Copyright, John T. Stevenson, 2000

The fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. was to mark a new epoch in world history. This marked a significant turning point for the survivors of the Babylonian Captivity. Within the space of a few short years, one man had risen to prominence and managed to bring nearly the entire known world under his sway. His name was Cyrus the Great.



1. Cyrus the Great.

Cyrus was the product of a union between the nobility of Media and Persia. Both the Medes and the Persians lived to the east of Mesopotamia. Cyaxeres of the Medes, the same king who entered into an alliance with Nabonidus by marrying his daughter to Nebuchadnezzar, also allied himself through a separate marriage to the Persians who lived to the south of him.

Thus Cyrus the Great represented the ruling families of both the Medes and the Persians. He began as a vassal to his grandfather Astyages, but soon set out on a campaign of conquest. Anatolia fell to him when he conquered Croesus (known to the Greeks as Midas) and the kingdom of Lydia. Then Gobryas, the king of Elam, revolted and came over to him. Finally Babylon itself fell to him as he took the city without a fight.

Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar had been unpopular. The former had alienated the priesthood and the latter did the same with the general populace. Cyrus began a public relations campaign that was to have direct ramifications for the Jews.

In relating the fall of Babylon, Daniel 5:31 says that Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two. We know from history that it was Cyrus who received the kingdom. How are we to answer this discrepancy? There are several possibilities:

a. Darius the Mede was an early governor of Babylon under Cyrus.

This view was held by John Whitcomb, Old Testament professor at Grace Seminary.

October 11, 539 B.C.

Sippar falls to the Persians

October 13, 539 B.C.

Babylon falls to the Persian general Ugbaru

October 29, 539 B.C.

Cyrus enters Babylon for the first time and appoints Gubaru as governor.

November 6, 539 B.C.

Ugbaru dies

b. Darius the Mede was another name for Cyrus.

This view was held by D.J. Wiseman, professor of assyriology at the University of London.

2. The Return of the Jews.

One of the first things that Cyrus did after the fall of Babylon was to issue a decree allowing the Jews to return to Palestine and to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia - in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah - the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 23 "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.'" (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).

This decree was not an isolated act of kindness just to the Jews, but rather was the general policy of Cyrus. He realized that it is much easier to rule people who are happy in their own homes and who are not trying to overthrow their rulers.

Cyrus also realized that a tribute-paying nation would be more profitable than a devastated country. Thus, he looked forward to turning the desolation into a profitable source of revenue.

The Cyrus Prism was discovered in 1879 by Rassam which described this policy of Cyrus.

I am Cyrus, King of the World, Great King, Legitimate King, King of Babylon, King of Kiengir and Akkad, King of the four rims of the earth, Son of Cambyses, Great King, King of Achamaenes, Grandson of Cyrus, Great king, King of Achamaenes, descendant of Chishpish, Great king, King of Achamaenes, of a family which always exercised kingship; whose rule Bel and Nebo love, whom they want as king to please their hearts. When I entered Babylon as a friend and when I established the seat of the government in the palace of the ruler under jubilation and rejoicing, Marduk, the great lord, induced the magnanimous inhabitants of Babylon to love me, and I was daily endeavoring to worship him.... As to the region from as far as Ashur and Susa, Akkad, Eshnunna, the towns Zamban, Me-turnu, Der as well as the region of the Gutians, I returned to these sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which used to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I also gathered all their former inhabitants and returned them to their habitations. Furthermore, I resettled upon the command of Marduk, the great lord, all the gods of Kiengir and Akkad whom Nabonidus had brought into Babylon to the anger of the lord of the gods, unharmed, in their former temples, the places which make them happy.

However, not all Jews wanted to return to Palestine. Many had settled down, started their own businesses, and were doing quite well financially. They had no desire to uproot and move away to the desolation that had been the homeland of their ancestors.

The total number of Jews returning to Palestine at this time numbered about 50,000. They were led by Zerubbabel and his uncle, Sheshbazzar, descendants of the royal family of David through Solomon.

To Sheshbazzar was given the articles of the house of the Lord, but this apparently did not include the Ark of the Covenant.

What happened to the Ark? Contrary to the Hollywood movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the Ark was still in Jerusalem in the days of Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:3). So what happened to it? There are several theories:

Jeremiah prophesied that it would be lost and that it would not be either remembered or remade (Jeremiah 3:16).

