Tomb of Artaxerxes I

Prospective tomb of Artaxerxes I of Persia in Naqsh-e Rustam

Artaxerxes I (Latin; Greek Ἀρταξέρξης; Persian اردشیر یکم (Ardeshir) corruption of Old Persian 𐎠𐎼𐎭𐎧𐎨𐏁𐎨[1] Artaxšacā, "whose reign is through arta (truth)"; the name has nothing to do with Xerxes)[2] was king of the Persian Empire from 465 BC to 424 BC. He was the son of Xerxes I of Persia and Amestris, daughter of Otanes.

He is also surnamed μακρόχειρ "Macrocheir (Latin = Longimanus)", allegedly because his right hand was longer than his left. [3]

After Persia had been defeated at Eurymedon, military action between Greece and Persia was at a standstill. When Artaxerxes I took power, he began a new tradition of weakening the Athenians by funding their enemies in Greece. This indirectly caused the Athenians to move the treasury of the Delian League from the island of Delos to the Athenian acropolis. This funding practice inevitably prompted renewed fighting in 450 BC, where the Greeks attacked at the Battle of Cyprus. After Cimon's failure to attain much in this expedition, the Peace of Callias was agreed between Athens, Argos and Persia in 449 BC.

Artaxerxes I offered asylum to Themistocles, who was the winner of the Battle of Salamis, after Themistocles was ostracized from Athens.

Portrayal in the Book of Ezra and Nehemiah

Artaxerxes (Hebrew: אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא‎, pronounced [artaχʃast]) commissioned Ezra, a Jewish priest-scribe, by means of a letter of decree, to take charge of the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the Jewish nation. A copy of this decree may be found in Ezra 7:13-28.

Ezra thereby left Babylon in the first month of the seventh year (~ 457 BC) of Artaxerxes' reign, at the head of a company of Jews that included priests and Levites. They arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month of the seventh year (Hebrew Calendar).

The rebuilding of the Jewish community in Jerusalem had begun under Cyrus the Great, who had permitted Jews held captive in Babylon, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of Solomon. Consequently, a number of Jews returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C., and the foundation of this "Second Temple" was laid the following year.

In Artaxerxes' 20th year (445 B.C.), Nehemiah, the king's cupbearer, apparently was also a friend of the king as in that year Artaxerxes inquired after Nehemiah's sadness. Nehemiah related to him the plight of the Jewish people and that the city of Jerusalem was undefended. The king sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem with letters of safe passage to the governors in Trans-Euphrates, and to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, to make beams for the citadel by the Temple and to rebuild the city walls.[4]

Interpretations of Artaxerxes actions

Roger Williams, a seventeenth-century Christian minister and founder of Rhode Island, interpreted several passages in the Old and New Testament to support limiting government interference in religious matters. Williams published The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, describing his analysis of why a civil government should be separate from religion according to the Bible. Williams believed that Israel was a unique covenant kingdom and not an appropriate model for New Testament Christians who believed that the Old Testament covenant had been fulfilled. Therefore, the more informative Old Testament examples of civil government were "good" non-covenant kings such as Artaxerxes, who tolerated the Jews even though he was a pagan and did not insist that they follow his "state" religion.[5]


By queen Damaspia

By Alogyne of Babylon

By Cosmartidene of Babylon

By Andia of Babylon

By another(?) unknown wife

By various wives eleven other children


  1. Ghias Abadi, R. M. (2004) (in Persian). Achaemenid Inscriptions (کتیبه‌های هخامنشی)‎ (2nd edition ed.). Tehran: Shiraz Navid Publications. pp. 129. ISBN 964-358-015-6. 
  2. The Greek form of the name is influenced by Xerxes (Encyclopedia Iranica). The Biblical Hebrew form is ארתחשסתא Artakhshasta. In Modern Persian, he is called Ardeshir.
  3. Plutarch, Artaxerxes, l. 1. c. 1. 11:129 - cited by Ussher, Annals, para. 1179
  4. Nehemiah 2:1-9
  5. James P. Byrd, The challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible (Mercer University Press, 2002)[1] (accessed on Google Book on July 20, 2009)
  6. Xenophon, Hellenica, Book II, Chapter 1

See also

Artaxerxes I of Persia
Born:  ?? Died: 424 BC
Preceded by
Xerxes I
Great King (Shah) of Persia
465 BC–424 BC
Succeeded by
Xerxes II
Pharaoh of Egypt
465 BC–424 BC

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