اسمردیس ، بردیا
Smerdis was a
Persian prince, son of
Cyrus the Great.
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
According to several ancient sources, Smerdis was the only one who was strong enough to draw a bow sent to the
Persian court by an enemy; the
Herodotus says that this enemy was the
Kushite king (from
Sudan), others state that it was a leader of the nomads living in Central
Asia. Another Greek author, Ctesias of Cnidus, who calls this prince Tanyoxarces, says he became satrap in charge of the northeastern border.
When his brother, king
Cambyses, was conquering
Egypt, someone calling himself Smerdis rebelled and became sole ruler of the
Achaemenid Empire after Cambyses' had died. According to the
Bisotoun inscription, this Smerdis' rule started on 11 March 522 BCE, and this is corroborated by the dating of letters in
Babylonia; on July, 1 he formally became king. Smerdis was killed, however, by
Dariush, on 29 September in a stronghold in
Dariush states in the Bisotoun inscription that the man was not the real Smerdis and that the real Smerdis was killed before Cambyses set out for Egypt. The fake rebel was a lookalike named Gaumata. This man was a
Magian and there are some indications that Magians were not Persians but
For instance, Herodotus states explicitly that the Magians were a Median tribe. It is also remarkable that the new king took Sikayauvati as his residence: this stronghold has been identified with Ziwiye near
Iranshah, a little south of Lake
Urmia in the northwest of modern Iran - almost as far away from Persia as possible. From Herodotus we know that he proclaimed a three years' remission of taxes and military service to every nation within his dominion: a measure that can probably best be explained when we accept that the king felt a warm sympathy for the subject nations and cherished no particularly warm feelings about Persia.
Although we do best never to trust ancient texts at face value, we may probably believe Dariush' story that the Smerdis he killed was indeed a false Smerdis, someone who did not belong to the Achaemenid dynasty and may have been a Mede by birth. It should be stressed that Dariush had the Behistun inscription engraved at a place where no human being could possibly read it; only the gods were witness to his claim that he had killed an impostor.
Later, a Persian named
Vahyazdata proclaimed himself king, also claiming to be the real Smerdis. He seized the Persian palace at
Pasargadae and was able to subdue
Arachosia. But one of Dariush' generals,
Artavardiya, defeated this king on 24 May 521 BCE, after which he was forced to flee to the east. Vahyazdata was defeated again on 14 July and crucified.