King Darius of Persia



Shortly after his rout of Egypt, madness came upon the Persian king Cambyses, and he died, having committed many crimes, among which was the slaying of his brother Smerdis. And there rose up one among the Magi who pretended to be Smerdis, and was proclaimed king. But this false Smerdis was one whose ears had been cut off, and he was thus found out by one of his wives, the daughter of a Persian nobleman, Otanes. Then seven nobles conspired together, since they would not be ruled over by one of the Magi; and having determined that it was best to have one man for ruler, rather than the rule of the people or of the nobles, they slew Smerdis and made Darius, the son of Hystaspes, their king. Then Darius divided the Persian empire into twenty satrapies, whereof each one paid its own tribute, save Persia itself, and he was lord of all Asia, and Egypt also.

In the days of Cambyses, Polycrates was despot of Samos, being the first who ever thought to make himself a ruler of the seas. And he had prospered marvellously. But Oroetes, the satrap of Sardis, compassed his death by foul treachery, and wrought many other crimes; whom Darius in turn put to death by guile, fearing to make open war upon him. And not long afterwards, he sent Otanes to make conquest of Samos. And during the same days there was a revolt of the Babylonians; and Darius went up against Babylon, yet for twenty months he could not take it.

Howbeit, Babylon was taken by the act of Zopyrus, who, having mutilated himself, went to the Babylonians and told them that Darius had thus evilly entreated him, and so, winning their trust, he made easy entry for the Persian army, and so Babylon was taken for the second time.

Now, Darius was minded to make conquest of the Scythians-concerning which people, and the lands beyond those which they inhabit, there are many marvels told, as of a bald-headed folk called Argippaei; and the Arimaspians or one-eyed people; and the Hyperborean land where the air is full of feathers. Of these lands are legends only; nothing is known. But concerning the earth's surface, this much is known, that Libya is surrounded by water, certain Phoenicians having sailed round it. And of the unknown regions of Asia much was searched out by order of Darius.

The Scythians themselves have no cities; but there are great rivers in Scythia, where of the Ister is the greatest of all known streams, being greater even than the Nile, if we reckon its tributaries. The great god of the Scythians is Ares; and their war customs are savage exceedingly, and all their ways barbarous. Against this folk Darius resolved to march.

His plan was to convey his army across the Bosporus on a bridge of boats, while the Ionian fleet should sail up to the Ister and bridge that and await him. So he crossed the Bosporus and marched through Thrace, subduing on his way the Getae, who believe that there is no true death.

But when he passed the Ister, he would have taken the Ionians along with him; but by counsel of Coes of Mitylene, he resolved to leave them in charge of the bridge, giving order that, after sixty days, they might depart home, but no sooner.

THEN the Scythians, fearing that they could not match the great king's army, summoned the other barbaric peoples to their aid; among whom were the Sauromatians, who are fabled to be the offspring of the Amazons. And some were willing, but others not. Therefore the Scythians retired before Darius, first towards those peoples who would not come to their help; and so enticed him into desert regions, yet would in no wise come to battle with him.

Now, at length, Darius found himself in so evil a plight that he began to march back to the Ister. And certain Scythians came to the Ionians and counselled them to destroy the bridge, the sixty days being passed. And this Miltiades, the Athenian despot of the Chersonese, would have had them do, so that Darius might perish with all his army; but Histiaeus of Miletus dissuaded them, because the rule of the despots was upheld by Darius. And thus the Persian army was saved, Megabazus being left in Europe to subdue the Hellespontines. When Megabazus had subdued many of the Thracian peoples, who, indeed, lack only union with each other to make them the mightiest of all nations, he sent an embassy to Amyntas, the king of Macedon, to demand earth and water. But because those envoys insulted the ladies of the court, Alexander, the son of Amyntas, slew them all, and of them or all their train naught was heard more.

Now Darius, with fair words, bade Histiaeus of Miletus abide with him at the royal town of Susa. Then Aristagoras, the brother of Histiaeus, having failed in an attempt to subdue Naxos, and fearing both Artaphernes, the satrap of Sardis, and the Persian general Megabazus, with whom he had quarrelled, sought to stir up a revolt of the Ionian cities; being incited thereto by secret messages from Histiaeus.

To this end he sought alliance with the Lacedaemonians; but they would have nothing to do with him, deeming the venture too remote. Then he went to Athens, whence the sons of Pisistratus had been driven forth just before. For Hipparchus had been slain by Harmodius and Aristogiton, and afterwards Hippias would hardly have been expelled but that his enemies captured his children and so could make with him what terms they chose. But the Pisistratidae having been expelled, the city grew in might, and changes were made in the government of it by Clisthenes the Alcmaeonid. But the party that was against Clisthenes got aid from Cleomenes of Sparta; yet the party of Clisthenes won.

Then, since they reckoned that there would be war with Sparta, the Athenians had sought friendship with Artaphernes at Sardis; but since he demanded earth and water they broke off. But because Athens was waxing in strength, the Spartans bethought them of restoring the despotism of the Pisistratidae. But Sosicles, the Corinthian, dissuaded the allies of Sparta from taking part in so evil a deed. Then Hippias sought to stir up against the Athenians the ill-will of Artaphernes, who bade them take back the Pisistratidae, which they would not do.

Therefore, when Aristagoras came thither, the Athenians were readily persuaded to promise him aid. And he, having gathered the troops of the Ionians, who were at one with him, marched with them and the Athenians against Sardis and took the city, which by a chance was set on fire. But after that the Athenians refused further help to the Ionians, who were worsted by the Persians. But the ruin of the Ionians was at the sea-fight of Lade, where the men of Chios fought stoutly; but, they of Samos and Lesbos deserting, there was a great rout.





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