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"There have always been people who lust for power and control. And there have always been people who oppose them."
―Darius to Kassandra, c. 422 BCE[src]

Artabanus,[1] better known as Darius, was the Persian assassin of King Xerxes I of Persia.

Considered to be one of the very first proto-Assassins, active several centuries before the order's formal establishment, Darius fought to ensure Persia would forever remain free of tyranny. His assassination of Xerxes I was the first recorded usage of the Hidden Blade, which went on to become the iconic weapon of the Assassin Brotherhood.

After the defeat of the Tempest in Achaia, Darius decided to settle down in the region with his son Natakas, who developed a relationship with the Spartan misthios Kassandra. Darius became a grandfather to Natakas and Kassandra's son Elpidios.

Biography

Xerxes' rule

During the 5th century BCE, the Order of the Ancients supported the reign and conquests of the Achaemenid kings Darius I and his son Xerxes I.[2] Opposing the Persian kings' tyranny over the people, Darius and his allies, Amorges and Pactyas, assassinated King Xerxes I, with Darius striking the killing blow using the Hidden Blade in August 465 BCE in what would become the first recorded use of the Assassins' iconic weapon.[3][4][5]

After Xerxes I's son Artaxerxes I ascended the throne, Darius feared he would too be manipulated by the Order and thus plotted his assassination as a preemptive measure. However, his close friend, Amorges, opposed his decision and later joined the Order of the Ancients in order to prevent the killing. Darius was confronted by Amorges, who called for the guards. As a result, Darius was branded a traitor and fled Persia with his family, while being pursued by the Order.[1]

Nevertheless, Darius was given a second chance to assassinate Artaxerxes I. He was hired by the King's brother, Hystaspes, to assassinate the King. Darius poisoned the young king, taking the man's sight, but was unsuccessful in his assassination attempt. Artaxerxes later spread the tale that Darius had succeeded, so that he might safely escape Persia.[6]

Meeting the Misthios

During his lifetime, Darius fathered several children, including a daughter named Neema, and a son, Natakas. Around 422 BCE, Darius and Natakas were hidding in Makedonia, where they met Kassandra, who had herself been drawn into conflict with the Order of the Ancients.[7]

Together, Darius, Natakas, and Kassandra worked to eliminate the Order of Hunters'–a faction of the Order of the Ancients dedicated to eliminating those they considered "Tainted Ones"–presence in Makedonia. In this, they were successful, and Pactyas was killed. Shortly thereafter Darius and Natakas made plans to leave Makedonia.[1]

Darius and Natakas later sought refuge in Achaia, where they hope to travel further east using a ship from the port city of Patrai. Shortly after their arrival, a naval fleet soon began to blockade the port city, halting their plans to leave Greece. Fearing that the Order may be responsible, Darius sent a letter to Kassandra, seeking her help once again.[8]

Legacy

By 48 BCE, Darius' Hidden Blade wound up in the hands of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, who passed it on to her protector Aya. Aya eventually made one of her own and gave Darius' blade to her husband Bayek. After the two founded the Hidden Ones, it became the signature weapon of their organization,[9] still used centuries later when their Brotherhood reformed as the Assassins.[3]

By the time of the Renaissance, Darius was retroactively considered an Assassin and a tomb dedicated to him was built beneath Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy. The Italian Assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze explored the tomb and took the hidden seal from the tomb's sarcophagus, which later allowed him to obtain the Armor of Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad sealed in the Sanctuary beneath Villa Auditore in Monteriggioni where a statue of Darius (and other celebrated Assassins) had been erected sometime before 1476.[3]

Trivia

  • Unlike later users of the iconic weapon, Darius wore his Hidden Blade on top of the right arm.
  • Historically, according to Aristotle, Artabanus had murdered the Crown Prince of Persia Darius just prior to killing Xerxes. The Latin historian Justinus however offers an alternative account where Crown Prince Darius was executed for the patricide of Xerxes after being framed by Artabanus.

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Appearances

References