« VorigeDoorgaan »
Xerxes. crable deed. He added, that to secure the crown to himself, he was resolved to murder him also, for which reason it would be absolutely necessary for him to keep upon his guard. These words having made such an impression on Artaxerxes (a youth) as Artabanus desired, he went immediately into his brother's apartment, where, being assisted by Artabanus and his guards, he murdered him. Hystaspes, Xerxes's second son, was next heir to the crown after Darius; but as he was then in Bactriana, of which he was governor, Artabanus seated Artaxerxes on the throne, but did not design to suffer him to enjoy it longer than he had formed a faction strong enough to drive him from it, and ascend it himself. His great authority had gained him a multitude of creatures; besides this, he had seven sons, who were of a very tall stature, handsome, strong, courageous, and raised to the highest employments in the empire. The aid he hoped to receive from them, was the chief motive of his raising his views so high. But, whilst he was attempting to compleat his design, Artaxerxes being informed of this plot by Megabyzus, who had married one of his sisters, he endeavoured to anticipate him, and killed him before he had an opportunity of putting his treason in execution. His death established this prince in the possession of the kingdom.
Thus we have seen the end of Xerxes, who was one of the most powerful princes that ever lived. It would be needless for me to anticipate the reader, with respect to the judgment he ought to form of him. We see him surrounded with whatever is greatest and most august in the opinion of mankind: The most extensive empire at that time in the world; immense treasures, and an incredible number of land as well as sea-forces. But all these things are round him, not in him, and add no lustre to his natural qualities: For, by a blindness too common to princes and great men; born in the midst of all terrestrial blessings, heir to boundless power, and a
lustre that had cost him nothing, he had accustomed Xerxes. himself to judge of his own talents and personal merit, from the exterior of his exalted station and rank. He disregards the wise counsels of Artabanus his uncle, and of Demaratus, who alone had courage enough to speak truth to him; and he abandons himself to courtiers, the adorers of his fortune, whose whole study it was to soothe his passions. He proportions, and pretends to regulate the success of his enterprizes, by the extent of his power. The slavish submission of so many nations no longer soothes his ambition; and little affected with too easy an obedience, he takes pleasure in exercising his power over the elements, in cutting his way through mountains, and making them navigable; in chastising the sca for having broke down his bridge, and in foolishly attempting to shackle the waves, by throwing chains into them. Big-swoln with a childish vanity and a ridiculous pride, he looks upon himself as the arbiter of nature: He imagines, that not a nation in the world will dare to wait his arrival; and fondly and presumptuously relics on the millions of men and ships which he drags after him. But when, after the battle of Salamin, he beholds the sad ruins, the shameful remains of his numberless troops scattered over all Greece *; he then is sensible of the wide difference between an army and a crowd of men. In a word, to form a right judgment of Xerxes, we need but contrast him with a citizen of Athens, a Miltiades, Themistocles, or Aristides. In the latter we find all the good sense, prudence, ability in war, valour, and greatness of soul; in the former we see nothing but vanity, pride, obstinacy; the meanest and most groveling sentiments, and sometimes the most horrid barbarity.
Stratusque per totam passim Græciam Xerxes intell xit, quantum ab exercitu turba distaret. Senec. de Benef. 1. vi. c. 32.
BOOK THE SEVENTH.
PERSIANS AND GRECIANS.
Artax. THIS chapter includes the history of the Persians and Greeks, from the beginning of Artaxerxes's reign, to the Peloponnesian war, which began in the 42d year of that king's reign.
a Lib. xv.
SECT. I. Artaxerxes ruins the faction of Artabanus, and that of Hystaspes his elder brother.
A. M. THE Greek historians give this prince the surname Ant. J.C. of Longimanus. Strabo says, it was because his 473. hands were so long, that when he stood upright he could touch his knees with them; but according to b Plutarch, it was because his right hand was longer than his left. Had it not been for this blemish, he would have been the most graceful man of his age. He was still more remarkable for his goodness and generosity. He reigned about forty-nine years.
Although Artaxerxes, by the death of Artabanus, was delivered from a dangerous competitor, there still were two obstacles in his way, before he could
In Artax. p. 1011.
c Ctes. c. xxx.
establish himself in the quiet possession of his throne; Artar. one of which was, his brother Hystaspes, governor Longim. of Bactriana; and the other, the faction of Artaba nus. He began by the latter.
Artabanus had left seven sons, and a great number of partisans, who soon assembled to revenge his death. These, and the adherents of Artaxerxes, fought a bloody battle, in which a great number of Persian nobles lost their lives. Artaxerxes having at last entirely defeated his enemies, put to death all who had engaged in this conspiracy. He took an exemplary vengeance of those who were concerned in his father's murder, and particularly of Mithri dates the eunuch, who had betrayed him, and who was executed in the following manner. He was laid on his back in a kind of horse-trough, and strong ly fastened to the four corners of it. Every part of him, except his head, his hands and feet, which came out at holes made for that purpose, was covered with another trough. In this horrid situation victuals were given him from time to time; and in case of his refusal to eat it, they were forced down his throat Honey mixed with milk was given him to drink, and all his face was smeared with it, which by that means attracted a numberless multitude of flies, especially as he was perpetually exposed to the scorching rays of the sun. The worms which bred in his excrements preyed upon his bowels. The criminal lived fifteen or twenty days in inexpressible
Artaxerxes having crushed the faction of Artabanus, was powerful enough to send an army into Bactriana, which had declared in favour of his bro ther, but he was not successful on this occasion. The two armies engaging, Hystaspes stood his ground so well, that, if he did not gain the victory, he at least sustained no loss; so that both armies separated
with equal success; and cach retired to prepare for a second battle. Artaxerxes having raised a greater army than his brother, (not to mention that the whole empire declared in his favour) defeated him in a second engagement, and entirely ruined his party. By this victory he secured to himself the quiet possession of the empire.
To maintain himself in the throne, he removed all such governors of cities and provinces from their employment, as he suspected to hold a correspondence with either of the factions he had overcome, and substituted others on whom he could rely. He afterwards applied himself to reforming the abuses and disorders which had crept into the government. By his wise conduct and zeal for the publick good, he soon acquired great reputation and authority, with the love of his subjects, the strongest support of sovereign power.
SECT. II. Themistocles flies to Artaxerxes.
A. M. ACCORDING to Thucydides, Themistocles fled
to this prince in the beginning of his reign; but other authors, as Strabo, Plutarch, Diodorus, fix this incident under Xerxes his predecessor. Dr. Prideaux is of the latter opinion; he likewise thinks, that the Artaxerxes in question, is the same with him who is called Ahasuerus in scripture, and who married Esther: But we suppose with the learned archbishop Usher, that it was Darius the son of Hystaspes who espoused this illustrious Jewess. I have already declared more than once, that I would not engage in controversies of this kind; and therefore with regard to this flight of Themistocles into Persia, and the history of Esther, I shall follow the opinion of the learned Usher, my usual guide on these occasions.
Diod. 1. xi. p. 54.