Pharnabazus III

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Pharnabazus III (in Greek Φαρνάβαζος; c. 370 BC - after 320 BC) was a Persian satrap who fought against Alexander the Great. His father was Artabazus II, and his mother a Greek from Rhodes. [1]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Satrap Ruler of a province in ancient Persia

Satraps were the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as in the Sasanian Empire and the Hellenistic empires. The satrap served as viceroy to the king, though with considerable autonomy; and the word also came to suggest tyranny, or ostentatious splendour.

Alexander the Great King of Macedonia

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (basileus) of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history's most successful military commanders.


Youth in Macedonia

Pharnabazus was the son of Artabazus, satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia. However, Artabazus was exiled after a failed rebellion against Artaxerxes III in 358 BC. From 352 to 342, the family went into exile to Macedonia, in the capital of Pella in Pella, under the rule of king Philip II (360-336), where they met the young Prince Alexander, future Alexander the Great. [1] With Artabazus and Pharnabazus was Memnon of Rhodes, a Greek mercenary and relative by marriage.

Hellespontine Phrygia

Hellespontine Phrygia or Lesser Phrygia was a Persian satrapy (province) in northwestern Anatolia, directly southeast of the Hellespont. Its capital was Dascylium, and for most of its existence it was ruled by the hereditary Persian Pharnacid dynasty. Together with Greater Phrygia, it made up the administrative provinces of the wider Phrygia region.

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.

Macedonia (ancient kingdom) Ancient kingdom in the Balkans

Macedonia, also called Macedon, was an ancient kingdom on the periphery of Archaic and Classical Greece, and later the dominant state of Hellenistic Greece. The kingdom was founded and initially ruled by the royal Argead dynasty, which was followed by the Antipatrid and Antigonid dynasties. Home to the ancient Macedonians, the earliest kingdom was centered on the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, and bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south.

Artabazus, Pharnabazus and Memnon were later allowed to return to Persia, in 343 BC. Memnon obtained the command of the Persian navy in the Aegean sea in 334 BC, with Pharnabazus joining him.

War against Alexander

Location of Hellespontine Phrygia, and the provincial capital of Dascylium, in the Achaemenid Empire. Hellespontine Phrygia.jpg
Location of Hellespontine Phrygia, and the provincial capital of Dascylium, in the Achaemenid Empire.

When Alexander invaded the Persian empire, Memnon defended the strategically important town of Halicarnassus, which Alexander was then diverted to capture, forcing him to seek reinforcements. This allowed the Persians time to regroup, until Halicarnassus fell in the first months of 333 BC.

Halicarnassus Ancient Greek city, present day Bodrum in Turkey

Halicarnassus was an ancient Greek city at what is now Bodrum in Turkey. It was located in southwest Caria on a picturesque, advantageous site on the Ceramic Gulf. The city was famous for the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, also known simply as the Tomb of Mausolus, whose name provided the origin of the word "mausoleum". The mausoleum, built from 353 to 350 BC, ranked as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Memnon and Pharnabazus then directed their strategy to disrupt Alexander's supply lines by taking Aegean islands near the Hellespont and by fomenting rebellion in southern Greece. [2] Memnon and Pharnabazus had a navy of about 300 warships, composed of Phoenician, Egyptian and Cypriot units, as well as thousands of Greek mercenaries and vast amounts of silver and gold. [3]

Support of the Spartan king Agis III against Alexander

At around the same time, the Spartan king Agis III and the Athenian statesman Demosthenes organised forces to liberate their cities from the Macedonians. In the autumn of 333 BC, the Spartan King Agis III had met with the Persian commanders Pharnabazus and Autophradates, somewhere in the Aegean Sea, and revealed to them his plans for a war against Alexanderin Greece itself. The Persians agreed to support Agis; however, they could only spare him 30 talents and 10 ships. Agis also recruited the Greek mercenary survivors of Issus - who had served in the Persian army – a force of 8,000 veterans.

Agis III was the eldest son of Archidamus III, and the 21st Eurypontid king of Sparta.

Demosthenes ancient Athenian statesman and orator

Demosthenes was a Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BCE. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by studying the speeches of previous great orators. He delivered his first judicial speeches at the age of 20, in which he argued effectively to gain from his guardians what was left of his inheritance. For a time, Demosthenes made his living as a professional speech-writer (logographer) and a lawyer, writing speeches for use in private legal suits.


Autophradates was a Persian Satrap of Lydia, who also distinguished himself as a general in the reign of Artaxerxes III and Darius III.

