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Artaxerxes I (Latin; Greek Ἀρταξέρξης; Persian اردشیر یکم (Ardeshir) corruption of Old Persian Artaxšacā, "whose reign is through arta (truth)"; the name has nothing to do with Xerxes) was king of the Persian Empire from 464 BC to 424 BC. He was the son of Xerxes I of Persia and Amestris, daughter of Otanes.

He is also surnamed μακρόχειρ "Macrocheir (Latin = Longimanus)", allegedly because his right hand was longer than his left. The Russian Rurikid family Dolgoruki claimed descent from him via the Armenian house of Pahlavuni.

After Persia had been defeated at Eurymedon, military action between Greece and Persia was at a standstill. When Artaxerxes I took power, he began a new tradition of weakening the Athenians by funding their enemies in Greece. This indirectly caused the Athenians to move the treasury of the Delian League from the island of Delosmarker to the Athenian acropolis. This funding practice inevitably prompted renewed fighting in 450 BC, where the Greeks attacked at the Battle of Cyprus. After Cimon's failure to attain much in this expedition, the Peace of Callias was agreed between Athensmarker, Argosmarker and Persiamarker in 449 BC.

Artaxerxes I offered asylum to Themistocles, who was the winner of the Battle of Salamis, after Themistocles was ostracized from Athensmarker.

Portrayal in the Book of Ezra and Nehemiah

Artaxerxes ( , ) commissioned Ezra, a Jewish priest-scribe, by means of a letter of decree, to take charge of the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the Jewish nation. A copy of this decree may be found in

Ezra thereby left Babylon in the first month of the seventh year (~ 457 BC) of Artaxerxes' reign, at the head of a company of Jews that included priests and Levites. They arrived in Jerusalemmarker on the first day of the fifth month of the seventh year (Hebrew Calendar).

The rebuilding of the Jewish community in Jerusalemmarker had begun under Cyrus the Great, who had permitted Jews held captive in Babylon, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of Solomonmarker. A number of Jews had consequently returned back to Jerusalem in 537 B.C.

In Artaxerxes' 20th year, Nehemiah was his cupbearer. They apparently had a friendship as the king noted Nehemiah's sadness. After inquiring after it, Nehemiah shared of the plight of his Jewish people and the ruins of Jerusalem. The king sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem with letters of safe passage to the governors in Trans-Euphrates, and to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, to make beams for the citadel by the temple, for the city walls, and for his own home.

Interpretations of Artaxerxes actions

Roger Williams, a seventeenth-century Christian minister and founder of Rhode Islandmarker, interpreted several passages in the Old and New Testament to support limiting government interference in religious matters. Williams published The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, describing his analysis of why a civil government should be separate from religion according to the Bible. Williams believed that Israel was a unique covenant kingdom and not an appropriate model for New Testament Christians who believed that the Old Testament covenant had been fulfilled. Therefore, the more informative Old Testament examples of civil government were "good" non-covenant kings such as Artaxerxes, who tolerated the Jews even though he was a pagan and did not insist that they follow his "state" religion.


By queen Damaspia By Alogyne of Babylonmarker By Cosmartidene of Babylon

By Andia of Babylon By another(?) unknown wife By various wives eleven other children


  1. The Greek form of the name is influenced by Xerxes ( Encyclopedia Iranica). The Biblical Hebrew form is ארתחשסתא Artakhshasta. In Modern Persian, he is called Ardeshir.
  2. Plutarch, Artaxerxes, l. 1. c. 1. 11:129 - cited by Ussher, Annals, para. 1179
  3. Nehemiah 2:1-9
  4. James P. Byrd, The challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible (Mercer University Press, 2002)[1] (accessed on Google Book on July 20, 2009)
  5. Xenophon, Hellenica, Book II, Chapter 1

See also

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