3. Work on the Temple Begun.

The first order of business was the rebuilding of the altar so that the regular sacrifices could be reinstituted. The actual reconstruction of the Temple began the following year.

4. The Death of Cyrus.

After the conquest of Babylon, only Egypt remained as an enemy to the Persian Empire. Plans were made for an invasion of Egypt and entrusted to Cambyses, the son of Cyrus. Although he was nearly 70 years old, Cyrus himself set out to deal with a revolt of nomads in the east.

It was a campaign from which he never returned. He was wounded in battle and died. He body was returned to a tomb in Pasargade. The following inscription was placed over his tomb.

"Mortal! I am Cyrus, son of Cambyses, who founded the Persian Empire, and was Lord of Asia. Grudge me not, then, my monument."

With the death of Cyrus, his eldest son, Cambyses, came to the throne. He would reign from 530 to 522 B.C. During his reign, the work on the Temple would be halted.

5. Construction Halted.

The various deportations inflicted by the Assyrians and Babylonians had been messy affairs. There were Jews who could no longer give evidence as to which tribe they had come or even whether they were truly Israelites (Ezra 2:59). There were Israelites of various tribes who had come down to Jerusalem following the Assyrian deportation (1 Chronicles 9:3). Some of these retained their tribal identity while others lost track of from which tribe they had come. In the case of those who claimed to be of priestly families, this meant that they could no longer serve as priests (Ezra 5:62).

The name "Cambyses" is not found in the book of Ezra. However, there is a Persian king who is called both "Ahasuerus" and "Artaxerxes" in Ezra 4:6-7). This passage is introduced by a statement that the Jews were opposed in their building program from the days of Cyrus to the reign of Darius (4:5).

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, 5 and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Now in the reign of Ahasueras, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

And in the days of ARTAXERXES [literally "Artah-shashta], Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of his colleges, wrote to ARTAXERXES king of Persia; and the text of the letter was written in Aramaic and translated from Aramaic. (Ezra 4:4-7).

It is perhaps significant that the name translated "Artaxerxes" in chapter 4-6 is spelled slightly different than the same name found in chapter 7-8 and in Nehemiah — the difference is that the letter "sin" is replaced with the letter "samekh".

Because of this, I would suggest that the earlier mention of Artaxerxes in the book of Ezra is really to be identified as Cambyses.



Reigned from 530 to 522 B.C.

Reigned from 464 to 423 B.C.

Referred to as Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes in Ezra 4:6-23.

Mentioned by the same name in Ezra 7-8 as well as in Nehemiah.

Thus it was during the reign of Cambyses that opposition to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple succeeded in stopping the work.

6. The Further History of Cambyses.

In order to stabilize his position as king, Cambyses secretly murdered his younger brother, Smerdis. The death of Smerdis was kept a secret to the general population. This deed would soon come back to haunt him.

In 526 B.C. Cambyses invaded and conquered Egypt. Once he had control of Egypt, he adopted the royal costume of the pharaohs and laid official claim to be the son of Re, sun god. Then he decided to push south into Africa in order to other domains to conquer.

Cambyses sent a land expedition of 50,000 men westward toward Carthage. This expedition was apparently lost in the desert, since it was never heard from again. Meanwhile Cambyses led another expedition up the Nile River into Ethiopia. He got cut off from his supply lines and a great part of his army starved to death.

Back in Egypt, Cambyses received news that a man posing as his dead brother Smerdis had arisen to the throne and had won the favor of the people by remitting taxes for three years. Cambyses headed back for Persia, but he never arrived. His sudden death is still a mystery. Herodotus states that he died from a wound which was accidentally self-inflicted while mounting his horse. The Persian record suggests suicide. It is even possible that he was assassinated.

The pretender was able to hold the throne for several months, calling himself Smerdis, the brother of Cambyses. A band of seven nobles who had been with Cambyses in Egypt managed to talk their way past the royal guards and then fight their way through a handful of protective eunuchs to assassinate the pseudo-Smerdis. One of the nobles, a prince by the name of Darius, now took the throne.



Darius was a distant cousin to Cambyses and so was able to take the throne without too much contest. Darius was 26 years old when he came to the throne of the Persian Empire. He was a handsome Aryan, standing 5 feet 10 inches, with a high forehead and a straight nose. He had long black curly hair and a long square beard which hung in four rows of curls, as was Persian custom.

