Darius III

Darius III
(reigned 336-330 b.c.)
   The last king of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Darius III was the throne name of an obscure Achaemenid man named Codomannus. In the wake of the murder of King Artaxerxes IV, he was selected for the kingship by the assassin, the treacherous royal adviser Bagoas. After becoming king, Darius saw that Bagoas intended to dispose of him as well and had the kingmaker executed. Despite this violent act, Darius appears to have been a mild-mannered and generous person who only wanted the best for his country and empire. Yet this was not destined to happen, partly because by this time the Persian Empire was weak and corrupt.
   Also, during Darius's reign his realm became the target of the Greeks, led by the young Macedonian king Alexander III, later called "the Great." Alexander invaded Anatolia in 334 b.c., and the following year he faced off with Darius at Issus in northern Syria. Darius was defeated and fled the field, but Alexander was unable to catch up to him. The Greeks did manage to capture the Persian king's wife, children, and mother, all of whom were treated with great respect. The two monarchs exchanged letters, the essence of which was preserved by the Greek historian Arrian. Darius told Alexander:
   took the field in defense of [my] country and of [my] ancestral throne. . . . Now Darius the King asks Alexander the King to restore from captivity his wife, his mother, and his children, and is willing to make friends with him and be his ally. For this cause urge Alexander to send to [me] . . . representatives of his own in order that proper guarantees may be exchanged.
   Alexander answered:
   Your ancestors invaded ... Greece and caused havoc in our country, though we had done nothing to provoke them. As supreme commander of all Greece I invaded Asia because I wished to punish Persia for this act. ... By God's help I am master of your country. . . . come to me, therefore, as you would come to the lord of the continent of Asia. . . . And in the future let any communication you wish to make with me be addressed to the King of all Asia. Do not write to me as an equal ... or I shall take steps to deal with you as a criminal. (Anabasis Alexandri 2.14-15)
   Darius rejected Alexander's arrogant talk and raised another army. The two forces met in October 331 B.c.at Gaugamela in central Mesopotamia, and once more Darius suffered defeat and fled for his life. Again Alexander was unable to catch his foe. But then Bessus, the satrap (governor) of Persia's Bactrian province, and some other high Persian officials took Darius prisoner and tried to exchange him for favorable terms with Alexander. The latter hunted them down; when the conspirators learned that he was approaching, they stabbed Darius with their spears and ran. Less than an hour later, one of Alexander's men found the dying Persian king in a covered wagon, accompanied only by a faithful dog. After the man had given Darius some water, the king said:
   This is the final stroke of misfortune, that I should accept a service from you, and not be able to return it, but Alexander will reward you for your kindness, and the gods will repay him for his courtesy towards my mother and my wife and my children. And so through you, I give him my hand. (Quoted in Plutarch, Life of Alexander 43)
   With these words, Darius died. Alexander soon arrived and used his own cloak to cover the body, and not long afterward the conqueror of Persia caught up to Bessus and had him torn limb from limb.
   See also: Alexander III ("the Great"); Battle of Gaugamela; Persian Empire

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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