Not much is known definitively about Darayavaush's early life. Physically it is suspected that he was around 5'10", strong with a muscular build. He was most likely the son of Hystaspes, the local satrap of an Iranian province to the north, Parthia. During Kuroush's campaigns he was a general in his army. However, after Kabujiyahya died, and Bardiya had taken the throne Darayavaush led a coup which saved the empire from collapse. Bardiya (real name is given as Gaumata) came to throne falsely claiming to be Kabujiyahya's brother. He was backed by the Magush (Magi) (remainants of Iran's pre-Zoroastrian priest class) and made ridiculous claims of abolishing all taxes and the like. Darayavaush was not only enraged but also risked losing the power his family had. He was also a ferverant Zoroastrian and resented the Magush.
Darayavaush leaves his dramatic account of his coup on a cliff at Behistoun. While Bardiya was being crowned, Darayavaush pelted through the door and hurled a spear at him. He then decapitated Bardiya to show everyone who was to be respected as the true leader. He had a seven co-conspirators whom he names and who later came to play a crucial role in his government. He names them as Vindafarna, Utana, Guabaruva, Marduniya, Bagabukhsha, Datuhya, and Ardumanish. After fighting off the Magush and reclaiming the throne Darayavaush set things straight. He married two of Kuroush's daughters to help re-establish legitimacy. He also married other regional rulers' wives. In the end he had six wives!
Darayavaush's troubles had only began. As many power-hungry, local leaders perceived weakness in the government almost every single satrap revolted. Darayavaush was faced with the massive task of recapturing nearly every major province with a weak army and small funds. Even in his own kingdom, considering he was so young.
Dealing with Ionia, it never rebelled in the open, but local rulers were already plotting independence. Darayavaush was too weak in the beginning so he determined the factions still loyal to him and used them to assasinate leaders who opposed Persian rule.
Though Ionia was cleared, Darayavaush could not even keep his home province of Media down. Bardiya's imposter was more popular than Darayavaush. Now the local insurrection rallied around Fravartish. Though some still say that he was not of pure Iranian descent (based on his appearance, snub nose, facial structure, Straight beard, and dress). Fravartish called himself after Khshathrita, the legendary Median monarch who established the Median empire. Fravartish also claimed descendance from Uvakhshatra. He marched into Parthia, Darayavaush's father's province, as well as gaining support from Armenia.
In the Persian homeland Province of Parsa revolt also broke out. Vahyazdata lead the revolt. Local chieftains rallied around his figure. Though his pointed chin, round face, and flat nose make it unlikely that he was Iranian, just like Fravartish. Vahyazdata began expanding east into Aria as soon as he took reign of power. He began expanding into southeastern Iran as well. Pretty soon Darayavaush's whole empire was collapsing. His expansion continued to Drangiana.
Not four day has passed since Darayavaush's rise to power that Babylon too revolted. Nidintu-Bel, claiming to be a descendant of Nabu-Naid. He is shown with dimpled cheeks, jutting beard, and short nose. His forces stationed along the Tigris river to protect Babylon from Darayavaush. Pretty soon Egypt followed in the like and the Persian empire was in near disaster as all satraps revolted. Meanwhile In Elam a certain Hashshina lead a revolt of his own. He appears very muscular-faced in his portrait with large cheekbones, a wide, robust chin, and face, and deep-set eyes. He is depicted with a heavy moustache and long robes.
Further east the rebellions continued. Frada lead the revolts in Afghanistan and central Asia. Margiana, Bactria, and Soghdiana revolted under his authority. He is shown as having a pointed beard and also a flat, snub nose, possibly of Turanid descent. With his rise most of the lands towards the Oxus river were taken. These were not the most important satraps to Darayavaush and thus were not first to be reconquered.The first lands Darayavaush set out ot conquer was Babylon, which was at that time the center of the civilized world. One by one Darayavaush would have to set out to the tremendous task of reconquering his empire.
