Was Daniel’s “Darius the Mede” Really Xenophon’s “Cyaxares II”?

Was Daniel’s “Darius the Mede” Really Xenophon’s “Cyaxares II”?  An Examination of a New Look at an Old Theory

Originally Posted on the “Quran and Bible Blog

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

“That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.”

– Daniel 5:30-31

            This article will discuss a recent apologetic attempt by Christian scholar Dr. Steven Anderson to identify the mysterious king “Darius the Mede”, who is mentioned in the Book of Daniel.  During a recent discussion on Paul Williams’ blog involving the Christian interpretations of Daniel, I pointed out that scholars generally regard “Darius the Mede” to be a fictional character.  The Christian apologist Ken Temple responded,[1] by linking to an article,[2] that summarizes a PhD dissertation by Dr. Steven Anderson,[3] in which he claimed that the identity of “Darius the Mede” can finally be resolved after centuries of debate.  Various theories have been proposed to identify “Darius the Mede”, from Cyrus’ general Gobryas, to Cyrus himself, all of which were discussed by the English scholar H.H. Rowley and refuted.[4]  But Anderson has sought to reopen the debate with a new look at one of the many theories proposed.  In short, Anderson claims that “Darius” was actually “Cyaxares II”, an obscure figure who is only mentioned by name in the Greek philosopher Xenophon’s grand work on the life of Cyrus, the “Cyropaedia”.[5]  And being true to form, Temple uncritically accepted this theory without any objective analysis.  So, let us do that for him.     

“Darius the Mede” in the Bible

            Before we discuss the current scholarly views on the identity of “Darius the Mede”, let us summarize what the Bible says about him.[6]  He is mentioned by the name “Darius the Mede” four times in the Bible, and only in the Book of Daniel (though he is also mentioned simply as “Darius” as well):

  1. Daniel 5:31
  2. Daniel 6:15
  3. Daniel 9:1
  4. Daniel 11:1

Daniel 5:31 states that Darius “took over the kingdom” of Babylonia at the age of sixty-two, after his army killed Belshazzar, the “king of the Babylonians”.  In Daniel 6:15, the jealous administrators went to Darius to urge him to pass a “decree” that anyone who prayed “to any god or human being” except the king would be thrown into the lions’ den.  Daniel 9:1 and 11:1 simply mention Darius in passing (“in the first year of Darius…”).  And that is it.  This is all we know about “Darius the Mede”.  However, based on this and other passages where Darius is mentioned in passing, we can make the following assumptions:

  1. Darius was the king whose army attacked Babylon and slayed its king, and took over the Babylonian Empire.
  2. Darius was the son of “Ahaseurus/Xerxes”, who was “a Mede by descent” (Daniel 9:1).
  3. Daniel was directly appointed by Darius as one of three administrators of his empire (Daniel 6:1).
  4. Daniel lived in Babylon even after the fall of Babylon, and met with the king before and after being thrown into the lions’ den. He lived in Babylon at least until the ascension of Cyrus (Daniel 1:21).[7] 
  5. The Persian king Cyrus the Great assumed power after Darius (Daniel 6:28).[8]

Discussion of the Darius-Cyaxares Theory

            Let us now discuss the current scholarly views on the possible identity of “Darius the Mede”, with special emphasis on the work of Steven Anderson.  First and foremost, Anderson’s 2014 PhD thesis that “Darius the Mede” can be identified as Cyaxares II has been welcomed with open arms in Evangelical circles, but it does not seem to have caught the attention of the rest of the scholarly community.  As Anderson himself admits:

“[a]lthough I have yet to receive reviews of my work from critical scholarship, it has been well received so far by evangelical Bible scholars, a number of whom have communicated to me that they are now advocating my position.”[9]

Indeed, there seems to be very little discussion among critical scholars in the wake of Anderson’s thesis.  Nevertheless, we can discuss Anderson’s main points in arguing for a positive association between “Darius the Mede” and “Cyaxares II” because it is not a new theory at all.  Anderson has simply offered a new look into the controversy.  The main source for his thesis is Xenophon’s “Cyropaedia”, which Anderson has argued is historically reliable, at least more so than scholars had previously believed.[10]  Most critical scholars have rejected Xenophon’s account of Cyrus’ life, arguing that it was not intended to be a historical account.[11]  But Anderson argues that the “historical reliability” of the account “was found to be much higher than scholarly consensus currently holds”, due specifically to certain details of Cyrus’ life and other historical figures such as Belshazzar and Gobryas which Anderson finds to be “credible”.[12]     

            It is on this and other evidence that Anderson argues for the association of the mysterious “Darius the Mede” with Cyaxares II, who was allegedly the son and successor of the Median king Astyages, the son of Cyaxares I (assuming there was a Cyraxares II).  Xenophon does mention this Cyaxares, son of Astyages throughout the “Cyropaedia” and describes him as Cyrus’ uncle from his mother’s side:

“[n]ow in the fullness of time Astyages died in Media, and Cyaxares his son, the brother of Cyrus’ mother, took the kingdom in his stead.”[13]

The problem is that Cyaxares II is not known by name from any other historical source.  To solve this problem, Anderson appeals to other sources which he presents as possible evidence for the existence of Cyaxares II.  Let us discuss these one at a time:

Behistun Inscription –   

            One such source is the “Behistun Incription” of the Persian king Darius Hystaspes (not to be confused with Daniel’s “Darius the Mede”).  In one section, the inscription states:

“[s]ays Darius the king: One man Phraortes [by name, a Mede], he rose up in Media; thus he said to the people; [I am Khshathrita] of the family of Cyaxares; afterwards the Median people which [were in the palace] became estranged from me (and) went over to that Phraortes; he became [king] in Media.”[14]

Similarly, another section states:

“[s]ays Darius the king: One man, Citra(n)takhma by name, a Sagartian, he became rebellious to me; thus he said to the people; I am king in Sagartia, of the family of Cyaxares;”[15]

In other words, Darius had to contend against two Medians who claimed the throne through their relation to a man named “Cyaxares”.  According to Anderson:

“[t]he fact that they claimed a relation to Cyaxares, rather than to Astyages, is evidence that Cyaxares II did indeed exist and was the last Median king.”[16]

While this seems plausible, if we consider Xenophon’s account of Cyaxares as the son of Astyages, it is nevertheless not conclusive evidence.  It could be easily argued that these Median rebels were referring to Cyaxares I, the father of Astyages (and the would-be grandfather of Cyaxares II, if he even existed).  Given the lack of evidence to the contrary, even some Christians admit the weakness of Anderson’s argument.[17]  Anderson’s claim that these claimants to the Median throne had to reason to refer to Cyaxares I,[18] and so must have meant Cyaxares II seems far-fetched.  To claim the Median throne through Cyaxares I actually makes sense since he was more powerful than Astyages.         

The Harran Stele

            Produced under the orders of the Babylonian king Nabonidus, the Harran Stele mentions a certain king of the “city of the Medes” (a reference to the capital of the Median empire at Ecbatana), which Anderson has interpreted as a reference to Cyaxares II:

“…and the king(s ?) of the land(?) of Egypt, the city of the Medes, the land of the Arabs, and all the kings (who were) hostile, for peace and good relations sent (messengers) before me.”[19]

According to Anderson:

“[t]his inscription was produced well after the supposed conquest of Media by Cyrus, and therefore seems to indicate that Cyrus did not depose the last Median king.”[20]

Of course, the most obvious problem with Anderson’s argument is that the inscription does not mention the name of the Median king, whether it was Cyaxares II or Cyrus, although the latter has been generally accepted by scholars to be the king “of the city of the Medes”.  Indeed, the inscription can easily accommodate Cyrus as the king.  According to CJ Gadd (whose translation of the inscription was cited by Anderson):

“…the conclusion of an accord with Babylon was a natural consequence of the overthrow of Astyages and the Median kingdom, and the date of this accord may be immediately after the victory of Cyrus, who had perhaps not secured or assumed his official titles, and was for the nonce viewed only as the new master of Ecbatana.”[21]

Also, the previously mentioned “Bible Apologetics” website adds that:

“[t]he fact that it mentions Medes and not Persians could’ve been Babylonian indifference that a Persian takeover occurred, since Persia/Anshan was the smaller kingdom as the Dream Text of Nabonidus tells us.”[22]

As such, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to conclude simply on the basis of the phrase “city of the Medes” as somehow being a reference to the unknown Median king Cyaxares II.


            According to Anderson:

“[t[he historian Berossus…refers to the actions of an unspecified “King Darius” shortly after the fall of Babylon.”[23]

Here is the relevant part of Berossus’ account of the fall of Babylon and its aftermath, as provided by Anderson (emphasis in the original):

“[Cyrus] then marched against Borsippa to force Nabonidus to capitulate. But Nabonidus did not wait out the siege, but gave himself up. Cyrus at first treated him kindly, and, giving a residence to him in Carmania, sent him out of Babylonia. (But) Darius the king took away some of his province for himself. [v. l.—(But) Darius the king kept him out of that province.] So Nabonidus passed the rest of his time in that land and died.”[24]

On the surface, this seems to be good evidence of a king named “Darius” who was a contemporary of Cyrus.  But as Anderson admits, the alleged reference to “Darius the king” in Berossus’ account is actually only found in a later version mentioned by Eusebius:

“…the most significant line in the passage quoted above is the one which occurs only in the Armenian text of Eusebius’ Chronicle, referring to the actions of a certain ‘King Darius’…”[25]

Not only that, but another one of Eusebius’ works, “Preparation for the Gospel”, quotes the same passage from Berossus and yet does not mention Darius at all.[26]  The Jewish historian Josephus, while also recounting Berossus’ account, also failed to mention anything about a king named Darius.[27]  While he attempts to provide an explanation for this shortfall, Anderson only gives hypothetical scenarios and nothing conclusive.[28]  At best, the appeal to Berossus is weak.

