Chapter 88 Propaganda and Costumes in Ancient Greco-Persian History



Cyrus the Great
The history of propaganda in the fifth and fourth century Greco-Persian world with full use of symbols, customs, and beliefs, utilising various means such as costumes, rock-engraving, coins and so on provides a fascinating lens for studying of human interactions.  Like any other propaganda programs,  various Persian and Greek propagandists attempted  to persuade their audiences to accept without challenge their own version of 'truth', or to act on a 'common cause', as defined by the propagandist. The idea of creating quasi- 'facts' as a propaganda device is that it will provide  semi-logical grounds for a suggestion that lead a public to accept a stupefying proposition.

Most often, propagandists take advantage of costumes, which at their core being the most intimate expression of a culture, as a quite potent device for provoking emotional responses. Thus, the study of  costumes is a study of people. Costumes incorporate elements of visual communications to convey statements about the taste and aesthetic values  of different  social groups with different economic status. As such, costumes of the ancient Greco-Persian world reflect the  cultural values, religious beliefs and political  alliances of the time. ُIt is because of these powerful characteristics that in various Persian and Greek monuments costumes of various personages are used as effective means for propaganda. The Iranian four main peoples; Elamites, Medes, Persians, and Parthians, that together define the country's national identity, have played a remarkable role in the history of civilization. The study of their costumes, and propaganda can shed light on the reality of many historical events that have been distorted or deleted by various nationalistic or religious agenda.


In the western world the history of Persia is almost exclusively sourced in the work of Greek historians, particularly it is shaped by the longest extant text in ancient Greek; the History of the Greco-Persian Wars  by Herodotus, who Cicero has called him pater historiae, ‘father of history’.  As Olmstead (1948) observes:
Greece and the Persian Wars is to us a fascinating if somewhat threadbare story. In reading this story, we naturally identify ourselves on that of the Greeks, since our accounts must be based almost exclusively on that of the Greek Herodotus.  
Unfortunately however, most modern historians agree that Herodotus is not always  quite accurate in his Histories. The 'otherness' of Persia in fifth century Greek tragedy has been noted in recent years, and the theory that Persia is characterised as the diametrically opposed 'other' culture in Herodotos has also been suggested. Indeed even  Thucydides, the other great Greek historian, has dismissed Herodotus as a storyteller for the sensational nature of his Histories. 

With respect to Iranian costumes, for instance, Herodotus did not distinguish between  the Persians and the other people of the empire.  He generally used interchangeably the term  Persians with the Medes, and with regards to costumes he misguidedly stated that the Persians have adopted Median attire. He wrote:
No nation so readily adopts foreign customs as the Persians. They have taken the dress of the Medes, considering it superior to their own.
However as the following rock relief, engraved on the Apadana palace in Persepolis, shows Herodotus was wrong; since Medes and Persians on these reliefs  wear  distinctively different styles of attire.  

Frieze with immortals in Apadana, Persepolis

 Olmstead (1948) thus describes the two different styles that are regularly illustrated on the reliefs at Persepolis:
The Mede is at once distinguished by the wearing of the more original Iranian  costume. On his head is the round, nodding felt cap with neck flap. A tight, long-sleeved leather tunic ends above the knee and is held by a double belt  with round buckle; over the tunic might be thrown on ceremonial occasion a cloak of honor. Full leather trousers  and laced shoes with projecting tips indicated that their wearers spent much of their time on horseback.  A short, pointed beard, a mustache, and hair bunched out on on the neck were all elaborately curled, while earings and necklace gave added ornament. The chief offensive weapon remained the spear of  cornel wood with a flanged bronze  point and  the base held by a metal ferrule. To this spear many warriors added the bow, held in an extraordinarily elaborate bow case and serviced by arrows from a quiver.  
The Median costume is sharply contrasted with the form labeled Persian, distinguished by the fluted felt hat, the ankle-length flowing robe, and the low-laced shoes.

Of course, Achaemenid kings and their satraps, as the rulers of Elamites, Persians, and Medes,  wore their subjects' costumes, such as the Elamite royal robe or the  Median robe called “candys.' According, to Babylon Chronicle either Cyrus the Great or his son Cambyses  wore Elamite dress at the investiture of Cambyses in Babylon. Sekunda  describes the Elamite royal Robe as a long garment reaching to ankle, open at the right side where it was decorated with a border of rosettes and a  long fringe.      Curtius from the eyewitness account of Patron the Phocian, thus describes the Median candis of Darius III in the battle of Issus;
The attire of the king was among all other things noteworthy for its luxury: it was a purple tunic with a white  center in it, a cloak of gold ornamented with golden belt. with which he was grit woman-fashion, he had hung an akinaka, the scabbard of which was a single gem. The Persians call the king's cap a kidaris; this was bound with a blue band  with a white distinction.  
 According to Curtius Spearbearers of Darius were also wearing  purple tunics with long sleeves and white stripe.

Xenophon reports of “the most beautiful gar­ments” that Cyrus the Great had distributed among his nobles “and other Median robes . . . with no stint of purple or sable or red or scarlet or crimson cloaks,” and described the candys of Cyrus the Great as “all purple”. Sekunda suggests that the royal dress worn by the Achaemenid  monarchs changed over time. According to him the  principal feature of the earliest known form of royal  dress was the Elamite royal robe. At some point  this form of dress was changed for the one  represented in the Persepolis reliefs, whose principal feature was the 'Achaemenid  robe'. At a later period  this was exchanged  for items  from the Median kings' wardrobe.     Quintus Curtius  described the candys of Darius III  as “a cloak of cloth of gold, ornamented with golden hawks”.

Our knowledge of dress in the Achaemenid era apart from historians' descriptions comes from illustrative depictions mainly on rock reliefs, metalwork, coinage,  and seal impressions. In general, it is safe to infer different people of the empire wore their own traditional costumes as a  statement of their status and allegiance to their cultural values.



King Kutik-Inshushinak of Elam tenderly consoles his young daughter while the queen is thanking heaven, 2100 BC 

Deporting the Elamite people of the city of Din Sharri by Ashurbanipal Army 645 BC

Middle Elamite carnelian cylinder seal bearded men (possibly princes or priests), wearing long skirts with  leather strips.


Statue of Queen Napirasu of Elam, with a sophisticated V shape neck cut out bodice, elbow-length sleeves and long, bell-shaped skirt, decorated with wide  bands around the hips. The Louvre labels this statue as: "Queen Napirasu, wife of King Untash-Napirisha, circa 1340-1300 BC, Statue found at the Tell of the Acropolis, Susa, Iran, Bronze and copper, H. 1.29 m; L. 0.73 m, Jacques de Morgan excavations, 1903."  There can be little doubt about the exceptional position of the queen whose statue was intended to stand alone.

Fragmentary re­lief of Adda-Hamiti-Inshushinak, 650 B.C. 
The king’s Elamite headgear has a point in front and is tied together in the back,  suggesting that it was made of a piece of cloth, perhaps sewn together in such a way as to leave a flap into which a point, or visor could be introduced. 



Elamite Female worshiper. 1500–1100 B.C.  New York Met

  Elamite family relief.
Cyrus the Great

Elamite rulers of the second millennium B.C. traditionally took the title King of Anshan and Shushan (Susa). Persian empire was founded  by Cyrus the Great who describes himself in the famous Babylonian Cyrus Cylinder as:
Cyrus, king of the universe, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world, son of Cambyses, the great king,, king of the city of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, the great king, ki[ng of the ci]ty of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, the great king, king of Anshan, the perpetual seed of kingship, whose reign Bel and Nabu love, and with whose kingship, to their joy, they concern themselves.
It is interesting to note that on this cylinder,  the sole surviving document of his reign, Cyrus does not proclaim himself as "the king in Persia", or "we are called the Achaemenides", as king Darius did on his Behistun Inscription.

Moreover, as Cook reports a relic of the grandfather of Cyrus the Great, Cyrus II  son of Teispes II has also survived.
in the form of impressions of a seal showing a horseman in battle which was still being used in the chancery of Persis in the time of Darius, with the legend in Elamite reading ‘Kurash of Anshan, son of Chishpish.’
His grandfather, Cyrus I appears to had paying  tribute to Ashurbanipal after the Assyrian campaigns against Elam in the 640s.

 'Cyrus taking Astyages prisoner and reuniting Media and Persia',  Flemish tapestry,
Attributed to Jan Van Tieghem, 
the late 16th century, 


An Elamite Warrior


Elamite Warriors

According to the legend  Cyrus whose mother Mandana was the royal princess of Medes, when  reached manhood in Persia revolted against his maternal grandfather Astyages, the king of the Medes and the overlord of the Elamites and the Persians.  He defeated Astyages in 550 BC.

After inheriting the empire of the Medes, Cyrus  turned toward Croesus, king of Lydia in Asia Minor (Anatolia), who had taken advantage of the fall of Astyages, expanding his empire.  Cyrus captured Sardis, the Lydian capital, in 547-46 BC and Croesus was taken prisoner but was well treated.

He then marched against the Ionian Greek cities on the Aegean Sea coast who were defeated after short sieges. Cyrus a believer in the Sun-God Mitra  then conquered Babylonia,  in 539 BC, under the pretext of the disrespect  of its ruler Nabonidus for Marduk, the Babylonian supreme god  who was the Sun-God. Cyrus also complained of the Nabonidus' cruelty  toward his subjects.

According to the famous Cyrus Cylinder he entered Babylon with the divine support of Marduk and was publicly acclaimed by the people:
Marduk, the great lord, who nurtures his people, saw with pleasure his fine deeds and true heart and ordered that he should go to Babylon He had him take the road to Tintir, and, like a friend and companion, he walked at his side. His vast troops whose number, like the water in a river, could not be counted, marched fully-armed at his side. (Cyrus Cylinder, Irving Finkel, Curator of Cuneiform Collections at the British Museum).
The fact that Marduk is affiliated with Mitra is clear from the logographic writing of his name AMAR.UD, Sumerian for "calf of the sun/sun-god".  R. Merkelbach, in his Mithras, königstein (1984), argues Cyrus himself has been a "Mithra-King", whose life and legend he sees as offering many parallels to the ritual and myths of the Mitraic Mysteries. The revived Mitraism in the Achaemenid era was integrated into the later Achaemenid Zoroastrianism  of Artaxerxes II and III. Some inscriptions at Persepolis also suggest that Mitraism was transpired in the Achaemenid military organizations.


"Cyrus was able to penetrate that vast extent of country by the sheer terror of his personality that the inhabitants were prostrate before him…," wrote Xenophon, "and yet he was able at the same time, to inspire them all with so deep a desire to please him and win his favour that all they asked was to be guided by his judgment and his alone."  His vast empire with a complex of nationalities was ruled by tolerance and fairness.  He freed the Jewish captives in Babylonia, allowing them to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:1–4). Cyrus was also magnanimous toward the Babylonians and others. He conciliated local populations by supporting local customs and even sacrificing to local deities. He  created  a dual monarchy of the Medes and Persians and  being  Elamite  himself he had a grand vision for a united federal empire.

The historian recounts how after the Persian defeat of the Medes, one Artembares counseled the victors to remove themselves from their “little rugged land” to the “better” Median territory. When they presented this plan to Cyrus, the king said that if they so desired, “be prepared to become subjects and no longer rulers; for soft lands are wont to produce soft men; wondrous fruits and good warriors do not spring from the same land.” When the Persians heard his reply, “they chose to be rulers living in a poor land rather than be slaves dwelling in a fertile plain tilling the soil for others.”

Achaemenid Immortals


Cambyses, Cyrus' son,  had succeeded him and continued his father's expansionist policy by conquest of Egypt in 525. Most scholars agree that Herodotus concocted or repeated anti-Cambises propaganda of the hostile Egyptian priesthood. As Ioannis Konstantakos  in his essay  'Cambyses and the Sacred Bull' suggests:
Cambyses receives very bad press in Herodotus’ history. He is depicted as a perverse, tyrannical ruler who slides into lunacy, commits atrocious acts and meets an inglorious end. (...) This dreary Herodotean image has long been recognized as a reflection of ancient propaganda. There were indeed specific elite groups, both in Iran and in Egypt, which had reasons to be hostile to Cambyses and wished to defame him. It was ultimately their tales that reached Herodotus’ all too receptive ears and furnished the main stuff for his account. 
Cambyses II defeat of pharaoh Psamtik III, Persian seal,  six century BC


There is a considerable evidence that  the Zoroastrian aristocracy of Iran at behest of the house of  Darius were agitating to establish Zoroastrian as the official religion of the empire. Darius' father, Vishtaspa (Hystaspes  in Greek) , son of Arshama was the kavi (governor) of Parthia and Hyrcania, who  provided support and shelter for Zoroaster.   Soon Darius' mother, Rhodugune, converted to Zoroastrianism. Then in Yasna 51:15-16  we read of the conversion of his father. The family was quite fanatic about their faith, plotting against the Mitraist Cambyses. This has been the main reason for the persecutions and punishments of Persian grandees and their families by the king. The propaganda against Cyrus’ son  that started by Zoroastrian circles eventually propagated by the Egyptian priesthood for the reasons that we will see next.

According to Herodotus, Cambyses lost his mind when he heard that his brother Smerdis (Bardiya), whom he believed to be dead, had revolted in 522 BC. However, there are grounds to believe that the narrative  was fabricated by the Egyptian priesthood. Since, in contrast to Pharaoh Amasis who had offered great gifts to the temples, Cambyses considered this form of tax a heavy burden on the people and thus outrageous. According to a papyrus (now in the French Bibliothèque nationale)  Cambyses substantially reduced a form of tax that subsidized the priesthood lifestyle. The king's order reads:
Of the cattle that once were given by the people to the temples of the gods, let they give only half of it. [...] Regarding the poultry, do not give it to them any more. The priests are perfectly capable of rearing their own geese. 
So the priests, who now  received only  fifty percent  of their food subsidy in the form of cattle and saw their subsidized poultry totally eliminated, had good reasons to spread the false propaganda about the king's mental health. According to a later Egyptian papyrus known as the Demotic Chronicle Darius I repealed Cambyses order. The document states that Darius  in the third year of his reign would have given the satrap of Egypt the order that the previous Egyptian law should be revived. As van Heel reports:
Darius not only has gone down in history as one of Egypt's great law-givers, he also was revered as a god in some parts of Egypt. The Berlin Museum keeps a small limestone stela ... that is believed to come from  Fayoum ... [in which we see]  There is a bald-headed Egyptian... kneeling in front of [a falcon god], ... the caption to the left of the falcon clearly reads, " the Good God, Lord of the Two Lands, Darius." (...) According to the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus,...Darius was so anxious to demonstrate his piety toward the Egyptian gods - and the former kings of Egypt - that even during his reign the Egyptians started to call him a god
 According to van Heel, the ancient Egyptians maintained a very subtle balance even in the status of the gods, in which the pharaohs would be referred to as ' the Good God'. Thus, Darius  was not revered as a real god, netjer aa 'the Great God', but as netjer nefer 'the Good God', implying that he was a good pharaoh. As a pharaoh  Darius
took an active interest in the internal affairs of Egypt...he even decreed that all the laws of Egypt up to and including year 44 of Amasis had to be collected and recorded in both demotic and Aramaic. The aim was of course to allow the Persian authorities in Egypt to govern the country according to native law. 

The Great King and his warriors
Apadana, Achaemenian royal guardsmen, detail



It is believed that both of the Cyrus' sons,  Cambyses and Bardiya, were competent and well-liked leaders, as Cyrus paid special attention to their leadership training. He appointed  Cambyses as the king of Babylon, and Bardia as the satrap of the Medes, Armenia, and Cadusia. As part of their education, he removed Cambyses from his appointment because  according to a  contemporary source, the Chronicle of Nabonidus:
When, on the fourth day Cambyses, son of Cyrus, went to the temple of ... the priest of Nabû who ... the bull ... They came and made the weaving by means of the handles and when he led the image of Nabû ... spears and leather quivers, from ... Nabû returned to Esagila, sheep offerings in front of Bêl and the god Mârbîti. 
Despite the fact that this damaged text  is rather hard to interpret, it seems highly probable that there was a mishap because Cambyses offended the Babylonians by attending the ceremony fully armed, which was forbidden.  Fortunately,  he learned the valuable lesson, as his future conducts shows.  He recognised that to effectively rule Egypt, he must successfully assume the role of a traditional  pharaoh, and that a necessary part of this feat was to respect and support the Egyptian traditions and religious beliefs. So when he  conquered Egypt and was recognized as its new pharaoh he appointed the admiral of the Egyptian fleet, Udjahorresnet, to help him to reign like a true Egyptian  pharaoh. According to Udjahorresnet
The great king of all foreign countries Cambyses came to Egypt, taking the foreigners of every foreign country with him. When he had taken possession of the entire country, they settled themselves down therein, and he was made great sovereign of Egypt and great king of all foreign countries. His Majesty appointed me his chief physician and caused me to stay with him in my quality of companion and director of the palace, and ordered me to compose his titulary, his name as king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Mesuti-Ra [born of Re] (...)  
 It is interesting that Udjahorresnet appears to suggest that he had explained Cambyses the Ra is the Sun-god, i.e, Mitra;
I made known to His Majesty the grandeur of Sais, as being the abode of Neith, the Great Mother, who gave birth to the Sun-god Ra, the First-born, when as yet no birth had been, together with the doctrine of the grandeur of the house of Neith, as being a Heaven in its whole plan; together with the doctrine of the grandeur of the (other) temples of Neith, and of all the gods and goddesses who dwell in them 
 Based on his advise Cambyses ordered  that the temple should be repaired and restored, and when  the repairs are done he  visited the temple.
 When King Cambyses arrived at Sais, His Majesty came himself to the temple of Neith. He made a great prostration before her majesty, as every king has done. He made presents to the almighty goddess of all good things, to Neith, the mighty one, the Divine Mother, and to the gods who are in Sais, as all pious kings have done. His Majesty did this because I had instructed him as to the grandeur of the goddess, as being the Mother of the Sun-god himself. 

This indicates why Cambyses was recognized  as 'Great Ruler of Egypt and Great Chief of all foreign lands'. This is to say that Cambyses had become the legitimate ruler of Egypt. It is interesting to note that Udjahorresnet and some other Cambyses' Egyptian advisors  adopted the elaborate Persian overgarment, combining the traditional Egyptian pectoral necklace with new-style Persian torques.

Udjahorresnet



Achemenid Persian officer

Cambyses' Egyptian strategy was already formulated by Cyrus who envisioned the annexation of Egypt to Babylonia, providing ample supply of strategic commodities for his vast empire.  Cambyses realised that to execute this strategy he would need a powerful navy  so as to confront  the Phoenicians, the Egyptians and the Greeks. After inheriting Cyrus' empire, he realised that not only he must maintain dominion over the conquered countries but also he must  execute Cyrus'  strategic vision and move against Egyptian kingdom, whose pharaoh, Amasis, according to Herodotus was a "Philhellene,"  and had powerful armed forces: a fleet that his predecessor, Necho II (610-595), had left him and an army considerably reinforced by contingents of mercenaries from all over the Greece, including Caria and Ionia.


 As Herodotus attest that, after the conquest of Asia Minor by Cyrus's troops,
"the islanders had nothing to fear, because the Phoenicians were not yet subject to Persia and Persia herself was not a sea power". 
Cambyses' swift moves against Cyprus and Phoenicia created a turning point for the Persian projection of naval power in the region . In 525 BC, the Phoenicians "were entirely dependent on the strength of their navy (nautikos stratos)." This force also included Cypriots, as well as Greeks from Ionia and Aeolis, including a contingent from Mytilene.

We should note that the archeological discoveries have provided us with a wealth of information about Persian Empire and as early as 1948,  A. T . Olmstead of Oriental Institute at University of Chicago argued that:
We realize as never before that Greece was at no time a serious political threat to the [Persian] Empire, because there was no Greece  as a political entity; there were only Greek states. Soon after its origin, the Empire conquered the greatest, most wealthy, and and most enlightened  of these Greek states, and for the most part they remained within the Empire Recent excavations have shown that they continued  completely under Persian rule and that their life was profoundly affected. 
 A Mede "Sparabara"  

It is said that Cambyses was the father of the Persian Navy, which was built with men and materials levied from both Phoenicia and Asia Minor. Persians admired Cambyses and when asked  about his accomplishments, they answered that
He was better than his father, because he had kept all Cyrus' possession and acquired Egypt and the command of the sea into the bargain". 
It does in fact seem that Cambyses created the royal Persian navy in its entirety, and it was indispensable to his hopes of victorious engagement with the pharaoh, who had an imposing fleet of his own.

The extremely negative propaganda against Cambyses by Herodotus is now almost completely debunked. For example; his narrative of the murder of the Apis by Cambyses is now refuted in light of discoveries made at the Serapeum of Memphis, where the deceased and embalmed Apises were laid to rest in sarcophagi. The epitaph of the Apis interred at the time of Cambyses, in 524 BC, has actually shows that the king, garbed as an Egyptian and on his knees, is there called "the Horns [.. .], king of Upper and Lower Egypt [...]," and the inscription says:
 [Year] 6, third month of Hie season Shemou, day 10 (?), under the Majesty of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt [. ..] endowed with eternal life, the god was brought in [peace toward the good West and laid to rest in the necropolis in] his [place] which is the place which his Majesty had made for him, [after] all [the ceremonies had been done for him] in the embalming hall [...]  It was done according to everything his Majesty had said [.. .]. (Posener no. 3)
 The inscription on the sarcophagus is equally eloquent on the role Cambyses played in the events:
(Cambyses], the king of Upper and Lower Egypt.. . made as his monument to his father Apis-Osiris a large sarcophagus of granite, dedicated by the king [.. .], endowed with all life, with all perpetuity and prosperity (?), with all health, with all joy, appearing eternally as king of Upper and Lower Egypt. (Posener no. 4) 
In fact, when  Alexander the great  sacrificed to Apis at Memphis he was imitating Cambyses for the reasons that  shall be discussed later.

King Darius


According to King Darius' propaganda on March 522, a Magian named Gaumata seized power in the Achaemenid empire, claiming to be the brother of Cambyses,  Bardiya (Smerdis). The impostor could do this, because Bardiya had been killed secretly. Immediately, Cambyses advanced to the usurper, but he died before reaching Persia; the false Bardiya was able to rule for several months. Darius writes:

 Says Darius the king: This (is) what (was) done by me after that I became king; Cambyses by name, the son of Cyrus (was) of our family; he was king here; of this Cambyses there was a brother Bardiya (i. e. Smerdis) by name possessing a common mother and the same father with Cambyses; afterwards Cambyses slew that Bardiya; when Cambyses slew Bardiya, it was not known to the people that Bardiya was slain; afterwards Cambyses went to Egypt; when Cambyses went to Egypt, after that the people became hostile; after that there was Deceit to a great extent in the provinces, both in Persia and in Media and in the other provinces.

 Says Darius the king: Afterwards there was one man, a Magian, Gaumata by name; he rose up from Paishiyauvada; there (is) a mountain Arakadrish by name; from there - 14 days in the month Viyakhna were in course when he rose up; he thus deceived the people; I am Bardiya the son of Cyrus brother of Cambyses; afterwards all the people became estranged from Cambyses (and) went over to him, both Persia and Media and the other provinces; he seized the kingdom; 9 days in the month Garmapada were in course - he thus seized the kingdom; afterwards Cambyses died by a self-imposed death.

Says Darius the king: This kingdom which Gaumata the Magian took from Cambyses, this kingdom from long ago was (the possession) of our family; afterwards Gaumata the Magian took from Cambyses both Persia and Media and the other provinces; he seized (the power) and made it his own possession; he became king.

Says Darius the king: There was not a man neither a Persian nor a Median nor any one of our family who could make Gaumata the Magian deprived of the kingdom; the people feared his tyranny; (they feared) he would slay the many who knew Bardiya formerly; for this reason he would slay the people; "that they might not know me that I am not Bardiya the son of Cyrus;" any one did not dare to say anything against Gaumata the Magian until I came; afterwards I asked Auramazda for help; Auramazda bore me aid; 10 days in the month Bagayadish were in course I thus with few men slew that Gaumata the Magian and what men were his foremost allies; there (is) a stronghold Sikayauvatish by name; there is a province in Media, Nisaya by name; here I smote him; I took the kingdom from him; by the grace of Auramazda I became king; Auramazda gave me the kingdom. 

Herodotus provides almost the same narratives as the official propaganda in the Behistun inscription.
And now Cambyses, who even before had not been quite in his right mind, was forthwith, as the Egyptians say, smitten with madness for this crime. The first of his outrages was the slaying of Smerdis, his full brother, whom he had sent back to Persia from Egypt out of envy, (...) When Smerdis was departed into Persia, Cambyses had a vision in his sleep- he thought a messenger from Persia came to him with tidings that Smerdis sat upon the royal throne and with his head touched the heavens. Fearing therefore for himself, and thinking it likely that his brother would kill him and rule in his stead, Cambyses sent into Persia Prexaspes, whom he trusted beyond all the other Persians, bidding him put Smerdis to death. So this Prexaspes went up to Susa and slew Smerdis. Some say he killed him as they hunted together, others, that he took him down to the Erythraean Sea, and there drowned him.
As Olmstead has argued there are indications that Darius' official autobiography on the Behistun rock is fabricated and far from true to the facts. Darius was a distant relative of the imperial family of Cyrus. There is no reason to believe that he could have any claim to the throne. Had the next of kin belonged to his line his grandfather and his father who were still alive would have had precedence over him. Darius' claims that Bardiya was put to death by his  elder brother  Cambyses was not true.
After the death of Cambyses, we are  expected to believe , Perxaspes publicly recanted his story,  informed the people of the secret murder of the "true" Bardiya,  and then in repentance committed suicide. Deathbed repentances we all know is frequent devices of the propagandist; after a suicide, the deadman can tell no tales. Furthermore, the "false" Smerdis was false only in claiming to be the son of Cyrus; his actual name was Smerdis! The height of absurdity is reached when we are informed that so alike were the "true" and the "false"  Smerdis that even the mother and sisters of the "true" Smerdis were deceived!
The evidence force us to believe that the the person Darius killed was the real son of Cyrus, Bardiya (Rost 1897, Winckler 1898, Olmstead 1948, Nyberg 1954,  Burn 1970, Bickerman & Tadmor 1978, Gershvitch 1979, Sancisi-Weerdenburg 1980, Cook 1983, Balcer 1987).

