1902 Encyclopedia > Artaxerxes

Throne name of several Achaemenid rulers of the 1st Persian Empire

ARTAXERXES, a royal Persian name, borne first by several of the kings of the Achaemenian dynasty of the Persian empire,and found also inthelater Sassanian dynasty. The original and native form of the name, as ascertained from the cuneiform inscriptions of ancient Persia, is ArtaJchshatra (see Rawlinson, Jour. Asiat. Soc. xi. p. 35). The Hebrew transcript, occurring with slight differences of spelling in different passages of the Old Testament, is Artakhsliasta—the Assyrian, Sartakhshatra—the Scythic, Irtaksassa,—all closely answering to the original. The Greek _____, from which the English form is taken, is less correct, and is misleading through the assimilation of the latter part of the name to the other royal name Xerxes, with which the word before us has etymologically no connection. In later times the name assumes the slightly modified forms of Artaclishetr (De Sacy, Antiquités de la Perss, p. 100), and Ardeshir (AprafapTjs and 'ApraÇrjp, in Agathias). In regard to the etymology and meaning of the name there is a general consensus of opinion among modern scholars. Herodotus (vi. 98) was misled by the Greektranscription, when, having rendered Xerxes, Warrior (___/tos), he rendered Artaxerxes, Great Warrior (_____). The elements of the name are arta, an intensive particle or adjective, connected with the Zend areta, high or honoured (in Skr. rita) ; and khshatra, kingdom or dominion, \&dch occurs both in Zend and Sanscrit (Raw-linson, Jour. Asiat. Soc., xi. 35 ; Lassen, Ueber die Keil-inschriflen, p. 161 ; Oppert, Les inscriptions des Achémé-nides, p. 299 ; Spiegel, Die altpersischen Keilinschriften, p. 185). Lassen translates the name, Exalted in dominion.

It is known that throne-names, or names appropriated to royalty, were in use among the Persians as among other Eastern nations (cf. Heeren, Ideen, i. pp. 138, 401 ; Baehr's Gtesias, p. 195). Thus the great Cyrus is said to have been called Agradatus before his accession to the throne. The second and third Darius had both also private names, the one Ochus, and the other Codomannus. To the class of royal names belongs the name Artaxerxes. To this use its significance is alone suitable, and in the earliest times, at least, it is not found appropriated by any save either the possessors of, or the pretenders to, royalty. In regard to the most of those about to be mentioned, we have express testimony that they took this name only when they ascended the throne.

It will be convenient first to mention the Achiemenian kings thus designated in the Greek historians and the old Persian inscriptions, and then consider the questions connected with the identification of these with the kings of this name occurring in Scripture.

1. Artaxerxes, surnamed MaKpoxup, or Longimanus (by Persian authors, Diraz-dest), the long-handed, so called, says Plutarch (Vita Artax., i.), because his right hand was longer than his left, or perhaps (see Malcolm, Hist, of Persia, i. p. 66) the long-armed (cf. Edward Longshanks), was the son of the famous Xerxes, the invader of Greece, and succeeded his father in 465 B.C. According to Josephus (Ant. Jud., xi. 6, I), he was originally called Cyrus. His reign was marked by the revolt of Egypt under Inarus, in which the Athenians were abettors of the Egyptians, and which was quelled by the Persian general Megabyzus, in 455 B.C.; and by the ratification of the peace of Callias with Athens in 449 B.C. Of the architectural and inscribed remains of the ancient Persian empire very little is recognisable as due to this king. He is recorded in an inscription by his grandson, the next Artaxerxes, as the repairer (?) of the palace at Susa (Loftus, Chaldcea and Susiana, p. 372; Norris, Jour. Asiat. Soc, xv. pp. 157-162). There is extant a frag-mentary inscription in old Persian, with an Assyrian translation, which seems to have proceeded from him; and a legend upon a vase at Venice, of Egyptian origin, which reads " Artaxerxes the great king," may with considerable assurance be also referred to this monarch (Oppert, op. cit. pp. 288-290). Artaxerxes died in 425 B.C. after a reign of forty years.

