Artaxerxes II of Persia
|Artaxerxes II Mnemon|
|Great King (Shah) of Persia|
Artaxerxes II tomb in Persepolis, Iran.
|Reign||404 to 358 BC|
|Predecessor||Darius II of Persia|
|Successor||Artaxerxes III of Persia|
|Born||ca. 435 or 445 BC|
He defended his position against his brother Cyrus the Younger who, with the aid of a large army of Greek mercenaries, attempted to usurp the throne. Though Cyrus' mixed army fought to a tactical victory at the Battle of Cunaxa in Babylon (401 BCE), Cyrus himself was killed in the exchange by Mithridates, rendering his victory irrelevant. (The Greek historian Xenophon would later recount this battle in the Anabasis, focusing on the struggle of the now stranded Greek mercenaries to return home.) Artaxerxes tried to claim for himself the glory of having killed his brother but when Mithridates, flushed with wine, boasted at court of killing Cyrus, Artaxerxes had him executed for making him out to be a liar.
Artaxerxes became involved in a war with Persia's erstwhile allies, the Spartans, who, under Agesilaus II, invaded Asia Minor. In order to redirect the Spartans' attention to Greek affairs, Artaxerxes subsidized their enemies: in particular the Athenians, Thebans and Corinthians. These subsidies helped to engage the Spartans in what would become known as the Corinthian War. In 386 BCE, Artaxerxes II betrayed his allies and came to an arrangement with Sparta, and in the Treaty of Antalcidas he forced his erstwhile allies to come to terms. This treaty restored control of the Greek cities of Ionia and Aeolis on the Anatolian coast to the Persians, while giving Sparta dominance on the Greek mainland. In 385 BCE he campaigned against the Cadusians.
Although successful against the Greeks, Artaxerxes had more trouble with the Egyptians, who had successfully revolted against him at the beginning of his reign. An attempt to reconquer Egypt in 373 BCE was completely unsuccessful, but in his waning years the Persians did manage to defeat a joint Egyptian–Spartan effort to conquer Phoenicia. He quashed the Revolt of the Satraps in 372-362 BCE.
He is reported to have had a number of wives. His main wife was Stateira, until she was poisoned by Artaxerxes' mother Parysatis in about 400 BCE. Another chief wife was a Greek woman of Phocaea named Aspasia (not the same as the concubine of Pericles). Artaxerxes II is said to have more than 115 sons from 350 wives.
Much of Artaxerxes's wealth was spent on building projects. He restored the palace of Darius I at Susa, and also the fortifications; including a strong redoubt at the southeast corner of the enclosure and gave Ecbatana a new apadana and sculptures. He seems not to have built much at Persepolis.
Portrayal in the Book of Ezra and Nehemiah
Artaxerxes (Hebrew: אַרְתַּחְשַׁשְׂתְּא, pronounced [artaχʃast]) commissioned Ezra, a Jewish priest (kohen) and scribe, by means of a letter of decree (see Cyrus's edict), to take charge of the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the Jewish nation. A copy of this decree may be found in Ezra 7:13-28.
Ezra thereby left Babylon in the first month of the seventh year (~ 458 BC) of Artaxerxes' reign, at the head of a company of Jews that included priests and Levites. They arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month of the seventh year (Hebrew Calendar).
The rebuilding of the Jewish community in Jerusalem had begun under Cyrus the Great, who had permitted Jews held captive in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of Solomon. Consequently, a number of Jews returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C., and the foundation of this "Second Temple" was laid in 520 BC.
In Artaxerxes' 20th year (445 BC), Nehemiah, the king's cupbearer, apparently was also a friend of the king as in that year Artaxerxes inquired after Nehemiah's sadness. Nehemiah related to him the plight of the Jewish people and that the city of Jerusalem was undefended. The king sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem with letters of safe passage to the governors in Trans-Euphrates, and to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, to make beams for the citadel by the Temple and to rebuild the city walls.