On his way to Babylon Darayavaush sent to Elam a royal envoy to warn the Elamites of the consequences should they revolt. At the site of the massive warrior messanger the Elamites gave in and turned Hashshina over to the Persians. He was promptly executed. The Babylonian king Nidintu-Bel had mobilized his forces to garrison Babylonia. They formed secured outposts in thickets near the Tigris to prevent an invasion. But Darayavaush bypassed all of them by transporting his troops on inflated skins. Having flanked them he easily defeated these outposts. Later in a bigger battle the Persians defeated the Babylonians one the Euphrates. Fleeing to Babylon, the rebels were chased and dismantled. By the end of 522 BC Darayavaush had regained Babylon. However in Elam another revolter, Martiya rose under the title of the Ummannish, the Elamite who had struck fear into the Assyrians. However on the way back Darayavaush returned to Elam and in a panic the people killed Martiya (hearing what darayavaush had done to Babylon). Meanwhile in Margiana and Bactria where Frada was the insurrectionist, a Bactrian leader loyal to Darayavaush, by the name of Dadarshish, rose against Frada. Of him Darayavaush said.
revolted against me. A certain Margian named Frâda
they made their leader. Then sent I against him a
Persian named Dâdari, my servant, who was satrap
of Bactria, and I said unto him: 'Go, smite that host
which does not acknowledge me.' Then Dâdari went
forth with the army, and gave battle to the Margians.
Ahuramazda brought me help; by the grace of
Ahuramazda my army utterly overthrew that rebel
host. Of the twenty-third day of the month Âçiyâdiya
was the battle fought by them."
Now with a southern route through Elam, darayavaush continued on to attack Parsa, the heart of Persia. Under Artavardiya marched through Parsa to Arachosia in eastern Iran. Meanwhile in Parthia Hystaspes, Darayavaush's father fought off the Parthian rebels who had captured Parthia under Fravartish. Darayavaush took his conglomerated armies and set out to defeat Fravartish at Kanpada. After this battle, Fravartish was chased down and caught. Darayavaush wrote clearly an account of the severe punishment and eventual impalement Fravartish and his followers were sentenced to. In Armenia another man also by the name of Dadarshish, rose against the local rulers in favor of Darayavaush. Upon hearing this Darayavaush rushed west to take advantage of this local uprising.
Soon another revolt broke out in Elam under Atta-Hamitu who was finished off quickly and killed. Darayavaush expanded his empire by marching against the Scythian (Saka)tribes to the north. He crossed the Caspian on inflated skins and reached the Plains near the Aral sea where he fought against the Scythians. Darayavaush calls the Scythians the pointed-hat people. Skunkha, the chieftain whom Darayavaush defeated is depicted with a massive hat, almost half his height and a massive beard which flows out. Afterwards Darayavaush appointed a loyal scythian to govern the satrap. Palestine was also presumably taken care of. Zerubbabel, the rebel of Judah, disappears from written sources soon after Darayavaush marches to this region. He also commissioned the reconstruction of the temple at Jerusalem to please the subjects of Judah. Egypt was taken back without incident. Darayavaush marched to Memphis to find the locals sorrowful over the death of their Apis Bull. Darayavaush offered 100 gold talents to the man who found the new Apis Bull and thus with a show of openess and generosity the Egyptians accepted Persian rule once again. To solidify their allegiance, Darayavaush authorized the construction of temples throughout the region. Also to maintain peace in Egypt and other nations, Darayavaush paid respects to local traditions and customs. Darayavaush sent spies to gather information on the Indus Valley region. Before his south-eastern border had reached Gandara, in the northern Pakistan region. But his discovery of the vast gold reserves in the Indus Valley he conquered the region which became the satrap of Hindush. Every year an annual tribute of three-hundred and sixty talents of gold.
Darayavaush oversaw the construction of the Suez Canal. The prospect of a quick route from the Mediterranean to India delighted him. He completed this massive undertaking which the Egyptian Pharaohs had failed at. He had wells dug so that the workers would have easy access to water. Darayavaush also allowed for deceased laborers to buried according to their personal customs and in their homelands. The Egyptian pharaohs just buried the men at the construction site. When it was complete, the canal was wide and deep enough to be of use, and statues of Darayavaush were erected to commerate its completion. With its completion naval units under Darayavaush's command also circumnavigated Africa. The gate was also open for intercourse and trade between populations as far east as India and as far west as Ionia.
Darayavaush wanted to expand into Europe and proceeded with a plan to conquer the Scythian tribes in Southern Europe around 513BC. He attacked Thrace (Macedonia) conquering portions of the Balkans. To the north and east Darayavaush pursued the Scythians. The nomadic Scythians had no cities or establishments of worth and just kep fleeing. Eventually Darayavaush fortified his position, he now had a base for operations into Europe. While the Scythians remained independent they now respected the Persian might and even fought along side the Persians against the Greeks.