As a young man, Darius had become the commander of the Royal Bodyguard, an elite group of the famous "Immortals." It was in this position that he had accompanied Cambyses to Egypt.

1. The Capture of Babylon.

When Darius came to the throne, he found the Empire in an uproar. Although the Medes and the Persians were ready to accept him as king, other provinces were not.

Babylon rebelled and braced itself for a long siege. This city was considered impregnable and Darius seemed to have been thwarted.

Darius had a general named Zopyrus who deliberately cut off his own nose and ears, shaved his head like a criminal's, and had welts raised upon his body with a whip. He then showed up before the gates of Babylon, claiming that Darius had turned against him and asking for refuge.

The Babylonians were suspicious of him and they decided to test his loyalty before trusting him completely. They sent him out against a force of Persians at the head of a small force. Zopyrus won the battle, just as he and Darius had planned.

Zopyrus was now the sudden hero of Babylon and he was made Commander of the Wall. his first official act was to open the gates of Babylon and let Darius and his army into the city.

Darius burned the defenses of the city, pulled down the gates, and impaled 3000 of the leading citizens. This reprisal had a strong quenching effect of the other rebellious nations, causing them to have second thoughts. Thus, peace was restored to the Empire.

2. Reorganization of the Civil Government.

With peace restored to the Empire, Darius began to reorganize the government. He completed the division of the Empire into satrapies or provinces and fixed the annual tribute of each province.

He standardized currency, weights and measures. He developed highways and a postal system to draw the huge Empire together. Indeed, the United States Postal Service Motto is taken from the words of Herodotus as he describes the Persian postal system.

These are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed courses with all speed. (Herodotus 8:96).

Darius completed the construction of a canal 50 miles long linking the Red Sea to the Nile River. This project was begun by Pharaoh Necho II nearly a hundred years earlier.

3. Completion of the Temple.

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah both prophesied during the second year of the reign of Darius (Ezra 5:1; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1). At their urging, Zerubbabel resumed the work of rebuilding the Temple. When challenged by the Persian officials, he made claim to the permission that had originally been granted by Cyrus (Ezra 5:13).

When this was reported to Darius, he called for a search to be made of the royal records at Babylon and Ecbatana. When Cyrus' edict was brought to light, Darius ordered it to be followed and allowed the Temple project to be funded by the royal treasury of Persia (Ezra 6:2-12). As a result, the temple was completed in the 6th year of Darius (516 B.C.).

4. Palaces at Susa and Persepolis.

Both Cyrus and Cambyses had ruled the Empire from the saddles of their warhorses. With the peace that came in the days of Darius, there was a need for a centralized capital.

(a) Susa.

Darius placed his seat of government at Susa, extending the city which had once served as the ancient capital of the Elamites. Darius took this city and further developed it, constructing a magnificent palace for himself. The ruins of this city remain to this day.

(b) Persepolis.

Cambyses had begun the building of a new city in a wide plain surrounded by protecting mountains to the east of the Persian Gulf. Called Istakhar by the Persians, the city has come to be known by its Greek name, Persepolis ("City of the Persians").

Darius had a second palace constructed at Persepolis. He used many of the same builders and artisans in this city which had built up Susa. For this reason, the cities were very similar.

5. The Behistun Inscription.

On a sheer cliff 225 feet above the plains of Persia is a giant inscription cut into the side of the mountain. This inscription depicts a life-sized Darius treading upon his enemy.

This inscription was first copied and studied by Sir Henry Rawlinson in 1835. To copy the inscription, he was required to climb up the mountain and finally stand on a ladder which rested on a narrow ledge which jutted 225 feet up the cliff. The inscription was written in three languages.

(1) Babylonian dialect (Akkadian).

(2) Elamite.

(3) Old Persian.

This provided the key for scholars to translate cuneiform. Rawlinson was already familiar with modern Persian and he used this to translate the Old Persian. This in turn provided the key to the Elamite and Akkadian languages. Rawlinson did the work in Akkadian while Edwin Norris was able to translate Elamite in 1853.

In 1946 George Cameron returned to Iran and worked from a scaffolding suspended by steel cables 200 feet above the inscription. He was able to make latex castings of the inscription.

6. Campaign Against the Scythians.

In 512 B.C. Darius decided to attack the Scythians who had been raiding along the east coast of the Black Sea. His plan was to attack them from the rear by marching around the west end of the Black Sea and coming up behind them.