Memnon and Pharnabazus took Cos and Chios, but during the siege of Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos, Memnon died of a fever. Pharnabazus took control of the Persian forces in the Aegean, assisted by Autophradates. They captured Mytilene and the isle of Tenedos, which gave him control over the Hellespont. [2]

Kos Place in Greece

Kos or Cos is a Greek island, part of the Dodecanese island chain in the southeastern Aegean Sea. Kos is the third largest island of the Dodecanese by area, after Rhodes and Karpathos; it has a population of 33,388, making it the second most populous of the Dodecanese, after Rhodes. The island measures 40 by 8 kilometres. Administratively, Kos constitutes a municipality within the Kos regional unit, which is part of the South Aegean region. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Kos Town.

Chios Place in Greece

Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the northern Aegean Sea. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. Chios is notable for its exports of mastic gum and its nickname is "the Mastic Island". Tourist attractions include its medieval villages and the 11th-century monastery of Nea Moni, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mytilene Place in Greece

Mytilene is a city in Greece founded in the 11th century BC. Mytilene is the capital city and port of the island of Lesbos and also the capital and administration center of the North Aegean Region. The seat of the governor of the North Aegean Region is Mytilene, such as the headquarters of the University of the Aegean.

Pharnabazus further threatened Alexander's supplies by establishing a fortified position near Halicarnassus, which made the harbour inaccessible. He also took Samothrace, Siphnos and Andros and seized all Greek supply ships.

However, after the Persian king Darius III lost the decisive Battle of Issus in November 333 BC, Pharnabazus became increasingly isolated. The Spartan king, Agis III, whilst still receiving ten ships and thirty talents of silver from the Achaemenids, [4] withdrew from outright rebellion. Pharnabazus had to deal with rebellions in his conquered territory and many of his troops deserted him. [5] His much reduced navy was defeated near Chios and Pharnabazus was captured. [2] While being taken to Alexander, he managed to escape and went to Cos.

Later life

In 321 BC Pharnabazus commanded a squadron of cavalry for Eumenes, when the latter defeated Neoptolemus in the Wars of the Diadochi. 1878 engraving. The fight of Eumenes of Cardia against Neoptolemus, Wars of the Diadochi.jpg
In 321 BC Pharnabazus commanded a squadron of cavalry for Eumenes, when the latter defeated Neoptolemus in the Wars of the Diadochi. 1878 engraving.

What happened after his escape is not known. There is a gap in the records. [2] It is assumed that he eventually submitted to Alexander, since in 324 BC, Artonis, the sister of Pharnabazus, was given in marriage to Eumenes by Alexander the Great.

For Barsine, the daughter of Artabazus, who was the first lady Alexander took to his bed in Asia, and who brought him a son named Heracles, had two sisters; one of which, called Apame, he gave to Ptolemy; and the other, called Artonis, he gave to Eumenes, at the time when he was selecting Persian ladies as wives for his friends.

Plutarch, The Life of Eumenes. [7]
Persian cavalry from Asia Minor under Pharnabazus composed the superior cavalry of Eumenes in the Battle of the Hellespont (321 BC). Altikulac Sarcophagus Altikulac Sarcophagus Combat scene (detail).jpg
Persian cavalry from Asia Minor under Pharnabazus composed the superior cavalry of Eumenes in the Battle of the Hellespont (321 BC). Altıkulaç Sarcophagus

In 321 BC we find Pharnabazus commanding a squadron of cavalry for Eumenes, in the Battle of the Hellespont (321 BC) in which he defeated Craterus and Neoptolemus. [9]

When he came to give battle, he would not set any Macedonian to engage Craterus, but appointed to that charge two bodies of foreign horse, commanded by Pharnabazus the son of Artabazus, and Phoenix of Tenedos. They had orders to advance on the first sight of the enemy, and come to close fighting without giving them time to retire; and if they attempted to speak or send any herald, they were not to regard it.

Plutarch, The Life of Eumenes. [10]
Family tree after Pharnabazus II. Family tree of the later Pharnacids complete.jpg
Family tree after Pharnabazus II.


  1. 1 2 Carney, Elizabeth Donnelly (2000). Women and Monarchy in Macedonia. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 101. ISBN   9780806132129.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, Translated by Peter T. Daniels, Eisenbrauns, 2006, pp.826-832.
  3. Pharnabazus (3) - Livius.
  4. Arrian, Campaigns of Alexander,p.125
  5. Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: a historical biography, 1974, p.254.
  6. Arrian, vii. 4; Plutarch, Parallel Lives, "Eumenes", 7; Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca, xviii. 30-32
  7. Plutarch: Life of Eumenes - translation.
  8. A reconstitution is visible in Rose, Charles Brian (2013). The Tombs of the Granicus River Valley IV: The Çan Sarcophagus. pp. 129–142.
  9. Arrian, vii. 4; Plutarch, Parallel Lives, "Eumenes", 7; Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca, xviii. 30-32
  10. Plutarch: Life of Eumenes - translation.

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