Last updated
Achaemenid nobleman 520-480 BCE.jpg
Achaemenid nobleman, 520-480 BCE.
Allegiance Achaemenid Empire
Years of service fl. c.485 – 440 BCE
RankGenera, satrap of Syria
Battles/warsEgyptian campaign
Spouse(s) Amytis
Children Zopyrus II

Megabyzus (Ancient Greek : Μεγάβυζος, a folk-etymological alteration of Old Persian Bagabuxša, meaning "God saved") was an Achaemenid Persian general, son of Zopyrus, satrap of Babylonia, and grandson of Megabyzus I, one of the seven conspirators who had put Darius I on the throne. His father was killed when the satrapy rebelled in 482 BCE, and Megabyzus led the forces that recaptured the city, after which the statue of the god Marduk was destroyed to prevent future revolts. Megabyzus subsequently took part in the Second Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 BCE). Herodotus claims that he refused to act on orders to pillage Delphi, but it is doubtful such orders were ever given.



According to Ctesias, who is not especially reliable but is often our only source, Amytis, wife of Megabyzus and daughter of Xerxes, was accused of adultery shortly afterwards. As such, Megabyzus took part in the conspiracy of Artabanus to assassinate the emperor, but betrayed him before he could kill the new emperor Artaxerxes as well. In a battle, Artabanus' sons were killed and Megabyzus was wounded, but Amytis interceded on his behalf and he was cured.

Egyptian campaign

Megabyzus fought against the Athenians and the Egyptians in the Siege of Memphis (459-455 BCE) and the Siege of Prosopitis (455 BCE). Delian League Campaign Map.png
Megabyzus fought against the Athenians and the Egyptians in the Siege of Memphis (459-455 BCE) and the Siege of Prosopitis (455 BCE).
Egyptian soldier, circa 470 BCE. Xerxes I tomb relief. Xerxes I tomb Egyptian soldier circa 470 BCE.jpg
Egyptian soldier, circa 470 BCE. Xerxes I tomb relief.

After this Megabyzus became satrap of Syria. Together with Artabazus, satrap of Phrygia, he had command of the Persian armies sent to put down the revolt of Inarus in Egypt. They arrived in 456 BC, and within two years had put down the revolt, capturing Inarus and various Athenians supporting him. [1]

Origin of the Egyptian campaign

When Xerxes I was assassinated in 465 BCE, he was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes I, but several parts of the Achaemenid empire soon revolted, foremost of which were Bactria and Egypt. The Egyptian Inarus defeated the Persian satrap of Egypt Achaemenes, a brother of Artaxerxes, and took control of Lower Egypt. He contacted the Greeks, who were also officially still at war with Persia, and in 460 BCE, Athens sent an expeditionary force of 200 ships and 6000 heavy infantry to support Inarus. The Egyptian and Athenian troops defeated the local Persian troops of Egypt, and captured the city of Memphis, except for the Persian citadel which they besieged for several years.

Siege of Memphis (459-455 BCE)

The Athenians and Egyptians had settled down to besiege the local Persian troops in Egypt, at the White Castle. The siege evidently did not progress well, and probably lasted for at least four years, since Thucydides says that their whole expedition lasted 6 years, [2] and of this time the final 18 months was occupied with the Siege of Prosoptis. [3]

According to Thucydides, at first Artaxerxes sent Megabazus to try and bribe the Spartans into invading Attica, to draw off the Athenian forces from Egypt. When this failed, he instead assembled a large army under Megabyzus, and dispatched it to Egypt. [3] Diodorus has more or less the same story, with more detail; after the attempt at bribery failed, Artaxerxes put Megabyzus and Artabazus in charge of 300,000 men, with instructions to quell the revolt. They went first from Persia to Cilicia and gathered a fleet of 300 triremes from the Cilicians, Phoenicians and Cypriots, and spent a year training their men. Then they finally headed to Egypt. [4] Modern estimates, however, place the number of Persian troops at the considerably lower figure of 25,000 men given that it would have been highly impractical to deprive the already strained satrapies of any more man power than that. [5] Thucydides does not mention Artabazus, who is reported by Herodotus to have taken part in the second Persian invasion; Diodorus may be mistaken about his presence in this campaign. [6] It is clearly possible that the Persian forces did spend some prolonged time in training, since it took four years for them to respond to the Egyptian victory at Pampremis. Although neither author gives many details, it is clear that when Megabyzus finally arrived in Egypt, he was able to quickly lift the Siege of Memphis, defeating the Egyptians in battle, and driving the Athenians from Memphis. [3] [7]

