Darius II

( Darius Nothus )  

423 - 404 B.C


Rebellion of brother Amestris

Darius Nothus had in his father's lifetime been made satrap of Hyrcania, and had married his aunt, Parysatis, a daughter of Xerxes. He had already two children at his accession, a daughter, Amestris, and a son, Arsaces, who succeeded him as Artaxerxes. His reign, which lasted nineteen years, was a constant scene of insurrections and revolts, some of which were of great importance, since they had permanent and very disastrous consequences. The earliest of all was raised by his full-brother, Arsites, who rebelled in conjunction with a son of Megabyzus, and, obtaining the support of a number of Greek mercenaries, gained two victories over the forces dispatched against him by the king. At last, however, the fortune of war changed. Persian gold was used to corrupt the mercenaries; and the rebels being thus reduced to extremities, were forced to capitulate, yielding themselves on the condition that their lives should be spared. Parysatis induced her husband to disregard the pledges given and execute both Arsites and his fellow-conspirator proclaiming to the world that, unless by the employment of perfidy, the Empire was incapable of dealing with those who rebelled against its authority.


Revolt of the Satrap of Lydia


The revolt of Pissuthnes, satrap of Lydia, was the next important outbreak. Its exact date is uncertain; but it seems not to have very long preceded the Athenian disasters in Sicily. Pissuthnes, who had held his satrapy for more than twenty years, was the son of a Hystaspes, and probably a member of the royal family. His wealth?he accumulations of so long a term of office enabled him to hire the services of a body of Greek mercenaries, who were commanded by an Athenian, called Lycon. On these troops he placed his chief dependence; but they failed him in the hour of need. Tissaphernes, the Persian general sent against him, bribed Lycon and his men, who thereupon quitted Pissuthnes and made common cause with his adversaries. The unfortunate satrap could no longer resist, and therefore surrendered upon terms, and accompanied Tissaphernes to the Court. Darius, accustomed now to disregard the pledged word of his officers, executed him forthwith, and made over his satrapy to Tissaphernes, as a reward for his zeal. Lycon, the Athenian traitor, received likewise a handsome return for his services, the revenues of several towns and districts being assigned him by the Great King.

The rebellion, however, was not wholly crushed by the destruction of its author, Amorges, a bastard son of Pissuthnes, continued to maintain himself in Caria, where he was master of the strong city of Iasus, on the north coast of the Sinus Iasicus, and set the power of Tissaphernes at defiance. Having probably inherited the wealth of his father, he hired a number of Peloponnesian mercenaries, and succeeded in maintaining himself as an independent monarch for some years.


News of the Athenian Disaster, Treaty with Athens


Battle of Syracuse Peloponnesian war



Such was the condition of things in Asia Minor, when intelligence arrived of the fearful disasters which had befallen the Athenians in Sicily disasters ( 415 - 413 B,C ) without a parallel since those of Salamis sudden, unexpected, overwhelming. The news, flying through Asia, awoke everywhere a belief that the power of Athens was broken, and that her hostility need no longer be dreaded. The Persian monarch considered that under the altered circumstances it would be safe to treat the Peace of Callias as a dead letter, and sent down orders to the satraps of Lydia and Bithynia that they were once more to demand and collect the tribute of the Greek cities within their provinces. The satraps began to speculate on the advantages which they might derive from alliance with the enemies of Athens, and looked anxiously to see a Peloponnesian fleet appear off the coast of Asia. Tissaphernes and Pharnabazus vied with each other in the tempting offers which they made to Sparta, and it was not long before a formal treaty was concluded between that state and Persia, by which the two powers bound themselves to carry on war conjointly against Athens.

Thus the contest between Persia and her rival entered upon a new phase. Henceforth until the liberties of Greece were lost, the Great King could always count on having for his ally one of the principal Grecian powers. His gold was found to possess attractions which the Greeks were quite unable to resist. At one time Sparta, at another Athens, at another Thebes yielded to the subtle influence; Greek generals commanded the Persian armies; Greek captains maneuvered the Persian fleets; the very rank and file of the standing army came to be almost as much Greek as Persian. Acting on the maxim, Divide et impera ( Divide and Rule ), Persia prolonged for eighty years her tottering Empire, by the skilful use which she made of the mutual jealousies and divisions of the Hellenic states.


Persia and the Peloponnesian war


It scarcely belongs to the history of Persia to trace in detail the fortunes of the contending powers during the latter portion of the Peloponnesian war. We need only observe that the real policy of the Court of Susa, well understood, and, on the whole, tolerably well carried out by the satraps, was to preserve the balance of power between Athens and Sparta, to allow neither to obtain too decided a preponderance, to help each in turn, and encourage each to waste the other's strength, but to draw back whenever the moment came for striking a decisive blow against either side. This policy skillfully pursued by Tissaphernes (who had a genius for intrigue and did not require an Alcibiades to give him lessons in state-craft), more clumsily by Pharnabazus, whose character was comparatively sincere and straightforward, prevailed until the younger Cyrus made his appearance upon the scene, when a disturbing force came into play which had disastrous effects both on the fortunes of Greece and on those of Persia.

