The last of Cyrus the Great's dynastic inheritors and the legendary enemy of Alexander the Great, Darius III ruled over a Persian Empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indus River. Yet, despite being the most powerful king of his time, Darius remains an obscure figure.
As Pierre Briant explains in the first book ever devoted to the historical memory of Darius III, the little that is known of him comes primarily from Greek and Roman sources, which often present him in an unflattering light, as a decadent Oriental who lacked the masculine virtues of his Western adversaries. Influenced by the Alexander Romance as they are, even the medieval Persian sources are not free of harsh prejudices against the king Dārā, whom they deemed deficient in the traditional kingly virtues. Ancient Classical accounts construct a man who is in every respect Alexander's opposite--feeble-minded, militarily inept, addicted to pleasure, and vain. When Darius's wife and children are captured by Alexander's forces at the Battle of Issos, Darius is ready to ransom his entire kingdom to save them--a devoted husband and father, perhaps, but a weak king.
While Darius seems doomed to be a footnote in the chronicle of Alexander's conquests, in one respect it is Darius who has the last laugh. For after Darius's defeat in 331 BCE, Alexander is described by historians as becoming ever more like his vanquished opponent: a Darius-like sybarite prone to unmanly excess.
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About the Author
Pierre Briant is Emeritus Professor of History of the Achaemenid World and Alexander’s Empire at the Collège de France.
Table of Contents
Preface to the English-Language Edition ix
Translator's Note xvii
Introduction: Between Remembering and Forgetting 1
I The Impossible Biography
1 A Shadow among His Own 15
2 Darius Past and Present 65
II Contrasting Portraits
3 "The Last Darius, the One Who Was Defeated by Alexander" 109
4 Arrian's Darius 130
5 A Different Darius or the Same One? 155
6 Darius between Greece and Rome 202
III Reluctance and Enthusiasm
7 Upper King and Lower King 233
8 Iron Helmet, Silver Vessels 282
9 The Great King's Private and Public Lives 320
IV Darius and Dara
10 Dara and Iskandar 357
11 Death and Transfiguration 394
V A Final Assessment and a Few Proposals
12 Darius in Battle: Variations on the Theme "Images and Realities" 425
Greek and Roman Sources 455
General Bibliography 461
Thematic Notes by Chapter 531
Illustration Credits 563