The Persians take Babylon - 539 B.C.
Cyrus was perplexed
at Babylon, they neither agreed to surrender nor could he breach their
high walls. After many futile attempts a plan was devised.
The Euphrates river that flowed in and out of Babylon was diverted into
a basin and while the Babylonian's were at a festival the Persian poured
in through the river's entrance into the city. Thus was Babylon
taken for the first time by Persia, around the 29th of October 539 B.C.
died about 8 years afterwards <529BC>, at the hands of his enemy during another battle
near the Caspian Sea. On his death, Cambyses
his son by Cassandane took over the kingdom and wasted no time on advancing
against Egypt, taking Ionian and Aeolian Greeks with him.
Darius now set about his modest navy to set sail and capture Samos that had by now been successfully rebelled against the King. By the time the navy arrived Babylon also revolted. Samos was quickly overcome but not before it's rulers fled to Sparta.
Babylon on the other hand wouldn't yield so quickly. Hiding behind their high walls not even the ploy that Cyrus brought Babylon down would work this time. For a year and seven months did the might of the Persian forces be held out by the Babylonians.
Finally, a ploy was authorised where Zopyrus fled as a deserter from the Persians to the Babylonians ((after first having the King cut off his nose and ears)). He told them of the torture that Darius had put him through. He was soon awarded his own body guard of men to his unit. Periodically, Zopyrus, proved his worth in the field. Killing many Persians and constantly being in the area where the Persians were trying to breath the wall, only to have his men kill them all. Slowly, over time the Babylonians trusted him more and more. ((this had all been arranged with Darius before the defection, even the killing of the Persians to prove his worth)). Then finally, an all out assault as the Persians were trying to breach every wall all at the same time. It was every man on deck as the Babylonians protected the walls from the oncoming Persians.
In the ensuing confusion, Zopyrus was forgotten, only to make his way to the gates. By now knowing how the gates worked he killed the gatekeeper and flung open the gates for the oncoming Persians. Here Babylon was taken for the second time.
Darius would hold Zopyrus <about 500 B.C.>in high regard claiming 'I would rather have Zopyrus unmainmed than be master of twenty more Babylons'. Year after year he was presented with gifts, and was given the government of Babylon for life. Zopyrus had a son named Megabyzus.
Darius then set his sights to the Scythians to the north. Crossing the Bosphorus into Europe it signal the first time an Asian ruler had taken over European soil. Ships were tied together to form a bridge that would allow the Persian army to march over
The Scythians realising that they were no match for the huge Persian army advancing towards them resorted to the tactics of 'slash, burn & run'. Having the advantage of having their army on horseback would allow them to be able to run away from the Persian advance. Burning and destroying any crop of asset the Persian might find useful in their land. Even taunts by the Persians would not trick the Scythians into battle.
Darius again sent a horseman to Idanthyrsus, the Scythian King with the message 'why do you keep flying before me, if you think you are able to resist me in battle let us meet to decide or if you are conscious that my strength is greater than yours, you have only to bring me earth and water ((being the Persian custom of a kingdom succumbing to another)), and to come at once to a conference'.
The Scythian King replied that this was his mode of fighting, they had no towns or cultivated lands to protect. This was not a new way of fighting it was the Scythian way.
They began to put pressure on the Ionians who were in charge of looking after the bridge back to Asia, only Miltiades an Athenian kept the Ionians together to protect the bridge, <c514-3 B.C>.. Miltiades claimed he had urged the destruction of the Danube bridge while Darius and his Persian army were cut off in Scythia. But the bridge survided; and so too did Miltiades.
Darius who was running out of patience, food, water and the increasing threat on his bridge back to Asia being taken, left Europe for now<c512BC>. Leaving Megabyzus his general with 80,000 soliders on the European side. Returning back to the bridge he praised Miltiades for being strong in the situation.
As can been seen on the map, Persian was in control of the straits into southern Russia and the wheatfields of Egypt.. For the first time there was a real threat to the food supply of mainland Greece. By around 594 it had become illegal to export grain out of Attica, home consumption soon began to soar above the amount produced (which is a bad area to grow wheat anyway). Darius too possessed far greater amounts of gold than Greece did, which the corn-barons often insisted on. Darius was in a postion to easily outbid the Greeks in any market. From now on the threat of the Barbarian, a vast horrific shadow, loomed constantly over the Greek world.
Paper money in the ancient world did not exist and gold was the main currency to be had. The Persian fiscal strategy was to hoard all the gold and tax the satrapies heavily, thus removing gold out of circulation. This lead to spiralling prices, and rising unemployement ie stagflation. It never entered the Persian kings mind to open the vaults and allow the gold to flow outwards. With gold in the hands to the commoners the price of wheat would have naturally increased in price and put pressure on the citizens on Greece even further.
