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Ancient Mesopotamia

Biography of Darius I

History >> Biography >>Ancient Mesopotamia


Early Life

Darius was born in 550 BC. He was not the son of a king, but was the son of a satrap of Persia. A satrap was a leader under the king who ruled a region of land. Legend has it that the king, Cyrus the Great, had a dream that Darius would one day rule the world. He ordered Darius' father to keep an eye on Darius and make sure that he did not try and kill Cyrus' son Cambyses II.

Darius, however, had no intention of killing Cambyses. He became a spearman in the army, and fought side by side in battle protecting Cambyses when he became king.

Becoming King

In 522 BC the people of Persia revolted against the rule of Cambyses II. A man named Gaumata pretended to be Cambyses' brother and seized the throne. Seven nobles, including Darius, gathered their forces and killed Gaumata.

The seven nobles now had to choose a new government. They discussed various governments including democracy, oligarchy, and monarchy. In the end, they decided that monarchy was the best form of government. In order to choose who would be king, the seven nobles decided to gather at dawn. Each man would arrive riding his horse. The first noble's horse that neighed would be the king of Persia. Darius' horse neighed first and he became king.

Expanding the Empire

Darius first had to squash revolts in his own empire. Early on in his reign there were conspiracies to overthrow him as well as major revolts like the Babylonian revolt led by Nebuchadnezzar III. After gaining full control over his empire, Darius began to expand it, conquering new lands such as Egypt and the Indus Valley. Soon the Persian Empire reached its peak and was one of the largest empires in the history of the world.

Invading Greece

When the Greeks began to interfere with the lands of Ionia, Darius decided to invade Greece. In what would be known as the First Persian War, Darius led a huge army against the Greeks. However, he was defeated at the Battle of Marathon by the army of Athens.


Darius was a prolific builder. He constructed huge palace complexes in the cities of Persepolis and Susa. He also built many temples and irrigation systems throughout his empire. In Egypt Darius had a canal constructed that went from the Nile River to the Red Sea.

In order to help trade and communication, Darius had roads constructed throughout the empire. The most famous road was the Royal Road which stretched nearly 1,700 miles. A system of mounted couriers could enable messages to travel along the entire road in about seven days.


Darius died in 486 BC. His son Xerxes I succeeded him as king.

Interesting Facts about Darius I

Learn More about Ancient Mesopotamia:

Timeline of Mesopotamia
Great Cities of Mesopotamia
The Ziggurat
Science, Inventions, and Technology
Assyrian Army
Persian Wars
Glossary and Terms

Akkadian Empire
Babylonian Empire
Assyrian Empire
Persian Empire
Daily Life of Mesopotamia
Art and Artisans
Religion and Gods
Code of Hammurabi
Sumerian Writing and Cuneiform
Epic of Gilgamesh

Famous Kings of Mesopotamia
Cyrus the Great
Darius I
Nebuchadnezzar II

Works Cited

History >> Biography >>Ancient Mesopotamia

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