Artaÿctes is a historical figure described in Herodotus' The Histories. According to Herodotus, Artayctes was a Persian General, who was in command of the Mossonoikan and Makronian forces in the army of Xerxes during the second Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 BC). During that period, Artayctes was also a Tyrant in Sestos (modern town: Zemenik), where he was captured and crucified by Athenian forces in 479 BC.
At the same time, the Greek fleet sailed toward the Hellespont to destroy the Persian pontoon bridge, as they thought that the Persians' intention was to use it to get back to Asia Minor. However, upon arrival, they discovered that the bridge had already been destroyed. While the majority of the Greek fleet subsequently retreated, the Athenians, commanded by Xanthippus, decided to stay and try to retake the Chersonesos[disambiguation needed] from the Persians.
The Athenian army set foot on the Chersonesos near Sestos, the capital of Chersonesos, which had been under Persian command since the onset of the second invasion. The Athenians surrounded the city, of which Artayctes was governor.
According to Herodotus, Artayctes' rule over the city-state of Sestos was a reign of terror. Originally, Sestos had been a Greek stronghold. Herodotus describes that when Artayctes was made governor of the city, he claimed all treasures present in the region, and desecrated many Greek places of worship. For example, Artayctes plundered the Sestos' cemetery Elaious, and built a Persian temple complex on top of it.
The Siege of Sestos
Herodotus describes that Artayctes was completely surprised by the arrival of the Athenian military forces. By surrounding the city of Sestos, the Athenians had trapped Artayctes in his own capital, and with him the equipment to build a new pontoon bridge. After several months of siege, little progress in retaking the city had been made, and the Athenian soldiers became somewhat discontent. However, the Athenian officers were determined to retake the city.
Herodotus describes that the inhabitants of Sestos and the Persian garrison were struck by famine during that time. In a final attempt to escape the Greeks, the Persian army left the city during the night via a part of the wall least protected by the Greeks.
According to Herodotus, the Athenian army was warned by the inhabitants of Sestos about the departure of the Persians. The Athenians entered the city and subsequently pursued the Persians. They encountered Artayctes and his military unit near the river Geite. Most of Artayctes' men were killed in the subsequent battle. Artayctes himself, however, was captured and taken back to Sestos.
However, the Greek general Xanthippus insists on their execution, as payment for the desecration of the Elaious cemetery. Herodotus describes how Artayctes is then crucified. While Artayctes is dying, he witnesses how his son is stoned to death.
Although Herodotus is often regarded as "The Father of History", his account of the Greco-Persian Wars, and the story of Artayctes, was no doubt somewhat influenced by inaccurate testimonies of eye-witnesses, and perhaps by his own favouritism.
- The translation of Herodotus' The Histories used for this article:
Hein van Dolen, 1995. Reprinted November 1995. Revised and reprinted 1996, 2000. Nijmegen, The Netherlands: SUN. ISBN 90-6168-583-4