(flourished late sixth century b.c.)
   The name of the younger son of the Persian king Cyrus II, who was successfully, though briefly, impersonated by a royal pretender in 522 B.c.After Cyrus's death, his elder son, Cambyses, murdered the real Bardiya (whom the Greeks called Smerdis) to eliminate any potential rivals. Later, when Cambyses was away campaigning in Egypt, he received news that a priest named Gaumata (the "false-Smerdis" to the Greeks), who bore a close resemblance to Bardiya, had seized the throne. Because the murder of the real Bardiya was a secret, most Persians had no reason to suspect that Gaumata was a phony. As later recorded by another Persian king, Darius I:
   This stone bas-relief shows the soldiers of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal laying siege to an enemy city. Erich Lessing/Art Resource,NY
   After Cambyses went to Egypt . . . there was great deceit in the land. ... There arose a Magian [Median priest], by name Gaumata. . . . He deceived the people, saying, "I am Bardiya, son of Cyrus, brother of Cambyses." Then all the people became estranged from Cambyses and went over to him [Gaumata]. ... He seized the kingdom. (Behistun Inscription 10-11)
   Shortly after hearing about the deception, Cambyses died. Gaumata held power in the capital for several months before a small group of leading Persian nobles finally slew him and placed one of their own number - Darius - on the throne. Because Darius belonged to a branch of the Achaemenid family, he did have a legitimate claim.
   See also: Cambyses; Darius I; Persian Empire

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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