Valerius Harpocration

            Regarding Valerius Harpocration, Anderson writes:

“…a professional researcher and lexicographer at the library of Alexandria, [Valerius] affirms in a lexical work that there was a king of the Medo-Persian Empire named “Darius” who reigned sometime before Darius Hystaspes.”[29]

Here is the passage of interest which mentions an earlier “Darius”:

“Darics are gold staters, and each of them also had the value of what the Athenians call the ‘gold coin’ (ὁ χρυσοῦς). But darics are not named, as most suppose, after Darius the father of Xerxes, but after a certain other more ancient king.”[30]

Unfortunately, as we can see, there is not much information here.  Harpocration only mentions a more “ancient” king named “Darius” without stating the time period.  It seems to be a stretch to assume that he simply must have meant a Median king named “Darius” who was actually “Cyaxares II”.  So even if an earlier Darius’ name was the true origin of the daric,[31] there is just not enough information as to the identity of this “Darius” and thus to link him with the son of Astyages.

            It also seems strange for Harpocration to be referring to Cyaxares II as a “more ancient king” than Darius I, when Cyaxares is said to have died only two years after the conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE.[32]  Darius I was born in 550 BCE and ruled as the third king of the Persian Empire from 522-486 BCE.[33]  Thus, he would have been around 13 years old when Cyaxares II died, and around 28 years old when he became king.  That hardly makes Cyaxares a “more ancient king”.  A mere 15 years separated the end of Cyaxares’ reign and the beginning of Darius’ reign. 


            Aeschylus was a Greek dramatist who mentioned in his play “Persians” (472 BCE) that Cyrus the Great had been preceded by two Median kings, a father and son.  Since Aeschylus had fought in the Greek army against the Persians at the battles of Marathon and Salamis, and predated both Xenophon and Herodotus, Anderson described him as an “independent” and “significant primary source for early Persian history.”[34]  Here is the relevant part of Aeschylus’ play where the two Median kings are mentioned by the ghost of Darius Hystaspes:

“For the Mede was the first leader of [our] host;

And another, his son, completed this work, For [his] mind directed his passion.

And third from him was Cyrus, a fortunate man;

When he ruled, he established peace for all his own.”[35]

As with the other sources mentioned above, Aeschylus also failed to provide any names, forcing Anderson to suppose that Aeschylus must have been referring to Astyages and Cyaxares II, respectively.  Other scholars have proposed that Aeschylus was referring to Cyaxares I (assuming there was a Cyaxares II) and his son Astyages, but Anderson critiques this theory since it contradicts Herodotus’ claim that there was no Medo-Persian alliance.[36]

            But Anderson’s alternate theory, that the two kings were Astyages and Cyaxares II, has its own problem as well.  As even Anderson admits, there is no:

“…primary source which states directly that Astyages founded the Medo-Persian confederacy…”[37]

And yet that is exactly what Aeschylus has Darius’ ghost declare in the play.  Anderson attempts to get around this problem by pointing out that both Xenophon and Herodotus stated that Astyages gave his daughter in marriage to Cambyses I (Cyrus’ father), which would serve as a way for the Median Empire to forge an alliance with Persia.[38]  While this seems plausible, there does appear to be one major problem.  According to Aeschylus’ account as given by Darius’ ghost, the first Median king was the “leader of [our] host”, which would imply that he commanded Persian armies alongside Median ones.  If the first king was Astyages, we should expect to find instances where he commanded a joint Medo-Persian army.  Yet according to Xenophon, Astyages never led any such army.  Xenophon did mention a battle between Astyages and the Assyrians, in which a young Cyrus took part, but makes no mention of a Persian army fighting alongside the Medians, not until Cyaxares ascended to the throne after Astyages died.[39]  Even Anderson acknowledges this:

“[s]hortly after Cyaxares’ accession, the “Assyrians” (i.e., Babylonians) joined forces with Croesus, king of Lydia, and other nations in order to attack the Medes and Persians. Cyrus was made commander of the Persian army, which was separate from the Median army.  After a preliminary campaign, Cyrus and Cyaxares set out together to attack the Babylonians and Lydians.”[40]

However, it is still possible that Aeschylus could have been referring to Cyaxares II as the second king who “completed this work” by actually commanding a joint Medo-Persian army along with Cyrus.  However, there is just not enough information to allow for such a conclusion.                   

