Pharnabazus II

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Pharnabazus II, ruled as Satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia circa 422–387 BC.
Pharnabazus was Satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia.
Coinage of Pharnabazos, circa 398-396/5 BC, Kyzikos, Mysia. Obv: Legend ΦΑΡ-Ν-[A]-BA ("FAR-N-[A]-BA", for Pharnabazos), head of Pharnabazos, wearing the satrapal cap tied below his chin, with diadem. Rev: Ship’s prow left, with a griffin and prophylactic eye; two dolphins downward; below, a tuna.[1]

Pharnabazus II (ruled 413-374)[2] 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.

According to research by Theodor Nöldeke, he was descended from Otanes, one of the associates of Darius in the murder of Smerdis.

Satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia[edit]

War against Athens (c.413 BC)[edit]

Pharnabazus II is first recorded as satrap of this province in 413 BC, when, having received orders from Darius II of Persia to send in the outstanding tribute of the Greek cities on the Ionian coast, he, like Tissaphernes of Caria, entered into negotiations with Sparta and began a war with Athens. The conduct of the war was much hindered by the rivalry between the two satraps, of whom Pharnabazus was by far the more energetic and upright. Although Pharnabazus initially fought with the Spartans against the Athenians during the Peloponnesian war, even, in one instance, coming to the rescue of the retreating Spartan forces, riding his horse into the sea to fend off the Athenians while encouraging his regiment.[3]

War against Sparta (395–387 BC)[edit]

Armoured cavalry of Hellespontine Phrygia attacking a Greek psiloi at the time of Pharnabazus, Altıkulaç Sarcophagus, early 4th century BCE.

Hellespontine Phrygia was attacked and ravaged by the Spartan king Agesilaos in 396-395 BCE, who particularly laid waste to the area around Daskyleion, the capital of Hellenistic Phrygia.[4] Pharnabazus had several military encounters against the invading Spartans on this occasion. Pharnabazus finally met in person with Agesilaos, and Agesilaos agreed to remove himself from Hellespontine Phrygia and retreated to the plain of Thebe.[4][5]

Pharnabazes went on to aid the Athenians against the Spartans in the Corinthian War (395–387 BC). During this period, Pharnabazus is notable for his command of the Achaemenid fleet at the Battle of Cnidus (394 BC) in which the Persians, allied with the former Athenian admiral and then commissioned into Persian service, Conon, annihilated the Spartan fleet, ending their brief status as the dominant Greek naval power.[6]

Meeting between Spartan King Agesilaus (left) and Pharnabazus (right) in 395 BC, after which Agisilaus left Hellespontine Phrygia.[7][5]

Pharnabazus followed up this victory by capturing several Spartan-allied cities in Ionia. Abydus and Sestus were the only cities to refuse to expel the Lacedaemonians despite threats from Pharnabazus to make war on them. He attempted to force these into submission by ravaging the surrounding territory, but this proved fruitless, leading him to leave Conon in charge of winning over the cities in the Hellespont. From there, Pharnabazus sailed with his fleet to the Aegean island of Melos and established a base there. He proceeded to take revenge on the Spartans by invading Lacedaemonian territory, where he laid waste to Pherae and raided along the coast.

Eventually he left due to scarce resources and few harbors for his fleet in the area, as well as the looming possibility of Lacedaemonian relief forces being dispatched. He then besieged and captured Cythera, proceeding to install an Athenian governor and a garrison to cripple Sparta's offensive military capabilities. He also gave Sparta's rivals funds to further threaten the Lacedaemonians. After being convinced by Conon that allowing him to rebuild the Long Walls around Piraeus, the main port of Athens, would be a major blow to the Lacedaemonians, Pharnabazus eagerly gave Conon a fleet and additional funds to accomplish this task. As a reward for his success, Pharnabazus was allowed to marry the king's daughter.[8]

Agreement with Sparta (386 BCE)[edit]

In 386 BC, Artaxerxes II betrayed his Athenian allies and came to an arrangement with Sparta, to the expense of the Greek cities of Asia Minor, which Sparta agreed to concede to the Achaemenids in exchange for Spartan domination in Greece. In the Treaty of Antalcidas he forced his erstwhile allies to come to terms. This treaty restored control of the Greek cities of Ionia and Aeolis on the Anatolian coast to the Persians, while giving Sparta dominance on the Greek mainland.

