Smerdis of Persia

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Bardiya (Greek: Smerdis) (Old Persian: 𐎲𐎼𐎮𐎡𐎹[1] Bardiya[2]; Ancient Greek: Σμέρδις) (possibly died 522 BCE) was a son of Cyrus the Great and the younger brother of Cambyses II, both Persian kings. There are sharply divided views on his life, he may have ruled the Achaemenid Empire for a few months in 522 BCE, or he may have been impersonated by a magus called Gaumata.[3] (Old Persian: 𐎥𐎢𐎶𐎠𐎫[4] Gaumāta[2])


Name and sources

The prince's name is listed variously in the historical sources. His Persian name is Bardiya. He is called Tonyoxarces (Sphendadates) by Ctesias[5], he is called Tanooxares by Xenophon, who takes the name from Ctesias [6], and he is called Mardos by Justin [7] and Aeschylus.[8] In the prevalent Greek form of his name, Smerdis, the Persian name has been assimilated to the Greek (Asiatic) name Smerdis or Smerdies, a name which also occurs in the poems of Alcaeus and Anacreon.

In English-language histories he has traditionally usually been called Smerdis, but recent histories are tending to call him Bardiya.[9][10]

Traditional view

The traditional view based on the majority of ancient sources e.g. Darius the Great's Behistun inscription, as well as Herodotus, Justin, and Ctesias, although there are minor differences between them.

Bardiya was the younger son of Cyrus the Great and (full or half) brother of Cambyses II. According to Ctesias, on his deathbed Cyrus appointed Bardiya as satrap (governor) of some of the far-eastern provinces[11]. According to Darius the Great, Cambyses II, after becoming king of Persia but before setting out for Egypt, killed Bardiya and kept this secret. However according to Herodotus who gives two detailed stories, Bardiya went to Egypt with Cambyses and was there for some time but later Cambyses sent him back to Susa out of envy, because "Bardiya alone could draw the bow brought from the Ethiopian king." Herodotus then states that "Cambyses had a dream in which he saw his brother sitting on the royal throne. As a result of this dream Cambyses sent his trusted counselor Prexaspes from Egypt to Susa with the order to kill Smerdis" (i.e. Bardiya).[12]

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