Other Problems with the Darius-Cyaxares II Association

            As we have seen, the evidence presented by Anderson for identifying the mysterious “Darius the Mede” with Xenophon’s “Cyaxares II” is not as convincing as he proposes.  While his theory is plausible, for example with regard to Aeschylus’ reference to two Median kings possibly being Astyages and Cyaxares, there is nevertheless nothing conclusive.  It really could go either way, and we simply do not have enough information to make a final judgement. 

            But let us assume that Anderson is correct and that Cyaxares II really was the inspiration for “Darius the Mede” in the book of Daniel.  Does that vindicate Daniel, at least with regard to the allegedly “fictional” Darius?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.  For as with the other theories about the identity of “Darius the Mede” (e.g. that he was Cyrus or Gobryas), there are contradictions between what we know of Cyaxares II (if he existed), as told in the “Cyropaedia”, and what Daniel tells us.  Let us look at these contradictions, which severely hamper Anderson’s bold claims.    

            First, Daniel remained in Babylon until the first year of Cyrus.[41]  This means that after the fall of Babylon, when Cyrus was still the alleged subordinate of Darius/Cyaxares, Daniel was still present in Babylon.  Moreover, we are told that Daniel was a trusted and high-ranking member of Darius’ new government, and was well-respected by the king, which is why Darius felt so guilty for leaving Daniel in the lions’ den.[42] 

            But if we look at Xenophon’s account of the reorganization of Babylon after its fall, we find no evidence that Cyaxares ever set foot in the city.  Instead, he remained at the Median capital of Ecbatana.  The closest Cyaxares came to Babylon was in the fact that Cyrus had set-up a palace for him whenever he would visit the city:

“[a]nd now when the march had brought them into Media, Cyrus turned aside to visit Cyaxares. After they had met and embraced, Cyrus began by telling Cyaxares that a palace in Babylon, and an estate, had been set aside for him so that he might have a residence of his own whenever he came there.”[43]

But Xenophon says nothing of Cyaxares after Cyrus left Media and arrived in Babylon.  Cyaxares’ role in the “Cyropaedia” ends after Cyrus weds his daughter.[44]  Noting the discrepancy between Xenophon and Daniel on this point, George Law states:

“[s]ince Xenophon, as the only witness to Cyaxares (II) and his actions, does not at any time place him in Babylon, does not describe him as Babylon’s king, nor is the Chaldean kingdom described as being delivered into his possession, Cyaxares (II) cannot possibly qualify to be Darius the Mede.”[45]

Anderson cites Law’s work, but besides a brief critique in which he dismisses Law’s dissertation as “subpar as an academic work”,[46] he does not actually refute Law’s point.  How could Daniel’s “Darius the Mede” be Xenophon’s Cyaxares II when the former says he was in Babylon while the latter says he was in Ecbatana?[47]   Both sources cannot be right.  

            Even if it could be argued that Cyaxares may have visited Babylon from time to time, it is unlikely that he would have been running the general affairs of the city, like appointing satraps, which Xenophon says was done by Cyrus:

“[w]hen he was in Babylon once more, he thought it would be well to appoint satraps and set them over the conquered tribes.”[48]

Having captured Babylon, it makes sense that the first order of business would be to appoint satraps to govern the vast empire.  Here also, Daniel contradicts Xenophon.  Whereas Xenophon has Cyrus appointing the satraps over the empire, Daniel claims that it was Darius (and hence Cyaxares II as per Anderson):

“[i]t pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel.”[49] 

These contradictions between Xenophon and Daniel led the British scholar H.H Rowley to emphatically state:

“[a] work which disagrees so specifically with the book of Daniel can hardly be appealed to in support of the accuracy of the book.”[50]

As with Law, Anderson also cited Rowley’s work, but mostly to disparage it.  According to Anderson:

“[n]o serious efforts are made by Rowley, Grabbe, or allied commentators to harmonize the book of Daniel with extrabiblical data; rather, they seem intent on discrediting the book of Daniel.”[51]

But while disparaging Rowley’s arguments, Anderson never made any effort to refute them, at least with regard to the contradictions between Xenophon and Daniel.  Instead, in his zeal to vindicate the book of Daniel, Anderson gave a rather pathetic and mediocre excuse for the differences.  Regarding the contradiction about who appointed the satraps, Cyrus (per Xenophon) or Darius (per Daniel), Anderson now decided to throw Xenophon under the bus, and favored (quite unsurprisingly) Daniel!  Anderson states:

“[t]hat Xenophon might be loose with the facts here is understandable—he builds his presentation of Cyrus as the ideal king around a detailed description of the organization of the empire by Cyrus following the conquest of Babylon, which means he has to push Cyaxares aside.”[52]

This is ironic given the effort Anderson has made to present Xenophon as a historically reliable account.  Alas, it seems Christian scholars can never be consistent!

