Revolts and Downfall
Artaxerxes I (465–424) overcame revolts in the north‐east (Bactria) and southwest (Egypt) of his empire. It was in his reign that Nehemiah came to Jerusalem (Neh. 2: 1 ). After the brief (45‐day) reign of Xerxes II, Darius II (424–404) succeeded. He subdued rebellions in Media and Lydia, but Egypt was lost. A letter of his, sent c.419 to the Jewish colony of Elephantine, directing the proper celebration of the feast of unleavened bread, is among the documents found there. Cyrus, the younger brother of Artaxerxes II (405–359), contested the throne with the support of large numbers of Greek mercenaries, but he was defeated at Cunaxa in 401. Xenophon (in the Anabasis) tells of the march of 10,000 Greeks through hostile territory, just 400 of them reaching the sea at Trapezus. It was perhaps in the reign of Artaxerxes II, in 398, that Ezra came to Jerusalem (see Ezra 7 , and ‘Judah, Yehud, and Judea’ below). The biblical account does not make it clear which Artaxerxes was king at the time).
Artaxerxes III (359–338) reconquered Egypt, lost and then regained Phoenicia, and entered into an alliance with Athens against Philip of Macedon. After the short reign of Arses (338–336), Darius III (336–331) came to the throne. But the days of the Persian Empire were numbered as another ambitious military commander rose to power: Alexander ‘the Great’ of Macedon.