Darius III

Darius III

Darius III (Darius Codomannus), d. 330 B.C., king of ancient Persia (336-330 B.C.). A cousin of Artaxerxes III, he was raised to the throne by the eunuch Bagoas, who had murdered both Artaxerxes and his son, Arses; Darius in turn murdered Bagoas. His rule was not stable, however. When Alexander the Great invaded Persia, Darius was defeated in the battle of Issus (333 B.C.) and again in the battle of Gaugamela near Arbela (331 B.C.). For the first time Persia was confronted by a united Greece, and Darius' greatest error was in underestimating Alexander's strength. Darius used the wrong tactics in battle and was forced to flee to Ecbatana and then eastward to Bactria. It was there that the satrap of Bactria, Bessus, had Darius murdered on Alexander's approach and took command himself in the unsuccessful opposition to the Macedonian conqueror. These events brought the Persian Empire to an end and marked the beginning of the Hellenistic period in the E Mediterranean. Darius III is probably the Darius the Persian mentioned in the Bible (Neh. 12.22).
Darius III (Artashata) (c. 380–330 BC, Persian داریوش Dāriūš, ) was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia from 336 BC to 330 BC. He was deposed during Alexander the Great's conquest. (For more information on the name, see the entry for Darius I.)


After the ambitious Vizier Bagoas murdered King Artaxerxes III of Persia in 338 BCE, and his son King Arses in 336 BCE, he sought to install a new monarch who would be easier to control. He chose Codomannus, a distant relative of the royal house who had distinguished himself in a combat of champions in a war against the Cadusii and was serving at the time as a royal courier. Codomannus was the son of Arsames of Ostanes, one of Artaxerxes's brothers and Sisygambis, daughter of Artaxerxes II Memnon.

Codomannus took the regnal name Darius III, and quickly demonstrated his independence from his assassin benefactor. Bagoas then tried to poison Darius as well, but Darius was warned and forced Bagoas to drink the poison himself. The new king found himself in control of an unstable empire, large portions of which were governed by jealous and unreliable satraps and inhabited by disaffected and rebellious subjects, such as Khabash in Egypt.

In 336 BCE Philip II of Macedonia was authorized by the League of Corinth as its Hegemon to initiate a sacred war of vengeance against the Persians for desecrating and burning the Athenian temples during the Second Persian War. He sent an advance force into Asia Minor under the command of his generals Parmenion and Attalus to "liberate" the Greeks living under Persian control. After they took the Greek cities of Asia from Troy to the Maiandros river, Philip was assassinated and his campaign was suspended while his heir consolidated his control of Macedonia and Greece.

Conflict with Alexander

In the spring of 334 BC Philip's heir, Alexander the Great, who had himself been confirmed as Hegemon by the League of Corinth, invaded Asia Minor at the head of a combined Macedonian army and almost immediately faced and defeated a Persian force at the Battle of the Granicus. In 333 BC Darius himself took the field against the Macedonian king, but his much larger army was outflanked and defeated at the Battle of Issus and Darius was forced to flee, leaving behind his chariot, his camp, and his family, all of which were captured by Alexander. In 331 BC, Darius' sister-wife Statira, who had otherwise been well-treated, died in captivity, reputedly during childbirth. In September of that year, after rejecting Darius' peace overtures, Alexander again defeated Darius at the Battle of Gaugamela, when his chariot driver was killed and Darius was knocked off his feet, which set off a general Persian rout, as his troops panicked at what they believed was the death of their king. Darius then fled to Ecbatana to begin raising a third army, while Alexander took possession of Babylon, Susa and the Persian capital at Persepolis.

Darius was deposed by his satrap Bessus and was assassinated at Bessus' order in July 330 BC, in order to slow Alexander's pursuit, and reportedly against Alexander's express wish that Darius be caught alive. Bessus left Darius' body in the road for Alexander to later see. Bessus took the regal name Artaxerxes V. Alexander gave Darius a magnificent funeral and eventually married Darius' daughter Statira at Opis in 324 BC. According to the historian Plutarch, Alexander also took on one of Darius' catamites, the eunuch Bagoas.

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