Sunday, December 26, 2010

Four Diadems

Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia.  Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece. 

Daniel the Prophet 605-535 BC

Cyrus the Great was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, in 530 BC.  In his short, eight year reign, Cambyses added the kingdom of Egypt to the vast empire assembled by his father.

In 525 BC, Cambyses defeated Pharaoh Psammetichus III first on the Nile Delta and then at the key city of Memphis.  He continued south destroying the Egyptian temples along the way knowing full well that men were demoralized by the desecration of their gods.

After his successful campaign in Egypt, Cambyses hastened homeward to crush an attempt to usurp his throne.  In 522 BC, before reaching Persia, a sword wound inflicted to his leg became infested with gangrene and he died an untimely death.

Sibling rivalries were common among the Persian princes sometimes resulting in fratricide.  Before Cambyses invaded Egypt, he secretly murdered his brother, Bardiya. 

Now Bardiya had a double whose name was Gaumata.  He was a member of the Magi, a tribe of Medes who served as priests and diviners under the Persian kings.  Posing as Bardiya, he took control of the Persian throne.  Those who recognized his masquerade were expeditiously eliminated. 

While Gaumata replicated Bardiya's appearance, there was one difference.  The Mede was missing both of his ears.  Like other ancient cultures, the Persians practised mutilation.  It was not uncommon to lop off ears, noses, and even tongues as punishment for impropriety.

That difference was recognized by Darius the Great, Cambyses' third cousin and an elite fighting officer who served with Cambyses in Egypt.  Thus Darius and six other members of the nobility murdered Gaumata and his followers.  Over the next few weeks, Darius seized control of the Persian throne.

In an effort to solidify his claim to the throne, he took over the royal harem.  Atossa, daughter of Cyrus, was not only Cambyses’ sister but also his wife.  She was a key member of the harem whose second marriage to Gaumata preceded her role as Darius' chief wife and queen of Persia.  Atossa bore Darius four sons, the most distinguished being Xerxes who succeeded his father to the Persian throne.

Xerxes used his great wealth to gain military power and pursue the one jewel that evaded his predecessors, the kingdom of Greece.

In 480 BC, Xerxes declared war against Greece.  He defeated 300 valiant Spartans at Thermopylae and captured the city of Athens.  However his fortunes began to wane.  In a gulf near Athens, the Greeks destroyed a third of his fleet.  Xerxes turned over command of the Persian army to his general, Mardonius, and sought refuge in Asia Minor. 

The Persian fate was sealed.  Their army was decisively defeated and the remainder of their navy destroyed.  Xerxes had failed miserably in his quest to conquer the kingdom of Greece.

And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases.  But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendants, nor according to his authority which he wielded; for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them. 

Daniel the Prophet 605-535 BC


  1. Scriptural references: Daniel 11:2-4

  2. Xerxes was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes who sanctioned the returns of Ezra & Nehemiah to Jerusalem. Six more members of the Achaemenid Dynasty ruled in Persia. Thus the closing prophecy refers to Alexander the Great and not Artaxerxes. Click Greece on the sidebar.

  3. The Persian kings: Teispes, Cyrus I, Cambyses I, Cyrus the Great, Cambyses II, (Gaumata the usurper), Darius the Great, & Xerxes, 7th king of the dynasty.

  4. The above mentioned kings, with the exception of Gaumata, were members of the Achaemenid Dynasty. Nothing is known about Achaemenes, the founder of the dynasty. Shortly after 700 BC, Teispes captured the city of Anshan and established himself as king. Anshan became an ally of Elam against Assyria, the world power at that time. In 639 BC, the Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Elam. To retain Anshan’s independence, Cyrus I sent his eldest son with a tribute to serve as a hostage of Ashurbanipal in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. The crown prince perished in 612 BC when the Medes and Chaldeans joined forces to conquer Nineveh. Thus his younger brother, Cambyses I, became Anshan’s heir apparent.

  5. The following statement was made by Darius the Great in the Behistun inscription: “My father was Hystaspes; Hystaspes’ father was Arsames; Arsames’ father was Ariaramnes; Ariaramnes’ father was Teispes; Teispes’ father was Achaemenes.” Hence Cyrus I & Ariaramnes were brothers, Cambyses I & Arsames first cousins, Cyrus the Great & Hystaspes second cousins, and Cambyses II & Darius the Great third cousins.

  6. Related Articles: click The Times of the Persians & Ahasuerus on the side bar.