The Persian Wars: Darius the Great

The man who lead the revolt in Persia in 522 BC claimed to be the son of Cyrus the Great, despite the fact that the real Bardia was killed by his own brother Cambyses II before the conquest of Egypt. Darius, a nobleman from the Immortals unit, decided to defeat the fake Bardia and quell the rebellion.

Darius and six other Persian noblemen conspired against Bardia and finally killed him. Herodotus writes that three Persian noblemen were discussing the future of Persia, and that Darius finally won the discussions and was crowned the king of Persia in 521 BC, when he was 29 years old. On the other hand, on the Behistun inscription, Darius said that he defeated one rebellion after another before becoming the king of Persia. Finally he won the Empire in 521 BC by his military skill, and he legitimized his rule by marrying Atossa, the daughter of  Cyrus the Great. Now he only had to consolidate his rule by investing heavily in building the infrastructure of the empire.

(Darius the Great on his Throne)

Darius also continued the humanitarian path of Cyrus the G
reat by building many temples in Egypt. He built the Royal Road from Persis to the western part of Asia Minor which facilitated the first postal system in history that he created. He again proved himself as an outstanding organizer by dividing his empire into 20 satrapies, in which a satrap was installed as the governor. He created a very stabile currency known as the Dareik. He started building the impressive Persepolis that arguably was the United Nations of the ancient world. This palace-complex was built throughout 150 years and his son and grandson continued building it. The magnificent reliefs proved the stability and peace of the 
Persian Empire because there was not a single variation in the building relief in 150 years, while the Greeks were experiencing major changes in their art as a result of their wars. More important is the fact that Darius and his successors never used slaves and always paid the workers, who were building Persepolis and the first canal (Suez Canal), connecting the Red Sea to the Nile. All these brilliant feats earned him the name Darius the Great.

(Persepolis, National Geographic)

He incorporated the Phoenician navy into the Imperial Persian Navy. He demanded that each satrapy contributed with a certain amount of troops and taxes. It resulted in the dramatic change of the Persian army, because it went from a mainly Persian army to a multicultural army with soldiers from India and Central Asia to Greece & Egypt. He also expanded the kingdom in Central Asia, India, Caucasus and into the Balkans.

In 499 when Darius the Great was 51 years old, the Ionian Greeks revolted. The Persians defeated this revolt 6 years after, but they were infuriated by the Greek aid to the Ionian rebels when they burned down Sardes. Therefore Darius wanted them to suffer the consequences of endangering the Persian hegemony. 

In 490, when Darius the Great was 60 years old, his army met the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon in one of the first naval assaults in history. Herodotus says that the Greek were afraid of looking at the Persians, and now they had to meet them in a battle. The Persians had never met an army consisting of brilliantly trained heavy infantrymen and the Persians were used to fight with very high speed and mobility which the Greek land didn't allow. On the other hand, they fought bravely against the Greek center which they pushed back, but the Persian flanks were overrun by the Greeks. This caused the envelopment of the center of the Persian Empire that decided to retreat with the Greeks pursuing. The Greeks were overjoyed by the victory and Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran all the way from the b
attlefield to Athens to inform the inhabitants of Greece about the victory. He managed to say "We Have Won" and then he died on the spot due to exhaustion. Now the Persians wanted to reach Athens before the Athenian army in order to conquer the city-state, but they gave up, when  they saw that the Athenian army had reached Athens beforehand. 

One of the reasons of the defeat in the Battle of Marathon was the late arrival of the Persian horses, who were famous killing-machines. Darius died 5 years after the Battle of Marathon, and he had made the Persian Empire into an efficient and very stabil empire. Now his son Xerxes was ready to defeat the annoying Greeks once and for all... 

The Persian Empire 485 BC

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