People > Darius III

Darius III

Egypt History - Egyptian Chapter Decoration


Darius III, also known as Codomannus, was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire, ruling from 336 to 330 BCE. His reign was marked by the significant challenge of confronting the invasion of Alexander the Great, which ultimately led to the fall of the Persian Empire. Darius III's interactions with ancient Egypt were a critical aspect of his struggle to maintain control over his empire during this tumultuous period.


  1. Achaemenid Empire:

    • By the time Darius III ascended to the throne, the Achaemenid Empire was experiencing significant internal strife and declining control over its vast territories.
    • The empire, founded by Cyrus the Great, had grown to become one of the largest in the ancient world, but it faced numerous challenges, including rebellious satraps and external threats.
  2. Early Life and Accession:

    • Darius III was born as Artashata and was of royal lineage, though his rise to power came after the assassination of the previous king, Artaxerxes III, and the brief reign of Artaxerxes IV.
    • He was placed on the throne by the powerful court eunuch Bagoas, who later tried to poison him. Darius III managed to avoid this fate and secured his position as king.

Reign of Darius III

  1. Challenges and Conflicts:

    • Darius III inherited a kingdom weakened by internal divisions and external threats. His reign began with attempts to stabilize the empire and assert his authority over rebellious territories.
    • The most significant challenge of his reign was the invasion of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great, starting in 334 BCE.
  2. Military Campaigns Against Alexander:

    • Darius III faced Alexander in several major battles, including the Battle of Issus in 333 BCE and the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BCE. Despite having larger forces, Darius was defeated in both encounters due to Alexander's superior tactics and leadership.
    • After the defeat at Gaugamela, Darius fled eastward, attempting to regroup and rally support but was eventually betrayed and murdered by one of his satraps, Bessus, in 330 BCE.

Interactions with Egypt

  1. Persian Rule in Egypt:

    • Egypt had been a part of the Achaemenid Empire since its conquest by Cambyses II in 525 BCE, except for brief periods of native rule. By the time of Darius III, Egypt was a critical satrapy, both strategically and economically.
    • The Persians maintained control over Egypt through a combination of military presence and administrative integration, appointing satraps to govern the region.
  2. Impact of Alexander's Invasion:

    • In 332 BCE, during his campaign against the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great marched into Egypt. The Persian satrap Mazaces, recognizing the futility of resistance against Alexander's formidable army, surrendered Egypt without a fight.
    • Alexander was welcomed as a liberator by the Egyptians, who were discontented with Persian rule. He was declared pharaoh and undertook various religious and cultural activities to legitimize his rule in the eyes of the Egyptians.

Legacy and Impact on Egypt

  1. End of Persian Rule:

    • The surrender of Egypt to Alexander marked the end of the Second Persian Period in Egyptian history. The region then became part of Alexander's expanding empire.
    • Alexander's conquest of Egypt was relatively peaceful compared to other regions, and he initiated several significant projects, including the foundation of the city of Alexandria, which would become a major center of Hellenistic culture.
  2. Cultural and Administrative Changes:

    • Under Alexander and his successors, the Ptolemies, Egypt experienced significant cultural and administrative changes. The new rulers integrated Greek and Egyptian traditions, creating a unique Hellenistic-Egyptian culture.
    • The Ptolemaic dynasty continued many aspects of the previous Egyptian administration while introducing Greek elements, leading to a period of prosperity and cultural fusion.
  3. Historical Significance:

    • Darius III's defeat and the fall of the Achaemenid Empire marked a major turning point in ancient history, leading to the rise of the Hellenistic world under Alexander the Great.
    • The transition from Persian to Macedonian rule in Egypt set the stage for the Ptolemaic dynasty, which would govern Egypt for nearly 300 years until the Roman conquest.


Darius III, the last king of the Achaemenid Empire, reigned from 336 to 330 BCE and faced the monumental challenge of Alexander the Great's invasion. His interactions with Egypt were defined by the strategic importance of the region within the Persian Empire. Despite his efforts to maintain control, the Persian satrap of Egypt surrendered to Alexander without resistance in 332 BCE. This peaceful transition marked the end of Persian rule in Egypt and the beginning of a new era under Alexander and the subsequent Ptolemaic dynasty. Darius III's reign and the fall of the Achaemenid Empire had profound implications for Egypt, ushering in significant cultural and administrative changes that shaped its future.

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