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Persia 13: Megabyzus, Mardonius and (Arta-)Xerxes

- Previously the co-conspirator of Darius called Megabyzus was associated (incorrectly) with Mardonius. It now emerges that Megabyzus should instead more properly be associated with Cyrus the Great. Megabyzus was the leading general of Darius, as was Cyrus the Great.

- Megabyzus was also variously called Mithradates and Aspamithres. Cyrus the Great was also called Artaphrenes and Aspathines. Aspamithres appears to be a variant of the name Aspathines.

- Previously it was assumed that Artabanus and Artabazus were variants of the name Artobarzanes. The association of Artabanus (a.k.a. Artabanus the Hyrcanian) and Artobarzanes had thus far held up. However, the association of Artabazus and Artobarzanes has not. The more likely association of Artabazus is with Megabyzus II.

- The designation of Megabyzus (II) as a “eunuch” deserves some explanation. When applied to a very high-ranking official, the title eunuch often could signify that this person was implicitly trusted by the king, and had not been literally mutilated. Interestingly enough, “self-castrated” priests of Artemis at the city of Ephesus were called megabysos. (Ref: Piotr Scholz, Eunuchs and Castrati: A Cultural History, p 60)

- Megabyzus II was married to the royal daughter of Xerxes. Therefore, he could not have been emasculated. He evidently was having difficulty producing children by Amytis, but this would have been due either to incest/inbreeding or an unwillingness of Amytis to become pregnant by Megabyzus. The children that Amytis did bear may have been by other princes, although Megabyzus did claim them as his own.

- The Greek writers were partial toward Cyrus the Great in relation to Darius. This favoritism extended toward their respective descendants. It is reflected in the seemingly unmerited praise for Artabazus (Megabyzus II). The Greek writers also take the side of Megabyzus in his grievance with Amytis. It also emerges in the writings of Xenophon. Moreover, the Greek court physician Ctesias (reign of Artaxerxes II) was particularly biased toward the family of Megabyzus, and shows more concern for its welfare than the family of Artaxerxes II.

- Regarding Mardonius/Mordecai, it is he rather than Megabyzus that is more logically paired with Amasis in Egypt. As pharaoh, he makes for a more natural patron of the Jews. The reign of Amasis in Egypt also ends about the same time Mardonius is killed fighting in Greece.

- A brother of Xerxes called Masistus (“the second”) was thought to have been killed along with Mardonius at Plataea. However, the only Masistus killed in this battle was Mardonius himself. The second son of Atossa, Ariamnes/Tissamenes, remained active until at least 457 BC. Mardonius, the old Masistus (“second to the king”) was to be replaced with a new one, Pausanias/Artabanus. Mardonius/Mordecai was the old “Joseph” and became the new “Haman”. Pausanias/Artabanus became the new “Joseph”. Ariamnes perhaps finally became “second to the king” (Masistus) after the demise of Artabanus, but this isn’t entirely clear.

- At question now is whether or not Mardonius was also considered the second son (‘masistus”) of Darius by the daughter of Gobryas. This could only be the case if the “sister of Darius” that married Gobyras was also the daughter of Gobyras. In other words, Darius and Gobyras would have to have had children by the same woman, and each man considered her children to be their own. However, as the son of Darius, Mardonius would have been called by a different name, Arsamenes.

- During the time of Cambyses II, Pharaoh Amasis (Mardonius) had captured his putative/legal father Apries (Zopyrus/Gobryas). Apries was killed, at least symbolically/figuratively, and afforded a proper (but probably mock) royal burial in Egypt.

- Historians currently make the first Megabyzus the father of Zopyrus and Zopyrus the father of the second Megabyzus. However, based on the new set of associations proposed here, Zopyrus could not have been the literal son of Megabyzus or likely the true father of the second Megabyzus. Zopyrus (Gobryas) was in fact a very faithful ally and subordinate of Megabyzus (Cyrus the Great), that is, a crucial political son.