Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bagoas, Kingmaker

Today I give you a eunuch* who killed two Emperors, virtually ruled the entire Empire, became immensely wealthy by stealing private property and selling it back to its owners at inflated prices, subdued Egypt, but was responsible for the collapse of Persian control there, and ultimately of the Achaemenid Empire, which was conquered by Philip of Macedon, giving Alexander the Great a hand up which he probably didn't need, and died when the third Emperor, who he had also got tired of, was warned in advance and switched the wine glasses.

Bagoas poisoned Artaxerxes and his older sons so he could put the youngest, more easily controlled, on the Imperial throne of Persia. Diodorus** of Sicily says that this was because of the harsh treatment of his subjects by the Emperor, though one is forced to speculate how the possibility of almost limitless power influenced his judgement of Artaxerxes personal failings.

After only a couple of years he tired of the new Emperor, Arses, who ruled as Artaxerxes IV, and poisoned him as well. The new man, Darius III, doubtless a bit suspicious by this time, invited Bagoas to toast himself with the Emperor's own goblet***, and that was that.

A fullish life, open to criticism on some points, but he made the most of his time.

*There was another eunuch of the same name, but younger, who was a lover of Darius, and possibly of Alexander, and was suspected of murdering Philip.

**The only important source and not necessarily a reliable one.

***I must get a Gentleman's Goblet to keep behind the bar at the local. "Landlord, a goblet of your finest ale, if you please," sounds so much better than "Pint of best, guvnr."

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