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Darius I (the Great)

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Darius I (the Great) (5th century BC) – Persian king (521^486 BC)

When Cyrus died, he was succeeded by his son, the gloomy and self-centred Cambyses who conquered Egypt and had himself acknowledged as pharaoh. Cambyses, as might have been expected, committed suicide (in 522). A year later, after a struggle for power, Cyrus’ son-in-law, Darius, became king. This great ruler was much like Cyrus, determined to expand the empire and anxious to introduce new schemes into the government and the country. One was the construction of a long road for swift communication between the outer limits of the empire. It was called the King’s Highway and it ran from Ephesus, on the West Coast of Asia Minor, to Susa in central Persia, not far north of the Persian Gulf, and it was over 2,400 kilometres long.

Darius divided his empire into twenty regions, called satrapies, which were managed by governors (satraps) usually selected from among local people. Each governor was responsible to the king, as head of the central government, but had a fair measure of self-determination. Darius kept watch on the governors, however, with a well-organized secret police.

In the 490s, Darius went to war with the Athenians because they had been helping the Ionian Greeks in Western Asia Minor to rebel. A huge army under two generals, Artaphernes and Datis, was defeated at Marathon by the Athenians in 490, under Miltiades (p. 12). This did not deter Darius from tryipg again, but on his next expedition to Greece he died.

Darius I (the Great)

Darius I (the Great)

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