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King Darius III of Persia

336-330 BC

Darius III ruled as the final king of the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia. Also known as Darius Codomannus, he began his reign in 336 BC, over what had been one of the greatest empires of Western Asia. Unfortunately, ineffective kings and multiple rebellions had steadily weakened the empire for nearly a hundred years. Darius III was left with the tasks of strengthening the army to defend against Alexander the Great, who lead a united Greece and of reorganizing the government. With the end of both his short six-year reign and the fall of the Persian Empire in 330, it was apparent that he had failed to complete these tasks.

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Darius III assumed the throne under questionable circumstances. His father, Arsames was the nephew of Artaxerxes II. A eunuch named Bagoas poisoned both Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III who were the princes next in line for the throne. Born with the name Codomannus, Darius III later adopted the name Darius as he assumed the throne at age 45. Darius III then asserted his authority over Bagoas, who then attempted to poison him. Darius III fittingly forced Bagoas to drink his own poison

Darius III first major pursuit as king was to retake Egypt in 334. A previous revolt had left Egypt outside the control of the Persian Empire. Soon after, Alexander the Great and a united Greece rose to considerable power. Darius III was ill prepared to battle the advancing Alexander and was defeated in the Battle of Issus in 333. The wife and family left behind by the fleeing Darius III were supposedly treated well by Alexander the Great due to their royalty.

Darius III then raised a second army and more carefully choose a location to combat the armies of Alexander the Great. At the Battle of Gaugamela, in present day Iraq, Alexander the Great again defeated the Persian army. While fleeing to the city Bactria, Darius III was killed by one of his own satraps, Bessus. who had been one of the commanders of the Persian forces. With the defeat of Darius III and the Persian Empire, Alexander gained control of the entire Mediterranean coast.


"Darius III." The World Book Encyclopedia. 1996 ed.

Gwinn, Robert P., Norton, Peter B., and McHenry, Robert. "Darius III." Encyclopedia Britannica. 1992 ed.

Ross, Martha. Rulers and Governments of the World. London and New York: Bowker, 1980.


The illustration is of Darius III from a mosaic of the Battle of Issus, dated from the late 2nd c. BC. The original is in the Museo Nationale, Naples, Italy. The image is from

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