2. The next sovereign that falls to be noticed here was the grandson of the preceding, and the son of the inter-mediate monarch, Darius Nothus. His original and private name was Arsaces, and he assumed that of Artaxerxes on ascending the throne (Ctesias, Exc. Pers. § 57; Plutarch, Vita Artax., c. 2). The date of his accession is 405 B.C It is this Artaxerxes, commonly surnamed Mnemon, from the retentiveness of his memory, whose reign was distin-guished by the attempt of his brother, the younger Cyrus, to gain possession of the crown, and by the victory of Cunaxa 401 B.C., the death of Cyrus, and the retreat of-the ten thousand Greeks, immortalised by Xenophon. Other prominent events of this reign were the peace of Antalcidas in 399 B.C., and the Cyprian revolt, with the defeat of Evagoras its leader, about 380 B.C. Arta-xerxes Mnemon died in 359 B.C, after a reign of forty-six* years, The Greek sources for this reign are com-paratively abundant. Besides Xenophon, Ctesias, Diodorus, and others, Plutarch has furnished a special life of this monarch. The only native memorial of his reign is the inscription already referred to, found at Susa on the bases of pillars belonging to the royal residence there, which runs thus:—" Says Artaxerxes, the great King, the King of Kings, the King of the countries, the King of this earth, the son of King Darius; Darius was the son of King Artaxerxes, Artaxerxes was the son of Xerxes, Xerxes was the son of King Darius, Darius was the son of Hystaspes, the Achsemenian. Darius, my ancestor, built this temple (or edifice), and afterwards it was repaired (!) by Artaxerxes, my grandfather. By the help of Ahuramazda I placed Anahita and Mithra in this temple. May Ahuramazda, Anahita, and Mithra protect me." (See Norris in Loftus, op. cit. p. 372 ; Jour. Asiat. Soc, xv. p. 159; Spiegel, op. cit. p. 65.) The inscription, compared with earlier texts, shows a certain negligence of style, and is interesting for the prominence, unparalleled in previous records, given to the worship of the subordinate deities Anahita, or Tanaitis, and Mithra.

3. This sovereign was succeeded by his son Ochus, who, on securing the crown, took the same royal name, and is usually known as Artaxerxes Ochus. The commencement of his reign was marked by numerous formidable revolts throughout the western provinces of the empire, which, however, were vigorously repressed, and after the re-subju-gation of the revolted countries, the power of the empire was advanced to an extent and to an apparent stability unequalled since the time of the great Darius. This Artaxerxes perished by poison in 338 B.C. He is known as the builder of one of the palatial structures which stood on the platform of Persepolis ; and an inscription proceeding from him (wrongly ascribed to the previous Artaxerxes by Benfey, Die persischen Eeilinschriften, p. 67) has been found there, marked, like that already spoken of, and to a greater degree, by defects of style, and presenting his genealogy in entire accordance with the preceding. (See Rawlinson, op. cit. x. p. 341 ; Oppert, op. cit. p. 297; Spiegel, op. cit. p. 67.)

4, We find yet another instance in the classical writers of the use of Artaxerxes as a royal name during the Anhaeruenian period. After Darius Codomannus, the suc-cessor of Artaxerxes Ochus, had been finally and decisively defeated by Alexander at Arbela, he was, while fleeing before the conqueror, traitorously slain by Bessus, the satrap of Bactria, who thereupon, we are told, " assumed the upright tiara and the royal robe, and the name Arta-xerxes instead of Bessus, proclaiming himself king of Asia" (Arrian, Exp. Alex., iii. 25, 3, cf. Curtius, vi. 6,13).

Such are the Achaemenian kings known to the classical writers by the name Artaxerxes. But the name also occurs in the Scriptural books of Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as in some of the Apocryphal books, and in Josephus ; and it remains to be considered whether the persons there referred to are to be identified with any of the kings now mentioned, and if so, with whom 1 In the book of Nehemiah, Arta-xerxes, king of Persia, appears as the monarch to whom Nehemiah acted as cup-bearer (i. 2), from whom he received a commission, in the twentieth year of the king, to rebuild the wall and other ruined edifices in Jerusalem (ii. 1), and whose thirty-second year is also mentioned (v. 14, xiii. 6). In attempting to identify this Artaxerxes with one of those above named, our choice is at once limited by the length of his reign to those surnamed Longimanus and Mnemon. A sufficient proof that it is the former of these who is meant, is found in the genealogy of Eliashib, the high priest when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem (Neh. iii. 1, and xii. 10). For Eliashib was the grandson of Jeshua, and Jeshua was high priest when Zerubbabel led the first company of returned exiles to Judah, in the days of Cyrus CEzra ii. 2, iii. 2). Now, the reign of Cyrus dates from 536 B.C. ; and from this to the twentieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, or 445 B.C., is a period of ninety-one years, leaving room for precisely three generations. The opinion, which is the common one, that the Artaxerxes of Nehemiah is Artaxerxes Longimanus, is thus fully warranted (though some, as De Saulcy, Sept siècles de l'histoire judaique, p. 28, identify him with Artaxerxes Mnemon), and this enables us to proceed with confidence when inquiring into the reference of the name as it occurs in the book of Ezra. Ezra was contemporary with Nehemiah (Neh. viii. 1), and mention is made in his book of an Artaxerxes who was his own contemporary (Ezra vii. 1, 7, 11 ; viii 1), in whose seventh year a decree was issued, giving authority to Ezra to levy whatever supplies were needful for the service of the temple at Jerusalem. This, therefore, must have been also Artaxerxes Longimanus, and the year referred to is 458 B.C. Hence, also, when it is said (Ezra vi. 14) that " the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered, . . . according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia," it may without difficulty be understood that the same monarch is here named, the writer singling out the three kings who, of all the Persian monarchs, distinguished themselves by the favour shown to the Jews.

