Artexerxes Biography

The reawakening of Persia reads like the glowing fancy of some poet of romance. Artaxerxes, a descendant of Sassan, from whom the family and empire are called Sassanian, was the Persian king who, in the year 226 A.D., declared his county independent of Parthia. Then, at the head of an army of eager and enthusiastic Persians chanting their ancient war-songs, he proceeded to seize and subdue the bordering provinces. The Parthians made no move to stop him, until his army actually threatened their own country. Then Artabanus, the last Parthian king, roused himself to resistance. Apparently there was no ill-feeling between the combatants. The Persians were merely proffering a courtly challenge to their old friends, to meet them and prove which had the better right to empire.

In two great battles the Persians were victorious. The Parthians, however, refused to accept the result as decisive; so a third contest was officially appointed, to take place on the plain of Hormuz. It was the last trial of strength, and the Parthians were completely overthrown. One historian tells of a personal encounter between Artaxerxes and his rival. The daring Persian spurring far in advance of his troops, coaxed his adversary from the shelter of his shield-bearers by a pretended flight, and then sent an arrow through his heart. The Parthian king was certainly slain in the battle, and his empire disappeared.

The next step in Artaxerxes' career was even more spectacular. His actual dominion as yet extended only over the mountains and deserts of Persia and Parthia; but he calmly announced that the Persians resumed all the territory of their ancient empire; and he sent notice of this in stately terms to Rome Four hundred youths, selected from the handsomest in Persia, gorgeously dressed and mounted, presented to the Emperor Severus their master's "order" to withdraw the Roman troops from the different Asian provinces, since all Asia belonged to the Persians.

The astonished Severus tried to argue the matter; but you can guess how much effect argument had on the proud and fiery Artaxerxes. He marched his army down from the mountains and seized the whole Roman territory along the Euphrates. Severus gathered an immense force to punish this insolence. Roman dignity was not hurt when the Parthians escaped her by scurrying into the deserts; but here was a regular army established on Roman territory, and actually besieging and capturing Roman cities.

Artaxerxes retreated before the advancing foe. Despite his boastful message, he was far too wise a general to risk his new empire on the chances of a decisive Lattle between his raw troops and these splendidly armed and trained legions. He withdrew into the Persian mountains, leading his adversary along as he had led the Parthian king; and when Severus followed with his great army in three, widely separated divisions, Artaxerxes fell suddenly upon one section. It was overwhelmed and utterly destroyed by the deadly arrows of the Persian bowmen.

Severus made haste to withdraw the remainder of his troops; but privation, disease, and the fierce attacks of the pursuing Persian cavalry so reduced their numbers, that he reached the Mediterranean with scarcely a third of his original army. It was one of the most terrible disasters the Roman arms ever encountered.

The terms of the peace that followed are not clear. Artaxerxes certainly did not get all the territory he had so extravagantly claimed. Probably he contented himself with some small concessions, fully aware that, despite his success, Roman power was greater than his own. Besides, he had an enemy nearer at hand, and one easier to subdue. The King of Armenia had joined forces with the Romans, and was now abandoned by them to his fate. His punishment and subjugation were to Artaxerxes a far more immediate and important matter than the Roman war. It was several years before Armenia was wholly conquered, and the ambitious Artaxerxes was growing old. Some further record we find of wars and conquests in the far East, in Scythia, and in India; and then, quite suddenly, Artaxerxes gave up his throne. He had always been a religious man; his first rebellion against Parthia was partly religious; and it seems probable that he spent his old age in religious retirement and meditation. His mission was accomplished: Persia was again at the head of a great empire.

Sapor, the son of Artaxerxes, succeeded to the abandoned throne, and ruled Persia for over thirty years (240-272 A.D.).

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Read about Artexerxes Biography in the The Story of the Greatest Nations and the Worlds Famous Events Vol 1

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