That same year, Darius led his army across the Bosphorus over a bridge of boats tied side by side. From there, he marched north to the Danube.

Darius advanced into the north country, but the Scythians would not meet him in open battle. Instead, they harassed his army and with their guerrilla warfare tactics until Darius was forced to flee with considerable losses.

7. The Greek/Persian Wars.

This defeat of Darius at the hands of the Scythians did not go unnoticed by the Greeks. In 494 B.C. the Ionian Greeks on the entire west coast of Anatolia revolted against the Persian rule. Darius sent an army against these Ionian cities and effectively defeated them. By 493 B.C. the rebellion had been crushed. Since the revolt of the Ionian Greeks had been actively encouraged by the European Greeks, Darius decided to take action against them.


XERXES (486-464 B.C.)

Xerxes was one of the sons of Darius. He was also grandson to Cyrus through his mother. Xerxes came to the throne at the age of 35. As the son of Darius and the grandson of Cyrus, he should have been prepared to rule wisely. He was not.

Xerxes was a poor ruler. He had no talent for economics and he reveled too much in court pleasures and in lavish building projects. His treatment of subjugated peoples was brutal, contrary to the habits of his predecessors.

1. Rebellion in the Empire.

In 485 B.C. Egypt rebelled. Xerxes put down the revolt, leaving the land in shambles. A Persian ruler was placed upon the throne to see that it did not happen again.

Babylon rebelled next, killing Zopyrus, their governor who had once betrayed them to the Persians. Since Babylon no longer had the fortifications of the past, she was no match for Xerxes and his array.

Xerxes ordered his army to smash all of the fortifications and the temples of the city. Priests were slaughtered and land was confiscated. The city was all but wiped out.

2. Invasion of Greece.

With civil problems now taken care of, Xerxes now determined to take up the invasion of Greece which Darius had begun. It was to be a miserable disaster.

a. Crossing the Hellespont.

In 480 B.C. Xerxes led an army numbering over a million raeni across the Hellespont and into Greece. The crossing was effected by the construction of two giant bridges built across hundreds of ships tied together.

b. Thermopylae.

The first Greek line of defense was found at the narrow pass near Thermopylae. The Greeks held this pass with 7000 men. The Persians were able to overwhelm the Greeks only after they had managed to circle around behind them and cut off their retreat.

c. Athens.

Xerxes marched on to Athens and took that city after a two-week siege. By this time, most of the inhabitants had fled westward to the island of Salamis.

d. Salamis.

On September 27, 480 B.C. the Persian navy engaged the small Greek fleet in the Bay of Salamis. The battle ended in a decisive Greek victory and Xerxes departed in humiliation, never again to return to Greece.

3. Esther and the Jews.

During the final 15 years of the reign of Xerxes, he sought the cure to his discouragement in lavish building projects and magnificent feasts and banquets.

It was during this time that Xerxes married Esther and elevated her to the position of queen. When a plot to exterminate the Jews came to light, she was in a position to influence Xerxes to intervene and save her people.

4. Assassination.

Xerxes was murdered in his own bedchambers in 465 B.C. by a group of conspirators. Artabanus, one of the assassins and the commander of the Royal Bodyguard, took the throne and held it for seven months. He was then killed and succeeded by Artaxerxes, the legitimate heir to the throne.



Artaxerxes was given the nickname Longimanus ("The Long-handed") by the Greeks because his right hand was reported to be longer than his left hand. He is described as "remarkable for a gentle and noble spirit" (Plutarch).

1. The Commission of Ezra.

Although a small remnant of Jews had returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel over 50 years earlier, the work of rebuilding the city had not progressed very far.

In 457 B.C. Artaxerxes permitted the Jewish scribe Ezra to lead an expedition of about 5000 Jews back to Jerusalem to settle there and to continue the work of rebuilding the city.

This work was met with violent opposition by the Samaritans who lived in the area to the north of Judah. These people had intermarried with Gentiles and so were not considered to be Jewish.

2. Commssion of Nehemiah.

In 444 B.C. Artaxerxes commissioned his Jewish cupbearer, Nehemiah, to be the new governor of Jerusalem and gave him permission to finish the walls of the city.

Under Nehemiah, the walls of Jerusalem were repaired and the Temple services restored. This began a new period of national prosperity for the Kingdom of Judah that would last for the next 150 years.

