Deioces, Diako, Diaco, Deyaco, Diyako or Deiokes (Greek Δηιόκης) was, according to Herodotus, the first king of the Medes although this is contested. In the late 8th century BC there was a Daiukku or Dayukku[1] who was a Mannaean provincial governor. Perhaps Herodotus used the name in error.[2]

Deioces in Herodotus

Herodotus (I: 96ff) says that Deioces (Deyaco), father of Phraortes, was "a man of great ability and ambitious for power" in a time when there was no government in the region; people in his own and other villages chose him to arbitrate disputes, and eventually selected him as their king: "Let us appoint one of our number to rule us so that we can get on with our work under orderly government, and not lose our homes altogether in the present chaos."[3] They built him first a palace and then a capital, Ecbatana (modern Hamadan). He established a strict protocol of seclusion and deference as well as a nationwide network of spies, administered justice, and ruled for fifty-three years; his son and successor in c. 675 BC was Phraortes, father of Cyaxares, who overthrew the Assyrian Empire and established the power of Media.

Rüdiger Schmitt writes:

Herodotus’ account seems to have been based on an oral tradition; from it scholars have deduced that Deioces was the founder of the Median royal dynasty and the first Median king to gain independence from Assyria. But it must be stressed that Herodotus’ report is a mixture of Greek and eastern legends and is not historically reliable. It has also been supposed ... that the Median king on whom Herodotus’ account is centered was actually Deioces’ son Phraortes, and it is therefore impossible to give the exact dates of Deioces’ reign, which probably spanned most of the first half of the 7th century B.C.E.[4]

Daiukku in Assyrian inscriptions

A Daiukku is mentioned several times in inscriptions from the reign of Sargon II (late 8th century BC); he is named as a Mannean provincial governor (šaknu) ruling a district bordering Assyria. His son was held hostage by the Urartians, and he supported the Urartian king against the Mannean ruler Ullusunu, but Sargon captured Daiukku and exiled him and his family to Hamath in Syria. "Any connection between the governor mentioned by Sargon and the Median dynasty of later periods is thus only hypothetical; there is not a single authentic cuneiform source to confirm that Sargon’s Daiukku and Herodotus’ Deioces were the same person."[4]

Cultural references

Ezra Pound refers to him near the beginning of Canto 74 (the first of the Pisan Cantos): "To build the city of Dioce whose terraces are the color of stars."


  1. Cuneiform Da-a-a-uk-ku; this, like the Greek form, presumably reflects an Iranian *Dahyu-ka-, based on dahyu- 'land': Rüdiger Schmitt, "Deioces," Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  2. Webster's New Biographical Dictionary (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1988), p. 270: "Historically, probably a tribal chieftain confused by Herodotus with Phraortes."
  3. Herodotus: The Histories, tr. Aubrey De Sélincourt (Penguin Books, 1954), p. 54.
  4. 1 2 Schmitt, "Deioces," Encyclopaedia Iranica.

External links

Died: c. 675 BC
Regnal titles
New title King of Medes
? – c. 675 BC
Succeeded by
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