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Artaxerxes

Artaxerxes

 

 

ArtaxerxesIn the long reign of Artaxerxes II., Persia was brought into new relations with Greece. The Oriental despot was no longer the invader of republican Greece, but was challenged to defend his own dominions. Having learned. however, that gold was more potent than iron in such contest, he was able to introduce dissensions and to divide and conquer his enemies. But his victories eventually paved the pathway for the march of the great Macedonian conqueror, by whom the ancient Persian empire was overthrown.

 

Artaxerxes II. was the eldest son of Darius Nothus, and was born before his father had succeeded to the throne. His mother, Parysatis, was a daughter of King Artaxerxes Lungimanus. He began to reign on the death of his father, 405 B.C. and then took the name of Artaxerxes, having previously been called Arsaces. His wife was Statira, whom he married before he ascended the throne. The queen-mother had endeavored to gain the throne for Cyrus, her younger son, while the succession was still open and she afterward encouraged him to vindicate his claim as the first-born after his father had become king. Cyrus, whose character is depicted by Xenophon in most favorable colors, is said by Plutarch to have been of a violent and impetuous temper. Artaxerxes was gentle and moderate in bis disposition. His excellent memory procured for him the surname of Mnemon.

 

His brother Cyrus, distinguished in history as Cyrus the Younger, had been appointed satrap of Lydia by his father. He now began to collect, in a stealthy manner, a large army. He did not keep these forces in Lydia in a body, but had emissaries who enlisted foreigners in various places, on various pretenses. Among them were 11,000 Greeks, who did not know that they were to fight against the Great King, as the King of Persia was called.

 

Early in 401 B.C., they were brought together at Sardis, and Cyrus began his march with an army of about 115,000. His design was not fully revealed until he had reached the Euphrates; yet the king is said to have assembled against him 900,000 men, whom he commanded in person. The armies met at Cunaxa, about sixty miles from Babylon, in September, 401 B.C. The Greeks of Cyrus' army easily defeated the Persians opposed to them but Cyrus, imprudently seeking to slay the king, rushed into the center of the enemy, and was killed. According to Xenophon, Artaxerxes was wounded by the hand of Cyrus, and he pretended that he killed Cyrus in single combat. The generals of the surviving Greeks, who had fought here for Cyrus, were beguiled into negotiations by Tissaphernes and treacherollsly slain. The" Ten Thousand," now deprived of their leaders, adopted the advice of the volunteer, Xenophon, and decided not to surrender, but to make their way home. Commanded by Xenophon and others, they made the memorable retreat which" is a high·water mark in military history." They defeated the Persians whenever the latter attacked them or opposed their march.

 

The expedition of Cyrus broke off the friendly relations which had existed between Persia and Sparta, as this State had offended Artaxerxes by giving important assistance to Cyrus. The Spartans, having secured the services of the" Ten Thousand," after their masterly retreat, invaded Asia Minor about 397 B.C. Agesilaus, King of Sparta, gained several victories over the satrap Tissaphernes. " By these losses," says Plutarch, "Artaxerxes came to understand what was his best method of making war. He sent Hermocrates into Greece with a great quantity of gold, having instructed him to corrupt with it the leading men, and to stir up a Grecian war against Laecedremon." Thus Sparta was involved in a war against Athens, Thebes and other States. Soon Agesilaus was recalled, in 394 B. C. To defend his own country. Conon, who commanded the Athenian and Persian fleets, defeated the Spartans at Cnidus, 394 B.C. In consequence of this defeat, the Spartans lost the empire of the sea, and became willing to treat for peace. The war was ended by the Peace of Antalcidas, 387 B.C., which was most disgraceful to the Greeks, and was dictated by Artaxerxes himself. Que of the Conditions of this treaty was that all the Greek cities in Asia should he surrendered to the Persian king.

 

About 384 B.C. the Cadusians, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, revolted. Artaxerxes marched against them in person, with 300,000 men. His army suffered from want of food, as this rough and mountainous country, covered with perpetual fogs, produces no grain or fruits by cultivation. He was saved from disaster by the skill of Tiribasus, one of his officers, who by an artifice procured the submission of the rebels.

 

Having secured the services of the skillful Athenian general, Iphicrates, Artaxerxes sent an expedition to reconquer Egypt, in 375 B.C. But Iphicrates and Pharnabazus, the Persian satrap, quarreled, and the expedition failed. This failure produced a general spirit of disaffection in the western satrapies of the empire. Nectanabis, King of Egypt, aided by Agesilaus, of Sparta, attempted, in 362 B.C., to annex Syria and Phoenicia to Egypt, but did not succeed.

 

The court of Persia, during the reign of Artaxerxes, was the scene of many crimes and atrocities, for the worst of which the queen-mother, Parysatis, was responsible. She had great power and influence over Artaxerxes. The long catalogue or her cruel and bloody deeds is almost without a parallel even in the history of Oriental despotisms. Among her victims was the virtuous Queen Statira, whom she poisoned. The members of the royal household became the special objects of jealousy to each other, and executions, assassinations and suicides decimated the royal family. The king put to death his eldest son, Darius, whom he had appointed his successor, but who offended him by asking for Aspasia, one of the king'5 concubines, and some say Darius conspired to kill the king.