A more important reason, that Olmstead and others do not mention is the fact  that, unlike Cyrus and Cambyses, Darius was a  fanatic Zoroastrian.  The harsh persecution of Mitra worshippers first forced  the Mitraist belief to go underground and to assume the symbolism of Mysteries of Mitra.  Although the Mitra religion was not completely vanished  and remained the prevalent form of worship among the Medes and their  Magi (Duchene-Guillemin, J "Le dieu de Cyrus", Commémoration Cyrus III, Acta Ir. 3, 1974, 20.) as well its tenets  survived in  various form of Sufism.



King Xerxes Persian Attire


Achaemenid Nobility

Achaemenid cylinder seal, with Persian costume









     
Persian Royal Warrior

Herodotus reports; Otanes, Cambyses' uncle from the mother-side, was the first to become suspicious of the false Smerdis. From his daughter Phaidymia, who was married to the king, he learned that Smerdis (his nephew) has been replaced by a Magi. Otanes immediately called a conference with Aspathines and Gobryas. They decided to invite three other conspirators: Hydarnes, Intaphrenes and Megabyzus . The six conspirators were hesitant about the course they have to follow, until Darius arrived in Susa, one of the two capitals of the Persian empire. The newcomer, who was a distant relative of Cambyses joins the six and  convinced them to strike immediately and not to wait, as Otanes had proposed.

No guard dared to interfere when the six noblemen visited the royal palace, and in the end, Darius killed the 'false' king. After the murder, the seven men discussed the future constitution of Persia. Otanes suggested that Persia ought to be a democracy; Megabyzus supported the establishment of an oligarchy but, Darius stated that monarchy was the best regime. The other  noblemen sided  with him and everyone accepted Darius as king. Despite the propagandist tone of this conversation Herodotus stresses that this discussion really took place.

In short, whereas Cyrus and his sons, like other Elamites,  were liberal-minded Mitra-worshipers   Darius was a Zoroastrian zealot. Perhaps it would be helpful here to recall Cyrus Cylinder's edicts. As Avram R. Shannon writes:
Cyrus the Great does not make mention of Ahura Mazda in any of his inscriptions. In fact many of his inscriptions betray a sense of plurality that is not found in the texts of later kings of the Achaemenid dynasty. A very famous inscription of his illustrates this. This is the Cyrus Cylinder, found in Babylon, which contains a decree justifying his rule in the city of Babylon. In it he relates how Marduk, the local god of Babylon and chief god of Babylonia, appointed him to be king over Babylon. Later in the text he commands that temples be rebuilt and the various local cults be started up again.
The Royal Road of the Achaemenids was a major intercontinental thoroughfare built by  king Darius to allow access to the conquered cities throughout the Persian empire. The road led from the Aegean Sea to Iran, a length of some 1500 miles (2400 kilometers).  From Susa the road connected to Persepolis and India, and intersected with other road systems leading to the ancient allied Baktria and Sogdiana.A hundred and eleven way-posting stations were reported to existing on the main branch between Susa and Sardis, where fresh horses were kept for travelers.

As Waters has argued:
The name Achaemenes or title “Achaemenid” does not occur in Cyrus’ inscriptions (notwithstanding the Pasargadae inscriptions, in fact commissioned and placed by Darius). Cyrus traced his lineage to his great-grandfather Teispes, who, based on the testimony of the Cyrus Cylinder, founded Cyrus’ royal line. By tracing his descent to Achaemenes through Teispes, Darius thus established the basis for the traditional (in modern scholarship) dual Achaemenid line and Darius’ and Cyrus’ shared royal pedigree. The Achaemenid dynasty was a construct of Darius, one way by which he rationalised his claim to the throne.
As we saw before Darius' parents Vishtaspa and Rhodugune, converted to Zoroastrianism. Adhering to the  Zoroastrian tradition  Darius and his son Xerxes started their holy wars against Daeva worshipers. They glorified the spread of Zoroastrianism by force. Darius fulfilled  his parents' desire for spread of Zoroastrianism  and during his reign it became the official religion of the empire, and the Zoroastrian Magi replaced the Mitraist Magi of Medes.  Thus, the religion of Mitra went underground.


The Assyrian God Ashur

The Zoroastrian God Ahura 

Zoroastre relegated the Aryan god Mitra together with all other gods of Mitra-worshipers to mere Daeva status (false gods) and adopted the Assyrian  god, called Ashur (Asshur, Assur) who was depicted as a man rising from a winged solar disc and shooting a bow or offering a ring. The Zoroastrian god, Ahura Mazda, was depicted in a similar fashion as a man rising head and shoulders above a solar disc also offering a ring, or sometimes similar. Although, some  have argued that Ahura appears as the Persian rendering of Vedic asura which is uncommonly like Ashur, despite the fact that the Assyrian language was Semitic. The Zoroastrianism-scholar J H Moulton agrees with Dr Martin Gemoll who proposed in 1911 that Ahura Mazda was the same god as the Assyrian Ashur. A god called “Assara Mazas” has been noted in Assyrian lists of gods.

Darius' inscriptions are filled with Zoroaster's teaching, and he tried to convert his empire into Zoroastrianism. In the Behistun inscription, Darius  implies that he himself was the leader of the conspiracy against the false Bardiya:
There was none who dared to act against Gaumata, the Magian, until I came. Then I prayed to Ahuramazda; Ahuramazda brought me help. On the tenth day of the month Bagayadish [29 September 522] I, with a few men, slew that Gaumata, the Magian, and the chief men who were his followers. At the stronghold called Sikayauvatish, in the district called Nisaia in Media, I slew him; I dispossessed him of the kingdom. By the grace of Ahuramazda I became king; Ahuramazda granted me the kingdom.


 Olmsted  provides detailed description of costume of Darius' immortals :
To our right, as we ascend the east staircase, are nobles in the high fluted hats and long robes, shon in more detail for Immortals; those to the left we the high the high round cap, sometimes nodding slightly to the front, with neck flap to the rear. A tight-fitting tunic descends to the knees  and is held to the waist by a knotted girdle, while moderately tight trousers and pointed shoes complete the costume. Over this a few have thrown an ankle length. bordered robe, the sleeves hanging empty at the side; this is a robe of honor, for the long robes of the other groups are sleeveless. A few also wear broad or narrow torques,  further sign of honor. For the greater part, they are unarmed,, though a few carry the bow case; to this others add or substitute the short sword.  





Of  course, Darius was aware that no empire will last forever, and the time will surely come that would bring the end of his own, and his dynastic rule would one day be replaced by another house. His propaganda was directed at the posterity to inform the future generations  of his  vision, ideals and achievements.  He wanted the conquered  nations of his empire to be portrayed  in the Persepolis  as free and equal citizens happily participating in an orderly and well organized  Achaemenid empire, unlike the Assyrian empire of Ashurbanipal that portrayed  their conqured nation,  Elamites  as slaves. This is why those countries like Assyria and Egypt that had treated people with the injustice of slavery are depicted under their heavy burden of shame, as Margaret Root observes:
The internal imagery which characterizes the tribute procession relief at Persepolis departs radically from that found in Egyptian or Assyrian representations of the same theme. The first man in each tribute delegation is shown being led forward by the hand toward the figure of the enthroned king. By contrast, the leaders of Egyptian delegations generally are depicted on their knees, beseechingly, while leaders of delegations to the Assyrian king or hold their hands clenched at face level as a sign of submission.

In fact, King Darius proudly names the twenty three countries that were part of his empire on his Behistun inscription:
King Darius says: These are the countries which are subject unto me, and by the grace of Ahuramazda I became king of them: Persia [Pârsa], Elam [Ûvja], Babylonia [Bâbiruš], Assyria [Athurâ], Arabia [Arabâya], Egypt [Mudrâya], the countries by the Sea, Lydia [Sparda], the Greeks [Yauna], Media [Mâda], Armenia [Armina], Cappadocia [Katpatuka], Parthia [Parthava], Drangiana [Zraka], Aria [Haraiva], Chorasmia [Uvârazmîy], Bactria [Bâxtriš], Sogdia [Suguda], Gandara [Gadâra], Scythia [Saka] (Ghi-mi-ri or Cimmeria in Babylonian version), Sattagydia [Thataguš], Arachosia [Harauvatiš] and Maka [Maka]; twenty-three lands in all. 


The twenty three nations of  this enormous empire had their own distinct cultures, costumes and  speaking different languages.  Darius, unlike the Babylonians, Assyrians,  and Egyptians who projected the power of their empires by battle scenes, where the subjugated nations were smitten and enslaved, wanted to use the power of visual design to communicate the ideal of a harmonious and orderly empire under Ahura Mazda.

In the words of Root:
 the Achaemenids commissioned the creation of a consistently idealized vision of kingship and empire—a vision which stressed images of piety, control, and harmonious order.    

Examining the fashion styles of the relief panel, the viewer may  infer the probable identity of the people on Apadana's staircase, where all different nations of the Persian Empire are most probably  represented in the order they appear on the Behistun inscription.


Elam [Ûvja]

Babylonia [Bâbiruš]

Assyria [Athurâ]

Arabia [Arabâya]

Egypt [Mudrâya]

The countries by the Sea

Lydia [Sparda]

The Greeks [Yauna]

Media [Mâda]

Armenia [Armina]

Cappadocia [Katpatuka]

Parthia [Parthava]

Drangiana [Zraka]

Aria [Haraiva]

Chorasmia [Uvârazmîy]

Bactria [Bâxtriš]

Sogdia [Suguda]

Gandara [Gadâra] 

Sattagydia [Thataguš]
Sattagydia [Thataguš]

Arachosia [Harauvatiš]
Maka

Xerxes (r. 486-465 BC)




Xerxes succeeded his father, Darius, in 486 BC. According to Herodotus, when Darius was preparing for his  Egypt expedition to quell  its revolt:  a fierce contention for his succession arose among his sons; "since the law of the Persians was that a king must not go out with his army, until he has appointed one to succeed him upon the throne." Artabazanes was his eldest from his former wife, who was a daughter of Gobryas; while, Xerxes was his eldest from his wife , Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus. 
Artabazanes claimed the crown as the eldest of all the children, because it was an established custom all over the world for the eldest to have the pre-eminence; while Xerxes, on the other hand, urged that he was sprung from Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, and that it was Cyrus who had won the Persians their freedom. 
Before Darius had pronounced on the matter, it happened that Demaratus, the son of Ariston, who had been deprived of his crown at Sparta, and had afterwards, of his own accord, gone into banishment, came up to Susa, and there heard of the quarrel of the princes. Hereupon, as report says, he went to Xerxes, and advised him, in addition to all that he had urged before, to plead- that at the time when he was born Darius was already king, and bore rule over the Persians; but when Artabazanes came into the world, he was a mere private person. It would therefore be neither right nor seemly that the crown should go to another in preference to himself. (...) Xerxes followed this counsel, and Darius, persuaded that he had justice on his side, appointed him his successor. For my own part I believe that, even without this, the crown would have gone to Xerxes; for Atossa was all-powerful 
It seems that, like his father, Xerxes was  also a zoroastrian zealot. He is reported to have desecrated the great temple of Marduk in Babylon, slaying a priest and carried off the huge statue of the god, which was said to be of solid gold.  Herodotus and later  Cicero report that Xerxes destroyed the temples on the Acropolis. As Herodotus reports:
As the captains from the Peloponnese were thus advising, there came an Athenian to the camp, who brought word that the barbarians had entered Attica, and were ravaging and burning everything. For the division of the army under Xerxes was just arrived at Athens from its march through Boeotia, where it had burnt Thespiae and Plataea- both which cities were forsaken by their inhabitants, who had fled to the Peloponnese- and now it was laying waste all the possessions of the Athenians. Thespiae and Plataea had been burnt by the Persians, because they knew from the Thebans that neither of those cities had espoused their side.
 In an inscription at Persepolis Xerxes himself boasts of his godliness in destroying the temples on the Acropolis in which the Greeks had worshiped devils (Ahremanus), and in commanding them to worship them no longer:
By the favor of Ahura Mazda I smote that land and put it into its place . . . within these lands where formerly the daevas were worshipped. Afterward, by the favor of Ahura Mazda, I destroyed the community of the daevas and proclaimed: The daevas you shall not worship. Where formerly the daevas were worshipped, there I worshipped Ahura Mazda and the holy Arta.
Xerxes led a combined land and sea invasion of Greece in 480 BC. After some rapid early successes in which northern Greece fell to the Persians in the summer of 480, the Greek defences at Thermopylae in August of 480 was broken, and the Persian land forces captured Athens and burned the Acropolis. However, later in the Battle of Salamis, the desperate  Athenian general Themistocles resorted to a series of successful propaganda  campaigns, deceiving Xerxes about the loyalty of his Greek forces  from Thessaly, Thebes and Argos that were  fighting on his side. All the sources agree that his message also had the effect of inducing Xerxes to undertake the naval engagement within the narrow straits between Salamis and mainland Attica, and that this afforded the numerically inferior Greek navy an advantage which they were able decisively to exploit. As Diodorus  reports:
 'he devised another stratagem, no less clever than this (previous) one .... He succeeded in greatly reducing the numbers of the Persian army in the following way. He sent the tutor of his sons to Xerxes to reveal to him that the Greeks intended to sail to the span of boats and to destroy the bridge'. Xerxes believed this 'because it was plausible', and, fearing that he might be completely prevented from getting back to Asia, since the Greeks already controlled the sea, decided to return to Asia as quickly as possible, leaving behind Mardonius with a picked force, still considerable in size, (400,000 men!), but much reduced in comparison with the original.
Bridging of the Hellespont


Greeks considered Themistocles for his stratagem a patriotic hero. For instance,  in Aeschylus' Persians, a play performed seven years before Themistocles flight to Asia, his true patriotic character had been very publicly commemorated and celebrated. Moreover, Xerxes'  return to Persia  was presented, with much exaggerated propaganda for a Greek audience,  as a disorderly and disastrous rout.

After his relatively minor setback in  the straits of Salamis Xerxes realized that the subjugation of Greece could not be accomplished over a short time span that he hoped for and  he, as a king with all its responsibilities, had by then been away from his capital and his court for a relatively long time. Thus he returned to Persia and left Mardonius in charge of  a large land force for further operations .

Battle of Salamis


It is interesting that Themistocles sent a secret message to Xerxes by  Sicinnus , who had also been the bearer of his first message to the king, informing him that Themistocles had done Xerxes a favour, by preventing the Greeks from pursuing the Persian fleet to the Hellespont and destroying the bridges there. So Xerxes could now return home at his leisure! Did he try to deceive the king, or did he serve the enemy with the hope that the king would reciprocate his support in the future contingencies. Some times later when he asked Xerxes' son, Artaxerxes I,  for political asylum in Persia, to work for  the Persian intelligencer, he referred to this  message as the evidence of his good service.

In 479 BC Xerxes  offered the Athenians a separate peace treaty, promising them full autonomy, financing the rebuilding of their temples, and giving them a colony. The calculation behind the policy, that later was followed in a systematic propaganda campaign by his successors, was that with the Athenian fleet on his side he can subjugate the rest of Greece at a fraction of the astronomical costs of maintaining a large occupation force in such inhospitable terrains, so far from the heartland.

 Themistocles


The offer caused considerable anxiety in the other Greek states. Spartans in particular were frantic, knowing that Athenians, with a massive Persian finance and support, not only will be able to reconstruct their cities but also could dominate Greece. Athenians, however, distrusted Persia and they refused to accept the peace offer. To alleviate Spartans anxiety their envoy told them that there was no pile of gold large enough and no territory beautiful enough to bribe them to collaborate with the Persians to bring "slavery" to their fellow Greeks, reasoning that, as Herodotus reports:
We all share the same ancestry and language we have sanctuaries  to the gods that we share, and we share a common way of life.
However,  the impact of this propaganda move was considerably strong. After Xerxes offer of peace to Athenians, Pausanias the Spartan commander in the battle of Plataea, returned the high-ranking Persian prisoners to Xerxes, as Briant reports:
among them were relatives and allies of the king's family.  With the Greek Gongylus as intermediary, he had also sent a letter to Xerxes requesting  the hand of Xerxes' daughter and offering in return to "to make Sparta and rest of Hellas subject to you". Xerxes delightedly sent Artabazus to Dascylium with the reply, assuring Pausanias of recognition and asking him to collaborate  with Artabazus, promising him great sums of money  and extensive support. Puffed up with pride, the Spartan adopted the lifestyle of the Persian nobles:" He went out of Byzantium in Median dress, was attended on his March  through Thrace by a bodyguard of Medes and Egyptians, kept a Persian Table." (...)
We can see perfectly the advantages that the Persians could have drawn from his agency, since they were already accustomed to using skilled Greeks in their service -which was what the Greeks called "Medism."
Although Herodotus doubted that Pausanias had colluded with the Persians, Thucydides was certain of his guilt, for which he was tried and acquitted in Sparta. Nevertheless, as Cornelius Nepos reports  later a young  Argilian who knew Pausanias received a letter from him for Artabazus, and he was suspicious that:
 there was something written in it about himself, because no one of those who had been sent to the same place on such an errand, had returned.
The youngman opened  the letter  and  discovered that if he delivered it he would lose his life, because:
In the letter were also some particulars respecting matters that had been arranged between the king and Pausanias.
The letter was delivered to the authorities, and they  directed the informer that they want him to take refuge at the temple of Neptune, so that they can trick Pausanias and get a confession from him.
To this temple the informer fled, and sat down on the steps of the altar. (...) Pausanias, when he heard that the Argilian had fled to the altar, came thither in great trepidation, and seeing him sitting as a suppliant at the altar of the divinity, he inquired of him what was the cause of so sudden a proceeding. The Argilian then informed him what he had learned from the letter, and Pausanias, being so much the more agitated, began to entreat him "not to make any discovery, or to betray him who deserved great good at his hands;" adding that, "if he would but grant him this favour, and assist him when involved in such perplexities, it should be of great advantage to him
The authorities thus overheard the particulars, but  later when they arranged for his arrest, he fled for refuge into the temple of Minerva. The authorities they walled perimeter the temple and starved him to death.

 In 465 BC, Xerxes I was murdered by Artabanus , the commander of the royal bodyguard and the most powerful official in the Persian court, with the help of a eunuch , Aspamitres.






Pausanias









Friez of  Immortals, the royal guards of Darius (522-486 BC), From the Ishtar Gate of Babylon




Artaxerxes I (r. 465-424 BC)



When Artaxerxes I  ascended to the throne, the value of propaganda campaign was quite understood at the Persian court. Artaxerxes I put the new Persian propaganda strategy at the centerpiece of his policy in the Greek theater of war, exploiting the Greek intercity hostilities   using his enormous funds and political influence.

As part of this new strategy Artaxerxes employed various members of the Greek aristocracy in various cities as his agents.  According to Thucydides,  the Athenian famous navy commander, Themistocles wrote a letter to him, 'who had just came to the throne". The master propagandist whose  campaign at Salamis caused Xerxes so much pains wrote:
'I, Themistocles, have come to you, a man who more than any other Greek did harm to your house, during the time when I was forced to defend myself against your father, who was attacking me; yet I did even more good at the time of his withdrawal, when I was safe and he was in danger. I am owed a favour in return ... and now I am here, an exile pursued by the Greeks because of my friendship for you, with the power to do you much good ... '
He, was welcomed with open arms by the king, who saw him as Plutarch suggests as a valuable informer on Greek affairs. In Thucydides words:
He awoke in the king the hope of seeing, thanks to him, the Greek world enslaved. 
From the considerable rewards he received from the Artaxerxes,  including the revenues of several towns in Asia Minor such as Magnesia, Myus, and Lampsacus  it is clear that his information was appreciated by the Persian high command. Themistocles would go on to learn and adopt Persian customs, Persian language, and traditions.

Shortly after the enthronement of Artaxerxes  a rebellion broke out in Egypt. Led by a Libyan king named Inarus (463-62), a descendant of the last native Egyptian king, Psammetichus, who initiated a revolt for restoration of Egyptian independence  as it existed before Cambyses.   Diodorus suggests that the news of the assassination of Xerxes and the subsequent turmoil incited the Egyptians to try to win back their independence. According to  Thucydides:
Meanwhile Inarus, son of Psammetichus, a Libyan king of the Libyans on the Egyptian border,(...) caused a revolt of almost the whole of Egypt from King Artaxerxes, and placing himself at his head, invited the Athenians to his assistance
 Their first rebellious act was to expel the Persian tribute-collectors. Inarus then assembled an army from the Egyptians and Libyans reinforced by Greek mercenaries  He sent envoys to Athens encouraging them to enter into an alliance, promising them considerable future benefits and even a share in the control of Egypt. The Athenians  responded  enthusiastically  and soon sent a fleet to Nile, as Hale reports:
[In Memphis] the Persians had maintained a royal navy yard called the House of Boats, staffed with thousands  of workers. The harbor was crowded with ferryboats, fishing craft, cargo vessels, and transports, and the city walls rose almost from the edge. (...)  
Inarus and his Greek allies enjoyed the great advantage of having friends within the walls - most Egyptians resented the Persians just as they had resented other foreign rulers. In short order the rebel army liberated two-thirds of the city. The remaining Persians and their Egyptian collaborators retreated through the streets to a stronghold that the Greeks called the White Fortress. Except for this fortified place, all of Lower Egypt from Memphis to the sea was now in the hands of Inarus and his Greek allies. (...)  
In terms of wealth, Egypt stood third among twenty satrapies of the Persian Empire . Only Babylonia and India surpassed Egypt's  annual tribute of seven hundred silver talents, a greater amount than Athenians collected each year from their entire maritime alliance. Egypt also provided 120,000 bushels of grain to feed Persian army. And it was through Egypt that Ethiopians had been accustomed to send their own tribute of ebony logs, elephant tusks, and unrefined gold. By wresting Egypt from Persians, Inarus and his Greek allies had deprived the Great king of a fortune in annual income, some of which would now find its way to Athens,

Briant analysis, however, refutes parts of Hale's report, according to him Inarus never succeeded in attracting the loyalty of all the Egyptians, and:
Despite the length of siege and the Athenian successes, Egyptian auxiliaries remained faithful to the Persians in the White Wall at Memphis. Inarus went so far as to promise the  Athenians  a sort of power-sharing in Egypt (Diodorus). Because of these considerations, it seems impossible  to consider this revolt a manifestation of what is customarily called "Egyptian nationalism". It is likely that the promises made to the Athenians did nothing other than to alienate a certain  number of Egyptians. In the end Inarus was betrayed to the Persians and crucified.
In 458 BC Artaxerxes sent Megabyzus to Sparta, encouraging them to engage Athens. His gold was accepted and was used to defeat Athens at Tanagra. Then the king appointed  Arsames  as the new satrap, who moved with a large Phoenician fleet and land forces against Athenians. Athens sent a fleet under command of Charitimides to blockade Memphis. The Persian navy reached Memphis by sea and river, and broke the Athenians' blockade. The Egyptians then surrendered and the Athenians entered into a truce  with Megabyzus , who allowed some of them to return to Greece by crossing the Libyan desert. The Athenian disaster exacerbated when another of their squadrons was surprised at the entrance to the Mendesian Mouth of the Nile and almost completely destroyed.

The evidence from  Artaxerxes' reign show that the Persians worked out a highly sophisticated management scheme for territorial occupation in Egypt.  As Herodotus's observed  when he visited Egypt shortly after the revolt:
 "To this day the elbow which the Nile forms here, where it is forced into its new channel, is most carefully watched by the Persians, who strengthen the dam every year; for should the river burst it, Memphis might be completely overwhelmed"
As Briant suggests:
Thus by exercising control over the Egyptian river fleet, they [Persians] prevented any rebel from turning it against them (Diodorus) Because they collaborated with Egyptian engineers, they were in position  to use dikes and canals against rebels (Thucydides, Diodorus). Finally garrisons allowed them to keep the road to Palestine open, as well as the mouths of the Nile, through which warships and transport vessels travelled freely.
After the execution of Inarus, Artaxerxes  allowed his son to assume the role of vassal king. He was, of course, required not to rise up against the Persians, and that he would not try to expand his territory. As Herodotus writes:
For the Persians are in the habit of treating the sons of kings with honour, and even of restoring to their sons the thrones of those who have rebelled against them. There are many instances from which one may infer that  this sort of generosity is usual in persia: one obvious one is the case of Thannyras, the son of Inarus the Libyan, who was allowed to succeed his father.  

