Bessus

Bessus

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Artaxerxes V, also known as Bessus (died summer 329 BC) was a prominent Persian
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 nobleman and satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

 of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

, and later self-proclaimed king of Persia. According to classical sources, he killed his predecessor and relative, Darius III
Darius III of Persia
Darius III , also known by his given name of Codomannus, was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia from 336 BC to 330 BC....

, after the Persian army had been defeated by Alexander the Great.

In the Battle of Gaugamela
Battle of Gaugamela
The Battle of Gaugamela took place in 331 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. The battle, which is also called the Battle of Arbela, resulted in a massive victory for the ancient Macedonians and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire.-Location:Darius chose a flat, open plain...

 (October 1 331 BC), in which Alexander defeated Darius III, Bessus commanded the left wing of the Persian army, chiefly composed by troops of his satrapy, who had only been merely mobilized before the battle of Issus
Battle of Issus
The Battle of Issus occurred in southern Anatolia, in November 333 BC. The invading troops, led by the young Alexander of Macedonia, defeated the army personally led by Darius III of Achaemenid Persia in the second great battle for primacy in Asia...

. The envelopment ordered by Darius failed and the Persians lost the battle after hours of fierce fighting. He survived the loss and remained with his king, whose routed army eluded Alexander's forces and spent the winter in Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

. The next year Darius III attempted to flee to Bactria in the east. Bessus, conspiring with fellow satraps, deposed Darius III. He likely intended to surrender the king to the Macedonians
Ancient Macedonians
The Macedonians originated from inhabitants of the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, in the alluvial plain around the rivers Haliacmon and lower Axios...

, but Alexander ordered his forces to brutally pursue the Persians even after receiving word of Darius' arrest.

According to sources, the panicked conspirators mortally wounded Darius III and left him to be found by a Macedonian soldier. The Babylonian Chronicle
Babylonian Chronicles
The Babylonian Chronicles are many series of tablets recording major events in Babylonian history. They are thus one of the first steps in the development of ancient historiography...

 known as BCHP 1 indicates this happened in July 330. The site has been identified near modern Ahuan.

Bessus immediately proclaimed himself king and adopted the throne name Artaxerxes
Artaxerxes
Artaxerxes may refer to:The throne name of several Achaemenid rulers of the 1st Persian Empire:* Artaxerxes I of Persia, Artaxerxes I Longimanus, r. 465–424 BC, son and successor of Xerxes I...

 (V). His self-proclaimed ascension was logical, since the satrap of Bactria, known as mathišta, was the noble next in the line of succession to the Persian throne. But since most of the Persian empire had been conquered and Bessus only ruled over a loose alliance of renegade provinces, historians do not generally regard him as an official Persian king.

Bessus returned to Bactria and tried to organize a resistance among the eastern satrapies. Alexander was forced to move his force to suppress the uprising in 329 BC. Frightened by the approaching Macedonians, Bessus's own people arrested and surrendered him.

Alexander ordered that Bessus's nose and ears be cut off, which was a Persian custom for those involved in rebellion and regicide
Regicide
The broad definition of regicide is the deliberate killing of a monarch, or the person responsible for the killing of a monarch. In a narrower sense, in the British tradition, it refers to the judicial execution of a king after a trial...

; the Behistun inscription
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

 relates that Darius the Great punished the usurper Phraortes
Phraortes
Phraortes , son of Diyako, was the second king of the Median Empire....

 in a similar manner.

Ancient reports contradict each other about the cause of his death. Curtius Rufus
Curtius Rufus
Curtius Rufus was a Roman politician mentioned by Tacitus for actions during the reigns of the emperors Tiberius and Claudius. In all probability he is to be equated with the first century Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus.-Early life:...

 says he was crucified
Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

 in the place where Darius III had been killed, Arrian
Arrian
Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon , known in English as Arrian , and Arrian of Nicomedia, was a Roman historian, public servant, a military commander and a philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period...

 states that he was tortured and then decapitated in Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

, and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 suggests that he was torn apart in Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

 after a Macedonian trial.

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