A common name of several Medo-Persian kings, from a Persian root darvesh, "restraint;" Sanskrit, dhari, "firmly holding."
1. Darius the Mede. (See DANIEL; BABYLON; BELSHAZZAR; CYRUS.) Daniel 5:31; Daniel 6:1; Daniel 9:1; Daniel 11:1. This Darius "received the kingdom" (Daniel 5:31) of Babylon as viceroy from Cyrus, according to G. Rawlinson, which may be favored by Daniel 9:1; "Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldaeans." He in this view gave up the kingdom to his superior Cyrus, after holding it from 538 to 536 B.C. Abydenus makes Nebuchadnezzar prophesy that a Persian and a Mede," the pride of the Assyrians," should take Babylon, i.e. a prince who had ruled over the Medes and Assyrians.
Cyrus, having taken such a prince 20 years before Babylon's capture, advanced him to be deputy king of Babylon. Hence he retained the royal title and is called "king" by Daniel. Thus Astyages (the last king of the Medes, and having no issue, according to Herodotus, 1:73, 109,127) will be this Darius, and Ahasuerus (Achashverosh) = Cyaxares (Huwakshatra), father of Astyages. Aeschylus (Persae, 766, 767) represents Cyaxares as the first founder of the empire and a Mede, and Sir H. Rawlinson proves the same in opposition to Herodotus. Aeschylus describes Cyaxares' son as having "a mind guided by wisdom"; this is applicable both to Darius in Daniel 6:1-3, and to Astyages in Herodotus. The chronology however requires one junior to Astyages to correspond to Darius the Mede and Cyrus' viceroy, whether a son or one next in succession after Astyages, probably Cyaxares.
Harpocration makes him to have introduced the coin named from him the daric. Xenophon's account of Cyaxares agrees remarkably with Daniel's account of Darius. Xenophon says Cyrus conquered Babylon by Cyaxares' permission, and appointed for him a royal palace and rule and home there (see Daniel 6:1-28; Daniel 9:1; Daniel 5:31). Daniel's statement that Darius was 62 years old accords with Xenophon that when Cyaxares gave Cyrus his daughter he gave him along with her the Median kingdom, himself having no male heir, and being so old as not to be likely to have a son. Darius' weakness in yielding to his nobles (Daniel 6) accords with Xenophon's picture of Cyaxares' sensuality. The shortness of his reign and the eclipsing brilliancy of Cyrus' capture of Babylon caused Herodotus and Berosus to pass Darius unnoticed. Cyaxares is the Median uwakshatra, "autocrat," answering to Darius the Persian, Darjawusch "the ruler;" kschaja, "kingdom," is the root in the Persian Ahasuerus, Kschajarscha, and the Median Astyages.
2. Darius, son of Hystaspes, fifth from Achaemenes, who founded the Persian dynasty. The Magian Pseudo-Smerdis Aartxerxes; Ezra 4:7 usurped the throne, pretending to be Cyrus' younger son. (See ARTAXERXES.) As he restored the Magian faith, effecting a religious as well as political revolution, he readily gave ear to the enemies of the Jews whose restorer Cyrus had been (Ezra 4:7-24). Darius Hystaspes with six Persian chiefs overthrew the impostor and became king 521 B.C. As soon as Darius was on the throne the Jews treated Smerdis' edict as null and void. This bold step is accounted for by Darius's own inscription at Behistun stating that in his zeal for Zoroastrianism he reversed Smerdis' policy, "rebuilding the temples which the Magian had destroyed and restoring the religious chants and worship which he had abolished."
The Jews so counted on his sympathy as not to wait for his express edict. Their enemies, hoping that Smerdis had destroyed Cyrus' decree, informed the king of the Jews' proceeding and proposed that the archives at Babylon should be searched to see whether Cyrus had ever really given such a decree. It was found at Ecbatana. In his second year Haggai (Haggai 1:1; Haggai 2:1; Haggai 2:10) and Zechariah (Zechariah 3-4; Zechariah 7:1-3) the prophets encouraged Zerubbabel and Jeshua to resume the building of the temple that had been discontinued (Ezra 5). Tatnai and Shethar Boznai's effort to hinder it only occasioned the ratification of Cyrus' original decree by Darius.
Darius in his decree in Ezra (Ezra 6) writes as might have been expected from the Zoroastrian Darius of secular history; he calls the Jews' temple "the house of God," Jehovah "the God of heaven," and solicits their prayers "for the life of the king and of his sons." Herodotus (vii. 2) confirms the fact that he had sons when he ascended the throne. His curse (Ezra 6:12) on those who injure the temple answers to that on those who should injure the inscriptions at Behistun, and his threat of impaling such (Ezra 6:11) answers to the Behistun and Herodotus (iii. 159) record of the ordinary punishment he inflicted. The "tribute" (Ezra 6:8) too he was the first to impose on the provinces (Herodotus, 3:89). in four years it was completed, i.e. in the sixth year of Darius (Ezra 6:15), in 516 B.C. In this same year he suppressed with severity a Babylonian revolt. He reduced under his supremacy Thrace, Macedon, and the islands in the Aegean Sea, 513-505 B.C. Invading Greece, he was defeated at Marathon 590. Before he could renew the campaign, with preparations completed he died 455 B.C.
3. Darius the Persian (Nehemiah 12:11-22). As "Jaddua" was high priest at the invasion of Alexander the Great, Darius III, Codomanus, his enemy (336-330 B.C.), last king of Persia, is meant. Darius II, or Nothus, king from 424 to 405 B.C., would be meant if Nehemiah were the writer; but it is more likely he was not, and that the continuation of the register down to Alexander's contemporary, Jaddua, is inserted by a later hand.