The name occurs again in an earlier part of the same book, chapter iv. In verse 5 of that chapter mention is made of efforts of the enemies of the Jews to hinder the rebuild-ing of the temple, put forth " all the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius, king of Persia." Then in the two succeeding verses Ahasuerus and Arta-xerxes are specified as kings in whose reigns representations adverse to the J ews were made at the court of Persia ; and after the detailed accounts of the second of these repre-sentations, and its success with Artaxerxes, it is said (ver. 24), " Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of Darius, king of Persia." The narrative has all the appear-ance of consecutive history, and the natural interpretation obviously is that the two kings, Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes, intervened between Cyrus and Darius. It is true, mention is made in the memorial presented to king Artaxerxes of the building of the city and the walls, rather than of the temple, the rebuilding of which was at the time the great enterprise of the returned exiles ; but this may be easily accounted for, from the interest of the writers to make out the strongest possible case at the Persian court. Besides, it is impossible to believe that the city and its walls remained utterly desolate as the Ghaldeans had left them while the temple was being rebuilt. There is, indeed, express testi-mony to the contrary. Notice is taken of the " ceiled houses " of Jerusalem at this period (Haggai i. 4). Mention is also made of a " wall" of defence for its inhabitants (Ezra ix. 9), and Josephus (Ant. Jud., xi. 4, 4) records the "strong walls about the city " while the temple was still unfinished. It has indeed been argued, and that quite reasonably, that the wall mentioned in Nehemiah i. 3, which was reported to Nehemiah as " broken down," is that to which reference is made in the passages just cited from Ezra and Josephus, built by the first colony of returned Jews, and not that destroyed by the Chaldeans nearly a century and a half before (see Kitto's Gycloposdia, article " Ahasuerus"). There seems, therefore, to be nothing in the narrative to hinder the two kings to whom it relates, and whom it places between Cyrus and Darius, from being identified with the two kings who did actually intervene between these monarchs, viz., Cambyses and the pseudo-Smerdis; and this is the view which is taken of the matter by the great majority of interpreters. The difference in the names, however, presents a difficulty which to not a few has appeared insuperable, and from which escape has been sought in various ways. Some, as Scaliger, Hottinger, Mill, believing that Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes in Ezra iv. 6, 7, mean Xerxes and Artaxerxes Longimanus, suppose also that Darius in chapters iv. 24, vi.l, &c, means the successor of the latter, viz., Darius Nothus. But the identification of the Darius with the well-known Darius Hystaspes is sustained by so overwhelming evidence (see DAEIUS), that this opinion may be at once and without hesitation rejected. Others, as Howes (see Pictorial Bible on Ezra iv.), Biley (Jour. Sac. Literature, July 1866), and many Germans,—as Kleinert, Schultz, Hengstenberg, Au-berlen, Vaihinger, Bertheau, Keil, &c,—believe that the paragraph, Ezra iv. 6-23, forms an interpolation or episode, in which the chronicler has summed up the attempts of the adversaries of Judah to hinder the building of the temple, as well as what they did for the obstructing of the building of the city under Xerxes and Artaxerxes, in order to bring together in a compendious way all their machinations against the Jews (see Keil, ad loc.) It is impossible, however, to reconcile this view satisfactorily with the language of the narrative, especially of ver. 24, the plain meaning of which is that the interruption in the work of the house of God caused by the decree of the king named Artaxerxes conturned until, and hence was previous to, the second year of king Darius. Some German expositors, indeed, as Herzfeld (Gesch. d. Volkes Isr. i. 303), Merx, Schrader, <fec, admit the irreconcilability, and, believing that the two kings in question were Xerxes and his son, maintain that the compiler of the book of Ezra was guilty of a mistake in referring the documents cited to the period preceding, instead of to the period subsequent to, the reign of Darius. But, apart from all questions about inspiration, this must be condemned as an illegitimate procedure. Our only original witness to the events connected with the return of the Jewish exiles is the book of Ezra, and it is not permis-sible to alter its testimony, or to set it aside as erroneous, because it presents some appearances of discrepancy with what is otherwise ascertained. It is to be added that the Apocryphal 1st Esdras, in the version which it gives of the same events, refers them and the king Artaxerxes to the period intervening between Cyrus and Darius (Esdras ii. 16-30, v. 72, 73), and that Josephus also in so far agrees that he assigns the events to the same period, though making no mention of Artaxerxes, and naming Cambyses as the king by whom the work at Jerusalem was hindered (Ant. Jud., xi. 2).