            But apparently realizing that this excuse will probably not stand the weight of scrutiny, Anderson then tries to brush it aside by claiming that:

“…the difference between Xenophon and Daniel on this point is not as large as it might at first appear.  […] Xenophon’s presentation of Cyrus acting as king of the empire after the fall of Babylon differs with Daniel’s presentation only in rank or degree, not in kind.”[53]

Well, that is quite convenient!  Nevertheless, whatever difference there is, whether “only in rank or degree” or “kind”, there is a difference, and Anderson has failed to adequately explain it.  Regardless of Anderson’s special pleading, the reality is that while he has presented some intriguing new insight into the identity of “Darius the Mede”, there are still gaping holes which cannot be covered up so easily.  Anderson’s theory, while impressive, still falls short, as have all other similar theories.  Speaking about the various efforts to identify “Darius the Mede”, Joel Morales observes:

“[i]t can be concluded that scholars today are on the difficult position that the available evidence is not sufficient to support one view or the other. Ancient scribes, historians, and commentators were as baffled as scholars are today by the inclusion of Darius the Mede in Daniel. It was recognized that there was a problem, and some even tried to correct or clarified it (by the variants), but this created more question than answer.”[54]

While he may not want to admit it, Anderson’s theory also raises more questions than answers. 


            In this discussion, we have considered the insightful new analysis of Darius’ identity by Dr. Steven Anderson.  This new attempt to answer a very old question has been well-received by many Christians, most of whom seem to have blindly accepted Anderson’s findings without even attempting an objective examination.  Their haste is understandable given that centuries have passed without any definitive answer about who “Darius the Mede” really was, and people like Ken Temple may just want closure.  But the reality is that closure is still an elusive dream.  “Darius the Mede” remains an enigma.  If Darius was Cyraxares II, Daniel still contradicts the only historical source (Xenophon) to even mention him by name.  So even if it could be definitely proven that Anderson is right to associate Darius with Cyaxares, the book of Daniel is still not vindicated because of the contradictions about Cyaxares’ activities after the fall of Babylon.  This is a common occurrence in the world of Christiana apologetics, for when they try to defend the “inerrancy” of the Bible by offering a theory to answer one objective, they end up exposing another objection.  As the saying goes:

“Out of the frying pan and into the fire”.

This describes Christian apologetics quite appropriately.

And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!

[1] https://bloggingtheology2.com/2018/12/06/my-reply-to-paul-and-the-depths-of-jewish-hermeneutics-by-denis/comment-page-1/#comment-413

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318725539_A_Contemporary_Defense_of_the_Authenticity_of_Daniel

[3] Steven D. Anderson, “Darius the Mede: A Reappraisal” (Grand Rapids: Steven D. Anderson, 2014), http://www.academia.edu/22476645/Darius_the_Mede_A_Reappraisal

[4] H.H. Rowley, Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel: A Historical Study of Contemporary Theories (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1964), pp. 9-43.  

[5] Before modern scholarship, Daniel’s “Darius the Mede” was identified with Xenophon’s Cyaxares II by most Jews and Christians.  For example, according to Josephus:

“…but when Babylon was taken by Darius, and when he, with his kinsman Cyrus, had put an end to the dominion of the Babylonians, he was sixty-two years old. He was the son of Astyages, and had another name among the Greeks” (Antiquities of the Jews, 10.11.4).

[6] A brief discussion about “Darius the Mede” was previously done in my article on the Book of Daniel: https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/the-book-of-daniel/

[7] According to the NIV, it is possible that Daniel 6:28 can also be read as:

“So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius, that is, the reign of Cyrus.”

This would mean that Cyrus was “Darius the Mede”, an association which is fraught with historical problems, the most obvious being that Cyrus was not a Mede but a Persian (even though his mother was the Median king’s daughter).  However, his father, Cambyses I, was king of Persia.       

[8] However, a variant version states that Darius was actually Cyrus.  See note #7.

[9] https://truthonlybible.com/2016/01/08/darius-the-mede-a-solution-to-his-identity/

[10] Ibid.

[11] As the “Encyclopedia Iranica” states:

“[i]t is generally agreed that Xenophon did not intend Cyropaedia as history” (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/cyropaedia-gr).

[12] https://truthonlybible.com/2016/01/08/darius-the-mede-a-solution-to-his-identity/

Of course, one could simply argue that it would be expected that Xenophon’s account would mention certain historically accurate details while still intending to be a literary work rather than a literal retelling of the actual history.  In that way, it would be similar to Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, which while relying on historical realities and characters (such as Caesar’s murder by Brutus and his co-conspirators) nevertheless changed some details for dramatic effect (for example, the famous line “Et tu, Brute” was probably not what Caesar actually said).  Indeed, many scholars regard the “Cyropaedia” as a “historical novel” or “romantic history” (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/cyropaedia-gr).     

