Persia 10: Xerxes and Prince Darius
Posted By: Charles Pope
Date: Saturday, 15 December 2007, at 7:48 a.m.
- Xerxes is generally believed to have been assassinated in 465 BC by Artabanus of Hyrcania, thought to be one and the same as the chief minister Artabanus (the chiliarch/harazapat/masistus). According to one source (Aristotle), Artabanus believed that Xerxes was going to accuse him in the death of prince Darius, so he made a preemptive strike on Xerxes. Artabanus also enlisted the help of a prominent “eunuch” variously called Aspamithres, Mithradates, Baccabasus (Bagabuxsa), and General Megabyzus. (Ref. Pierre Bryant, From Cyrus to Alexander, pp 564-5).
- In previous segments, it was shown that Prince Darius was not a young son of Xerxes (as presumed by historians), but another name of Prince Achaemenes, the firstborn son of Queen Atossa. (Darius is the Persian equivalent of Libyan Osorkon. Osorkon III was the original “Darius”, better known as Achaemenes.) Prince Achaemenes was not killed until 460 BC in Egypt, therefore the timing of the Artabanus’ rebellion needs to be reconsidered.
- Prince Darius/Achaemenes had been appointed as satrap of Egypt very early in the sole reign of Xerxes. He was a short time later made a co-king of Sparta under the name Leotychidas (in place of Demaratus).
- After the stunning Greek victory at Cape Mycale of Ionia in which he took a leading part, Leotychidas was caught with Persian gold and disgraced. Perhaps he had been framed by his (fellow Persian) rivals, or like Themistocles had been careless or unlucky. Regardless, he was finished as a Persian plant in Sparta. The removal of Leotychidas only increased the influence of Pausanias, and we must suspect that Pausanias was the one most responsible for exposing Leotychidas.
- It should be noted that the royal family had earlier asserted themselves as leaders of Medeo-Persian tribes in the same fashion as they were now doing in Greece, and many other tribes before (and after) that. For example, Amen-hir-khepeshef (eldest son of Ramses II), a.k.a.., Osorkon III and Assurdan III became known as the first Achaemenes, as noted above. Another Egyptian king, Ramses III, passed himself off as the first Cyrus. The process of normalizing direct royal rule in Greece was little different than it had been in Media and Persia, other than they had to deal with the recent innovation of “democracy”.
- Over the next decade Pausanias was the undisputed leader of the “anti-Persian” alliance in Greece. However, he too began to offend Greek sensibilities. He was married to the daughter of Megabates, a Persian satrap in Asia Minor. He also continued to boast that he would become the son-in-law of Xerxes and de facto Persian satrap over all Greece. Pausanias further flaunted his royal connections by dressing only as a Persian. By 470 BC, pressure from the Greek city-states led to his removal as regent in Sparta. The new leader of the Greek alliance would be Aristides the Just of Athens.
- Pausanias was further accused by a former male lover of treasonous acts and imprisoned. Only on the brink of starvation was he released to “die elsewhere”. Pausanias of course would have returned to the Persian court to resume his duties there as the chiliarch/masistus/hazarapat, Artabanus. During the transition from Xerxes to Artaxerxes, it was in fact Artabanus that received the (other) Greek “traitor” Themistocles and assisted his entry into the Persian court.
- In conclusion, the sources are very much confused and contradictory (see Pierre Bryant, From Cyrus to Alexander, pp 563-568), however the most likely scenario is that Artabanus rebelled after the rise of Artaxerxes rather than before.
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.