Parysatis or Parysatis Ochus
1. Daughter of Artaxerxes I. Longimanus, king of Persia, was given by her father in marriage to her own brother Dareius, surnamed Ochus, who in B. C. 424 succeeded Xerxes II. on the throne of Persia. (Ctes. Pers.
44, ed. Baehr.)
The feeble character of Dareius threw the chief power into the hands of Parysatis; whose administration was little else than a series of murders.
It was at her express instigation that Dareius put to death his two brothers Sogdianus and Arsites, as well as Artuphius and Artoxares, the chief eunuch. All the family of Stateira, who was married to her son Artaxerxes, were in like manner sacrificed to her jealousy, and she was with difficulty induced to spare the life of Stateira herself. (Id. ib.
She had been the mother of no less than thirteen children, of whom four only grew up to manhood.
The eldest of these, Arsaces, who afterwards assumed the name of Artaxerxes, was born before Dareius had obtained the sovereign power, and on this pretext Parysatis sought to set aside his claims to the throne in favour of her second son Cyrus. Failing in this attempt, she nevertheless interposed after the death of Dareius B. C. 405, to prevent Artaxerxes from putting Cyrus to death; and prevailed with the king to allow him to return to his satrapy in Asia Minor. (Ctes. Pers.
57 ; Plut. Art. 1
; Xen. Anab. 1.1
. §§ 1-3.) During the absence of Cyrus, she continued to favour his projects by her influence with Artaxerxes, whom she prevented from listening to those who would have warned him of the designs of his brother; on which account she was loudly blamed by the opposite party at court as the real author of the war that ensued. Even after the battle of Cunaxa (B. C. 401), Parysatis did not hesitate to display her grief for the death of her favourite son, by bestowing funeral honours on his mutilated remains, as well as by acts of kindness to Clearchus, the leader of his Greek mercenaries, whose life she in vain attempted to save.
It was not long before the weakness and vanity of Artaxerxes, who was ambitious of being thought to have slain his brother with his own hand, enabled Parysatis to avenge herself upon all the real authors of the death of Cyrus, every one of whom successively fell into her power, and were put to death by the most cruel tortures. Meanwhile, the dissensions between her and Stateira, the wife of Artaxerxes, had been continually increasing, until at length Parysatis found an opportunity to elude the vigilance of her rival, and effect her destruction by poison. (Ctes. 59-62; Plut. Art. 4
The feeble and indolent Artaxerxes, though he was apparently fully convinced of his mother's guilt, was content to banish her to Babylon ; and it was not long before he entirely forgot the past, and recalled her to his court, where she soon recovered all her former influence. Of this she soon availed herself to turn his suspicions against Tissaphernes, whom she had long hated as having been the first to discover the designs of Cyrus to his brother, and who was now put to death by Artaxerxes at her instigation, B. C. 396. (Plit. Art.
19-23; Diod. 14.80
; Polyaen. 7.16.1
This appears to have been the last in the long catalogue of the crimes of Parysatis; at least it is the last mention that we find of her name.
The period of her death is wholly unknown.
The history of her intrigues and cruelties, the outline of which is above given, is very fully related by Plutarch (Artaxerxes
), who has followed the authority of Ctesias, a resident at the court of Persia throughout the period in question, and bears every mark of authenticity.
The abstract of Ctesias himself, preserved to us by Photius, records the same events more briefly.