To help administrate the empire Darayavuash had four capitals. The northernmost and first of the Iranian capitals was Hagmatana (near modern-day Hamadan). The citadel, which was surrounded by terrace walls, was originally built by Dayaukku upon the unification of the Iranians. According to the Greek Polybius, whose writings are more credible on this subject than Herodotus, the city was built with wood, primarily cedar, which was covered in gold and silver. The city had a huge palace and was well fortified. Other than these accounts most knowledge is limited as excavations have been insufficient. This capital was most likely a favorite of Iranian kings in the summer, where its location in the Northern Iranian mountains made it a cool retreat. Temperatures would have reached around 83°F in the summer. This is in comparison to the triple digit heat most likely encountered in the other three capitals.
Babylon, widely regarded as the center of the civilized world, was another capital. It was the center for trade and economic administration. Here Darayavaush first resided in Nebuchadnezzar's palace. Later however he built his own palace, borrowing from other architectural styles. The bricks were made of lime and sand and were glazed with color. Motifs depicted soldiers, animals, and floral designs as in other Persian palaces. Babylon grew during the early Achaemenid empire into a center of trade and learning. In particular mathematics and astronomy flourished.
The capital of Pasargada benefited Kuroush and Kambujiyahya. But it was too obsolete for Darayavaush who needed a new capital, a symbol of his leadership. With this he underwent one of the greatest constructions in his empire. In 513BC around the same time Darayavaush pursued his campaign against the Scythes, he began the construction of the main capital that would forever be a symbol of Persian heritage: Parsa (Persepolis). Parsa was originally the palace of Darayavaush. His nobles, family, and friends erected palaces nearby to create a small, royal community. The royal guard also took up residence in his palace. The palace was erected with columns and mud-brick walls depicted scenes of noblemen and soldiers. The main material was a grayish-beige limestone. Skilled architects smoothed the outer edges, but left the inner faces of each block rough so the bricks would line up smooth, but stick together in the center. A well developed drainage system was in built in taking making use of the topography that was also used to create multiple platforms. The palace had a double-stair entrance and the gate of all nations were subjects would enter. Later additions were made by Darayavaush's son, Khsharyarsha who vastly expanded the citadel. Darayavaush kept his four wives in his harem. some of the many columns that were erected still remain today. The site served as the main base for the Persian aristocracy.
In 499BC Ionia revolted against the Persians with the aid of the Greek mainland. Darayavaush suppressed the revolt but realized that to keep stability in Ionia he would need to control or weaken the Greeks to the west. His principle strategy was to form a pincer around Greece to (1)act as a base for further expansion and attack towards Greece, (2) Cut off vital trade points and the inflow of natural resources, and (3)create a buffer zone around the Greeks. In 492BC Darayavaush began implementing this plan by sending Marduniya. He was the son of Gaubaruva, the general who helped Darayavaush retake Babylon. With a moderate navy and army he took the island of Thasos and Macedonia. Macedonia was a useful base of operations and cut the Greeks off from trading with their northern Hellenic counterparts. The gold reserves the Greeks could have used were now in the hands of the Persians.
About 490BC Darayavaush sent in a second expedition. Herodotus claims this was a vengeful attack on mainland Greece, but this is far from the truth. The navy was far too small. Instead Darayavaush was extending the buffer zone around Greece. He also controlled the mines and natural resources on these islands, among them Naxos and Cyprus. The Persians show their political guile here by winning the backing of the oracles. Darayavaush gave donations and authorized sacrifices, in return the Oracle of Delphi, a source of inspiration for the Greeks, sided with the Persians, warning the Greeks against resistance.
The stage was set for an incursion. The so-called Battle of Marathon was less of a battle and more of a plunderous intrusion into the Greek mainland. Here Darayavaush sent in a moderate force that rummaged around the Greek countryside near Athens burning and pillaging the land. The Athenians protected their main city, but did not dare confront the Persians. It was Darayavaush's intent to weaken, not conquer the Greeks, and so after devastating the Greek infrastructure Darayavaush opted to leave. Here the Greeks harrassed the Persians as they left, but it was barely a hassel for the leaving Persians, not a loss. Certainly not 6000 Persian to 192 Greek dead that Herodotus wants us to believe. With the Greeks severely weakened and ripe for attack, Darayavaush retired to plan for a larger attack. During his preparations Darayavaush passed away and his son took the throne.