 

After the death of Darius three of his brothers competed for the right of succession-Ariaspes, Ochus, Arsames. The first, timid and credulous, was induced, by the intrigues of Ochus with the eunuchs of the palace, to believe that this father had destined him to the fate of Darius. To avoid this he committed suicide. Arsames was the sou of a favorite concubine, and the king showed a preference for him on account of his ability. Ochus, therefore, had him assassinated.

 

Artaxerxes died in 362 B.C., aged about ninety-four, and was succeeded by his son Ochus. The native mildness of his character, instead of preventing bloodshed, had contributed to fill his reign with deeds of horrid cruelty. Though he had maintained the integrity of his empire, the events of his reign had revealed its weakness to shrewd observers, and it awaited the daring enterprise of Alexander the Great in the next generation.

 

THE BATTLE OF KUNAXA.

 

On the next day but one after passing the undefended trench, the Greeks of the army of Cyrus were surprised, at a spot called Kunaxa, just when they were about to halt for the mid.day meal and repose, by the sudden intimation that the king's army was approaching in order of battle on the open plain. Instantly Cyrus hastened to mount on horseback, to arm himself, and to put his forces in order, while the Greeks on their side halted and formed their line with all possible speed. They were on the right wing of the army, adjoining the river Euphrates Ariaeus with the Asiatic forces being on the left, and Cyrus himself, sorrounded by a body.guard of six hundred well-armed Persian horsemen, in the centre. Among the Greeks, Klearchus commanded the right division of hoplites, with Paphlagonian horsemen and the Grecian peltasts on the extreme right, close to the river Proxenus with his division stood next; Menon commanded on the left. All the Persian horsemen around Cyrus had breastplates, helmets, short Grecian swords, and two javelins in their right hands the horses also were defended by facings both over the breast and head. Cyrus himself, armed generally like the rest, stood distinguished by having an upright tiara instead of the helmet.

 

Though the first news had come upon them by surprise, the Cyreians had ample time to put themselves in complete order for the enemy did not appear until the afternoon was advanced. First, was seen dust, like a white cloud,-next, an undefined dark spot, gradually nearing, until the armor began to shine, and the component divisions of troops, arranged in dense masses became discernible. Tissaphernes was on the left, opposite to the Greeks, at the head of the Persian horsemen, with white cuirasses; on his right stood the Persian bowmen, with their gerrha, or wicker shields, spiked so as to be fastened in the ground, while arrows were shot from behind them; next, the Egyptian infantry with long wooden shields covering the whole body and legs. In front of all was a row of chariots with scythes attached to the wheels, destined to begin tile charge against the Grecian phalanx.

 

As the Greeks were completing their array, Cyrus rode to the front, and desired Klearchus to make his attack with the Greeks upon the centre of the enemy; since it was there that the king in person would be posted, and if that were once beaten, the victory was gained. But such was the superiority of Artaxerxes in numbers, that his center extended beyond the left of Cyrus. Accordingly Klearchus, afraid of withdrawing his right from the river, lest he should be taken both in Bank and rear, chose to keep his position on the right,and merely replied to Cyrus, that he would manage everything for the best. The fear of being attacked on the unshielded side and on the rear, often led the Greek soldiers into movements inconsistent with military expediency Klearchus, blindly obeying this habitual rule of precaution, was induced here to commit the capital mistake of keeping on the right flank, contrary to the more judicious direction of Cyrus.

 

The latter continued for a short time riding slowly in front of the lines, looking alternately at the two armies, when Xenopbon, one of the small total of Grecian horsemen, and attached to the division of Proxenus, rode forth from the line to accost him, asking if be had any orders to desired him to proclaim to every one that the sacrifices were favorable. Hearing a murmur going through the Grecian ranks, he inquired from Xenophon what it was; and received for answer, that the watchword was now being passed along for the second time. He asked, with some surprise, who gave the watchword? and what it was? Xenophon replied that it was "Zeus the Preserver, and Victory." - " I accept it," replied Cyrus; met that be the word;" and immediately rode away to his own post in the center, among the Asiatics.

 

The vast host of Artaxerxes, advancing steadily and without noise, were now within less than half a mile of the Cyreians, when the Greek troops raised the paean or usual war-cry, and began to move forward. As they advanced, the shout became more vehement the pace accelerated, and at last the whole body got into a run. The Persians did not stand to await the charge; they turned and fled when the assailants were yet hardly within bow-shot. Such was their panic, that even the drivers of the scythed chariots in front, deserting their teams, ran away along with the rest; while the horses, left to themselves, rushed apart in all directions, some turning round to follow the fugitives, others coming against the advancing Greeks, who made open order to let them pass. The left division of the kings army was thus routed without a blow, and seemingly without a man killed on either side; one Greek only being wounded by all arrow, and another by not getting out of the way of one of the chariots. Tissaphernes alone who, with the body of horse immediately around him, was at the extreme Persian left, close to the river,-formed an exception to this universal flight. He charged and penetrated through the Grecian peltasts, who stood opposite to him between the hoplites and the river. These peltasts, commanded by Episthenes of Amphipolis, opened their ranks to let him pass, darting at the men as they rode by, yet without losing anyone themselves. Tissaphernes thus got into the rear of the Greeks, who continued, on their side, to pursue the flying Persians before them.

