Darius the Great was a famous King of the Persian Empire. After Cyrus the Great’s son, Cambyses II, was killed, Darius came to power. Before this, Darius had fought for Cambyses II as a spearman in his army. In 522 BC, the people of the Persian Empire rebelled against Cambyses II’s rule, and Darius (alongside seven other nobles) collected the country’s forces to depose the man who stole the throne.
After this, these seven nobles decided that a new system of government was needed. The seven decided that monarchy was the best way to rule, and decreed that the first man whose horse neighed at dawn the next day would be named king. After Darius’ horse neighed first, he was made king.
This was an unusual way to choose a king, instead of just choosing a suitable candidate; particularly when you remember that Darius wasn’t even really a royal at all. Darius was the son of a “satrap” of Persia, the ruler of a small region without the country.
Darius the Great ruled the Persian Empire from 522-486 BC.
Because of the unusual circumstances surrounding Darius’ ascension to the throne, many Persian people considered him to be a usurper, somebody who had unfairly snuck his way onto the throne. At the beginning of Darius’ rule, he spent a great deal of time dealing with internal rebellion from the Persian people.
However, using his powerful personal guard – known in the region as the 10,000 Immortals – he restored peace to Persia and began to expand its boundaries by conquering other regions. This commanding method of restoring law and order was well-received by his people, and served to strengthen the empire’s military presence.
Darius was also renowned for his organizational skills. Under Darius, the Persian Government expanded in power and his empire became much more efficient. One of Darius’ main achievements was the establishment of a currency common to all regions of his empire.
(He borrowed this idea from the Greek regions to his west.) These Persian coins, which had an image of Darius stamped on them, each had the same value, and could easily be exchanged for goods.He was also responsible for the division of his empire into 20 separate provinces called “satrapy,” which were each ruled by an individual satrap.
After setting the annual amount of tax he wanted from each satrapy, Darius would send an agent of the king to oversee the work of each satrap. This ensured that the public was not overcharged, and encouraged the satraps to work according to Darius’ law.
Darius was also responsible for the establishment of Zoroastrianism as the state religion. Though previous Mesopotamian Empires had been predominately polytheistic (meaning that they worshipped multiple gods instead of one), the religion of Zoroastrianism was monotheistic, and centered solely around the worship of the god “Ahura Mazda.”
Darius was a devout practitioner of Zoroastrianism, and encouraged his people to follow him; however, he did not force them to convert, and permitted the practice of all types of religions within his empire.
Under Darius’ rule, the Persian Empire’s organization, military might, and tolerance ensured a rise in the standard of living enjoyed by his people, and helped to improve trade between it and its neighboring regions.
The organizational measures he put in place helped to keep Persia in action as a political player for 1,000 years after his death, and many of these traditions remain even now.
Darius died in 486 BC, and was succeeded as King by his son.
– Cambyses II.
– 522-486 BC.
– He instated a state currency common to all regions of his empire.
– 486 BC.