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The Order of Darius the Great: Preface

May 29, 2012

Reza Moradi Ghiasabadi
Translated by: Farzad Sadeghi


In the epitaphs left from the reign of the Achaemenid king, Darius the Great, one can clearly find instances of their thoughtfulness and wise belief. Some of these concepts had been present in the epitaphs of ancient east and shows that these concepts were in favour for a long period of time and that the public accepted them too.

These words and expressions are inside other epitaphs and seldom-repeated speeches, but they are seldom given enough attention. In this book, I have tried to gather these original and ancient speeches that represent the view and mindset of the people from ancient times, having passed through the scrutiny of Darius the Great and other elite, and present them in more detail and more extensively as they deserve.

Darius the Great was one of the warlords of Cyrus the Great and also the third Achaemenid king. After Cambyses’s death, the congregation of the elders elected him the king. He ruled the vast Achaemenid empire for 36 years, from 522 B.C. until 486 B.C.

Like Cyrus, his great accomplishments in conquering lands overshadowed his prowess is management. He set the foundation for a vast and exclusive managing system that is even present now.

We will take a quick look at these methods:

Darius the creator of the first world-wide-accepted currency

Before Darius, money in the shape of silver rings or coins which were not widely used, has been found, the remnants of which were found in the parts of the then-country Lydia and in hills from Noushijan Teppe from the Median era. After his ascent to the throne Darius ordered two sets of coins, in gold and silver which were the first transnational money. He chose the name “Daric” for the golden coin and “Shekel” for the silver coin. A picture of a man on bending a knee and holding a bow can be seen on these coins. The Darics were called “Dareikos” in Greece. This gold coin weighed 8.4 grams.

Soon Darius’ coins spread all across not only across the Achamaenid kingdom from middle Asia and India to Greece and Ethiopia, but also to the lands far away and turned into the most important commercial tool between people and countries.

Samples of these coins were found in India and some north European countries which depict how common the currency was. These coins are preserved in various museums around the world (the museum of Sepah Bank, the metropolitan in New York and Hermitage).

Darius the creator of post and informing system

Another one of Darius’s innovations is the inception of an information network and a postal system. He had realized that ruling such a vast empire required the quick and swift transfer of news and information from one place to another. As a result, he ordered two different systems for news and goods. The first system was only used to convey important news to this end, the whole kingdom, specially all the routes were carefully trodden on and cartographed. Then some heights were chosen to bear a flaming torch on top. These heights should not have been so high that would make climbing them difficult and couldn’t have been so low that it would reduce their visibility from afar. The torches were built so that one could see the next torch, standing right next to the previous one. On the two sides of the torch, there were two gaps, one directing to the next torch and the one directing to the previous torch. The distance between two torches depended on the condition of the surroundings and was 50 kms in average. Fire would burn inside these torch-like structures, and sealing or keeping a gap open would have a secret meaning for the next torch. In turn, the next torch would do the same for its next torch.

Darius’s second innovation was “post”. The postal system consisted of swift horsemen who were waiting at the foot of a torch and would deliver the goods or messages to the next torch as soon as he received it as if the goods or the messages were carried on a horse non-stop until delivered. The word post is taken from the verbs “pas dadan” and “post dadan” (meaning ‘to be on call’ in Persian language) which was something that the riders did at the foot of the torches. This Persian name soon spread across the world wide and to live through the international name “post”.

Darius and the order to make the first alphabetical letter system

Before Darius an alphabetical letter system did not exist in the world. The two common and widely-used alphabets at that time were the Babylonian (Akkadian) and the Elamite which were both syllable-based. This means that there were symbols for each syllable that in turn would make the symbols count well over 100. Darius and his experts saw the inefficiencies of the above-mentioned system while writing the Behistun epitaph and decided to create a new system that was based on the individual phoneme, vowel and consonant. This become the base of what we know today as alphabet.

This innovation reduced the symbols needed to write, from a couple of hundreds to approximately 40 symbols, which caused a magnificent change in the process of literacy. If before this, literacy was limited to a few choices, this innovation enlarged the circle of few selection that would learn the new alphabet.

Darius the founder of Persepolis

Not only did Darius resume the construction of the unfinished building that Cyrus had started in Pasargadae, which he fairly contributed in the epitaphs to Cyrus, but he also started constructing the largest stone architectural endeavor the world had ever seen. By his order the construction began in 520 B.C. A great part of the construction was finished during the 70 years after, in the reign of Artaxerxes I, but the construction of the other parts lasted 190 years until the downfall of the Achamaenids.

A large group of scientists, mathematicians, physicians, artists, engineers, accounts auditors, architects, carvers, masons, carpenters, painters, weavers, sewers, writers, miners, jewelers, wood and stone experts, experts in transporting and lifting stones, an army of manual labourers, bureaucrats, accountants, archivists, physicians, nurses , inspectors, messengers and other jobs were working at Persepolis and according to Darius “a great work was done there”.

Darius the creator of the first water passage-way in the world

A great deal of remnants and relics have been left from the reign of the Achamaenids in Egypt .These remnants show the Achamaenids efforts in constructing and reforming. One of Darius’s innovations and also one of the most important relics left of him is the water passage connecting the Red Sea to the Nile. Across the route of this water passage, five stone pillars and epitaphs of Darius have been identified. Today the same water-way with some alteration in its course is called the Suez Canal.

The author is wishful that the book The Order of Darius The Great has indeed done in accordance with what Darius the Great once said, “I am who adores truthfulness and loathes lies”. As this book tries to portray some of the legacies of Iran without falling to the pits of writing to one’s own taste or “history-making”. The invaluable legacies of Iran are far more abundant and greater than to need to be made but rather known and learnt.

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