If there ever was a person who knew how to get things done it was Darius. He was king of Persia from 521 BC until 486 BC. (that’s 35 years if you’re wondering!)
Persia was already big when Darius took over. During Darius’s reign not only Persia prospered. The whole of civilization took a giant leap forward.
Darius codified law throughout Persia. Instead of one law for the rich and influential, Darius created a justice system that treated everyone equally. In 500 BC this was a big step forward.
He revolutionized taxation so that it was no longer arbitrary. Under Darius, subject nations now paid their tax according to their means, not on the whim of a local administrator.
Before Darius, barter was the common method of trade. He created the “Daric”, equivalent to our dollar and trade soared. The Daric became the currency of the known world.
He built roads and highways that were among the engineering feats of the ancient world. His most famous road, The Royal Road, and stretched some 2736 km. There were 111 inns along the Royal Road to ensure travellers could lodge safely at night.
His engineers designed and dug canals for shipping. The Egyptian Canal, 145 km long and 45 m wide, allowed ships to travel from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.
With a stable currency and an extensive transport network, trade flourished. He encouraged agricultural reform and experimentation. He sent advisors to all reaches of the kingdom with advice, ideas, seeds and plants.
Engineers dug irrigation channels for farmers and where evaporation was a problem they went underground and built “qanats” – subterranean aqueducts.
Darius created the world’s first, efficient postal service using a horseman stationed every 25 km to ensure fast delivery of the mail.
Herodotus, the historian, wrote of this service: “Nothing stops these couriers from covering their allotted stage in the quickest time – neither snow, rain, heat or darkness.”
The U.S. Post Office still uses these words as its motto.
Then in his spare time, Darius built cities, palaces and government buildings. Darius knew how to get things done. We are fortunate because he left us one of his secrets for sticking with a task until it is completed.
In 492 BC, as part of his empire building, Darius took control of Ionia, part of the loose Greek confederacy. Unfortunately, the Ionians didn’t like the idea of paying taxation. So they asked their neighbours from Athens to join in a revolt.
Although not subservient to Persia themselves, the Athenians did the neighbourly thing and joined in a revolt against Darius. The uprising was short and sharp. It did, however, result in the burning down of a town called Sardis. Sardis was where Darius’s pride and joy, The Royal Road, finished. He was outraged and was bent on revenge.
Other affairs of state kept Darius busy at the time and he could not launch an immediate counter attack against the Athenians. Instead, he installed a slave behind his throne in the dining hall. Whenever Darius sat down to eat the slave would bend forward and whisper: “Sire, remember the Athenians!”
This little ritual went on every day, for eight years. At last Darius saw his way clear to attack Athens. He sent 300 ships but these troops were outclassed and defeated.
He re-installed the slave and the ritual, “Sire, Remember the Athenians!” This whispering in the ear continued for another two years before Darius assembled another force. This time he sent 600 ships and 20,000 soldiers to attack the Athenians.
Darius’s army was decimated by a much smaller Athenian army, at the famous battle of Marathon.
The Athenians victory at Marathon was so enormous and decisive that it is celebrated every four years at the mod- ern Olympics in a race called the Marathon.
Darius never did beat the Athenians. He returned home, reinstalled the slave and worked on assembling another invasion force but he died before it eventuated.
Darius uncovered a great secret of staying motivated. Motivation is not hard. Find a way to remind yourself of your goal. Just keep whispering what you want in your ear. You’ll get there eventually.
But be warned. Whispering works wonders. Make sure your whisperings are noble and inspiring and have nothing to do with the Athenians!
© “Stand on the Shoulders of Giants” well imagine that 2007