Athens, trying desperately to reduce the interventions of Persians in the Aegean sea, made a truce with Sparta abrogating its treaty with Argos. Artaxerxes sent Arthimus, an official goodwill ambassador from Cappadocia to Athens,  with huge sums of money  to buy influential Greeks. This infuriated Athenians  denouncing Arthimus as "dishonored and a foe of the Athenian people and of their allies, himself and his family, because he brought the gold from the Medes to the Peloponnese"

On the early 450 BC Athens assigned Cimon, a very capable general whom Plutarch describe as "a lover of Sparta and a hater of the people," who ""took the side of nobility , and was much beloved by them," to move against Artabazus forces at Cyprus who was supported by  the Cilician troops of Megabyzus.  The propaganda aspect of this narrative is quite revealing Cimon is portrayed as a loyal panhellenic hero in contrast to Pausanias and Themistocles.  In comparison to Pausanias who as we saw was acting as an informer for Persia, we are told:
while Pausanias was holding treasonable conference with the Barbarians, writing letters to the King, treating the allies with harsh arrogance, and displaying much wantonness of power and silly pretension, Cimon received with mildness those who brought their wrongs to him, treated them humanely.
and with regard to the other informer Themistocles, who had promised to deliver the whole Hellas to Artaxerxes:
[Cimon] had in mind the dissolution of the King's entire supremacy, and all the more because he learned that the reputation and power of Themistocles were great among the Barbarians, who had promised the King that when the Hellenic war was set on foot he would take command of it.  At any rate, it is said that it was most of all due to Themistocles' despair of his Hellenic undertakings, since he could not eclipse the good fortune and valour of Cimon, that he took his own life. 
Despite his courageous attacks, Athens' combined  land and sea assault was beaten off and  he died while sieging  Citium in Cyprus  'of sickness, as most say.  But some say it was of a wound which he got while fighting the Barbarians.' According to  Plutarch:
'Aristotle says.  As for Cimon, he died on his campaign in Cyprus.'
The reason why in Aristotle's propaganda  Cimon's death is treated with such a  short and disinterested terms may be related to his "panhellenic" views that shall be discussed later. However, it is of note here that there were those who reported that he died of a wound in the battle with the Persian forces and even  Plutarch quotes Cimon's niece, Elpinice  who tells Pericles:
"This is admirable in thee, Pericles, and deserving of wreaths, in that thou hast lost us many brave citizens, not in a war with Phoenicians or Medes, like my brother Cimon, but in the subversion of an allied and kindred city.
As Cimon  was dying he bade those about him to sail away at once and to conceal his death. And so it came to pass that neither the enemy nor the allies understood what had happened, and the force was brought back in safety "under the command of Cimon," as Phanodemus says, "who had been dead for thirty days.
"Those who were sent to consult  the oracle, received the answer that Cimon  was already  with the gods. When they returned to Egypt, they understood that Cimon had died at the very time when the oracles has answered them.

Pericles by then must  had realized that  Athens, supported by its Delian league,  was no match  for the vast resources of the Artaxerxes' empire and in particular  the Persian gold that was used with considerable diplomatic skills by his satraps,  to bribe both sides of various conflicts between the Greek cities, was a most potent weapon in Artaxerxes' wide range of arsenals.  As Olmstead writes:
 Early in 449 an embassy headed by Callias was dispatched to Susa. By designed 'accident," no doubt, there appeared at the same time an embassy from Argos, the ally of Athens. The Argives reminded Artaxerxes of their former friendship  with the king's father and inquired whether that friendship still held or whether  he now considered them his enemies ; they were reassured: "certainly it remains! No city do I consider a better friend than Argos!"

They negotiated a treaty  known as the Peace of Callias in 449-8 BC. As Briant suggests; the Persians benefited from the "Peace of Callias" , since  on the one hand they  'could thereafter enjoy their Egyptian and  Cypriot possessions in peace'   and on the other would  no longer make the costly mistake  of interfering  militarily 'in the internal affairs of the Athenian alliance.

Nothing  of the written text of the accord  has survived,  but its clauses  were described somewhat vaguely by the contemporary  Greek rhetoricians. It appears that the Athenians extracted a commitment from the Persians  not to attack them, and particularly, not to bring a fleet into Aegean  waters, For their part, the Athenians undertook not to plunder the king's territory.    Ernst Badian has pointed out that the category of cities paying tribute while "autonomous" was introduced  by the Peace of Callias for the Greek cities remaining under the Artaxerxes I suzerainty.

Costumes of Various Nations included in the Achaemenid Army


'The clauses granting autonomy to Asian cities - which Diodorus and others present as a striking Greek victory', as Briant notes,  could as just as well  be considered as against Athens, 'since applied  systematically by the Persians, its purpose was to achieve dominion over Athens.'  Thus it was in fact a Persian propaganda so that the Persian satraps  could support  the uprising of the Athenians allies 'who wished to escape the unbearable  yoke of Athens', as Thucydides described. As a brilliant piece of propaganda Artaxerxes  promised that the tributes paid by the 'autonomous' states under Persian overlordship would  remain unchanged at the levels  that had been imposed  before the almost forgotten Ionian  Revolt, two generations  ago. , which by then was only a nominal sum.

Athens broke the peace in 439 BC in an attack on Samos, and in its aftermath the Artaxerxes I made some military gains in the Ionia. The outbreak of the Peloponnesian War  (431-404 BC) would  soon enough offer the king and his successor, Darius II, ample new opportunities for intervention.

According to Thucydides Lacedaemonians and their allies
resolved to send embassies to the king and to ... others  of the barbarians powers.
Later on, of course they exactly did that, i.e. sending envoys to Artaxerxes, and  asking him to finance their fleets and to support them in the war. To safeguard themselves the Athenians  moved their treasury of the Delian League from the island of Delos to the Athenian acropolis.


The   Peace of Callias  set precedent  for the Peace Congress at Susa in 387 BC,  before which,  according to Xenophon, Artaxerxes II had his decree announced.




Darius II Ochus, (r. 423–404 BC)



The son of Artaxerxes I by a Babylonian concubine, Darius II, who had previously been satrap of Hyrcania  seized the throne from his half brother Sogdianus, whom he then executed. Darius II's reign begun by the revolt of satrap of Sardis Pissuthnes in 413 BC, the  same year the Athens was defeated at syracuse.  Darius assigned Tissaphernes, one of the most effective and competent Persian diplomats, to the task of quelling   his rebellion.

Tissaphernes accomplished his task by utmost  efficiency, bribing some of Pissuthnes' mercenaries, led by Athenian Lyson, who revolted against him. He was invited by Tissaphernes to a meeting for  negotiating his terms of surrender, and upon arrival was arrested and put to death by Darius's order.  Pissuthnes' son, Amorges , with the encouragement and support of Athenians followed the path of his father and revolted in the Carian coast. The Athenians  support for Amorges,  was  against the tacit understanding  in the Peace of Callias agreement between the Achaemenid king and the Delian League not to interfere in each other's sphere of influence.

Angry with the Athenians' intrigues and aware of their weakness after their  defeat at Syracuse in 413 BC, Darius decided to recover the Greek coastal cities of Asia Minor, which had been under Athenian control since 448 BC. The satraps of Asia Minor, Tissaphernes  [the satrap of Lydia] , and Pharnabazus,  [the satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia] were ordered to collect overdue tributes, and in 412 BC Persia formed an alliance against Athens  with Sparta.

After the Athenian disastrous defeat in Sicily, the  position of Athens in Greece seemed desperate: she had lost her maritime supremacy, and her treasury was empty. With the financial help of Persia Sparta had assembled a strong fleet, which was deployed along  the coastlines of Asia Minor in order to implement Tissaphernes' policy of stirring up rebellion among "country or cities the King has, or the King's ancestors had."

Under the new Persian defence strategy, which was not prepared to spend anymore huge sums of money on operation and maintenance of warships, the Persian forces in the eastern Mediterranean had to subsidize the friendly Greek city states' naval forces in return for their services.  Thus, the two Persian satraps, who did not have navies of their own, needed to build up coalitions with the Spartans in order to utilise their warships. In the winter of 413-12 BC, the envoys of Tissaphernes arrived in Sparta,  with some financial offer asking the Spartans to send a fleet to Ionia and encourage them to revolt. At the same time Pharnabazus’ envoyes, Calligeitus the Megarian and Timagoras the Cyzicene,  encouraged the Spartans to send a fleet to the Propontis to assist the  Persians' Greek cities of his satrapy.

Thucydides’ source amongst Alcibiades’ party  in Sparta believed that Tissaphernes was paying the fleet at his own expense. He had asked Darius for funds, but Darius offered him "the assistance of a powerful  Persian squadron from Phoenicia". As March writes;
If the Spartans were reinforced by the Phoenician ships it seemed certain that the last Athenian fleet, which was then at Samos would be destroyed. If the satrap should keep his word there appeared to be no way in which Athens could save  herself from complete and speedy ruin.  Sparta, however, made the mistake of thinking that she could now dispense with the service of Alcibiades. 
The Athenian naval commander, Alcibiades was also present in the negotiations.  He had received orderers to return immediately to Athens from Sicily in order to take his trial for an alleged crime, but he  fled to Sparta instead, where he was given a warm  welcome. The Spartans decided to provide a fleet of forty ships to Chios, with Agis sending ten to Lesbos. Alcibiades  led the Spartan expedition to Asia Minor, sailing ahead of the main fleet, and he has been active in bringing about the revolt of Chios and Miletus against Athens.

Tissaphernes promised to pay  for the Spartan fleet if it came to his territory.  It is said that Alcibiades gave Tissaphernes  a good advice in this regard, as  Ellis (2014) writes:
By the terms of the treaty made with the Spartans, the Persians had promised to pay the Peloponnesian sailors an Attic drachma a day. Alcibiades persuaded Tissaphernes to reduce this rate by half and to pay  the sailors only at irregular intervals. If the men were paid too much, Alcibiades reasoned, they  would only waste their pay on wine and other indulgences that would impair their effectiveness. And if they knew that their superiors still owed them pay that they had already earned , they would be less likely to desert  In order to institute this reduction in pay without causing rebellion, Alcibiades suggested that Tissaphernes bribe the naval commanders to aid Persians in placating the seamen.

Tissaphernes 
Pharnabazus



At the same time Tissaphernes started to build  an army for Darius  and was in contact with his sympathizers in Ionia, and collecting intelligence about the events in Sparta, from his informers. He patiently waited for  the Spartan fleet, which finally showed up in the midsummer 412 BC. With the arrival of Spartan fleet   the two sides decided to make a more formal accord  about the objectives of the alliance and how to implement their plan of actions.

Thucydides has reported on  the progress of the negotiation between Persia and Sparta conducted by Tissaphernes and Chalcideus that was culminated  in their signing of an alliance accord against Athens. Based on his report the first version of the accord in  412 BC,  negotiated by Tissaphernes as the head of the Persian team with the Sparta  and her allies  included the following clauses.


  • Whatever country or cities the King has, or the King's ancestors had, shall be the king's: and whatever came in to the Athenians from these cities, either money or any other thing, the King and the Spartans and their allies shall jointly hinder the Athenians from receiving either money or any other thing.
  • The war with the Athenians shall be carried on jointly by the King and by the Spartans and their allies: and it shall not be lawful to make peace with the Athenians except both agree, the King on his side and the Spartans and their allies on theirs.
  • If anyone revolt from the King, they shall be the enemies of the Spartans and their allies. And if any revolt from the Spartans and their allies, they shall be the enemies of the King in like manner.

Thus the treaty surrendered virtually all the non-Peloponnese Greek cities to Darius, which included all Ionian cities in Asia, Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, Boeotia, and Attica.  Furthermore, Sparta that had started the war under the propaganda  banner of  " liberating  Greece", now found the language of the first clause far too humiliating, and they were also concerned about the costs of constructing a fleet on the top of the costs of confronting Athenese in Ionian coasts.   Therefore, the Spartan assembly did not ratify it.

Spartans kept the treaty secret and sent Theramenes to ask for a revision. However, to demonstrate their good faith towards Darius , they immediately executed the last clause  of the accord  that was most probably directed against the rebellious satrap Amorges. The Spartans, thus, demonstrated that because of Amorges rebellion against the king they consider him  the enemy of Sparta as the accord had stipulated.   At the same time  when Theramenes was going to meet Tissaphernes, Spartans moved against Amorges and sailed to Iasus, camouflaging their fleets as those of Athenians. The Iasians were fooled, thinking the fleet belonged to their Athenian allies and let them inside their harbour.  Amorges was arrested, and was handed over to Tissaphernes while he was negotiating with Theramenes in the winter of 412-11 BC.

The first draft of the Persian- Spartan agreement is a testament to Tissaphernes' negotiation skills;  he had gained most of the Aegean territory that had been captured by the previous kings, and  had formed a powerful alliance against Athens, but in return had committed very little. It was at this time that  Alcibiades,  was forced to take refuge with Tissaphernes. According to Plutarch  King Agis of Sparta "was  hostile to him because of the wrong  he had suffered as a husband," implicitly  suggesting that he had an illicit affair with the king's wife.  This is most probably a fabricated propaganda story to hide the fact that Alcibiades was engaged in acts of espionage, gathering military and political intelligence for Tissaphernes in Sparta. This is the reason  why  "the most influential and ambitious of other Spartans" as Plutarch reports; ' were envious and tired of him, and soon strong  enough to induce the magistrates at home to send out  orders to Ionia that he be put to death!" He had sailed east with Chalcides, and now fled to take refuge with Tissaphernes. According to Plutarch,  he met with a favourable reception from Tissaphernes;
he was soon  first and foremost in that grandee's favour.  His versatility and surpassing cleverness was the admiration of the Barbarian, who was no straightforward man himself, but malicious and fond of evil company. 
As Duyckinck has paraphrased Plutarch:
 [Tissaphernes]  profited much by his advice, which in fact, was equally  shrewd and insidious. "let the Greeks" said he to the Persian general, "exhaust themselves by their mutual wars; foment discord among them, which you always find comparatively an easy task; take care never to let one state to be totally destroyed, but always to support the weaker party against the more powerful; - follow this policy for a time , and the Greeks will themselves spare you the trouble of conquering them. By their incessant contests they will so weaken themselves that their country  will become the prey of the first invader" 
 The advice that is attributed to Alcibiades was, of course, exactly the outline of the Persian Propaganda campaign. Be it as it may, it is quite evident that Alcibiades was at the pay service of the Tissaphernes.  

In the second draft of the agreement with  Theramenes, despite some discomfort by his negotiating team about the change of the language in the first clause of the first draft,  Tissaphernes agreed to replace the clear formula:  "whatever country or cities the King has shall be the king's," which was a Persian legal formulation; with  a rather vague expression,  [Spartans shall not] "make war against or otherwise injure any country or cities that belong to King," that was more agreeable to Spartans, but subject to different interpretations. For example, Spartans could argue trying to liberate those cities cannot be considered 'injuring them.'   As for the costs, Tissaphernes agreed to provide funds for  Spartan troops operations in Asia. With the arrest Amorges, the clause related to mutual safeguards, against rebellions dropped, as it was a financially risky proposition for both sides.

Finally, Tissaphernes was able extract an important concession from Spartans, disallowing  them to collect any tribute from the Greek cities in the Persian sphere of interests, thus preventing Sparta to build an empire like Athens. It was not in the Persians' interest that a defeated Athens should simply be replaced by another Greek superpower with imperial or "panhellenic' ambitions.   Thus, the final text of the second treaty read:

  • Neither the Spartans nor the allies of the Spartans shall make war against or otherwise injure any country or cities that belong to King Darius or did belong to his father or to his ancestors; neither shall the Spartans nor the allies of the Spartans exact tribute from such cities. Neither shall King Darius nor any of the subjects of the King make war against or otherwise injure the Spartans or their allies.
  • If the Spartans or their allies should require any assistance from the King, or the King from the Spartans or their allies, whatever they both agree upon they shall be right in doing.
  • Both shall carry on jointly the war against the Athenians and their allies: and if they make peace, both shall do so jointly.
  • The expense of all troops in the King's country, sent for by the King, shall be borne by the King.
  • If any of the states comprised in this convention with the King attack the King's country, the rest shall stop them and aid the King to the best of their power. And if any in the King's country or in the countries under the King's rule attack the country of the Spartans or their allies, the King shall stop it and help them to the best of his power.

In the late spring of 411 BC, the Spartans still unsatisfied with their accords sent a new Peloponnesian fleet  to Caunus on the south shore of Caria.   Lichas the commander of fleet  met Tissaphernes at Cnidus, to plan the next year’s campaign and at the same time raised the possibility of renegotiating the accord.  From the final text of the revised accord, it may be deduced that the Spartans  must have been concerned about the high costs of their military operations. Tissaphernes stormed out of the meeting, and  according to the Thucydides, Peloponnesians sailed off to seize control of Rhodes to cut off a major source Tissaphernes’ revenues. They stayed there for eighty days.

Tissaphernes was quite annoyed by the Spartans behaviour. Their navy was not strong enough to deliver the whole Ionia  and they were constantly quibbling over the fundings of their operations.  Despite the fact that,  as Thucydides suggests,  Tissaphernes was more concerned about Athenians than Spartans,  he asked Alcibiades to communicate with the Athenian oligarchs on his behalf.  Soon, a delegation of eleven oligarchs met Tissaphernes and offered considerable concessions in exchange for peace, which  included surrendering of all the Ionian cities and the  Islands. However, the negotiation collapsed when Alcibiades,  demanded that King Darius' navy should be able to operate free of any threat  in the Aegean sea.

The Spartans faced with a possible alliance between Persia and Athens returned to the negotiation table in  the plain of the Meander, where Tissaphernes as a punishment reintroduced the same Persian legal formula as was agreed upon in the first draft: "the country of the King shall be the King's". As various historians have argued Tissaphernes tried to secure maximum advantage with the minimum investment. However, he offered  the Spartan negotiator, Lichas,  some clarification: the King's country was described as "Asia" and the freedom of Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, Boeotia, and Attica, was recognised by the king.

The accord envisioned that Tissaphernes would pay for the Peloponnesian fleet until the King’s fleet arrived. As Thucydides later makes clear, Tissaphernes expected a fleet of three hundred Phoenician ships to arrive in the spring. Here is the final version of the accord as reposted by Thucydides.

  • The country of the King in Asia shall be the King's, and the King shall treat his own country as he pleases.
  • The Spartans and their allies shall not invade or injure the King's country: neither shall the King invade or injure that of the Spartans or of their allies. If any of the Spartans or of their allies invade or injure the King's country, the Spartans and their allies shall prevent it: and if any from the King's country invade or injure the country of the Spartans or of their allies, the King shall prevent it.
  • Tissaphernes shall provide pay for the ships now present, according to the agreement, until the arrival of the King's vessels: but after the arrival of the King's vessels the Spartans and their allies may pay their own ships if they wish it. If, however, they choose to receive the pay from Tissaphernes, Tissaphernes shall furnish it: and the Spartans and their allies shall repay him at the end of the war such moneys as they shall have received.
  • After the vessels have arrived, the ships of the Spartans and of their allies and those of the King shall carry on the war jointly, according as Tissaphernes and the Spartans and their allies shall think best. If they wish to make peace with the Athenians, they shall make peace also jointly.


No doubt advised by Alcibiades, when it came to the implementation of treaty, Tissaphernes, who had to finance his  satrapy's army,  the Peloponnesian fleet, and constructing fortifications along the coast; was falling behind on paying the seamen in the Spartan fleet, which led the most of the Peloponnesian and Syracusan sailors to believe that he was cheating them. At the end, King's Phoenician fleet never entered the Aegean sea. Thucydides speculates that this was part  of Tissaphernes' propaganda campaign, as he wanted to drag out the war and weaken the Spartans.

In 407 BC, Darius II appointed his younger son Cyrus as the supreme military commander of Ionia, at the same time, Cyrus also became satrap of a newly formed administrative district that was created by  joining together the satrapies of Lydia, Great Phrygia and Cappadocia.  Tissaphernes was demoted to the satrapy  of Caria that was separated from  the Satrapy of Lydia, which tissaphernes   governed as its satrap from 407 to 401 BC.

On the way from Susa, Cyrus met with Pharnabazus and the Athenian envoys, proceeding to Susa, hoping to change the Persian policy in favour of Athens.  Cyrus ordered them to be detained in Cappadocia, so that no information might be conveyed through them  to the Athenians.  Upon arriving at the city of Sardis in Lydia  Cyrus immediately overruled the tightfisted policy of Tissaphernes and  provided Peloponnesians with ample supply of Persian gold for construction of their navy.

It is interesting that at the same time Lysander, the third highest ranking  of Spartan commanders,  had just arrived at Ephesus to take over the post from the former Spartan admiral. As soon as  Cyrus arrived at Sardis , Lysander went to pay his respects, and was received with distinguished favour. Cyrus assured Lysander that he had come to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour, and the two men immediately developed a close friendship.

Cyrus refused, however,  his request  to raise the men's pay from the  rate fixed by treaty and king Darius' orders, to the level that Tissaphernes had pledged.  However, when they were feasting at a banquet, over a glass of wine,  Cyrus asked  Lysander what he most desired,  to which he immediately  replied 'to grant each sailor an additional obolus.' Cyrus immediately agreed to do so.

Upon returning to Ephesus Lysander was able to put his ships in better order, and to pay the sailors all their arrears, and raising their pay for future. As Stronk (1990) writes:
In Sparta, Callicratidas objected to Lysander's policy that the pretensions of  Sparta to liberating  the Greeks were, at least to him, void. Lysander's replacement, after his term was finished, by Callicratidas  may be viewed as a (temporary) victory for Lysander's political adversaries,
However, Cyrus then intervened to reinstall Lysander when his term of admiralship was ended.  Moreover, when he was called to Persia because of King Darius illness, Lysander was intrusted with the care of his satrapy.

Thus invested with an unprecedented command of Persian gold, Lysander  sailed to the Hellespont, which had been left unguarded , and immediately attacked  the wealthy city of Lampsacus, on the Asiatic side of the strait. When the Athenian navy arrived, Lysander almost totally annihilated it,  and Conon the Athenian admiral  was forced to escape to Cyprus with just few vessels.

Cyrus the Younger


Alcibiades

Lysander





He then conquered Chalcedon, Byzantium, and Mytilene, placing a garrison in each of them and imposing an oligarchic government of ten native citizens in each, decarchies, to govern with the  collaboration of the commander of the garrison. As Chambers writes:
Thus was Athenians stripped of all her dependencies; and, to make matters worse, not only were all her cleruchs or out-citizens deprived of their properties, and driven home, but the garrisons and leading men in the cities attached to Athens were not suffered to repair  anywhere but to the capital; Lysander calculating that the numbers congregated there would prove not strength, but weakness, when the match was against hanger.

King Darius II  died at 404 BC, and his elder son Artaxerxes II ascended the throne .  Cyrus was arrested  by his brother's orders, on suspicion of having conspired against his life, but was saved by his mother's intervention and was sent back to his satrapy  in Lydia.

Persian Sparabara Spearmen versus Greek Hoplites.The graphic design of the Persian shields distracted the opponents focus and created a tense psychological impact during face-to-face combats


Artaxerxes II, Mnemon (r.404-359 BC)




In 404 BC, when Artaxerxes II was enthroned in Susa,  Lysander, with the generous financial help of the headstrong and restless Cyrus the younger son of King Darius II, and the satrap of Lydia,  won the Great Peloponnesian War. Athens was forced to dismantle her walls, lost her quasi-empire,  and was only allowed a small fleet. Over the next five years Sparta became the dominant Greek naval power, although most of her fleet was financed by Persia.

According to the treaty of 412 BC,   Lysander and Spartans  had to surrender the Greek cities in Asia Minor to Persia.   However, this could not be done in 404 BC, because at the time both Cyrus and  Tissaphernes were away from  their satrapies, keeping vigil at the deathbed of Darius II.  Soon after his enthronement  the new king Artaxerxes II arrested Cyrus and ordered the cities on Asia Minor to be rendered to Tissaphernes.

Given Tissaphernes intransigence, Spartans were unhappy with the Artaxerxes II's order, and with the encouragement of Lysander,  all the  the  oligarch decarchies of Greek cities in Asia minor, revolted against Tissaphernes  and went over Cyrus - with the exception of Miletus which revolted later.  To keep his brother, the king, content, Cyrus who was saved by his mother's intervention, remitted regularly the tribute  of those cities. As Isocratis  suggests Sparta, and most probably Lysander,  encouraged Cyrus to attack Artaxerxes II, and provided him with the badly needed  12,000 mercenaries from Arcadia and Achaea.

However, Artaxerxes II won the battle in which  Cyrus was slain.  As Xenophon, in his Anabasis, reports:
[At this time] heralds arrived from the King and Tissaphernes, all of them barbarians except one, a Greek named Phalinus, who, as it chanced, was with Tissaphernes and was held in honour by him; for this Phalinus professed to be an expert in tactics and the handling of heavy infantry. 
When these heralds came up, they called for the leaders of the Greeks and said that the King, since victory had fallen to him and he had slain Cyrus, directed the Greeks to give up their arms, go to the King's court, and seek for themselves whatever favour they might be able to get. (...) 
 When they ask the king messenger  "whether the King is asking for our arms on the assumption that he is victorious, or simply as gifts, on the assumption that we are his friends."    Phalinus replied
The King believes that he is victor because he has slain Cyrus. For who is there now who is contending against him for his realm? Further, he believes that you also are his because he has you in the middle of his country, enclosed by impassable rivers, and because he can bring against you a multitude of men so great that you could not slay them even if he were to put them in your hands.
After some discussions among the invaders who are rightly concerned about their situation, and Artaxerxes who wants to rapidly end this crisis, at so early in his reign, when he needs to show everything is under control, and  already he is facing   the more serious revolt in Egypt,  Xenophon informs us that, among the Greek invaders;
There were some others, so the story goes, who weakened a little, and said that, just as they had proved themselves faithful to Cyrus, so they might prove valuable to the King also if he should wish to become their friend; he might want to employ them for various purposes, perhaps for a campaign against Egypt, which they should be glad to assist him in subduing.