Siege of Prosopitis (455 BCE)

The Athenians now fell back to the island of Prosopitis in the Nile delta, where their ships were moored. [3] [7] There, Megabyzus laid siege to them for 18 months, until finally he was able to drain the river from around the island by digging canals, thus "joining the island to the mainland". [3] In Thucydides's account the Persians then crossed over to the former island, and captured it. [3] Only a few of the Athenian force, marching through Libya to Cyrene survived to return to Athens. [2] In Diodorus's version, however, the draining of the river prompted the Egyptians (whom Thucydides does not mention) to defect and surrender to the Persians. The Persians, not wanting to sustain heavy casualties in attacking the Athenians, instead allowed them to depart freely to Cyrene, whence they returned to Athens. [7] Since the defeat of the Egyptian expedition caused a genuine panic in Athens, including the relocation of the Delian treasury to Athens, Thucydides's version is probably more likely to be correct. [8]

Cyprus campaign

They then turned their attention to Cyprus, which was under attack by the Athenians, led by Cimon. Shortly afterwards hostilities between Persia and Athens ceased, called the peace of Callias.


Some time later Megabyzus himself revolted. Ctesias tells us the reason was that Amestris had the captives from the Egyptian revolt executed, though Megabyzus had given his word that they would not be harmed.

Armies under Usiris of Egypt and then prince Menostanes, a nephew of the king, were sent against him, both foregoing battle for (non-fatal) duels between the generals, and in both cases Megabyzus was victorious. The king resolved to send his brother Artarius, the eunuch Artoxares and Amytis in a peace embassy. His honour restored, Megabyzus agreed to surrender and was pardoned, retaining his position. Some time later, Megabyzus saved Artaxerxes from a lion in a hunt and was subsequently exiled to Cyrtae for violating the royal prerogative to make the first kill, but he returned to Susa by pretending to be a leper and was pardoned.

Megabyzus died shortly afterwards, at age 76. His son Zopyrus II is known to have lived as an exile in Athens, and aided in its assault on Caunus during his father's exile, where he was killed by a rock.

Related Research Articles

Xerxes I King of Kings

Xerxes I, called Xerxes the Great, was the fifth king of kings of the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia. Like his father and predecessor Darius I, he ruled the empire at its territorial apex. He ruled from 486 BC until his assassination in 465 BC at the hands of Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard.

This article concerns the period 469 BC – 460 BC.

This article concerns the period 359 BC – 350 BC.

Artaxerxes I of Persia King of Kings

Artaxerxes I was the sixth King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, from 465-424 BC. He was the third son of Xerxes I.

Year 465 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Vibulanus and Barbatus. The denomination 465 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Artaxerxes II of Persia King of Kings

Artaxerxes II Mnemon was the King of Kings of Persia from 404 BC until his death in 358 BC. He was a son of Darius II and Parysatis.

Artabazos I of Phrygia Iranian politician (0600-0500)

Artabazos was a Persian general in the army of Xerxes I, and later satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia under the Achaemenid dynasty, founder of the Pharnacid dynasty of satraps. He was the son of Pharnaces, who was the younger brother of Hystaspes, father of Darius I. Artabazos was therefore a first cousin of the great Achaemenid ruler Darius I.

Pharnabazus II Persian Satrap

Pharnabazus II was a Persian soldier and statesman, and Satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia. He was the son of Pharnaces II of Phrygia and grandson of Pharnabazus I, and great-grandson of Artabazus I. He and his male ancestors, forming the Pharnacid dynasty, had governed the satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia from its headquarters at Dascylium since 478 BC. He married Apama, daughter of Artaxerxes II of Persia, and their son Artabazus was likewise a satrap of Phrygia. His grand-daughter Barsine married Alexander the Great.

Artaxerxes III King of Kings

Ochus, better known by his dynastic name of Artaxerxes III was King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire from 358 to 338 BC. He was the son and successor of Artaxerxes II and his mother was Stateira.