Retaining, therefore, the more common view, and iden-tifying the Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes of Ezra iv. with Cam-byses and the pseudo-Smerdis, it remains to be considered if the difference in the names presents any insuperable, or even any serious, objection. Confining the discussion to the subject of the present article (for the other name see AHASUERUS), it has been already abundantly evinced that Artaxerxes is a regal name, and was assumed by all who are certainly known to have borne it, in addition to their private and personal designation, on their accession to the regal power. There is no difficulty in supposing that the Magian Gomates, when, in the absence of Cambyses on his Egyptian expedition, he personated Bardiya or Smerdis, the younger son of Cyrus, and usurped the throne, assumed also, like the later usurper Bessus, this as his official name, under which, of course, the public decrees of his administration would be couched, and which would naturally be most current among those who, like the Jews, belonged to the foreign subjects of the Persian monarchy (cf. Tyrwhitt, Esther and Ahasuerus, p. 333). Nor are we desti-tute of express though somewhat obscure testimony to the fact. Two other names are found applied in the classical writers to the pseudo-Smerdis. He is called Tanyoxares by Xenophon (Gyrop., viii. 7) and by Ctesias (Pers., 8-13), and Oropastes by Justin (i. 9). The latter, as Ewald (Gesch. Israels, iv. p. 118) suggests, may well be supposed to be a corruption derived from Ortosastes, which is an exact repro-duction of the Hebrew form of the name Artaxerxes (cf. the rendering 'ApBacraa-Oa in the LXX., Ezra iv. 7, <fec.) In regard to this identification two additional and final remarks are to be made. On the one hand, it is unreasonable to allege, as Keil and others do, by way of objection, that the reign of the pseudo-Smerdis was too short(only seven months) to allow of representations being made to his court, and an answer returned in reference to affairs at Jerusalem. It is to be taken into account that the enemies of the Jews had begun their machinations in the time of his predecessor, and their agents were doubtless present in the Persian capital when the new king ascended the throne, ready to avail themselves of the new opportunity. On the other hand, all that is known of the policy of the usurper is in excellent harmony with the part ascribed to him by the sacred writer. Belonging to the Magian tribe, and ruling, probably, in the interest of Median as opposed to Persian supremacy, he naturally set himself to subvert the policy of Cyrus; and we have express and indisputable testimony, in the elaborate inscription at Behistun engraved' by the authority of his successor Darius, that his procedure, especially in regard to religious interests, was of the nature of a revolution, which the son of Hystaspes glories in having arrested and reversed (cf. Rawlinson's Anc. Monarchies, iv. p. 397).

In the Sassanian dynasty there are three royal personages bearing the name now in question:—(1.) The founder of the dynasty is called Artaxerxes, or Ardeshir, surnamed Babegan, from the name of his father Babek. He was probably tribu- tary king of Persia under the Parthian rule, and he revolted against Artabanus, king of Parthia, about 220 A.D. Arta- banus was defeated and slain in a great battle in the plain of Hormuz, and Artaxerxes succeeded in establishing the ascendency of Persia, and his own position as independent sovereign in 226 A.D. (see Malcolm, op. cit. i. p. 89 ; Baw- linson, Sixth Oriental Monarchy, p. 365, /.) (2.) Another Artaxerxes, belonging to the dynasty of the Sassanides, reigned for four years, 381-385 A.D. ; and (3.) immediately before the Mahometan conquest, an infant prince was raised to the throne by the same name, and nominally occupied it for five months, 629 A.D. For further details regarding these monarchs see PERSIA, (W. TU.)

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