Be it as it may indeed be the case, the Greek commander, Clearchus then negotiates with Artaxerxes' envoys  for the army's safe return to Hellas.  The king gladly agrees and soon Tissaphernes with his army arrives  and leads them  over the Tigris to the Zab.  However, being a formidable disciplinarian, and being aware of the propaganda impact of demonstrating firmness, he invites and arrests five of the Greek generals,  and  in Xenophon's words:  "The generals, then, after being thus seized, were taken to the King and put to death by being beheaded." Tissaphernes also executes twenty captains and some two hundreds soldiers. The rest of the army then are allowed to return to Greece. Xenophon claims that they fought their way back to Greece.


Artaxerxes II then promoted Tissaphernes  to the position of the supreme commander, Karanos,  the same position that Cyrus  had held, and gave him  the Satrapies of  Cyrus  in Lydia  and Ionia in addition to his own at Caria. Tissaphernes immediately, on behalf of the king,  demanded  the surrender of the Greek cities that had revolted  and gone to Cyrus.

Artaxerxes II, revering  the sun-god Mitra 
This is one of the most famous representations of  Mitra and Anahita, which appears on a cylinder seal scene dated to the fourth century. Mitra is represented by sun, and the goddess Anahita is standing on a lion, a symbol closely related to that of Ishtar. The king (wearing a distinctive crown) approaches the pantheon with hands outstretched in worship.The king in  the above figure  is not labeled, but most scholars assume it is Artaxerxes II. Mithra and Anahita are listed, after Ahuramazda, consistently in Artaxerxes II’s extant inscriptions.
Artaxerxes' inscription at Susa reads: "By the will of Ahura Mazda, Anahita, and Mithra I built this palace. May Ahura Mazda, Anahita, and Mithra protect me from all evil" . This is a remarkable break with the Zoroastrian tradition of Darius I and his successors; no Achaemenid king before him had invoked any but Ahura Mazda alone by name. This shows that the religion of Mitra was revived  near the end  of the Achaemenids rule in Persia.


In Sparta,  every faction now wanted to go to war with Tissaphernes,  for different reasons. Cyrus the younger with his misguided policy of one-sided supports for Sparta  had greatly damaged the strategic equilibrium policy in the Hellas Teater pursued by Tissaphernes that was greatly beneficial for Iran. Lysander, of course , having supported his friend Cyrus, wanted to rebel against Artaxerxes and  to replace the quasi-Athenian empire with that of Sparta. Pausanias, on the other hand, was more  wedded in the idea of "liberating  the Greek cities", which was consistent with the Persian policy of advocating autonomy   and king Agis wanted the two ambitious men to be engaged against the Persians, so that he could implement his own agenda free from their meddling.

When king Agis, one the two co-kings of Sparta died,  Lysander  support for Agesilaus was decisive for him to become a king and to share the kingship with Pausanias .  In 396 BC, Agesilaus assumed the leadership of the anti-Persian expedition and Sparta broke openly with the Artaxerxes II, when a Syracusan by the name Herodas, who lived in Phoenicia, noticing an extraordinary war-related activities including; daily arrival of warships,  repairing and outfitting of existing warships,  and construction of new vessels, arrived in Sparta with the news and informed  them that a large Persian navy was being made ready in Phoenicia.

In that year, King  Agesilaus brought Lysander to Ephesus as one of his advisors, mainly to assist him to execute his Persian policy. However, seeing Lysander's popularity among the Spartans, he  became extremely jealous and  refused the illustrious general  any military commands  and largely ignored his recommendations.  As Xenophon suggests Lysander then  tried to comfort  the king's feelings, for example he asked his supporters that instead of communicating with him they should directly go to Agesilaus, but nothing seemed to work. According to Plutarch, Agesilaus  demoted him to a low ranking job.  Lysander then begged the jealous king, to send him to an ambassadorial position  in Hellespont so that he can encourage subversions and revolts among the Persian satraps. Agesilaus agreed  and Lysander sailed to Hellspont.

Agesilaus then as the commander of the Spartan army sailed from  Gerastus to Sardis. Tissaphernes sent him a letter to find out why he had come to his territory in Asia. He replied that he had come to restore freedom to the Greek cities. According to Xenophon, Tissaphernes promised Agesilaus that:
If you will arrange an armistice to last until the return of the messengers whom I will send to the King, I will do my utmost to obtain independence for the Greek cities in Asia
Tissaphernes then applied to the King for a large army in addition to that which he had before. When he received more troops, according to Xenophon; he gave Agesilaus an ultimatum that he will enter into a war against him unless he would leave his territory.  The result was a  series of skirmishes between the two sides  in which Agesilaus was able to march into Sardis, burning and pillaging its suburbs.

 After this the outlook became  somewhat gloomy for the Persian forces, as Agesilaus was adding to his strength, since many cities were sending  envoys seeking his friendship. Sparta also was helping an anti-Persian rebel in Egypt; the fact that Egypt maintained its independence of Persia until the 340s BC was a serious economic loss to Persia.

Meanwhile, Lysander  found that Spithridates،  a Persian commander  under Pharnabazus, was unhappy. He persuaded him  to defect to the Spartan side with his troops, which consisted of 200 cavalrymen. Lysander escorted him and his son to Agesilaus and Spithridates provided the Spartans with the intelligence about Pharnabazus war preparation.

In 395 BC,  Agesilaus entered into Phrygia, which was under Pharnabazus, and pillaged that country. He was persuaded by Spithridates to march into Paphlagonia, which its king, Cotys, had been ordered by Artaxerxes II to appear before him, but he revolted  and joined Agesilaus.  A years later, in 394 BC, Spithridates found that  Pharnabazus was with his army in Caue .  He asked Agesilaus to give him an army, which he did.  Spithridates then came upon Pharnabazus  at the first dawning of the day and killed many and took much booty.

But Herippidas, the chief of the council of war in Sparta, a secret service agent of Persia intercepted Spithridates, stripping him and his Paphlagonian troops of all their plunder and fled to Ariaeus, the Persian satrap of Larisa.  Agesilaus was most troubled by the loss of Spithridates and his Paphlagonian troops. After this Agesilaus  and Pharnabazus came to a parley. According to Xenophon;  Pharnabazus openly stated that unless Artaxerxes would make him absolute  and sole commander of the army, he would revolt against him. If he could command all the forces then he could fight against Agesilaus as long as he could. Agesilaus told him that he would  promptly leave his territory and not  trouble him, as long as he does not bother him as well.

 Agesilaus  and Pharnabazus came to a parley.


Despite the fact that Agesilaus had assured Pharnabazus of his friendship, the Persian satrap was feeling threatened after the Spartans' conquest of Tissaphernes' territory. He felt apprehensive that his satrapy, separated from the body of the Persian empire, might become dominated by the Spartans and their allies. His adviser, an Athenian admiral, Conon, who was the commander of the Persian fleet, suggested that the Spartans' land force advance can be checked by the Persian navy if Pharnabazus could persuade Artaxerxes II to finance the construction of a large Persian fleet.

Conon had repeatedly sent letters to Artaxerxes asking to pay for the arrears of his fleet. When this failed, he went to the king in person. Pharnabazus also encouraged him to complain about  Tissaphernes' treasonous unpreparedness. In Babylon, Conon  met Tithrausts , the chiliarch,  which was the highest office next to the king, with his help  Artaxerxes declared Tissaphernes as a traitor,  appointing  Conon  in charge of the war against the Spartans and their allies, with authority to order whatever shipping he needed from the Cypriots and Phoenicians. Pharnabazus was appointed as the co-commander, as Conon had  requested.   Canon was to pay the navy in full, and he was highly rewarded for his services.

Artaxerxes believing that Tissaphernes was responsible for the Persians' poor performance, sent down Tithraustes with two letters; one for Tissaphernes, ordering him to continue the war against the Spartans, the second for Ariaeus instructing him that with the help of Tithraustes,  he must end the life of Tissaphernes,  which they did.

Pharnabazus, then successfully revitalized the old Persian propaganda strategy of encouraging discords among the Greek city-states and in 395 BC Sparta found itself with wars on two fronts -against the Persian Empire in Asia and against a powerful coalition of four mainland Greek cities; Athens, Thebes, Corinth, and Argos. With the financial backing of the king in the summer of 394 BC, Agesilaus was defeated and his forces retreated from Asia Minor back to Hellas.  Lysander was killed in a battle against the Boeotian town of Haliartus, when king Pausanias for some curious reason ( for which he was put on trial ) did not show up on time.  With the help of Persian gold a long-running territorial dispute  between Locris  and Phocis  had broke out into an open conflict, aggravated by Theban interference, that according to Xenophon and  Plutarch was the opening of the Corinthian war.

In the same year,  in  the battle of Cnidus, the overwhelming navy of Persian allied forces consisting of a fleet of 80 Phoenician ships, 10 Cilician ships, and perhaps 80 Greek ships  annihilated  the  Spartans' fleet of 85 triremes, under the command of Peisander. According to Xenophon, Conon’s Greek ships were posted in front of Pharnabazus’  Phoenician ships. Peisander's allies soon fled or were driven ashore, and he himself was killed in the fighting. According to Diodorus, Conon captured 50 triremes and took 500 prisoners, the rest getting back safely to Cnidus. News of the disaster reached Agesilaus in August 394 BC The impact of the battle was dramatic,  giving the Achaemenids mastery of the Aegean.




In 393 BC Pharnabazus and Conon crossed the Aegean to Greece, where they raided the Peloponnese and visited Corinth to encourage the anti-Spartan coalition in the Corinthian War. Pharnabazus and Conon attacked Pharri  at the head of Messenian Gulf and ravaged its land, the first attack on Sparta's home territory since the Athenians unsuccessful  attempt in 409 BC.  They then made landings in various points on the coast and did as much damage as possible.

 The  Persian allied forces; Thebes, Athens, Argos, and Corinth continued the war against Sparta, but when it became evident that Athens is trying to reverse the verdict of the Peloponnesian War, rebuilding the fortifications demolished in 404 BC  and seeking to reassert its authority over its former empire; Artaxerxes decided to shift  the balance of power in favour of Sparta. This was Pharnabazus'  finest hour and before long he was recalled to Artaxerxes court, to be one of his chief advisers and his son-in-low.

In the same year in Egypt, Nepherites was succeeded by his son Achoris, who reigned until the year 382 BC  and with the support of the Athenian admiral, Chabrias,  implemented a serious anti-Persian policy in the Mediterranean area. More specifically,  he assembled a  naval fleet,  fortified his army with Greek mercenaries and entered into a coalition against Persia with the Athenians ,  Cypriots, the city of Barka in Libya,  the Pisidian of Anatolia  and the Arabs in Palestine.

The Spartans under Antalcidas now blockaded the Hellespont with help from Persia and Dionysius of Syracuse, and Athens was once again starved into surrender. Antalcidas  by then had travelled  to Susa to  meet Artaxerxes, bringing  with him the draft of a humiliating  peace proposal to be imposed by the king on Athens, and had gained Tiribazus' agreement,  who was impressed and secretly gave Antalcidas some money  and publicly arrested Conon.

In the autumn of 387 BC Tiribazus, the newly appointed  Persian supreme command of land forces in Asia Minor and the former Satrap of Western Armenia, summoned all of the Greek powers to come to Sardis to hear the new peace term, common peace, which should be joined by everybody;  and every major Greek power responded by sending envoys. In 386 BC Athens was compelled to accept the settlement known as the King’s Peace, or the Peace of Antalcidas. According to Kathrin Schmidt  of Universität Wien this was the first “multilateral” common peace treaty in history, between "all Greeks" and the Persian Great King.

The striking feature of the King's Peace or Peace of Antalcidas is the nature of King's diktat. According to Tuplin (1993) 'Xenophon insists that the peace which concluded the Corinthian War was a "King's Peace", Artaxerxes diktat is repeatedly mentioned  (...) and, although " Peace of Antalcidas" terminology does appear, Xenophon  is manifestly indicating this was a mere façon de parler'.


The King's objectives were two. First, he sought to secure undisputed control over all of Asia. Second, he wanted a new international order that create political and economic stability, and since trouble had come for him from Athen's naval power, he wanted to enforce the principle of  autonomy of states. So if Athens or Sparta did not accept the autonomous power of city-states, they would have to be coerced by combined joint task force of the coalition of the willing.

The Persian decree that established the terms of the peace, as recorded by Xenophon, clearly exhibits this:
King Artaxerxes thinks it just that the cities in Asia should belong to him, as well as Clazomenae and Cyprus among the islands, and that the other Greek cities, both small and great, should be left independent, except Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros; and these should belong, as of old, to the Athenians. But whichever of the two parties does not accept this peace, upon them I will make war, in company with those who desire this arrangement, both by land and by sea, with ships and with money.
When one of the Athenian ambassadors unhappily mumbled in protest, the King said: 'And if the Athenians know of a fairer way than this, they were to go to the King and tell him'. When Athenians returned home, their ambassador, Timagoras,  was put on trial and condemned to death, on charges of capitulation to the king. Athens afterward appealed to the King and a new rescript came down recognizing her right to Amphipolis.

Although, Ryder (1965)  well puts it that: " the king's Peace had been devised by the Spartans as an acceptable basis for Persian intervention... It was, then, naturally suited  primarily  to the interests of the Spartans and Persians,"   but perhaps, an outraged  Isocrates, feeling that the Greeks  had become  Artaxerxes' prisoners of war and had submitted to the king as their master, is closer to the reality. He wrote in his Panegyricus, in 380 BC:
 As things are, it is he [Artaxerxes II]  who disposes of the affairs of the Hellenes and orders what each city must do and all but sets up governors  in the cities. What else is lacking? Did he not decide the war and does he not direct the peace? Is he not now placed in charge of things? Do we not take ship to him as if to a master, to denounce each other? Do we not name him "the Great King" as if we had become his prisoners of war? Do we not in our wars against each other place our hopes of salvation in him, the man who would gladly destroy both Athens and Sparta?

Thus,  with Artaxerxes financial help, Sparta emerged as the victors in the Corinthian War, and there is no doubt that the king's influence upon Greek affairs was maintained by Sparta's dominant position in Greece,  but this time Persians allowed them only a  limited power around Hellas, and to buy an insurance against Athens future ambitions, Pharnabazus permitted Sparta to keep a small fleet in Asian waters, but  it was not large enough to be able to treat the Persian interests in the eastern Mediterranean.

Nevertheless, the position of the spartans as the defenders, prostatai of the king's peace, which had obtained by them because of their friendship with Persia, was the main objective of the Persian propaganda. ُ'The friendship with Persia entailed its own privileges and advantages,' a lesson Pharnabazus wanted the Greek cities learn. However, by 371 BC  Sparta  was again becoming too powerful, vis-a-vis its allowed limit, and thus, the Persians shifted their support towards the Thebans. As a matter of fact, the Persian support was so effective that, as Xenophon suggests, Athenians became apprehensive of Thebans' expansionist ambitions, who after all were their allies. One of Xenophon’s few references to the Second Athenian League relates to Athenian attempts to commit Thebes to swear, like her other allies, individually the oath for peace:
“To these terms, the Spartans swore for themselves and their allies; and the Athenians also [swore] with the allies city by city.”
All the Athenian allies responded positively to her call for peace except  for the Thebans, who originally ratified, but then requested to sign on behalf of all Boeotia the following day. This was against the King's Peace autonomy provision.  Spartans voted to accept a peace whose main difference from that of 386 BC, was that Sparta no longer to be its prostatai of the king's peace. In fact, there was to be no guarantor at all. thus although Sparta  as heretofore swore  to the peace on behalf of its allies, its hold on them  was appreciably enfeebled.

Agesilaus gave the Thebans  an ultimatum to either accept the truce the way it had been written or withdraw and be prepared for the war. Thebans withdrew, and the Spartan King Cleombrotus entered Boeotia with a force of ten thousand infantry and one thousand cavalry.  The Thebans led by Epaminondas, met them  Leuctra in 371 BC.  Epaminondas , not only crushed the Spartan army, but also managed to kill Cleombrotus. Sparta lost her hegemony after the battle of Leuctra in 371 BC, in which   the Thebans defeated them decisively

As part of his propaganda, in the 369-8 BC, Artaxerxes II ordered Ariobarzanes satrap of Dascylium, to send Philicus of Abydos as his representative to Hellas.  The aim of propaganda  was to show the king is still interested in the peace among the Greeks, but at the same time prevent it from coming to pass. Philicus gathered envoys from various Greek states, including Thebans and their allies, and the Spartans, at the conference in Delphi where he proposed the conditions  of a common peace supported by the king. This conference as was intended failed. The King's conditions of peace were favourable for Sparta but damaging to the interests of Thebans who, after their victory at Leuctra, had become the new hegemonoi of Greece.

In the peace conference at Susa in 367 BC envoys from various Greek states, this time including the Spartans, Athenians, Thebans, Eleans and Arcadians, discussed peace conditions favourable for Thebes . The Thebans were unable to convince the Greeks to ratify this accord. Athens even sided with her old enemy Sparta, but Thebes, with Persian backing, continued her expansionist policies and, once again led by Epaminondas, went on to defeat the Spartan and Athenian alliance at the battle of Mantineia in 362 BC, in which he himself was killed.

Xenophon frustratedly summed up the Hellas' situation after the Battle of Mantinea :
“Everyone had supposed that the winners of this battle would be Greece's rulers and its losers their subjects; but there was only more confusion and disturbance in Greece after it than before.”
The truth of his analysis was confirmed when in the mid-350s B.C. no Greek city-state had the power to assume the role of hegemonoi of Greece on a realistic basis.

Pharaoh Achoris, Maatchnumra Setepemchnum Hakor (392-379 BC) 


With the situation in Asia Minor being under control, and Artaxerxes dominance in Asia agreed upon by all the city states, the king  turned his focus of attention towards  Egyptian revolt. Artaxerexes II decided to deal a simultaneous blow to Egypt and its ally, Cyprus. Tiribazus advanced with a fleet  against Evagoras forces in Cyprus,  while Pharnabazus, Abrocomas, and Tithraustes sailed against Achoris in Egypt.

The land-attack  against Egypt; delivered by the satraps Pharnabazus, Tithraustes, and Abrocomas in 385-83 BC  was intended as a show of force, without committing the treasury to the detrimental  costs of a full-fledged war, although it was not a success it was not a failure either.  Isocrates contemptuously refers to this war in his Panegyricus as showing how little the barbarians could now do without Greek aid. Nevertheless, Achoris  expanded his interference  in Persian sphere of Phoenicia, Cilicia, and even as far as  Tyre. The Persians realized that they need to deal with these crisis one by one, and thus focused on Cyprus, where Evagoras had constructed a strong fleet and land forces with financial support from Egypt and  the Satrap of Caria , Hecatomnus,  who planned to revolt  against the king.


Tiriabaus


In 381 BC, Tiribazus who had completed his building up of an army with three hundred Ionian ships  for a battle against Cyprus, with strong land force of Greek mercenaries from Cilicia, under the command of Orontes met the forces of Evagoras  consisting  of two hundred triremes  and sixty sheeps from  Achoris, at Cyprian city of Kition, and decisively defeated them. Evagoras fled to Egypt to ask for  assistance, which Achoris was not able to provide. Meanwhile Artaxerxes II sent more reinforcement  for Tiribazus' army.

Evagoras running out of options turned to Tiribazus with a peace proposal, offering to relinquish his conquests and to pay tribute to the king. Tribazus as a propaganda ploy, agreed with his offer under the condition that he  would openly submit  to Artaxerxes II  'as slave to his master' .  Evagoras could not submit to such a degrading  proposal. However, when Athens withdrew its support, after the peace of Antalcidas, Evagoras’ troops fought without allies until they were crushed at Citium (Larnaca, Cyprus) in 381 BC.

However,  his negotiations with Tiribazus continued. Meanwhile, Orontes, who was the king's son-in-law, reported to Susa some slanderous accusations against  Tiribazus, blaming him for not being decisive in defeating Salamis because he, as Diodorus explains:
was receiving  embassies from Evagoras and conferring with him on the question of making common cause, that  he was likewise  concluding a private alliance  with the Lacedaemonians, being their friend; that he had sent to Pytho {the Delphic oracle]  to inquire the god regarding his plans for revolts; and most important of all, that he was winning for himself the commanders of the troops by acts of kindness, bringing them over by bonus and gifts and promises.

There  might have been some truths in parts of such accusations, but they were exaggerated because of the two men's rivalries. All the same, Artaxerxes could not have another Cyrus' situation in the coastal satrapies. Tiribazus was arrested and sent  to Susa, leaving Orontes as the sole commander of the fleet. However, Orontes' intrigues created some unintended consequences. Glos, Tiribazus' son-in-law, now, fearing that he might be the next to be accused of an alleged plot, which was rather exacerbating his precarious situation, because him and his father  have had  close relationships with Cyrus the younger's rebellion, defected and  according to Diodorus took with him  many of the Greek mercenaries in the Persian fleet to Cyprus.  As well, he took with him the funds that Tiribazus had received from Artaxerxes for the naval operations.

 According to Diodorus, Glos pledged full cooperation with the Spartans and offered to provide a great sum of money  along with other inducements  and promised to cooperate  with them  in Hellas and to assist them to gain  their previous supremacy.  In 380 BC, alarmed at the deteriorating  changes in the situation," Orontes sent emissaries to Evagoras  to offer a settlement on more favourable terms, according to which he  was to be the king of just of Salamis, to be obliged to pay tribute to Artaxerxes not as the king's slave, but obey his orders as a king to a king.




As Dandamaev reports, when Artaxerxes realized  'that the war, which had cost 15,000 talents, had not  reached  the desired  results', Orontes fell into disfavour  and Tiribazus  was released. Diodorus provides a lengthy account  of the trial of Tiribazus, involving a panel of three judges, with extended and various  testimonies, which led to his acquittal. According to him, Artaxerxes' commended the judges for their "just decisions," and bestowal  the highest honors on Tiribazus, declaring him as a special friend.

In 379 BC, when the relationships between Athens and Persia were improving ,  Artaxerxes begun assembling a massive  army that according to Diodorus consisted of 200,000 soldiers, plus 20, 000 Greek mercenaries, supported by a fleet under the command of Pharnabazus.  Finally, in 373,  BC  the king decided the time has arrive to deal with Egypt which was now ruled by Pharaoh Nectanebo I . Athenians sent their general Iphicrates with an army to participate  on the Persian  side.

When this army entered Egypt, the soldiers started to pillage the land and its temples, causing a horrendous bloodshed among the Egyptians, and many had been enslaved. The Persians and Greek mercenaries  then advanced toward Memphis, and it is claimed that Iphicrates advised Pharnabazus to proceed as fast as possible, before the Egyptians can build up defences. But, Pharnabazus did not listen to him. Egyptians built up fortifications  and Nile began to rise.  The army had to withdraw with  massive losses.

Pharnabazus accused Iphicrates of having prevented the success of the expedition. Most Greek historians and their sympathisers laid all the faults of failure upon Pharnabazus, without considering the fact that  to ensure a Persians'  failure was in the Athenes' Interest. Thus, it made sense for the Athenian general to play a mischievous role. In any event, being well assured that Pharnabazus would be believed in Artaxerxes' court in preference to him Iphicrates fled  to Athens in a small vessel. Pharnabazus caused him to be accused there of having rendered the expedition against Egypt  abortive. The  Athenians,  of course, never called him in question about it and some time afterward declared him the sole admiral of their fleet.

In 362 BC, Nectanebo I was succeeded by his son Pharaoh  Tachos, who immediately concluded an alliance with Ariobarzanes, the satrap of Phrygia. Tachos intended to  occupy Syria and Palestine, which were revolting against Persia. He approached Athens and Sparta, demanding mercenaries.  The old Spartan general Agesilaus and the Athenian general Chabrias arrived in Egypt with their mercenaries in 361 BC. Tachos   appointed, Chabrias and Agesilaus as the commanders of his sea forces, and mercenaries respectively.



Soon Tacho found out that he does have enough funds to pay for his massive army and his Greek mercenaries, he resorted to imposing heavy taxation on the temples and then on the people. Finally, when he was fighting in Syria , his nephew, Nectanebo II,  supported by the priesthood, people and Agesilaus revolted against him. He was forced to take refuge with Artaxerxes II in Susa, where it is reported that he died of gluttony because he could not get used to the luxurious lifestyle of Persians.

During the decade 368-58  Artaxerxes had to deal with his Satraps’ Revolt in eastern Mediterranean which  posed a serious  danger to the empire. With supports from Athens, , Sparta,  and Pharaoh Tachos, Persian satrapies of Cappadocia, under Datames, and  Phrygia, under  Ariobarzanes,  formed a coalition against the Artaxerxes and  they were joined by Lycian satrap, Autophradates and soon a few other satrap like Orontes, satrap of Mysia, the king's son-in-law, who had been demoted from Armenia to Mysia joined them.