Persia; the worlds first Superpower:
Cambyses took Phoenicia and was set about to invade Egypt when a contingent of exciles arrived at Sparta from Samos. The banished Samians had an audience with the Spartan magistrate, before whom they made a long speech, as was natural with persons greatly in want of aid. At the first sitting the Spartans answered them, that they had forgotten the first half of their speech, and could make nothing of the remainder. Afterward, the Samians had another audience, wherat they simply said, showing a bag which they had brought with them, 'The bag wants flour.' The Spartans answered that they did not need to have said 'the bag'; however, they resolved to give them aid.
Cambyses' men met the Egyptians out in the open field and bet them, forcing the Egyptians to retreat behind their walls in Memphis.
The Lacedaemonians arrived at Samos with a mighty armament, and with the banished Samians in tow, and forthwith laid siege to the place. After a drawn out battle of fourty days, not making any progrees before the place, they raised the siege at the end of that time, and returned home to the Peloponnese. This is the first expedition into Asia of the Lacedaemonian Dorians.
Egypt finally fell and Libya who bordered Egypt seeing what had happend quickly surrendered, in quick succssesion neighboring people the Cyrenaeans, the Barcaean all surrendered. It was by about this time that Cambyses had his brother Smerdis killed (as the King had had a dream that Smerdis would try to take his throne) and his wife killed for offending him while she was with child.
Soon after, Cambyses went to war with the Ammonians, and plotted against the Carthaginians and the Ethiopians.
The troops sent to Ammonia failed, probably through the ravages of the desert rather than any comprehensive battle. .
Recently a find has been found in Egypt and it is believed that the bones found there are from this failed expedition. If you wish to read more about it, go here.
War ships were to be sent to take Carthage and spies sent to Ethiopia.
The Phoenicians being the best sea worthy nation that Cambyses had; refused to fight against Carthage, as they had already made a blood oath, and besides they considered it Carthage their children anyway and stated flatly that they would not fight. Cambyses thought best not to push on this issue and so let Carthage slip through his fingers.
His spys on the other hand got word back to him that the 'long lived' Ethiopians would not surrender. This infuriated Cambyses who was already stirring from the bad campaign held against the Ammonians and Carthage. He set out immediately with his forces to take Ethiopia.
Here too his troops fell victim to bad management, marching through the desert they too fell short of food and more importantly water. This campaign also ended in ruin, and so they returned to Egypt demoralised not having met the Ethiopians in battle.
At this time, by accident Cambyses injured himself with his own sword and fell ill. He received a hearld from Susa that his brother had taken control of the throne (around March 522 B.C.)! This was of course impossible and so the man who had been issued with the task was summoned to which he swore that the act had happened and that the herald was lying. (See Note#31)
The brothers death was not a well known event as the King had tried to keep it hidden. Patizeithes (who knew of the King's brother's slaying) was one of two Magi brothers who was left in charge of Susa, his brother Smerdis was now acting as the King's brother and had taken over the royal throne.
When Cambyses realised this he was strickened with grief as he realised that his dream was about Smerdis the brother of Patizeithes not Smerdis the King's brother; they both shared the same name.
Cambyses gathered the Persians who were with him and proclaimed that he had had his brother slain for misunderstanding the dream, that the royal house had been taken over by the Magi brothers and that they now have been charged with returning the throne back from the Medes to a Persian. Cambyses had no children of his own and with his brothers death the line of Cyrus was severed from the royal throne as Cambyses died from his wounds (See Note#1).
Darius seizes power:
Seven Persians of noble rank now with haste made plans to remove the brothers from the throne. Deceiving there was into the citadel they desposed of the two Magi brothers to which their deceipt was becoming well known (See Note#1).
The Kings line having been severed left the throne vacant. The seven decided to vote on how the kingdom would now be governed.
Otanes suggested the Athenian way of democracy would be the best choice. As he believed that power corrupts man as Cambyses rulled by tyranny and the Magi brothers openly displayed such arrogance.
Megabysuz advised of an oligarchy; certain wise men should be in power who would decide on who should govern, those wise men should be the seven who were now discussing what to do. He put forward that the enemies of Persia should have democracies, let them be governed by the people who were void of understanding, these people ultimately are ruled by the mad mob.
Darius was next, he advised a monarchy, after all let democracy and oligarchy be at their best, the monarchy would have the very best man in the whole state running affairs. He was for the rule of one, after all wasn't it a monarchy that put them in this position as Persians? It wasn't democracy or and oligarchy system, who were they to change the laws of our forefathers?
Darius' way was voted in; democracy had lost it's chance in Asia Minor to the rule of one (around 522 B.C.).
Darius was then chosen out of the seven to be that King. Thus Dairis, son of Hystapes, appointed King. He took the two daughters of Cyrus as his brides, to legitimise the royal house.
Darius inherited a vast kingdom, the following list on the right of this page show the list of areas now controlled by Darius.
It is interesting to note that while the Arabians did deal amicablely with the Persian they were never taken over, this was due to the nomadic existence of the Arabs in the desert and not having a city to exploit. Persia was not interested in venturing out into the desert. Disasters in Africa come to mind.
Soon Darius would add more to this list. The Persians were unmistakenabley rulers of much of the known world..
- *1 'Histories' by Herodotus (3.21 - 22)