Print this page

Artabazus, loyal to the Persian throne

Artabazus was a respected Persian nobleman, who served a succession of Great Kings, culminating in Darius III, and subsequently Alexander. He was the father of Barsine, who was the widow of Memnon of Rhodes and became Alexander’s mistress—she bore him a son, Heracles, in 327 BC (Pl. Alex. 21.4, Eum. 1).

Although generally loyal to the Great King, at some point in the 340s BC Artabazus and his family were guests at Philip’s court, following an unsuccessful rebellion of satraps against Artaxerxes III Ochus (Diod. 16.52.3-4; Curt. 5.9.1, 6.5.2). When Darius III became Great King, however, Artabazus returned to Persia and was loyal to him until Darius died in 330. When Darius was murdered by Bessus, Satibarzanes and Nabarzanes (in Parthia in early 330BC), Artabazus realised that the game was over, and he transferred his allegiance to the Macedonian (bringing with him his sons, who were also to provide good service for their new Great King).

Alexander appointed Artabazus to be satrap of Bactria, as a replacement for the traitor Bessus (Curt. 7.5.1). At some point in the summer or early autumn of 328 BC, however, Artabazus decided that he was too old to rule a satrapy, and begged Alexander to relieve him of his command (Curt. 8.1.19). Alexander acquiesced, and appointed in his place Cleitus the Black. Unfortunately, Cleitus did not see the appointment as a good thing, and he was killed in a drunken argument, by Alexander, before he could take up his new post. Another satrap, Amyntas, was appointed in his place, and Artabazus was able to 'retire', leaving his sons to continue in the king's service.

Written by marcus