Orontes, satrap of Mysia and Armenia


Datames, and  Orontes went so far as to mint their own coinage as a direct challenge to Artaxerxes. The revolting satrapes  chose Orontes for their general, and provided him funds for raising an additional twenty thousand mercenaries. The Spartan king Agesilaus also joined Ariobarzanes and was provided funds by rebellious satraps to hire mercenaries. Athens  supported  the Satraps’ Revolt by sending their admiral Chabrias to lead the naval contingent in 364 BC, threatening some of the strategic Greek islands. In addition, the Athenians sent 30 war ships  and 8000 mercenaries, led by their general Timotheus, to help Ariobarzanes. As Demosthenes recounted in one of his speeches :
You once sent out Timotheus, men of Athens, to assist Ariobarzanes, adding to your resolution the provision that he must not break our treaty with the king; and Timotheus, seeing that Ariobarzanes was now openly in revolt against the king, but that Samos was occupied by a garrison under Cyprothemis, who had been placed there by Tigranes, the king's viceroy, abandoned his intention of helping Ariobarzanes, but sat down before Samos, relieved it, and set it free.  (...)  
For to enter upon a war for the purpose of aggrandizement is never the same thing as to do so in defence of one's own possessions.
Seeds of this so-called  'Great Satraps' Revolt "  were sown in 387 BC, when Ariobarzanes became the satrap of Dascylium, replacing his father Pharnabazus, grandson of Darius I. He expanded his territories and by 367 BC was controlling  both sides of the Hellespont.  Tension arose between him and the adjoining satrapy of Lydia, under Autophradates, who were objecting to Ariobarzanes' encroachment into the territory that Autophradates considered his.

 In 367 BC,  Autophradares  sent emissaries to the king  denouncing Ariobarzan as traitor. Artaxerxes II declared the offender a rebel and ordered  neighbouring satraps to attack him. As Weiskopf (1989) suggests, Artaxerexes II, who had recently switched his support from Sparta to Thebes, may well have been displeased with Ariobarzanes' Greek' policy, as he was a firm friend with Sparta, and therefore the king himself decided to replace him in Hellespontine Phrygia with Artabazus. In 366-65 BC Autophradates, by land, and the Carian satrap Mausolus, by sea, laid siege to the city of Adramyttium.  In 365 BC, when the Spartan king Agesilaus arrived with  his mercenary force, according to Xenophon Autophradates:
 'who was besieging Ariobarzanes, an ally of Agesilaus in Asus, betook himself, through fear of Agesilaus, to flight. (...) Mausolus. too, when he was besieging both these places  by sea with a hundred vessels, sailed off home, not like the others, through fear, but from being persuaded by Agesilaus. He here indeed  performed actions truly worthy of admiration; for both those who thought that they had been benefited by him, and those who had fled before him, gave him money; while Tachos and Mausolus (who had also contributed money to Lacedaemon on account of his former friendship with Agesilaus) sent him home  with a magnificent escort,   
The passage sounds quite vague and no other ancient historians have reported it. The fact that Agesilaus himself  is going home, most probably refers to an accord between Agesilaus and Mausolus.

Mausolus was the son of Hecatomnus, who had became the satrap of Caria when Tissaphernes was executed. As Weiskopf (1989) has suggested  Mausolus was never a rebel.  He  remained loyal to the king, and for his services Artaxerxes II, who fully  trusted him,  delegated to him a wide range of powers, which he used faithfully at the service ofa the king.  Theopompus' allegation that Mausolus of Caria would do anything for money was most probably a criticism of his loyal service to the king. A decree from Mylasa of Artaxerxes II,  dated 365 BC to some extent evinces his relationship with the king.
Mausolus being satrap, the Mylassians determined, meeting in an authorised assembly, and the three tribes ratified, that Arlissis son of Thyssolos, sent by the Carians to the king, acted  dishonestly, and plotted against Mausolus, who is a benefactor the city of the Mylassians - himself and his father Hecatomnus  and all his ancestors. The King knowing Arlissis' crime, has sentenced him with death. According to the practices of the city of the Mylassians, his possessions according to the ancestral  laws are handed over to Mausolus. Curses they shall make about these things neither to propose hereafter anything against these things nor to put to the vote. If anyone transgresses these things, let them be utterly destroyed, himself and everything that is his.
As we shall see during the reign of the king's successor, Artaxerxes III, Mausolus was providing the same level of support for the new king, for instance during  the Social War of 357-355 BC.

By and large, Artaxerxes II, shrewdly resolved the situation, without committing the empire to a costly military operation. He played the satraps, one against another, knowing well that most of them were opportunists, who could not trust each others, and they were more than happy to betray their cause for some rewards from him. He offered Orontes a promotion to his previous satrapies, which was quite tempting. Thus, in 363 BC, when Orontes received the funds from the rebellious satraps for assembling the army, he betrayed them and kept the funds for himself, arresting the envoys who brought the funds and delivered them to the king. Reomithres, a general in the rebels' coalition, who was sent to Egypt to solicit funds, kept the five hundred talents that he had collected, plus fifty ships of war, for himself and then assembled some of the principal revolters at the city of Leucas, under the pretence of wanting to report about his negotiations, then seized them all and delivered them to the king. Soon after, Autophradates made his peace with the king , but in 360 BC he was betrayed by his own son Mithridates and was executed.

Finally, Datames' troops revolted against him. He fled and began a guerrilla warfare with a small band of his followers. Mithridates,  the son of his old ally, Ariobarzanes was assigned with the task of dealing with him. To gain Datames' confidence, who was constantly on his guard,  Mithradates pretended to have revolted from the king, and seeking alliance with him. Gaining the secret approval of the court, he made a number of hostile raids into neighbouring satrapies and shared the spoils with Datames. Finally, when he gained Datames' confidence he invited to a meeting and slew him.  Thus, by 359 BC, the great satrapal revolt was over. Artaxerexes quelled the rest of the revolters, and pardoned some, like Orontes,  allowing  them to return to their satrapies.

In 358 BC, Artaxerxes II, died at the age of 86.


Artaxerxes III, ochus(r.359- 337 BC)



Artaxerxes III, Ochus, Pharaoh of Egypt 


When Artaxerxes III ascended the throne of Persia the empire was as large as the empire of King Darius I in 485 BC, and as might be expected the problems of governing such a vast territory, which extended from the Caspian sea and Euxine to the Red Sea and Ethiopia, from the river Ganges and Indus to Aegian sea;  was as challenging as ever.

Such a vast territory constantly presented the empire with the difficult task of being prepared for the possibilities of invasion by its various restless neighbors, such as Scythians, Cadousians, Bactrians, and various Greek city-states, as well as the possibilities  of revolt and uprising in the empire's own satrapies.  For instance,  based on Epitome of Ctesias' Persica;  Photius mentions the two major challenges faced by Artaxerxes I, the revolt of Bactria, and the seemingly never-ending revolt of Egypt. Such threats were persistently present, and were  particularly ominous  during  insecure periods of transition of the power from a deceased  to a new king. This explains the long hiatuses and lags in the Persian empire's response to various national security crisis, because the reaction to every conflict needed to be prioritised according to the empire's various financial and political contingencies.

Due to the vast distances between the potential crisis points in the empire, the nation's maintenance of security and stability required a reliance on the  first response to a military conflict by the ad hoc coalitions of willing satrapies and other like-minded adjunct nations.  The high command in Susa tried to ensure that its military force structure, defence planning, command system  and strategic objectives  would promote the empire's capacity to project power economically in response to threats to its satrapies and provide a financial support for their coordinated operations. This required that Persian satrapies possess certain military capabilities  to rapidly deploy forces over long distances if necessary,  and sustain operations for relatively  long periods of time.

This was why Persians did not keep a standing army and navy. When a major operation was needed, the satrapies were free to negotiate an early response among themselves, and wait for the assembly of a major force. As  Cawkwell  (2005) suggests:
 Of course, in a sense there was a standing navy. Ships prepared for an earlier expedition would still be available. But in ancient navies the main brunt of the fighting was done by new ships, and to assemble a navy for a major expedition a substantial amount of ship-building was necessary, which was not quickly accomplished. Major expeditions therefore required major efforts. Given the known distractions of revolts in Bactria and Egypt, and other minor troubles which may be presumed, and the unsettled conditions after the death of Xerxes, the Persian response was not feeble. 
When Artaxerxes III ascended the throne the crucial concern for Persia was how to prevent a resurgence of Athenian naval power which could endanger the King's complete control of Asia. The King's Peace accord had prevented that possibility and although Athenian defeats of Spartan naval forces at the battles of Naxos in 376 BC  and Alyzia in 375 BC had given Athens the naval hegemony in joint actions with Persia in the enforcement of peace,  Artaxerxes II's accord had enough provision to preclude  Athens's opportunity of restoring her naval empire.  At the same time, Sparta and her Peloponnesian allies had naval potential which could, if necessary, be sustained with Persian help in confronting Athens.

As for Egypt, that with the support of Athens had established its own government under pharaoh Amyrtaeus in 408 BC,  Artaxerxes II's war plans had been proceeded unsatisfactorily, perhaps due to Iphicrates' intrigues and the Great Satrapies' Revolt, and now  despite facing a tense political climate in Asia Minor, particularly, in Phoenicia and Cyprus, in part due to Pharaoh Nachos' meddlesome interferences  in the Persian satrapies of Levant, Artaxerxes III, felt it was the time for Persia to resolve the question of Egypt particularly, when Nacho sought asylum in Persia.

In short, the empire handed over by Artaxerexes II  to his son  appeared to have a crumbling superstructure, but still remained formidable  because of its strong organizational foundation that  Darius I  had adroitly devised.

In 359 BC, a year before his father death and the same year that the 23-years-old Philip II became the king of Macedonia, the 34-years-old  Artaxerxes III  had attacked Egypt  in response to pharaoh Tachos' invasion of Levantine coast. But he returned to Susa due to his father death, in order to secure the crown for himself, ordering  the execution of over 80 of possible pretenders to throne as compared to Philip's who had get rid of just two.

But then Artaxerxes II is reported fathered over one hundred and fifty children from his three hundred and sixty concubines! One may also note that not all the Achaemenids princes were executed. For instance, his successor Darius III and his brother, Oxyathres, who were the great-grandsons of Darius II and their grand father, Ostanes, was the uncle of Artaxerxes III survived,  so was Arbupales the son of his elder brother Darius, and the trouble-maker Artabazus, a grandson of king Artaxerxes I.

Royal tiara with the plume of feathers standing upright upon it, The king's seven councillors' tiara had also plumes of feathers which they wore aslant, and before. All other princes wore them aslant  and behind-


Plutarch, and Justinus have uncritically reiterated  the negative propaganda of their panhellenic sources, who with the encouragement of Philip II, for the reasons that shall be discussed later, had created a massive amount of character assassination against Artaxerxes III. These exaggerated claims about him, such as Plutarch's  that  Artaxerxes III "excelled all his predecessors in cruelty and bloodthirstiness," need to be treated with some degrees of caution.

In fact, judging from the behaviour Artaxerxes III's  siblings, during the time that their father was still alive, the new king may had some reasons to fear his brothers. For instance, Darius, one of his elder brothers, who was appointed as the crown prince, and was allowed to assume the title of king and to wear the upright royal tiara,  had lost his claim to the throne because of certain unseemly behaviour that had angered his father. Darius then conspired with Tiribazus against the life of the king, his father. The plot failed and both he and Tiribazus were executed together with fifty others connected with the plot. As an aside, one may detect a pattern in  Tribazus' plots, from his past connections with Cyrus the younger's revolt,  his trial on charges of disloyalty against the king,  the revolt and defection of his son-in-law, Glos, and his son Harpates alleged murder of Prince Arsames.

Among Artaxerxes III's two other elder brothers, Ariaspes and Arsames , the first. Ariaspes was reported as worthy of the throne because of his gentle manner, intelligence, and other great qualities. It is claimed that Artaxerxes III bullied him continually, so that Ariaspes committed suicide by drinking the cup of poison. Artaxerxes II, is said, was too old to notice the treachery in this and afterwards loved Arsames all the more and placed full confidence in him. Artaxerxes III then delayed no more and with the help of Harpates, son of Tiribazus, murdered Arsames. The story, appears to be somewhat farfetched, but has provided a pretext for the story-makers to explain that the causes of the 86-years old Artaxerxes II's death were "grief and sorrow" and not his extraordinary long life!

Finally, Diodorus, explaining  Artaxerxes III's delays in reacting to Egyptian provocations writes:
And so, though regarded with contempt by the Egyptians, he was compelled to be patient because of his own inertia and peace-loving nature.

Mausolus   Satrap of Caria


It was just a year into  Artaxerxes III's reign, that  the Greek's Social War of 357-355 BC broke between Athens and her allies. Some scholars believe the main cause of the Social War was Athens’ successive attempts to reconstitute its fifth-century empire. Others argue that the outbreak of the war was due to Persian encroachments against Athens’ allies and their interest. For instance, Flower (1997) has written, Persian satrap Mausolus was;
the very man who had been instrumental in instigating the disastrous Social war of 357 BC. This war had brought Athens close to bankruptcy, as Isocrates himself lamented in his oration on the peace.
The Second Athenian League 378 BC was  established not against the King’s Peace accord, but to uphold it as defensive alliance against the aggressive and overbearing Spartans, but like the Delian League before, it  had degenerated into a power grabbing conduct by Athens, imposing various tributes, taxes, fines, and controls on her allies.


Datames the Satrap of Cilicia and Cappadocia from 384 to 362 BC,
Datames, the son of Kamisares and a Scythian mother, served as a member of Artaxerxes II’s bodyguard before he became satrap of Cilicia and Cappadocia upon his father’s death in 384 BC. Throughout his early career, he put down a revolt in Lydia, defeated the rebel governor Thyos in Paphlagonia, and briefly occupied the city of Sinope. Because of these successes, Artaxerxes II placed him in charge of the second war against Egypt, along with Pharnabazos and Tithraustes, satrap of Caria. Datames was first, however, detained by a local revolt in Kataonia, a territory within his satrapy. He was removed both from his command of the Egyptian expedition as well as the rule of his satrapy. Refusing to relinquish his authority, Datames himself revolted against the king.


 Autophradates, Satrap of Lydia (392-388), of Ionia and Lydia, 380-355 BC


Orontes satrap of Sophene and Matiene (401 – 344 BC)
Artaxerxes II made Orontes  satrap   as a reward  after the Battle of Cunaxa in 401 BC for his bravery in fight against Cyrus the Younger's Greek mercenaries.. It is likely he ruled from Armavir as the previous Satrap of Armenia, Hydarnes, had ruled from there. He also married Rodogoune, the daughter of king Artaxerxes II by one of his concubines. In the Great Satrap's Revolt  Orontes was chosen by the rebels as their leader.


Thus, with the support and ecouragement of the Persians, Thebes accused Athens of meddlesome interventions as the head The Second Athenian Sea League.  As Marshall  argues,  after the 367 BC conference at Susa Thebes operated with near-impunity and with the backing of Persia, and now she was provoking Euboea to revolt.   When the Euboeans revolted, Athens reacted and punished them and tightened its control of other allies.  In response Chios, Rhodes, Cos and Byzantion overthrew their democratic governments and broke away from Athens' alliance. The Athenian Chare was defeated in the attack upon Chios, where their general Chabrias was killed. Mausolus, the Persian satrap of Caria, supported Chios, Rhodes and Byzantium in their war against Athens, increasing the influence of Persia westwards.

In 356 BC,  Artaxerexes III felt confident enough to implement the perilous  policy of  ordering all satraps on the Mediterranean coast to discharge their mercenary troops, aimed at precluding the possibility of another so-called the Great Satraps' Revolt.  His orders were obeyed, indicating that he was firmly established as the new sovereign of the empire. He then proceeded to prosecute the rebellious satraps of the past, starting with Artabazus, his nephew — whose mother, Aspama, was a sister of his father, Artaxerxes II.  

Artabazus revolted and in 355 BC, the Athenian general  Chares,  and his Greek mercenaries sailed to assist him. Late in that year, Athens received an ultimatum from Artaxerxes.  In 354 B.C. news arrived in Athens that the Persian King Artaxerxes III, Ochus was making great military and naval preparations, and though these were, in fact, directed against his own rebellious subjects in Egypt, Phoenicia, and Cyprus, the Athenians began to worry about Chares' activity.  They being then engaged in a war against Mausolus  in Chios, Rhodes, Cos, and Byzantium,  recalled Chares. A party in Athens now wished to declare war on Persia, but Demosthenes argued that the disunion of the Hellenic peoples would render any such action unsafe: Athens had more dangerous Greek enemies nearer home, and her finances were not in a condition for such a campaign.  

The Artaxerxes III's propaganda campaign was aimed at ending the ' Social Wars', in order to secure Mausolus' gains, and  when the Athenians heard that Artaxerxes was fitting out an armament of three hundred warships,  for which they were  quite unprepared, they concluded  peace with the revolted allies, and acknowledged their independence. It was the end of the Social War, and  thereafter Mausolus' Carian-Persian garrison occupied Cos and Rhodes; the democratic constitution of Rhodes was overthrown and the democratic party driven into banishment, as the result of his oligarchic plot. In 353 BC Mausolus died, and was succeeded by Artemisia, his sister and wife. The exiles appealed to Athens for restoration, and for the liberation of Rhodes from the Carian domination. It is evident from Athenians' hesitancy to respond that they were in fear of the possible consequences of offending Artaxerxes III.

Meanwhile, Artabazus, approached the  Thebans, who needed money and hoped to add to their influence. They hired out one of their generals, Pammense, with five thousand men to aid Artabazus. In the spring of 353 BC, Phillip allowed Pammense and his army safe passage through Macedonia and Western Thrace . However, soon afterwards the Thebans found it prudent to recall him, most probably for the same reasons  as the Athenians needed to recall Chares. Pammenes was killed  in a quarrel with Artabazus.

Abandoned by the Thebans, Artabazus, who ran  out of options sought asylum with Philip II of Macedonia, where he stayed for ten years, and met the young Alexander and the philosopher Aristotle.  With him at Pella was his Rhodian brother-in-law,   Memnon. His other brother-in-law Mentor  fled to Egypt and later received a pardon from king Artaxerxes III, because of his services during Artaxerxes' Egyptian war. The three of them played a very sophisticated intelligence program as shall be seen later.

 During the Great Satraps' Revolt, apparently, the Sidon's king, Abdashatrat had supported the rebels, or at least this was what the pharaoh Tachos had told Artaxerxes III, when he had asked for asylum in Persia. After the resolution of the satraps' revolt, Sidon had been occupied by the Persians, and the city was placed under the satrap of Cilicia, and Syria,  Mazaeus, as a reward for his help in quelling of the revolt. In 357-6 the city was granted its autonomy, and a pro-Persian monarch, Tennes was installed. The Sidonian king now wore a Persian style regalia , and not an Egyptian one.

Persian - Phoenician relationships deteriorated, when Persians installed a permanent garrison in Sidon, with the ultimate objective of using it as a military base in the Mediterranean theater, particularly for the reconquest of Egypt. The economic burden of the base on the  Phoenician confederacy was enormous.

In 352 BC,  the general assembly of Phoenician cities held at Tripoli decided to end their subjugation to Persia and a year later in 351-50 BC, Artaxerxes III, sensing that the time has arrived to settle the question of Egypt, ordered his satraps to reconquer that country.  The ease at which Athens had submitted to his ultimatum and seeing that Phillip's adventures in Greece had occupied the Hellas attention,  convinced him that not much of preparation is needed.  Using Cyprus as their base, his generals  directed a relatively  large attack against Egypt. However,  Pharaoh Nectanebo II, had been quite ready for the attack.  He had put the Athenian admiral Diophantus in charge of his triremes against the  Phoenician and Cyprian vessels  of the Persian force. The Spartan Lamius was put  in charge of the Egyptian land forces. The outcome was unfavorable to the Persians.

Encouraged by the success of Egypt and there was a revolt in Phoenicia.  The rioters destroyed the royal residence, burned the stockpiles of forage for the cavalry, and executed  a number  Persian officials. They then assembled a fleet of triremes, hired mercenaries and sent envoys  to Pharaoh asking him to form an alliance. Soon the whole Mediterranean territories of Persia, including  Cilicia, Pamphylia and Pisidia revolted again.

Mazaeus the satrap of Cilicia


Artaxerxes III, assembled a large force of infantry and cavalry. In 351 BC he moved toward Phoenicia, ordering Belesya the satrap of Syria and Mazaeus the satrap of Cilicia , with their armies to join him in Phenicia. The pharaoh sent Mentor, Artabazus' brother-in-law, to assist the rebels, and he was able to drive back both the satraps. Mausolus' son, Idreius, the Satrap of Caria, who like his parents had  remained loyal to the king,  sent a fleet of triremes to Salamis.  He attacked the rebellious  Pnytagoras, son of Evagoras, who was installed by Persians after his father assassinated at the end of his war with Persia. His younger brother Evagoras, who was given a generalship in the Persian army with the Athenian Phocians , came to fight on the Persian side with eight thousand infantries  and soon their army's strength multiplied with a large number of new mercenaries from Syria and Cilicia, who joined them for the prospects of the spoils.

Tennes, the king of Sidon,
This fascinating coin appears to have been struck in the year that Sidon revolted against Persian control. Betlyon  


Tennes, the king of Sidon, alarmed at the enormity of forces brought against him, sent his emissary,  Thesslion, to the king offering to deliver the city without a fight,  providing also his advice  of how the king should proceed against Egypt, for which his information was quite valuable. Artaxerxes III, who was determined to make an example the rebellious city happily agreed with the offer. All the extensive preparations of Sidonians were frustrated  by the betrayal  of Tennes and Rhodian Mentor, the commander of the Egyptian mercenaries.  After Mentor opened the  city gates,  and six hundred of Sidon's oligarch were ambushed and killed by Tennes treachery, according to Diodorus; more than forty thousands of inhabitant were massacred. The surviving population  was enslaved  and sold .  The event is confirmed in the Babylonian chronicle.

Sidon's horrifying fate stamped the end of the revolt in the Persian satrapies.  The remaining Phoenician  cities quickly  surrendered to Artaxerxes,  so that  by 345 BC, all Phoenicia and Cyprus were again firmly under the Persian control. Tennes for his treachery  was summarily executed, and the city once again, placed under the satrapy of Mazaeus.



Artaxerxes III, who had learnt the lesson from his previous failure, of the high costs of going to war without a careful plan, this time made extensive preparations for the reconquest of Egypt.  He sent envoys, to the "greatest cities of Greece', requesting that they join his Coalition of the Willings against the Egyptians, He also levied war taxes on the Greek cities of his empire.  In 343-2 BC, Thebes  sent 1,000 hoplites under the command of Lacrates , the Argives offered 3,000 hoplites under the command of Nicostratus plus  5,000 elite troops under Aristazanes; and the Greeks at the coast of Asia Minor joined his expedition with 10,000 of the "King's Greeks", consisting 6000 under  the command of Bagoas and 4000 under the command of Mentor. But Artaxerxes III's greatest advantage was the intelligence provided by Mentor of Rhodes who was now switched from Pharaoh side to his. Nectanebo had ample time to strongly fortify his defence  positions, with Pelusium at its center of defence. His 80,000 strong troops, included 5000, Spartan hoplites under Philophron.

Artaxerxes,  led the army  himself, while watching over all "the circumstances' with a special force, and divided  the strategic and tactical commands among his Persian and Greek generals; Bagoas , Rhosaces Nicostratus, Aristaznes, Lacrates, and Mentor . This time he was successful, and Persian control was restored after a great victory at Pelusium. Mentor and Bagoas, overcame the resistance of Bubasis by announcing ,
King Artaxerxes had decided to treat magnanimously  to those who voluntarily surrender their cities, but to mete out the same penalty to those who overcome  by force as he had imposed on the people of Sidon. 
And they instructed the guards at the gates of the city to give free passage to anyone who wished to desert from the Pharaoh's side. The city surrendered, but its Greek mercenaries feeling betrayed  reacted violently, attacking the citizens. Then they saw Mentor , who advised them to attack Bagoas and his Persian contingent when they arrive to receive the city's surrender. Which according to Diodorus they did and seized Bagoas.  Bagoas "seeing that his hopes of safety depended on Mentor,"  promised to be at his service from then on. Mentor  then persuaded the Greeks to let Bagoas free, and to let the city surrender to himself.

The rest of Egypt then was conquered rapidly. However, the defeated royal family and the pharaoh Nectanebo II, were able to fled south into Nubia. Artaxerxes had the walls of Egyptian cities destroyed, plundered their temples, and was said to have personally killed the sacred Apis Bull.

Meanwhile Philip of Macedon took the advantage of the Greek city-states engagement in the Persians' Egypt expedition,  and acted  aggressively in the 350s BC. Artaxerxes III's was somewhat content with his adventures, as it pushed the Athenians , Spartans and Thebans together with their allied, to seek his protection.   Since Athens did not contribute any forces to his Egypt Expedition, Artaxerxes III refused to support Athens against the Macedonians.

However,  when in 340 BC,  Philip besieged Perinthus and Byzantium, possibly with a view of occupying the Bosporus to gain control over Athens' food supply from the Black Sea. Athens had decided to react to Philip's aggression she gathered Greek allies and  again sought Persian support. Artaxerxes responded  favourably to the request of the Athenian embassy for aid, and  ordered the Persian satraps of Asia Minor to send mercenary troops and supplies;  the Macedonians were forced to lift the siege of Perinthus. Philip then declared war on Athens, accusing her of breaching the peace and even instigating Persia to declare war on Macedon (Dem. XII. 6). He attacked Byzantium, and  seized 230 grain ships at the Bosporus.

Thus, by 340 BC Artaxerxes II had succeeded in shifting  the political balance strongly against Philip. Not only had Greek states recognised the threat posed by Philip, but had begun to form coalitions against him. As Demosthenes  put it:
.. quite recently the satraps of Asia Minor sent a force of mercenaries and compelled Philip to raise the siege of Perinthus. But today their hostility is confirmed, the danger, if he reduces Byzantium, is at their very doors, and not only will they eagerly join the war against him, but they will prompt the king of Persia to become our paymaster; and he is richer than all the rest together, and his power to interfere with Greece is such that in our former wars with Sparta, whichever side he joined, he ensured their victory and so, if he sides with us now, he will easily crush the power of Philip. 
At this juncture,  Artaxerxes III's formidable strength was clear to everybody: the Persian empire had emerged victorious from the revolts of satraps and of Cyprus and Phoenicia. Furthermore, he had reconquered Egypt decidedly and was recognised as its pharaoh.  In short as a result of Artaxerxes support, Philip failed to force Athens to surrender. 

