Artaxerxes II

Artaxerxes II

Artaxerxes II, d. 358 B.C., king of ancient Persia (404-358 B.C.), son and successor of Darius II. He is sometimes called in Greek Artaxerxes Mnemon [the thoughtful]. Early in his reign Cyrus the Younger attempted to assassinate him and seize the throne. Artaxerxes finally crushed Cyrus' rebellion at the battle of Cunaxa (401 B.C.), where Cyrus was killed. The story of the Greek contingent in the battle was made famous by Xenophon. Artaxerxes was ruled by the will of his wife and mother and relied heavily upon his officials; in addition, the satraps Pharnabazus and Tissaphernes had real ruling power. They managed by liberal distribution of Persian gold to gain great influence in Greece, and the Peace of Antalcidas (386 B.C., see Corinthian War) marked the imposition of Persian control of the Greek city-states. The provinces of the empire eventually became restless. Evagoras made himself independent as a ruler of Cyprus but finally (c.381) submitted to the king. Pharnabazus and Iphicrates, sent to reduce Egypt, disagreed and accomplished nothing. A formidable and longlasting revolt of the satraps (among them Mausolus) against the king was put down just before his death. He was eventually succeeded by Artaxerxes III. The reign of Artaxerxes II also saw a revival of the cult of Mithra.
Artaxerxes II Mnemon (Old Persian: 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎠 Artaxšaçrā, ) (ca. 436 – 358 BC) was king of Persia from 404 BC until his death. He was a son of Darius II of Persia and Parysatis.


He defended his position against his brother Cyrus the Younger, who was defeated and killed at the Battle of Cunaxa in 401 BC, and against a revolt of the provincial governors, the satraps (366 – 358 BC). He also became involved in a war with Persia's erstwhile allies, the Spartans, who, under Agesilaus II, invaded Asia Minor. In order to redirect the Spartans attention to Greek affairs Artaxerxes subsidized their enemies: in particular the Athenians, Thebans, and Corinthians. These subsidies helped to engage the Spartans in what would become known as the Corinthian War. In 386 BC, Artaxerxes II betrayed his allies and came to an arrangement with Sparta, and in the Treaty of Antalcidas he forced his erstwhile allies to come to terms. This treaty restored control of the Greek cities of Ionia and Aeolis on the Anatolian coast to the Persians, while giving Sparta dominance on the Greek mainland.

Although successful against the Greeks, Artaxerxes had more trouble with the Egyptians, who had successfully revolted against him at the beginning of his reign. An attempt to reconquer Egypt in 373 BC was completely unsuccessful, but in his waning years the Persians did manage to defeat a joint Egyptian–Spartan effort to conquer Phoenicia.

He is reported to have had a number of wives, chief among whom was a Greek woman of Phocaea named Aspasia (not the same as the concubine of Pericles). He also is said to have loved a young eunuch by the name of Tiridates, who died "as he was emerging from childhood." His death caused Artaxerxes enormous grief, and there was public mourning for him throughout the empire as an offering to the king from his subjects. Artaxerxes II is said to have more than 115 sons from 350 wives.

He is identified as the Persian king Ahasuerus of the Purim story in traditional sources.

Building projects

Much of Artaxerxes's wealth was spent on building projects. He restored the palace of Darius I at Susa, and also the fortifications; including a strong redoubt at the southeast corner of the enclosure and gave Ecbatana a new apadana and sculptures. He seems not to have built much at Persepolis.

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