Hypothetically speaking, if we assume that Anderson is correct about the historical reliability of Xenophon’s “Cyropaedia” and how it strengthens the credibility of the Book of Daniel vis a vis the identify of “Darius the Mede”, then it would also be reasonable to assume that any deviation from Xenophon’s account on the part of Daniel would be an example of the latter’s historical errancy.  This is an important point which we will revisit later.

[13] Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 1.5.2.  See here for the online version: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2085/2085-h/2085-h.htm

[14] Column 2.5, http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Persia/Behistun_txt.html

[15] Column 2.14, Ibid.

[16] https://truthonlybible.com/2016/01/08/darius-the-mede-a-solution-to-his-identity/

[17] The website “Bible-Apologetics” states:

“[t]he Median rebels mentioned in the Behistun Inscription said they were of the “family/dynasty of Cyaxares”. They must be referring to Cyaxares I, father and predecessor of Astyages, who was a much more powerful and well-known Median king. They might not have even been direct descendants of Astyages” (http://www.bible-apologetics.com/articles/darius-the-mede.htm#3)

[18] Anderson, op. cit.,  pp. 29-30.

[19] C. J. Gadd, “The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus.” Anatolian Studies 8 (1958): 59. doi:10.2307/3642415.

[20] https://truthonlybible.com/2016/01/08/darius-the-mede-a-solution-to-his-identity/

[21] Gadd, op. cit., p. 77.

[22] http://www.bible-apologetics.com/articles/darius-the-mede.htm#3

[23] https://truthonlybible.com/2016/01/08/darius-the-mede-a-solution-to-his-identity/

[24] Anderson, op. cit., p. 108.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., p. 109.

[27] Josephus, Against Apion, 1:20.

[28] This seems similar to the controversy surrounding the so-called “Testimonium Flavianum” of Josephus.  The alleged reference to Jesus (peace be upon him) in Josephus is contradicted by the fact that even when Josephus is quoted by Christian scholars like Origen, his amazing summary of Jesus’ life (which corresponds perfectly with the gospels) is conspicuously absent.

[29] https://truthonlybible.com/2016/01/08/darius-the-mede-a-solution-to-his-identity/

[30] Anderson, op. cit., p. 114.

[31] Whether it was believed that Darius I or some other Darius’ name served as the origin of the word “daric”, it was most likely just a myth.  Scholars now tend to believe that the origin was something else.  According to the “Encyclopedia Iranica”:

“…modern scholars have generally supposed that the Greek term dareikós can be traced back to Old Persian *dari- “golden” and that it was first associated with the name of Darius only in later folk etymology” (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/daric).

[32] Anderson, op. cit., p. 11.

[33] http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/darius-iii

[34] Anderson, op. cit., pp. 114-115.

[35] Ibid., p. 115.

[36] Ibid., pp. 116-117.

[37] Ibid., p. 117.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 1.4.18-24.

[40] Anderson, op. cit., p. 26.

[41] Daniel 1:21.

[42] Daniel 6:18.  Darius was unable to eat and sleep since he was so fraught with worry for Daniel’s safety.

[43] Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8.5.17.

[44] Ibid., 8.5.28.

[45] George Law, Identification of Darius the Mede (Pfafftown, NC: Ready Scribe Press, 2010), p. 64.

[46] Anderson, op. cit., p. 8, n. 24.

[47] As previously stated, Josephus identified “Darius the Mede” with a Median king who was Cyrus’ contemporary.  Bu Josephus seemed to overlook the discrepancy between what we know about Darius’ location after the fall of Babylon according to Xenophon and what the book of Daniel says.  Like Xenophon, Josephus also claimed that

Darius stayed in Media after the fall of Babylon, but Josephus also added that Daniel was also relocated to Media, even though the book of Daniel clearly states that Daniel remained in Babylon until Cyrus’ ascension to the throne (emphasis ours):

“…but when Babylon was taken by Darius, and when he, with his kinsman Cyrus, had put an end to the dominion of the Babylonians, he was sixty-two years old. He was the son of Astyages, and had another name among the Greeks. Moreover, he took Daniel the prophet, and carried him with him into Media, and honored him very greatly, and kept him with him; for he was one of the three presidents whom he set over his three hundred and sixty provinces, for into so many did Darius part them” (Antiquities of the Jews, 10.11.4).

[48] Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8.6.1.

[49] Daniel 6:1-2.

[50] Rowley, op. cit., p. 40.

[51] Anderson, op. cit., p. 9.