Once again Persia was in a position to openly intervene in Greek politics and the Persian satraps had proved their ability to fight against Philip at the Hellespont. Athens was in alliances with other Greek states against Philip, and with Artaxerxes III 's commitment to  the Third Sacred War, Philip's position looked quite precarious.

Thus, he desperately resorted to a propaganda campaign in order to destroy the Persian-Athenian alliance.  He surrounded himself with panhellenics  and revived  their slogan of the 'freedom of the Greeks of Asia'. Then, with the help of his agent Mentor in the Persian court Bagoas poisoned Artaxerxes III. The cause of death was of course kept secret, and this is why a Babylonian chronicle does not mention his poisoning. All but one of Artaxerxes III's  sons were also murdered at this time. Bagoas then placed the surviving son, Arses, on the throne 338-36 BC, before finally helping to enthrone Darius III, the last Achaemenid emperor.

Phillip now attacked Athens, and was victorious at the battle of Chaeronaea of 338 BC. After which he demanded the subjected members of the 'Common Peace' took an immediate decision to declare war on Persia.





Alexander of Macedonia

After the rise of Philip to prominence in Greece, Isocrates, lamenting the destructive wars of the Greeks, called jingoistically for a great Panhellenic expedition against the “barbarians”.   Only by warring against the Persians and plundering their territory to relieve their “poverty”  Isocrates promised, can the Greeks hope to have a secure peace.  He urged that it was folly for the Greeks to fight with each other over a few barren acres of land, when the wealth of Persian empire was theirs for the taking.  In 346 BC he had thus advised Philip:
Going over these matters in my mind, I found Athens would stay peaceful only if all the greatest cities  would decide to put off hostilities among themselves  and carry the war into Asia, and if they should plan to gain from the barbarians, the advantages that the barbarians now think they should  get from the Greek. This plan I advocated before in my discourse Pangericus. (...)
With this in mind, I chose to address you. (...) To you  alone fortune has given the power  to send delegates to whomever you wish (...)  In addition , you have obtained wealth and power such as no other Greek has, and these alone are naturally suited both for persuading and for compelling.  What I am about to suggest will require , I believe, both of these, for I am about to advise you to stand at the head of Greek alliance and lead a Greek campaign  against the barbarians. Persuasion  will be useful with the Greeks; compulsion will be advantageous against the barbarians. This, then,  is the goal of the whole  discourse.   

Philip appointed Alexander as his official regent in Macedonia in 340 BC, and assigned Aristotle, as his tutor, hoping that he would be able to indoctrinate the young man in his staunch panhellenism,  which was based the premise Aristotle has stated in his Politics:
"the Greek race is both spirited and intelligent; and this is why it continues to be free, to be governed in the best way, and to be capable of ruling all others if attains a single constitution."
It was Aristotle who had tried to indoctrinate  Alexander with the conviction that various Greek cities could solve their endemic wars, and economic problems by uniting behind a single constitution and a common cause of fighting against the Persian Empire.  Aristotle's instruction materials for Alexander explained that for a unified Greece to be capable of ruling all others, she must adopt  the Persian's  effective organisation that would allow the king to communicate with furthest corners of his empire in a single day. This is what he wrote in his  On the Cosmos, for  Alexander:
The pomp of Cambyses and Xerxes and Darius was ordered on a grand scale and touched the heights of majesty and magnificence. The King himself, they say, lived in Susa or Ecbatana, invisible to all, in a marvelous palace with a surrounding wall flashing with gold, electrum and ivory; it had a succession of many gate towers, and the gateways, separated by many stades from one another, were fortified with brazen doors and high walls. 
Outside these the leaders and most eminent men were drawn up in order, some as personal bodyguards and attendants to the King himself, some as guardians of each outer wall, called Guards and the Listening-Watch, so that the King himself, who had the name of Master and God, might see everything and hear everything. Apart from these there were others appointed as revenue officials, leaders in war and in the hunt, receivers of gifts to the King, and others, each responsible for administering a particular task, as they were necessary. 
The whole empire of Asia, bounded by the Hellespont in the West and the Indus in the East, was divided into nations under generals and satraps and kings, slaves of the Great King, with couriers and scouts and messengers and signal-officers.  
And such was the orderly arrangement of this, and particularly of the system of signal-beacons which were ready to burn in succession from the uttermost limits of the Empire to Susa and Ecbatana, that the King knew the same day all that was news in Asia.

After his decisive victory against Athens and its allies at Chaeronea in 336 BC, Philip began to meticulously  and extensively exploit panhellenic  propaganda promising a retaliatory war against Persia. By the next year, in 337 BC, Philip summoned a council of representatives from all the states (synedrion), which is known as  the League of Corinth. The states were under obligation to supply troops or ships to the hegemon on demand, by quotas corresponding to their voting power on the council and the delegates at Philip's suggestion, duly declared war on Persia with Philip himself as the hegemon  and supreme commander.

Aristotle's  close associates, like Hermias and Callisthenes who propagated his panhellenism influence throughout the Greek city-states were influential in Philip's court. They knew that although panhellenism was appealing to the Greeks' sentiment, it was not easy  to implement because of the cities' fierce  tribalism. Yet even the political orators in Athens, such as Demosthenes, who regarded Philip of Macedon as a dangerous threat to Greece,  were imbued with the promises  of Panhellenism, but  urged Athens to assume its traditional role as leader of the Greeks. He orated:
I hold the king to be the common enemy of all the Hellenes; and yet I should not on that account urge you, alone and unsupported, to raise war against him. For I observe that there is no common or mutual friendship even among the Hellenes themselves: some have more faith in the king than in some other Hellenes. When such are the conditions, your interest requires you, I believe, to see to it that you only begin war from a fair and just cause, and to make all proper preparations: this should be the basis of your policy.
Herodotus himself had used Mardonius dialogue with Xerxes to sarcastically criticise the Greeks' attitude towards each other:
And yet, I am told, these very Greeks are wont to wage wars against one another in the most foolish way, through sheer perversity and doltishness. For no sooner is war proclaimed than they search out the smoothest and fairest plain that is to be found in all the land, and there they assemble and fight; whence it comes to pass that even the conquerors depart with great loss: I say nothing of the conquered, for they are destroyed altogether. Now surely, as they are all of one speech, they ought to interchange heralds and messengers, and make up their differences by any means rather than battle; or, at the worst, if they must needs fight one against another, they ought to post themselves as strongly as possible, and so try their quarrels.

Aristotle

In fact, as Briant  has suggested;  since 412 BC "all leading Greek cities vied with each other in seeking Persian subsidies or diplomatic support. None had any reason to fear Persian aggression like the Romans after Augustus' death, the Persian kings were content  with their fines imperii; bent on restoring control over Asia and Egypt, they had been very willing to promote internal discords among the Greek cities under the name of 'the freedom and autonomy of every city, great or small' . The sense of natural antagonism between Greeks and barbarians can easily be exaggerated , and in any event  to Greeks of the fourth century, even to Isocrates, Macedonians too were barbarians,(...) and it was they, not Persia whose power menaced Greek freedom."



It was in this climate that Alexander's future prospects  as the heir-apparent were jeopardized during the brief interval between a bitter succession quarrel in the Macedonian royal family and Philip's assassination. The acrimonious wrangle was triggered by Philip's announcement of his intention to marry his sixth wife Cleopatra, who was the niece of his influential general, Attalus.

The crisis deepened when Philip divorced Alexander's mother, Olympias, and accused her of adultery. Until then, virtually nobody suspected that Alexander's royal status, as the king's first-born son and the presumptive crown price would be in any doubt. However, the turn of events deteriorated his prospects fast, particularly when Philip started to propagate the rumours that Alexander himself might well be illegitimate. This episode is of interest because  examining various events which have provoked Alexander and his mother to take part in the successful plot against Philip's life could help us to  understand the root causes of Alexander's propaganda during his Persian campaign and his interest in everything Persian including its costumes.


Assassination of Philip of Macedon

Unfortunately, many historians, enthralled by Alexander's conquests at a very young age, have constructed a very distorted  historical narrative about him and his character. As Ernest Badian has argued:
This procedure is part of an attitude towards Alexander the Great of which Tarn was the most distinguished (though by no means the only) exponent, an attitude which has made the serious study of Alexander's reign from the point of view of political history not only impossible, but (to many students) almost inconceivable. (...) But it is not the business of the historian to envelop a successful military leader in an aureole of romantic idealisation, nor is it sacrilege to dispel it. Serious study is made difficult enough by the inadequacy of the sources. Yet, if the right questions are asked, some answers will begin to appear.
This is the reason we try to ask certain perhaps uncomfortable questions with the hope that they may shed light on the dynamics of historical events of his era.

We start at Philip and Cleopatra's wedding banquet, in which Alexander attended. Here Attalus, the bride's uncle, called for a toast to the prospect of the wedding couple producing "a legitimate heir to the throne". Thereupon Alexander, furiously throwing his tankard at Attalus crying; "And me, you swine, what do you think I am - bastard?" Attalus hit him with his cup and Philip who was intoxicated drew his sword to kill his son; but he tripped, fell prostrate on the floor, while Alexander left the hall, exclaiming, "Behold the man who was about to cross from Europe to Asia, but can't even make it from one couch to the next!'

Thereafter Olympias withdrew to her brother Alexander I, the king of Epirus; and her son, Alexander fled into Illyria. It was not until Demaratus intervened that Alexander returned to Macedonia. As an act of goodwill Philip offered his daughter by Olympias, Cleopatra, to Olympias’ brother Alexander I of Epirus for marriage.



Philip was assassinated on the celebration day of his daughter's wedding to Alexander of Epirus. As Philip entered the stadium for the celebration, he told his bodyguards to stand away at a distance so that he could walk with his son Alexander and his new son-in-law, Alexander of Epirus. As they proceeded through the tunnel into the stadium, the assassin, by the name Pausanias, who was waiting in the shadows, rushed toward them, pulled out a concealed dagger, and fatally stabbed Philip. He then took flight toward a team of horses as Alexander's bodyguards, but not Philip's bodyguards, chased after him. They killed the assassin on the spot, which might suggests that they acted with Alexander's approval, who wanted Pausanias dead before he could tell who had masterminded the plot.

In a highly suspicious act, another Alexander, son of Aeropus of Lyncestis, immediately proclaimed Prince Alexander as the new king of Macedonia. This was rather bizarre because Alexander of Lyncestis and two of his brothers were later officially accused by the Philip's son, Alexander to have participated in the plot. However despite executing two of the three brothers, the new king  not only pardoned the third, Alexander of Lyncestis, but went further and made him his companion and raised him to high military honours. Alexander of Lyncestis was first entrusted with the command of an army in Thrace, and afterwards received the command of the Thessalian horse. In this capacity he accompanied Alexander on his eastern expedition.

Alexander embroiled himself in yet another bizarre behaviour towards Alexander of Lyncestis when he received a report from a highly respected Macedonian old general, Parmenion about the capture of a Persian agent, Sisines, who under torture had accused Alexander of Lyncestis of participating in a plot, financed by King Darius III of Persia, to murder Alexander. The young  king, who usually reacted very fast and punished this kind of treasons immediately, hesitated this time and resorted to an elaborate machination that lasted for more than three years to punish the traitor. And at thr end  shed the blood of many others, not only Parmenion and his capable son Philotas, but also their family and associates.

Of course, Alexander recognised that the traitor, Alexander of Lyncestis, knew a lot about the conspirators behind the assassination plot against Philip. By revealing that information he could have severely damaged the legitimacy of Alexander's throne during a very critical time when he was engaged on his campaigns in a long distance away from Macedonia. What made the matter worse and even more complicated was the fact that Alexander of Lyncestis was the son-in-law of Antipater, whom the young king Alexander had left as regent of Macedonia during his Asiatic campaigns, and should Antipater have learnt about Alexander's plot against his own father Philip, then the situation would have turned real ugly.

The two Philip's  elder generals, Antipater and Parmenion, were in friendly relationships, and Diodorus speaking of the rumors that Antipater had conspired in Alexander’s death, says that, “the murder of Parmenion and Philotas struck terror into Alexander’s friends”. Plutarch reports that when Antipater heard that Parmenion had been killed by Alexander, he said, ‘If Parmenion plotted against Alexander, who can be trusted? And if he did not, what must be done?’

Going back to the Alexander's response to Parmenion's report about the capture of Alexander of Lyncestis, we notice the extraordinary precautions. The young king Alexander's message was apparently  so sensitive that he was reluctant to commit it to writing, asking his agent to memorize the message. He dispatched his response by a trusted undercover agent instructing Parmenion to detain the accused, but not to execute him until a verdict is reached based upon a secret investigation  conducted by Alexander himself of the crime.

However despite this precaution, Alexander was still quite worried about what Alexander of Lyncestis might have already told Parmenion and what Parmenion might have relayed to Antipater, the traitor's father-in-law, concerning the young king's crime against his own father Philip. This is why he encouraged his men to spy on Parmenion's son, Philotas, calculating that if Parmenion knew something, chances are that, he would be sharing the information with his son. Philotas, who was among the closest companions of Alexander in his boyhood, and have became a talented, respected and effective commander by distinguishing himself in Alexander's campaigns with valor, now was a suspect. Diodorus describes the death of Philotas as a ‘base action’ that was ‘quite foreign’ to Alexander’s good nature.

In 332 BC, Craterus one of Alexander's officers persuaded Philotas' mistress, Antigone, to spy and report what Parmenion's son was telling her. As Plutarch reports:
… Philotas uttered many indiscretions and often spoke slightingly of the king, sometimes through anger and sometimes through boastfulness.
At the time, Philotas had made no secret of his disapproval of Alexander's pro-Persian sentiments. He was critical of Alexander's visit to Ammon temple, where he had announced his lineage from the god Ammon.

The pro-Persian sentiments of Alexander was so disturbing that one of his companions, Dimnus, with support of a few other Alexander's bodyguards decided to assassinate him.  Just about six weeks earlier, Alexander  had proclaimed himself the Great King of Persia and adopted a reformed court style that included a new and grand Persian royal costume with upright tiara and an impressive set of royal insignia.

The plot was discovered because of an informant, who claimed that he had asked Philotas to inform Alexander of the plot, but since he had not done so, in despair, he persuaded a Royal Page to smuggle him into Alexander's presence so that he could warn him directly.  This provided a good pretext for Alexander to get rid of Philotas. Dimnus was killed while resisting his arrest, and over his corpse, Alexander put Philotas on trial before an Assembly of Macedonian soldiers, accusing him of masterminding the conspiracy and demanding death sentence for him.

According to Ptolemy it was in Egypt that Philotas was first reported for plotting against Alexander. Possibly the rumor was invented to make the eventual guilt of Philotas to look more plausible.   As Robin Fox argues:
For in Philotas' case , so far as it is known there were few solid truths which the informers could have adduced. They cannot have known him to be involved in the conspiracy , for they chose him as the fit man to expose it to Alexander. (...) Had Philotas indeed been plotting, he would have welcomed the informer's approaches as a stroke of extraordinary luck; he could have arranged for them to be silenced or at least acted swiftly before they turned to any one else.
 Alexander organized a trial for Philotas, and in the trial he produced an intercepted letter from Parmenion to his son that contained the line:
"first of all take care of yourselves and that of your people - that is how we shall accomplish our purpose".
Even though Philotas had insisted on his innocence,  the military court found him guilty. Still Alexander was not completely satisfied. Philotas was subjected to a sever torture that was administered by three of Alexander's intimate friends; Hephaestion, Craterus,  and Coenus, while Alexander himself hiding behind a curtain paid attention to every detail. Torture broke Philotas as it would any man and he confessed that he and his father had wanted to kill Alexander, whose claim to be the son of Ammon was scandalous.  He was either stoned to death (Curtius), or was pierced by javelins (Arrian).

Soon after, Alexander thought it was time to silent the old general Parmenion before he gets the news of his son's execution. As Thomas Martin and Christopher Blackwell write:
Alexander sent one of his Companions - disguised in Arab clothing riding on Camel - on rushed journey to Ecbatana carrying letters that authorised the death of Parmenion without trial. The messenger covered 800 miles of desert at feverish pace; he arrived before the eleventh day , and more importantly, before any news of the trial and execution of Philotas.
Alexander's messenger was Polydamas a friend of Parmenion, who was to take two letters with him one to Parmenion signed with Philotas’ seal;  and the other from Alexander to the generals under Parmenion’s command. Polydamas gave Alexander's written message to the generals. In the morning next day Parmenion received his friend Polydamas with the generals. Polydamas delivered the counterfeit sealed message of his son Philotas. As Parmenion read the message, Alexander's men finished their mission, striking off the head of the old respected general.

Parmenion’s  outraged soldiers gathered in anger, demanding the murderers to be surrendered, however, their rebellion was quelled only after Alexander’s message had been read aloud, explaining that Parmenion and Philotas had treacherously plotted for regicide.

Alexander adopted a golden throne and dressed in the Persian diadem, girdle and striped tunic. Inside his tent, the five hundred Persian Shield Bearers kept guard aided by a thousand oriental bowmen dressed in flame-scarlet, vermilion and royal blue. Five hundred Persian Immortals stood behind them, flaunting their glorious embroidery and their spear-butts, carved like a pomegranate; outside the tent, the Royal Squadron of elephants attended by 1,000 Macedonians, 10,000 lesser Persian Immortals and 500 privileged Wearers of the Purple. Magi, concubines, staff-bearers and bilingual ushers continued to play the prominent part they had earned in Persia for the past 200 years.

By this splendour, Alexander and his courtiers were involved in the old externals of a Persian monarchy. When they held audience in their park, reclining on ornate sofas, they were following a long-lived Persian precedent; the king’s throne and audience tent had deep roots in the Persian past, as did the incense-burners which smoked by his side. Visitors would pay him their Persian proskynesis: he would ride in the privileged chariot, symbol of king and conqueror, and be drawn by the white team of heavy Median horses which had such sacred overtones for his followers. Like a Persian King, he celebrated two birthdays and was honoured by a personal Royal Fire; sacrifices were offered by oriental courtiers to his august spirit, while even his robust drinking habits had links with the necessary virtues of Persian kingship. Robin Lane Fox


According to Diodorus there was a purge in Parmenion's army and Curtius reports that soldiers' mail were censored, perhaps to suppress the spread of news about the whole fiasco. Finally, in the country of the Drangae the Macedonian army was persuaded to demand the trial of Alexander of Lyncestis, who had remained under guard for three years. He was put to death at Prophthasia, apparently without any trial (Curtius, Justin, Diodorus, Arrian).

The bloodshed related to the question of illegitimacy of Alexander did not end with the killing of Parmenion, Philotas, Alexander of Lyncestis and their associates. In the autumn of 328, during a drinking party at Maracanda in Sogdia, when some companions called him the son of Zeus Ammon and made sarcastic remarks about Alexander's supposed father Philip, Clitus, an officer of the Companion cavalry under Philotas, who had served under Philip, was extremely agitated and began to praise Philip. He asked Alexander the permission to speak out freely, otherwise, he asked ' what would be the point to invite to dinner freemen who dare to speak their minds? Alexanser's Persian courtiers, he said are "slaves, who would do obeisance to his white tunic and Persian girdle."
"... it is by the blood of Macedonians, and by these wounds, that thou art become so great as to disown Philip and make thyself son to Ammon."
Clearly, by reminding Alexander of his supposedly real father, Philip, Clitus had touched a raw nerve. Hearing his words, the drunken Alexander pushed aside his bodyguards Ptolemy and Perdiccas and run a lance through Clitus, who died on the spot.

Execution of Philotas, Flemish, active 3rd quarter of 15th century, (1450 - 1475)


The question is what was the truth about the assassination of Philip II? Or to put in other words are there circumstantial evidence that suggests  Alexander was guilty of regicide? Plutarch reports that there were those who accused Alexander of being a participant in the plot.
For it is said that when Pausanias, after the outrage that he had suffered, met Alexander, and bewailed his fate, Alexander recited to him the iambic verse of the "Medea"
-"The giver of the bride, the bridegroom, and the bride."
In this Euripides' poem Creon says to Medea :

"I hear that you are making threats:
against the giver of the bride, the bridegroom, and the bride,
to do us some injury.

The targets were clear in Alexander's cryptic instruction to the assassin;  the bride-giver was Attalus, the bridegroom Philip and the bride Cleopatra. Justin provides more details on the possibility of Alexander's participation in the plot:
It is even believed that he (Pausanias) was instigated to the act by Olympias, Alexander’s mother, and that Alexander himself was not ignorant that his father was to be killed; as Olympias had felt no less resentment at her divorce, and the preferment of Cleopatra to herself, than Pausanias had felt at the insults which he had received. As for Alexander, it is said that he feared his brother by his step-mother as a rival for the throne. (...)
Olympias, it is certain, had horses prepared for the escape of the assassin; and, when she heard that Philip was dead, she put a crown of gold on the head of Pausanias, as he was hanging on a cross. A few days later, it is said that she burnt the body of the assassin upon the remains of her husband, and made him a tomb in the same place. 
She forced Cleopatra, the unfortunate wife  of Philip, to hang herself, having first killed her daughter in her lap and consecrated the sword, with which the king had been killed, to Apollo, under the name of Myrtale, which was Olympias’s own name when a child. And all these things were done so publicly, that she seems to have been afraid lest it should not be evident enough that the deed was promoted by her”

The key question is whether  Attalus' sarcastic remark with respect to the legitimacy of Alexander had any basis  in truth? Was Alexander the biological son of Philip? Many historians have  reported  about those Macedonians, other than general Attalus, who also doubted that Alexander was the legitimate son. If he was not Philip's biological son, then the conflict between Philip and Alexander  is largely explained.   Ancient historians suggest that  Alexander's mother, Olympia, was pregnant before marrying him. It appears that both Philip and Olympias concocted an elaborate alibi to conceal the inconvenient truth. As Plutarch reports:
The night before the consummation of their marriage, she dreamed that a thunderbolt fell upon her body, which kindled a great fire, whose divided flames dispersed themselves all about, and then were extinguished. And Philip, some time after he was married, dreamt that he sealed up his wife's body with a seal, whose impression, as be fancied, was the figure of a lion. Some of the diviners interpreted this as a warning to Philip to look narrowly to his wife; 
It appears that Plutarch implies  that Olympias was pregnant before her wedding, as indicated by the sealing of her womb. The diviners' warning to Philip about his wife is also somewhat indicative. As Peter Green argues 'it has been suggested that Philip's turbulent barons were determined to have a pure-blooded Macedonian heir to the throne, and therefore forced the king's hand.'

Alexander himself, perhaps being aware that Philip was not his biological father, identified himself by his mother tribe as an Aeacid. In the paternal Greece and Macedonia, he, according to Arrian, boasted  that he was descended from the genos of Neoptolemus, Olympia's father. Then there is the narrative in the Pseudo-Callisthenes' tale of Alexander, and the Syriac version, in which Alexander is the son  of the Egyptian Pharaoh Nectanebo who devise an elaborate scheme to go to bed with Olympias.

Pharaoh Nectanebo II, Museum August Kestner, Hannover, Germany



We have already discussed the propaganda of the Egyptian priesthoods against  their Persian conquerors, Cambyses, and it is quite likely that this text follows the same pattern of propaganda against the Persian invaders.  As Fildes and Fletcher have observed, even Alexander the Great remembered Plato’s words, that in Egypt it is not possible for a king to rule without the priests’ support.

In the propaganda part of Alexander Romances, we read that when Alexander returned from the city of Mothone to his father and saw before him men in barbarian clothing, he inquired:
"Who are these men?" And they said, ''They are the satraps of Darius." Alexander asked, "Why have they come here?" And they replied, "They are demanding the customary tribute from your father." "From whom were they sent here?'' asked Alexander; and they replied, "From the king of the Persians, Darius." Alexander continued, "Why do they demand tribute?" They answered and said, "For the lands of Darius."
Then, to his  father's delight, Alexander informs the satraps that his father will not send the customary tribute.
Then the messengers of Darius came to him, bringing him a letter, a leather thong, a ball, and a chest of gold. Alexander opened the letter and read: "I, king of kings, kinsman of the gods, who share the throne of the sun god, Mitra, and rise with the sun, Darius, myself a god, give my servant Alexander these orders. I advise you to withdraw and return to your parents, who are in servitude to me, and to remain on the lap of your mother, Olympias; for at your age, one still requires training and nursing and lap-feeding. Therefore, I have sent you, with this letter, a leather thong and a ball and a chest of gold so that you might choose which you want: either the thong, which shows you that you still need discipline, or the ball, so that you might play with those of your own age, and with that childish stature of yours, not pose as a fearsome bandit and, taking on the airs of a robber chieftain, harass cities. For even if the whole world joined together, it would not be able to undo the power of the Persians. For the size of my armies is as vast as the sands that no one can count. And there is gold and silver enough to fill every field, and this whole land.  Therefore, I sent you that chest full of gold, so that if you have none, you might give those thieves of yours enough that each of them might be able to live and reach his own village. Then, should you not accept my orders to you, I shall send ruthless men to seize you, for you shall not be so lucky as not to be captured by my soldiers. And once captured, you shall not be admonished as the son of Philip, but rather you shall be crucified as a disobedient and wicked rebel and robber chief." (...)
 A day later, Alexander  responds. In his letter he makes some sarcastic remarks like "It is the shame of shames that so great a king as Darius, who is bolstered by such great forces and shares the throne of the gods, fall under the humble and abject servitude of a single man, Alexander." He writes:
 "why did you write me that you have so much gold and silver stored away? So that we might learn of this and, out of desire for the gold, bravely fight against you so that your possessions too, might be ours? For if I conquer you, I shall be a great and famous king both among the Hellenes and the barbarians, for I have slain the great king of kings, Darius. But if you should defeat me, you have done nothing of valor, for you have defeated a robber chief, as you wrote me. 
He then offers his own interpretation of Darius' symbolic gifts.  He sees the thong to mean he can thrash Darius' people and subjugate them into slavery, the ball  to mean that he shall master the world and the chest of gold he takes as a great omen  having been defeated by him Darius shall humbly pay tribute to him.

