King Darius III

The final ruler of the Achaemenid dynasty (reigned 336-330 bc) was Darius III, also known as Codommanus (died 330 bc, Bactria).

The eunuch Bagoas, who had assassinated the two previous kings, Artaxerxes III and Arses, installed Darius on the throne. Darius belonged to a collateral line of the royal dynasty. Bagoas attempted to kill Darius when he declared his independence but was restrained by the king and made to consume the poison.

To rescue the Greek cities under Achaemenid authority, Philip II of Macedon founded the League of Corinth in 337 and deployed an advanced force into Asia Minor at the beginning of the year. However, he was murdered in July, presumably at Darius’s behest. The Hellespont was crossed by Alexander the Great in the spring of 334. Darius had not made any significant preparations to fend off the invasion. Thus Alexander was able to defeat an Achaemenid army at the Granicus and, by the next year, had conquered most of Asia Minor and arrived in Cilicia. In the autumn of 333, Darius finally made a move against him, but he was crushed at Issus. Darius ran away from the scene, leaving behind his mother, wife, and kids.

Darius wrote a letter of friendship to Alexander twice, proposing a hefty ransom for his family, the cession of the entire Achaemenid Empire west of the Euphrates River, and his daughter’s hand in exchange for an alliance. Alexander turned down both messages and invaded Mesopotamia. While offering combat at Gaugamela, east of modern-day Mosul, Darius did not attempt to stop him from crossing the Euphrates and Tigris. When he was soundly defeated on October 1, 331, he turned his chariot and fled, just like at Issus, even though his soldiers continued to fight. When Alexander approached, he fled to Ecbatana and turned back toward Bactria, but the Bactrian satrap Bessus overthrew him and killed him.

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