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Artaxerxes II

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Title: Artaxerxes II  
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Subject: Book of Ezra, Book of Esther, Xenophon, 5th century BC, 404 BC, Darius II, Ahura Mazda, 430s BC, 401 BC, 400 BC
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Artaxerxes II

Artaxerxes II Mnemon
Great King (Shah) of Persia
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Artaxerxes II tomb in Persepolis, Iran.
Reign 405-04 to 359-58 BC
Born ca. 435 or 445 BC
Died 358 BC
Predecessor Darius II of Persia
Heir Apparent Artaxerxes III of Persia
Successor Artaxerxes III of Persia
Consort Stateira
Issue Artaxerxes III
Dynasty Achaemenid
Father Darius II
Mother Parysatis

Artaxerxes II Mnemon /ˌɑrtəˈzɜrksz/ (Persian: اردشير دوم‎; Old Persian: 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎠, meaning "whose reign is through truth")[1] 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, with the aid of a large army of Greek mercenaries, attempted to usurp the throne. Though Cyrus' mixed army fought to a tactical victory at the Battle of Cunaxa in Babylon (401 BC), Cyrus himself was killed in the exchange by Mithridates, rendering his victory irrelevant. (The Greek historian Xenophon would later recount this battle in the Anabasis, focusing on the struggle of the now stranded Greek mercenaries to return home.) Artaxerxes tried to claim for himself the glory of having killed his brother but when Mithridates, flushed with wine, boasted at court of killing Cyrus, Artaxerxes had him executed for making him out to be a liar.

Artaxerxes 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. In 385 BC he campaigned against the Cadusians.

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 quashed the Revolt of the Satraps in 372-362 BC.

He is reported to have had a number of wives. His main wife was Stateira, until she was poisoned by Artaxerxes' mother Parysatis in about 400 BC. He also married several of his own daughters. Another chief wife was a Greek woman of Phocaea named Aspasia (not the same as the concubine of Pericles). Artaxerxes II is said to have more than 115 sons from 350 wives.[2]

Building projects

Much of Artaxerxes's wealth was spent on building projects. He restored the palace of Darius I at Susa,[3] 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.


By Stateira
Artaxerxes III
Ariaspes or Ariarathes
Rhodogune, wife of satrap Orontes I
Atossa, wife of Artaxerxes II & then Artaxerxes III
By other wives
Phriapatius(?), probable ancestor of Arsacids
Amestris, wife of Artaxerxes II
Apama, wife of Pharnabazus
Ocha, mother of an unnamed wife of Artaxerxes III
The unnamed wife of Tissaphernes
112 other unnamed sons


It has been suggested that this man was the Ahasuerus mentioned in the Book of Esther. Plutarch in his Lives (75 CE) records alternative names Oarses and Arsicas for Artaxerxes II Mnemon given by Deinon (c.360-340 BCE[4]) and Ctesias (Artexerxes II's physician[5]) respectively.[6] These derive from the Persian name Khshayarsha as do "Ahasuerus" ("Xerxes") and the hypocoristicon "Arshu" for Artaxerxes II found on a contemporary inscription (LBAT 162[7]). These sources thus arguably identify Ahasuerus as Artaxerxes II in light of the names used in the Hebrew and Greek sources and accords with the contextual information from Pseudo-Hecataeus and Berossus[8] as well as agreeing with Al-Tabari and Masudi's placement of events. The 13th century Syriac historian Bar-Hebraeus in his Chronography, also identifies Ahasuerus as Artaxerxes II citing the sixth century CE historian John of Ephesus.[9][10]

Zakarid-Mkhargrzeli, a noble family prominent in medieval Armenia and Georgia, claimed to be descended from Artaxerxes II – on the basis of his being nicknamed the "Longarmed", which was also the meaning of their own name. While authenticity of this pedigree is doubtful, it testifies to this king's long renown.

See also


External links

  • Artaxerxes by Plutarch
  • H. Hunger & "An astronomical diary concerning Artaxerxes II (year 42 = 363-2 BC). Military operations in Babylonia" in: Arta 2006.002
  • Inscriptions of Artaxerxes II in transcribed Persian and in English translation. [1]
Artaxerxes II of Persia
Born: c. 436 BC Died: 358 BC
Preceded by
Darius II
Great King (Shah) of Persia
404 BC – 358 BC
Succeeded by
Artaxerxes III
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