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Persia 06: The Succession of Darius (continued)

- It could be said that the royal family had already gone “Greek” long before they went “Persian”. Prior to Great Kings ruling Egypt under Persian names (Cambyses, Darius), the royal family had adopted Greek names in order to better patronize the growing Greek population of Egypt. The 21st Dynasty (Psusennes, Smendes) and 26th Dynasty (Psamtik, Necho, Apries) were essentially Greek, even as the 25th Dynasty was essentially Nubian. However, as we have seen, there was no change in the ruling family. A secondary Greek kingship also continued into the Persian Period under pharaoh Amasis.

- In 492 BC (of the standard chronology), Darius determined to apply a heavier hand toward the spirited Greeks than Cyrus had done. A new expedition was sent out under his nephew Artaphrenes II and his son-in-law Mardonius. Mardonius first visited Macedonia and was assured of their continued submission. Mardonius was then suddenly ambushed by Phyrigians and had to return to Persia wounded. We must suspect foul play as his replacement was none other than the Crown Prince Xerxes, referred to in the Greek arena simply as Datis the Mede or Datis Perses.

- The name Datis, ostensibly Persian (meaning “(God) given”), is a variant of Dod/David (of the Judah type). Xerxes appears in the history of Diodorus as Datames king of Persia. The variant Datames connotes “son of David” (of the Benjamin type). Xerxes first appeared in the Greek world about five years earlier, 497 BC in the standard chronology, and around the time of the Fall of Babylon, at which time he is referred to Datiya. Xerxes had been sent west to personally investigate the outbreak of rebellion in Ionia and report immediately back to Darius. The name Datiya is close in form to the Babylonian name Tudiya, epithet of (the famous Benjamin-figure) Sargon the Great.

- Together the heirs of Darius and Cyrus continued the maneuver. Naxos and Eretria were ravaged as payback for their earlier involvement in the Ionian Revolt. Athens also had supported the rebels, and it was targeted next for punishment. Miltiades leader of Athens suggested to Datis that the Persians stage their advance from Marathon, to which Datis curiously obliged. Miltiades had earlier supported the operations of Darius against the Scythians. He was now doing business with Datis (as Xerxes would later consult with Themistocles before the battle of Salamis).

- Thousands of elite Persian and Sacae soldiers were sacrificed at Marathon along with their commanders, which Datis must have considered far more of a threat to the Empire than Athenian democracy. After the battle, Datis tarried off the coast waiting for Athens to surrender. Although the signal was given, Miltiades decided not to betray the city in exchange for the honor of a victory over Persian forces. Datis had been double-crossed.

- Although anti-Persian sentiment was also strong at Sparta, its leader Cleomenes chose not to aid the Ionian revolt. The Spartans also begged out of participating at Marathon, giving the excuse that they were observing a sacred festival. Notwithstanding, about the time of Marathon, Cleomenes became vehemently anti-Persian and forced his pro-Persian co-king Demaratus out of power in Sparta. Cleomenes replaced Demaratus by Leotychidas, whose only qualifications seem to have been the ability to feign hatred for Persia by heaping insults upon Demaratus. Demaratus promptly reported to Persia.

- Also around this same time, a marriage was arranged under duress between the precocious daughter of Cleomenes called Gorgo and one named Leonidas. “Gorgo means ‘Gorgon’, as in the myth of the Gorgon called Medusa, whose head Perseus had to cut off in order to rescue Andromeda from the sea monster.” (Paul Cartledge, The Spartans, p 122) With the marriage finalized, an incarcerated Cleomenes soon died miserably (by being sliced to bits). Leonidas then became co-king of Sparta along with Leotychidas.

- The above scenario amounts to a hostile takeover in Sparta by the Persian royal family. Leonidas and Leotychidas can only be the two leading Persian Judah-figures, Xerxes (the very personification of Persia/Perses) and his half-brother Darius/Achaemenes. (Recall that Achaemenes was the fourth overall son of Darius and Xerxes was the fourth son of Queen Atossa.) There would have been some natural rivalry between them (and this may have later led to the death of Achaemenes), but blood was thicker than earth and water when it came to ousting Cleomenes.

- Darius/Achaemenes had evidently been known in Sparta previously as Dorieus (“the Dorian”), but like Demaratus was in former days also run out of town! Further actual resistance to Persian suzerainty was not going to be tolerated, at least until such time as his brother gained the throne. Back in Persia, Datis started serious preparations for another mission aimed at ending his dealings with Athens. They were interrupted by the passing of Darius. Henceforth, the activities of Datis would cease, and those of Xerxes begin.