[52] Ibid., p. 44.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Joel E. Lisboa Morales, “The Muddy Textual Tradition of Darius the Mede”, Defensa Adventista, p. 23, accessed December 25, 2018, https://www.academia.edu/10884084/The_muddy_textual_tradition_of_Darius_the_Mede

Categories: Archaeology, Bible, Christianity, History, Judaism, Tanakh

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17 replies

  1. So the book of Daniel is a prime example of how the Bible is NOT inerrant. The identify of “Darius the Mede” remains a mystery, and even if we attempt identify him with historical figures like Cyrus, Gobryas or Cyaxares II ( assuming the latter was a historical figure), we only raise more questions than answers. That’s the problem with the Bible. If you manage to close one hole, you may open up two more. The Bible is the Hydra of Christianity: cut off one head and two more will take its place.

  2. Next time Ken, do some research before blindly accepting the theories of conservative scholars.

  3. Where so-called historical sources differ from the bible they are at fault. No problem for me.

    • Once again, thank you for showing your bias. I keep seeing more proof of the negative effect that Christianity has on the human brain. No matter what evidence you are shown, you will stubbornly cling to your ridiculous scripture. Don’t blame anyone but yourself when you realize that you were following a false religion on the Day of Judgement. You will have no excuse for being stupid.

  4. If we were looking to Islam to give us history we would be up the creek without a paddle.

    • LOL, nice attempt at changing the subject. I can see this topic makes you uncomfortable.

      Back to the topic…Darius the Mede is a fictional character.

      • My friend, a moment ago, I posted my humble case for Cyrus being the same “Darius the Mede”, and I would be humbled if, both you and others here, were to even take the time to kindly review my arguments. Respectfully – Cleveland George – email: cleveland_george@yahoo.com.

  5. “Back to the topic…Darius the Mede is a fictional character.”

    Why? Because no “historical” source confirms this?

    Is this what you call evidence?

    • LOL, that is evidence to any reasonable person who has any intelligence, so it’s understandable that you, an ignoramus, find it unconvincing. No historical figure matches Daniel’s “Darius the Mede”. Ergo, Daniel cannot be corroborated by historical evidence and therefore, no reaosonable person needs to believe in it.

  6. It was not long before reverses came. Babylon was besieged by Cyrus, nephew of Darius the Mede, and commanding general of the combined armies of the Medes and Persians. Prophets and Kings chapter 43.

    Soon after the fall of Babylon and the beginning of the universal empire of Medo-Persia, in the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, Daniel the prophet “understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” {RH, March 14, 1907 par. 1}

    The year that Cyrus succeeded Darius the Mede to the throne of Medo-Persia marked the completion of seventy years since the first company of Hebrews had been carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.

  7. Greetings Dr. Williams,
    I don’t understand the basis of your criticism, which is that the Bible is in error about Darius the Mede, and in many other places. A true Muslim accepts what the Qur’an says about the Torah and the Injil. I counted 169 places in the Qur’an where it is said that the Bible–both Testaments–are the Word of God, and further that the Word of God cannot be changed. It was in effect in Muhammed’s day, and he was told to obey it.

    Here are just two examples out of the 169, and which I would have thought you were familiar with. Surah 2:136: “Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which was revealed to us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.”
    Surah 4:150,151: “Lo! Those who disbelieve in Allah and his messengers, and seek to make a distinction between Allah and his messengers, and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to choose a way in between: Such are disbelievers in truth; and for disbelievers we prepare a shameful doom.”

    From these verses, and the 167 others, it would seem that your are not in full submission to the Qur’an and the teachings of Mohammed, i.e. not a true Muslim (“one who has submitted”).

    Your puzzled correspondent,
    Rodger C. Young

    • “Word of God cannot be changed”?! Equivocation fallacy. You assume that the God promised the Children of Israel to not corrupt the Law and Evangel, but they did with their own free will. Sounds like a corruption. By the way, “None can change His words…” means God’s decrees or laws cannot be changed by humans, no matter the interpretation.
      And where does it say that the unlettered praiseworthy Muhammad was to obey the previous scriptures? Do not quote sura Yunus [10:]94 since that is out of context.

      And why do you conflate two revealed messages the Law (of Mośe) and Evangel (of Iesous) with the Biblios? It makes no sense. Stand fast to what the God has revealed to the prophets and be on your way. The moment you question the Recitation, you question the very God that you have been your guide through life.

  8. Well, let me give you a reply for why I think your argumentes do not work at all:

    1) Your treatment of Anderson’s argument for the Behistun Inscription refering to Cyaxares II instead of Cyaxares I ignores his main point: That if Astyages had been the last Median king then the most logical is that the rebels would’ve claimed descendence from the family of Astyages instead of Cyaxares (I).
    It is true that some Christians who identify Darius the Mede with Cyrus have claimed that the rebels would have done so on the basis that Cyaxares would’ve been a stronger king that Astyages; but it can be empiricaly proven that this is simply not the case: We know from the same Behistun Inscription that the Babylonian rebel kings against Darius’ rule based their claims on alleged descendence from Nabonidus, even though Nebuchadnezzar II had been also a stronger king than the latter.