It is important to recall that Nectanebo, who was defeated by Artaxerxes III, Ochus (359–338 BC) at Pelusium in the Nile River delta in 343 BC was a Greek ally, that after his defeat fled to Thebes the capital of Nubia, where he died in 342-41 BC. This Nectanebo, in various versions of Pseudo-Callisthenes tale that combine historical facts with fictional  propaganda,  is reported to had traveled to the court of Philip II of Macedon after his defeat by Persians in the guise of an Egyptian magician. A typical  version reads:
King Philip happened to be childless by his wife, and as he was going to be away at war for a long time, he called to her and said, " Take note of this: if you do not bear me a son after I return from the war, you shall never know my embrace again".
Nectanebo finds his way to court where Olympias asks him:
"Examine mine and Philip's birth signs; for it is rumored that when he comes back from war, he is going to put me aside and take another wife."
Nectanebo informs her that the rumor is true and volunteers to help her to avoid rejection by Philip. He advises her that she must have intercourse with an incarnate god, become pregnant by him and bear his son and bring him up.
So Nectanebo left the queen's chamber and collected from a desert place certain herbs which he knew to be reliable in dream-divination. He made  an infusion with them. (...) That very night, she had a vision of herself being embraced by the god Ammon. As he rose to leave her, he said to her, "woman, in your womb you now carry a male child who will avenge you".  (...)
And when Olympias awoke from her sleep, she was amazed at the learned diviner, and she said: "I saw the dream and the god that you told me about, and now I wish to be united with him. Now let this be your concern; you should notify me at whatever hour he would mate with me, so that I might be found most ready for the bridegroom." And he said: "First of all, my lady, what you saw was a dream; but that very one who was the god in the dream is coming to unite with you. Allow me to sleep near you in the room, so that you be not afraid when the god is upon you."And she said: "You have spoken wisely, Prophet. I shall give you access to my room; and if I experience the mating and conceive, I shall greatly honor you as an infallible seer, and I shall receive you as though you were father of the child." (...)  
Her stomach was swelling, and she asked, "Prophet, what shall I do if Philip comes and finds me pregnant?" And he said: "Be not afraid, my lady, for the god Ammon is helping you in this matter; he will come to him in a dream, and inform him of what was destined to happen. And you are to be unreproached and unpunished by him."

Artaxerxes I's cartouche (right) in front of Amun-Min (left), Drawing of a rock inscription from Wadi Hammamat . Year 5 of Artaxerxes I of Persia, 27th Dynasty, Late Period


Although, such propaganda do not shed much of light for us to understand why Philip had decided to change his succession plan and delegitimize Alexander, it is still of use because it offers the probability that the Egyptian priest might have distorted a true story about Alexander's lineage. The letters are also important since they clearly mention Darius's adherence to Mithraism beliefs.    But then the question remains; what was the true story about Alexander lineage? For  Peter Green, Philips' motive  for  his change of succession plan is clear;
In fact there is one motive, and one only, which could have driven Philip to act as he did: the belief, justified or not, that Alexander and Olympias were engaged in a treasonable plot to bring about his overthrow. Nothing else even begins to make sense. If this is what was in the king's mind, his conduct at once becomes intelligible.
This then raises the question; did Philip have a valid reason for his suspicion, i.e., did Alexander want to overthrow his father?  Why Philip toyed with the idea of illicit affairs of Olympias and the illegitimacy of his son?! A clue that may help us to solve this puzzle is to find the reasons behind Alexander's great obsession with Persia and the Persian kings.

When Alexander was about five years old,  around 351 BC, as Arrian reports; Artaxerxes III signed a treaty of friendship with Philip II. This treaty was the reason why the king refused to provide support to Athens when it sends a delegation to ask for the Artaxerxes' help against Philip (Demosthenes). Only a few years later Alexander met some Persian envoys. As Plutarch reports;
While he was yet very young, he entertained the ambassadors from the King of Persia, in the absence of his father, and entering much into conversation with them, gained so much upon them by his affability, and the questions he asked them, which were far from being childish or trifling
(for he inquired of them the length of the ways, the nature of the road into inner Asia, the character of their king, how he carried himself to his enemies, and what forces he was able to bring into the field), 
 that they were struck with admiration of him, and looked upon the ability so much famed of Philip to be nothing in comparison with the forwardness and high purpose that appeared thus early in his son.
The beginning of Alexander’s use of Persian dress can be dated to 330 b.C.e. Plutarch  reported that the king adopted barbarian costume in that year and noted that this was only in the presence of easterners or his companions at first but later when he was riding and giving audiences. Ephippus of Olynthus, a contemporary of Alexander, reported that almost every day Alexander wore a purple chlamys, a chiton with a white middle, and the kausia on which he had a diadem. Diodorus reports that Alexander wore the diadem, the partly white tunic and the Persian belt, and appears to assign this to 330 BC. onwards. Eratosthenes of Cyrene describes Alexander’s dress as a mixture of Persian and Macedonian elements and reports that Alexander preferred the Persian rather than the Median dress (or what is now called the “riding dress” or “cavalry dress” by modern scholars), since he rejected the tiara, the Candys (full-sleeved jacket), and the anaxyrides (trousers).This agrees with Plutarch and Diodorus.


It is interesting that Philip was absent in the meeting of Alexander with Persian ambassadors and it is not clear why the Persian envoys had agreed to meet the very young prince. Alexander's curiosity about Persia and the character of its king and ambassadors' willingness to talk about these issues are additional indications for a conjecture that Artaxerxes III had sent them to visit the boy. Philp was absent as a matter of courtesy toward his overlord.  The ambassadors' admiration for Alexander sounds like the familiar flattery uttered by the sycophants in the Persian court and definitely not kind of pleasantries appropriate for a diplomatic occasion, as their observations were explicitly derisory comparison against Philip.

In fact, Alexander was so eager to be connected with Persia that when the Persian satrap of Caria, Pixodarus, offered the hand of his eldest daughter to his half-brother, Arrhidaeus, Alexander reacted by sending an actor, Thessalus of Corinth, to advise Pixodarus that he should offer his daughter's hand to him and not to his half-witted brother. The suggestion that this idea was planted by Olympias and several of Alexander's friends who suspected that this was a Philip ploy,  to make Arrhidaeus his heir, does not make much of sense. Had Pixodarus accepted Alexander's proposal, Philip  still could have gone ahead with his alleged plan to proclaim Arrhidaeus as his successor if he wanted.




Artaxerxes II Mnemon (r.404-359 BC)


Alexander fascination, or perhaps obsession, with Persia needs to be explained. His constant reading of the Xenophon's "Education of Cyrus the Great" (Cyropaedia) or March of 10,000 (Anabasis) and his attempt to emulate Cyrus the great can offer psychological clues for understanding the behaviour of an abandoned child who tries to find his roots. Eunapius, the sophist and historian,  has suggested in his Lives of the Sophists that ‘Alexander the Great would not have become great if there had been no Xenophon.’

As Gruen notes; Xenophon  provided a glowing tribute  to the younger Cyrus, in his book Anabasis, the story of the younger Cyrus who marched with 10,000  Greek mercenaries against his brother Artaxerxes II,
 which began , significantly  enough, with a comparison to Cyrus the Great . The younger Achaemenid , so Xenophon exclaimed, had the most kingly bearing and was  the most worthy of rule of all Persians since the original Cyrous himself.   
Alexander felt a close bond with Achaemenid royals, from Cyrus the great, to queen Sisygambis, and even Darius III.   As Arrian reports; at Pasargadae:
Aristobulus relates that Alexander found the tomb of Cyrus, son of Cambyses, broken into and robbed, and that this act of profanation caused him much distress. The tomb was in the royal park at Pasargadae; a grove of various sorts of trees had been planted round it; there were streams of running water and a meadow with lush grass.
(...)
 Alexander had always intended, after his conquest of Persia, to visit the tomb of Cyrus;  and now, when he did so, he found that all it contained except the divan and the coffin had been removed. Even the royal remains had not escaped desecration,  for the thieves had taken the lid from the coffin and thrown out the body; from the coffin itself they had chipped or broken various bits in an attempt to reduce its weight sufficiently to enable them to get it away. However, they were unsuccessful and went off without it. 
 Aristobulus tells us that he himself received orders from Alexander to put the monument into a state of thorough repair: he was to restore to tie coffin what was still preserved of the body and replace the lid; to put right all damage to the coffin itself, fit the divan with new strapping, and to replace with exact replicas of the originals every single object with which it had previously been adorned; and, finally, to do away with the door into the chamber by building it in with stone, covered by a coat of plaster, on which was to be set the royal seal.

Alexander affection for Cyrus was so great that he even rewarded the people who had supported Cyrus in his campaigns. A case in point is that of the Benefactor tribe in the territory of the Arimaspians near Drangiana. Cyrus had renamed this tribe the Benefactors because they had brought  him 30,000 wagons of provisions when he had run out of supplies while on nearby desert campaign. In recognition of their loyalty to Cyrus, Alexander gave the tribe a large sums of money and exempted them from all taxation. (Curtius, Arrian, Diodorus). As Freya Stark writes;
[T]he correspondences between Arrian and Plutarch and the Cyropaedia are far too numerous to be merely accidental. Alexander's admiration for Cyrus is constantly recorded- his anxiety to visit the tomb; his distress when he found it rifled; his rewarding of the Benefactors; his care to follow the precedents set by the ancient king. All this bears out his reading of the Cyropaedia, of which many passages might easily be transferred to Arrian or Curtius.




 The warm feeling of Alexander for the Persian royal family was mutual and run very deep.  As both Curtius and Diodorus report, Sisygambis, Darius III's mother, turned her face to the wall and starved herself to death due to her immense grief over the death of Alexander. Diodorus thus  reports of the first encounter of the queen mother with Alexander:
Someone came to the wife and the mother of Darius and told them that Alexander had come back from the pursuit after stripping Darius of his arms. At this, a great outcry and lamentation arose among the women; and the rest of the captives, joining in their sorrow at the news, sent up a loud wail, so that the king heard it and sent Leonnatus, one of his Friends, to quiet the uproar and to reassure Sisygambis by explaining that Darius was still alive and that Alexander would show them the proper consideration. In the morning he would come to address them and to demonstrate his kindness by deeds. As they heard this welcome and altogether unexpected good news, the captive women hailed Alexander as a god and ceased from their wailing.

So at daybreak, the king took with him the most valued of his Friends, Hephaestion, and came to the women. They both were dressed alike, but Hephaestion was taller and more handsome. Sisygambis took him for the king and did him obeisance. As the others present made signs to her and pointed to Alexander with their hands she was embarrassed by her mistake, but made a new start and did obeisance to Alexander.  He, however, cut in and said, "Never mind, Mother. For actually he too is Alexander." By thus addressing the aged woman as "Mother," with this kindliest of terms he gave the promise of coming benefactions to those who had been wretched a moment before. Assuring Sisygambis that she would be his second mother he immediately ratified in action what he had just promised orally.


Curtius paints a memorable picture of Darius' forces as they marched from Babylon. Sunlight gleamed on the gold, silver and gemstones that adorned the thousands of Persian chariots, weapons, and soldiers. All this luxury imparted to the Persian troops "an almost effeminate refinement, that weakened their capacity for war. 

He decked her with her royal jewelry and restored her to her previous dignity, with its proper honours. He made over to her all the former retinue of servants which she had been given by Darius and added more in addition not less in number than the preceding. He promised to provide for the marriage of the daughters even more generously than Darius had promised and to bring up the boy as his own son and to show him royal honour.  He called the boy to him and kissed him, and as he saw him fearless in countenance and not frightened at all, he remarked to Hephaestion that at the age of six years the boy showed a courage beyond his years and was much braver than his father. As to the wife of Darius, he said that he would see that her dignity should be so maintained that she would experience nothing inconsistent with her former happiness.
This kind treatment of the royals is in sharp contrast to Alexander's frequent savageries. In fact, there is a considerable body of evidence demonstrating that he was a cruel man. For instance,  When he entered Phoenicia, he emulated the Artaxerxes III's horrifying treatment of Sidon,  As Markoe writes:
Like Artaxerxes Ochus before him, Alexander dealt harshly with his conquered prize, determined to make an example of the rebellious city. Of Tyre's surviving population (...), six thousand were executed and another thirty thousand sold to slavery. As for reprisal for the death of Macedonian prisoners, two thousands  young men were impaled along the coast, their crucified bodies left as a grisly reminder of the Macedonian might and retribution.

He had totally destructed Thebe as well.  Diodorus and Curtius report that although Persepolis surrendered without any resistance many Persians were killed or committed suicide, and Plutarch writes:
In this country, then, as it turned out, there was a great slaughter of the prisoners taken; for Alexander himself writes that he gave orders to have the inhabitants butchered, thinking that this would be to his advantage.
His savagery toward his own childhood friend, Philotas, and his father, Parmenion, as well as his murder of Cleitus are other  well documented instances.  Even during a hunting expedition, when poor Hermolaus struck a wild boar before giving him a chance to do so, Alexander in his rage ordered that he be whipped and  his horse be confiscated.  This is why his tender behaviour towards the Persian royals is quite perplexing.

Greek Chariot




Alexander III of Macedonia

Olympias of Epirus
Philip II of Macedonia




One might ask how come such a cruel man showing so much kindness and generosity toward Sisygambis, decking her with royal jewelry and restoring her to her previous dignity? We may ask why Sisygambis took Hephaestion for the king?  Was it because " he was taller and more handsome,"  as Plutarch suggests, or was it because Alexander had a more familiar look in contrast to Hephaestion who looked more Greek?  The affection Alexander felt for sisygambis seems like rooted in blood ties, a 'personal bond' as noted by ‎J. C. Yardley and ‎Pat Wheatley:
The Alexander historians consistently portray Sisygambis as 'mother' of the Macedonian king and Alexander as dutiful 'son'. Some of this of course have to do with the language of royalty, where monarchs were in the habit of using terms of kinship,  but sources  (in this case, perhaps Cleitarchus via Duris or Timagenes) are intent upon emphasising the personal bond. 
According to Curtius Alexander's relationship with Sisygambis was so solid that she was able to intervene on behalf of the Uxians, and save them from the wrath of Alexander. Furthermore, when Bessus stabbed his cousin, King Darius III, to death and fled into the night, Alexander treated the dead king's body with honour and in a kind gesture covered him with his cloak, then sent the body to his mother, Sisygambis, for proper burial in the city of Persepolis.




It was precisely in Parthia, just before the "conspiracy of Philotas," that Alexander first dressed and behaved conspicuously  as the new Great King of Persia (Curtius, Diodorus, Plutarch). This alarmed the Macedonian soldiers at Opis. They mutinously protested and demanded "for discharge  of every man in the army", Arrian reports, it was because they resented  many things  which throughout  the campaign Alexander had done "to hurt their feelings, such as his adoption of Persian dress." Arrian, of course  relates this to Alexander's intention "to bring the Eastern nations to feel that they had a king who was not wholly a foreigner, and to indicate to his own countrymen his desire to move away from the harsh traditional arrogance of Macedonia".

However, if this was true one might ask, why did he choose only Persian attire? As we saw in Darius I inscription, he talks bout 23 nations in his empire and as we saw each one of them had their own distinct costumes. Why then Alexander chose only Persian, and not say Babylonian or Assyrian as well? Alexander  himself in his Opis speech talked about various conqured people other than Persians and Medes, such as Bactrians, Sacae, Arachotians, Drangaes, Chorasmians and others. Yet he still revealed his obsession when to show his anger towards the mutinous soldiers;
"he sent for the Persian officers who were in the highest favor and divided them among the command of the various units of the army. Only those whom he designated his kinsmen were now permitted to give him the customary kiss."  
This was why, as Arrian reports Callines, an officer of the Companions, distinguished both by age and rank,  protested:
'My lord, what hurts us is that you have made Persians your kinsmen—Persians are called "Alexander's kinsmen"—Persians kiss you. But no Macedonian has yet had a taste of this honour.'
 Moreover; Plutarch, Arrian, Curtius and Justin  all  report how Alexander murdered Clitus,  his friend and  one of commanders of the elite Companion cavalry at the end of a long drunken quarrel, in Sogdiana, late in 328 BC, mainly because the man was objecting to Alexander's sympathies towards Persians at the expense of the Macedonians, and perhaps more importantly his disregard for Philip.

Clitus served with distinction under Philip, and  during the battle at Granicus, while he was stationed on Alexander's immediate right he saved Alexander's life by killing a Persian who attacked Alexander from the rear.




When in the aftermath of the Philotas affair, Alexander divided the former command of Philotas, the Companion cavalry, he assigned half to Hephaestion and half to Clitus, but according to Curtius; just before the fatal banquet, Alexander had appointed Clitus satrap of Sogdiana and Bactria, but that Clitus had not yet taken up his duties when he was killed.


 As Plutarch,  reports Cleitus was not happy with how Alexander had forgotten  his Macedonian roots, and the fact that he allowed the the Macedonian generals who had been defeated by Persians to be ridiculed. He wrote:
Heavy drinking had already started when some songs were sung, composed by a certain Pranichus (or, as some say, Pierio), intended to shame and ridicule some generals who had recently been defeated by the barbarians. The older men there were annoyed and abused the poet and the singer, but Alexander and those sitting with him enjoyed listening to them and told him to carry on. By this time Cleitus was drunk, and being by nature rough in temper and stubborn he became very angry, saying that it was not right that the Macedonians should be insulted in the presence of barbarians and enemies, when they were better than those who were laughing, even though they had had some bad luck.   


 Arrian's report is  similar, but emphasises that: 'Cleitus had clearly been annoyed for a long time by the way Alexander had changed his behaviour to a manner more appropriate for barbarians.' This is also quite evident from what Plutarch quotes Cleitus' compliant:
“Even now, Alexander, we don’t get away with it,” he said, “since we pay such a high cost for our suffering, and we call happy those who already have died before they saw Macedonians beaten with Persian sticks or having to ask Persians before we approach our king.”
 But more importantly, Arrian  mentions the psychological trigger  that upsets the adopted son.  When some of the attendees tried belittle  Philip's achievements by saying they 'were neither great nor wonderful, Cleitus was no longer able to restrain himself, showing respect for what Philip had achieved, but belittling Alexander and all he had done'.
Alexander could no longer endure Cleitus’ drunkenness and insolence, and leapt up in anger towards him, but was held back by those who were drinking with him. Cleitus did not stop insulting Alexander, and then Alexander shouted out a summons for the royal guard; when no one obeyed him, he said that he was in the same position as Darius, when he was arrested by Bessus and his followers, and all he had left was the title of king. His companions were no longer able to restrain him, and he leapt to his feet; some say that he grabbed a spear from one of his bodyguards and struck Cleitus with this and killed him, while others reported that he used a pike taken from one of the guards.






It was Aristotle who had sent  Callisthenes, his nephew, to attend Alexander as the historian of his Persian expedition, whose tasks appears  was to continue Alexander's indoctrination in panhellenism and to check on his disturbing Medizing sentiments. The panhellenism biases of Callisthenes is noted by many scholars (Pearson 1960, Hamilton 1969,  Pédech 1984, Prandi 1985, Bosworth 1990, Devine 1994), as he seems to have written up Alexander's campaign as a great panhellenic crusade. Arrian quotes a remark by Callisthenes, that he had been embedded in Persian expedition to make Alexander's reputation. It appears that Alexander did not like Callisthenes, since as Plutarch reports:
  Alexander said in allusion to him:— "I hate a wise man even to himself unwise."
According to Curtius Rufus in 327 BC Alexander gave a banquet in which he invited not only his chief Macedonian and Greek friends, but also members of the Persian aristocracy to introduce to his compatriots the Persian practice of proskynesis, i.e. prostration before the king to show adoration. It had been arranged in advance that Alexander would withdraw from the banquet, and that in his absence Cleon would broach the question about Alexander's demand (Truesdell Brown 1949).

According to Arrian's version of the event, when Alexander returned to the banquet,  he drank from a cup which was then passed to one of the guests. He in turn drank from the cup, prostrated himself before the king, and then received a kiss. When the cup came around to Callisthenes he drank from the cup but refused to perform the proskynesis, Alexander who was engaged  in conversation with Hephaestion, failed to notice the omission. But when Callisthenes was approaching to kiss the king, a certain Demetrius said that he was doing so without having prostrated himself and the king refused to kiss Callisthenes, who resumed his place with a sarcastically loud remark; 'Very well then, I shall go away the poorer by a kiss'.

Callisthenes days from then on were numbered. When Alexander's young Macedonian bodyguards were discovered to have plotted his death, they were tortured and confessed their guilt, but they steadily refused to implicate Callistines. However, Ptolemy, and Aristobulus say he was guilty of participating in the plot. Callisthenes were put under arrest and later executed.

Death of Alexander, by Jean II Restout, 17th century

The Greek historian Arrian of Nicomedia  in  his Anabasis mentions a letter of Darius to Alexander, recalling how Philip had been in friendship and alliance with Artaxerxes III, Ochus. This is apparently the only evidence for the existence of friendship treaty between the two that has survived the panhellenic censorship. Furthermore, when Alexander responded to Darius, who  demanded that he should "restore from captivity his wife, his mother, and his children," Alexander's reply contained a curious accusation about Darius' crime against his own country:
[M]y father was killed by assassins whom, as you openly boasted in your letters, you yourselves hired to commit the crime; you unjustly and illegally seized the throne of Persia, thereby committing a crime against your country; you sent the Greeks false information about me in the hope of making them my enemies; you attempted to supply the Greeks with money, your agents corrupted my friends and tried to wreck the peace which I had established in Greece—then it was that I took the field against you.
Why Alexander was suggesting Darius 'illegally seized the throne,' especially  in a paragraph where he was complaining about the assassination plot that killed his father? Darius III,  whose birth name was Artashata, according to Diodorus, was  a grandson of the brother of Artaxerxes III, Ostanes.  His father, Arshama, had married Sisygambis, the daughter of Artaxerxes II  Mnemon. He had shown outstanding courage as an effective commander in Artaxerxes III's expedition against Cadusia for which he was awarded the satrapy of Armenia. He was a 'companion' of his cousin  King Arses, who promoted him to the governorship of the postal service of the empire, and married his royal cousin Princess Stateira, who bore him a son named Ochus, that was apparently adopted by Alexander.

Could it be that in the aforementioned paragraph Alexander was referring to the eunuch Bagoas' support of Darius III in his ascension to the throne?  It was Bagoa who had poisoned Artaxerxes III and then also his son King Arses.  Bagoas preemptively had poisoned Arses, who was put on the throne by the eunuch,  when he realized that the new king instead of acting as a puppet for him was plotting against him,  trying to reduce his power and to eliminate him. That was why Bagoas placed  King Darius III on the throne.  Thus, the paragraph appears to accuse Darius  that "you have killed with the help of Bagoas Artaxerxes III, and Arses  and illegally seized the throne". Did Alexander  consider himself to be the son of Artaxerxes III? Was he claiming that he himself  is the legitimate successor of the Persian king?  There are narratives in Persian history and Persian literature that suggest he was the son of the Persian king. But Alexander being considered the national enemy of Persia those stories appear to have been discouraged particularly by Zoroastrians.


When Aristotle was informed of the execution of Callisthenes,  he realized that Alexander's  Persianization was advanced to the point that it needed to be stopped. At the same time, as Justin reports, AntiPater feared for his life on account of what was happened to Parmenion.  Though he was summoned to appear before Alexander, Antipater did not, and instead sent his oldest son, Cassander in 323 BC. Cassander  who also had witnessed the Persian custom of proskynesis, and finding  it ridiculous, in the Plutarch's word "… he could not stop himself laughing, because he had been brought up in the Greek manner and had never seen anything like that before." Alexander grew agitated and "grabbed hold of Cassander’s hair violently with both hands and pounded his head against the wall"  The psychological impact of this cruelty would remain with Cassander for years to come and as Plutarch writes:
… when he was king of Macedonia and master of Greece, he was walking around Delphi looking at the statues, when he suddenly glimpsed a statue of Alexander and became so terrified that his body shuddered and trembled, he nearly fainted at the sight and it took a long time for him to recover.
Antipater having heard of the treatment  of his son agreed with Aristotle, whose nephew Callisthenes  had been executed  by  Alexander that he must be stopped. It was Aristotle, who created the Styx poison that in Plutarch words was prepared by:
“deadly cold water from the rock cliff near Nonacris,  distilled like a delicate dew  and stored in an ass’s hoof, for all other vessels were corrupted by its icy, penetrating corrosiveness.”
Cassander carried the poison with him to babylon .  It was administered to Alexander by his cupbearer, Iollas,  who was Cassnder's brother. The poison killed Alexander  in a couple of days (Arrian, Plutarch, Pliny, Dio Cassius, Boissevain, Migne, M. Plezia 1948, Düring 1957). Modern research suggests that Aristotle may have used strychnine (first suggested by Milnes 1978, citing Theophrastus History of Plants).

