1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Artabanus

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ARTABANUS, the name of a number of Persian princes, soldiers and administrators. The most important are the following:—

1. Brother of Darius I., and, according to Herodotus, the trusted adviser of his nephew Xerxes. Herodotus makes him a principal figure in epic dialogues: he warns Darius not to attack the Scythians (iv. 83; cf. also iv. 143), and predicts to Xerxes his defeat by the Greeks (vii. 10 ff., 46 ff.); Xerxes sent him home to govern the empire during the campaign (vii. 52, 53).

2. Vizier of Xerxes (Ctesias, Pers. 20), whom he murdered in 465 B.C. According to Aristotle, Pol. v. 1311 b, he had previously killed Xerxes’ son Darius, and was afraid that the father would avenge him; according to Ctesias, Pers. 29, Justin iii. 1, Diod. xi. 69, he killed Xerxes first and then pretended that Darius had murdered him, and instigated his brother Artaxerxes to avenge the parricide. At all events, during the first months of the reign of Artaxerxes I., he was the ruling power in the state (therefore the chronographers wrongly reckon him as king, with a reign of seven months), until Artaxerxes, having learned the truth about the murder of his father and his brother, overwhelmed and killed Artabanus and his sons in open fight.

3. A satrap of Bactria, who revolted against Artaxerxes I., but was defeated in two battles (Ctes. Pers. 31).

The name was borne also by four Parthian kings. The Parthian king Arsaces, who was attacked by Antiochus III. in 209, has been called Artabanus by some modern authors without any reason.

4. Artabanus I., successor of his nephew Phraates II. about 127 B.C., perished in a battle against the Tochari, a Mongolian tribe, which had invaded the east of Iran (Justin xli. 2). He is perhaps identical with the Artabanus mentioned in Trogus, Prol. xlii.

5. Artabanus II. c. A.D. 10–40, son of an Arsacid princess (Tac. Ann. vi. 48), lived in the East among the Dahan nomads. He was raised to the throne by those Parthian grandees who would not acknowledge Vonones I., whom Augustus had sent from Rome (where he lived as hostage) as successor of his father Phraates IV. The war between the two pretenders was long and doubtful; on a coin Vonones mentions a victory over Artabanus. At last Artabanus defeated his rival completely and occupied Ctesiphon; Vonones fled to Armenia, where he was acknowledged as king, under the protection of the Romans. But when Artabanus invaded Armenia, Vonones fled to Syria, and the emperor Tiberius thought it prudent to support him no longer. Germanicus, whom he sent to the East, concluded a treaty with Artabanus, in which he was recognized as king and friend of the Romans. Armenia was given (A.D. 18) to Zeno, the son of the king of Pontus (Tac. Ann. ii. 3 f., 58; Joseph. Ant. 18. 24).

Artabanus II., like all Parthian princes, was much troubled by the opposition of the grandees. He is said to have been very cruel in consequence of his education among the Dahan barbarians (Tac. Ann. vi. 41). To strengthen his power he killed all the Arsacid princes whom he could reach (Tac. Ann. vi. 31). Rebellions of the subject nations may have occurred also. We learn that he intervened in the Greek city Seleucia in favour of the oligarchs (Tac. Ann. vi. 48), and that two Jewish brigands maintained themselves for years in Neerda in the swamps of Babylonia, and were acknowledged as dynasts by Artabanus (Jos. Ant. 18. 9). In A.D. 35 he tried anew to conquer Armenia, and to establish his son Arsaces as king there. A war with Rome seemed inevitable. But that party among the Parthian magnates which was hostile to Artabanus applied to Tiberius for a king of the race of Phraates. Tiberius sent Phraates’s grandson, Tiridates III., and ordered L. Vitellius (the father of the emperor) to restore the Roman authority in the East. By very dexterous military and diplomatic operations Vitellius succeeded completely. Artabanus was deserted by his followers and fled to the East. Tiridates, who was proclaimed king, could no longer maintain himself, because he appeared to be a vassal of the Romans; Artabanus returned from Hyrcania with a strong army of Scythian (Dahan) auxiliaries, and was again acknowledged by the Parthians. Tiridates left Seleucia and fled to Syria. But Artabanus was not strong enough for a war with Rome; he therefore concluded a treaty with Vitellius, in which he gave up all further pretensions (A.D. 37). A short time afterwards Artabanus was deposed again, and a certain Cinnamus was proclaimed king. Artabanus took refuge with his vassal, the king Izates, of Adiabene; and Izates by negotiations and the promise of a complete pardon induced the Parthians to restore Artabanus once more to the throne (Jos. Ant. 20. 3). Shortly afterwards Artabanus died, and was succeeded by his son, Vardanes, whose reign was still more turbulent than that of his father.

6. Artabanus III. reigned a short time in A.D. 80 (on a coin of this year he calls himself Arsaces Artabanus) and the following years, and supported a pretender who rose in Asia Minor under the name of Nero (Zonaras xi. 18), but could not maintain himself against Pacorus II.

7. Artabanus IV., the last Parthian king, younger son of Vologaeses IV., who died A.D. 209. He rebelled against his brother Vologaeses V. (Dio Cass. vii. 12), and soon obtained the upper hand, although Vologaeses V. maintained himself in a part of Babylonia till about A.D. 222. The emperor Caracalla, wishing to make use of this civil war for a conquest of the East in imitation of his idol, Alexander the Great, attacked the Parthians in 216. He crossed the Tigris, destroyed the towns and spoiled the tombs of Arbela; but when Artabanus advanced at the head of an army, he retired to Carrhae. There he was murdered by Macrinus in April 217. Macrinus was defeated at Nisibis and concluded a peace with Artabanus, in which he gave up all the Roman conquests, restored the booty, and paid a heavy contribution to the Parthians (Dio Cass. lxxviii. 26 f.). But at the same time, the Persian dynast Ardashir (q.v.) had already begun his conquests in Persia and Carmania. When Artabanus tried to subdue him his troops were defeated. The war lasted several years; at last Artabanus himself was vanquished and killed (A.D. 226), and the rule of the Arsacids came to an end.

See further Persia: History, § ancient, and works there quoted.  (Ed. M.)