In total, there were three major migrations of Jews returning to the land following the Babylonian Captivity.






Ezra 1-6

Ezra 7-10

Nehemiah 1-13


538 B.C.

458 B.C.

444 B.C.


Sheshbazzar Zerubbabel



Persian King


Artaxerxes Longimanus

Elements of the Decree

As many as wished could return & rebuild Temple.

As many as wished could return & complete the Temple. Allowed to have own civil magistrates.

Allowed to rebuild the walls around the city.

Related Events

Work begun but then halted until 516 B.C.

Problems with inter-marriage

Wall rebuilt in 52 days.


Zechariah Haggai




Elephantine is an island on the Nile River just below the first Cateract - today the site of the Aswan Dam. The name comes from the Greek , "Elephant place." In ancient times, the island, as well as the southern town, was called Abu, or Yabu, which also meant "elephant." The island served as the last port before the inaccessible cataract. Several different excavations have been undertaken since the early 1900's, uncovering a number of papyri which make reference to a Jewish military colony posted to this island in the days of the Persian Empire.

One such papyri document is a letter written by the Jewish garrison commander to the governor of Judah. In it he tells of how the Jews living on the island had built their own temple to Yahu (another rendition of Yahweh) on the island before the days of Cambyses when the Egyptians were still autonomous.




Papyrus - written on both sides


24 centimeters high

32 centimeters wide

30 lines of writing


Official letter of petition


Yedaniah bar-Gemariah & his associates (priests at Elephantine)


November 25, 407 B.C.

Place of Discovery

Elephantine, Egypt

Date of Discovery

January 1, 1907

Current Location

Staatliche Museen (Berlin, Germany)

This letter is a request to Darius II telling the specifics of how their temple on the island of Elephantine had been destroyed and asking permission to rebuild it.

To our lord, Bagohi, governor of Yehud, (from) your servants: Yedaniah and his associates, the priests who are in the fortress of Yeb.

May the God of the Heavens perpetually pursue the welfare of our lord greatly and grant you favors before Darius the king and the "sons of the palace" a thousand times more than now. May you be joyful and healthy at all times.

Now your servant Yedaniah and his associates testify as follows: In the month of Tammuz, in the fourteenth year of Darius the king, when Arsames departed and went to the king, the priests of the god Khnub, who is in the fortress of Yeb, conspired with Vidranga, who was administrator here, to destroy the temple of Yahu in the fortress of Yeb. So that villian Vidranga sent this order to his son Nefayan, who was in command of the garrison of the fortress at Sawn: "The temple of the god Yahu in the fortress of Yeb shall be destroyed." Nefayan consequently led the Egyptians with other troops. Arriving with their weapons at the fortress of Yeb, they entered the temple and burned it to the ground...

The letter goes on to relate how Cambyses had come to Egypt and had destroyed all of the Egyptian temples while allowing this temple to continue. Finally permission is requested of Darius II for the temple to be reconstructed.

If it seems good to our lord, remember this temple to reconstruct it, since they do not let us reconstruct it. Look to your clients and friends here in Egypt. Let a letter be sent from you to them concerning the temple of the god Yahu to construct it in the fortress of Yeb as it was before. And the grain-offering, incense, and burnt-offering will be offered in your name, and we will pray for you continuously—we, our wives, and our children, and the Judahites who are here, all of them—if you do this so that this temple is reconstructed. And you shall have honor before Yahu, the God of the Heavens, more than a man who offers him burnt-offerings and sacrifices worth a thousand talents of silver and gold. Because of this, we have written to inform you. We have also set forth the whole matter in a letter in our name to Delaiah and Shelemiah, the sons of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria. Furthermore, Arsames (the Persian satrap) knew nothing of all that was perpetrated on us.

On the twentieth of Marheshwan, the seventeenth year of Darius the King.

Other of the Elephantine Papyri includes:



Artaxerxes died a natural death in 424 B.C. At the time of his death, he had three sons. All three of them had aspirations for the throne.

Xerxes II was the first to take the throne. He held it for 45 days and was then assassinated by his half-brother, Secydianus, while sleeping off a drunken party.

Secydianus had no sooner come to the throne when he was also murdered by his half-brother, Darius II.


