The Statue of Darius I from Susa: an Essay of Interpretation in the Light of Egyptian and Near Eastern Religious and Ideological Notions

Ladynin Ivan A.

The article recapitulates the study of a well-known object found at Susa in 1972 by the French and Iranian archaeologists namely, the statue of Darius I, which stood at the gates of the royal palace and probably was paired by a similar statue. The statue is obviously an Egyptian work made, according to the best-founded opinion, from Egyptian material (greywacke from Wadi Hammamat) and brought to Iran; its pair could have been either brought together with it or produced already in Iran from local Zagros’ stone (Razmjou 2002, 88). The most likely time for the object being brought to Iran was the period of revolt in Egypt during the early reign of Xerxes I (486–484 B.C.); it seems doubtful that the motive to transfer it could be merely providing for its safety during the unrest (in that time it would have been a difficult operation and might be regarded as a capitulation before the rebels, contrary to the assertion of the Persian inscription on the statue telling that it was intended to demonstrate Persian domination in Egypt – Dsab. Anyway, had the statue even been destroyed in the mutiny, it would not have been an irreparable loss for the Persian rule in Egypt. The idea put forward in the article is that the statue of Darius was confiscated from the temple where it had been initially placed (probably, the sanctuary of Atum in Heliopolis), as it was considered to be a cult object mediating a contact with a divine force. The plausibility of this supposition depends on whether the Egyptians really considered the statue of Darius to be a cult object and a mediator to a divinity. Several arguments speak in favour of this option: (1) The Egyptian inscription on the statue makes it likely that the statue served a «votive» allowing the «double» (kA) of Darius to acquire the cult (in the first place food offerings) together with the deity of the sanctuary to which the statues belonged; (2) Diodorus (following Hecataeus of Abdera) says that Darius was not only much favoured in Egypt as a great legislator but even was awarded a divinisation in his lifetime (Diod. I. 95.5). (3) A stele from Fayum (Berlin, Äg. Mus. 7493) shows Darius I depicted as a falcon and the beneficiary of the monument, a PA-di-Wsir-pA-Ra, kneeling before him; the epithet of this person imAx[y] and the inscription under the scene proves that he receives afterlife from Horus incarnated in the king. The stele shows Darius believed to incarnate Horus and to mediate the contact to him; this could be the background of Diodorus’ statement on his divinisation in Egypt. No matter how precisely the Persians knew the details of this ideological manoeuvre and recognized its validity in their own categories (i.e., the concept of royal xvarənah), they certainly took notice of it; hence, when they launched confiscations of cult objects in Egyptian temples, they also seized the statue of Darius from the temple of Heliopolis merely became they knew that the Egyptians regarded him as an embodiment of the divine force.

Keywords: Darius I, Susa, statue, inscription, Persian domination in Egypt, king's sacral nature, Horus, xvarənah/farr