Episode 25: Behistun

The Behistun Inscription with four of the five Persian columns and a bit of Elamite visible. via Wikimedia Commons under GNU Free Documentation License

It’s finally time to talk about the famous Behistun Inscription, commissioned by Darius to commemorate his victories over “Gaumata” and the rebel kings he faced from 522 – 518 BCE. It is part propaganda, part epic, part origin story, and part religious creed, declaring Darius’ position over his hard-won empire. I go through the inscription step by step and give some of the history of the site beyond Darius.
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Episode 24: Darius the Great

From The History of Darius the Great by Jacob Abbott, 1904

With most of the Persian Empire firmly under his control in 519 BCE, Darius the Great set off to earn that title by conquering surrounding territories and spreading Achaemenid territory to its greatest ever extent. He pushed the boundaries of the known world and established an empire that stretched that spanned nearly 4,000 miles from North Africa to the Indus River Valley.
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Episode 23: The Lyin’ Kings

The major figures of the Behistun Inscription, from left to right: The Noblemen; Gobryas and Intaphrenes. The King; Darius. The Rebels; Gaumata (beneath Darius), Assina, Nidintu-Bel, Fravartish, Martiya, Ciçataxma, Vahyazdata, Arakha, Frada, and Skunkha.

Picking right back up in the late summer of 521 BCE, I’m talking about the rest of the rebellions against Darius. That’s the last three campaigns against the Liar Kings from the Behistun Inscription, the strangely absent rebellion in Egypt, and the other rebels that were excluded from the famous monument before concluding with personal betrayal for the new King of Kings.
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Episode 22: Putting Out Fires

A map of Darius’s wars with the Liar Kings with identifiable locations marked

No sooner was Bardiya dead, than the newly minted King Darius had to turn his attention on rebellious subjects. One satrapy after the next went into revolt at the end of 522 BCE, and Darius spent most of his first year on the throne directing his armies from place to place to try and hold the empire together. This time, I’m talking about Darius, the calendar, and the rebellious liar kings who sundered the Persian Empire. 
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Episode 21: The Faith of the Magi

An Achaemenid relief of two magi bringing sacrifices and torches to what may be a tomb or temple doorway from Dascylium. via Livius

After all that business with Gaumata that Magos, I figured we had time to keep talking about magi. This episode explores the religious developments and beliefs in Persia during the Achaemenid period. I’m focusing on Zoroastrianism, but also discussing how naming a religion like that for the ancient Persians is harder than it might seem.
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Episode 20: The Forgotten King

Darius I the Great as he appears on the Behistun Inscription.

522 BCE was a crazy year for the Persian Empire. That was the year that Bardiya – or maybe Gaumata – seized power. He overturned his brother and ruled the empire to try and save it. He halted rebellion and made peace with the nobility. However, nobody can usurp the throne or be a reformer without making a few enemies, and Darius became a lethal enemy to Bardiya.
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Episode 19: Three Kings and The Magi

Gaumata trampled under Darius’s foot as depicted in the Behistun Inscription. From Livius.org via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

In 522 BCE, the Persian Empire sat on the edge of Chaos. Between March and September of that year, 3 men sat on the Persian throne, and according to the official royal history one of those kings was actually impersonated by a couple of magi. This episode is the first to really question who the Magi were. This episode also discusses the many theories of what really happened that year.
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Aspects of History and Epic in Ancient Iran: From Gaumāta to Wahnām

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