Artaxerxes Mnemon

d. 358 BC

When Artaxerxes II. mounted the throne of Persia in 404 B.C., the power of Athens had been broken by Lysander, and the Greek towns in Asia were again subjects of the Persian empire. But his whole reign is a time of continuous decay; the original force of the Persians had been exhausted in luxury and intrigues, and the king, though personally brave and good-natured, was quite dependent upon his favourites and his harem, and especially upon his mother Parysatis. In the beginning of his reign falls the rebellion of his brother Cyrus, who was secretly favoured by Parysatis and by Sparta. Although Cyrus was defeated at Cunaxa, this rebellion was disastrous inasmuch as it opened to the Greeks the way into the interior of the empire, and demonstrated that no oriental force was able to withstand a band of well-trained Greek soldiers. Subsequently Greek mercenaries became indispensable not only to the king but also to the satraps, who thereby gained the means for attempting successful rebellions, into which they were provoked by the weakness of the king, and by the continuous intrigues between the Persian magnates. The reign is, therefore, a continuous succession of rebellions.

Egypt soon revolted anew and could not be subdued again. When in 399 war broke out between Sparta and Persia, the Persian troops in Asia Minor were quite unable to resist the Spartan armies. The active and energetic Persian general Pharnabazus succeeded in creating a fleet by the help of Evagoras, king of Salamis in Cyprus, and the Athenian commander Conon, and destroyed the Spartan fleet at Cnidus (August 394). This victory enabled the Greek allies of Persia (Thebes, Athens, Argos, Corinth) to carry on the Corinthian war against Sparta, and the Spartans had to give up the war in Asia Minor. But it soon became evident that the only gainers by the war were the Athenians, who in 389, under Thrasybulus, tried to found their old empire anew. At the same time Evagoras attempted to conquer the whole of Cyprus, and was soon in open rebellion. The consequence was that, when in 388 the Spartan admiral Antalcidas came to Susa, the king was induced to conclude a peace with Sparta by which Asia fell to him and European Greece to Sparta. By the peace of Antalcidas the Persian supremacy was proclaimed over Greece; and in the following wars all parties, Spartans, Athenians, Thebans, Argives continually applied to Persia for a decision in their favour.

After the battle of Leuctra, when the power of Thebes was founded by Epaminondas, Pelopidas went to Susa (367) and restored the old alliance between Persia and Thebes. The Persian supremacy, however, was not based upon the power of the empire, but only on the discord of the Greeks. When the long reign of Artaxerxes II. came to its close in the autumn of 359 the authority of the empire had been restored almost everywhere. Artaxerxes himself had done very little to obtain this result. In fact, in the last years of his reign he had sunk into a perfect dotage. All his time was spent in the pleasures of his harem, the intrigues of which were further complicated by his falling in love with and marrying his own daughter Atossa (according to the Persian religion a marriage between the nearest relations is no incest). At the same time, his sons were quarrelling about the succession; one of them, Ochus, induced the father by a series of intrigues to condemn to death three of his older brothers, who stood in his way. Shortly afterwards, Artaxerxes II. died.

—Excerpted from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Key events during the life of Artaxerxes II:

404 BC
Assumed throne of Persia on the death of Darius II.
401 BC
Defeats and kills his brother Cyrus at the Battle of Cunaxa.
396 BC
Agesilaus sent to Asia Minor to liberate Asian colonies.
394 BC
Spartan fleet destroyed at Cnidus. Agesilaus returns to fight Corinthian War.
388 BC
Peace of Antalcidas is signed with very favorable terms for Persia.
367 BC
Pelopidas travels to Susa to negotiate peace between Persia and Thebes.
359 BC
Death of Artaxerxes II.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
In Old Persia  in  Tales of the Greeks: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Peace of Antalcidas  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Artaxerxes  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
March of the Ten Thousand  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
Rival Brothers  in  The Retreat of the Ten Thousand  by  Frances Younghusband

Short Biography
Cyrus the Younger Plotted to kill his brother Artaxerxes, and assume the Persian throne.
Pharnabazus Persian satrap who fought Agesilaus in Lydia.
Parysatis Mother of Cyrus and Artaxerxes.
Agesilaus Leader of Sparta after the Peloponnesian War. Campaigned in Asia Minor and warred with Thebes.
Antalcidas Spartan general who negotiated the peace that ended the Corinthian War.
Evagoras King of Salamis in Cyprus
Pelopidas Helped to liberate Thebes. Leader of the "Sacred Band" of Theban Warriors.