    2) The arguments against the Harran Stele are also flawed, since we know from history that Cyrus had already secured his titles before his conquest of Lydia (when he was already titled as “King of Persia”, having been called “King of Ashan” since being crowned even earlier). Also, Media only had a larger territory than Ashan before being conquered, not after being so; this also refutes the second argument given.

    3) Your treatment of the quotation of Berossus simply ignores the fact that both Josephus and Eusebius do not quote him directly, but through intermediary epitomizers. Concretely, Josephus and Eusebius’s Praeparatio Evangelica quote him through the epitomizer Alexander Polystor, while Eusebius’s Chronicle quote him through the other epitomizer Abydenus.
    It is through this diference of epitomizer that Anderson gives a well-arged explanation in his thesis for the textual divergences between the two quotations without renouncing the authenticity of the referente to Darius.

    4) The reason given by Anderson of why the Darius refered by Harpocration must be Darius the Mede also is not given in the blog: that no other king named Darius is known from Medo-Persian history without the exception of Daniel’s and Berossus’ Darius the Mede, so by simplification Harpocartion’s Darius should be identified with the biblical one.
    You should read Anderson’s article on the issue: “The Remembrance of Daniel’s Darius the Mede in Berossus and Harpocration” (2016).

    5) Your case against the evidence of Aeschylus ignores the arguments given by Anderson, which are very simple and definitive: the two Median kings referred by him are incompatible with being Cyaxares I and Astyages, while the contextual evidente makes entirely consistent identifying them with Astyages and Cyaxares II.
    The only argument you give is that Anderson does not conclusively prove that both kings are Astyages and Cyaxares II, but since you do not give any argument of how both could be two other kings, then the implausibily of both being Cyaxares I and Astyages contrasting with the entire plausibility of both being Astyages and Cyaxares II makes it clear that the identification with the formers should be maintained.

  9. As for the alledged incompatibilities between Daniel’s Darius the Mede and Xenophon’s Cyaxares II, let me response the following:

    – Daniel 1:21 only states that Daniel remained in Babylon until Cyrus’ first year, which is the year of Babylon’s fall (539 BCE) and when Cyrus was still a corregent with Darius the Mede (remmember that according to Anderson, both remained corregents until the second year after the fall of Babylon).
    It is in this way that Anderson explains the discrepancy by arguing that the likely setting for Daniel 6 is at the Median royal court in Ecbatana, which is supported by Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, 10.11.4). After the death of Darius the Mede/Cyaxares II, Cyrus moved the capital of the empire to Pasargadae. Later, Persepolis and Susa were added as alternate (rotating) capitals, but Babylon was never a location of the Medo-Persian royal court. Babylon was ruled from the Medo-Persian homeland. So there is no conflict between the book of Daniel (a book which never claims that Darius ever visited Babylon) and Xenophon on this issue.

    – The other argument is also flawed, since it is also known from history that Xenophon (like Herodotus) ignored the fact that the general Gobryas apointed new governors afer the fall of Babylon in a similar way that Darius/Cyaxares II later also did (according to Daniel). It is in this way that Xenophon’s ignorance about Daniel’s report of Darius installing new governors is explained as being analogue with Xenophon’s ignorance about Gobryas having done the same.
    Let’s remmember that Anderson does never claim that Xenophon is completely right about Medo-Persian history; he only claims that he is accurate in a higher degree than Herodotus and more than what the current consensus maintains, which is not the same.

    May God bless you.

  10. Good day Brother Paul Williams, I must commend you for the evidently great work and research you have done, but within the past two weeks since being ‘directed’ to your blog by a ‘Link’ from Dr. Anderson’s Blog on “Darius the Mede”, I had submitted my thoughts and humble ‘research’ on the subject, on THIS site (as I’ve done at Dr. Anderson’s Blog), but has YET to receive even an acknowledgement of YOUR receipt thereof. My submissions STRONGLY aver (in spite of ALL the ‘arguments’ I have read and carefully considered), that Cyrus the Great, was indeed “DARIUS THE MEDE”, by evidences which INCLUDE (but NOT limited to), the ‘highest’ of Persian authorities, for Cyrus’ age being about 62 years in 539/8 BC (same as at Dan 5:31). Could you kindly indicate whether you had received my earlier post (which is a ‘mere’ 3-4 pages or so in contents), or in alternative, kindly further indicate if I should re-post? Or ALL can email me at cleveland_george@yahoo.com; (P.S I use all CAPS for emphasis only) Thankfully, CLEVELAND GEORGE


  1. Darius the Mede: A solution to his identity | TruthOnlyBible

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