Persia 05: The Succession of Darius

- Cyrus and Darius were considered to be a repetition of Ramses II and Osorkon III, respectively. Osorkon III (Assurdan III/Achaemenes) waited until the final years and months of Ramses II to make his play for the throne and to establish his son Takelot III (Tiglath-pilesar III/Arsa) as successor in the Great Throne. It therefore behooved Darius to do the same.

- Osorkon III survived Ramses III by less than a year. Darius likely survived Cyrus by about the same amount. This can be deduced as follows. After the Fall of Babylon, Cyrus lived for as much as ten more years. One inscription has been found dating to his Year 10. However, his influence waned after only about seven years. After about four years from the Fall of Babylon (492 BC in the standard chronology), Cyrus/Artaphrenes turned over Greek affairs to his son, also called Artaphrenes, and his presence is no longer attested at his western capital of Sardis. Within about three more years Cyrus probably conceded the throne to Darius. According to the Book of Daniel, Darius did not become Great King until the age of 62. Darius is thought to have died at about age 65, that is, about three years after Cyrus made Darius his successor. The actual death of Cyrus came two or three years later when he decided to undertake one last mission in the East.

- There is evidence that Xerxes functioned as heir apparent to Darius (if not officially co-regent) for up to eleven years. These eleven years must date from the Fall of Babylon, and Xerxes was in fact governor of Babylon during this entire period. The chronological framework (see note below) indicates that Xerxes also later counted the regnal years of his kingship from the Fall of Babylon. However, Xerxes was not formally acknowledged as successor until the very end of the reign of Darius. Historians are perplexed as to why Darius waited so long to make this declaration. It can now be understood however that while Cyrus was yet alive and well, the throne was not fully that of Darius to give.


The Persian Empire was a repetition of the earlier Hyksos Empire. It was a “horse-won” empire coming from the east. The expectation then was that these “Asiatics” or “foreign lords from the east” would be overthrown within 70 years and replaced by a new “native” or “spear-won” empire based once again in Egypt (ala the New Kingdom). Of course the new dynasty would still be a continuation of the old, but the Persian dynasts were sensitive to expectations and took measures to safeguard against an unwarranted disruption in kingly succession. The prophesied 70-year intermediate period was fulfilled in such as way as to not unduly disturb the empire’s administration, or so it was hoped.