1. Darius II (423-404 B.C.).

The reign of Darius II was filled with murder and court intrigue. Although there were no battles fought with the Greeks during this period, Persian diplomats were successful in inciting conflict between Athens and Sparta, thus strengthening Persia s hold over the Greek cities of Anatolia.

However, this did not change the course of Persia's history and revolts continued to spread throughout the Empire, involving Sardis, Media, Cyprus and Egypt.

2. Artaxerxes II (404-359 B.C.).

Darius II had two sons when he died: Artaxerxes II and Cyrus III. Artaxerxes was the oldest and so he was given the throne.

At the coronation ceremony of Artaxerxes II at Persepolis, Cyrus tried to assassinate his brother. The attempt failed and Cyrus was caught.

Their mother, Queen Parysatis, interceded for Cyrus and the new king allowed his brother to go free, giving him the satrapy of Anatolia. It was to be a mistake.

Back in Anatolia, Cyrus raised an army made up largely of Spartan mercenaries. With this forced, he marched east against his brother, meeting him at Cunaxa on the Euphrates River on September 3, 401 B. C.

The army of Cyrus was greatly outnumbered, but even so, the Persian chariot corps and infantry of Artaxerxes were rio match for the Spartan phalanx.

In the heat of the battle, Cyrus spotted his brother and personally rushed in, striking him in the chest through his breastplate and wounding him. Just as he was about to finish him off, Cyrus was killed by a thrown javelin which hit him in the face.

There were 10,000 Spartan mercenaries still intact at the end of the battle. With Cyrus dead, they found themselves 700 miles behind enemy territory. Their generals had been killed and they chose Xenephon to lead them in their retreat. They managed to fight their way all the way back to the Black Sea, fighting off one Persian attack after another. Their success in this venture was taken by the Greeks as a sign of Persian weakness. Others also saw this and took it as an opportunity to revolt.

Egypt had declared her independence at the accession of Artaxerxes II and had never been reconquered. Now Egypt allied herself with other rebellious satrapies and prepared to march against Artaxerxes.

This imminent threat was postponed when an internal revolt broke out within Egypt, forcing Pharaoh Takhos to abandon his plans and surrender to Persia. However, rebellious disturbances continued to plague the Empire for the remainder of the reign of Artaxerxes II.

3. Artaxerxes III (359-338 B.C.).

Artaxerxes III (his real name was Ochos) came to the throne following the death of his father. His first official act was to murder all of his relatives, regardless of age or gender. The number ran up to several dozen. He set out to put down all of the rebellions that had been fermenting within the Empire.

Now many patriotic Greeks urged their fellow countrymen to unite against the Persian Empire. However there was still too much jealousy between the cities for any unification to take place. Only to the north was there any sense of unity. Philip of Macedon had succeeded in conquering all of the neighboring kingdoms and he proposed to invade Persia.

Thus, when Athens concluded a treaty with Persia, Philip attacked Athens and won a decisive victory. He now formed the League of Corinth, a coalition of all of the Greek states except for Sparta. This League had as its goal the liberation of the Ionian cities from Persia.

That same year, Artaxerxes III was poisoned by a court eunuch who had his own political ambitions. This euniuch's name was Bagoas.

4. Arses (336-336 B.C.).

Arses was the youngest son of Artaxerxes III. Bagoas placed him on the throne after the murder of his father, expecting to use him as a puppet ruler. Evidently, Arses had too much of a mind of his own and so, after a short reign of only two years, Bagoas also had him poisoned.

5. Darius III (336-331 B.C.)

Darius III was a cousin of Artaxerxes III who had managed to escape the genocide of his predecessor. He had distinguished himself in battle and then had become the satrap of Armenia. Bagoas chose him to be the new king of the Persian Empire.

Too late, Bagoas learned that the new king could think for himself and was riot about to be used as a mere puppet in the hands of a eunuch. When Darius discovered a plot against his life, he forced Bagoas to swallow the poison that had been prepared for him.

Darius III became king of Persia in 336 B.C. That same year Philip of Macedon died, leaving his kingdom in the hands of his 20-year old son, Alexander the Great.

Alexander set out with his Macedoniari force in 334 B.C. He met Darius III in three major battles over the next three years, defeating the numerically superior Persian army each time. After the third defeat at Arbela, Darius fled to the east and was murdered by his own forces. The Persian Empire was left to Alexander and, in his hands, it became a Hellenistic Empire.

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