Bagoas was a eunuch who later became the vizier to Artaxerxes III. In this role, he allied himself with the Rhodian mercenary general Mentor, and with his help succeeded in once again making Egypt a province of the Persian Empire (probably from 342 BC). Mentor became general of the maritime provinces, suppressed the rebels in Egypt and sent Greek mercenaries to the king, while Bagoas administered the satrapies and gained such power that he was almost the real master of the Persian Empire towards the end of Artaxerxes III's reign (Diod. xvi. 50; cf. Didymus, Comm. in Demosth. Phil. vi. 5).
Artaxerxes IV Arses was the youngest son of King Artaxerxes III and Atossa and was not expected to succeed to the throne of Persia. His unexpected rise to the throne came in 338 BC as a result of the murder of his father and most of his family by Bagoas, when the vizier fell out of favour with Artaxerxes III. Bagoas sought to remain in office by replacing Artaxerxes with his son Arses (Artaxerxes IV), whom he thought easier to control. Arses remained little more than a puppet-king during the two years of his reign while Bagoas acted as the power behind the throne. Eventually, disgruntled by this state of affairs and possibly influenced by the nobles of the Royal Court, who generally held Bagoas in contempt, Arses started planning Bagoas' murder. However, Bagoas again acted first in order to protect himself and managed to poison and kill Arses. Bagoas then raised a cousin of Arses to the throne as King Darius III of Persia.
When Darius attempted to become independent of the powerful vizier, Bagoas tried to poison him too; but Darius was warned and forced Bagoas to drink the poison himself (Diod. xvii. 5; Johann. Antioch, p. 38, 39 ed. Müller; Arrian ii. 14. 5; Curt. vi. 4. 10).
It was said that Bagoas became very wealthy by confiscating the sacred writings of the Egyptian temples and giving them back to the priests for large bribes (Diod. XVI. 51). When the high priest of Jerusalem murdered his brother Jesus in the temple, Bagoas (who had supported Jesus) put a new tax on the Jews and entered the temple, saying that he was purer than the murderer who performed the priestly office (Joseph. Ant. xi. 7.1).
Bagoas' house in Susa, with rich treasures, was presented by Alexander to Parmenion (Plut. Alex. 39); his gardens in Babylon, with the best species of palms, are mentioned by Theophrastus (Hist. Plant, ii. 6; Plin. Nat. Hist. xiii. 41).
Bagoas is mentioned in the Elephantine papyri as "governor of Yehud", and is addressed as the authority for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple at Elephantine. Bagoas, along with Delaiah, the governor of Samaria, responded to this request, as recorded in a memorandum: "Memorandum of what Bagohi and Delaiah said to me, saying: 'Memorandum: You may speak before Arsham about the sacrificial temple of the God of heaven which is in the fortress of Yeb...to build it on its site as it was formerly..."
Bagoas is featured as a character in the ancient novel Aethiopica, by Heliodorus. In the novel, he is portrayed as a trusty eunuch servant of the Persian satrap of Memphis. In the course of events, he is captured by the Ethiopian king and assimilated as a servant in the Ethiopian court.
- Chisholm 1911.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bagoas". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 202.
- "Petition to Authorize Elephantine Temple Reconstruction, translated by K. C. Hanson". Retrieved 2016-10-27. See also Porten, Bezalel, et al. The Elephantine Papyri in English: Three Millennia of Cross-Cultural Continuity and Change. Leiden: Brill, 1996.
- Bezalel Porten; Ada Yardeni, Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt 1. Jerusalem 1986, Letters, 76 (=TAD A4.9). The Aramaic text of this document is accessible through "The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon". Retrieved 2016-10-27.
- "Elfinspell: Book VIII, Heliodorus - Chariclea's Trial, from Aethiopica by Heliodorus -An Aethiopian Romance, translated by Thomas Underdowne (anno 1587), revised and partly rewritten by F. A. Wright, [with additional corrections in the online edition by S. Rhoads;] 300 AD Greek Novel, prose fiction, adventure and romance, third century Greek Literature, online text, free e-book on Elfinspell.com". www.elfinspell.com. Retrieved 2015-11-04.