Reign of Darius I in Iran

Darius I, termed the Great, conveys in detail the story of the overthrow of the false Bardiya and of the first year of his own reign in his famed royal inscription cut on a rock face at the base of Mount Bīsotūn, just a few miles east of modern Kermānshāh. Some historians consider Darius’s account to be sheer propaganda and contend instead that Bardiya was not an imposter. According to Darius, six prominent Achaemenian nobles aided in slaying the imposter and together declared Darius the rightful heir of Cambyses. Darius was without doubt a member of the Achaemenian royal house. His great-grandfather was Ariaramnes (son of Teispes), who had shared power in Persia with his brother Cyrus I. Ariaramnes’ son (Arsames) and his grandson (Darius’s father Hystaspes), had not been kings in Persia, as Cyaxares had placed unified royal power in the hands of Cambyses I. Neither is termed a king in Darius’s own inscriptions. Hystaspes was, nevertheless, a significant royal prince and seemingly the governor of Persis. Darius himself was in the mold of Cyrus the Great—a commanding personality and a dynamic ruler.

It over a year (522–521 BC) of hard fighting to put down the revolts connected with Bardiya’s claim to the throne and Darius’s ascendance to power. Nearly every province of the empire was drawn in the conflict, including Persia and, most particularly, Media. A balanced policy of mercy backed by the instant and thorough punishment of any apprehended rebel leader, in combination with a well-coordinated and prudently timed distribution of loyal forces, ultimately brought peace to the empire and incontestable power to Darius. He then turned his attention to the consolidation and organization of his inheritance, and it was for this role—that of organizer and lawgiver — he most wished to be remembered.

Such activities, nevertheless, did not avert Darius from following an active expansionist policy. Campaigns to the east inveterate gains possibly made by Cyrus the Great and added large segments of the northern Indian subcontinent to the list of Persian-controlled provinces. Expansion in the west started about 516 BC when Darius moved against the Hellespont as a first stride towards an attack on the Scythians along the northern and western shores of the Black Sea. The real tactical purpose behind this move possibly was to disrupt and, if possible, interject Greek trade with the Black Sea area, which provided much grain to Greece. Darius pursued his expansionist policy till his death in 486 BC.

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