Artaphernes Persian Satrap

Artaphernes, flourished circa 513–492 BC, was a brother of the Achaemenid king of Persia, Darius I, satrap of Lydia from the capital of Sardis, and a Persian general. In his position he had numerous contacts with the Greeks, and played an important role in suppressing the Ionian Revolt.

Artabazos II 4th-century BC Persian satrap

Artabazos II was a Persian general and satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia. He was the son of the Persian satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia Pharnabazus II, and younger kinsman of Ariobarzanes of Phrygia who revolted against Artaxerxes II around 356 BC. His first wife was an unnamed Greek woman from Rhodes, sister of the two mercenaries Mentor of Rhodes and Memnon of Rhodes. Towards the end of his life, he became satrap of Bactria for Alexander the Great.

Megabazus Iranian military leader

Megabazus, son of Megabates, was a highly regarded Persian general under Darius, of whom he was a first-degree cousin. Most information about him comes from The Histories by Herodotus.

Amytis was an Achaemenid princess, daughter of king Xerxes I and queen Amestris, and sister of king Artaxerxes I. She was given in marriage to the nobleman Megabyzus. Amytis and her mother are portrayed in Ctesias' account as the most powerful women during Artaxerxes' reign.

Inaros II Libyan Egyptian ruler

Inaros (II), also known as Inarus, was an Egyptian rebel ruler who was the son of a Libyan prince named Psamtik, presumably of the old Saite line, and grandson of Psamtik III. In 460 BC, he revolted against the Persians with the help of his Athenian allies under Admiral Charitimides, and defeated the Persian army commanded by satrap Achaemenes in 460 BCE. The Persians retreated to Memphis, but the Athenians were finally defeated in 454 BC by the Persian army led by Megabyzus, satrap of Syria, and Artabazus, satrap of Phrygia, after a two-year siege. Inaros was captured and carried away to Susa where he was reportedly crucified in 454 BC.

Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt dynasty and satrap in 5th and 6th centuries BC

The Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt, also known as the First Egyptian Satrapy was effectively a province (satrapy) of the Achaemenid Persian Empire between 525 BC and 404 BC. It was founded by Cambyses II, the King of Persia, after his conquest of Egypt and subsequent crowning as Pharaoh of Egypt, and was disestablished upon the rebellion and crowning of Amyrtaeus as Pharaoh. A second period of Achaemenid rule in Egypt occurred under the Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt.

Wars of the Delian League

The Wars of the Delian League were a series of campaigns fought between the Delian League of Athens and her allies, and the Achaemenid Empire of Persia. These conflicts represent a continuation of the Greco-Persian Wars, after the Ionian Revolt and the first and second Persian invasions of Greece.

Arsames (satrap of Egypt)

Arsames was an Achaemenid satrap of ancient Egypt during the 5th century BC, at the time of the 27th Dynasty of Egypt.

Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt

The Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt, also known as the Second Egyptian Satrapy, was effectively a short-lived province (satrapy) of the Achaemenid Persian Empire between 343 BC to 332 BC. It was founded by Artaxerxes III, the King of Persia, after his reconquest of Egypt and subsequent crowning as Pharaoh of Egypt, and was disestablished upon the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great.

Hystaspes was the second son of the Persian king Xerxes I. When his father was assassinated by the vizier Artabanus, Hystaspes' younger brother Artaxerxes I ascended the throne. According to Diodorus of Sicily, Hystaspes was satrap of Bactria at the time of his father's death. This claim of Diodorus conflicts with the version of Ctesias that an Artaban then led a revolt in Bactria, where he was satrap. It is possible that the true rebel was Hystaspes.

Darius was crown prince of the Persian Empire. He was the eldest son of the Persian king Xerxes I and his wife Amestris, the daughter of Onophas. His younger brothers were Hystaspes and Artaxerxes, and his younger sisters were Rhodogyne and Amytis.


  1. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, I.104, 109.
  2. 1 2 Thucydides I, 110
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Thucydides I, 109
  4. Diodorus XI, 7475
  5. Ray, Fred (1949). Land Battles in 5th Century BC Greece: A History and Analysis of 173 Engagements. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 109–110.
  6. Herodotus VIII, 126
  7. 1 2 3 Diodorus XI, 77
  8. Holland, p. 363.

See also