruler of the Persian Achaemenid Dynasty. Darius, I came to power around 522 B.C. which is where he appears on the Bible Timeline with World History. He was the Achaemenid’s dynasty’s third monarch.

Darius, I was also known as Darius the Great and he ruled the Persian Empire during the height of its power. Cyrus the Great was alive and fighting to extend the Persian Empire when Darius was but a young man who served in his army. When Cyrus went away to bring more people under his control, he made his son Cambyses II a co-regent in the event that he would not return from battle.

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Darius I of Persia
Darius I of Persia

Historians claim that while Cyrus was away overseeing the battle he had a strange dream where he saw Darius with wings standing over all of Europe and Asia. Dreams and visions were common for Persian rulers during that era in history and it would seem as if God was sending Cyrus the Great another message.

Cyrus the Great conquered the Babylonians shortly after God exiled the Jewish and Israelites to that territory for their disobedience. Before Cyrus had taken over the throne the Bible does state that God revealed to Cyrus the Great that he was going to become a mighty ruler and conqueror. This revelation probably came in a dream and King Cyrus knew how important these dreams were and that he shouldn’t just ignore them.

Cyrus had ordered one of his commanders to go back to Persia to watch over his son so that Darius wouldn’t usurp his throne. Once Cambyses II became ruler Darius didn’t harm him and, in fact, became a top lancer in his personal guard.

History isn’t clear about how King Darius came to power, but scholars and archeologists have pieced together the story of King Darius’ rise to power. Once Cambyses II took over for his father, he thought to kill off any other heirs and rivals to the throne. He killed his brother Bardiya and kept his murder hidden from the people. Somehow a usurper named Gaumata realized what had happened and thought to use this incident to over Persia. So he came forward and pretended he was Bardiya.

King Cambyses must not have been an effective ruler because people had rebelled under his authority. Gaumata decided to use the rebellion to make himself the new leader of Persia by murdering King Cambyses. The people agreed with his actions and wanted him to rule them instead of the king. Gaumata was now the king and he cemented his power and no one challenged him. Eventually Darius and a few other supporters assassinated Gautama seven days after he took over the throne.

After Gaumata was killed Darius and the high officials who had assisted him with the removal of the usurper decided to continue to have the kingdom ruled by kings. Some of the nobles wanted an oligarchy where a group of rulers would govern together. Darius eventually established himself as the empires new ruler and the people agreed. Cyrus never returned from the battle against the tribes he was trying to control as he died during the conflict.

When Darius was in power he wiped out the last revolts in the empire and he conquered territories inside of Egypt, the Indus Valley, and Scythia. The battles between Persia and Greece are the stuff of legends and these two great armies first met on the battlefield during the reign of Darius I. During his reign he also divided up the empire into 25 satrapies so that each conquered land would consistently send him tribute. He created a standard currency that would be used throughout all of his empire. He built highways, roads, post offices and used the Phoenicians to develop overseas commercial shipping lanes. Darius improved the taxation system in order to streamline revenue for the kingdom and one of the world’s first banking systems was created through this new procedure.

Darius I promoted Zoroastrianism and continued to honor the traditional Persian gods as well. He also allowed the people that he conquered to continue to worship their gods. Darius, I was born to Hystaspes the governor of Persia around 550 B.C. and he was the oldest of five brothers. He lived the early part of his life in luxury before joining the military as a young man. His father Hystaspes was also a military commander in King Cyrus’ army and noble within his court. Darius, I died in 486 B.C. due to health reasons.

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7 thoughts on “Darius I of Persia

  1. thanks for the info!

  2. Daniel 9 says that Darius was the son of Ahasuerus. That would be Esther’s husband. Who was a king, not a governor named Hystaspes.

    1. Sean – There is some debate around who Ahasuerus represents. Check out https://biblehub.com/topical/a/ahasuerus.htm and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahasuerus#Etymology.

    2. The term ‘son’ in the Bible can have a broader meaning than the way we would define it today. Example, Jesus was identified as the “son of David, the son of Abraham”.

  3. Cyrus the great and Darius I still kept the title of the Babylonian rulers: “king of the Babylonians/Chaldeans”.

    However at the start of his reign after Babylon rebelled and he melted the golden Bel statue, he changed his title. It became: “king of the Persians and Medes” (Roman Ghirshman in his book “Iran”, page 191).

    The same change is visible in the book of Daniel between the kings Darius and Kores (Cyrus).

    This suggests Darius and Kores in the book of Daniel are: Darius I and Xerxes (grandson and probable namesake of Cyrus the great).

    The following confirms this identification:

    The 120 satraps in Daniel 6:2 can also be translated as 20 tribute owing satraps (Darius I divided his kingdom this way).(1)

    The “about 62 years” mentioned in Daniel 6:1 rather then to Darius’ age refer more naturally to the distance to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (corresponding with Darius I’s first year).

    Darius I did not build in Babylon or the old Persian capital Pasargadae (the centers of power of Cyrus the Great), he did build however in the old Median capital Ecbatana.(2)

    Daniel 6:29 suggests Daniel the prophet (Daniel 1-5) and Daniel the ruler (Daniel 6) are two distinct persons, which enhances the time span of the book of Daniel.

    (1) Wilhelm Gesenius, Hebräisches und Aramäisches Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament, 17. Auflage (1962), Springer-Verlag, p 392.

    (2) Karl Julius Ploetz, A Handbook of Universal History from the Dawn of Civilization to the Outbreak of the Great War of 1914.

    1. “However at the start of his reign”, should be: “However at the start of Xerxes’ reign”

      1. An edited version of my above comment:

        Cyrus the great and Darius I still kept the title of the Babylonian rulers: “king of the Babylonians/Chaldeans”.

        However at the start of Xerxes’ reign, after Babylon rebelled and he melted the golden Bel statue, he changed his title. It now became: “king of the Persians and Medes” (Roman Ghirshman in his book “Iran”, page 191).

        This change of the king’s title also is visible in the book of Daniel between the kings Darius and Cyrus (not “the great”). This identifies the kings in the book of Daniel as Darius I and Xerxes (grandson and probable namesake of Cyrus the great).

        Darius I did not build in Babylon or the old Persian capital Pasargadae (the centers of power of Cyrus the Great), he did build however in the old Median capital Ecbatana.(1)

        A few wrong translations caused confusion:

        . The 120 satraps in Daniel 6:2 also can be translated as 20 tribute owing satraps (alternatively 100 means tax) (similar to how Darius I divided his kingdom).(2)

        . The “about 62 years” mentioned in Daniel 6:1 don’t refer to Darius’ age, but to the distance to destruction of the Jerusalem temple (a point of reference also used on Jewish grave stones and similar to the distance at Darius I’s first year).

        The much later editor of the book Daniel fused the texts concerning two different individuals:

        . Daniel 6:29 suggests Daniel the prophet (Daniel 1-5) and Daniel the ruler (Daniel 6) are two distinct persons, enhancing the time span of the book of Daniel as indicated by the above identifications.

        (1) Karl Julius Ploetz, A Handbook of Universal History from the Dawn of Civilization to the Outbreak of the Great War of 1914.

        (2) Wilhelm Gesenius, Hebräisches und Aramäisches Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament, 17. Auflage (1962), Springer-Verlag, p 392.

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