ARTAXERXES I. (surnamed Longimanus—"Long-Hand"):
King of Persia; ascended the throne in 465
Artaxerxes was the second son of Xerxes, who was murdered in the summer of 465 by his all-powerful vizir Artaban. The murderer accused the king's eldest son Darius of the crime, with the result that Darius was slain by his younger brother Artaxerxes, who then mounted the throne. But Artaban sought the crown for himself, and therefore aimed at the life of the young king; the latter, it is stated, warned by Megabyzus, his brother-in-law, rid himself of the murderer by slaying him, with all his household and party, in open combat (Ctesias, "Persica," 29; Diodorus, xi. 69; Justin, iii. 1, according to Dinon; but Aristotle, "Politics," viii. 8, 14 has a different version). The murder of Xerxes is mentioned also by Ælian, ("Variæ Historiæ," xiii. 3), and in an Egyptian inscription of the time of Ptolemy I., which ascribes the deed to the vengeance of an Egyptian god on theforeign king. The Greek chronologists, evidently through a misunderstanding, make of Artaban a Persian king and state that he reigned seven months. The Greeks gave Artaxerxes the surname Μακρόχειρ (Longimanus, Long-Hand), asserting, probably correctly, that his right hand was longer than his left. They uniformly describe him as a brave and handsome man, a kindly and magnanimous ruler (Nepos, "De Regibus," ch. i.; Plutarch, "Artaxerxes," ch. i.). The authentic narrative of Nehemiah gives an accurate picture, showing him to have been a kindly monarch, who, noticing the sadness of his cupbearer, asked him his wish and granted it. This characterization does not deny that he was susceptible to harem-influence or that he could become very angry when any one appeared presumptuous. Ctesias relates that he once sought to decapitate Megabyzus because, on a hunting expedition, when a lion was about to spring upon the king, Megabyzus slew him without awaiting the royal spear-thrust. The women of the court interceded for the offender, and his sentence was commuted to long exile upon an island in the Persian gulf, whence he finally succeeded in escaping. He afterward secured the king's pardon. The reverence with which the Persians regarded Artaxerxes may be seen in the fact that two of his successors adopted his name.
His long reign was generally tranquil, the system of government introduced by Darius working satisfactorily. A few satraps who rebelled now and again (as, for instance, at the very beginning of the reign, the governor of Bactria), were speedily subdued. On the borderlands and in the mountainous districts the authority of the government may not have been vigorously sustained, but every other religion under his sway in Asia may be said to have enjoyed a period of peaceful growth. Artaxerxes I. was, however, not a creative genius.His Relations to the Jews.
Fuller details are known concerning his relationship to the Jews, toward whose development at a critical juncture he contributed efficiently. Two documents are contained in the Book of Ezra, ch. iv. (albeit wrongfully placed by the editor of that work); and there are also fragments of the memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah themselves. Both documents in ch. iv. and the decree containing Ezra's appointment in ch. vii. have been declared spurious. In addition, the attempt has been made frequently to place Ezra's journey and reforms in the reign of Artaxerxes II.; but all such endeavors are critically untenable (compare Meyer, "Entstehung des Judenthums," l896).
In the seventh year of Artaxerxes I. (458