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ARTAXERXES III.:

A son of Artaxerxes II. He originally bore a name which in Babylonian was written "Umasu" (and therefore in the Ptolemaic canon, as given by Elias of Nisibis, the form is found). He was called Ochus by the Greeks. After he had rid himself of the rightful successor, Darius, he mounted his father's throne in the autumn of 359 B.C., and reigned until the summer of 338. Hence the Babylonians and the Ptolemaic canon assign twenty-one years to his reign, while Diodorus (xv. 93; xvii. 5), together with the Greek chronologies, wrongly extends his reign by some years (see Meyer, "Forschungen zur Alten Geschichte," ii. 466, 488 et seq., 496 et seq.).

His Character.

Artaxerxes III. Ochus was a cruel and bloodthirsty despot. He began his reign by murdering all relatives who might become dangerous to him. He was, however, a most energetic ruler, who allowed himself to be discouraged by no obstacle or failure, but ruthlessly prosecuted his purposes. With the assistance of the unscrupulous eunuch Bagoas and his Rhodian captains of mercenaries, Mentor and Memnon—fitting tools for his schemes—he succeeded in cementing the rapidly disintegrating empire of Persia by bloodshed, treachery, and fraud. He crushed several insurrections, notably that of the rebellious Sidonian in 345-344; and after many unsuccessful attempts he succeeded, in 343 or 342, in subduing Egypt also, and made it suffer severely for its rebellion.

Connection with Jewish History.

A certain conflict with his Jewish subjects seems to have been connected with these struggles. Josephus ("Ant." xi. 7, § 1) relates that when the high priest Judas (Joiada) was succeeded by his son Johanan (Jonathan or John; compare Neh. xii. 11, 22), his brother Jesus (Joshua) sought to deprive him of the office. Jesus relied for support upon Bagoses, Artaxerxes' general (the Bagoas previously mentioned), and so enraged Johanan that the latter struck him down in the Temple. Bagoses seven years later avenged the murder of Jesus by exacting of the Jews a tax of 50 drachmas for each lamb offered at the daily sacrifices. He also unlawfully and forcibly entered the Temple precincts, claiming that he was purer than the murdering high priest Johanan. There is no reason to consider this account as being in its essentials untrue (Willrich, "Juden und Griechen vor der Makkabäischen Erhebung," p. 89, declares the episode to be a misunderstanding of events which happened under Antiochus Epiphanes). It is probably to this episode that Eusebius refers in his "Chronicle" (under date of 1657 from Abraham—that is, 360 B.C.—which date is certainly erroneous; he is followed by Jerome; by Syncellus, p. 486; and by Orosius, iii. 76), when he relates that Artaxerxes III., upon his march against Egypt, carried a number of Jews into exile in Hyrcania and Babylonia. Possibly one of the uprisings alluded to above may have included a portion of Judea. This is possibly also the explanation of the strange statement of Justin (xxxvi. 3) that Xerxes, the king of the Persians, conquered the Jews. Neither of these statements is particularly reliable. The suggestion that the story of Judith is a reflection of these events lacks all foundation. The statement of Solinus (xxxv. 4) that Jericho was besieged by Artaxerxes and destroyed by him, has been explained by Theodore Reinach ("Semitic Studies in Memory of A. Kohut," pp. 447 et seq.) to refer to the conquests of the Sassanian king Artaxerxes I. (226-241).

In 338 Artaxerxes III., with most of his sons, was murdered by Bagoas; one of his sons, Arses, was elevated to the throne; but after a reign of two or three years he also was put to death by the murderer of his father.

G. E. Me.
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