The younger Cyrus had personal views of self-aggrandizement which conflicted with the true interests of his nation, and was so bent on paving the way for his own ascent to sovereign power that he did not greatly care whether he injured his country or no. As the accomplishment of his designs depended mainly on his obtaining a powerful land-force, he regarded a Spartan as preferable to an Athenian alliance; and, having once made his choice, he lent his ally such effectual aid that in two years from the time of his coming down to the coast the war was terminated. Persian gold manned and partly built the fleet which conquered at AEgos-Potami; perhaps it contributed in a still more decisive manner to the victory. Cyrus, by placing his stores at the entire command of Lysander, deserved and acquired the cordial good-will of Sparta and the Peloponnesians generally an advantage of which we shall find him in the sequel making good use.


Loss of the Egyptian Satrap


The gain to Persia from the dominion which she had reacquired over the Greeks of Asia was more than counter-balanced by a loss of territory in another quarter, which seems to have occurred during the reign of Darius Nothus, though in what exact year is doubtful. Amyrtaeus  of Sais is the only king of the Twenty-eighth dynasty of Egypt and is thought to be related to the royal family of the Twenty-sixth dynasty. He ended the First Persian Occupation and reigned from 404 BC to 399 BCThe revolt of Egypt is placed by Heeren and Clinton in B.C. 414, by Eusebius in B.C. 411, by Manetho in the last year of Darius Nothus, or B.C. 405. The earlier dates depend on the view that the Amyrtaeus of Manetho's twenty-eighth dynasty was the leader of the rebellion, and had a reign of six years at this period view which is perhaps unsound. Manetho probably represented Nepherites (Nefaorot) as the leader; and it is quite clear that he placed the re-establishment of the old throne of the Pharaohs in the year that Darius Nothus died. As his authority is the best that we can obtain upon this obscure point, we may regard the last days of the Persian monarch as clouded by news of a rebellion, which had been perhaps for some time contemplated, but which did not break out until he was known to be in a moribund condition.

Median Revolt

A few years earlier, B.C. 408 or 409, the Medes had made an unsuccessful attempt to recover their independence. The circumstances of this revolt, which is mentioned by no writer but Xenophon, are wholly unknown, but we may perhaps connect it with the rebellion of Terituchmes, a son-in-law of the king. The story of Terituchmes, which belongs to this period, deserves at any rate to be told, as illustrating, in a very remarkable way, the corruption, cruelty, and dissoluteness of the Persian Court at the time to which we have now come. Terituchmes was the son of Idernes, a Persian noble of high rank, probably a descendant of the conspirator Hydarnes. On the death of his father, he succeeded to his satrapy, as to a hereditary fief, and being high in favor with Darius Nothus, he received in marriage that monarch's daughter, Amestris. Having, however, after his marriage become enamored of his own half-sister, Roxana, and having persuaded her to an incestuous commerce, he grew to detest his wife, and as he could not rid himself of her without making an enemy of the king, he entered into a conspiracy with 300 others, and planned to raise a rebellion. The bond of a common crime, cruel and revolting in its character, was to secure the fidelity of the rebels one to another. Amestris was to be placed in a sack, and each conspirator in turn was to plunge his sword into her body. It is not clear whether this intended murder was executed or no. Hoping to prevent it, Darius commissioned a certain Udiastes, who was in the service of Terituchmes, to save his daughter by any means that might be necessary; and Udiastes, collecting a band, set upon Terituchmes and slew him after a strenuous resistance. After this, his mother, brothers, and sisters were apprehended by the order of Parysatis, the queen, who caused Roxana to be hewn in pieces, and the other unfortunates to be buried alive. It was with great difficulty that Arsaces, the heir-apparent, afterwards Artaxerxes Mnemon, preserved his own wife, Statira, from the massacre. It happened that she was sister to Terituchmes, and, though wholly innocent of his offence, she would have been involved in the common destruction of her family had not her husband with tears and entreaties begged her life of his parents. The son of Terituchmes maintained himself for a while in his father's government; but Parysatis succeeded in having him taken off by poison.


Review of Darius' Rule


The character of Darius Nothus is seen tolerably clearly in the account of his reign which has been here given. He was at once weak and wicked. Contrary to his sworn word, he murdered his brothers, Secydianus and Arsites. He broke faith with Pissuthnes. He sanctioned the wholesale execution of Terituchmes' relatives. Under him the eunuchs of the palace rose to such power that one of them actually ventured to aspire to the sovereignty. Parysatis, his wife, one of the most cruel and malignant even of Oriental women, was in general his chosen guide and counselor. His severities cannot, however, in all eases be ascribed to her influence, for he was anxious that she should put the innocent Statira to death, and, when she refused, reproached her with being foolishly lenient. In his administration of the Empire he was unsuccessful; for, if he gained some tracts of Asia Minor, he lost the entire African satrapy. Under him we trace a growing relaxation of the checks by which the great officers of the state were intended to have been held under restraint. Satraps came to be practically uncontrolled in their provinces, and the dangerous custom arose of allowing sons to succeed, almost as a matter of course, to the governments of their fathers. Powers unduly large were lodged in the hands of a single officer, and actions, that should have brought down upon their perpetrators sharp and signal punishment, were timorously or negligently condoned by the supreme authority. Cunning and treachery were made the weapons wherewith Persia contended with her enemies. Manly habits were laid aside, and the nation learned to trust more and more to the swords of mercenaries.


 Artaxerxes I


 Artaxerxes II