Arses of Persia

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King of Kings
Great King
King of Persia
Pharaoh of Egypt
King of Countries
Artaxerxes IV Arses.jpg
Probable portrait of Arses, wearing the Egyptian Pharaonic crown.[1]
King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire
Reign 338–336 BC
Predecessor Artaxerxes III
Successor Darius III
Pharaoh of Egypt
Predecessor Artaxerxes III
Successor Darius III
Died 336 BC
Regnal name
Artaxerxes IV
Dynasty Achaemenid
Father Artaxerxes III
Mother Atossa
Religion Zoroastrianism

Arses (Old Persian: Aršaka), also known by his dynastic name of Artaxerxes IV (/ˌɑːrtəˈzɜːrksz/; 𐎠𐎼𐎫𐎧𐏁𐏂 Artaxšaçā), was the twelfth Achaemenid king of Persia from 338 BC to 336 BC. He is known as Arses in Greek sources and that seems to have been his real name, but the Xanthus trilingue and potsherds from Samaria report that he took the royal name of Artaxerxes IV, following his father and grandfather.


Arses is the Greek form of the Old Persian Aršaka (also spelled Aršāma, Xšayaaršan). The common Iranian variant is attested in Avestan Aršan- (linguistically related to Greek arsēn "male, manly").[2]


Arses was the youngest son of Artaxerxes III and his wife Atossa.[2] Arses had several brothers, only one whose name is attested, a certain Bisthanes.[2] Persia was experiencing a resurgence under Artaxerxes III, who reorganized his empire, and suppressed revolts throughout the country.[3] However, the fortunes of Persia came to an abrupt end in autumn of 338, when Artaxerxes III was murdered by the ambitious eunuch and chiliarch Bagoas, who had the king poisoned.[4] Artaxerxes III's early death proved to be a problematic issue for Persia,[3] and may have played a role in the weakening of the country.[2] The majority of Artaxerxes III's sons, with the exception of Arses and Bisthanes, were also murdered by Bagoas.[3] Bagoas, who wanted to be kingmaker, put the young Arses on the throne.[3][2]

On his ascension to the throne, Arses most likely assumed the regnal name of Artaxerxes IV.[5] He was put on the throne by Bagoas due to his youth, which the latter sought to take advantage of in order to control him. Around the same period, most of the Greek city-states had joined the Greek league under the leadership of the Macedonian king Philip II, who took advantage of the events in Persia by demanding compensation from the country for helping the town of Perinthus during the reign of Artaxerxes III.[2] Arses declined, and as a result, a Greek expedition was started with Philip II as general, who sent 10,000 Macedonian soldiers into Asia in 336 BC.[2] At the same time, however, Arses was focused on trying to free himself from Bagoas' authority and influence; he made an unsuccessful effort to have the latter poisoned, only to be poisoned himself along with the rest of his family by Bagoas, who put Arses' cousin Darius III on the throne.[2] Macedonian propaganda, made in order to legitimize the conquests of Alexander the Great a few years later, accused Darius III of playing a key role in the murder of Arses, who was portrayed as the last king of the Achaemenid royal house.[6]


Coinage of Mazaios, Satrap of Cilicia, 361/0-334 BC, thought to represent Artaxerxes III on the obverse, and a young Arses on the reverse.[1]

There is no dynastic coinage of Artaxerxes IV, but it is thought he may be depicted as a young ruler wearing the Pharaonic crown on the reverse of some of the contemporary coinage of satrap Mazaios in Cilicia, while his father Artaxerxes III appears seated, also in Pharaonic dress, on the obverse.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Kovacs, Frank L. (2002). "Two Persian Pharaonic Portraits". Jahrbuch für Numismatik und Geldgeschichte. R. Pflaum. pp. 55–60.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h LeCoq 1986, p. 548.
  3. ^ a b c d Schmitt 1986, pp. 658-659.
  4. ^ Waters 2014, p. 197.
  5. ^ Briant 2002, p. 769.
  6. ^ Briant 2002, p. 770.


Ancient works

Modern works

  • Briant, Pierre (2002). From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire. Eisenbrauns. pp. 1–1196. ISBN 9781575061207.
  • LeCoq, P. (1986). "Arses". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. II, Fasc. 5. p. 548.
  • Schmitt, R. (1986). "Artaxerxes III". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. II, Fasc. 6. pp. 658–659.
  • Waters, Matt (2014). Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–272. ISBN 9781107652729.
Arses of Persia
Preceded by
Artaxerxes III
King of Kings of Persia
338 – 336 BC
Succeeded by
Darius III
Pharaoh of Egypt
XXXI Dynasty
338 – 336 BC
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