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DARIUS I

(550-486 BC). One of the most powerful monarchs of ancient times was Darius the Great. He ruled over the vast Persian Empire that ranged from the Aegean Sea to the Indus River.
Darius was born in the reign of the great conqueror King Cyrus I. His father was Hystaspes, a satrap (governor of a satrapy, or province) under Cyrus and a distant relative of the king. Darius grew up at the court. When Cyrus' son and successor, Cambyses I, died, the throne was seized by a pretended heir, Gaumata. With the help of six Persian nobles, Darius assassinated the pretender and established himself as king.
The sudden change of rulers encouraged rebellions. Darius spent six years putting down the revolt. To maintain control, he devised a strong uniform system of government (see Persia). He fixed tax rates, set up a standard coinage, and wrote a code of laws. He declared, ". . . I love justice, I hate iniquity. It is not my pleasure that the lower suffer injustice because of the higher."
To encourage trade, Darius dredged the old Egyptian canal connecting the Nile and the Red Sea. He built roads and set up post houses to aid travelers. Under him, slaves completed building the magnificent palaces at Susa and Persepolis. To extend the empire, Darius' generals conquered Thrace and Macedonia in the west and the Punjab and much of the Indus Valley in the east. Libya became a satrapy in 512 BC. Five years later Darius made an alliance with Athens, but about 500 BC the Ionian Greeks began an uprising against Persian rule (see Persian Wars).
For 14 years Darius waged wars with the Greeks. In 486 BC, while preparing a campaign against the Egyptians, he became ill and died. His tomb was built into a cliff near Persepolis. He left a record of his reign chiseled on the side of a rocky cliff overlooking the village of Behistun, in Iran.

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