Death of Alexander, by Karl T. von Piloty, 19th century

Alexander had burned all the Zoroastrian literature. In the Sassanid era two widely divergent narratives about the character of Alexander emerged, one extremely negative transmitted by Zoroastrians, describing him as the “accursed” (gizistag) wrecker of the Zoroastrian tradition and the other a positive one by the Persian Mitraists.

The Zoroastrian version of narrative  is found in the Arday Wiraz Namag
Once Zarathustra had received the religion it was propagated in the world until 300 years were completed. Then the accursed, wicked Evil Spirit deluded the accursed Alexander the Roman, who lived in Egypt, in order to cause the people to have doubt about this religion; and he came to the land of Iran with great destruction, strife, and trouble. He killed the ruler of Iran and destroyed the court and sovereignty, and ruined them. 
However, in many of the Persian Mitraist versions, including that of Ferdowsi, and Tabari, in which Alexander is portrayed the son of Darab (Artaxerxes III) and Olympias, who is erroneously referred  to as the daughter of Philip of Macedon. In Tabari's version Alexander and Darab are half-brothers. 

Another  narrative of the story suggests that when Artaxerxes III started his Greek expedition, Philip of Macedonia sent him as a gift, one of the women in his court, as a sign of friendship  and loyalty. This was a politically-motivated arranged marriage, which has been practiced in many royal courts even up to the nineteenth century Europe. This must have been around the time that the Great King  signed the treaty of friendship with Macedonia, that is reported by Arrian. However  a few years later  Philip, whose luxurious life style and high costs of his skirmishes with other Greek states had  made him financially broke, was not able to pay the tribute that he had owed the King. This was the reason Artaxerxes III, looking for an excuse to punish  him, returned back to him  Olympia, who was now pregnant, using the excuse that she has bad-breath. On her return Olympias gave birth to Alexander, who Philip adopted as his son, but virtually all the courtiers knew that he was not a true-blooded legitimate Macedonian prince. 

This is why general Attalus virtually called him the illegitimate prince, and this is why Alexander himself tried to identify  himself with his mother lineage.   This  is why he was obsessed with Persia, reading Xenophon's books about Cyrus the Great, and the younger Cyrus. As an abandoned child he  had to deal with significant emotional, mental and psychological trauma,  and this was the reason for his bout of emotional instability; his frequent burst of anger that resulted in his murder of Cleitus and then his suicidal tendencies afterward. This is why he felt strong affections for the Persian royal family, particularly for his aunt Sisygambis, and this is why he wanted to be the  Great King of Persia, asking his Macedonian soldiers  to wear Persian attire  and perform Persian customary practices, which caused widespread unhappiness and mutiny among his Macedonian corps which  ultimately resulted in him being poisoned.


Of course, the relation between Persia and Macedonia ran deep.  In fact, in 512 BC, according to Herodotus the Persian commander "sent a delegation to Macedonia consisting of seven notable Persians who, after himself, enjoyed great reputation in the military camps. The delegation was sent to Amyntas to ask for land and water on behalf of Darius their king …” King Amyntas I of Macedonia (540 to 495 BC), then became a vassal of Persia.
His son Alexander I (498-454 BC), had acted as the emissary of the Persian commander Mardonius, who delivered the Persian peace proposals to the Athenians, urging them to accept the terms offered by Mardonius.  As we saw, the Spartans were frightened by the news of the offers from Xerxes, which indicated a possible alliance between Athens and Persia. The Spartans  sent an envoy  to Athens who  according to Herodotus, told them: "Do not let Alexander's smooth-sounding version of Mardonius' proposals seduce you; he does only what one might expect of him--a despot himself, of course he collaborates with a despot. But such conduct is not for you - at least, not if you are wise; for surely you know that in foreigners there is neither truth nor trust." Syncellus a ninth -century Byzantine historian states that Alexander I  gave water and earth, i.e., submitted to Xerxes. Alexander's  sister, Gygaea, was offered  as a wife to the Persian commander Bubaris. In short, during the entire period of the Persian-Hellenic wars, 490-479 BC, Macedonia was a Persian protectorate. Contacts between Macedonian nobles, the royal family, and intermarriages with Persian princes and nobles were common.

This was why Persian asylum seekers chose Macedonia, because culturally it felt like home. Its monarchy and many civil institutions modeled after those of Persians.   For instance, around 352 BC Artabazus the Persian satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, whose revolt was defeated by Artaxerxes III, together with his brother-in-law Memnon were granted asylum by Philip.  Other Iranians in Philip's court included the family of Artabazus such as  Barsine, who after 333 BC became Alexander's mistress and Sisines who was  later on captured by Parmenion in Alexander of Lyncestis'  plot against Alexander's life. Thus, Olympia's possible arranged  marriage to the king was not something unusual.

Many scholars have been aware of this narrative but dismissed it with some quick generalities. For example, Robin Lane Fox writes: 
The Persians later fitted Alexander into their own line of kings by a story thatOlympias had visited the Persian court, where the king made love to her and then sent her back to Macedonia because her breath smelt appallingly.
 He then dismiss the story by arguing that:
The Persians say that nobody yet has killed his own father or mother, but that whenever  such a crime seems to have happened, then  it is inevitable that inquiry will prove  that the so-called son was either adopted or illegitimate. For they say it is unthinkable that a true parent should ever be killed by his true son"  To the Persian, as seen by a Greek observer, Alexander complicity would have been unthinkable on a point of human principle....
This, of course, is not such a convincing argument, but even if it was then Alexander by taking part in the assassination of Philip, had not participated in patricide, since Philip according to the narrative was not his biological father.

As for the story of Nectanebo, we should note that in 343 BC,  when Artaxerxes III defeated him at Pelusium and driving him out of Egypt, there was a good reason for the Egyptian priesthood to follow their familiar pattern of propaganda against Persians.

Alexander crossing the Stranga, From Ms No. 424 in the Library of the Mechitarist Congregation, San Lazzaro, Venice.

Our primary sources agree that Alexander went to Egypt  wishing to discover the truth about his parentage (Arrian, Curtius Justin). According to Arrian
"Alexander longed the fame of Perseus and Heracles; the blood of both flowed in his veins, and just as legend traced their descent from Zeus, so , he too had a feeling that in some way he was descended from Ammon." 
Given that Greeks believed Perseus was the progenitor of Persians, and Heracles  being the stepson of Amphitryon, the grandson of Perseus, then again  Alexander's desire to surpass the achievements of Perseus appears to be derived from a subconscious quest to connect with his roots  (Starbo, Arrian).
In fact, as Herodotus writes:
“It was not till Perseus, the son of Jove and Danae, visited Cepheus the son of Belus, and, marrying his daughter Andromeda, had by her a son called Perses (whom he left behind him in the country because Cepheus had no male offspring), that the nation took from this Perses the name of Persians.”
Even more interesting, is that Xerxes  claimed he was descended from Perseus. As Schmitz (1855) reports  Xerxes herald in addressing Argos stated:
" Men of Argos, attend to the words of Xerxes: we are of opinion that Perses, whom we acknowledge to be our ancestor, was the  son of Perseus, whose mother was Danae, and Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus" 
Thus, again we see Alexander's longing to be connected with his ancestor. Schmitz goes even further and mentions that: 
It is truly said by Plato (in Alcibiade,V.II) that the Heraclidae in Greece, and the Achaemenids among the Persians, were of the same stock. On this account Herodotus makes Xerxes claim kindred with the Argives of Greece, as being equally of the posterity of Perses, the same as Perseus, the sun, under which character the Persians described the patriarch  from whom they were descended. Perseus was the same as Mithras, whose sacred cavern was styled Perseum. 
Given that Xerxes mother was Cyrus' daughter, a Mitra worshipper, we can see why the later Achaemenids  gradually reintroduced Mitra in the Zoroastrian pantheon.  The idea that Alexander, as a student of Aristotle,  could think of himself as the son of Zeus, going to Egypt's  highest god, Ammon, to connect with his real father appears absurd - even if his mother had tried to brainwash him so  as to think he is the son of Ammon.

However, there is a reasonable likelihood that Olympias , angry about her treatment at Philip's court had told her son about his powerful real ancestors.  That he was the son of the Mitraist-King Artaxerxes III.  Thus, his trip to Egypt, and his sacrifice to Apis was indeed the reenactment of his father's deeds, who himself emulated  his ancestor Cambyses,  another Egyptian Pharaoh. Justin says, the intention of Alexander visit was to clear up his mother's character, and to get himself the reputation of a divine origin.

The hybrid sun god Amun-Ra is a counterpart to Mitra, and Amun's sign, the bull, is linked to the Tauroctony of the Mitraism. Even Plutarch cannot help himself of not recalling of Cambyses, when he  reports this episode. According to him Alexander was disturbed at a particular omen by a flight of large birds but the diviners encouraged him to proceed and the historian relates that omen to "the wastes of sand, as it happened long' before to the army of Cambyses".


Parthian Empire




As Susan Mattern has argued "the Parthian empire was the only other highly organized political system known to the Romans, and the Parthians came to be viewed as archetypal "rivals" of the Romans'. Yet the Parthian civilization in modern scholarship is characterised as the  "Silent Empire". This lack of research  in Parthian civilization is probably the main reason for why they  are mostly remembered by a three-words description 'the Parthian shot'  in the English speaking world, that refers to  a stunning tactic that a  fleeing Parthian horse-archer made when he suddenly turned and shot back over his shoulder against an over-confident pursuer.

Most ancient sources just ignored them,  and those who wrote about them, were painting a very negative picture. Some like Strabo, who  described them as Scythians barbarians (such as the Celts) who practised 'guerilla warfare' were subscribed to the Graeco-Roman view of barbarians as inherently less civilized. Others like Ammianus Marcellinus though described them as 'savage and warlike', praised them for their Mitraic beliefs as an 'uncorrupted cult of the divine'.

Such views influenced George Rawlinson, a late 19th century historian, to misinterpreted the Parthian taste for a federal structure as a kind of racism and to write  that  though 'they combined great military prowess and vigour with a capacity for organisation and government',  they never to 'any extent amalgamated with the subject peoples, but continued for centuries an exclusive dominant race, encamped in the countries which they had overrun.'  However as Invernizzi argues:
An unwarrantedly negative and suspicious attitude towards the Parthians appears strangely widespread among scholars, with whom the Parthians, at bottom, have never been popular: in the case of the Iranists, because of the absence, perhaps, of adequate historical sources originating from the Parthian empire that might have engaged their attention by providing sound evidence of the specifically Iranian cultural conceptions of the Arsacids and of the continuity of these conceptions between the Achaemenids and the Sassanids; in the case of the archaeologists, because of the heterogeneity, perhaps, of the culture of the countries of the Parthian empire, though such a view overlooks the fact that precisely this heterogeneity is one of the reasons for the cultural greatness and vitality of this empire.

The reason why so little is survived of the Parthian civilization is rooted in the destructive forces of their two most  powerful enemies, the Roman empire, and the Zoroastrian Sassanids.   Romans were concerned about Parthia because of its rapidly growing influence in Greece and Asia Minor.

At its greatest extent, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern Euphrates and what is now central Turkey, to eastern Iran. Mithradates I, founded Arsacid (Parthian) empire between the years 160 and 140 BC. Mithradates (Old Persian for ‘sent by Mithra’) annexed provinces of Media, Elymais, Persia, Characene, Babylonia and Assyria in the west and Gedrosia and Herat and Sakestan (Sistan) in the east, and dominated Selucia on the Tigris, which was the largest city of Selucids. Iranians did not annex Selucia, but built a massive military camp facing the city on the left bank of the Tigris, which later expanded and became the new Iranian capital of Ctesiphon. The Selucid, Demetrius II, set out to reconquer the eastern part of Iran. He lost his battle against the Parthian cavalry  of Mithradates I and fell into the hands the Parthian king, who treated him with great magnanimity, installing him in Hyrcania, and gave him his daughter in marriage. Thus, was how the short lived Mesopotamian empire of the Greeks was ended and Europos was renamed Dura.

About 115 BC Mithradates II and the Emperor of China  concluded a trade treaty designed to facilitate the  export of Chinese products to the Roman empire via the silk road, that a substantially long stretch of it was passing through the vast Parthian empire.

Mithradates II created a powerful alliance between Iran, Armenia and Pontus kingdom. As   Ghirshman writes:
Mithridates [II] intervened in the affairs of Armenia and placed his protégé, Tigranes, on the throne. By so doing he inaugurated a new era in the history of that country, whose future fortunes were to remain closely linked to those of Iran. Shortly afterwards Tigranes allied himself with Mithridates Eupator of Pontus who, between 112 and 93 B.C., created a powerful kingdom that included all Asia Minor and bordered on continental Greece and for many years resisted the Roman advance. Faced with this alliance which strengthened the position of Armenia, Mithridates II adopted a waiting policy. When in 92 B.C. the Romans reached the Euphrates, he sent them an embassy with a proposal of alliance. Sulla, knowing nothing of Parthian importance and power, treated the envoy in so cavalier a manner that the Great King took offence and came to terms with the two other oriental princes. Rome was to pay dearly for its contemptuous attitude on the occasion of this first contact with the Parthians.
Initially Mithradates II, whose celebratory relief carved in the cliff at Behistun, alongside reliefs of Darius I,  identifies him like Darius king-of-kings flanked by three satraps and who also proclaimed himself the descendant of Artaxerxes II; sought peaceful relations with Rome and wanted to come to a settlement that guaranteed  mutual respect. He sent his ambassador,  Orobazos to the western bank of  Euphrates river to meet Sulla.  According to Plutarch, Sulla presided over the meeting, placing his low-ranking protégé the Cappadocian  king  Ariobarzanes at the same seat as the Parthian envoy, implying that Iran and Cappadocia are of the same rank in his eyes. According to historians;  Plutrach , Livius, and Festus,  the ambassador requested amicitia, between the two countries, and signed a treaty that even thirty years  later the Parthians claimed was still in force.  Yer, upon Orobazos' return Mithradates  executed him for not objecting to the Parthians' humiliation by sulla.

In response to Sulla, Mithradates installed his protégé Tigranes as king in Armenia, and two of them signed an alliance treaty with the ambitious and energetic Mithradates VI of Pontus, whose country bordered the rugged frontier of Armenia.  Both countries; Pontus and Armenia  had once been part of the Persian Empire.   Mithradates VI and Tigranes were both  Mitra-worshippers, and the Pontus king traced back his  lineage to King Darius I. Tigranes at once took over Sophene, which its western boundary ran along the east bank of the Euphrates. Mithridates of Pontus , annexed Bithynia and Cappadocia and in his first Roman war (89-85 BC) he even took Greece before five Roman legions forced him back to Asia, where the subsequent peace confined him to his original Pontic kingdom.

Although the two imperial powers had signed a treaty, accepting the Euphrates as their natural border, Pompey forces broke the treaty, invading the Parthian territory in the other side of the river. Not heading the warning of Phraates III,  the new Parthian king, Pompey made it clear that because of its military might, Rome does not feel obliged to comply with the legal requirements of the treaty. When Crassus invaded the Parthian territory  in 53 BC  they were ready for him. Orodes  the Parthian king  were well informed about lack of support in Rome for Crassus. In the spring of 52 BC he sent envoys to him asking the reasons for his aggression. If the war was waged without the consent of the Rome, the Parthian would excuse the old man Crassus with pity, otherwise the war will be proceeding to its bitter end and they would not accept any offer of truce or treaty.
In 53 BC Rome suffered  major defeat at Carrhae, where their standards fell into the Prthian hands and Crassus was killed.

The outcome of this battle was the reason for Roman's hatred of Parthian civilization, in the words of Beate Dignias and Engelbert Winter "Rome sought revenge." However, during prolonged  battles with Mitraist-Parthians,  who worshiped the deities Mitra and Anahita,  the Romans army was influenced by that religion. Many of the Roman legionnaires who had been converted to the Iranian religion,  after several years of service would have been promoted to the rank of centurion after being assigned several times to different garrisons, so  they could have expanded the religion. This was Mitraism flourished  and Romans established Mithraic temples throughout the western part of their empire, many of which are still standing today. However, with the spread of Christianity in Rome Mitraism lost ground and with it the interest in Parthian civilization was subsided.

Mithridates I of Parthia  relief at Xong-e Ashdar. City of Izeh, Khouzestan province, Iran
Mithradates II relief at Behistun 

The Parthian Arsacids' king Valaxs


A Parthian nobleman, Bronze Statue  from the Sanctuary at Shami in Elymais, 
National Museum of Iran 





A Parthian Lady
A Parthian Gentleman







The Parthians were expert horsemen in the field, so much so, that almost the entirety of their army was made up of cavalry and nothing else. The Parthian Empire had no standing army, apart from the king’s guard, but they had a large population and many horses. The two predominant types of cavalry were the light horse archers, and the heavy cataphracts, and the one-two punch of these two groups together proved more than a match for Rome’s legions for a long time.

The Parthian cataphract was one of the most terrifying horse warriors of the ancient world. Apart from having big horses, both man and horse were covered head to hoof in chain, scale, or plate armour, making them heavy and virtually impenetrable. Their weapons were also something to be reckoned with. They carried things such as war-hammers with large spikes on the end, long maces and battle axes, and swords for slashing down from horseback. But the scariest weapon wielded against the Romans by the Parthians was the kontos, or contus. The kontos was a lance of about 4 meters long, or 12-14 feet. It was so long that the Parthian cataphract let go of his reins and used two hands to wield it.


Parthian horse-archers


Roman depiction of Iranian (Partho-Sassanian) costume as worn by the three wise men in the Basilica of Sant’pollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy. Traditional Partho-Sassanian dress was to be joined by newer forms of dress bearing elements of Central Asian influence by the late 6th and early 7th centuries CE, as seen in Tagh-e Bostan in Kermanshah, Western Iran

The Sassanid enmity with Parthians had a religious aspect.  The Sassanid king, Ardashir I,  the founder of his dynasty,  was a vassal king of the Parthians ruling in Parsa (Persis). He  revolted against Artabanus, the last king of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia,   conquesting  Eṣfahan, Kerman, Elymais, and Mesene. Withdrawing again to Parsa, he met the Parthian army at Hormizdagan  in 224 AD and won a decisive victory, slaying Artabanus. Soon after, Ardashir entered the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon, in Mesopotamia, in triumph and was crowned “king of kings of Iran.” 

When on the throne, Ardashir decided to purge the Parthian Avesta of its Mitraist texts, which have been  included in the Zoroastrian  holy book  during the reign of the Parthian Arsacids' king Valaxs.
To unify the Iranian empire,  the king tried to restore the Zoroastrian Avesta that was systematically destroyed during the reign  of Alexander of Macedonia.  Mitraists who have been hiding their holy texts for so many centuries, because of the campaigns of Darius and Xerxes against daeva worshippers,  took the opportunity offered by the liberal minded  Parthians and submitted  their texts to be included along with the genuine Zoroastrian texts in the new Avesta.

This is why the Young Avesta represents, on the one hand, the pre-Zoroastrian  “Mitraist” beliefs and on the other, a relapsed and distorted form of Zarathustra’s teachings. The extant Avestan texts were first written down about the fifth century AD, while its Pahlavi version was written in the ninth-tenth century AD, but both are now only known from manuscripts dating from the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries. The Young Avesta   to a large extent reflects a return to pre-Zarathustrian Mitraist's beliefs that were kept intact among the oppressed Mitra worshipers.




 We know from King Ardashir's high priest, Tansar  that Ardasir sought " through the just authority of Tansar to gather the scattered teachings of the faith at his own court. " Tansar undertook the task of sanitizing the Book. In a letter to Gusnasp, a northern-Iranian ruler Tansar informs him:
You wrote that although the king seeks the truth of the ancients, yet he may be accused of forsaking tradition; and right though this may be for the world, it is not good for the faith’. ... If your concern is for religious matters, and you deny that any justification is found in religion, know that Alexander burnt the books of our religion—1200 ox-hides—at Istaxr. One third of that was known by heart and has survived, but even that was all legends and traditions, and men knew not the laws and ordinances. ... Therefore the religion must needs be restored by a man of true and upright judgment” .

Sassanian armored horse & war elephant from the 6th century. The Sasanian (or Neo-Persian) Empire was the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam, from 224 to 651. The Sasanian Empire, which succeeded the Parthian Empire, was recognized as a main power in Western Asia, alongside the Byzantine Empire, for a period of more than 400 years.

Later, Ardashir's son king Shapur appointed an intolerant and zealot man by the name   Kartir  as the high Zoroastrian priest of the Empire. The cruel man was the mobad of Istakhr, the traditional religious centre of the Sasanians in Fars, who publicized his prominence at court under the shah Vahram II (276-93), as well as his promotion to the shrine of Istakhr and his defeat of other religious groups.

His task seems to have been to enforce religious orthodoxy. He persecuted and punished people, even the Zoroastrian priests that fell afoul of his particular belief system, causing intense controversy within the Persian state. Kartir called for the execution of the prophet Mani, for whom the faith Manichaeism is named. In 274 AD Mani was crucified on Kartir’s orders, his skin flayed and stuffed with straw to be exhibited publicly in order to scare heretics into compliance. In a great inscription at Naqsh-i-Rustam, Kartir bragging about his promotion by successive shahs and emphasizing his prestige in the eyes of the shahs, even calling himself Vahram's 'soul-saviour' writes:

And in kingdom after kingdom and place after place throughout the whole empire the services of Ahura Mazda and the Yazads became preeminent, and great dignity came to the Mazdayasnian religion and the magi in the empire, and the Yazads and water and fire and small cattle in the empire attained great satisfaction, while Ahriman and the devs were punished and rebuked, and the teachings of Ahriman and the devs departed from the empire and were abandoned. And Jews, Sramans (Buddhists), Brahmins, Nasoreans (Orthodox Christians), (Gnostic) Christians, Maktak (Baptisers), and Zandiks (Manichaeans) in the empire were smitten, and destruction of idols and scattering of the stores of the devs and god-seats and nests was abandoned. (...) 
And I made prominent and reverend the Mazdayasnian religion and magi who were correct within the empire, while heretical and unstable men, who within the magus-estate in matters of the Mazdayasnian religion and divine services did not observe orders, these I punished with corporal punishment and I rebuked them and made of good odor. (...). There were also many who had come to follow the doctrines of the devs, and by my efforts they forsook those doctrines of the devs and accepted instead the doctrines of  the Yazads. 

Kartir, relief from the 3rd century, Naqsh-e Rajab, Iran


To rule over their Greek poleis, Parthians acquiesced in their practice of Hellenism while at the same time encouraging the spread of their own distinct culture.This has led some historians to argue that they were Hellenized. For instance, Rawlinson  who probably had not seen any evidence of Parthian culture, noted:
But in Parthia Greek rule was from the first cast aside. The native Asiatics rebelled against their masters. A people of a rude and uncivilised type, coarse and savage, but brave and freedom-loving, rose up against the polished but comparatively effeminate Greeks, who held them in subjection, and claimed and succeeded in establishing their independence. The Parthian kingdom was thoroughly anti-Hellenic. It appealed to patriotic feelings, and to the hate universally felt towards the stranger. It set itself to undo the work of Alexander, to cast out the Europeans, to recover for the native race the possession of its own continent. "Asia for the Asiatics," was its cry.

However,  the stunning  "Parthian style" art excavated from various archaeological sites, provides clear evidence of the sophisticated Parthian civilization and its peaceful federal features.   In contrast to Achaemenids art which represented figures in profile, the Parthian art, was influenced by the full-facial representations of everyday life scenes in the Elamites art. Unfortunately, because of their two powerful enemies Romans and Sassanids very little of the Parthian architectural history  and culture has survived.

However, the influence of  Parthian costumes has been widespread in Europe and middle east.



Sassanid commander and Banner Carrier

Ardashir's son Shapur I, took advantage of the internal chaos within the Roman Empire and invaded Syria, Anatolia, and Armenia; he sacked Antioch but was repulsed by the emperor Valerian. In 260, however, Shapur not only defeated Valerian at Edessa (modern Urfa in Turkey) but captured him and kept him a prisoner for the rest of his life.


Surrender of Emperor Valerian  to Shapur I 

Rock relief at Naqsh-e Rustam depicting Surrender of Emperor Valerian  to Shapur I


 Empress Purandokht (630-31 AD)




Bahram II (276-293)  with his queen and the crown prince . Narseh (r. 293-303)

Sassanid cavalry
Sassanid cavalry

sassanid Infantryman 






Iranian nobility 11th century
16th century



A Daylamite Buyid banner carrier of 10th Century


Iranian Seljuq cavalry of 11th century 



13th century
A Safavid musketeer, 16th Century




Persian costumes. Illustration for Storia de Costume dei Popoli by Paolo Lorenzini (Nerbini, 1934).

18th century  Iran's artisan and working  class



18th century Iran's merchant class
18th century Iran's nobility



Persian dresses 1920s


18 Century Iranian nobleman coat - New York Met
Iranian Nobility coat -New York Met
18th century Iranian Lady's Dress, New York Met



Elamite dress, 3000 BC,  based on a design of a female figure on an Elamite  vase 
An  Achaemenid  dress (550-330 BC), based on a tapestry from Pazyryk housed at the Hermitage Museum 

A Parthian dress (247 BC– 224 AD), based on a Parthian figurine at the Baghdad Museum



    A Mede dress (615-549 BC),  based on a Mede silver box now at the British Museum

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