Campaign against Egypt (373 BC)[edit]

Achaemenid campaign of Pharnabazus II against Egypt in 373 BC.

In 377 BC, Pharnabazus was then reassigned by Artaxerxes II to help command a military expedition into rebelious Egypt, having proven his ability against the Spartans.[9]

After 4 years of preparations in the Levant, Pharnabazes gathered an expeditionary force had 200,000 Persian troops, 300 triremes, 200 galleys, and 12,000 Greeks under Iphicrates.[10]

Coinage of Pharnabazus II, Tarsos, Cilicia.[11][12]

A large number of coins have been found from that period, presumably in order to pay for the troops, particularly for the Greek troops under Iphicrates. The large coinage was minted in Tarsos, Cilicia.[11] The coins use images of the god of war Ates wearing an Attic helmet, or a seated Baal.[11]


The force landed in Egypt with the Athenian general Iphicrates near Mendes in 373 BC.[13] The expedition force was too slow, giving time to the Egyptians to strengthen defenses. The Egyptian ruler Nectanebo I was also supported by Athenian General Chabrias and his mercenaries.[14] After several weeks the Persians, and their Greek mercenaries under Iphicrates, had to reembark. The expedition against Egypt had failed.[13] Pharnabazes was replaced by Datames to lead a second expedition to Egypt. It was the end of the carreer of Pharnabazus, who was now over 70 years old.[15]


Family tree after Pharnabazus II.
  1. ^ CNG
  2. ^ Mitchiner, Michael (1978). The ancient & classical world, 600 B.C.-A.D. 650. Hawkins Publications ; distributed by B. A. Seaby. p. 48. ISBN 9780904173161.
  3. ^ Xenophon Hellenica, 1.1.6
  4. ^ a b Rose, Charles Brian (2014). The Archaeology of Greek and Roman Troy. Cambridge University Press. p. 137-140. ISBN 9780521762076.
  5. ^ a b Cassell's illustrated universal history. Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1882. p. 435.
  6. ^ Xenophon Hellenica, 4.3
  7. ^ History of the Greeks, p.186
  8. ^ Xenophon Hellenica, 4.8
  9. ^ Ruzicka, Stephen (2012). Trouble in the West: Egypt and the Persian Empire, 525-332 BC. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 55–62. ISBN 978-0-19-976662-8.
  10. ^ Gershevitch, I.; Fisher, William Bayne; Boyle, John Andrew; Yarshater, Ehsan; Frye, Richard Nelson (1985). The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press. p. 372. ISBN 9780521200912.
  11. ^ a b c Moysey, Robert (1986). THE SILVER STATER ISSUES OF PHARNABAZOS AND DATAMES FROM THE MINT OF TARSUS IN CILICIA on JSTOR. Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society) Vol. 31: American Numismatics Society. pp. 7-61 (60 pages).
  12. ^ CNG: CILICIA, Tarsos. Pharnabazos. Persian military commander, circa 380-374/3 BC. AR Stater (23mm, 10.62 g, 2h). Struck circa 378/7-374/3 BC.
  13. ^ a b Gershevitch, I.; Fisher, William Bayne; Boyle, John Andrew; Yarshater, Ehsan; Frye, Richard Nelson (1985). The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press. p. 373. ISBN 9780521200912.
  14. ^ Ruzicka, Stephen (2012). Trouble in the West: Egypt and the Persian Empire, 525-332 BC. Oxford University Press. p. 99-105. ISBN 9780199908776.
  15. ^ Gershevitch, I.; Fisher, William Bayne; Boyle, John Andrew; Yarshater, Ehsan; Frye, Richard Nelson (1985). The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press. p. 374. ISBN 9780521200912.