Interpretations of actions
Roger Williams, a 17th-century Christian minister and founder of Rhode Island, interpreted several passages in the Old and New Testament to support limiting government interference in religious matters. Williams published The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, describing his analysis of why a civil government should be separate from religion according to the Bible. Williams believed that Israel was a unique covenant kingdom and not an appropriate model for New Testament Christians who believed that the Old Testament covenant had been fulfilled. Therefore, the more informative Old Testament examples of civil government were "good" non-covenant kings such as Artaxerxes, who tolerated the Jews and did not insist that they follow his state religion.
- By Stateira
- Artaxerxes III
- Ariaspes or Ariarathes
- Rhodogune, wife of satrap Orontes I
- Atossa, wife of Artaxerxes II & then Artaxerxes III
- By other wives
- Phriapatius(?), probable ancestor of Arsacids
- Amestris, wife of Artaxerxes II
- Apama, wife of Pharnabazus
- Ocha, mother of an unnamed wife of Artaxerxes III
- The unnamed wife of Tissaphernes
- 112 other unnamed sons
It has been suggested that this man was the Ahasuerus mentioned in the Book of Esther. Plutarch in his Lives (75 CE) records alternative names Oarses and Arsicas for Artaxerxes II Mnemon given by Deinon (c.360-340 BCE) and Ctesias (Artexerxes II's physician) respectively. These derive from the Persian name Khshayarsha as do "Ahasuerus" ("Xerxes") and the hypocoristicon "Arshu" for Artaxerxes II found on a contemporary inscription (LBAT 162). These sources thus arguably identify Ahasuerus as Artaxerxes II in light of the names used in the Hebrew and Greek sources and accords with the contextual information from Pseudo-Hecataeus and Berossus as well as agreeing with Al-Tabari and Masudi's placement of events. The 13th century Syriac historian Bar-Hebraeus in his Chronography, also identifies Ahasuerus as Artaxerxes II citing the sixth century CE historian John of Ephesus.
Zakarid-Mkhargrzeli, a noble family prominent in medieval Armenia and Georgia, claimed to be descended from Artaxerxes II – on the basis of his being nicknamed the "Longarmed", which was also the meaning of their own name. While authenticity of this pedigree is doubtful, it testifies to this king's long renown.
- R. Schmitt. "ARTAXERXES". Encyclopædia Iranica. 15 December 1986. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
- History of Iran
- The Book of Daniel. Montex Publish Company, By Jim McGuiggan 1978, p. 147.
- New International Bible Dictionary. Zondervan, 1987, p. 95.
- Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.-A.D. 75. Brown University Press, 1956, pp. 17-18
- Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Zondervan, 1977, pp. 127-128
- Nehemiah 2:1-9
- James P. Byrd, The challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible (Mercer University Press, 2002) (accessed on Google Book on July 20, 2009)
- Wolfgang Felix, Encyclopaedia Iranica, entry Dinon, 1996-2008
- Jona Lendering, Ctesias of Cnidus, Livius, Articles on Ancient History, 1996-2008
- John Dryden, Arthur Hugh Clough, Plutarch's Lives, Little, Brown and Company, 1885
- M. A. Dandamaev, W. J. Vogelsang, A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire, BRILL, 1989
- Jacob Hoschander, The Book of Esther in the Light of History, Oxford University Press, 1923
- E. A. W. Budge, The Chronography of Bar Hebraeus, Gorgias Press LLC, reprinted 2003
- Jan Jacob van Ginkel, John of Ephesus. A Monophysite Historian in Sixth-century Byzantium, Groningen, 1995
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Artaxerxes II.|
- Artaxerxes by Plutarch
- H. Hunger & R.J. van der Spek, "An astronomical diary concerning Artaxerxes II (year 42 = 363-2 BC). Military operations in Babylonia" in: Arta 2006.002
- Inscriptions of Artaxerxes II in transcribed Persian and in English translation. 
Artaxerxes II of PersiaBorn: c. 436 BC Died: 358 BC
|Great King (Shah) of Persia
404 BC – 358 BC