 

Matters proceeded differently in the other parts of the field. Artaxerxes, though in the center of his own army, yet from his superior numbers outflanked Arireus, who commanded the extreme left of the Cyreians. Finding no one directly opposed to him, he began to wheel round his right wing, to encompass his enemies; not noticing the flight of his left division. Cyrus, on the other hand, when he saw the easy victory of the Greeks on their side, was overjoyed, and received from every one around him salutations, as if he were already king. Nevertheless, he had self-command enough not yet to rush forward as if the victory was already gained, but remained unmoved, with his regiment of six hundred horse around him, watching the movements of Artaxerxes. As soon as he saw the latter wheeling round his right division to get upon the rear of the Cyreians, he hastened to check this movement by an impetuous charge upon the center, where Artaxerxes was in person, surrounded by the body-guard of six thousand horse, under Artaxerxes. So vigorous was the attack of Cyrus, that with his six hundred horse, he broke and dispersed this body-guard, killing Artaxerxes with his own hand.

 

His own six hundred horse rushed forward in pursuit of the fugitives, leaving Cyrus himself nearly alone, with only the select few, called his Table-Companions," around him. It was under these circumstances that he first saw his brother Artaxerxes, whose person had been exposed to view by the flight of the body-guards. The sight filled him with such a paroxysm of rage and jealous ambition, that he lost all thought of safety or prudence,-cried out, "I see the man, "-and rushed forward with his mere handful of companions to attack Artaxerxes, in spite of the numerous host behind him. Cyrus made directly at his brother, darting his javelin with so true an aim as to strike him in the breast, and wound him through the cuirass though the wound afterwards cured by the Greek surgeon Ktesias could not have been very severe, since Artaxerxes did not quit the field, but, all the contrary, engaged in personal combat, he and those around hint, against this handful of assailants. So unequal a combat did not last long. Cyrus, being severely wounded under the eye by the javelin of a Karian soldier, was cast from his horse and slain. The small number of faithful companions around him all perished in his defence. Artasyras, who stood first among them in his confidence and attachment, seeing him mortally wounded and fallen, cast himself down upon him, clasped him in his arms, and in this position either slew himself, or was slain by the order of the king.

 

The head and the right hand of the deceased prince were immediately cut off by order of Artaxerxes, and doubtless exhibited conspicuously to view. This was a proclamation to every one that the entire contest was at an end; and so it was understood by Arireus, who, together with all the Asiatic troops of Cyrus, deserted the field and fled back to the camp. Not even there did they defend themselves, when the king and his forces pursued them hut fled yet farther back to the resting-place of the previous night. The troops of Artaxerxes got into the camp and began to plunder it without resistance. Even the harem of Cyrus fell into their power. It included two Grecian women,--of free condition, good family, and education,-- one from Phoekea, the other from Miletus, brought to him, by force, from their parents to Sardis. The elder of these two, the Phoekean, named Milto, distinguished alike for beauty and accomplished intelligence, was made prisoner and transferred to the harem of Artaxerxes; the other, a younger person, found means to save herself, though without her upper gannents, and sought shelter among some Greeks who were left in the camp on guard of the Grecian baggage. These Greeks repelled the Persian assailants with considerable slaughter preserving their own baggage, as well as the persons of all who fled to them for shelter. But the Asiatic camp of the Cyreians was completely pillaged, not excepting those reserved wagons of provisions which Cyrus had provided in order that his Grecbn auxiliaries might be certain, under all circumstances, of a supply.

 

While Artaxerxes was thus stripping the Cyreian camp, he was joined by Tissaphernes and his division of horse, who had charged through between the Grecian division and the river. At this time, there was a distance of no less than thirty stadia or three and a half miles between him and Klearchus with the Grecian division; so far had the latter advanced forward in pursuit of the Persian fugitives. Apprised, after some time, that the king's troops had been victorious on the left and center, and were masters of the camp,-but not yet know ing of the death of Cyrus,-Klearchus marched back his troops, and met the enemy's forces also returning. He was apprehensive of being surrounded by superior numbers, and therefore took post with his rear upon the river. In this position, Artaxerxes again marshalled his troops in front, as if to attack him but the Greeks, anticipating his movement, were first in making the attack themselves, and forced the Persians to take flight even more terror-stricken than before, Klearchus, thus relieved from all enemies, waited a while in hopes of hearing news of Cyrus. He then returned to the camp, which was found stripped of all its stores so that the Greeks were compelled to' pass the night without supper, while most of them also had had no dinner, from the early hour at which the battle had commenced. It was only all the next morning that they learned, through Prokles descendant of the Spartan king Demaratus, formerly companion of Xerxes in the invasion of Greece, that Cyrus had been slain; news which converted their satisfaction at their own triumph into sorrow and dismay.-G. GROTE.

 

Artaxerxes

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